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farmingsimulatorreview

With games like Euro Truck Simulator and Goat Simulator out there, it’s easy to be dismissive of the growing simulation space.  Simulator games are making quite the comeback but, as with anything else, you have great content and then there’s the stuff that’s…  Questionable.  Farming Simulator 15, I would say, is of the foremost camp.  The game may not be on most gamers' radars but, if you give it a real shot, you may very well fall in love.  So let's get into the nitty-gritty of this wonderful country romp!

 This gem by Giants Software comes from a long line of blue collar simulation games, particularly Demolition Company and Ski Region Simulator.  Farming Simulator is their flagship property and it shows.  If I’m not mistaken, this is only their third or fourth installment in the increasingly popular franchise.  The depth and attention to detail is significant and you can tell this is a game developed with love.

Farming Simulator is significant to me because it is representative of a paradigm shift in video games.  We’re going back to games that are not shooters or visceral, visually-pleasing experiences with no substance.  Simulations were huge in the 80s and 90s (arguably during the 70s too..  like that space simulator on the Atari 2600 with the really nifty peripherals), particularly with flight and war simulators, but then they disappeared, alongside point-and-click adventures and FMV games.  This excites me and the fact that gamers are voting with their wallets is even more encouraging.  We need more innovation, risk-taking, and variety in the video game industry because, let's face it, all the big studios are regurgitating the same old thing.  To that end, Farming Simulator certainly delivers a unique, memorable experience.

Today, simulator games seem to be on the rise, much like we have seen with MMOs, MOBAs, and TCG/CCGs.  While the space is rather saturated, it seems like the demand is there and Farming Simulator does a great job of carving out it’s own little niche.  Can you name another game that lets you operate over 140 different vehicles and brings the farm of your dreams to life (virtually)?  I can’t.

 

Farming Simulator 15 First Impressions

Going into Farming Simulator 15, I was worried the skill cap would be too high yet I was more eager than anything else.  While I will always be a New Yorker at heart, making me a city slicker for life I suppose, I spent a lot of time on farms and the countryside as a kid.  Some of my fondest memories include watching chicks conga line with their mother hen, waking up to the coos of a very eager rooster (at aroun 4am every day), and having an angry chicken poop on my shoulder.  Oh, we can’t forget the time that a goat tried to eat my little brother...  Sadly, he did not succeed.  All jokes aside, I truly appreciated the opportunity to review this game and revisit simpler times.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

In any case, jumping into the game was easy.  In Career mode, you have two regions:  Bjornholm or Westbridge Hills.  The former is best if you want to go through the tutorial and get a full tour.  The tutorial did a good job walking you through the basics without becoming a total drag.  Westbridge Hills is better if you want freedom - ‘MERICA!!!  Bjornholm offers a persistent tour with tool tips and in-world prompts to walk you through the various features, locations, and core mechanics.  If you want more challenge or immersion, Westbridge Hills is the way to go.  You don't have to be American to appreciate this region - look how purdy it is!

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

After choosing your region, you can choose a difficulty.  I recommend Easy if you want more creative freedom and opportunities to explore.  Normal and Hard increase the amount of debt and, by extension, operational overhead you have to offset with revenues.  If you ask me, I don’t want to simulate my own life so starting off in debt doesn’t sound like fun.  For the masochists out there, sure, go with Hard mode.  Oh, and easy means you can hire illegal immigrants or outsource jobs overseas to save a buck.  That's the American way, amirite?

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

I spent my first hour or two cultivating land, sowing seeds, harvesting, and then going across town to sell my crops.  Along the way, I noticed different icons on the minimap and HUD.  There are places where you can drop off surplus items for quick cash (more on that later).  Everything else you either store or sell right away in the appropriate buildings.  The strategy here is to sell when the rates are good but not wait so long that your storage maintenance and crop freshness get ruined.

 From what I could gather, the initial run in any career will revolve heavily around sowing and harvesting corn and wheat.  Radishes and other crops require more specialized equipment and investment thereof.  You also have livestock/cattle in the form of sheep, chicken, and cows.  Chickens are your best bet due to their low upkeep and the steady supply of eggs that you can resell.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

After going through a few cycles of the basic cultivate-sow-harvest, I did more exploration.  My suspicions seemed confirmed.  The game only opens up fully once you repeat the core farm operations and expand into other livestock and crop options.  Buying new plots of lands and woodcutting is also an option, though I am not sure how the latter works...  It’s also quite awkward when you try to work a field that doesn’t belong to you.

My close to four-hour first romp came to a screeching hault quite literally when my tractor got stuck in traffic.  Darn jerkface drivers. *muttering to myself*  Wow, this really is a simulator.  Bad drivers with no consideration for those around them - so realistic!  I mean, let’s be honest: most people with licenses don’t really know how to drive properly..  Those gumball machines must be chock-full of driver’s licenses!

 

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 9

 Kids, this is why it's important to obey the rules of the road!  Stick to your side of the road and always observing incoming traffic... Especially in the countryside (trust me, I'm in Georgia and the drivers out here are SAVAGES)!

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 7

*** Regresamos A La Finca! ***

After some focused E3 2015 viewing (how about that Bethesda presser, folks?) and getting over the initial butthurt (of the traffic jam situation, not E3), I was able to salvage the session after reloading and cleverly getting off the road before the cars came in to pile up again.  I almost opted to start a career on Westbridge Hills.  Fortunately, I used better judgement there because this mode does not hold your hand at all..  Instead, after dabbling with Career a bit more I decided to dive into multiplayer a bit and have someone carry me instead.

...Well, maybe not.

All the good servers required DLC.  BOOOOO!  I finally found some vanilla FS15 servers but then it took forever for the hosts to realize someone was joining their servers.  Ultimately, impatience took over and I went back to Career (this time on Easy because Normal made me feel like a scrub).  BTW, DLC for the game currently runs between .99 to 9.99 USD.  Not a bad deal if you can spare the scrip.

I would say the game does a fantastic job at balancing depth and accessibility.  That’s no small feat, either.  There’s enough opportunity for mastery and perfection without making the game hard to learn or play casually.  As such, Farming Simulator is equally good as a palette cleanser or simple escapism; you can play a quick 20-30 minute session or get lost in it for hours on end.  The graphics are not mind-blowing but the locations are quite picturesque.  The little touches like watering troughs, phone booths, and houses really helped me escape and get lost in the world, even if only for a little while.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 4

It’s worth noting that the game is called Farming Simulator, not Farm Simulator, and that branding makes sense.  The focus here is more on the operational side of a farm, rather than the farm itself.  You are tasked with cultivating, sowing, and harvesting.  The more minute details seem to take care of themselves so it doesn’t seem like your animals will die nor do you have to clean up after them.  This frees you up more to be creative and play the resource management meta game.  That means you don't have to worry about building sheds, barns, silos, or any of that more granular stuff.

The game’s web site boasts over 40 licensed vehicle brands and 3 livestock options so the variety is there.   I barely made a dent in the game in terms of unlocking new equipment but I was able to get more cattle in the mix; after all, 7K only goes so far!  Anywho, this game has some serious brand power and it's a brilliant way to gain sponsorships and subsidize development.  The Giants Software team knows what they're doing!

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Now to be a typical gamer and complain for the sake of complaining...  I was disappointed that I was not able to run a baler in my runs with the game.  There are over 100 tools and vehicles in the game, which seems about right from my extensive window shopping.  They start you off with the basics and, from there, it’s whatever you want it to be.  I must say, though, machinery is super expensive…  Did I mention I’m a cheap bastard?  Well, I am.

One of my favorite things about the game is that you don’t feel rushed.  You can pace yourself however you see fit.  The game takes place in a pseudo real time but the clock stops when you quit.  This gives you time to explore and take in the scenery.  This also averts the pesky aspects of, well, just about every mobile game these days.  For me, any video game that respects your time is automatically a cut above the rest.

The controls are responsive and intuitive.  There are lots of controls to learn but it’s about as simple as it gets for a simulator.  Control schemes pretty much carry over across vehicle types, too.  My only gripe is that I have become so accustomed to pushing the left analog stick in to run so, whenever I go into first-person view, I keep bringing up the stats screen.  This is handy and, well, I’m just bitching because I can...  That’s what we geeks do!

So, back to the plethora of licensed brands in the game, I actually recognized a few of these names, mainly because I live in Georgia and can actually drive up to some of these companies.  New Holland comes to mind and  Husqvarna you’ll see everywhere these days, possibly more than John Deere.  Is it me or are all these agricultural manufacturers in Europe?

All these nifty items can be purchased using virtual currency and there are no microtransactions - YAY!  The in-game store can be accessed by going to the physical location or pressing Y anywhere.  Overall, the HUD and global functionality is super intuitive and informative.  You have all the information you need, including a mini Farmer's Almanac type screen.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 10

On top of the vehicles you can get,  there are a lot of attachments and tools too..  Like these strange contraptions.  I don’t know about you but these things are scary - and I’m not just talking about the price tags!

Farming Simulator 15 Review

 Fantastic multiplayer is something I look for in any game I play these days since I have limited gaming hours; alas, I was not able to dig into the multiplayer here.  From what I understand, the host can control how income is distributed but, essentially, all players in a session help the farm owner out on his property.  Servers seem to support up to 6 players, which means you can get a lot more done in the course of an hour or two.

So, who is Farming Simulator for?  I think this game will resonate with anyone with fond memories on a farm, love for agriculture, an affinity to any sort of simulator experience, or mobile gaming addictions.  The latter I say lovingly because most mobile games are about completing mundane tasks and keeping an eye on a your recharge bar/clocks.  Farming Simulator has that level of repetition and minutia but not to the obscene degree where it stops being fun and becomes a job or obsession.

Overall, this is a game I can very much see myself getting lost in since it has a good balance of resource management and creativity.  There’s more structure and guidance than in, say, Minecraft…  Huge plus for me.  I love games that are flexible and dynamic, but it’s also nice to have some default activities you can do almost completely on autopilot or at least in the midst of heavy multitasking (like watching E3).

Second Look & Tips From An Avid Farmer

Well, technically, this is a fourth or fifth look but I decided to approach the game from another angle thanks to my pal, podcast co-host, and simulator enthusiast, ObioneX2.  He was a little jelly that I got a review copy of the game.  Full disclosure: Obi  has a good relationship with Giants Software and they have hooked him up in the past but his love for the game is authentic, believe me!

 One thing Obi recommends is focusing on woodcutting if you want to raise money fast or at least have a nice head start.  I revisited my first save game and started off with a $1000 Husqvarna chainsaw.  You can use your starting vehicle to collect logs so the initial investment is easily recuped.  Obi cautions against focusing on livestock/cattle initially as it is the slowest way to earn money.  That aligned with my relatively limited experience.  I noticed early on that livestock has high upkeep too, but not nearly as much as storing surplus.  Chickens cost around $1 a day, whereas cows are the most expensive at around $40-100 a day.  Chickens are a good place to start since they produce eggs..  And they're delicious.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Tree stump cutters will be a good investment if you get into woodcutting.  After a while, tree stumps will make pathing hard but be careful: the tree stump cutter is treachorous (just watch my video clip on XBox LIVE, my gamertag is Yogizilla).  Each tree will average you between $3000-5000 a pop.  Drop them in the pond by the lumber mill and you get instant cash.  Some trees can get you over 20K in munnies!

Woodcutting is a super efficient way to generate revenue because you can take the wood chips left over from chopping down trees and store them.  After you get a nice stash, you can sell them.  The same thing goes for all surplus (like hay bales) in the game.  Obi adds that you have to wait until the Bio Mass factory wants to buy wood chips.  One shed full of wood chips can net you around 100K - WOW!

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

One of the really nice things about Farming Simulator is that crops grow quickly so you don’t have to wait several days or weeks.  In Farming Simulator, seasons don’t really matter as much as they do IRL.  You do get bonuses for growing during good weather and using fertilizers when cultivating land.  This helps with the sense of progression and rewards, which feeds into the overall immersion of the experience.  If you think that you might lost track of your crop yield, don't worry: the heat map makes it quite easy to know what is ready to be harvested.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Out of the box, a lot of core features seem to be missing.  For example, unless you have the Bank Transfer mod, you can’t transfer funds across save games or game modes.  This seems like a missed opportunity to me but it’s not a deal breaker.  Of course, it’d be unfair to compare any console game to it’s PC counterpart but it’s worth noting.  The benefit of not having the extra mod availability is that the game is more challenging and less overwhelming at the same time.

 If the controls escape you even after the brief walk-through/tour, press Start and RB one time, you’ll see the basic controls..  One more time and you can get into the Settings.  The amount of customization throughout these screens is nice.  The most notable options are Timescale (defaults at 5x), Mission Frequency (default: every 5 minutes), Plant Growth (default: Normal), and Plant Withering (default: On).  Obi recommends turning plant withering off if you want the freedom to explore and switch jobs often.

 For a more automated experience, perhaps to accommodate multitasking, you can hire help.  Whenever you hire help, they seem to take over the last activity you were doing.  So, if you are sowing, the help will sow until there’s nothing left to do.  If you’re cultivating, they’ll cultivate the land until it's ready for sowing.  I didn’t play with this option much because, like I said, I’m cheap.

 The last featured I only discovered towards the end of my last gameplay session is the job board (there’s one by Field 1, BTW).  This is the game’s way of including challenges and missions without breaking you out of the simulation or overall immersion.  The jobs I first came across included clean-up and transportation gigs.  It’s pretty much what you would expect a farmer would do to supplement income.  If you need more structure or objective-driven gameplay, the job board has you covered.

Farming Simulator 15 Final Review & Scores

When judging simulation games, I think it’s important to temper expectations and realize that these are very specialized games for specialized tastes.  Judging within the proper context and with the right expectations is key, especially when it comes to graphics and overall technology.  As such, I wouldn’t compare Farm Simulator 15 to a sandbox experience like GTA V or the coming Fallout 4, but I can see the appeal to fans of the franchises.  This is not a big studio release so the amount of polish we may be accustomed to is not there but that is not to say the game is not amazing in it’s own way.  With that in mind, my scores and assessments will take these special considerations into account, as well as the standards set within this very special genre.

  • Graphics:  It won’t blow the socks off those seeking bleeding edge but the environments are detailed and pretty to look at.  The nice little touches to livestock behaviors, tool operation, and other animations are brilliant.  There are no jaggies and frame rates are smooth but you could definitely tell there is a compromise due to the multi-platform release catering to the least common denominator.  9/10
  • Audio:   I noticed somelack of environmental sounds and spatialization but, other than that, the audio is good.  Vehicles and tools murmur, clank, buzz, and toot, as expected.  There’s not much music to listen to, which is fine since this sort of experience caters more to we heavy multitaskers.  I do wonder why the title music so jazzy but it definitely got me in a good mood. *jazz hands*  Ths is a perfect  BYOM opportunity - Bring Your Own Music (May I suggest an AllGames.com podcast?).  On sound bit side, the rooster and chicken sounds really sold me and brought me back to simpler times.  8/10
  • Controls:  Game controls are fairly consistent and intuitive across all vehicles and tools.  Vehicles do pull a bit but that only adds to the realism.  Even the camera controls are solid and you have full 360-degree control!  9/10
  • Immersion:  There’s plenty to keep you busy and you can easily get lost in the world..  But it’s also easy enough to play the game on autopilot (i.e. while multitasking) and not be fully-engaged with it.   Once you learn the conventions, locations, and core mechanics, you’ll find that there is always something to do or somewhere to explore and admire.  8/10
  • Progression & Feedback:   Farming Simulator seems to favor immersion over feedback, though I’d say they go hand-in-hand at times.  In my 6+ hours, I did unlock any achievements and feedback seemed limited to prompts and hints triggered by map points and key events.  This kept me immersed in the world but not as driven as most modern games make you feel, either by force or just good ‘ol “sticky” content.  Lack of a sense of rewards or progression (e.g. Destiny) can make the grinding less tolerable for some, which is a common complaint with gamers.  7/10
  • Fun & Replayability:  The replay value is there and there’s tons of fun to be had if you appreciate a more open, less hand-holding gameplay experience.  As with most simulators, repeating mundane tasks over time is rewarded.  The experience does lack some stickyness until you open up your options.  9/10
  • Originality:   I don’t know many farm simulators..  Farmville doesn’t count, though some may argue that point.  This is an original concept that has been cultivated into something with quite a massive scope.  If you love the subject matter, you’ll find it refreshingly original.  Across the franchise, Farm Simulator seems to be on the path to keep evolving and building upon a solid foundation.   10/10
  • FINAL VERDICT:  Farming Simulator 15 is a solid simulation experience that has a promising future if they build upon the strong core and foundation.  If you want to work a farm without actually breaking a sweat, there’s no better solution.  This game would be a fun thing to stream or do videos on while you share commentary or engage with a live audience.   8.7

     

    Published in Xbox One
    Wednesday, 26 June 2013 00:00

    Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter (PC)

    Most epic fantasy has a lot of thanks to give not only to Tolkien, but to his inspirations: mythos and lore. In this same way, much of modern fantasy that occupies tabletops and gaming consoles can tip a hat to Forgotten Realms for the depth of their universes. It's hard to escape the influence in most games set in medieval or high fantasy. Expecting Perfect World and Cryptic to bring something new to the table when presenting their free-to-play MMO, Neverwinter, is a bit much considering this framework defined the genre. Yet they still brought innovation to the table, just with focus on MMORPG functionality.

    This isn't to say Perfect World changed how they monetize FTPMMOs. They have a solid structure that has worked with their many other titles, and they know better than to mess with that. For those new to the program, however, things can be a little daunting. I get that the urge to rush into the gameplay is strong, and you probably feel you have a pretty good grasp on MMOs in general, (at least I did), but it's important to pay attention in the beginning of the game. Not everything you need to know is spelled out for you, but the game offers access in game to wikis and provides tips in load screens. You can also do a quick search and find plenty of fanmade wikis to aid you, as well. Learning as much as you can as early as you can will benefit you, because there are a lot of things going on here.

    First, there is normal gameplay. The controls here are decent once you get used to a targeting system that is a little unorthodox for third-person RPGs. (I did, however, much prefer the controls here to the ones found in D&D Online, but maybe I just didn't give those enough time.) My biggest gripe with a targeting system where you aim instead of click on targets is how often line of sight is easily broken. (This is especially a headache if you try to heal an individual in a full on battle.) When targeting enemies, however, there is a bit of an auto-aim that adjusts your character's focus while you are in attack mode. The controls are fluid and responsive. I have always been a double-click the mouse runner, but learning to use WASD full time was not difficult, especially since it's pretty standard. The rest of the key-mapping is intuitive and easy to remember, and also entirely customizable.

    Speaking of customization, the character selection screen is pretty darn good. Players can choose between some of the most prominent races in Forgotten Realms, such as halflings, half-orcs, dwarfs, and even the drow eventually, with more races to come. Tieflings are also an option, creating some of the most impressive looking wizards you'll see running around in game. Individual tweaking of character appearance is detailed (though not quite as much as in PWI or other Cryptic titles) and impacts both facial structure and body structure. A wide range of tones are available for skin, hair, and other features. There are also three body types available, including a “heavy” preset, which can be altered using individual sliders for each body area.

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    Class is not limited to race, though different races have abilities consistent with specific class types. There are also more classes that will be added to the game over time.  Attributes are chosen by rolling, which is a nice touch. One of the best parts of creating a character is choosing their background and deity alignment. You can also add a character history while creating a character, or at any point during gameplay. Just be sure to save this text in another application, because I encountered a glitch that repeatedly erased the character history I wrote for all of my characters. Only two character slots are available per account, with additional slots available for purchase. Some gamers choose to create multiple accounts to get past paying, but keep in mind that purchases made on one account with real money will not transfer to other accounts.

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    Speaking of the many forms of currency, how do they work? Well, the Zen currency is used in all of Perfect World's game incarnations. It allows you access to exclusive items, but there is also a variety of game currencies that can be achieved through different means as you progress in the game. Each currency relates to a specific market, granting access to things such as augmentations, profession items, and potions. Astral diamonds are the in game currency that can be acquired and traded for Zen to be spent on exclusive items. The amount of astral diamonds needed for these items is very high, and it takes a lot of work, but there are ways to avoid spending real money to get some of the real money items.

     

    Astral diamonds/Zen also help to unlock Nightmare Lockboxes that are found in the game. While most of the drops in the game at lower to mid level are good, they all lack a certain legendary quality. The character will have many chances to collect these dropped lockboxes. They contain very rare items at random, but require a large about of astral diamonds or the purchase of Zen to open. At this point, there are aspects of the game that resemble a pay-to-win structure. I personally prefer when games stick to purely aesthetic purchases for real currency. On the other hand, you are required to pay nothing for a game that will likely provide you weeks upon weeks of enjoyment.

    I had no real issue with the currency system because I've always been more of a PvE player, but there is a PvP arena that allows party vs party combat. It can be really invigorating provided you're in a solid team. If you prefer solo or small group play, the game is set up for that, too. I found the rogue and cleric to be very fun in solo play. You can also unlock the ability to use a computer controlled companion that you train and summon to help you. Keeping up with the timing of their training, on top of timed profession building, means your character has a lot to focus on while they strive for the current level cap of 60. Professions work like time-based quests found in social gaming apps, so they can be performed in the background at all times. There are dungeons and skirmishes available, each performed with a full party of five players. Queue up for these events while you work on other parts of the game.

    All of the things I'm describing are achieved at level ten and higher, but you can only realize how fun these things are if you make it past the beginning of the game. Granted leveling is quick, and the beginning is relatively short, but the story here is drab, dry, and a sorry follow-up to the awe-inspiring opening cinematic. The story and fighting abilities vastly improve as the player levels, and my personal favorite feature of the entire game is introduced at level 15- The Foundry. The Foundry allows players to create their own quests and campaigns within the game. Some of the stories you can play, created by individuals from all over the world, are varied, creative, and an excellent way to level outside of the main quests. You can create your own campaigns, but this varies from the tabletop version. Even with a vastly adaptable tool kit and a cornucopia of base content to configure, there are limits simply by using the visual representation required in game. That's not to say the limits prevent any worth- the Foundry is an amazing addition to this gameplay format, and does a fantastic job at resembling the creative nature of tabletop itself.

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    The truth is, as a lifelong fan of the Forgotten Realms and nearly every game released from this universe, I had high expectations. In some ways, I was disappointed. I maybe expected too much from the story given my nostalgia for other games set within Neverwinter or Baldur's Gate. Neverwinter is a game that takes a little time to ease into, but it's worth the investment. I'd even say that in-game purchases with real money are warranted, provided you like the game enough to keep playing as it grows better and better. Beware of glitches that can cause things like character histories to be erased, or even prevent you from using an ability or potion here or there during battle. (I encountered the latter infrequently, and I'm sure the game is constantly patching and fixing these things.) One of the most compelling features of Neverwinter is the constant attention to improving the game and adding more features, including endgame PvE and PvP opportunities. This, along with character created Foundry campaigns and a seeming desire to incorporate the essence of tabletop magic, lead me to highly recommend at the very least trying this game if you are a fan of Forgotten Realms and MMOs.

    Published in PC
    Saturday, 18 April 2009 00:00

    Street Fighter 4 Review [X360]

     

    There is something extremely satisfying about a well thrown punch. The feeling of contact between your fist and bone. The sharp snap it makes. The tinge of pain in your forearm from the shock of the impact. I'm not talking about justhitting something. I'm describing what happens when you use everything your body has, directed through your fist, in an attempt to destroy whats on the other end. Its addictive and dangerous. Most people never really experience that. But those that do, know exactly what I mean.

    When I was younger, I was very familiar with that feeling. Growing up in the projects meant that when someone pushes you, you push back harder. It's a simple rule that worked amazingly well.I didn't get pushed that often, andwhen I did,I made sure it didn't happen again.

    That rule changed when we moved to the suburbs, but no one told me. Being one of the few Black kids at Linkhorn Park Elementary School, I got pushed a lot. And I pushed back. Punched back. And when I'd get pulled into the principles office, I couldn't care less what she had to say. She obviously didn't know how things worked. Her rules weren't my rules. Even when Chris, the only other Black kid in the school tried to explain things to me, I ignored him. "Derrick,the kids here are wimps, you can't hit them like that anymore'. He was right, the kids were wimps. A shove on the basketball court was a reason for tears. A kick at the playground was a reason to run to the teacher. Why were they crying? They have 2 parents, nice houses, and didn't have to use a free lunch card in the cafeteria. Wimps.

    I finally got the message when my mother was called in for a 'conference'. I waited outside while the teachers recited my crimes to her. When my mom came out of that room, I expected a smack to the head and to be shoved into the back seat of the car. That what was supposed to happen. But it didn't. Instead she refused to look at me and headed for the bathroom.Tears streaming down her face. I had never seen her like that. When the teacher appeared, she looked at my blank expression and accused me, 'You did that to her.You're the most apathetic child I've ever seen, do you know what apathetic means?' I nodded my head. I knew exactly what it meant. It meant 'boy who makes his mother cry'. That's when I decided to change. What beatings, and restrictions, and suspensions failed to do over the years, was accomplished in a split second by the image of a strong woman reduced to tears.

    But deciding not to hit other kids doesn't mean the feelings go away. And they needed an outlet. When I saw a new game at the supermarket called Street Fighter 2, I asked my mom for a quarter and played it while she shopped. When another kid joined in, it was a revelation. I could punch him, kick him, throw him to the ground. No punishments. No crying. This was a good thing. Very good.

    Over the years other ways to channel those feelings have come and gone, and Street Fighter faded into the background. Each new version seemed to get farther away from allowing me to throw a punch and enjoy it connecting. Instead of an outlet, it turned into a way to watch a combo meter count upward. I just wanted to hit someone.

    Street Fighter 4 brings that back. The visceral thud of a punch is conveyed in beautiful images that make the violence seem like a work of art. The controls have been simplified so that I don't have to search online for a 13 page move list to enjoy it. And most importantly, when a punch connects on screen, I feel it. And it feels good.

    Score 9/10

     

    Published in Xbox 360
    Monday, 13 April 2015 00:00

    5 Star Wrestling Review [PS3]

    As the AllGames.com resident wrestling fanatic, which includes video games, and seeing as it's WrestleMania season, I've been tasked with reviewing the new indie game that dropped on the PlayStation Network exclusively for PS3, 5 Star Wrestling. First, to understand the title of the game, you need to know that a 5 Star match in wrestling is the highest ranking you can receive in wrestling. Though, this ranking system was started by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter, it just caught on and now everyone just kind of follows it. To put this in perspective, the WWE as a whole has only had five 5 Star matches since this ranking system began in the 80's.


    The selling point by 5 Star is that wrestlers can/will take damage and that damage will actually affect gameplay. This selling point is what got me so excited for the game in the first place. This was something that no games before it had done, even though the WWE games Wrestlemania 2000, No Mercy, and Day of Reckoning 1 & 2 had damage meters, and the wrestlers would limp or hold an arm, the damage never affected gameplay. The other point, which was also exciting, was unique finisher reversals, some even reversing into the opponent's finisher. This also, to my knowledge anyway, hadn't been done before. So when the game dropped, and I bought it, I had some high hopes. Was I dreaming or did 5 Star Wrestling deliver a 5 star product?

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    When starting, and playing this game, I feel it's important to note that this is an indie game. A small team of passionate people came together to make what they felt would be an awesome wrestling game. So keeping that in mind, I also feel that it's completely unfair to compare it to critically acclaimed games like WWF No Mercy, and current games like WWE2k15. I mean, WWE2k15 is basically working off a backbone that was started and has been refined since 1995!


    I'm not going to bore you with basic stuff, there's a menu, there's music, language select, all the good stuff. The game menu music is just a randomly played wrestler theme song. Getting into the meat of this game, there's 8 wrestlers, "Raging" Andy Organ, Harvee Dee, Gregg Hearty, Dynamite Pegasus, Jonny "The Bull" Miavia, Mike Iceberg, Curtis Angel, and Ragnabrok. Since the name of the developer IS Serious Parody, I'm sure you can figure out who each wrestler is a parody of. Personally, I find the goofy names pretty awesome because it feels like a throwback to the old Fire Pro Wrestling games that had to come up with a bunch of goofy names for the wrestlers. As for match types, there's 7, with 6 being locked, they are:

    • Wrestling Match*
    • Pin Fall Only
    • Submission Match
    • 2 Out Of 3 Falls
    • No Holds Barred
    • First Blood
    • Last Man Standing


    *Available at start

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    There's also 1 alternate attire for each wrestler that can be unlocked. You can unlock match types, attires, and arenas by going through the Challenge Mode, and earning coins.


    Challenge mode is the main mode of this game. Challenge mode is what it sounds like, a lot of different challenges, each challenge comes with 3 (or more) objectives, and tracks whether your match is a 5 star classic or not. To be honest, the first few challenges I did, i was just killing the objectives and then finishing the match, which lead to 1 or 2 star matches. You'll get more coin for higher star matches.


    Graphically, this game is better looking than a lot of stuff out there right now, and it doesn't do the typical indie game thing where it's either pixel art dubbed "retro" or some weird artsy style. While the character models are far from realistic, they'd probably fall somewhere in like with cartoony muscle guys. But it works, so I can't knock it, i like the look of the characters and the arenas. Oddly, there's crowd noise piped in by speakers that you can see in the arenas if you really look, because there's no crowds. I kind of hope they add crowds via a patch or something, but really it's not that important.


    Gameplay wise, this is where I have a lot of conflict. The controller scheme is something completely new to me, so it takes some getting use to. After a few playthroughs I really like it now, as you only need to press, at most, 2 buttons (at once) and flick the right analog stick to pull a move off, but mostly you'll be pressing one of the shoulder buttons and either hitting the right analog for grapples, or X for strikes. Working the limbs of your opponents, and seeing their knee give out under their weight while trying to perform a move, or favoring their arm, it's really nice to see that stuff. This game is probably the most cerebral wrestling game on the market right now. Oh, you could use psychology since the N64 days. Working body parts, even now in the 2K games, helps to win matches quicker. but the PRESENTATION of it. The way working the knee affects a match, it's never been done like this before, and it's a breath of fresh air. The problems with the gameplay come with glitches where grapples cause wrestlers to teleport and switch places to finish the move. But, I mean, that's really the biggest, consistent, problem I've seen. And that's not bad.


    The sound of the game is typical wrestling sound, though I give immense credit on not using generic rock music or public domain music or something to cut cost. The music in this game is all original, all be it parody of real songs, but even if they're parodies they sound pretty great. My favorite is Harvee Dee's theme.


    Considering this is their first outing, and their own original engine, they've really powerbombed it out of the park, and into a table. Is it a perfect game? No. Is it the fabled second coming of No Mercy, no. But it doesn't need to be. Once the little problems are patched, and once whatever planned DLC is implemented, it'll carve it's own niche in wrestling video game lore.It's not the greatest game, it needs small work in a lot of areas. I think once it's patched and everything's working solidly, it'll be one of the greatest wrestling games in the past 10 years.


    Score: 3 1/2 Stars

    Published in Playstation 3

     Introduction to Black Desert Online: A Ms. H Video Game Review

    I was pleasantly surprised at what awaited me when I downloaded the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Player Game (MMORG) Black Desert Online.  Black Desert Online was different from the video game I imagined it would be.  I've played quite a few MMORGs and was ready to experience the same type video gaming experience as I did before.  However, I quickly realized Black Desert Online wants to be clear that it is not your ordinary, run of the mill MMORG video game.  Here are my thoughts and views of the Black Desert Online video game.

    Video Game Customizations in Black Desert Online Video Game

    It didn't take me long to find out that one of the many high points of playing Black Desert Online was the customizations.  In fact, I spent an inordinate amount of time first of all on naming my characters -- then customizing them to the Nth degree.  There were numerous choices of how I could customize my video game characters which included not only the facial features and body types, but also the horoscopes and other aspects that were provided to me.

    There was a minor downside to my customizations. When I logged back in to play Black Desert Online, I discovered the specific character I customized was tied to a particular server.  Of course I had not made note of the server I chose, so I was unable to retrieve my customized character.  No problem.  All I had to do was to pick another server, customize another video game character and be sure to use the same server to bring her back up.

    I believe I customized about two or three characters before I decided that it was time to get into actually playing the video game.  When i concentrated my efforts on playing the video game, instead of using my customized characters, I decided to use the character that was provided in the game with no customizations whatsoever.  That's not to say that I will not maybe later retrieve my customized character and play the game from her vantage point.

    Graphics in Black Desert Online Video Game

    At first glance, Black Desert Online graphics had the cookie-cutter look of other similar type video games.  However, some of the close-up rendering of the enviornment was quite impressive, and appeared to look realistic.

    Choices in Black Desert Online Video Game

    The developers, in my opinion, did not economize when it came to giving gamers choices when playing the Black Desert Online video game.  In addition to the wide variety of customization features available for the video game characters, there were numerous choices within the video game itself.  As I completed quests and other adventures, I was given options to interact with other video game characters in the game by simply pushing the "R" key.  There were many other choices as well throughout the video gameplay.

    If I was stuck in some way in the video game or needed help, I could summon the assistant called the Black Spirit by simply pressing the comma key on my laptop.  The assistant would appear as a black flowing cloud with red dots for eyes to instruct me on what I could do.  Interesting enough, I found out if I summoned the assistant while I was in combat with enemies, this assistant was not immune and could get temporarily destroyed.

    Black Desert OnlineBlack Desert Online

    Violence and Gore in Black Desert Online Video Game

    Speaking of enemies, many of the quests in Black Desert Online video game involved fighting or destroying enemies.  Some of the enemies included grass beetles, weasels and other creatures.  I think it was creative how the developers would oftentimes camouflage these enemy creatures in the foilage and other areas where sometimes they were not easily visible.  A negative was the blood splatters in this video game which I am not a fan. I think the video game would be even more enjoyable to play if there were no blood splatters in these battles.

    Leveling Up in Black Desert Online Video Game

    I think leveling up in Black Desert online was not difficult.   When I reached level 10, I was no longer considered a beginner in the tutorial stage. As I leveled up, I begin to notice other aspects of the video game.  For example, I noticed the attention to detail in the environment as well as other video game players' characters in the game.  There was also the usual dialogue among players appearing and scrolling sometimes on the left side of the screen.

    I was leery of being tempted to get loyalty points by logging on to the video game Black Desert Online daily.  For the first two or three days, I gave in to signing in daily, and in turn boosted up my loyalty points.  However, I still limited my video game playing time.  I resisted the urge to log on to Black Desert Online for loyalty points as I did other things instead of playing this video game.   My caution is to not get lured into having this video game take up a lot of your time by playing it for long periods of time, not only because of the temptation of the loyalty points, but also because Black Desert Online is such a fun video game to play.  As I've cautioned you before -- always strike a balance between playing video games and doing other real-life non-video game activities.

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    Assessment of Black Desert Online Video Game

    In my opinion, Black Desert Online is a video game that is worth your time playing in moderation.  I think you will enjoy the different type environments and the feeling that you are actually a part of this video game world and making video game accomplishments. There are lots of quests you can choose to take as well different adventures you can embark upon.  Black Desert Online video game will keep your interest in part because of the wide variety of characters and the real-world look of the video game backdrop as well as the various missions and quests.   As with most online video games, there is also an online forum you can consult as required if you need help in getting to the next level or getting further into the video game.

    Black Desert OnlineBlack Desert Online

    I believe I would have rated Black Desert Online higher if the blood splatters were eliminated, if it was easier to get the video game launched in the first place and if the characters retained their customizations once you got a far-away view of them in action, if profanity in the video game was eliminated and on top of all this if there were no instances where the server timed out during the game play.  When this happened, I had to start playing the video game all over again. That being said, I think the positives of the Desert Online video game far outweigh the negatives.

    Rating of Black Desert Online Video Game

    On a scale of 1 star to 10 stars, with 1 star being the lowest and 10 stars being the highest, I rate Black Desert Online video game 8 stars.

    Availability of Black Desert Online Video Game

    Black Desert Online is a buy-to-play video game developed by Pearl Abyss and is playable on the PC.

    Published in PC
    Wednesday, 18 November 2015 01:42

    Pathologic Classic HD [PC]

    Pathologic Classic HD is a remastered version of the cult classic first person survival game where you search an open world to find clues, items, and of course a lot of stopping random people and children to talk and barter items. Not a lot of action in this game, and after awhile it can get a bit dull doing the same things over and over. You live out the story of 3 people in this game and it may leave you scratching your head wondering what is going on and why.

    GRAPHICS:
    The graphics are reminiscent of Day Z and H1Z1. The overall animations of the characters are fairly basic, as the people you 'talk' to look at you with various facial expressions. You’ll have to "talk" to a lot of people in the form of reading text on a screen..lots of reading text on the screen...lots!

    Pathologic screenshot original 1

    CONTROLS
    With this game you should be able to use either joystick or keyboard/mouse, but my joystick never worked on this game. I’m not the best keyboard game player and the learning curve is small but it does take awhile to get used to. The overall motions are smooth once you get used to the controls. The quick loading times are a plus when going in and out of buildings. With such a huge map, there are a lot of houses to go into and places to buy stuff. Although sometimes you wonder why there is so little to choose from in some shops.

    Pathologic screenshot original 2

    GAMEPLAY
    This is a very slow game in my opinion. After a few hours of walking and reading text with no real action, I lit up when I was slapped in the face by someone who I had spoken too. On another occasion I was getting punched in the face for doing talking to someone else. That led me to believe that there was going to be a battle, but no, just run out the door and the fight is over. Your reputation is very important in this game, so be careful how you treat the people you are talking to. But there are times where the actual audio of the person has nothing to do with the task at hand and sometimes the choices you get for communicating are to either saying something mean or saying something even worse.

    Pathologic screenshot original 4

    THE FINAL WORDS
    This is the kind of game that is an acquired taste for sure, if you like a game where you do a lot of walking and reading text, finding random items and seeing some things that just are simply strange, then you may enjoy Pathologic HD. Not much shooting or fighting in this one. Be prepared to play for hours trying to figure out what is exactly happening in this game. It seems to be aimed at the more cerebral gamer that steers clear of twitch action titles.

    Published in PC

    The Walking Dead Season 2 – Episode 3 “In Harms Way”

    After the bombshell that was the second episode in Telltale's stellar video game series The Walking Dead, we immediately move forward without being able to stop and think about the choices you chose previously. Which is a good thing, as the second episode did shake me up a little and I began to question my own moral compass and how devastating the narrative has been on poor Clementine.

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    Episode two was all about the action and raising the stakes, where as episode three is more focused on the psychological and emotional breaking points of each character. All seems to be lost as Carver has captured the group and is taking them back to his place of safety.

    The writer of this episode (Pierre Shorette) really does push the player to his/her own emotional brink, and has created some brilliantly sadistic and uncomfortable scenes that again not only questions Clementine and the supporting casts actions, but also the players actions and moral compass.

    The episode itself manages to be fresh and unpredictable. Even right up to its climax it still wasn't apparent if the group were going to make it to safety. The shift from all out action to the emotional and psychological was handled superbly and was just as gripping.

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    I feel that In Harms Way was probably the most bleakest of any of the franchise episodes to date, and any form of optimism is immediately quashed by the continuous moral choices faced by Clementine.

    The ever present, menacing character that is the brilliant Carver continuously raises the stakes for our group and provides the necessary roadblocks that Clementine and co have to overcome, not only to plan an escape, but just to survive in general. His ruthless control over the community is brilliantly played out through the entire episode. Every interaction with Carver was unpredictable and an uneasy affair.

    Carver has been such a huge presence on and off screen that I found myself playing Clementine in a slightly different light. I originally set out to sculpt her into a cold hearted, bitter eleven year old who never trusted anyone. However, with the introduction of Carver I found myself siding with the group and being a little warmer to her relationships with each group member.

    All because of the huge effect Carver has on the episode as a whole. So huge in fact, that for the first time in a long time I genuinely wanted to see this character dead and wiped off the face of the earth.

    This then sets up a fantastic ending to the character and you genuinely do find yourself throwing all compassion out the window and dishing out cold blooded justice.

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    The episode itself ends openly in that as the player, you have literally no idea what's in store for Clementine and the rest of the group. That made the ending all the more unnerving and your choices more important as the unpredictability of the series continues.

    Overall, episode three was a different beast to the action packed episode two. Your moral choices and dialogue options felt more important in this episode than ever before. The unpredictability of Carver heightens everything to its maximum, and the episode itself ends in such an open way that I will be worried for Clementine's future until episode four is released.

    Published in PC
    Tuesday, 05 August 2014 00:00

    Review - Divinity: Original Sin [PC]

    Growing up, I always felt western role-playing games on the PC were underrated. Maybe it's due to the fact that I was only two years old when Wasteland was released. Ten years later when I was enthusing about Baldur's Gate, most of my twelve-year-old buddies were busy anticipating the release of the next Final Fantasy game on console. I mean, yes, I love Japanese RPGs as much as the next gamer, but the communities for the computer games I grew up loving always seemed scarce or closed in by comparison.

    Fast-forward to the current era of gaming where we have the introduction of Steam and crowd-funding websites, and a different picture is emerging. In an arena where consumers can have direct involvement and influence on the types of games they want to play, there has been a reemergence of these very games. And while the Divinity series of games may not span as far back as some others, they certainly have harkened to this earlier era of RPGs in their latest release Divinity: Original Sin.

    The game was completed and enhanced through Kickstarter funding. Different aspects of gameplay were unlocked as levels of the funding were reached, and thanks to all of those who contributed, the game is intricate and vast. The self-published title from Larian Studios also runs on their own engine, complete with a tool kit for designing customized levels. While the game is available on Mac and coming soon for Linux, mods for the PC version are available and can be published through the Steam Workshop.

    Divinity screenshot1

    The first thing you'll want to do with the game is decide whether to play the campaign in single-player or drop in multi-player mode. Both modes require you to create two characters. You will choose the name, sex, appearance, portrait photo, and class for each character. Advanced players can mostly disregard the pre-built classes, as the Divinity gameplay allows fluid and complex class building. Don't feel like you must limit yourself to be strictly caster, ranged, or melee. Various items found in the game, along with perks, traits, and skills, allow you to reach outside of basic class structures. Customization is more involved than the RPGs the game emulates, but it's still more simplistic than a lot of modern RPGs. The game offers a variety of skin tones and hair styles, but sadly falls short in offering any variation in body type. Once you have your character looking stunning, it's time to give them a voice (three options per gender) and most interestingly, an AI personality. AI personalities, such as Loyal, Knight, or Rascal, are more than just clever fun for dialogue- they offer unique insight and development for your playable characters.

    You start the game with only two characters, but you can add certain people you encounter to your party. You have the ability to change their gear and assign skill points, as well as control them in battle. However, they are still separate from your main characters, as you cannot speak for them. If you choose to play multi-player, LAN or internet connection are available for drop in/drop out gameplay. The person hosting the game can assign characters to those who join and also determine whether they can change certain aspects such as gear or skill points. I absolutely loved the simplicity of playing in multi-player. However, it would be great to have the option of more than two original characters for a team. Events in the game don't just happen to your characters, your characters also take time to reflect upon events and even their own actions. This is where the exciting addition of the AI personality really shines, allowing the player to create exchanges between their characters. The options chosen in many dialogue exchanges not only shape the character in the player's mind, but they also contribute to certain traits gained through gameplay. For example, if a player chooses kind options, they can receive the Compassionate trait, which gives them a bonus to critical hits. If a player chooses to be cruel, they can receive the Heartless trait, which increases their chances to hit while backstabbing.

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    Another unique aspect of the game is the bartering system. The game still offers vendors for particular items, but player purchases are not limited among them. Every person in the game offers not only a chance for better information and possible quests, but a selection of items they are also willing to trade. This is one of the ways that the game really emphasizes thorough exploration. And if talking to every person in the game isn't enough, there is also the option to take on the Pet Pal perk, which allows your character to speak with the various critters found throughout the game. Aside from humorous banter and the realization that the animals are more pleasant company than most of the humans, this perk can also help provide solid clues to solving quests and puzzles.

    Talking to every creature great and small isn't the only thing that will take some time. Turn-based battles set the pace at self-determined and much slower than an action RPG, especially if you're playing multi-player. This, along with the ability to see rolls for each action, really give the game an old school tabletop feel. The battle system is quite easy to learn, which allows the player to focus on customization and tactics. With every move and attack costing action points, it's important for players to understand what each spell and skill can do. It's also vital to pay attention to the hit percentage that will pop up, along with the area of damage, since friendly fire is very possible and likely with certain magical and elemental attacks. The battle system here allows the player's inner strategist to really shine as they discover attack and elemental combinations. There are many barrels filled with water, oil, etc, but spell casters can also create elemental changes, such as rain. Use these abilities together to create poision gas clouds or electrically charged steam. The creative battle techniques are really what set this RPG apart not only from action RPGs, but also from other turn-based RPGs that place far less emphasis on atmosphere and status effect combinations.

    The basic gameplay is straight-forward and great fun to explore, and once you've felt your way around most of the game (which will take many hours depending on how thorough you are) you might get the itch to take your creativity to the next level. Divinity: Original Sin does a fantastic job of merging the organic feel of tabletop with the best offerings of contemporary gaming technology. The next step in staying true to these roots is to allow players the ability to build levels within the game's engine. The engine is solid and provides for smooth gameplay even on less advanced set-ups, though my one small complaint is load times, which of course vary by computer. The Divinity Engine Toolkit is far more advanced than many level editors in other games of its ilk. As a player who loved to create levels in games like the original Warcraft games and Lode Runner, I had all the creative will, but very little of the modding and world editing advanced knowledge. Larian has provided many videos to help those who are newer to level editing on this scale. The step by step guidance was extremely helpful for me, and while building levels this way is definitely more complex and time consuming than in other games, it also creates a more detailed and personalized product.

    Divinity screenshot3

    Divinity: Original Sin is a sampling of some of the best offerings from both old and new schools. A fitting homage to the games I grew up playing, it also establishes an identity of its own and can be grouped in among the best of the genre. It's a fine example of what can be achieved when a good balance between a development/publishing team and players is created. Between all of the creative ways to construct in the game and the sprawling world to explore, the game brings apt innovation to an already solid genre.

    SCORE: 9/10

    Published in PC
    Wednesday, 18 December 2013 00:00

    LocoCycle Review (Xbox One)

    LocoCycle review titleSuper-intelligent motorcycles, smarmy weapons dealers, and a mechanic literally dragged along for the ride. Lococycle has this and more for you to try to process into something coherent, unfortunately "Loco" is more than just part of the title.


    Lococycle starts out with a live action movie that is scripted, budgeted, shot, and acted like a B-movie. This really isn't a surprise, as it has long been known that developer Twisted Pixel was aiming for that feeling. Given the plot it fits beautifully.

    LocoCycle review 6A shady weapons company, Big Arms, has built two super-intelligent assassin motorcycles I.R.I.S. and S.P.I.K.E. They show off their newest creations at a party attended by six stereotypical characters, three of which will probably offend a few people; there is the smarmy, fast-talking weapons dealer CEO, the Korean Supreme Leader, the African King, the American General, the Russian General, and the macho biker with the "cybernetic hand."When a storm rolls in and the party moves inside, the Dealer has some underlings move the motorcycles to a different location. As the motorcycles are being moved I.R.I.S. is hit by lightening. Thinking that she might be damaged she is brought to Pablo. While Pablo is checking to make sure she is not damaged, I.R.I.S. scans the "outlaw biker" magazine Pablo was reading earlier, and then she watches a commercial on the T.V. The commercial is for the "Freedom Rally," a motorcycle fan gathering, kind of like the yearly Sturgis Rally but with more outlaws and less corporate sponsorship.

    Taking all this information in and processing it through her now fried and faulty computer I.R.I.S. decides that she needs to throw off the yoke of Big Arms and ride the roads of freedom to the Freedom Rally. She also decides Pablo has to come along and somehow attaches his leg to one of her tailpipes, literally dragging him along.


    After finding out that one of his two super bikes has flown the coop the Big Arms dealer does the only logical thing an evil C.E.O. in a B-movie would do, send his entire private army after it; including the other super bike, S.P.I.K.E.


    LocoCycle review 7
    While I can appreciate a good B-movie, Lococycle tries too hard. It's got some good bits, especially during the live action cut scenes. They even got some name actors and a B-movie legends; Freddy Rodriguez plays Pablo, James Gunn is the Big Arms CEO, Tom Savini is the leader of the motorcycle gang, Robert Patrick is the voice of S.P.I.K.E., and Lisa Foiles is the voice of I.R.I.S. Each sound like they are having a lot of fun in their roles, so that helps make the storyline a little more interesting. Especially Robert Patrick and Tom Savini, between the two of them I thing they get the lion's share of meaty off-the-wall dialog.The live action encapsulates the best parts of the crazy story. It's in the game where things start falling apart.


    LocoCycle review 3Pablo speaks nothing but Spanish. I have to applaud Twisted Pixel for wanting to promote a minority character, even though he's just being drug behind a motorcycle and occasionally used as a weapon. The problem is they try to have both I.R.I.S. and Pablo say lines of dialog and witty one-liners during gameplay. For folks that don't speak Spanish the only option is subtitles for Pablo, which if you are concentrating on the battle onscreen, you miss a majority of what he says. So while I know Freddy had some excellent dialog outside of gameplay, I had nary a clue if he had any winners during. I.R.I.S. does not help either, because while early on she states she can speak over 50 languages, her fried computer misinterprets everything he says. So while Pablo may be stating the amount of pain he is in all I.R.I.S. hears is "lollipops and rainbows" or maybe the "love for the open road.”


    A majority of the gameplay falls into the action brawler/shooter category, which is a bit odd for a game based on a motorcycle. Driving is the lower end of the spectrum here. You can move left or right, but the only acceleration is a limited turbo boost and there are no brakes. Most of the shooting and brawling sections are tight and fun for the first few times, but they get repeated early and often. The brawling sections do have combo multipliers you build up that get big fancy lettered names that start out as typical fodder like "AWESOME" and eventually move into the silly and fun of "POETRY" and "BEARDED." It's boss battles and some of the mini-games that really make the gameplay a mixed bag of "meh." The "targeted" shooting sections aiming felt way to loose making it very frustrating to have to play through multiple times. Some of the boss battles even pay homage to classic arcade games, but here too the controls are either "right on" or "why bother."


    LocoCycle review 2Sometimes the mini-games didn't even give you a clue as to what to do. At one point I.R.I.S. conks out and stops. The game goes into a split screen showing an oncoming enemy with a "distance from me meter" on one side and Pablo sitting on the road behind I.R.I.S. on the other. I started pushing buttons, nothing happened. I started moving Pablo around, still nothing. It wasn't until I start moving Pablo to the extreme sides that I finally got a button to flash onscreen to start me into a simple mini-game. After trial and error I learned that there are three parts to the mini-game, but again, I had to find the next hotspot to activate the next mini-game. Needless to say I became very familiar with the restart. I think that was my biggest frustration with the game, a lot of redoing sections because of lack of information, guides, or just plain poor game mechanics.


    TwistedPixelLogoTwisted Pixel is a developer that has created some really good games for the Xbox 360 like The Maw, 'Splosion Man, and Ms. 'Splosion Man, they even created one of the best Kinect games with The Gunstringer. With Lococycle they may have strayed a bit. Ithas some good bits and some bad bits, although Twisted Pixel created craziness it wanted to capture, in the end the bad outweighs the good. Throw in a B-movie story and now you are on a trip to a very niche audience. Lococycle may have been better suited as a straight to DVD B-movie rather than game.

     

    Published in Xbox One
    Thursday, 22 January 2015 00:00

    Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Review [Xbox One]

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    The naked body is one of the most beautiful objects in the world. There’s a reason why the Greeks used it as an analog for the gods in their sculpture and why art students around the world study each muscle and intonation of nude models. It’s because the simple lines and curves that shape the human body conspire together to create the perfect melding of form and function.

    Here’s an exercise. Imagine the most attractive person you can. It doesnt matter if it’s a man or woman, take your pick. Imagine that person standing there, void of clothes, makeup, or tattoos. Visualize only their body, proud and confident. Beautiful isn’t it? Hell, it’s downright stunning. Now, keep imagining that person, but add the usual adornments people require. Shoes, a simple shirt or dress, etc. Maybe that person looks slightly better to you now, or maybe a little less. Now, continue adding the accessories that we’re used to seeing draped on the human form. Imagine them with a complicated, in vogue hairstyle, pile on the makeup and gold jewelry. Keep going. Picture them wearing a hat, gloves, designer sunglasses. And just like that, the beautiful work of art that was once there no longer has the simple perfection that they were born into the world with. Instead, this new creation is a gaudy substitute. Hidden somewhere under all of those unneeded additions is the true beauty. Somewhere.
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    That’s the path that a lot of modern games have taken. At the core of Call of Duty’s dozens of weapons and myriad of controls may be a solid first person shooter. Deep down beneath The Crew’s needless storyline and layers of special effects could be a decent racer. But like many games today, you’ll be hard pressed to find the beauty of the game underneath all of the extraneous makeup and jewelry that are masquerading as ‘innovations’.

    Geometry Wars 3 takes a different route. The simple, straightforward gameplay that dates back to one of the first twin stick shooters, Robotron 2084, is stripped of any pretense. You aren’t inundated with a story that was shoehorned in. The graphics are made up of basic geometric shapes that somehow seem at home even on a powerhouse like the Xbox One. It’s the opposite of the runway model who can barely stand under the weight of the latest in fashion.

    The idea of the naked form has become transformed by society. It’s been co-opted by everything from advertising to porn. Sure, there’s a juvenile part of us that wants to laugh and point, mock and ridicule, or reduce it to a base sexual stimulant. But once you look past that, what you’ll see is beauty. Pure, simple beauty without the need to cover it up and over adorn it with needless trinkets and toys.

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    The developers at Lucid recognize this. The gameplay modes of Geometry Wars 3 are basic, yet still satisfying. They range from the straightforward ‘Deadline’ where you shoot everything that moves in a set time limit, all the way to Pacifism, where the object is just to survive as long as possible without firing a shot.The adventure mode is a simple progression of level and game types, getting progressively more difficult as your ship equally gains in power via A.I.drones. These power ups are the only really unnecessary piece of bling on the title. Most of them equate to either increasing your firepower, or helping to protect your ship. But with the hectic gameplay, they could have easily been left out without much impact on the experience. Lucid has managed to hone the controls to near perfection, with movement becoming almost instinctive. Your eyes and hands work together in harmony with no middleman to slow them down. 


    Some people say that it’s our insecurities that cause us to hide behind layers of makeup or strut around with expensive watches and designer clothes. The theory is that there’s some inherent flaw underneath, real or perceived, that can be covered up. Like an over compensating student at prom wearing too much cologne. Game developers have a tendency to fall into the same trap. It’s as if they know that if you were to strip away the fancy graphics and dense controls from most AAA titles, you’d be left with uninspired, tiresome gameplay thats been repeated for years. Geometry Wars 3 stands defiant and proud, unashamed of the absence of baubles and trinkets. It has grown since it was born as minigame in an Xbox racer. It’s a bit bolder, a bit wilder. The primitives based visuals have matured into a melding of shapes, color and sound that complement the gameplay instead of overpowering it. It doesn’t need nor want to be hidden under a thick blanket of excess. Geometry Wars 3 revels in it’s nakedness. And that’s a beautiful sight to behold.

    Score. 9 out of 10

    Published in Xbox One
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