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MayFlash Universal Arcade Stick Review

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Overview: The MayFlash Universal Arcade Stick, simply put, aims to be an alternative to some of the other better known (& pricier) arcade sticks currently out there on the market. Frankly, at first glance at the arcade stick's price point, I had low expectations for the product, assuming that it would be of cheap construction and overall poor quality compared to the alternatives out there that are at a much higher price point, with the saying "you get what you pay for" in mind. I was pleasantly surprised at what I learned upon receiving and testing it.


The arcade stick's box contents are basic. Aside from (obviously) the arcade stick itself, it only comes with 2 other items - a mini CD with the appropriate drivers (for PC use) and a card that contains its instructions. Out of the box, the arcade stick is ready to be used on the PS2, PS3, & PC. For the other systems that are listed above, you need the appropriate adapter, which is sold separately (the only downside to the product that comes to mind).


Upon removing the arcade stick from its box & examining it, I notice a few things. First of these is the fact that the product does have some weight to it - not overly heavy, but enough to feel "right". Secondly, it feels rather solid and sturdy, with the body being made of metal. This is in contrast to my preconceived expectation that it would be overly light, flimsy, and easy to damage with little effort.


Visually, it is pretty bare bones. It is a solid matte black in color with no art designs on it whatsoever. In as far as I am concerned, this is a positive. The simplicity in its appearance means to me that it will fit in nicely with your gaming setup & won't clash with anything else.The lack of any game-specific artwork also negates a whole host of other issues that would otherwise come into play, such as having the product becoming dated after awhile, etc.Aside from the joystick itself, the arcade stick has 12 buttons, an auto-fire button, a "clear" button, 2 buttons that serve as a "Start" & "Select" (these 4 are in a row near the top of the arcade stick), & 8 "main" action buttons that are numbered from 1 to 8. The joystick & the 8 main buttons look and feel like what you would expect to find on an actual arcade cabinet, which is fantastic.


I ended up testing out the product on my PC. Installation of the drivers was simple enough & I proceeded to try using the product on numerous retro, arcade & arcade-style games via Steam. Simply put, the product performed beautifully. After playing a given arcade game for a few minutes, I almost felt like I was playing said game at the arcade on an actual arcade cabinet. It was comfortable to use and the button layout was spot on. Frankly, the only thing that would have made this product even better would've been the inclusion of a second joystick on the far right side (for twin stick shooter games) and a small trackball for those games that were originally designed to be used with such things, but I'd hate to be nit-picky.


In conclusion, can I recommend this product and say that it's worth the price tag? Yes, and yes. While it may not be flashy or have a whole lot of bells and whistles, it doesn't have to be and it is still a great product nonetheless.


PROS:
- Simple design that looks great
- Good ergonomics/layout & weight
- Easy to use
- reasonably priced compared to the more well-known alternatives


CONS:
- Separately sold adapters are necessary for use on some systems
- lack of second joystick & a trackball for games that would support/need them (minor gripe)


GRADE: A

  • Published in PC

Beatbuddy Review (PC)

beatbuddyYou probably haven’t heard of THREAKS before. It’s more than likely because they’ve never released a game before, so here’s their first game ever, Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians. Just because it’s the first game for the developer doesn’t mean there aren’t some industry veterans behind it, including Austin Wintory, composer of Journey, who has contributed songs for the game and Rhianna Pratchett, who is the writer for such games as Tomb Raider and Mirror’s Edge. So despite THREAKS being relatively new, there’s plenty of experience behind the team of Beatbuddy. Beatbuddy is a puzzle adventure game where your character, who just so happens to be called Beatbuddy, has been awakened from a deep slumber and then finds out his musically driven world is being the threatened with ultimate destruction. It’s up to you to puzzle solve your way through the game and find out why.

Beatbuddy is a rather simple game, your character Beatbuddy is a floating ghost-like character who moves around with 8 directions of freedom. It plays like you were a spaceship in a 2D world. You go through from section to section where you run into different obstacles that stop you from advancing. For example, one the most common puzzles elements are bounce pads which send you flying backwards and you have to orientate various mirrors to send you in a different directions from where you bounced from. The point is to send yourself flinging at top speed at clearly marked destructible walls which you hit and destroy after successfully orientating the mirrors correctly. You then move on and advance to the next section of level from there. Honestly it’s usually rather obvious what direction you’re supposed to line the mirrors up and so you spend an excruciating amount of time trying to line up mirrors correctly rather than solving actual puzzles.beatbuddy

Another central mechanic found within the game is that it’s supposed to be all about the beat where the music drives the environments and the environments drive the music. Honestly on this score, the game doesn’t quite live up to it’s hype. While there are definitely reasons that the music matters, like when the music is affected by touching items in the environment and even some enemies that have to be killed to the rhythm of the music playing, however there is no compelling use of the beat mechanics for the most part. It’s really just a gimmick that never gets used to its full potential.

Rhianna Pratchett is flaunted as the star writer, however the story really isn’t all that central to the game. You do have a reason to go from point A to point B but you’ll never get all that involved in the plot. The game’s story is mostly told through boring text bubbles that can be kinda funny sometimes but usually aren’t.

I’ve spent plenty of time bagging on the game but I feel I should highlight its positives as it’s not a bad game. While not innovative, you do have on your hands a solid puzzle adventure game that is not very difficult but is still fun. The primary mechanics are compelling enough to make you want to play through the game despite the few annoyances I mentioned earlier. There are constant checkpoints making it easy to jump in and out of the game between sessions. The game has plenty of options for controls (Keyboard, Gamepad, Mouse) and all of them play well. The musical score for the game is great. There was much attention paid to making a great electronic orchestral for the levels so I’d definitely recommend picking up the soundtrack once it’s available. I did notice the volume options can’t mute the game and only goes from somewhat low to high volumes, so keep that in mind. The “hand-painted” characters and environments look awesome and much kudos goes to the art director for the unique and beautiful game that they crafted.

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Beatbuddy is a fun little game that warrants it’s budget price. You’ll get a solid 5 hours out of playing it which could be seen as short to some but it was enough for me. You won’t have your socks blown off playing the game but it’s got a unique vibe and all in all it's worth a look.

  • Published in PC

Moebius: Empire Rising (PC)

If you are a gamer of a certain age then the name Jane Jensen will catch your interest. She is the writer behind many classic Sierra Online games and the creator of the Gabriel Knight adventure games. Recently she has taken to Kickstarter to back two games. The first of those two games has been released, Moebius: Empire Rising.

If you are a gamer of a certain age then the name Jane Jensen will catch your interestMoebius: Empire Rising is a point and click adventure that tells the tale of Malachi Rector, an antiques and art appraiser. He is very intelligent and sharp eyed in his chosen profession. He is also something of an aloof snob and an ass. He is hired by semi-secretive organization (F.I.T.A.), run by a man named Amble Dexter, to go to Venice to investigate a murdered woman and determine what historical figure her life most resembles. While there he is attacked by ninjas who then scan all of the information he has on the murdered woman. He reports back to Dexter that, while her life closely resembled Livia Drusilla, she did not match completely.

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Working for himself again Malachi is next in Cairo to appraise ancient artifacts from a mummy's tomb. While there he saves ex-special forces American, David Walker, from the same ninjas who attacked him in Venice. He decides to hire David as a bodyguard. In many ways David is a typical American, blonde haired, blue eyed, jock, who likes to tell bad jokes. (How many Special Forces soldiers does it take to change a light bulb? Sorry that's classified information.) When the ninjas attack a third time Malachi and David are able to stand their ground and fight them off. He finishes his business in Cairo and returns to New York.

Malachi believes the ninjas are part of something bigger and asks to meet with Amble Dexter. He is surprised when Dexter insists that Malachi bring David to the meeting. At the meeting Dexter reveals that F.I.T.A. believes in Roman philosopher, Paramedes’, theory that everyone is an "echo" of someone in the past. From there the story takes some strange twistsNot like reincarnation where a person was someone else but now living a new life, but that same person living the same life event for event in a new generation. Their overall goal is to make Senator Markam, whom they believe is the echo of Augustus Caesar and will bring hundreds of years of prosperity to America, the next United States President. Malachi agrees to help in their endeavor.

From there the story takes some strange twists from a detective adventure towards one of a more supernatural vein.

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The mechanics of Moebius: Empire Rising is pretty standard and sound for a point and click adventure. No major problems arose when I used the controls. It does have a quirky playing feature. In most point and click adventures you can pick up and carry almost anything. In Moebius: Empire Rising, you can’t just pick up whatever you want and carry it around. Certain items needed for a puzzle can’t be picked up until you hit the right “trigger point” that will allow you to pick up that item. This causes a lot of backtracking during game play. The oddest of which is when you try to get into a VIP tent to meet Senator Markam. You practically go from one end of Manhattan to the other, working back and forth gathering the items you need. By some strange coincidence the Senator's rally lasts just long enough for you to do all this and then ends the moment you walk into the VIP tent. It's a slight stretch of your suspension of disbelief, but it’s not a game breaker.

The graphics are where the breaks start happening. Moebius: Empire Rising has anexaggerated comic book look that turns into the late 2000's video game style. All the characters have long thin limbs, except David who looks in normal proportion. The style is fine. It's clipping and other effects that fail. Feet go through floors, legs sometimes twist in unnatural ways, and at one point Malachi moves a chair, but he doesn't actually grab the chair as it magically moves, his hand floats on top of it and the whole thing shifts. Little things like this took me out of the game. The worst offender was the water reflections. Now in the background things like trees and buildings that didn't have as much definition are reflected fine. It was when characters stood next to the water with their backs to it. The reflection was not their backside reflected, nope. It was a complete recreation of their front. So unless everyone has their face on the front and back of their head, something's not right here. The first time I saw it I thought the game was going into a dream sequence of some sort.

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I do have to give great praise to Moebius: Empire Rising's voice actors. They turn in some fine performances. I think the real audio gem though is Jane Jensen's husband, composer Robert Holmes. Robert provides a great soundtrack that wouldn't sound out of place in a Hollywood spy thriller.


Moebius: Empire Rising's story starts a bit slow, but by the third and fourth chapters things start getting interesting enough that I want to see how it will end. Malachi is a really hard hero to cheer on. His aloof attitude never really endears himself to the player. The only thing that makes him seem to have a heart is subtle underlying relationship between him and David. At one point David tells Malachi that he is meeting Malachi's assistant, Gretchen, at a nightclub. Malachi asks that David not get involved with his only other employee, to which David replies, "She's not my type." At the nightclub David hints around that he's not interested in Gretchen. Towards the end of the conversation Gretchen tells David point blank to not get too close to Malachi, that, "he will break your heart." The possible gay romance never really moves up from a subtle possibility. It gets to a point where you wish it they would either just come out with it or drop it.

Jane Jensen can tell an interesting tale in a video game still, but there seem to be some stray parts to Moebius: Empire Rising that just doesn't pull me in. Moebius: Empire Rising has flashes of a good gameA main character I have a hard time caring for and a subtle romance that doesn't go anywhere are things that push me away from a game. Throw in graphical elements that completely take me out of the game and we are starting to have real problems. I have to say the puzzles hold things together fairly well, but an adventure game needs more than just puzzles to engage a player. Moebius: Empire Rising has flashes of a good game and you can see where Jane Jensen wants to take it, but as a whole it falls to the middle of the road. If you're a fan of Jane Jensen or point and click style games it might be worth it, but it's a pass otherwise.

  • Published in PC

The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter - Review [PC]

 Please Note: This review does not contain any spoilers.

Lately there has been this push in game development to move beyond the formulaic nature of what big name publishers think works in video games.  It doesn't take too long to see the slew of complaints coming out of major titles these days: the explanation of game mechanics is too long, pacing is terrible, show don't tell, cutscenes are not a great method of storytelling.  From the presence of these forumlas and subsequent gripes, there has been born a new style that I like to refer to as a "just play" game.  The Vanishing of Ethan Carter doesn't tell you a back story, it doesn't tell you what to do, it simply has one initial message that tells you it's an unguided free-form experience and then lets you go.  While I'm sure most gamers will get the jist of what's expected and what to do, I'm sure there are some people out there who will simply freak out and not be able to handle a game where their progress isn't being tracked, where there are no goals or achievements, and where at any given moment you have no idea what to do.  If you are one of those people, just turn away now because you will never find solace with Ethan Carter.  On the other hand, if you just want a lush, gorgeous world to explore and in the end get rewarded with a thought-provoking experience that almost never has to concede to game mechanics, then this could be up your alley.

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You enter the game on a forest-covered path as detective Paul Prospero, who immediately explains that he has supernatural abilities that assist you in discovering what has happened in the town of Red Creek Valley.  It was just as easy to imagine myself as the protagonist and the voice of Prospero merely lending the narration,  but regardless of how you want to view it this is the point where your journey begins.  It's a bit jarring to be dropped into a forest with no indication as to what's going on or what you are supposed to do and with each clue of the game's handful of mechanics and potential puzzles I found myself getting more confused and a bit overwhelmed.  Don't let this discourage you, enough people have played through it and made it out on the other side to assure that eventually you will make the progress you need.  Exploration in this title is so wonderful thanks first and foremost to the game's gorgeous graphics.  Built on the Unreal Engine, it looks almost photorealistic.  Everything from the backdrops to the textures of the ground are handled with the utmost care and the attention to detail must have been a pain for developer the Astronauts to assemble, but the payoff is a world that looks alive and never pulls back the veil to reveal its artificial nature.  The trade off for such wonderful graphics is that you will want a decent graphics card to support them, which my GTX 760 2 GB did a decent job of keeping up with in 1080p although I had to drop a few settings from the highest.  You may notice a random stutter or framerate drop, but the forums on Steam have found a decent solution and the rest can be chocked up to limitations of the Unreal Engine streaming in the next area.  If you're moving at a regular pace and trying to take in everything it's not all that noticeable, but if you find yourself having to backtrack - which you should prepare to have to do - it can be a bit of a nuisance.  Graphics aside the accompaniment of ambient sound effects and a subtle ochestral music assist in the richness of the world, yet again encouraging you to get out there an explore.  

voec 3That's not to say that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is all about wandering about in the woods looking at minutia, because I would have led that this was an art exhibit instead of a game if that were the case.  It presents itself as a mystery and that comes with it the inclusion of investigation, puzzle solving, and naturally wandering upon grounds where you might not be welcome.  Something has clearly happened in Red Creek Valley and it isn't long before you start to see hints of the past emerge to make your earn the title of detective.  It's at this point that one of this title's main flaws appear in full effect: without guidance you have almost no way of knowing when you have completed an area or puzzle.  Logic dictates the game will give you some sort of indication that you are done, which this game does, but when you go in blind and with no direction you could easily assume it may not.  Couple that with the initial tasks of the game being somewhat complicated and you almost wonder if the point was to eventually have you backtrack to complete what you started.  I don't like to return to areas I've already been and I view it as even more of a misstep when the backtracking works to remind me that I'm playing a game, complete with its experiential limitations.  For all  the work The Vanishing of Ethan Carter does to immerse you, it almost seems misguided when a player can bypass a significant mechanic and plot point only to be forced to spent long stretches returning to clean up that mistake later.  Perhaps it was a concious decision or perhaps the Astronauts were unsure how to balance explaining these early concepts without breaking the ultimate goal of letting the player lead the experience, but either way it's quite a setback.  In all honesty I had to restart the game within the first two hours when I realized what I had left behind and thought about how long I would have to retread my steps to clean things up.  I also discovered from breaking my experience into three different sittings that the checkpoint system is a bit broken and works more like a bookmark of new accomplishments as opposed to the save location that you will begin when playing again.  What I mean is that I could see the familiar "scene saving" message on the screen (there's no direct saving or loading on this game) and quit out, but when I restart later I'm dropped in a completely different part of the map where I last accomplished something new and might have to spend minutes if not tens of minutes returning to where I left off.  If you perform all the duties that an area has available to you before moving on the system should work like a true checkpoint, but from my experience you will often have to return to clean things up and at that point may checkpoint yourself far from where you want to go next.  It might surprise you to discover that as annoying and blasphemous as these factors may be, they hindered but didn't ruin my experience of what is otherwise an enchanting work.

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Once these intial hiccups are overcome and you are getting work done in Red Creek Valley, the subsequent events make it all worth it.  Each encounter or puzzle will make you think, but I never found myself stuck for too long nor was I unable to figure out what I was being asked to do.  You realize just how much testing must have gone on to throw people into an unexplained situation and yet give them enough subtext that they are able to easily navigate provided that they just allow themselves to stop and think about it.  As my momentum through the campaign grew I was rewarded with both plot and design twists that kept me hooked.  If you can't already tell from the screen shots it's a slightly eerie and ominous game from start to finish.  I also never worried about how much I had played or how much game I had left while traversing the story.  I just kept playing as long as I was entertained and when I got tired I would stop, but it wasn't long before I felt the pull to return and complete the mystery.  By the end of the game's approximate 4-6 hour journey, I was pleasantly pleased with the outcome both in terms of the story and looking back at The Vanishing of Ethan Carter from a macro perspective.  Some may find that this length is short, but I felt it was as long as it needed to be and may have been in danger of wearing out its welcome had it been padded down with additional content.  There's no doubt about it, this is a thought-provoking experience that will leave you wanting to talk about it with someone. If you're craving something fresh, look no further than The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

Final Score: 8/10

A review copy was provided by the developer for review purposes.  The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is available on Steam for $19.99 and should be released on PS4 early 2015.  It took the reviewer 5 hours to complete with an overall playtime of approximately 7 hours.  

  • Published in PC

The Walking Dead Season 2 – Episode 1 [PC]

Poor old Clementine. Those three words sum up the entirety of The Walking Dead's young heroines premiere episode of Telltale's astounding episodic video game. Season 2 opens with a brutal introduction as to how Clementine has lost her innocence in the post-apocalyptic zombie infested North America. At first I was apprehensive about starting Season 2 of the Walking Dead, mainly because my original choices from Season 1 were locked away on my dusty Xbox360.

Reviewing these episodes on the PC, I began to wonder if the lack of a previous save would hinder my game play experience. I was wrong. The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 1”All That Remains” gives the player an opportunity to create a new version of a beloved character that you once thought you knew inside and out.

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Telltale Games has managed to create a wonderful blend of cinematic storytelling with interesting game play. The foundations from Season 1 are still there, but now seem polished and easier to navigate. It seems like Telltale have used the success of their other property, “Wolf Among Us” to evolve their 'bread and butter' franchise into something better.

As The Walking Dead is leaning more towards a storytelling, cinematic experience, the existence of visual bugs is something I could easily forgive. However as episode 1 progressed, I did begin to feel that the storyline itself was becoming a little too vague. It was brilliant to be able to search through every scene and piece together some form of back story to each location; and the frantic button bashing that's deployed during the zombie fights were highly entertaining and did push me to the edge of my seat.

But, as each scene ended I did feel a little lost in the sense that I had no idea where this story was going. Once Clementine finds herself part of a rag tag group, it's difficult to try and gauge the wants and needs of each person. Being the eyes and ears of Clementine does limit the player into trying to figure out what's really going on in the bigger picture.

It is of course understandable that you cannot be privy to everyone's motivations by the end of the first episode, but a little more should have been handed to the player, if only to wet their appetite for things to come. It is apparent that a major threat is on the horizon but the ambiguity, mainly caused by controlling such a young character, forced the first episode to lose its sting out with the usual shocks of people dying and decisions being made.

Although in saying that, Telltale has done a wonderful job of pushing and pulling the main protagonist, Clementine, in ways that I never expected from a video game. After one episode, they truly have created some haunting scenes that rival any of Season 1's highlights. Dog lovers, watch out.

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Clementine herself is slowly shaping up to become a fully fleshed out character, no matter your choices. Some of the most satisfying dialogue options come from making Clementine sound like a mean badass. You really do see yourself creating a young, crazy, killer reminiscent of Natalie Portman's role in Leon.

Again, Telltale has pushed the boundaries of the players moral thinking via subtle conversational hooks. In season 1 we were faced with Lee having to either cut his arm off or execute a friend. In season 2, we find ourselves having to decide whether or not to execute a dog and also maliciously blackmailing a pregnant woman that you just met.

Overall, episode 1 has been a strong start to Telltale's season 2 of The Walking Dead. It's a brilliant insight into the struggles of a young woman dealing with the moral choices of a post-apocalyptic world. However, the overall story arc lacked substance and hopefully the up and coming episodes will flesh that area out.

  • Published in PC

DerrickH Unboxes the ASUS GL551J Laptop

ASUS sent AllGames a Republic of Gamers G Series GL551J Gaming Laptop to review. And the first step in all reviews is of course, opening the box. Take a look. 

  • Published in PC

Rise of the Triad Review

 

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I didn't get really into gaming until the early 2000s, so I missed a lot of the classic stuff that some people remember about the early days of gaming, including Apogee. They eventually turned into 3D Realms, but they put out some stuff before then that people really liked like Wolfenstein 3D, the Blake Stone games, and Rise of the Triad: Dark War. ROTT was a prime example (at least from what I've heard) of the old school style of shooters, with crazy enemies, weapons, and power ups. Also you could turn into a dog. So it would make sense that someone would want to reboot a franchise like this. It's unfortunate that they had to reboot like this, because it's not very good. 

In the new Rise of the Triad, you once again slip into the leather boots of H.U.N.T., the High-risk United Task-force, consisting of Taradino Cassatt, Thi Barrett, Lorelei Ni, Doug Wendt, and Ian Paul Freeley. They are sent to San Nicolas Island off the south coast of Calfornia, which has been taken over by a terrorist group/cult called The Triad. Once there, the team gets discovered and their boat is destroyed, meaning the only way off the island is to fight your way through the Triad. And beyond that I honestly couldn't tell you anything more. The only story bit I saw was at the very beginning of the game. It was told in a motion comic style cutscene, complete with pretty decent artwork and absolutely terrible voice acting. You'd think that last bit would be a negative, but it got me really excited to play the game. While some of the characters' voice-work was just the bad kind of bad, most of the main five have the kind of bad voice acting that just makes laugh and feel good about things.

Then we get to the actual game part of the game. You can play as any of the five characters listed above and each come with their own stats, like endurance or speed, meaning some guys are tougher while other guys are faster. But honestly I couldn't tell you the in-game difference between any one of them. All of them seem to take the same damage, which is really inconsistent depending on where you are, and they all move at one speed, which too fast to be playable. Every character moves at half the speed of sound and the mouse is so sensitive even at 50% that trying to look around while walking down a straight becomes a huge ordeal that will probably end with you running into a wall repeatedly or being stuck on some piece of the world geometry. The movement speed is especially crappy for searching for and collecting coins and secrets, which the game scores you on. A lot of times they are on walkways or platforms that you have to jump to or use jump pads to reach. Since you're in first person the entire time, you can never see your feet to judge when you're above it. Add on to that that your movement in the air is just as fast as when you're on the ground, it becomes a game of trial and error trying to get these items. If you want to avoid these annoying platforming bits and forget about the collectibles, some levels force you to platform in order to finish a level. To top it all off, some of these sections result in instant death if you mess up even once, meaning you have to go back to the last checkpoint, which there are only two of in every level.

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But you don't come to a game like this for the platforming, you come for the guns and shooting which kind of work. You got your standard stuff with your pistols, machine gun, and rocket launcher, but then you have some of the cooler stuff. You've got the heat seeking missiles, which home in on enemies. You've got drunken missiles, which can be fired like a minigun or just flying off in random directions. You've got the heat wave, which shoots out a wall of fire that incinerates your enemies. And you've got Excalibat, a magical baseball with an eye in the center of it that kills enemies in one hit and fires energy balls. The weapons themselves are actually kinda weak and don't really have any kind of punch behind them, but they can make the game bearable for a brief few moments. But these weapons come with very limited ammo and once you run out, so long interesting weapon. You can pick up more of them and if you know where to look you can be rolling with these for a good chunk of the game. If you aren't looking carefully, though, you can miss these weapons and be stuck with your standard stuff. The pistols and machine gun are total jokes, with enemies soaking up bullets and barely even reacting to being shot by these guns over and over again. It makes you feel completely powerless and these weapons, along with all the other ones I mentioned, can be stolen very easily by the enemy leaving you with a solitary pistol until you can find something interesting again. The cool thing I will say about the pistols and machine gun is that both of them have infinite ammo but you can still reload them. So you can just stand there for twenty minutes reloading your dual-wielded pistols with an awesome animation. It won't affect anything and is entirely pointless, but it looks great.

The enemies will be shooting at you, too, so you'll need to know where their shots are coming from to find them. Good luck with that, because the damage indicator is a joke. It barely reacts when you're being shot, so you only get a notification when you're being shot every fourth or fifth time. It also doesn't dynamically move to show where the shots came from relative to the way you're looking. Combine that with the movement speed problem and you will have no idea where most shots are coming from unless you stand still and just wait while you're getting shot to find the enemies. Also, have fun finding the enemies. All of them dress in grey and brown, and since this is an Unreal Engine game, all of the environments are grey or brown, so enemies can very easily blend into the background while spinning around trying to find them. It gets especially fun in the poorly lit corners when the only way to see them is their muzzle flare. Plus, enemies can just randomly spawn in. Multiple times throughout the game I'd be walking along and all of a sudden an enemy just appears before my eyes.

Speaking of environments, they are quite bland in this game. Every level I played was interchangeable with every other level in a given area, just with a different layout. Because of this it can be difficult to figure out which way you're supposed to go. A few times while playing I got turned around and ended up running back to the start of the level before I realized I was going the wrong way. From what I've seen of later levels this gets better, but they still look incredibly boring. One of the later levels gets lava and it looks just awful.

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This game is also bugged up the butt. I already mentioned the enemies magically appearing in front of you and being caught in the world geometry, but that's just the tip of the iceburg. Many times while playing through the game, I was forced to reload my machine gun. The machine gun, need I remind you, has infinite ammo and no need to reload. But still, I would walk in to an area, running out of my rocket launcher or special rocket launcher ammunition, and switch back to my machine gun. I would click to fire, but instead I would reload, giving the enemy a chance to shoot me to death.

The cheats are bugged as well, because yeah there are cheats. Twice when I was in god mode, you know, the mode that makes you invincible, I was killed. And this wasn't an instance where god mode just randomly turned off (although that happened a couple of times, too). I was in the middle of a god mode massacre, when all of a sudden this big new enemy or boss would show up, fire off one shot, and kill me instantly. Even if I wasn't in god mode, I was at 100% health. Either those enemies have one-hit kills or I got screwed. On top of being buggy, the cheats just aren't really that great to begin with. Sure, god mode and no clip and stuff like that is fine, but all of the cool stuff brought over from the original game are just power ups, even with cheat codes. The god mode power up is way better than the god mode cheat, but that and dog mode and every other cool thing from the original game can only be used for a short amount of time before they run out. Then you'll have to jump back to the command console, which doesn't pause the game when you pull it up, enter in the code again and pick up the power up it spawns. That is, assuming it even summons the power up at all. I've had to enter codes four or five times to get the power up to appear.

Finally there's multiplayer. But I couldn't tell you anything about it. I waited in the lobby for 10 minutes while the game searched for servers. It never stopped searching.

Rise of the Triad is not a good game. It is a pretty bad one. While some of the weapons and power ups are kinda cool and it's nice to play this style of shooter again, the game is buggy and bland and too damn fast you to enjoy any of the nostalgia this kind of shooter will invoke. If you're a huge fan of the original, I can maybe see you getting some enjoyment out of this. But you have no love for the original and are just looking for a fun, old-timey shooter, DOOMSerious Sam, and Painkiller are all available on Steam. Get them. Don't even bother looking at this game. it's not worth your time.

  • Published in PC

SOMA Review [PC]

Introduction to SOMA Video Game

SOMA by Frictional Games can be described as a combination adventure puzzle search and find role playing video game. In my opinion SOMA is a video game that has to grow on you. In other words, when you start playing SOMA, you may think there is nothing unique or different about it. These were my initial thoughts; however, I decided to give SOMA the benefit of the doubt. As I got further into the video game play, I got the impression Frictional Games was attempting to provide a different type video game playing experience from the usual type video games I’ve played before. By the way, I played SOMA on my Alienware PC.

As a summary of SOMA, the main protagonist, Simon Jarrett, experiences adventures not of his own choosing as a result of a brain scan that seemed to have gone haywire -- to the point where he is transported to all types of environments while facing various dangerous situations.

Positives of SOMA Video Game

SOMA, in my opinion, has excellent voice acting including that of the main video game protagonist in the game, Simon Jarrett. As you venture through the SOMA video game environment, additional, expert voice actors are added to the cast for video game characters such as Amy, Carl and others.

I think SOMA has good sound effects. When you hear the stomping steps of the robot villain as it approaches near, you get the feeling that it is right there with you, wherever you are playing the video game. As the robot villain gets closer, the stomps become increasingly louder. As it moves away, the sounds become fainter which gives you the impression that it is safe to either start or keep moving around the SOMA environment.

I liked the puzzles within the video game play with problems you had to solve. For example, in this game you are faced with having to log into a computer; however, the challenge is you do not have the i.d. number to access the system. You have to not only figure out how and where to get the i.d. number, but you must also try to stay away from the robot villain as well. To add to the challenge, you must remember how to get back to the location of the computer, once you have found the i.d. number.

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SOMA gives you lots of missions to complete which are necessary to advance through the video game. Sometimes you get your missions directly from a computer within the video game itself. For example, during the initial part of the game, you must locate the communication center which is a room with a domed ceiling. This, of course is easier said than done, because in trying to do so, you must not only remember where the communication center is once you get this mission -- but you must also try to locate it in what seems to be a gigantic, partially dilapidated mechanical plant that is not the safest place to be.

Some of the puzzles involve opening locked doors, which may sound simple, until you find out you have to roam around the massive plant to locate a special type tool to do so. Once found, the tool is added to your inventory. I liked that you can retrieve your tool as well as other items added to your inventory as needed by just the simple push of the tab key -- if you are playing SOMA using your PC. Bonuses are also added to your inventory during gameplay as well. For instance, during the early part of SOMA video game play, I earned a special trading car as my bonus.

I think SOMA has detailed, realistic-like graphics that complement the sound effects. In the scene where I was trying to get away from the robot villain, the mechanical plant was so realistically illustrated, I got the feeling I was actually fleeing down the winding metal stairs, rushing to get safely away from it.

If you like exploring environments and real worlds in video games, SOMA may be your type of video game. You can spend quite a lot of time roaming the areas within the context of either escaping villains, locating items, going to and from different locations or other travels depending on the missions or challenges.

Additionally SOMA video game play provides a level of suspense of not knowing exactly what is going to happen next. In a way, SOMA plays like a mystery novel where as you turn the pages, you can delve more into the various actions taking place. The difference, of course is as the video game player, you are the one who must guide the character in order to solve the mystery. From the SOMA video game play, the mystery appears to involve some type of devious underhanded actions going on that are revealed the longer you play SOMA. You, as well as the main protagonist, Simon Jarrett, are learning more about what is happening to him as you advance through the video game.

PreviewScreen 08

Some of the puzzles in SOMA, in my opinion, were creative. For example, once you located a computer, there is a section of the video game, where instead of inputting an i.d. number to log in, you had to realign vertical and horizontal lines within the computer screen so an emblem on the screen defragmented just right for a connection to take place.

Another positive of SOMA was the checkpoints. I liked that if for some reason you were destroyed during the video game play, the checkpoint started at a logical place -- so time was not wasted repeating video game play that had already been completed.


Negatives of SOMA Video Game

I mentioned previously that exploring the SOMA environment was one of the positive attributes; however, there is a not so fun side of this exploration. Even though there was a map of the mechanical plant on a computer within the video game -- SOMA did not provide a map to help you navigate through different environments. Many times, instead of following a map on the screen, you had to try to remember locations based on either the layout of the building or signs posted in the plant.

Since there is not a SOMA map, you will probably end up retracing your steps or going in circles until you determine the correct way to go. This happened to me quite a lot during the SOMA video game play, with me sometimes opting to check out either the hints or a youtube video of SOMA game play to find out where the character should go next and to avoid circling the environment over and over again.

A hint given during the underwater scene was to follow the lights, which was not helpful since there were a myriad of lights in the hazy darkness of the environment. To me it was a waste of time for the character to follow lights that sometimes took him back where his travels began in the first place.

Regarding the robot villain in the early part of the game -- you are not able to fight or defend yourself against it. If you do not get a chance to hide before it spots you -- it will destroy you. Your defenses are to hide until it’s out of sight or to run away from it and hide somewhere else. The plus side is the robot villain moves very slowly which gives you a chance to get away.

SOMA gives you the option of moving items within the environment around, similar to other similar type video games. However, in my opinion, there was no need to be able to move some items that did not serve to advance the story along or help solve puzzles. For example, I was able to move boxes and some other items around for no other reason except that I could do so. Initially when I played this video game, I was under the impression I was moving around items for a specific reason -- but this was not the case.

I know video games do not depict real-life situations because after all -- they are video games. However, I think the developers may have been stretching this a little too far when after Simon Jarrett experienced lots of perils, he reaches a computer and Amy, the person he is talking to on the computer, asks him what is going on. I agreed with Simon Jarrett when he indicated he had no idea and thought that she (Amy) knew. My thought was unless Amy had Simon under surveillance during his earlier adventures, how would she have known what had been happening to him which could have led her to ask such a question.

Even though I did not mind playing this video game as the male character Simon Jarrett, I think it would have been a plus if I was given the option to play as either a male or a female. Additionally, I understand SOMA is rated M for Mature, but personally, I did not like the video game dialogue that was sometimes laced with profanity.

The above being said, overall, I think SOMA has an interesting storyline and challenges. The major minus for me was the lack of on screen map or hints or options in the video game. In my opinion, some of the long stretches of travel during the game where you are simply moving the character along from place to place, would have been ok, if there was a simple diagram to show where you should go next. Even if a map was not used, visual hints could have been displayed to help move Simon Jarrett to his next missions quicker-- which would have eliminated wasted time moving the character around needlessly, sometimes in the wrong directions while playing this video game.

PreviewScreen 10

Rating of SOMA Video Game

Initially I was going to rate this video game lower because of the tendency for repetitive game play due to non-defense capability of the main protagonist as well as the lack of maps or helpful hints. However, I reconsidered my rating taking into account the attention to detail of the video game graphics, the creative storyline as well as the good sound effects and voice acting.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest score and 10 being the highest, I give SOMA a rating of 7.

Availability of SOMA Video Game

SOMA is rated M for Mature and is available for purchase on Steam, the PlayStation 4 store, GOG.com and the Humble Store.

  • Published in PC

Abyss Odyssey Review (PC)

I have no idea what to think of this game. It's really weird, but not in any quantifiable way. Or at least not one that I can easily verbalize. It is so janky with everything it is trying to do that it is infuriating to play, but at the same time I can't just dismiss it as some crap game that no one should play. I'm so confused right now.

Abyss Odyssey is about a wizard. This wizard is so powerful that he fell asleep and created the eponymous Abyss, this huge network of connected rooms filled with monsters, treasures, and weird black and white levels that come right the fuck out of nowhere. He also created Katrien, as well as the Ghost Monk and the Pincoya, who you will play as. You must journey through the Abyss to wake up the wizard and put an end to his nightmare. Along the way you'll find pages from the wizard's journal which will tell more of the story and maybe explain some of things that happen because of the wizard's dream.

This game is very stingy with information on how to play it. One of the biggest aspects of the game is its fighting system. If you've ever played a fighting game then you know that a good training mode can really help you enjoy the game more. At least for me it can. In this game we get a single page with the buttons you use for attacks that you have to navigate to inside of a menu that's in another menu. You're never told that holding the stick forward, up, down, or not at all will change the type of basic attack you do. In a way, this can be very good. Having tutorials out the ass on a game can be really irritating, especially if it's a style of game that you basically know the controls for, and it's something new then it's rewarding to be able to figure out the controls on your own. But this is a fighting game style system, where knowing what the buttons do is crucial to being able to play it.

Even when it does tell you information it can sometimes be misleading. When you die in the game, you're given a chance to come back. You immediately respawn as a soldier, which is a different soldier depending on who you're playing as, and if you can make it back to an altar you will be revived at full health and can continue on. The text box that told me this appeared when I approached what I thought was the first altar. It had a floating stone mask that broke when I got near it, I could set a check point there, and configure my skills. Going through this area I died. I came back as a soldier and made a mad dash for the altar. When I got there, nothing happened. I spent five minutes trying to figure out how to get it to come back but I couldn't. So I moved on. Turns out there's a second kind of altar, and it's this one that lets you respawn. Why the hell would the note about respawning at altars appear at an altar you can't respawn at? With this other altar I also found a merchant who sold me weapons and potions and the like. He also had camp tokens. Camp tokens are what you use to set checkpoints at altars so when you die for realsies you start from there and not the starting town. I had no idea how to get my hands on one of these things and I didn't come across the merchant until my fourth or fifth attempt because I didn't know there even were merchants in this game. It didn't help that he blended into the background, though.

This is a problem that does carry to later in the game. As you go deeper into the Abyss the levels start to change. You start out in standard dark caves, but then you get ice levels and lava levels and plant levels. In the plant levels, stationary enemies that shoot poisonous barbs at you or launch vines out blend in with the environment. I cannot tell you how many times I'd be running down a path to all of a sudden realize one of these things was in front of me. And the poison barb plant thing keeps shooting at you so you could easily get to point where he gets to juggle you a bit by having you getting damaged by the poison, making you unable to dodge the next barb he shoots, which poisons you again.

Speaking of juggling, the combat system in this game is not great. It feels incredibly stiff and slow, to the point where it almost feels unplayable. I mentioned earlier that the direction you're holding the stick affects what kind of attack you do. With Katrien, holding the stick forward makes you do a two hit combo, while not holding the stick in any direction is a three hit combo. But you have to come to a complete stop before it registers that you've let go of the stick. I would be running along and stumble into a random encounter with a group of enemies, which normally I hate because fuck random encounters but here I don't mind it because it doesn't interupt the flow of gameplay, and I would let go of the stick to do the three hit but if my character was still finishing the stop running animation she would do the two hit.

But even when you get the hang of that part of the combat it still feels weird. Any time I've gotten a combo higher than three was total luck and I could never recreate it. Cancelling, which is kind of a core part of fighting games in this day and age, is a special skill that you can deplete and have to wait for it to recharge. And you start out only being able to cancel once, so if you end using your cancel to dodge out of the way of an attack and you get hit anyway because the dodging in this game only works sometimes, you have wasted that cancel and now have to wait for it to recharge before you can cancel out of an attack again. It all feels so clunky and awkward, but at the same time weirdly engaging. Around my ninth tenth attempt I started to get into a rhythm and was actually doing pretty well. It was so bizarre, but I felt like I was starting to understand it. That eventually fell through and it went right back to being bad, but that feeling kept coming back.

I only ever felt that with Katrien, though. The Ghost Monk and the Pincoya I never understood. The characters, while the control the same, have different weapons and attack styles. Katrien uses one-handed swords and is quick than the others (I think). The Ghost Monk uses two-handed swords and is slower but stronger than the others. The Pincoya uses staff weapons which gives her more range than the others. I never felt like I was finally getting the Monk or the Pincoya. I would've needed to play hours and hours of them and I just didn't have the time or the interest.

All the characters also have a magic attack. It's the exact same for each of them and does the exact same thing. Once the mana meter is full they send out a ball of light that deals a lot of damage to anyone caught in it, and when they die their soul falls out. You can then collect one of these souls and turn into that enemy. Aside from bringing you back up to full health when you turn into them, I have no idea why you would want to do this. It's just another new move set you have to figure out.

This game was also sold on the platforming, and it feels as bad as the fighting without the benefit of the clarity I sometimes got. The turning is what really kills it for me. When you change the direction your character is moving or facing, it takes a bizarrely long time. Not that long, but long enough that you can notice it and really feel it. And you can only change direction while you're on foot. Once you're in the air, you have a decent amount of air control but you're always facing the same direction. So if you try to jump up a wall that's behind you, you have to wait for your character to turn around and then jump it. It's a small thing, but it's also a very important part of platforming to have a fluidity of movement. This doesn't feel fluid. It feels like a rusty system of gears.

Finally there are RPG elements. You earn XP to level up your character which unlocks new special attacks and skill points to unlock more cancels and level up your special attacks. It's pretty basic and doesn't add much for me. But with the RPG elements comes random weapon drops or finds, which don't make a whole lot of sense in game. Each of the three characters can only use one type of weapon, and they can't pick up other types. So it doesn't make a lot of sense when I'm playing as Katrien and every weapon I find is a two-handed weapon. If you were able to pick up these weapons and sell them to the merchant for gold that'd be one thing, but since I can't pick them up at all, let alone sell anything to the merchant, it makes no sense as to why they would be there.

Even with all of that bitching I just did, I find the game oddly okay. Yes, the fighting and platforming are very awkward, it's an awkward that you eventually accept. Yes, the game doesn't explain shit to you, but if you keep bashing your head into it over and over you'll figure out what most of it means. Add to that a premise I think is interesting and graphics that look fine, this is a game that I can't say is good but I just barely enjoyed it, too. Take that for what you will.

  • Published in PC

Star Trek Online 4th Anniversary Event and Season 8.5

January 30 2014 was Star Trek Online's 4th year anniversary, and besides the fun and prizes normally included in an anniversary there will also be a release of an episode of Season 8.5 called “A Step between Stars” with actor Tim Russ starring as Admiral Tuvok. Season 8.5 will be introducing a Brand-new Ship Management System, new episodes, a new PVP arena, and so much more. There will be three rewards you can receive by playing episode “A step between Stars” three times or you can receive a single one for playing through once. On the first playthrough you will be rewarded with 400 Qmendations. The Qmendations can be used for the Anniversary event reputation project.

 

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