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Archive for June, 2011

Review #423

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Tales From the Dragon Mountain: The Strix
Developer: Cateia Games
Publisher: Cateia Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 06/28/2011

We’re pretty familiar with the small Croatian developer and publisher Cateia games here at Diehard GameFAN. In April of 2009, Guy gave a very positive review to their game The Legend of Crystal Valley and in June of 2010 I reviewed the Collector’s Edition of Hotel which I found to be fun but VERY short. Now a year later I’m back with Cateia’s latest point and click adventure game for the PC, Tales From the Dragon Mountain: The Strix. Has Cateia earned themselves three positive reviews in a row, or is Tales a hard game to swallow, even with a price tag of only $6.99?
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Review #422

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Marvel Pinball: Fantastic Four
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Genre: Pinball
Release Date: 05/16/2011

Fantastic Four Pinball is the first downloadable table for Marvel Pinball for those of you who purchased the game way back in December 2010, you’ve no doubt played the hell out of the first four tables and have been chomping at the bit for the fifth and sixth (Captain America, which will be released on 6/28) tables to breathe some new life into the game, as well as give you a way to up both your Hero and Team Score. Zen Studios was kind enough to include a review code for Fantastic Four Pinball in addition to the Captain America one we requested, and so we’re giving you back to back Marvel Pinball goodness this week.

With a price tag of $2.50, you are getting a fully fleshed out table with a tried and true Fantastic Four theme. All four members of the team, from Mr. Fantastic to the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing appear on the table in a fully rendered three dimensional figure. You’ll also find Doctor Doom in the upper left hand corner of the table. Like all Marvel Pinball characters, these “figures” come into play with your pinball experience. The Thing is the one you’ll encounter the most as he is active outside of missions (more on those later) and he’s also smack dab in the center of the table. You’ll hit the ball to him several times to activate “It’s Clobberin’ Time!” as well as a few other things. Invisible Woman is as good as her name as you’ll hear her voice far more than you’ll ever pay attention to her on the actual board.

The table layout is very similar to the Spider-Man pinball table. You’ll find two flippers at the bottom and one on the middle left side. You don’t have the extra two flippers near the top like the Spider-Man table, so you could also refer to the general layout as a “Reverse Blade (R.I.P. Gene Colan).” There are a lot of ramps on the board, the most out of any Marvel Pinball game I can think of. You’ll definitely need to master shots here with all the ramps especially when you trigger the Fantastic Four Multi-Ball option and you’ll have to keep track of four balls at once. Trust me when I say this is the hardest of all the board to keep track of when this happens. It’s fun, but it’s also far more frantic. When you get multiple balls on say, the Blade table, it’s nowhere as hard to keep track of as on F4.

As with each Marvel Pinball table, Fantastic Four Pinball offers multiple missions. Missions are merely themed shots you have to make that revolve around the characters on the board. Previous Marvel Pinball tables featured several missions for the protagonist du jour. Here, because of the sheer number of characters, you get one per team member. The Thing’s is the easiest as you’ll help him attack Doombots ala fighting the Hand on Wolverine’s table. The Human Torch requires you to make a series of spinner shots to increase the temperature of his flame so he can go nova. Mr. Fantastic’s hand will reach out in several places and you need to hit the ball to them. Invisible Woman is similar to her brother’s mission, but here you are powering up her force field. There are also some generic mini-game mission on the table, such as saving the Baxter Building from attacking Skrulls.

The board looks pretty good. It looks very close to an authentic pinball table. However the character designs of the four don’t look as good as those on previous tables and the board does feel a bit cluttered with all the characters and ramps. It’s very playable mind you, but it still feels like there is too much on the board. The voice acting is quite nice, especially compared to a few of the previous boards. It’s also more difficult than a lot of other board yet conversely, it’s also easier to rack up a large score thanks to the ease of getting more than one ball in play on this table.

My only complaints are the usual ones I have about Marvel Pinball. The tilt is especially functional, there are times when the ball moves in a way contradictory to a real ball on a real table physics-wise and that the flippers at the bottom are space farther apart than one would find on a real table. We’re talking Pinball of the Dead’s third table spread out. That being said, for only $2.50, this is a wonderful game of pinball and it’s exceptionally well made. I’d put Fantastic Four Pinball right after the Blade table in terms of quality, ahead of Wolverine slightly, and way ahead of Spider-Man and Iron Man.

Overall, Fantastic Four Pinball is a very solid game and at only $2.50, I can’t think of a reason not to own this if you already have Marvel Pinball it’s better than most of the original tables and a lot better than the majority of Zen Pinball tables as well. It’s one of Zen Studios best efforts, but as you’ll see in my upcoming Captain America Pinball review, the best is yet to come.

The Scores
Modes: 5.5/10
Graphics: 6.5/10
Sound: 6.5/10
Control and Gameplay: 6.5/10
Replayability: 6.5/10
Balance: 6.5/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 6.5/10
Appeal Factor: 6.5/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10
Total Score: 61
FINAL SCORE: 6.0 (ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Fantastic Four is a wonderful addition to the four previous tables that make up Marvel Pinball. It’s harder than the original set of tables, but it’s also easier to get a high score, as paradoxical as that sounds. With a price tag of only $2.50, Fantastic Four pinball is worth every penny and sure to delight those that pick it up, even if they aren’t fans of Reed Richards and crew. It is a bit cluttered however, so those looking for a very realistic game of pinball may be get a bit snarky over things. For everyone else, it’s a fine additional to one’s collection. If you own Marvel Pinball at all, you should have already downloaded this expansion table already.

Five Years of Baby

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Five years ago today, my friends Danielle and Matt found a little gray bunny that they thought was a domesticated rabbit. It would turn out that she was neither. She was actually a wild hare who had been seperated from her mother at too young of an age. A week after they found her she and (the late lop Thylali) came to live with me. Sadly Thylali passed on a year and a half later from age, but Baby is still going on strong. Looking at the very first pictures of Baby from the day she was found, you can really tell how much she has changed. She’s gotten bigger, her dulap has grown to mammoth proportions and she’s a little chubber since her wild instincts tell her to eat as much as she can whenever there is food. The little white spot on her forehead has vanished, she’s had lifelong problems with her tear ducts and she can be very destructive at times - almost to the point of driving me nuts, but it’s all part of what makes Baby Baby. Hell, she even chose her name in the first week I had her, as she would respond to “Who’s the baby bunny?” and nothing else.

I love her very much. Out of the two bunnies, she’s the most curious and playful. She is the greediest pet I’ve ever owned and when it comes to food she is aggressive enough to take food right out of Chewie (or even my) mouth if it’s something sweet. She loves satin and lace and will happily dig and play in it for what seems like hours. She also loves Chewie very much and is addicted to Children’s Benadryl (for her tear duct issues.) her favorite toy in the world is Nutty Stick Ball and there’s even a popular video of her with one floating around the Internet.She hates other girl bunnies and has disdain for Guin’s cat (Possibly because said cat loves Chewie too) and she’s generally a happy bunny even if she hyperventilates easy (Again, she’s a wild animal that’s been domesticated. Things freak her out easier).

Hard to believe she’s gone from this:

to this:

At times it feels like yesterday and forever that I’ve had her, but I’m very happy that she’s been a big part of my life for so long.

Review #421

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Marvel Pinball: Captain America
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Genre: Pinball
Release Date: 06/28/2011

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Review #420

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Dungeon Siege III
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Square-Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 06/21/2011

My favorite development team of all time was Black Isle Studios. They gave us the original Fallout games, Planescape: Torment, the Icewind Dale series and strongly helped Bioware with Baldur’s Gate. Unfortunately, Interplay killed them and the team branched into two directions, neither of which were as good as the original team. Troika Games gave us The Temple of Elemental Evil, Arcanum, and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines - all of which sold poorly, were considering good but buggy PC titles, and still have a cult following to this day. Unfortunately, they no longer exist. The second offspring of Black Isle is Obsidian Entertainment who is also known for making good, but even buggier games. They have given us Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout: New Vegas, KotOR II and Alpha Protocol. Okay, well Alpha Protocol isn’t considered a good game, but I digress.

This brings us to Dungeon Siege III. There’s quite the back story behind DSIII, but suffice to say, that neither Square-Enix nor Obsidian were the original developers or publishers of the Dungeon Siege games. In fact, out of the four Dungeon Siege games, there have been three publishers (Microsoft and 2K games are the others) and three development teams (Gas Powered Studios and Supervillian Studios). This is also the first Dungeon Siege game made for a console, although there has been one for handhelds (Throne of Agony) that neither sold well, nor was it particularly good. Without any connection to the original series at all, what hope did Dungeon Siege III have of being any good?

Well, two things. The first is that Chris Taylor, creator of Dungeon Siege served as an advisor for this game and the other is that Black Isle members have made some of the best action RPGs of all time, including the best ever console exclusive action RPG in Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II. Even if the team stuck to the Dark Alliance 2 formula and didn’t deviate the game was sure to be a decent one, if uninspired. So with the creator of Dungeon Siege back at the helm and coupled with the genre members of Black Isle and Obsidian do best, was Dungeon Siege III a quality affair, or was the series best left dead after the Uwe Boll film?
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Review #419

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Alpha Polaris
Developer: Turmoil Games
Publisher: Just A Game
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 04/24/2011

…and here it is. If you’re a long time reader of Diehard GameFAN, you know I’ve covered Alpha Polaris a lot in 2011. I put it as one of the ten indie games I was most looking forward to in 2011, I interviewed the head of Turmoil Games about this, their first release, back in February, and I did a hands-on preview of the game in late May. Now I’ve played through the entire final version of the game and it’s time to give my final judgment on whether Alpha Polaris lived up to the hype I made for it in my mind, or if my search for the next Prisoner of Ice. What can I say? I like my “Extremely cold landscapes inhabited by a strange unworldly horror” games.
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So, the Past Few Months Have Been a Blur

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Man, the only thing I’ve had time to do with my blog is put in rough drafts of my video game articles - things have been that hectic since well…the end of March.

in late March/early April, I went back to Minnesota for a weekend to be the best man at Chris’ wedding. Then it was home and a month later, it was off to Seattle and Portland with Dan. Seattle was fun. I met some neat people, had some good food, fell through a rotting walkway up near Mt. Saint Helens and more. Portland was a bit of a homecoming for me. It had been nearly ten years since I moved from there and it was great to see what had stayed the same and what changed. I found a few of the stores I used to frequent, we ate at a few really good places, and I found some of my old Transformers that Ronni sold. I decided against buying them back though. partly due to cost and partly because I’m not 21 or so anymore and I don’t need action figures cluttering up my home. All in all it was a great vacation and Dan is always a great person to travel with.

Two weeks after that, it was off to Philadelphia to meet up with Toronto’s own Bill Quinn. We took in some sites, ate a lot of food (including an amazing meal at Morimoto’s), and saw the NJPW card at the ECW arena. It was a lot of fun, but it reminded me just how creepy the hardcore wrestling fan can be. There were some people there that kind of forgot it’s all performance art. I also got to finally hang out with Matt Faul there for a bit, which was awesome. Great card, but the two main guys I came to see (Liger and Tiger Mask IV) both lost, so sad face there.

Two weeks after that it was time for ANOTHER trip. This time it was down to West Virginia to see and pick up Guin. We spent the weekend packing her stuff up, loading it into a Uhaul and moving her in with me. Yes, she’s been living with me for a little over three weeks now and today she starts her new job, which pays nearly DOUBLE what she was making in WV. Yay for her being free from Beckley. About the only negative about having her live with me is that Baby really doesn’t like Guin’s cat. She’s not as murderous towards it as she was with Snowball, but she has gotten pretty agressive with the kitty on occassion.

Last week was E3 and although I didn’t attend, I spent way too much time editing. Almost every piece went live with a broken image link, incorrect tags, spelling/formatting/grammar errors and the like and so I spent many an hour cleaning things up. Mark, Matt and Widro did an awesome job though and I am so glad they got to attend and do all that work instead of me. :-)

So it’s been a very busy few months and after this week (with attending the Green Lantern movie premiere and tickets to the WWE PPV this Sunday), things should dramatically calm down. I’m looking forward to it.

Review #418

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion
Developer: Papaya Studios
Publisher: Crave Games
Genre: Platformer /Fighter
Release Date: 06/03/2011

Punch Time Explosion is a strange duck. Not only is it a clone of the Super Smash Bros. series, but instead of primarily being a fighting game, 95% of the content is a platformer akin to SSB Melee’s The Subspace Emissary. This kind of threw me for a loop as I was expecting to being playing a fighting game, but that’s such a tiny part of the game. There are no Wi-Fi battles – only local battles and a downloadable mini version you can send to friends that don’t have the game. Even after beating Story Mode though, there were only eight accessible characters for the former and you can only use four in the latter which is…weird and underwhelming to say the least. I’m guessing the fact that no one unlocked in “Vs. CPU” (The game’s name for the fighting battles) for me is just another one of the many bugs or horrible design problems that plague Punch Time Explosion from beginning to end.

I was actually hoping Punch Time Explosion would be one of the better titles for the 3DS that I’ve played so far. I mean, how hard is it to ruin Super Smash Bros., right? Unfortunately, it not only turned out to be the worst game for the system in its short lifespan, but it’s up there with Thor: God of Thunder and The Tiny Bang Story as an easy contender for the worst game of the year. Are you ready to see how terrible the latest Cartoon Network game is?

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