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Life is Strange Episode 3 Review

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Episode 3: Chaos Theory

The story of lead character Max, her best friend Chloe, and the various people that cross paths with these girls in the small Oregon town of Arcadia Bay continues.  We are now on the third episode of five, which is the time where typically the twist of the season presents itself and the direction for the overall story arc begins to come into view.  I don’t know where Life is Strange is headed – the twist at the end I never saw coming and it only furthered my intrigue – but I am pleased to say that the flaws I was detecting in the second episode are quite absent this time around.  In fact, it feels like perhaps two different teams at Dontnod are programming episodes because Chaos Theory feels more like the first episode and might even be able to get by if episode 2 didn’t exist (save for a plot point or two).  Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed this third iteration, although despite my gripes from episode 2 being resolved, all new ones have emerged that prove there’s still room for improvement on this project.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Documentary: The Evolution and Making of Halo

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Sorry Everyone: Due to Copyright Claims we didn’t think we were violating (because we don’t do ad revenue) this video was removed by our editorial team.  We want to continue to offer high quality content to you and we also do not want to violate the rights of any developer, publisher, or business.  We apologize.

Many of you may know the story behind the original Halo, and for those that don’t we have this trusty podcast from a while back.  It’s one thing to hear it and it’s quite another to see it.  This documentary series shows off the initial MacWorld reveal of Halo in 1999 when Steve Jobs himself introduced what was to become a real-time strategy (RTS) title, the progression to a PC squad-based shooter in 2000 at E3, and the final reveal as a first person shooter on the Xbox in 2001.  After seeing how it progresses we then get about half an hour of developer commentary on the various decisions made in the development process to result in the finished product you know as Halo: Combat Evolved.  This video and the gameplay footage in it are owned by Microsoft and Bungie.

Written by Fred Rojas

May 18, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Life is Strange Episode 2 Review

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Episode 2: Out of Time

I was quite taken with my initial impressions of Life is Strangethe episodic game that’s part modern adventure and part Choose Your Own Adventure, but there’s a part of me that acknowledged many works have started with fantastic openings and fall short at the end.  In fact, much of the first episode was probably how the game was pitched for development.  Typically the second outing, especially in the case of episodic titles, give us a much better feeling of what the overall title is going to be like and allows us to gauge how effectively or ineffectively the unwinding story and gameplay goals are executing.  It’s also important to note that almost universally the second episode is hit with the largest amount of criticism and negative feedback, if only because it’s a focused burst of reality on the high hopes of the first episode, but also because it’s an awkward in-between time for the plot.  I wish I could say Life is Strange overcomes this potential hitch, but it does appear that like most of the others it just doesn’t quite pack the punch of the first.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

Dance Central 3 Review

Dance_Central_3_coverPlatform: Xbox 360
Released: 2012
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Harmonix
Digital Release? Yes, Xbox Live ($29.99)
Value: $11.99 (disc only), $14.00 (complete), $14.99 (sealed, retail price)

Dance Central is one of the few reasons people actually wanted to pick up a Kinect for their 360. Harmonix really brought a unique dance experience to the table that felt like it was just made for the Kinect motion sensor. Finally a game where you could literally dance like a loon in front of your game console and not have to worry about dance mats or plastic instrument peripherals. It was just you and the music.  I have only briefly played the original Dance Central game which I actually kind of enjoyed so there was this part of me that was keen to see how the series had developed in Dance Central 3.

dc3_1One of the biggest jokes I used to make about the Kinect was how you could only blame yourself for being bad in Kinect games because of the “you are the controller” slogan Microsoft used to advertise. Dance Central has you attempt to mirror the dance moves from the avatar on screen who performs the dance moves perfectly. Cue cards on the side of the screen will display how the Kinect is detecting you as well as what arm leg movements your supposed to perform to get the dance move down. If your jumping into this game you may find this quite tricky as the game moves quite fast and it can be quite hard to keep up. The kinect essentially detects the movements you make and if they match that of the cue cards you score more points and rack up chain combos (like Guitar Hero or Rock Band). I actually found it quite stressful trying to follow the cue cards and actually enjoyed the game a lot more following the cartoon styled avatar. This of course usually lead me to getting a terrible score at the end but I had more fun. This really is a game that if you want to go into it to score points you need to invest time into it, learn the dance moves and keep playing the songs over and over again to get it right. However, if you don’t care about score and you just want to jump in front of a Kinect and look stupid then you can absolutely have a ton of fun by just jumping into this game. With the Kinect not being completely accurate at detecting movement its likely this will also lead to frustration if your trying to score more points and match the moves perfectly.

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Written by jamalais

May 1, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Now & Then: Mortal Kombat 3

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Mk3

Switching It Up

mk3_1A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3).  For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release.  In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades.  The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas.  These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games.  Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title.  It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory.  Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite.  Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.

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Monster World IV Review (English Translation)

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mw4_boxPlatform: Mega Drive and PS2 (Japan Only), English translation available on XBLA (360), PSN (PS3), and Virtual Console (Wii)
Released: 1994 (Japan only), 2012 (English Translation)
Developer: Westone (English port handled by M2)
Publisher: Sega
Digital Release? Yes
Price: $8.00 (Wii), $9.99 (XBLA & PSN – part of Monster World Collection)

The Wonder Boy/Monster World series is one of those unappreciated darlings in gaming that has spread its love across various Sega consoles and even arcades but never reached it’s height of popularity in the West. So I guess it made sense that the series swan song, titled Monster World IV, was released on the Mega Drive in Japan only. It was not until 2012 that a official English re-release came out on services like XLBA and PSN, which is the version I will review here.  [Editor’s Note: There is a fan translation of the original game released by DeJap in 2000, that site can be found here.  Our review does not account for or evaluate this fan translation.]

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Written by jamalais

April 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Genesis, PC/Mac, PS3, Reviews, Wii, Xbox 360

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Smash TV Review

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smashtv_boxPlatform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Released: 1990
Developer: Williams
Publisher: Williams/Midway
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010

Smashtv01These days there is a good chance any gamer is familiar with the “twin stick shooter”, a concept where you move with the left stick and shoot with the right.  Back in 1982 when fantastic game designer Eugene Jarvis premiered the concept in Robotron: 2084, it was unlike anything we had ever seen.  The merits of that game, and what it brought to video games, cannot be denied and if you want an idea of how Robotron played you need look no further than recent neo-retro release Rock Boshers Dx.  It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in 1990’s fantastic Smash TV, that Jarvis along with a talented team at Williams created one of the most addicting arcade games from my youth.  Set in the year 1999 – oh how we thought so much was going to change with the year 2000 back then – Smash TV has you and potentially one other person shooting it out in a room-to-room TV studio playing the most violent game show of all time (Running Man anyone?).  It takes the building blocks of Robotron: 2084 and brings it into the nineties by giving you a second player, having you kill tons of humans instead of rescue them like in Robotron, and of course you’re doing it all for cash prizes to selfishly grow your wealth.  I loved it then and I love it now.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 24, 2015 at 11:34 am

The Evil Within Review

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The Evil Within is the stuff nightmares are made of.  I’m not being dramatic, almost everything in this game will cater to the popular nightmares that plague humanity – in my case that happens to be clowns – and throws them right in your face.  That’s not to say it is a scary game, because unlike other contemporaries the goal of The Evil Within is to disturb you and create tension rather than grab you with a quick jump scare (although it can’t resist the urge to do that as well at times).  Bundled altogether it creates the closest representation of a haunted house without forgetting that it’s also a video game and therefore can make death a reality for all parties involved.  This would be a fantastic reality for the definitive horror experience if it weren’t for the abundance of setbacks that range from visuals, to AI, and even creep into gameplay that no matter how big a fan you are just cannot be ignored.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

Life is Strange Review

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Episode 1: Chrysalis

Adventure games have always been a bit of a split for me.  I was never good at them, never completed many of them, and thus I wanted to write them off as worthless but what they did for storytelling is undeniable.  TellTale somewhat switched up the definition of what goes into an adventure game, but try as they may I was hindered by either losing investment in the story or just not valuing these games any more than my current frustration with trying to beat Grim Fandango Remastered because I had never played before.  I guess the biggest problem for me was the balance is never quite there.  In a point-and-click adventure game there’s too much emphasis on puzzle solving and figuring out the developer whereas the TellTale games traditionally have too little and stand as nothing more than slightly interactive movies (that always seem to end in the same place regardless of those decisions).  Life is Strange stands out because developer Dontnod (known previously for the great action title Remember Me) acknowledges the reality that you are a player interacting with an environment, but also allows you to relate to the person on screen so distinctly that you get the best of both worlds.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Remember Me Review

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remember_me_boxRemember Me is not a sum of its parts.  That’s an important factor to keep in mind as you progress through this game, and frankly, is quite counter to a majority of experiences out there.  This title is trying to tell a complex story in the world of interactive fiction, which has been tried before with varying results, and manages to keep its focus on the big picture instead of being bogged down by the limitations of a video game.  As I played through it was fascinating to me how I wanted to keep note of the little gripes and problems I was seeing instead of paying attention to what was going on.  This is the one large hurdle, or caveat if you choose to view it as such, that separates whether you will enjoy Remember Me or pitch it to the wayside as a product of the end of this cycle.  Keep in mind it is by no means perfect, or even groundbreaking, but it offers a story and world that are unique and manages to maintain suitable gameplay that makes progressing the plot intriguing.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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