BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode One

1000px-BSIDLC-Burial_at_Sea_Episode_One_KeyArtPublisher: 2K Games6.0

Developer: Irrational Games

Release Date: 11/12/2013

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $14.99

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The Good: Rapture is fun to see again, more Elizabeth, great ending

The Bad: Only 2 hours long, more action than story, ending leaves more questions than answers, not really any new content

The long-awaited Infinite expansion set in Rapture is out and about. I honestly didn’t know what to really expect from this other than more questions and fan service of Rapture. The story started out very similarly to BioShock 1 where you are riding down the bathysphere into Rapture. It brought back a lot of great memories and was happy to see the beautiful Elizabeth throughout the whole chapter. What I wasn’t happy about was the length, the gameplay, and the lack of anything memorable.

u feels more like one level from a full game. The one level that is really just action more than story. It doesn’t pick up at all until the last 2 minutes during the ending which is both shocking, expected, and gives us more questions than answers. The same Infinite guns are back but only one new power and that is Old Man Winter. Not much different from the freeze power in BioShock 1. It can freeze running water to make a bridge and that’s about it. I ran around closing vents to draw Sally out (the girl who Booker must get back) and not much else. The ammo is extremely scarce so you will be scrounging for it more than any other moment in previous BioShock games. You also don’t get the full arsenal in Infinite, and nothing much else has changed gameplay wise.

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The setting is fantastic, however. The underwater city is memorable and it’s great to be back before it went to crap from the previous games. We are seeing the calm before the storm here. The Little Sister program is starting and so are the new Plasmids. It’s very interesting to see how things are happening when everything was prosperous and fun in the underwater utopia. Another great addition is the return of Sander Cohen who is probably the most insane person in Rapture. This section is memorable but dies out quickly to more boring shooting and getting lost in hallways.

Outside of the interesting ending there’s not much else. This was a real disappointment for how long everyone waited. Gamer who just played Infinite and moved on shouldn’t even bother. This DLC is mainly for hardcore fans actually wanting the ending in Episode Three rather than the tid bits from each episode.

 

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Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F

Hatsune-Miku-Project-Diva-f-Vita-LogoPublisher: Sega9.0

Developer: Sega

Release Date: 8/27/2013 (PS3), 3/4/2014 (Vita)

Rating: Teen

MSRP: $59.99 (PS3), $29.99 (Vita)

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The Good: Tons of content, great song selection, fun and addictive rhythm gameplay, editing mode is fun

The Bad: Graphics are a bit dated, no pre-rendered music videos, no English lyrics, can be extremely difficult to get high scores

Vocaloid may not ring a bell to anyone outside of Japanophiles in the West. In Japan Vocaloid is a major success with dozens of albums and countless collaborations with various Japanese music artists. This is the first Project Diva game that has made it on the Western shores. Project Diva has a unique rhythm based gameplay structure that is both tough as nails and addictive. Don’t let the cute “girly” visuals fool you. This game is for everyone who loves music or rhythm games.

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Icons flash across the screen in different patterns and you must press the corresponding face button. Arrows also require you to press the D-pad direction plus the color of that button. New in F are scratch stars which also goes into the technical zone segments which are mandatory for getting higher grades at the end of songs. New on Vita is the ability to use the touch screen or rear touch pad to scratch these stars. This is so much easier than using the right thumb stick on the PS3. Technical Zones are areas where you have to hit every note perfectly to get a huge boost in your score bar. Notes rank from Cool, which is perfect, to Awful which is a complete miss. Cool and Great scores will build up your multiplier. Safe or lower will drop it. Each song has two technical zones with a chance zone near the end. New in F is the ability to build up a large star meter during your chance zone to unleash a mega scratch star to play an extra segment at the end. You must hit all of these to even get close to an Excellent or Perfect score.

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These scores will unlock new items to buy in the shop which is the other half of Project Diva F. You can outfit your Diva’s room with new tables, chairs, decor, computers, etc. You can also unlock new costume pieces for your character. There are plenty of items to unlock so you will be kept busy doing this long after unlocking all 30+ songs. The Vita features a new edit mode for making your own music videos or editing already made videos and sharing them online. Project Diva F has a lot of content and will keep you coming back for higher scores or just to play your favorite songs.

When it comes to song selections, these aren’t as great or memorable as the PSP Project Diva games, but some songs are fantastic and memorable while others or pretty lame. It’s a mixed bag and everyone will have different favorites, but there’s enough songs to please everyone who plays this game. The graphics are a step up from the PSP games but I feel they could have been a bit better on Vita. The textures look a bit muddy on Vita, but overall the graphical style is very unique and spot on when it comes to Vocaloid. I would have liked to have seen at least one pre-rendered video per song, but everything is performed in real-time.

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As it is, Project Diva F is a fantastic game and the best rhythm game on Vita. If you love your J-Pop or want to venture out into something new than take this game for a spin. Just be warned, the songs are all sung in Japanese and the lyrics are in Japanese as well. Don’t bet on any localization because it wouldn’t be Vocaloid or Miku is it was.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

PS3 2D fullPublisher: Konami8.0

Developer: Platinum Games

Release Date: 2/19/2013

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $59.99

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The Good: Fantastic combat and gameplay, the slicing engine is fun, graphics are amazing, great soundtrack

The Bad: Extremely short, generic tone throughout, confusing story, enemies repeat often, nothing to do outside of combat

The Metal Gear franchise hasn’t seen too many spin-offs. Acid being the last one. Revengeance puts you in the shoes of Raiden, a cyborg  fighting against other cyborgs for the greater good. The plot is supposed to hover around MGS4, but it’s boiled down to a confusing, and ultimately, uninteresting mess. There’s something going on about children’s brains being harvested for implants and people making money off of war. Raiden is the good guy trying to stop all this, but the game is so short and broken up so much that it’s hard to follow.

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What is great is all the action. Raiden responds wonderfully and has an array of flashy moves that would put most action adventure games to shame. As you progress through the game you can upgrade your life, fuel cells, weapons, and moves. The whole game pretty much revolves around a slicing engine. When you defeat an enemy enough you can slow down time and use the right analog stick to slice enemies up into ribbons. It’s pretty fun and never really gets old, but it’s sensitive and some times finicky. Boss fights will rely on this and lining up squares can cost you the entire battle if you aren’t quick enough.

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I honestly wish Platinum never put stealth sections in the game. This isn’t Solid Snake, I want to run around slicing things up. The enemy placement isn’t smart and laid out like a typical Metal Gear game. You get seen most of the time even if you try hard not to. One problem lies in the fact that there’s not much else to do. It’s just wave after wave of enemies and then a boss fight. It also doesn’t help that the game is ridiculously hard outside of easy mode. Even though it took me less than 6.5 hours to finish the game, it was broken up throughout a year of playing. I would spend hours on some areas just because of how hard the game can be. There’s no block button. Let me throw that out there right now. Instead you can dodge and parry which is extremely difficult to get down right. You can die in just a few hits and healing relies on slicing enemies at the right moment and getting there nano strands to fully heal. You must slice them before they hit the ground, this can be really tricky to master.

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The enemies also repeat often and the game is overly generic in tone. Sure the graphics are fantastic, the music is great, and the action is fast paced and looks amazing. However, the enemies are just generic soldiers and Geckos. The environments nearly all look the same and some boss fights even repeat. I appreciate the difficulty which forces you to master the combat system, but a larger variety of gamplay would have been nice.

So the final question is this: Is Revengeance the be all-end all of the action adventure genre? Not likely. Sure it’s up there with some of the better games combat wise, but everything else just falls a bit flat.

 

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale

TM_3DSDS_AttackOfTheFridayMonstersATokyoTalePublisher: Level 59.0

Developer: Level 5 and Millennium Kitchen

Release Date: 7/18/2013f

Rating: Everyone

MSRP: $7.99

Also Available On: 3DS Exclusive

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The Good: Perfectly captures childhood imagination, excellent story with great writing, unique characters, beautiful graphics, fantastic soundtrack

The Bad: Odd room transitions, collecting monster cards is slow and boring, ending a little disappointing

Imagination and creativity were probably a big part of your childhood, as they were of mine. Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale tackles those childhood elements with such great execution that it affected me on a personal level. Despite the fact that at surface level it seems like this game would only be enjoyable for people who grew up in Japan in the 80s and watched “monster shows” (none of which apply to me), when delving deeper I discovered that it is really about those two aspects of childhood almost anyone can relate to.

Part of Level 5′s Guild 02 series (and definitely the best game of the collection), Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale was designed by Kaz Ayabe. This is his first (and probably last) game to ever be released outside of Japan. You play as Sohta, a young fourth grader who is trying to piece together the mystery of monsters and aliens, complete his errands, and everything in-between. From the opening theme you can already tell how well this game captures childhood, with the song constantly going off-topic and containing no consistent theme. Even the gameplay portrays this lack of structure well, with missions being broken into “episodes” which are completed in a random, un-chronological order.

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Every Friday monsters “attack” Sohta’s rural town near Tokyo, or so the adults tell the children anyways. Sohta and his rag-tag group of friends set out on a journey to investigate monster tracks and discover the monster’s motives. This game cleverly blurs the lines between imagination and real life, just like a young child would. Sometimes I couldn’t help but view it like an adult, and see everything as silly child’s play.  However, other times I was enthralled with the monster investigation and curious as to  what was gong on. Sohta and his friends are very likable and at times hilarious. The story takes some interesting turns and is thoroughly enjoyable for the three hours it takes to get to the end. My only gripe with it was that the after-credits scene leaves the game at a cliff-hanger and totally changes your perspective on what the story was.

The actual gameplay is like Animal Crossing with a little adventure and a card-collecting game thrown in. The graphics in this game are beautiful, especially the hand-drawn backgrounds, and the music is fitting as well (taking a jovial, yet also melodramatic tone). Unfortunately, progressing from one location to another is a little jarring because of the short delay and also various camera angles. For example, you could be in one area with a close-up view of your character but the next transitions to a top-down view instead. This is definitely not a deal-breaker however, and only led to minor annoyance.

The card-collecting game previously mentioned is not fun per se, but it’s not terrible either. You get cards simply by exploring or completing episodes, and can then battle opponents in a “rock-paper-scissor” like game. Collecting cards is very boring due to the three to five second long animation that plays every time you pick a card up. While this may not seem so bad, it gets very obnoxious when there are tons of cards to collect in the same area. There’s more strategy to the rock-paper-scissors clone than I expected, but it still pretty basic and incredibly easy. Beating your opponents makes you their master, which allows you to (wait for it)… cast a spell that makes them fall down. This is very odd and pointless, yet I couldn’t help but smile every time I did it.

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While I mentioned previously that it takes three hours to beat the main story, after completing the story there are still many more episodes to finish and if you plan on beating them all then Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale will probably clock in at about five and a half hours. For $7.99, this is a lot of content.

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is one of the few games that feels like it communicated with me personally, and that in itself makes it special. But there’s more than that to this game, with it’s beautiful visuals, fantastic soundtrack, charming characters, and excellent dialogue. If you’re looking to spend a few dollars on a game that will take you a weekend to beat, then you couldn’t go wrong with this one.

Thief

MediaHandlerPublisher: Square Enix8.0

Developer: Eidos Montreal

Release Date: 2/25/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $59.99

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The Good: Fantastic graphics and art, fun stealth game play, arsenal of arrows are fun to use

The Bad: Disappointing story, no interesting characters, world feels limited, short story mode

Thief has been one of those franchises that has been on the back burner of gamer’s minds for over a decade. Like Deus Ex, Duke Nukem, and various other decade long franchises, Thief went through its own development hell. The end product isn’t exactly something that’s worth waiting ten years for, but it’s a fun game with fantastic visuals and some great stealth gameplay.

I will come right out and say this, the story is almost complete garbage. It’s a discombobulated mess of disjointed segments strewn together in 8 chapters of gameplay. You play as a master thief, Garret, who is trying to get his friend Erin back whom he let down during a big heist. You need to get a hold of some powerful people to answer some questions and a mysterious stone. There’s some anarchy and revolution thrown in and some sort of plague called The Gloom. I honestly don’t know why any of this is happening or why Erin has a power called The Primal. It’s a huge mess and nothing is ever explained. That’s too bad for a game, as cinematic as it is, that can’t tell a decent story. At least the gameplay is fun and that’s why most people are here.

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The stealth gameplay consists of sneaking and hiding in the shadows like previous Thief games. Garret isn’t really about killing enemies, so you just knock them out with your famous Blackjack. You can kill enemies by using arrows, but it takes away from your level score. Like past Thief games, arrows are your whole arsenal. Water arrows can put out fires giving off light, rope arrows can help you swing to a new area to get around guards, poppy arrows can stun enemies, and blast arrows can take out a group of people or cause a distraction. Your arrows are a playground of anything you want them to be to your heart’s content.

Like previous Thief games you can take multiple paths to get around guards completely undetected or by taken them out one at a time. Some of the paths are hard to find and some just lead to treasure. Picking locks and finding loot to gain gold is very important if you want to stay stocked up on arrows. Some times it’s not worth getting caught just for a piece that’s worth 10 gold. Some times animals are guarding a piece or there’s too many guards or lights to get around. Thankfully vertical play is quick thanks to your Claw that lets you climb taller areas.

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An odd addition to the series are weird creepy horror segments straight out of Amnesia. You can’t kill these things but can only sneak around them. Sure they were creepy but why? It felt out of place. Also out of place are the awkward boss “fights” that just feel loose and sloppy; maybe even shoe horned in. The flow of the game is also off quite a bit with side missions taking to weird areas of town and not really being worth anything. I honestly felt the whole world was limited to just side missions when it could have been a whole larger open world.

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Outside of all that there’s not much else to the game. It doesn’t feel like the ultimate revolutionary stealth game like the first two games felt. The AI is dumb as most times and the game can be beaten in less than 8 hours, even if you try to gather all the loot. With side missions you may extend to 20 hours but just barely. The graphics are just fantastic with advanced DirectX 11 effects and a great art style that feels like Thief; there aren’t even any memorable characters in the game — Garret included. What we have is a fun weekend rental and nothing more.

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South Park: The Stick of Truth

2436997-imagePublisher: Ubisoft8.0

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Release Date: 3/4/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $39.99

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The Good: Clever and witty writing, fun RPG elements, captures the look of the show, great easter eggs for fans

The Bad: Combat is too easy, can be too vulgar for some people, a little on the short side, not much to do outside of combat

First thing I need to get out of the gate. This is the only good  game in existence. The terrible games on N64 and PC were just awful and wasn’t deserving of the license. The Stick of Truth captures the spirit and humor of the series perfectly while also injecting current gaming culture jokes and gameplay quips.

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You play as a custom character who just moved to South Park. You get sucked into the kids’ Dungeons & Dragons game that runs through the whole entire city. Cartman is the leader of the humans and Kyle is the leader of the Elves. Right off the bat the humor kicks in with you being able to select various classes including the Jew class which is actually awesome. There are various side quests that have you meeting nearly every character in the series which is great for fans. The game is actually a turn based RPG which is a huge departure from the series’ past games which consisted of racing, shooting, and mini-games. The game is fairly easy since your character levels up at an unbalanced rate and you completely heal and restore all other points between battles. With that said the combat consists of magic, melee, and abilities which are extremely humorous and down right original.

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As a jab to Skryim, your character is the Dragonborn who can use the power to fart to kill enemies. This is part of South Park’s potty humor which some people may not care for. The game just gets more vulgar as it goes on with full on nudity and sex. Even a part where you get an anal probe power and you shrink down to size and crawl through a gay slave’s intestines. Sounds outrageous, and it is, but no one could have gotten away with this 15 years ago. Back to the combat, various abilities include Circum-scythe which has you using a scalpel and slicing off armor and adding a bleeding effect. Most battles require buffs and debuffs to actually win. Recovery items are plenty and weapons and armor are constantly thrown at you. You can swap various buddies out that have different abilities, and in between fights some of these abilities are used in the walking areas.

 

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Outside of the combat there’s not much else to do besides side quests. The most involved part is the combat, but it does get repetitive towards the end due to the game being so easy. At least there’s a variety in everything from environments to characters, but only hardcore fans will want to get through all the side quests. The game is far from boring, and the writing is clever and witty, I just wish there was more outside fighting enemies. The graphics capture the style of the show and won’t be making any GPUs sweat, but the voice acting is spot on and it just feels like you’re playing a South Park cartoon. If you can stomach the mature humor, you are in for one interesting RPG.

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Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

luigis_mansion_dark_moon_box_artPublisher: Nintendo7.5

Developer: Next Level Games

Release Date: 3/24/2013

Rating: Everyone 10+

MSRP: $39.99

Also Available On: 3DS Exclusive

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The Good: Fantastic visuals and attention to detail, great combat systems, exploring the areas is fun

The Bad: Repetitive objectives and enemies, gets too frustrating towards the end, game runs out of steam less than half-way

Luigi’s Mansion was a cult hit back on the GameCube, but didn’t see much commercial success. The 3DS seems like a perfect home for the sequel so Nintendo went for it. You play as Luigi who is tasked with dispersing a small town of ghosts with the help of Professor E. Gadd. You take your Poltergust 5000 and suck and blow anything in your path. Be it cloth on walls, rugs, pulleys, or using your other powers to reveal hidden objects or even your flashlight to help battle ghosts. There’s quite a few elements in play here and they are done fairly well. Ghosts don’t just stand around and let you suck them up. Some are protected by objects or are inside other objects and require coaxing out in various ways. This with the inclusion of puzzles makes Luigi’s Mansion a fun trip.

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It isn’t without its problems and there are more than meets the eye like most recent Nintendo games. Sure the game looks great and plays well but it gets repetitive half-way through and gets frustrating. You’d expect tougher ghosts to come into play at some point, but instead you get the same ghosts with bigger life bars and more thrown at you. As you progress you find cash throughout the game to upgrade your equipment so this isn’t a problem. I was nearly maxed out towards the end of the game. The issue is redundancy and constantly revisiting the same areas just to fight different ghosts. Some puzzles are hard to figure out and some require insistent backtracking that gets very dull. The game had the Mario charm thrown in, but I expected more variety. After the third area you really start getting tired of the game, but that doesn’t mean its terrible.

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There are some hidden items in each area and they aren’t too hard to find if you explore every little area. These range from gems to cash to a hidden Boo in each level. It feels less like a collectathon and more like exploring an area. The objectives are clear and your map is useful. With that said, many objectives are also repeated throughout like chasing down a ghost dog to find a key and getting back parts from various ghosts. It just got old and I just kept telling myself, “Not this again!”

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Dark Moon is one of the best looking 3DS games out there. The game has high-resolution textures, great looking models, and some impressive lighting effects and physics. I almost felt like I was playing the Wii U. The 3D effects are nice, but don’t add anything to the gameplay. I loved the attention to detail from Luigi’s voice to his animations. The game has great production values but could have used a better variety of gameplay elements.