Murdered: Soul Suspect

murderedsoulsuspectpcjpg-0a5b5dPublisher: Square Enix6.0

Developer: Airtight Games

Release Date: 6/3/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $39.99-$59.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Great story with twists and turns, interesting ghost mechanics

The Bad: Dated visuals and gameplay, combat with demons feels shoehorned and unnecessary, can’t really connect with characters, open world is lifeless and boring, investigations feel like aimless pixel hunts

I haven’t been so misled by a game than Murdered. A murder mystery game about a cult in Salem, Massachusetts (my favorite type of murder mysteries) all wrapped around a serial killer known as the Bell Killer. You play as a ghost detective named Ronan who gets murdered by this killer during an investigation. You have a bratty teen named Joy who helps you in the real world and the story all comes to a nice close at the very end.

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It’s everything in between that really disappoints. This game not only feels about 10 years old but is some times down right boring. In each area you have items that need to be “examined” this turns into pixel hunting like the adventure games of yore. Some times I found myself to frustrated because the examine button wouldn’t come up unless you were facing it just the right way, that’s glitchy and annoying. Once you find all clues in an area you conclude the investigation by picking three of the clues that relate to the scene. This is where some of the nonsense gameplay comes in to play. Most of the time you don’t even need all the clues to conclude and most clues are pointless for the scene. I feel like I’m hunting for all these clues as just filler for gameplay.

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Is there any combat? Not really. A shoehorned combat scenario was put in by sneaking around demons and executing them with weird button combos. Sneaking around them is pretty tense, as is running from them. But was this merely an excuse to be able to die in the game to call it a full on game? The only other way I died in the game was getting hit by a ghost train in one area. There’s also an open world which is boring and lifeless. The game is also full of items to find which is archaic and just plain boring. Why would I run around in an empty boring world finding items I could care less about?

There are actually rules to this game though. Just because you’re a ghost you can’t walk through everything otherwise you’d be clipping into gaming abyss. Most items can’t be walked through and ones that can’t have a blue aura around them. You can teleport yourself which only comes in handy for a few parts of the game. You can possess people to read their minds or influence them during an investigation. This isn’t nearly as cool as it should be.

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The only thing that kept me going was the story. The twists and turns were just interesting enough to make you think you figured it out and then it turns out to be something else. The game actually has a satisfying ending with no cliffhanger. When I played through this whole game I just couldn’t help but feel how dated it looked and played. The graphics, while not ugly, are simple and boring. This game would have looked amazing about 5 years ago. I also didn’t feel an attachment to any characters because of how boring and cookie cutter they felt. Ronan is just your typical New England cop, Joy is a snotty goth brat, and the other characters don’t really show up enough for you to care about them. Soul Suspect had a lot of potential but in the end it felt like there wasn’t really a goal of what to do outside of the story.

If you’re a fan of adventure games I would give this a shot. Murdered isn’t going to revolutionized the nearly forgotten point and click adventure style gameplay, but it is worth slogging through the gameplay for the interesting story.

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Choker

1124286-choker_1Publisher: Image Comics

Writer: Ben McCool

Artists: Ben Templesmith

Release Date: 2/2010-3/2012

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The Good: Fantastic art, great atmosphere and setting

The Bad: Story is a bit predictable, characters are not all that memorable

If you see Ben Templesmith on the cover you know the series you are about to read is going to be full of horror, death, gore, and insanity. Choker is chalk full of that. The story revolves around an ex-cop, Johnny Jackson, who gets called back by his old boss to bring a prisoner who escaped back. It doesn’t turn out well as the department is using a steroid type drug on their cops called Man Plus and is somehow connected to the prisoner’s drug ring. The story takes a long time to catch you up on the story. It starts out with you completely lost and characters talking like you already know what’s going on. Later issues backtrack to catch you up until you hit the final wall.

Choker isn’t the best series I’ve read but I read it mainly for Templesmith’s art. His sick and twisted water-color drawings are fantastic and one of a kind. He’s one of my favorite comic artists. Sure it looks messy and sloppy compared to most artists, but it’s unique in a way that it matches the story it’s telling. Choker doesn’t have the most memorable characters, it’s too short to keep you hooked for long being only six issues, and the story is kind of predictable. The whole 20-minutes-into-the-future setting is nice with a scummy city like Gotham City or even Neo Tokyo. I wanted to know more about Shotgun City and its inhabitants, maybe some side stories.

If you like crime dramas you will like Choker. It has vampires, gore, cops, mutants, and crazy characters. Just don’t expect to be in it for long because it ends before you even realized it started.

3.0

BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode Two

bioshock_infinite__burial_at_sea_episode_2_poster_by_nccreations-d6z2g6yPublisher: 2K Games8.0

Developers: Irrational Games

Release Date: 3/25/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $9.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Great pacing, new stealth sections are intense and fun, great new weapons

The Bad: Story means nothing if you haven’t played past games, lockpicking mini game is lame, still too short

Episode Two takes place right after Episode One, but this time we play strictly as Elizabeth. I love this move in perspective because Liz can’t fight like Booker can and its noticeable right off the bat. Liz has to sneak her way around using crossbows, Vigors that turn her invisible, and ones that add extra armor. She only carries a shotgun and pistol but very little ammo. The new weapon is one that microwaves enemies but I was only able to use it a couple of times in the whole episode.

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The story still doesn’t make much sense unless you played both BioShock games. This DLC is really for the fans of those games. Elizabeth is on a mission to save Sally, the little sister you were trying to find in Episode One. With Booker dead, it’s up to you to run from everything bad in Rapture to find her. This includes Atlas, Andrew Ryan, and even Suchong. These characters won’t mean anything to anyone who hasn’t played the first games. I loved the setting and the brief trip back to Columbia, but the atmosphere is really great in this episode along with less backtracking. Sure Liz can’t fight off Big Daddies in this episode, but it makes everything more intense. The game is about twice as long as the first episode but can still finished in a few hours.

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I really appreciated how the stealth sections were interspersed with just exploring and cinematic events, it felt balanced. Sneaking isn’t just as simple as ducking and hiding from enemies. They now have an alert meter above their head while a new lockpicking mini game has been added but is mostly lackluster and just filler. You can even use this mini game to hack turrets to fight against you but there were maybe only two opportunities to do this in the whole game. The new crossbow weapon with gas, alarm, and sleeping darts comes in handy and the shotgun does a lot of damage. I felt the revolver was nearly useless though.

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With all that said Episode Two really feels like an extension and slight evolution of Infinite in a good way, but anyone who hasn’t played previous games will be completely lost.

alienwarenew

30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow

605093-returntobarrowPublisher: IDW

Writer: Steve Niles

Artist: Ben Templesmith

Release Date: 5-2004/8-2004

 

 

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The Good: Same great visuals and writing, great new characters

The Bad: Feels like a re-tread of the first chapter, not as meaningful or scary

After the horrific events of the previous chapter, Return to Barrow gives us all new characters and a whole new terrifying event in Barrow. If you thought what happened wasn’t bad enough, there are crazy people still living there even though it’s a main target for vampires. A new sheriff moves into town with this son. Due to the events of the past volume (where the original survivor writes a book exposing vampires) the vampires are now leaderless and want everyone in Barrow exterminated.

I honestly have to say I feel this chapter is a cop out. Why do we have to return? Sure I can understand the vampires want to wipe everyone out, but why fully concentrate on this event again? It feels like a re-hash and even though these people are better prepared, it was the frightening concept of everyone not knowing what was going on that made the first chapter so memorable. I like the new characters and the tension is there along with the dialog among the vampires (these guys are vicious bastards).

If you’ve read previous chapters go ahead and read this. There’s actually decent fight scenes, a lot of tension, and a surprising amount of atmosphere oozing out of this series. I also have to appreciate the continuity flow that a lot of comics tend to forget to do.

3.5

A Story About My Uncle

YTo2OntzOjI6ImlkIjtpOjk0ODcwMTtzOjE6InciO2k6NjAwO3M6MToiaCI7aToyMDA7czoxOiJjIjtpOjA7czoxOiJzIjtpOjA7czoxOiJrIjtzOjQwOiI5ZTBjMzk4NmM3ZDA0ODQ1YTIxYWYzYTk2YjYzYWRjYzg2NjYxM2FkIjt9Publisher: Gone North Games8.0

Developer: Coffee Stain Studios

Release Date: 5/28/2014

Rating: Everyone 10+

MSRP: $12.99

Available Exclusively On

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The Good: Touching ending, exhilarating jumping mechanics, beautiful visuals and music

The Bad: Not much to do in between jumping, puzzles can get down right frustrating towards the end, only a couple of hours long

First person platforming isn’t attempted often. A Story About My Uncle keeps it basic with grappling, anti-gravity jumping, and various puzzles. The story is fairly simple, and doesn’t really mean anything until the very end. A boy is trying to find his uncle Fred. He finds his uncle’s lab where he straps on a weird jump suit and takes off to some unknown land. He eventually comes across a species of frog people and a little girl from this village befriends the protagonist.

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The jumping is actually quite exhilarating. You jump really high and your character’s hands swing around which make you feel vertigo. The sheer speed and height this game creates is something not really seen in most games. As you make your way across bottomless chasms and dark caves you begin to wonder what all this means. What’s the point?  The jumping puzzles get progressively harder to the point of down right frustration. The grapple has three shots. Once these run out you either need to land or you’re falling into the abyss. Later on you get rocket boots that allow a quick boost if you miss your shot or your next grapple point is too far away. One of the hardest obstacles are the windmills. I actually had to manipulate the physics by landing on one for a split second so my equipment recharges. The game gets so tricky towards the end that casual players may not make it. Sure the game is only a couple of hours long, but the complicated jumps are just mind bobbling.

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With that aside the music is great and the game looks beautiful. While it uses the dated Unreal Engine 3 the art style is superb. I honestly felt like this was Journey to the Center of the Earth meets Mirror’s Edge. There’s nothing else out there like it and the ending is extremely touching, well worth the play through to get a few heart-strings pulled.

I just wish there was more to the game. Sure jumping around gets fun, but some times I feel areas dragged on forever with too much nothing in between. It’s a step in the right direction for this type of game. With more story being pushed out and some variety in gameplay this game could have been something even more incredible.

alienwarenew

Monument Valley

Monument-Valley-Gear-Patrol-Lead-Full-Publisher: USTWO Games9.0

Developer USTWO Games

Release Date: 4/3/2014

Rating: Everyone

MSRP: $3.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Fantastic graphics and art design, wonderfully crafted puzzles, touching story, enriching music

The Bad: Extremely short with only 10 levels, no extra modes

It’s very rare that a mobile game gets as artsy as indie console or PC games. Monument Valley is Journey meets Echochrome straight out of the gate. It has the aesthetics of Journey and the gameplay of Echochrome. Flipping levels to create illusions that create new pathways, that’s what Monument is all about. The game isn’t really all that hard, in fact it’s a cake walk, but it’s all about the experience.

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There’s an underlying story here and the ending is a bit touching. You’re a princess (that resembles close to a White Cloak from Journey) who is trying to restore gems at the end of each level. If I say more I will spoil the experience. New gameplay elements are slowly added in like crows getting in your way that you must avoid or use to press switches. Walking on different planes is another while an interactive column (that’s actually a small character) becomes an ally. The game is strange yet so damn beautiful.

But there is one huge problem. The game is only 10 levels long and they are extremely short. For $4 you’re getting a fantastic experience, but it’s over way to soon. I would have liked an endless mode or some sort of puzzle mode that didn’t include a story added in. The puzzles are just so fun to solve and each level is like opening a present. The more you fiddle with the level the more beautiful everything gets and more fun it becomes.

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As it is, Monument Valley is rare gem on mobile devices. It looks and plays beautifully, but the shortness will enrage people who fall in love with it.

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Google Nexus 7 (2013)

Nexus_7_(2013)Manufactuer: Asus9.5

Release Date: 7/26/2013

MSRP: $219.99 (16GB), $269.99 (32 GB), $349.99 (32 GB LTE)

Colors: White, Black

 

 

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The Good: Sleek and light, gorgeous high-res screen, fantastic 5.1 surround sound speakers, ultra fast and zippy, addition is rear camera is nice

The Bad: Cameras are a bit lacking, no expandable media option

The Nexus 7 was the best 7 inch tablet on the market at its time. With the powerful Tegra 3 chipset it seemed like it was unstoppable…that is until its cousin came along to trump it. Not only is the 2013 addition thinner and sleeker, it’s 4 times as powerful and is well worth upgrading. Google partnered with Asus once again but this time ditched the Tegra chipset and threw in the Snapdragon CPU and Adreno GPU. Once you open the box you will immediately notice the physical changes to the tablet. The deep black and the overall more rectangle shape and sharper edges look slick and clean. Gone is the soft bumpy back from before replaced with plastic and a beveled Nexus logo. I do miss that soft back as it didn’t scratch, but the new back still has a soft fuzzy feeling to it.

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Apart from that you will also notice the front facing camera has moved to the right as there is now a back camera that is 5.0 MP. The front camera has improved slightly by 0.1 MP but it makes a difference. While other tablets have more powerful rear facing cameras the Nexus 7 does record in 1080p and looks pretty good in well-lit areas. I would have liked to see at least an 8 MP camera, but just having a camera added is a great addition. There isn’t a flash so the camera is nearly useless at night.

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Let’s talk about the screen. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The 1920×1200 resolution LCD screen looks clear, bright, and crisp. The resolution upgrade is very noticeable compared to the 2012 model. With 323 ppi everything is going to pop out at you from games to comics. The sound is also something I love in this tablet that most tablets don’t have. We have 5.1 surround sound in this thing. Two small speakers at the bottom and a large one at the top. The speakers are made by Fraunhofer who are the guys who invented the MP3. I immediately noticed the sound difference when I started playing games. It sounds like everything is coming at your from all angles, it’s rich, crisp, and so much clearer than the 2012 model.

So what’s under the hood? The speed increase is incredible as apps load faster and things just process at a much faster rate. My comics rendered faster, games loaded quicker, and I had zero hang when loading graphic heavy websites in Chrome or switching apps quickly. The Snapdragon Krait 300 CPU is clocked at 1.51 Ghz and is quad-core. This is much faster than the 2012′s 1.3 Ghz CPU. The Adreno 320 GPU helps a lot as well and is loads faster than the Tegra 3. Games looked better and everything loaded so much faster. For example, on the 2012 model I could not select the best graphics option in Rival Knights, on the 2013 model I could. I also had a lot of slow down with low framerate on the 2012 model in Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf. On the 2013 model it ran at 60 FPS.

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The battery also lasts a good while for a slimmer battery. You will get hours of gaming or reading out of this thing even with Wifi on. Besides processing speed the 2013 model has Bluetooth 4.0, screen mirroring, Qi wireless battery charging, a notification indicator at the bottom of the tablet. These may not seem like much but they make a big difference for an upgrade. Not to mention the loose charging port from the previous model has been fixed with a more sturdy USB slot. The tablet is also 2 ounces lighter so you can’t really complain.

 

Bottom line: The Google Nexus 7 (2013) is the best 7 inch tablet you can get your hands on at a great price. If you own the 2012 model I highly recommend the upgrade like I did. It’s fast, sleek, has a gorgeous screen, and has fantastic surround sound speakers.