February 21, 2012

Review – Warp

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:08 am

Review Warp
Science becomes a lot more interesting when people explode.

While the academic world has yet to reach that same conclusion, developer Trapdoor has embraced the idea with their Xbox LIVE Arcade release, Warp, employing a play mechanic that isn’t long for grabbing attention as the screen fills with meaty chunks and flailing limbs.

Featuring an abduction story that sympathizes with the alien’s point of view, an adorable extraterrestrial crashes on Earth and is quickly taken to an underwater government facility for painful probing and testing. The player’s first steps involve a series of tests conducted by curious scientists, but it isn’t long before contact with a strange glowing orb grants the plucky alien teleporting powers, offering the opportunity to study anatomy off walls freshly covered with human organs while making an escape.


December 27, 2011

Sweet’N Low – Tripping Wonderland

Sweet N Low Alice 2 Madness Returns

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

From the time I was first able to competently hold a controller, each year in gaming has brought a few titles that tempt my unbridled anticipation only to deliver disappointment. And while age hasn’t necessarily made me wiser in that regard, it has furnished me with the ability to move on quicker thanks to the divide between the child stuck with a stinker of an NES cartridge and the here-in-now that allows me immediate access to the next “big thing”. With that said, Alice: Madness Returns deserves a few words before the year draws to a close, because it’s a rather fascinating failure.

My anticipation for any interpretation of the source material forgave perceived expectations of simplicity inherent to the name American McGee – the shtick of twisting existing works, wringing Wonderland like a wet towel drenched with gothic tears. But my expectations were derailed by a convoluted narrative that fumbled in trying to do more – namely attempting to tie together the psychological deviancy of this dark Wonderland with real world suffering and a trail of breadcrumbs tripping around a tale of child abuse.

The result is truly strange in the attempt to bring reason to the madness, as if trying to provide the finality of definitive explanation taints the surreal magic of Wonderland. There’s more solid ground to provide rich soil for criticism, particularly the relentless tedium of the cookie-cutter platforming action. But what truly left me reeling was the divide between brilliance and confusion in a game earnestly dripping with creative energy.

The Walrus and The Carpenter, for instance, put on a show that uses lyrical charm and dark theatrics to bring the potential of the source material to life and nearly justify the grinding play required to reach the performance. But this is accompanied by awkward insertions of material, particularly the dollhouse world that grabs at a far more direct statement of intent and wants for the most ridiculous analogy about misplaced puzzle pieces possible.

The game speaks to Spicy Horse’s artistic talent, from breathtaking concept imagery straight through to a revisit of Wonderland that bursts with color and imagination rivaling any of the year’s more favorable releases. Despite the bumpy graphical road Alice traverses, there’s a continual supply of seductive visual details to beg forgiveness for the hiccups.

The failure I find so fascinating is in the attempt to bring reason to madness, which seems to so obviously fail to recognize the madness inherent in the pursuit. It’s a tricky sticky talking point given the various interpretations of Wonderland that exist, but I can’t escape the feeling that Madness Returns crossed into a territory others were wiser to leave unexplored.

August 21, 2011

The Last Word on X’11

X 11
As you may have noticed from the slew of hands-on posts, Sugar went to X’11 and played a bunch of delicious games—and we’re not done talking about them quite yet.

In addition to Binary Domain, Rise of Nightmares, and Dead Island, I had the opportunity to get my hands on a whole mess of other games—titles like Space Marine, and some other little indie games you might not have heard of, like Mass Effect 3 and Rage. If these are the sorts of things that interest you, you may click onward to unfurl my parchment of mighty gaming tales.


April 14, 2011

Review – Crysis 2

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 5:40 pm

Crysis 2It’s not difficult to imagine EA sitting down with Crytek, somewhere in the indeterminate space between Crysis and Crysis 2, fingers tented carefully and asking “Can you make it more like Call of Duty?” I don’t mean “It’s a funny joke to think about,” I mean I believe this happened. I believe it occurred in our discrete reality.

Indeed, I believe EA has this conversation with every developer to offer them product.

It’s easy to peer into the product and see the result of this conversation (which I will now portray as a factual historic event); fibers of Call of Duty have been infused in the deep tissue of Crysis, coloring its fundamental layers, its skeleton.

Amazing, then, that it remains, unquestionably, its own game.


April 10, 2011

Review – Mass Effect 2: Arrival

Mass Effect 2 Arrival
Last week saw the release of Arrival, the final DLC package for Mass Effect 2, leading into the release of Mass Effect 3 (still intolerably far away, I might add). Arrival sees Commander Shepard infiltrating Batarian space to rescue an Alliance operative with evidence on the imminent Reaper invasion.

As has been the standard for Mass Effect 2 DLC, Arrival attempts to put something of a different spin on the gameplay and add something unique to the package. In this instance, it’s a rudimentary stealth mechanic, where players—if they are careful about choosing their route—can avoid enemy positions and complete the first mission without being detected.


March 28, 2011

A Rough Start for Crysis 2

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 8:01 pm

Crysis 2
Update 04/04/11: A patch has now been released, aiming to resolve many of the issues described here. Patch notes can be found here. Original post follows:

I’ve been playing Crysis 2 for the past week, and while normally this is about the time you’d be reading my unrelenting logic assault in the form of a review, it’s going to be a while longer before that occurs.

Crysis 2 has had an unhappy launch on the PC, with both the multiplayer and singleplayer components plagued by an entire menagerie of bugs, ranging from the annoying to the nigh-gamebreaking species. While this could fairly be grounds for a resoundingly negative review, I am not entirely comfortable committing such to print at this time, with the knowledge that the digital age affords developers the ability to promptly right such wrongs for all players.

Flaws remain flaws, and should be considered—hence this writing—but I would prefer not to write a review that could, in a week’s time, no longer represent the product. Therefore, I will allow some time to pass in the hopes that a patch will be distributed and the game can be properly reviewed.

In the meantime, however, I would be remiss not to advise players on the matter of the game as it currently exists. As I implied previously, I am playing Crysis 2 on the PC, and thus some or all of the bugs I describe here may not exist on the console versions; I urge players to do their research before making their purchasing decisions.


March 5, 2011

Review – Dead Space 2: Severed

Dead Space 2: Severed
This week saw the release of Severed, the first true DLC (save weapon and items packs) for the Dead Space series. Thus, I will again jump at the opportunity to discuss the merits of annihilating zombies in space, a subject very near and dear to my heart.

Severed features Gabe Weller, one of the protagonists from Dead Space: Extraction. The two-chapter campaign sees Weller battle his way from the government sector of the Sprawl to the psych ward in the civilian sector, in an effort to find his wife and get her off the station. This has the player literally playing the campaign backwards, revisiting many of the areas originally seen while traversing the station in the opposite direction, as Isaac.


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