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Archive for April, 2011

Review #410

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Red Johnson’s Chronicles: Episode One
Developer: Lexis Numerique
Publisher: Lexis Numerique
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 4/19/2011 (Playstation Plus), 05/03/2011 (Everyone Else)

Most console gamers are probably unfamiliar with Lexis Numerique. That’s because, until recently, they’ve primarily made games for the PC. Although this French developer-slash-publisher mainly made kid games for companies like Ubisoft, in 2003/4, they created one of the most memorable and unique PC games ever - In Memorandum aka MISSING Since November. Again, if you aren’t a PC gamer, you’ve probably never heard of it, but this game was one of the first “alternate reality” games. The game would use your internet browser, your email account and various other things to really immerse you in the adventure to the point where the line between where the game ended and real life began blurred immensely. From there, Lexis Numerique had a brief run as an adventure game company with a reputation for excellent stories and outside the box ideas. Whether it was The Experiement or MISSING Since November, Lexis Numerique developed a nice cult following amongst adventure fans on both sides of the Atlantic.

In recent years, Lexis Numerique went back to making children’s titles, notably for the Wii instead of PCs. However, with a vocal fanbase clamoring for more adventure games, Lexis Numerique decided to give it another try, but sticking with their newfound focus of making games for consoles. Enter Red Johnson’s Chronicles. This adventure game was designed specifically for the PS3 and was to be the first of three adventure games for consoles. Red Johnson is the detective game, AMY is going to be a post apocalyptic game, and The 7th Seal will be their first game for the Xbox 360 (Little is known about it, save that it is actually being developed by their sister studio VectorCell.). As a big fan of their PC adventure games, being able to pick up Red Johnson’s Chronicles two weeks before its official release date AND for 50% off via Playstation Plus was an offer I couldn’t pass up. So has LN made a successful switch from the PC to the PS3, or was their adventure game era best left in the past?
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Review #409

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The Next Big Thing
Developer: Pendulo Studios
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 04/21/2011 (04/20/2010 for digital pre-orders)

So, a funny story for you. On Monday in my preview of The Next Big Thing, I stated that I would have to put a review of this game on the back burner since I had Black Mirror II, Red Johnson’s Chronicles, Jurassic Park: Episode 1 and beta testing for Society of the Serpent Moon to get through and I wasn’t going to purchase TNBT because of its price point of $29.99 which is lot more expensive than most adventure games run these days. However, after that piece went live, Focus Home Interactive sent me a digital download code for The Next Big Thing. As review copies automatically go to the head of the line, a game I thought I wouldn’t be able to review until mid-May was played and beaten before the actual release of the game.

Now, I was pretty high on TNBT. I’m one of the few people to have played and enjoyed the first game in the series, Hollywood Monsters, I loved the original Runaway, and TNBT was one of my ten most anticipated indie titles of 2011. Now the time for talk and hype is done. Is The Next Big Thing Brock Lesnar like…or is Focus Home Interactive going to wish I had left this game on my backburner?
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Review #408

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Mortal Kombat
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Home Games
Genre: 2-D Fighter
Release Date: 04/19/2011

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two and a half years since Midway released Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe. I was pretty impressed with the game overall, and it boasted the best graphics and engine I’d seen attached to a console based Mortal Kombat. Sure the gore was toned down, but the engine was tight and it was fun to see Raiden hitting a “superman” on well…Superman. I gave the game a rating of “good,” and pointed out that although I was more a SNK and Capcom fighting fan, I really adored MK8 and was looking forward to the inevitable sequel.

Flash forward to the present day. Midway has gone the way of Acclaim and Warner Bros. now owns the rights to the MK series. NetherRealm Studios has gone back to the gore and violence that originally earned this series a M rating in the first place while promising the same level of substance we had in MK8 coupled with the style the diehard Mortal Kombat fans clamored for. I’ll personally admit to a love-hate relationship with Mortal Kombat. I was unimpressed by MK1 compared to other fighters when it first came out. I LOVED MK2 and it remains one of my favorite fighters of all time. I thought MK3 was a step backwards, but then I really liked the upgrade of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 which I still play on my Sega Saturn from time to time. I felt that MK4 was the worst game in the series when it came out (and I still do), but that Deadly Alliance was a return towards quality for the series. I’m still pretty neutral on Deception, although it wasn’t as good as DA. I loved the sheer amount of content and characters in Armageddon but felt the game played like crap. So out of the eight Mortal Kombat games, I’ve liked four of the games and disliked the other four. Which means it’s up to MK9 to break the push. After the last few years where I’ve been less than impressed by all the versions of Street Fighter IV, disgusted by King of Fighters XII and bored by BlazBlue, I’ve been hoping that Mortal Kombat would provide me with two well made MK games in a row. Was Mortal Kombat 9 a flawless victory or was it merely toasty?
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Review #407

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Black Mirror III: Final Fear
Developer: Cranberry Production GmbH
Publisher: Viva Media
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 04/12/2011

So back in late 2004, I tried The Black Mirror for the first time. I had heard polarizing things about it. Some people like the story, while some hated the ending with a venomous passion. Some liked the characters and locations, while others bitched about the horrid voice acting and the very tiny areas for clicking on hot spots that the game had. Unfortunately, The Black Mirror was one of the few adventure games I never bothered to finish because two-thirds into the game, as the game’s copy protection (Star Force) destroyed my laptop’s monitor. Sheesh, you kids today think SecuROM is bad, you have no idea what it was like in the days of XP or before. I ended up watching the end of the game via Youtube and I have to say, the ending did indeed suck, but I enjoyed the parts of the game I had played. I just wasn’t willing to go through a second laptop screen for it.

Black Mirror II came out in Europe back in 2009, and although I didn’t import it, but I did get to fiddle with it and write up a preview of it. Black Mirror II was finally released stateside in Feburary of 2011, but I waited on picking it up as I a) had too many reviews to write at the time and b) I could have purchased both Black Mirror II for $14.95 each, or wait until April when II and III would be bundeled together by the publisher Viva Media for $19.99. Obviously I chose the latter.

Now I’m reviewing Black Mirror III and I’ll have a Black Mirror II review a few weeks later. I went with III first since it was the newer release and because I also have The Next Big Thing, Mortal Kombat and Red Johnson’s Chronicles to review. I figured as BM2 was the oldest, it could wait a bit longer. Of course, then I discovered that BM3 is intrinsically tied to BM2 and is not only a direct sequel, but a game that can only be properly appreciated if you have played and beaten the first two games in the series. So how does Black Mirror III hold up when taken on its own? It’s time to find out.

Let’s Review
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Review: #406

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Dungeon Hunter: Alliance
Developer: Gameloft
Publisher: Gameloft
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 04/12/2011

One of the aspects of Playstation Plus that both fans and critic alike point to when making their points about it is that PS+ is mostly a coupon service. That is, you pay money to get a discount on various games. We’ll leave whether that is a positive or negative up to you, the readers and instead focus on a game that received a day one 25% price cut for Playstation Plus subscribers - Dungeon Hunter: Alliance. With the Playstation Plus discount the game was less than ten dollars for a full length RPG, so I decided to bit the bullet and download the game, especially since it was described as a Diablo clone, and I’m big fan of that game.

Of course, this is Gameloft and they don’t have the best track record for porting their cell phone games over to consoles. Hero of Sparta, a popular God of War wannabe cell phone game fell flat on its face as one of the first PSP Minis. Our own Mark B. has skewered releases like American Popstar: Road to Celebrity for the DS and their recent 3DS launch titleAsphalt 3D. That doesn’t mean that Gameloft has reached the level of awful that say, Zoo Games, has “achieved.” Aaron Sirois enjoyed their remake of Earthworm Jim and Mark loved Midnight Play Pack, so they’re not all bad. Still, I was well aware that I was giving money to such “Worst Game of the Year” nominees like Miami Nights when I purchased this. Still, it’s pretty hard to mess up a Diablo clone, so how bad could it be, right?
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Review #405

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Blood and Ruby
Developer: Hitpoint Studios
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 3/31/2011

I’d never heard of Hitpoint Studios before this game, but they appear to have made quite a few games according to their website. The biggest series under their belt is Fate, a series of RPGs they made with WildTangent. Ashe reviewed the first game in the series in early 2010 and had nice things to say about it.

I decided to try Blood and Ruby for several reasons. The first is that I love adventure games, and it had been a month since I played and reviewed Gray Matter. The second is that I had my monthly free game credit from Big Fish Games, which is the largest publisher of casual games, but they’ve also been developing and publishing a good deal of point and click adventure games as well. Out of all the new releases on the site that I could use my credit on, Blood and Ruby had the best sample video, so I decided to go with that. Pretty simple, right? So how was Blood and Ruby for an independent budget game? Big Fish titles are overlooked by a lot of gamers who sadly ignore and eschew PC titles (yet they still refer to themselves as “hardcore gamers” somehow…), but as their games range between $2.99 and $19.99 for full length indie games with a decent sized budget, it’s a treasure trove for smart gamers. Is Blood And Ruby one of those games that helps to show why I buy at least one game a month from Big Fish…or should I have waited for Broken Mirror III or Jurassic Park to get my adventure game fix?
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Review #404

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Stacking: The Lost Hobo King
Developer: Double Fine Games
Publisher: Double Fine Game
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure
Release Date: 4/4/2011

Less than two months after Stacking was released on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live, we have our first piece of DLC for the game. I was pretty excited for this. If you read my original review of the game, you know that I absolutely adored Stacking. A few days ago, Stacking also made the #2 spot in my Best of Q1 2011 list I was pretty happy with the DLC fro Costume Quest, Grubbins on Ice (which is where we first met Charlie Blackmore) and found it to be well worth my money. So five dollars towards DLC for a game that I loved and received for free via Playstation Plus sounded like money well spent.

However the DLC took me between sixty and ninety minutes to complete. This seems to be the going length for a lot of DLC these days and honestly, compared to DLC like Hyperdimension Neptunia where you pay $2.49 for a swimsuit costume skin for a SINGLE CHARACTER, that seems like a pretty good deal, right? Well, it all comes down to quality. Did The Lost Hobo King prove itself to be a worthy addition to Stacking or did it turn out that game was better off without DLC stacking onto the core title?
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A Return to MN

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

So for about forty-eight hours (Friday, April 1st to Sunday, April 3rd), I was back in Minnesota. I took a cab to Reagan National ($15 both ways, or about what is costs to get from here to the Verizon Center, which is kind of crazy). My flight up kind of sucked as I was stuck in a middle seat with the guy on the aisle sleeping and falling over for most of the flight. I picked up my rental car and was told it was going to snow heavily over the weekend, but thankfully it never did.

My reason for going back was to be the best man at Chris’ wedding. Chris is my best friend. I met him my senior year of college and we bonded immediately over making fun of how many times the Cure has broken up. In fact, we even went to Curiosa with my friends Anne and Angie. Anyway, Chris was getting married. He asked me to be the best man and there was no way I’d miss the wedding. I pulled up to the house he shared with his almost but not quite wife to be, met the young lady by the name of Keri (Who I knew only through Facebook before this) and helped do some wedding prep like vaccuming and moving furniture around. Chris and I went out to run a few errands, did some more prep, I got lunch at QCumbers (an all you can eat salad place that is fantastic and very pro-Pokemon) and people started showing up about five pm or so.

It was a nice ceremony, although the judge performing the ceremony was a bit of a sweaty palmed sex fiend making comments that would have had him slapped with a lawsuit in a more formal performance. We all stayed up until about 2am (3am my time) talking, eating and drinking. Well, Chris and I didn’t do the latter, but there was a lot of hooch consumed all around. It was a pretty fine time, I met some cool new people and reaffirmed exactly why I don’t want kids.

Saturday Chris and I went to Sunny Side Up for breakfast. He’d never been and it was my favorite place for pancakes and waffles when I lived in MSP. I had a full stack of blueberry pancakes while Chris had this pretty intense breakfast including salmon, steak and something else. We also got orders or chorizo. Great meal and I really hate how hard it is to find a quality place for breakfast in Northern VA. Everything else is amazing foodwise, but breakfast? Not so much. The Original Pancake House and Bob and Edith’s are the best I’ve found and even they are pretty mediocre.

After that, we recuperated a bit and then I headed off to the new Psycho Suzi’s to meet up with some friends. Let’s see if i can remember everyone that showed up. Adam, Merhar, Erin, Byzeskwi, Peter, Dan, J.D., Summer, Keri, Chris, Chris and Keri’s friend who I had never met before, Ms. Satchell…and, someone else I can’t remember. Poop. We were there for about three hours and it was great to see everyone.

After lunch, I went to run the Lake of the Isles and I made pretty good time even in winter wear and dress slacks. From there it was a milkshake at Sebastian Joes and then back to Chris. Chris, Keri and I talked for a while and then we went to the Mall of America. It had been six years since I had been there and I wanted to see what had changed. Sadly it was 99% clothing stores instead of all the neat weird stores it used to have like Technocomix and the WotC store. I did end up spreading minor mischief by using my 3DS to synch up with six other 3DS’ in the mall and giving them my Hitler Mii who asks if they are a Jew or not. I realize that is potentially offensive, but hey, I’ve popped out of a yiddish womb (I have a Bubby for crying out loud), so it’s probably only funny to me. I’m sure kids and parents won’t find it as funny, but Chris, Keri and I all laughed our asses off. Dinner was sushi and then it was off to bed as I had to get up at 5am for a flight.

Flight home was fine. I did get a horrible chocolate crossaint from French Meadow before I left and I was shocked by how bad it was when they’ve normally been really good. I recieved a seat upgrade and was back home playing with the bunnies by 11am. I was happy to see friends and how MSP had changed, but how little I missed the driving and the weather. There are places I would have liked to have eaten at or things I wanted to see, but there just wasn’t enough time. Maybe I’ll be back in another two years. I see seem to come back that often.

Books Read - 03/11

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

3/2 - Murder has a Sweet Tooth by Miranda Bliss. The last book in the Cooking Club Murder Mystery series, and the worst. Unlike 99% of most mystery writers, Bliss knew when to stop.

3/2 - Toradora! Volume 1. I liked the Anime so much, I picked up the first volume of the Manga. Nowhere as good.

3/4 - The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness. Xykon rules! A great graphic novel for the online webcomic.

3/4 - Rabbits Everywhere by Alicia Ezpeleta. I was hoping it was going to be a neat Rabbit picture and folklore book. Instead it was just kind of crappy.

3/6 - The Vigoner Vendetta by Ellen Crosby. I don’t know why I keep reading Crosby’s books. Well, in this case it was because I accidentally purchased it through 1-click on my kindle so I felt I needed to read it. Not a very good book. I only really liked the first three.

3/11 - Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms Classics, Volume 1. This is a TPB of the old 80s AD&D 2nd edition comic strip set in the Realms. A lot of fun.

3/11 - The Long Bomb: How the XFL Became TV’s Biggest Fiasco. It was the 10 year anniversary of the XFL so I thought I’d read the only book on it. The author pissed me off at first, but I grew to enjoy him.

3/12 - Exiles Volume 5: Unnatural Instinct. I thought I’d read the Austin X-Men/Exiles crossover since the guy is so hated by comic book fans. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read either.

3/13 - Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition: The Complete Bard’s Handbook. Just an in-depth guide on making and playing Bards.

3/14 - Marvel Adventures Super Heroes: Triple Threat. This was a teeny trade about Hulk, Iron Man and Spider-Man doing wacky shit together. Hilarious.

3/14 - Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man. The only thing good to ever come out of any idea Bendis has ever add. Thankfully it wasn’t written by him.

3/18 - Sprinkle With Murder. A really bad cozy about a cupcake bakery and the owner solving a murder.

3/20 - Captain America: The Captain. This is one of my favorite runs by Grunewald although I hate how the turned John Walker all crazy as it went on. I may be pretty liberal. but I really liked Super Patriot and his juxtaposition with Cap. Some GREAT Red Skull stuff in here too.

3/20 - Coffin: The Art of Vampire Hunter D by Yoshitako Amano. You know what? I really wasn’t impressed by this at all. If the book wasn’t to rare and expensive, I’d probably trade it in for something somewhere.

3/22 - Ravenloft: Van Richten’s Guide to Werebeasts. A gaming supplement on running werewolf antagonists for 2nd edition AD&D. It gave me some ideas if I ever decide to run a session at some point.

3/25 - The Legend of Sleep Hollow by Washington Irving. I haven’t read this since 6th grade but man was it awful.

3/26 - The Great Outdoor Fight by Chris Onstad. With the demise of Achewood, I felt like re-reading the greatest bit from the nine year comic.

3/29 - Exiles Volume 1: Down the Rabbit Hole. I just felt like re-reading this. I really liked Exiles until Claremont took over.

3/29 - Exiles Volume 9: Bump In the Night. Yeah, i was in an Exiles mood this month. What If + Quantum Leap!

3/29 - Exiles Volume 10: The Age of Apocalypse. This takes me up to my favorite storyline, which would be the return of King Hyperion.

So, 21 books in all. Not a bad month, especially sicne I was so busy with Pokemon and 3DS shit this month.