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Quick Look: Bioshock

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This month’s game club is none other than the 2K Boston (Irrational Games) 2007 release Bioshock.  Unlike many of the games in our game club, it’s not the first time we’ve touched this game so instead of the usual banter we focus on gameplay elements, historical development context, and of course the slew of minutia that makes this nearly 7 year old game seem timeless.  Click on the icon above to view the video (embedding bypassed to improve home page load times). Due to a microphone balancing issue, my commentary is sometimes drowned out by the game’s audio

Written by spydersvenom

August 10, 2014 at 11:23 am

Podcast: Shmup Game Club

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This week we are joined by listener Jason (@albirhiza) to discuss our Shmup Game Club: Giga Wing 2, Velocity (Ultra), Radiant Silvergun, Power-Up, and Sine Mora.  Campaigns, tactics, high scores, and more are covered as we dissect some of the more contemporary additions to the genre.

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Retro Game Challenge: Radiant Silvergun

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For those of you gearing up for this week’s Gaming History 101 shmup game club, I’ve got the Radiant Silvergun (links to my review/coverage of the game) campaign through to completion on a video here.  Don’t expect the best playing in the world, I’m okay but I’m no match for the one-lifers who take this game on.  It was more like 50 lives in my case, but nonetheless, I managed to complete the game despite some self destructing bosses.  Click on the box art for the video.


Written by spydersvenom

March 30, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Retro Review: Hydro Thunder Hurricane

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ht_hurricane_boxWhen I think of summer I think of warm sunshine, outdoor activities and blockbuster movies.  It doesn’t seem I’m alone, either.  Developer Vector Unit has taken all of the thrills of the classic arcade boating racer and compiled a sequel that delivers on all counts.  The only issue I can see is that it holds quite strong in the nostalgia factor and it may be difficult to convice those not familiar with the original that this is nothing more than just another arcade racer.

Hydro Thunder always seemed to me like the popular Nintendo series Wave Racedone right.  You race with boats and therefore are confined to the way a boat moves along water (and in the air in this title’s case).  It takes some getting used to, it rides too close to both racing sim and arcade racer at times, but once you’ve mastered the basics it really opens up.  There’s a little bit for everyone here including traditional races and tournament cups, missions where you have to drive through rings along the track, and “gauntlet” missions where almost every corner and main drag is loaded with explosions.  Most people may take a moment or two with the various modes, but the draw of Hurricane is clearly in the traditional boat races against 16 opponents.

As a fan of the original arcade, I can’t seem to remember doing anything more than racing against people.  The new rings and gauntlet modes were probably good ideas in the development studio, but seem to exploit the more annoying aspects of boat racing.  Anyone who’s driven a boat knows that it’s all about anticipating what’s coming and trying to react appropriately, which means that tracks with obstacles that come out of nowhere seem unfair.  With the length of the tracks and the fact that most require multiple laps, it’s just frustrating to do a near perfect run and then have it all taken away at the end due to one or two screw ups.  For me, this is where the extra modes, while appreciated, ultimately prove to be unnecessary and had me shifting all my focus to racing.


When you start racing in Hurricane a smile is immediately brought across your face.  It’s no longer about your screw ups or faults, but more about beating the person in front of you and just like recent releases Split/Second and Blur, every race that doesn’t see you in 1st place is a fun new challenge.  With the other modes, nothing changes.  You drive the same track with things in the same place and it’s all about the perfect run.  When racing, the variables drive your urge to keep playing the same scenario over and over again.  Integrate offline or online multiplayer, which can only be used for racing, and you have a reason to return to this title a lot.  With eight tracks, this title doesn’t bring much less than a full retail release and it has successfully captured what makes its more expensive competitors so addicting.

Screenshots from this title don’t do Hurricane justice – it is beautiful.  Sure, it doesn’t have the gusto to compete with hard hitters like Gears of War but the lush environments and dynamic color choices make up for it.  Water effects leave some realism to be desired, but then again Hydro Thunder does beg a suspension of disbelief to play.  Little details like water splashing across your screen or brief moments of scripted events were definitely appreciated.  Sound design, on the other hand, seemed a bit more run of the mill.  A standard announcer and basic catchy beat accompany you along every track and I must admit there was some clear effort with water-based sound effects, but it’s all pretty forgettable.  This is where the ability to use your own music as a custom soundtrack really enhances a game like Hydro Thunder and is highly recommended.


Hydro Thunder Hurricane should be embraced as a game equivalent to a summer blockbuster film.  It’s not perfect – the controls still feel a bit sluggish and unresponsive at times and the AI balance goes from simple to impossible quickly – but you have to love it for what it is: just plain fun.  It never forgets its roots and makes enough enhancements to make it a steal for fans of the original in the arcades (remember we paid $1 per credit on that machine).  It does come at a time where the market is a bit oversaturated on arcade racers, but at it’s price this may be a strength in separating Hurricane from the pack.

Hydro Thunder Hurricane is available on XBLA and was purchased by the reviewer for $15 (1200 MS points).  It was completed in 4 hours with an overall playtime of 8 hours.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

This review was originally posted on August 3, 2010, at a previous site I was senior editor at, That Gaming Site, and was converted over with permission.  Additionally the review score was adapted from a 10-point scale that originally gave the game a 7.5 out of 10.

Written by spydersvenom

March 11, 2014 at 11:00 am

Retro Review: Dead Space

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Dead_Space_Box_ArtWhen you first read or hear about Dead Space, it may not seem to peak your interest as much as it should. In truth, Dead Space is an experience from start to finish. This game is going to suck you into a world that will literally take over your living room if you let it. Aside from that, the universe is big as well. You can currently pick up the graphic novel, telling the early story, and as of yesterday the animated movie also released, which tells of the events leading directly into the game. Couple that with the announcement that Dead Space 2 is officially in development and there’s no reason to skip this game.

In order to appreciate Dead Space, you want to play it at night, with surround sound (as sound seems like a bigger factor than visuals), and pair these factors with being alone. A high-def screen helps, but is in no way as necessary as surround sound for this game. From the very beginning to the tense ending, you will treat this game much like being the leader in a haunted house: at the edge of your seat.


The basic plot begins in the comics (you can download a fully read retelling of the graphic novel for free in either XBL or PSN) and tells the story of a monolith found in a mining colony. As you probably expect, strange things happen in the colony that lead to tragedy, but before they do, the monolith is uploaded to a mining vessel called the Ishimura. The animated film tells the tale of what happens when the monolith makes this move. The game takes place when a small team, including game protagonist Isaac Clarke, travel to the Ishimura in response to a distress beacon.

Things aren’t quite right the moment you enter the ship and you are immediately thrown into a world containing the most tense moments I’ve ever experienced in a game. You will get many jumpy moments, that in truth are just cheap scares, but the more stressful part will be responding to these moments. Unlike most games, the Necromorphs, enemies of this game, cannot be killed by traditional means. The term “strategic dismemberment” is used to signify “cut off their limbs”, forcing you to actually have accuracy and very limited ammo makes this twice as important. This is one of those games where you can run completely out of ammo and never be able to make it through the rest of the game, so save often and keep at least 2 saves rotating (you can do this in both versions).

dead_3This game is not really the scare fest that it was advertised at, but at the same time, like a bunch of college kids at a haunted house, journalists are a little too quick to claim this game isn’t scary. You will jump quite a few times early in, but once the freak out of the jumpy creatures is over you will be left with nothing more than tension. That tension, however, will keep your heart racing through the second half of the game. The scale can go from small (your size) to incredibly large (boss battles and several new enemies that introduce themselves). It’s freaky to say the least in this too-close-to-avoid atmosphere stolen right out of Event Horizon.

There are several aspects of this game you won’t find anywhere else, beginning with the lack of gravity. The first time you see gravity turned off it will wow you with how seemingly accurate it can be. Fighting creatures in zero gravity seems to give you an advantage that you don’t find in other areas of the game and help to further the idea that your environment can often be your strongest weapon.  Stasis, which allows you to freeze creatures and certain items in the world, is easily the most useful tool in the game, but just like ammo it is very limited. Telekinesis, the one tool Isaac has an unlimited supply of, will allow you to grab and throw items and limbs of your enemies (and surprisingly does this much easier than the similar “force grab” of the Force Unleashed). Just in case you were running out of things to keep track of, vacuum areas will keep you rushing to as you have a limited supply of air for which to overcome obstacles that at times can be incredibly tough.

The controls are smooth and responsive, however from time to time you will get turned around with the complex control scheme (especially in the Xbox version, in my opinion). Having played both games, I preferred the way the PS3 handled the controls and chose to complete the game on PS3, however the controls are quite similar on both consoles, so the choice is really preference. The virtual HUD is great for holographic cut scenes, however when you run out of ammo and need to add stasis or check ammo supply, the fact that you don’t leave the game just adds one more thing to keep track of. I died at least a couple of times while being chased trying to exit the supply screen. Graphically this game looks almost identical on both systems (saw a few graphical tears in the PS3 version I didn’t see in the 360 version, but I was looking very hard on a large screen). While the box of both claim 1080p, this game is actually in 720p on both consoles and only upscales to 1080p (and not that smoothly) with some forced adjustments, however the game looks almost the same in 720p and 1080p, so just enjoy! The Ishimura is flooded with plenty of blood-soaked sets that are disturbing to any onlooker, so no kids allowed (and my fiance was a little unsettled after watching for about 20 minutes, so I now play without her around).


There are some additional flaws with the game, namely that you are so low on ammo in the second half of the game that it becomes much more frustrating than tense, especially during late boss battles. The “new game +” feature, which allows you to keep all your upgrades and start a new game, is great except that you can’t change difficulty. I also didn’t understand why you have to complete the game more than twice to fully upgrade everything, this just seems too limited. The difficulty is above average, but once you’ve completed the game at least once, is possible (but with a lot of time and frustration). The trophies/achievements sadly don’t offer much to do other than the linear storyline has to offer.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

This review was originally posted on December 1, 2008 at a previous site I was senior editor at, That Gaming Site, and was converted over with permission.  Additionally the review score was adapted from a 10-point scale that originally gave the game a 8.7 out of 10.

Written by spydersvenom

February 28, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Retro Review: DeathSpank

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deathspankDeathspank has been described as being like a myriad of popular games such as Diablo and Monkey Island, but while it does share similarities to these titles, Deathspank is its own game.  What’s most impressive about it is the multitude of things to do in a download title.  DeathSpank not only has a brilliant and hilarious script but the gameplay aspects offer enough variance that most gamers will be pleasantly pleased.

DeathSpank’s mission is simple: recover an ancient artifact that is appropriately named “The Artifact”.  Along his quest DeathSpank will meet with plenty of other adventurers, townsfolk, and enemies.  Like most action RPGs, the main quest is only a small part of the game that opens up the large world map, but there are plenty of side quests (115 quests in total) to explore.  While they vary from the mundane – you’ll create the ultimate psychedelic lair for a talking tree in a series of fetch quests – to the unique – beating the crap (literally) out of demons – the one constant is that the game always remains funny.  Designer Ron Gilbert is best known for his work with the Secret of Monkey Island and the recent Penny Arcade Adventures games and it definitely shows.

ds_01DeathSpank plays like a basic hack-and-slash title, the closest comparison I found was last generation’s Balder’s Gate series, complete with dungeon crawling (or rather cave crawling) and loot drops.  This is where I feel the Diablo comparisons are inappropriate given the fact that DeathSpank lacks the variance and multitude of loot that made Diablo so addictive.  While there’s plenty of goodies to be had, many of them are upgraded versions of weapons you found early on the game and by the end you can basically purchase an epic armor set from a street vendor.  Still, it is great when you come across a cool new weapon or piece of armor that is much stronger than what you’re wearing and as expected, many make your character look ridiculous.  I also like the fact that aside from questing or locked treasure chests, many of these items will be acquired from simply killing a random foe – don’t expect heavy loot drops from big enemies or bosses because you usually get nothing at all.  The basic leveling system serves only to limit what weapons and armor you can wear at the time and I had to do some grinding on top of all the quests to reach the max level 20.  You don’t need to be that high to beat any of the bosses, however, as none of them posed much of a challenge.

ds_02This is not to say DeathSpank isn’t without its flaws.  The map system is vague at best and often times you’re wondering around aimlessly to find some stupid gate or single item that’s right out in the open.  Each quest has a series of hints to guide you in the right direction, but they require you to open fortune cookies that you discover along the way.  The number of fortune cookies you discover is very small in comparison to unlockable hints and in some cases all of the hints still won’t get you to the right place.  Certain enemies possess powers that their levels don’t suggest and can kill you in one hit, even if you’re near the top level with impressive armor.  This would be annoying given that every time you die you drop some of your money except for the fact that I wasn’t able to spend even a third of the money I collected, even when being frivolous about my spending at the end of the game.  Thankfully DeathSpank has far too many positives for you to spend too long with the negatives and with 30 different outhouses on the map, which serve as both respawn points and fast travel locations, dying and getting around are rarely an issue.


Graphically this title looks really good, especially when you consider it’s a download game.  While the style is somewhere between cell shading and a Paper Mario style – all the structures look like pop-ups in a play and have no depth – it works with the feel and writing for the game.  Audio spared no expense either with a playful background track and voice-overs for every character.  It would be easy to justify a text only game, but thankfully all of the actors, especially Deathspank’s similarity to cartoon hero The Tick, deliver the lines with perfect comedic timing.  Multiplayer was present in the game, but since there can be only one DeathSpank, additional players assume the role of mage sidekick Sparkles, who wass hardly as fun to play.  Another big flaw is that the multiplayer is confined to local only, which is one of my biggest gripes about somewhat similar action RPG Trine, and makes me wonder why it was even integrated at all.  Seriously, these days there’s no reason that online multiplayer isn’t possible, especially since I first played the demo for this game back at PAX ’09.


DeathSpank takes what I love about so many other games and blends it together in its own comedy-filled mix.  In truth, its writing and gameplay are exactly what I hoped Brutal Legend was going to be and sadly was not.  Don’t be misled by the concept of multiplayer because DeathSpank is a game best reserved for single player.  This game was designed with a smaller dose arcade title in mind, complete with simplified loot systems and shorter quest times, which is definitely not a bad thing.  These days I’m annoyed and intimidated by starting 40+ hour RPGs and DeathSpank‘s short 6-8 hour experience was a breath of fresh air.  The summer of download titles has begun and it seems that at present, DeathSpank is leading the pack.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

This review was originally posted on July 20, 2010 at a previous site I was senior editor at, That Gaming Site, and was converted over with permission.  Additionally the review score was adapted from a 10-point scale that originally gave the game a 8.0 out of 10.

Written by spydersvenom

February 28, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Posted in PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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Retro Review: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

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cod_boxCall of Duty is going someplace that no other World War II shooter franchise has gone before: modern day in a fictional Middle East country. The follow up to last year’s lackluster Call of Duty 3 (created by sibling developer Treyarch), Infinity Ward is back with its iteration to the franchise and suffice to say this game is impressive. Modern Warfare comes with a slew of tactical contemporary guns, a gripping new plotline, and easily the most gorgeous graphics I’ve ever seen. Look out Halo, you very well may have competition.

From the first mission where you are literally dropped into, boarding and clearing a large freight liner in the middle of the ocean during a rainstorm, this game is faster and more covert. Previous titles in the series focused around being the hero in a clutter of large scale battles, whereas much of Modern Warfare deals with a covert black ops feel. The change comes with additional tools like night vision, a melee knife attack and a short-burst run that are all, quite frankly, badass. In addition the campaign feels more like a team effort, with each member chipping in to do their part. Mind you, the AI won’t beat the game for you, but I had several instances where a random enemy that jumped in front of me was popped off by a teammate.


Modern Warfare also integrates interactive scripted moments that make you feel even more like a black ops team behind enemy lines. Along with the impressive new graphics comes events that not only outline the horrors of war but really immerse you into a realistic experience. Without spoiling anything, lets just say you’ll never guess what happens half way through the campaign. The difficulty has also been tweaked a bit, dividing each difficulty with a much larger gap; you will immediately notice that normal difficulty doesn’t feel as tough as it did in COD 2 or 3, but the jump to veteran (hardest) seems wider. Regardless of what difficulty you play it on, it does seem that this game is on par with previous titles in terms of difficulty.

cod_2Whether it’s new or more apparent in Modern Warfare, infinite respawns come at inopportune times and cause probably the largest frustration within this game. Couple that with a timing element that presents itself from time to time and you almost sit back and wonder if Infinity Ward wanted you to complete the game at all. Rest assured, all encounters are beatable, but I couldn’t help feeling a lack of realism when I’m rushing through an endless sea of foes only to cross an invisible line and suddenly be alone with the little “checkpoint reached” in the upper left hand corner. For a game that focused so much on reality, this was the only time I was reminded that I was just playing a video game.

The multiplayer has also been tweaked and for the first time I am thoroughly enjoying a Call of Duty game of deathmatch. While previous games had a handful of maps and a class-based system, everything has been rehashed into an extremely complex perk and leveling system for Modern Warfare. Initially you are given only a few weapons, perks and versus modes to learn the ropes (for the first few levels it’s all basically free-for-all games). Every time you make a kill you get 10 xp in a continued effort to level up and raise your rank. An ingenious implementation, Infinity Ward now has the “+10 xp” show up above your enemy when you take them out and a random grenade thrown as you’re dying can result in a “+10 xp” when you respawn if you’re lucky enough to hit someone. This simple text on the screen is like the endless carrot on the fishing pole that I needed to enjoy hours of play without wondering what to do next. As you level up, more an more modes unlock including team deathmatch, capture the flag and even modes that rotate various match types.

cod_3This isn’t the only system in the game, mind you, as your perks and weaponry system work independently from the traditional leveling system. If you want to upgrade to a new weapon or add, say, a scope to your weapon, you have to prove proficiency in the lower weapons of the class. Once you get 25 kills with an assault rifle, you may get the option for a scope along with some bonus XP, but to get 75 kills will provide a better scope. To level up one or more guns of a certain type (assault, SMG, LMG, etc.) may result in better weapons; you snipers out there will be happy to see nearly half a dozen to pick from, but you’ll have to work to get those kills before unlocking others. In addition, leveling up will provide perks like being able to run longer, detect enemy explosives or my favorite, martyrdom, which drops a grenade on your dead body every time you’re killed. The mix and match of your perks, your teammates perks and your enemies perks can really mix things up on the various large maps that randomly rotate. Additionally, for those seeking more XP, there are different unlocked challenges that range from falling 50 ft and living to getting 25 kills while prone. Kill streaks are now handsomely rewarded by giving you a recon plane at 3 kills (see where all enemies are on the map for 30 seconds), an air strike at 5 kills that bombards an area of the map with missiles and even an attack chopper at 7 kills that is hard to shoot down and independently racks up kills for you while you continue to clear other ground forces. All in all there are few reason to want to play any other online multiplayer game.

The Call of Duty franchise, started by Medal of Honor alumns Inifinty Ward, continues to progress and adapt the military shooter and the move to modern, albeit fictional, times is a breath of fresh air. With the change of time and location comes a gorgeous new graphics engine and a new style of play that will have twitch gamers at the edge of their seat. The complex and gripping campaign will give you a taste of tings to come, but the real pull that will keep you coming back will be the multiplayer. I can say that after a mere six hours, I am definitely hooked and have all but forgotten about Halo 3. I prefer the twitch gameplay, quick kills, and stealth possibilities that Modern Warfare has to offer and with what seems to be an endless amount of perks and challenges, I have little reason to play anything else. If you are a fan of the FPS genre, you are missing out to let this highly anticipated title pass you by.

Review Score: 5 out of 5

This review was originally posted on a previous site I was senior editor at, That Gaming Site, and was converted over with permission.  Additionally the review score was adapted from a 10-point scale that originally gave the game a 9.5 out of 10.

Written by spydersvenom

February 27, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Know This Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

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As I was looking into doing a history on this fantastic studio I came upon an excellent reference that was so good there’s no point in me doing one.  While it’s easy to rag on big media conglomerates, IGN’s Mitch Dyer did a fantastic story of the origins of Ubisoft Montreal that includes stories of Splinter Cell‘s origin, the reinvention of Prince of Persia, and the visual treat that is Far Cry.  It’s a fascinating story that documents the major franchises you can thank that studio for and a must read for gaming history buffs like ourselves.  Head on over and check out House of Dreams: The Ubisoft Montreal Story when you can.


Written by spydersvenom

February 27, 2014 at 8:44 am

Retro Review: Afro Samurai

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afro_boxAfro Samurai has identity issues. It’s not that the character does, anyone who has watched the cartoon series knows that Afro is quite aware of his personality to a fault. While the game works very closely with the cartoon series, despite the game’s claim in various moments to convince you it’s deterring from the original plot (a few major points are changed, but you have to know the series to catch them), the game itself doesn’t know what it wants to be. On the positive side, it does manage to sprinkle these various types of games in a relatively strong light.

Any fan of the series will feel right at home as Namco Bandai have captured the aesthetic feel perfectly. The original gritty feel of the anime allowed for a cell shaded game that literally brings the series to life, complete with the player controlling a living, breathing (and smoking) Afro Samurai. Couple this with a great mix of sound design and everyone’s favorite Samuel L. Jackson (voicing Afro’s loudmouth sidekick) making a mockery of both Afro and the player at the same time and the immersion is complete. That is, until you begin getting later in the game.

For starters, Afro Samurai is a short game; it took me probably five and a half hours to complete and there is no initial choice in difficulty. It starts off with a few levels of good old fashioned hack-and-slash gameplay, teaching you some moves here and there, and occassionally having you fighting a boss. I have to admit that while many people may find this repetitive, I felt right at home with the button mashing bloody mess that begins the game.


Shortly after that, in the quarry level to be specific, the game begins to deter from its original pattern and takes on several new qualities. Timing becomes very important as you enemies begin to learn how to consistently block, parry, and even throw you. Additionally you are forced to do things like split bullets in mid air and cut thick ropes that require a timed slash, which took me a while to figure out was connected to the controller vibrating. That is the one thing you’ll slowly learn about Afro Samurai, it consistently assumes you know things you’ve never been taught. More than a few times I’d confront a situation or a boss battle and wonder how the hell I was supposed to do it, and while it took everything in me not to consult a walkthrough, I found no sense of accomplishment when finally figuring things out. It usually ended with me loudly exclaiming, “Really? Really!” and then moving on.

afro2There are also some rudamentary things that Afro Samurai breaks from the norm and only results in a more frustrating experience. First of all, neither you nor your enemies have life bars, instead you all turn certain hues of red until eventually dying. This may seem cool at first, but after you’re in a time-intensive boss battle for 15 minutes and the guy has been red forever and you’re starting to turn red because he always seems to get in an unblocked hit, it begins to get annoying. Also the platforming, which handles clunky in a “jump and pray” kind of way that completely breaks you from the experience. More than once I would take out a horde of bad guys only to miss a simple jump and have to repeat the whole sequence.

afro3Don’t let this deter you from thinking that Afro Samurai is in any way a bad game, because it’s definitely not. The game mechanics and timing based system remain consistent and allow the player to slowly (thorugh repetition) perfect their skills to the point that they truly feel like a samurai master near the end. You will find yourself smiling maniacally as you mow down 3-5 enemies in one well timed slice before walking full force into a boss battle without fear. While the negative aspects of the game get annoying and frustrating fast, the experience is so short you have little time to gripe. The levels are also spaced out perfectly that you can take a break within a few minutes of deciding to stop as well as quitting a frustrating part from the day without much backtracking. Fans of the series will definitely appreciate the attention to detail and faithfulness of this translation (and possibly even excuse the liberties taken with the cannon plotline). I do warn you, however, that just like the series, the end of this game is riddled with countless and tiresome boss battles, but in the end you do truly feel like you’ve fought your way to a well deserved prize.

Final Score: 3 out of 5

This review was originally posted on a previous site I was senior editor at, That Gaming Site, and was converted over with permission.  Additionally the review score was adapted from a 10-point scale that originally gave the game a 7.4 out of 10.

Written by spydersvenom

February 26, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Posted in PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

Review: Strider (2014)

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strider_boxYet another in a long line of modern re-hashes on cult favorites, I went into Strider with a bit more optimism than than other titles to date.  Aside from spruced up graphics the game appeared to be faithful to the arcade original, which my retrospective and the podcast last week contested is the best iteration of the series.  Couple that with the development being handled by Double Helix – a very popular developer with success not only in Killer Instinct 3, but also was purchased by Amazon for an unannounced project – and the open map MetroidVania game design, things were shaping up to success.  Having completed the game, I must admit that just like the anomaly of the original, Strider is a melting pot of prior series staples that gets it right from start to finish.


The scale of the overall world is massive and can be stunning.

If you sit still too long in the original arcade game, you will die.  Best laid plans are to push forward (ie: to the right) and just attack anything in your path while trying not to fall off a ledge.  In the new game that theme is aggressively applied with herds of enemies so thick they will literally be a blocking point for you at times in the game.  As a member of the Strider clan, Hiryu is able to cut down most adversaries with the greatest of ease and the balance between enemy hit points and his acrobatic abilities result in a fast paced romp.  I never had down time in Strider and felt like a masterful ninja with frantic but controlled moves as I navigated the game’s massive map.  While I can concede to the basic MetroidVania label, I would say the game more closely resembles Rondo of Blood rather than the hybrid genre.  Even when you have a full moves list at your disposal these hiding places are more off the beaten path rather than the wide open areas you uncover in other titles of the genre.  What results is a game that is more linear than anything else, and despite it being a huge map the development team broke it up into different areas complete with a boss battle and new weapon at the core, so basically it’s just like having levels that you can return to.  Strider is no stranger to this method of map design, the original NES title was quite similar and a small following prefer it to the traditional “run to the right” design of the arcade title.  In the end I grew tired of looking too hard for too much because I was having such a blast following the marker to the next step of the main mission that I played it exactly like a linear game.


Two bosses on opposing sides are no problem for Hiryu.

You will get many weapons and abilities and the pacing is a great way to teach you how to utilize and master each moveset before adding another.  While it probably would look hokey in real life, across the course of the game you go from being a basic jump and slash ninja to a masterful warrior that confidently charges into anything in his path.  While I feel the different plasmas were a foolish way to gate off areas throughout the campaign, there’s no denying the cool nature of them.  With each new plasma comes a new ability for your throwing weapon, the Kunai, that allows the 5-item spread shot to either bounce off walls, set explosives, or even freeze enemies, and assists in maximizing your options for dispatching the little guys that stand in your way.  When it comes to the bosses, however, you will instead be using Cypher techniques to deal the biggest bang for your buck.  These special moves cross the screen and deliver massive amounts of damage, which can be used against basic enemies but the recharge rate is slowed to the point that I never found myself doing it throughout the campaign whereas some bosses cannot even be hurt unless you unleash the technique.  I have to say that boss battles were quite hit or miss.  Some wanted you to utilize a bombardment of blind attacks while avoiding getting hit while others wanted you to learn pattern and techniques that weren’t referenced at all – thankfully someone in QA must have noticed this because a prompt will show on the screen telling you how to overcome them if you’re not getting it.  Strider’s past in the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise definitely assisted both the gameplay and art department in how he has been customized and frankly I think the game is better for it.


Look like anyone you remember?

There is still no denying the fact that Strider was utilized for this game in hopes that nostalgia will garner interest, which is best proved by the fact that I think this style of game has better examples like 2009’s Shadow Complex or even 2012’s Dust: An Elysian Tail.  If you’re familiar with the original in the least you will recognize the familiar setting in a socialist Eastern European land, cold mechanical cyberpunk aesthetic, and great new renderings of familiar faces.  It almost seems as if the Double Helix design team sat in a room with a list of things they loved about the other three games (we don’t recognize Strider Returns as cannon at this site) and in the end walked away with all of them still on the list.  I can’t tell you how new but also similar the game looks and feels in comparison to the original, which is now almost 25 years old, but yet how fun it all is.  I describe the dichotomy of the original being both empowering and brutally difficult and how that was somehow fun back then and now the dichotomy of how this title is both a recycling of the old game and an integration of emerging contemporary genres – it’s not supposed to work, but yet it does.  You will enjoy this game whether you’re familiar with Strider or not, but to have played the original, especially recently, enhances your enjoyment.  I still think it’s a shame that the PSN release of Strider 2 from the original Playstation (which included the original arcade game as well) doesn’t seem to be happening because that would couple this release perfectly.

On paper Strider isn’t doing anything new in the least and the combining of old concepts with a new reboot really reeks of a cash grab.  To my surprise this title feels like anything but, with enough care given to the look and feel that it’s really just a faithful recreation of the original (sans difficulty curve, thank God).  As I try to get hung up on or nitpick the faults there just aren’t enough and to a degree that it really matters.  At $15 the 4-6 hour campaign, which probably doubles if you find everything, is just a ton of fun.  The variety, scale, and clean coding makes for an experience that just works and sets no lofty expectations.  I kind of wish more games came in a package like this because it’s the perfect package for anyone and appeals to everyone.

Final Score: 4/5  (Review Guidelines can be found here)

Strider was provided by the publisher via review code on the Playstation 4.  It is available for $14.99 on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

Written by spydersvenom

February 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS3, PS4, Remakes, Reviews, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Tagged with ,


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