Category Archives: Review

The Cave Review

the cave gang

Adventure games. They’re fun in their own right, but for me they always seemed slow and exceptionally tedious. Items start piling up in your inventory, movement lacks constant interaction and puzzles can be so confusing, you’d rather walk away from than solve. Ron Gilbert and Double Fine have been able to eliminate some of these problems in some unique ways in The Cave making it one of the few fun adventure games I’ve played in a long time, but some of these innovations also backfire.

The Cave involves seven different characters looking for what they desire most within the titular cave. This talking, sentient cave intends on making their dreams come true, but through the most twisted morality tales you’ve ever come across. These characters aren’t exactly what you would call good people. Most of their back stories, which come from cave paintings found on the walls, involve some selfish motive or ill intended plan to get what they want. Finding these paintings becomes a huge draw in your exploration. Each one offers an entertaining story you’ll want to follow to their very grim end.

The Cave itself offers some humorous banter in the usual Double Fine fashion, but it mostly offers up a few good chuckles from time to time. The banter is still entertaining enough, though, makes the living cave an integral character in the whole adventure.

You can only choose three characters to be brought in to the cave at a time. As you explore you’ll travel through general areas of the cave and character specific areas, both of which involve some platform-lite mechanics. The platforming isn’t complicated and keeps you interacting with the game throughout the entire experience. It doesn’t seem entirely necessary at times, but when it comes to the lack of interaction in some other adventure games The Cave offers up something a little more interactive.

Puzzles seem incredibly complex at times, but more often than not they are solvable. Visual cues often reveal the answers and there isn’t the hour long act of trial and error you need to go through. Once, the answer becomes obvious you’ll feel smart as hell, walking away from each puzzle with a feeling of satisfaction. One of the more interesting puzzles involves a monster and a tape recorder in an underground zoo. I’ll let you wrap your head around that for a moment.

The items used to solve these puzzles are carried by each individual in the three party group. You have no inventory of any kind, only what each character can carry. This keeps you from wasting time rummaging through an inventory system overflowing with items. Most of the items you need to solve the current puzzle are in the area.

What I enjoyed the most was the varied environments The Cave featured. One would think exploring a cave may leave you looking at nothing but stalagmites and stalactites, yet each of the distinct character sections of the cave offer something a little different each time. The Knight’s section takes place within a medieval castle filled with guards, a dragon, a princess and a king. The Monks involves climbing to a mountain top and confronting several very Zen like puzzles in the process.

Water and lighting effects give the cave a very surreal feel to it. Then again I wouldn’t expect any less from a living and breathing cave.

Despite being able to iron out the problems interaction and inventory, The Cave still has problems with pacing. Finding your way through character sections can be confusing at first and even after finding your way around you’ll be consumed by a lot of needless backtracking to solve puzzles. The hillbilly’s carnival section was the worst, having to take items from opposite sides of the level to solve puzzles and then bring them back again. It isn’t as slow as a point-and-click adventure title, but if you don’t have the patience for the tedious backtracking this game isn’t for you.

Despite these setbacks, the game to some degree is still offers some classic adventuring fun. Not to mention you can play with two other people to solve the puzzles together. Ron Gilbert and Insomniac Games have once again demonstrated their talent for adventure games. They may not have solved the pacing problem completely, but if you have the patience, I recommend you start your spelunking today.

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[Review] Bastion

It’s been sometime since I’ve sat down and played a simple RPG. I’ve missed the days of upgrading weapons with a dash of simple storytelling like Legends of Mana and Ogre 64. As I played through Bastion’s broken world I had that same satisfaction, but found the story was one of the most well told adventures I’ve had the joy of playing.

Bastion sets you in the city of Caelondia after a catastrophic event called the Calamity has broken up the entire city. Waking up as the Kid you soon find yourself attempting to bring the city back together by finding cores in each section of the city. As soon as you wake up you hear the voice of what sounds like a smooth jazz player narrate your every move and action. Hang out in an area too long and the Stranger will provide a quick quip about your lingering. Head down a street and he’ll cooly describe the area before it was destroyed. It does an excellent job of keeping you immersed in the story well paced so it doesn’t come off as distracting.

After you find the core in a particular area you return to an area called the Bastion. With the core in hand you’ll be able to add more facilities to the Bastion. This includes a Forgery which allows you to upgrade weapons, a Spirits bar which allows you to create potions to improve the Kids abilities and lastly a shrine to invoke gods and idols to improve your powers. There’s also an arsenal which house both your melee and ranged weapons.

You can find these upgrades in combat after taking down enemies. After collecting several shards, which are also parts of the old world, you can spend them on upgrades that are unique to each weapon. One such upgrade called serrated edge allowed my War Machete deal not only more damage but continual damage after a hit. Another allows your repeater to blast arrows in every direction. Each one is effective in what it does. No, gimmicks here.

Combat is fairly standard fair action-RPG. Press a button and you’ll swing your sword or shoot your bow. There are some evasive maneuvers and a shield to block. You’ll get more out of using the evasive roll than your shield, but blocking is still essential when dealing with ranged weapons, so it’s not a completely useless mechanic.Weapons range from a heavy hitting hammer, a repeater, a bow and even a rapid slicing machete for some quick deaths. There isn’t much depth to the fighting other simply swinging or shooting your weapon. There are a few special moves the Kid can execute, but nothing to draw you into the fight.

Bastion hits all of the hallmark points of a well told RPG story and the innovative narration keeps you involved in the story the whole way through. Though the action part of this RPG isn’t highlighted the remaining elements shine through. Exploring this broken world brought back those days of simple RPG gaming and it”s nice comfortable spot I’ve found myself in this breathtaking RPG.

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Max Payne 3 First Impressions

Everyone knows what it’s like to have a close friend be away for years at a time. When their gone you may not think much about them at first, but as their name comes up you find yourself wondering how they’re doing and when they’ll be coming back. And when they do you hope they’re doing well. I got the same feeling when it came to Max Payne 3.

Gone for years, but now he’s back and doing better than ever. Well, as far as the game goes. As for the character himself, he couldn’t be in worse shape. The very first scene shows how deep into the painkiller and alcohol addiction hole Max has dug himself into.

It’s been awhile since an action game has drawn me in this much. It isn’t a perfect gem but it still glistens beautifully in the light. The story is engaging enough on its own. Max has gotten pretty grim, but somehow manages to offer bit more humor to his inner monologue.

The action…holy shit, the action. The shooting is surprisingly fluid and incorporating bullet time onto mix only makes it smoother. The over the top cinematic moments make bullet time even more entertaining. Checkpoints could be better though.

Need to dig into this more. Looking forward to the odd story twist and ending to this dark game. It’s definitely good to have you back buddy.

I’ll have more in a full review later.

[Photo Source]

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Batman: Arkham City Review

At least once in every person’s life they wanted to be a superhero. When video game developers finally decided to put these licenses to work our child hood dreams finally came true. But the team at Rocksteady has finally put us into the tights of the Dark Knight himself: Batman with Arkham Asylum. And now the sequel has taken it from being that persona to the bliss of embodying everything that’s cool about being Batman.

Batman: Arkham City begins a few years after Arkham Asylum. Hugo Strange has been able to take a portion of Gotham and turn the Asylum into a sprawling super prison. The now deteriorating city is completely open to exploration from the beginning and it’s worth delving into every back alley. Failing infrastructure, the massive build up of waste and snowy back drop has actually manages to make the rest of Gotham City seem like it’s full of flowers and sunshine. Rocksteady didn’t spare a single dark detail for the creation of the prison city.

The fluid combat system shines through with the timed use of attacking and counters. Countering moves can vicious, especially if you are next a wall or ledge for head bashing. While direct combat has its excitement, stealth has you terrorizing thugs from the dark. There is nothing more satisfying than watching a whole group of goons slowly becoming more terrified as you take them out one by one.

Side missions are rarely pointless, offering, if not worthwhile rewards, at least a fun glimpse at some of Batmans other nemesis’. Riddler, Zasz, Deadshot and several surprising ones that I won’t ruin on this post make their appearance as you fight your way to Strange.

To merely call this game great is an understatement. I’ve never found an action game, a superhero one at that, more enthralling and immersive than Arkham City. The game has some odd collision effects and a few glitches, but they are nothing more than tiny nuisances amongst the towering feats this game has been able to accomplish.

Revisiting Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic

God I wish I could play Star Wars: The Old Republic. Various places to go and new professions to learn, it all seems so entertainingly over-whelming.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the computer hardware to process such a game, but in light of this predicament I’ve decided to revisit the games very first predecessor: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It may not have the immense amount of customization and depth as SWTOR, but after spending a few days playing the game again I’ve remembered why this game was beautiful and brilliant for a Star Wars game. While there have been many Star Wars games, even good Star Wars games before this, KOTOR brought us a refreshing look at a galaxy we’ve visited several times before.

One of the first things Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was introducing us to a long forgotten era in Star Wars canon. Set 3000 years before the original Star Wars trilogy, you find yourself in the midst of a violent war between the Jedi and the Sith. You soon find out you have the force flowing through you and begin the learning the ways of a jedi. Bioware brings the story of life by featuring new planets to explore and new characters you continue to add to your nine man party, some of whom you will become attached to. But the biggest success of KOTOR’s story is its twist about three-quarters of the way through. I won’t ruin it, but it is unquestionably worthy of Star Wars lore.

Bioware uses the d20 system from Dungeons and Dragons for KOTOR’s combat as it has with many of its games. The players fight it out in real-time, but still in a turn based manner. While its an interesting concept, the repeating and some what stiff manner of the characters can look pretty silly. It’s still entertaining and intense at times, allowing for some pretty entertaining battles, but nothing to get particularly excited about.

It may not be the mighty MMO that SWTOR has become but the story still remains a classic. From the first time I got my lightsaber, to meeting Jolee Bindo on Kashyyyk and discovering the stories dark secret, I felt like a true explorer of the galaxy. Even with the rigid character animations and combat, the game still demonstrates why it has been hailed as a one of the best RPGs ever made.

Rage Review-Awesome Fast-Paced Action Redeems Lackluster Story

Rage. The name explains it all for id’s new first-person shooter/racing title. From the dangerous, chaotic world to the intense gunplay, Rage delivers a chaotic ride through the post apocalypse, but could have delivered just a little bit more.

The game begins 106 years after the real-life, near earth asteroid, Apophis, collides with the earth. You awaken inside a large stasis pod called an Ark. After finding out you’re the only survivor in your Ark, you’re thrust into the wasteland. You soon find yourself battling roving gangs of bandits, blood thirsty mutants and a tyrannical, big brother government called the Authority. Another group called the Resistance is looking to take down the authority by employing your help.

While the story has potential id only gives it so much depth. I found myself forgetting about it up until the end, when the plot seems to build, only to have it cut short. It left me with a feeling of disappointment rather than one of accomplishment. The game could have paced itself a lot more. The game moves too quickly. You can tell merely by the speed in which you gain new upgrades and weapons. Many RPGs or games with RPG elements have you complete several missions before gaining such prizes. If Rage had this mindset the game’s story would have a more even pace.

The game world on the other hand fairs slightly better. The scale is massive, showing the destruction that the asteroid has done to the Earth. Massive highways are broken, the rust red landscape gleams in the sunlight and the ground has been raised by the massive impact. The id Tech 5 engine renders these landscapes beautifully as you look off into the horizon. Character animations are smooth and fluid. NPC’s are actively moving around town, mutants crawl out of the ground and enemies charge toward you bounding off walls with a grace that almost seems real. Sadly, some appearances can be decieving.

While the landscape appears explorer friendly, you accomplish all of your exploration by completing the missions. Some may enjoy the streamlined feel, but this game was marketed as an open world. I wanted to be able to take a break from the missions and fool around. I didn’t in the end, not because I didn’t feel like, but because I had explored every inch of the area as I accomplished missions.

But what it lacks in an open world and story it makes up for in fantastic gameplay. Gunfights are fast paced and brutal. Every enemy offers a well balanced challenge to the player. Mutants will rush you, on coming bandits will bob and weave your shots, while the Authority use decisive military tactics to hunt you down. But you’ve got an arsenal to match. It comes with a typical line up of a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle and a rocket launcher.  The addition of a crossbow brings in some stealth to break up the over the top action. Upgrades can made to most of these weapons be it better accuracy, quicker reloads or a different ammo types.

The simple crafting system allows you to create an array of useful tools and weapons to help you out in a fight. Being able to set-up a mobile turret to take down enemies behind cover creates a sense strategy in gunfights even if they do just offer distraction to those foes. But if there is one crafted weapon that you’ll come to love the most it’s the wingstick. The wingstick saved my ass more times than I care to count . There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing an enemy’s head lopped off after a successful throw.

The driving portion is mostly ignorable. I only ever raced to earn a better car to drive in and that’s just all I could stand for. However, the car combat is some of the smoothest in an action game. A simple push of a button allows you to whip your car around to make another run. Granted, it isn’t always well executed, with occasional difficulty in aiming, but you’ll still find some intense car combat here.

While the game seem like its about to show you everything you ever wanted to see, it ends becoming nothing more than a tease. The over-world certainly has a sense of scale, but it only looks “open”. The story had huge potential, but it fell short by cutting it short. All things aside though, the action and gameplay is brilliant. I wouldn’t expect anything less from id and a game called Rage.