October 28, 2012

Review – Liberation Maiden

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 12:53 am

Review Liberation Maiden
Grasshopper’s dip into 3D shooters offers a crash course in Japanese politics – primarily that in times of peril the President will seek approval to defend New Japan by personally waging war in a flying armored mech.

Originally one of four games found in Level-5’s Japanese release, Guild01, Liberation Maiden is the first of three titles from that collection chosen by Level-5 to hit the North American eShop. Shoko Ozora takes to her Liberator, named Kamui, across five stages that players won’t be long for reaching the cliffhanger ending of.

As short as the ride proves to be, it’s difficult to complain about the quantity given the quality. A few precious seconds of Liberation Maiden offers more to digest than some larger digital releases, made shinier with animation sequences from Japanese studio Bones.

Frankly, Grasshopper offers a barrage of ideas here that hits my refresh rate like an Itano Circus.


June 23, 2012

Extra Credit – Cutting to the Heart of Lollipop Chainsaw

Pop Lollipop (by Shaun Hatton)
I tend to love and gravitate toward games that are divisive amongst the gaming community rather than those that garner more universal critical acclaim, and the most recent example of this is Suda51’s latest masterpiece, Lollipop Chainsaw, earning plenty of my love while also cutting some sharply divided opinions from the community.

But any art that sparks such differing viewpoints will forever be more interesting than art that everyone can agree upon, and thus has the potential to live longer through discussion and debate. When it comes to art that exists in part as a reflection of a variety of past works, enjoyment can come not only from the piece itself, but also from appreciating its references and inspirations.

Grasshopper Manufacture, Kadokawa Games, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment have pooled their creative efforts to bring the world one of the most thoroughly enjoyable pieces of entertainment I’ve experienced this year and, if talking exclusively about games, even this console generation. But appreciation of a game in a vacuum is one thing – appreciation of a game in context of existing pop culture is something completely different, and quite frankly, is where this game shines.


June 15, 2012

Review – Lollipop Chainsaw

Review Lollipop Chainsaw
Following in the Shakespearean tradition, Lollipop Chainsaw tells the tale of young love versus young angst, with a coming of age story featuring classic themes of satanic rock, zombie hordes, and one very peppy chainsaw wielding cheerleader.

Our heroine, Juliet Starling, refuses to let any of the unfolding chaos of the zombie apocalypse ruin her eighteenth birthday – from the decapitation of her high school sweetheart to the death of her perverted sensei, and certainly not the hordes of undead classmates tearing up the halls of San Romero High School.

Confident and true, Juliet isn’t interested in hearing from the villains responsible, because they suck.

Instead, she fires up her chainsaw and slices her way through six stages of the undead, with all roads leading to the bosses at the heart of the turmoil. That very little seems capable of darkening Juliet’s day could perhaps be read as commentary on the youth of today, except that there are easy parallels to the self-absorbed Buffy Summers from 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a film that certainly provides plenty of foundation for Juliet’s adventure here.

With that in mind, it seems more apt to say that the kids are still alright, insofar as being partly crazed and entirely ready for zombies at the drop of a hat makes them right as rain in the pop culture stew Grasshopper Manufacture stirs and serves a heaping bowl of here.


April 4, 2012

Review – Diabolical Pitch

Review Diabolical Pitch
Grasshopper Manufacture’s first kick at the Kinect gives players a solid footing to stand on, bringing the action to them rather than asking that they flail their limbs wildly to move through environments – possibly while shouting “look ma, no hands!”

This doesn’t lessen the physical workout by any means, as four consecutive days of throwing imaginary baseballs at my television has left my body broken. I persisted in working through the pain of strained muscles however, partly because I wanted an achievement for throwing a faster pitch, but also because Diabolical Pitch is the most replayable experience available on the Kinect – or at least the most replayable experience that doesn’t ask you to dance in time to Lady Gaga.

Players step into the cleats of star pitcher McAllister, who loses the use of his pitching arm after his greatest game, and then mysteriously arrives at Queen Christine’s Dreamland, where he is given a prosthetic pitching arm and offered the chance to make all his dreams come true by a somewhat melancholic cow.

If that sounds a bit odd, expect things to get far more bizarre. And welcome back to a delightful place we know simply as the Grasshopper Zone.


March 21, 2012

Review – Sine Mora

Review Sine Mora
Time is the fire in which we burn, and pilots seeking to survive the hazardous skies of Sine Mora will want to cling to every fading ember for the chance to learn why the flame that burns half as long also burns twice as bright.

The joint 2D side-scrolling shooter from Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture places the emphasis entirely on that flickering flame, with a time clock often reserved for boss battles in other shooters continually ticking down throughout the entirety of this game.

Make no mistake, every second within Sine Mora counts, because allowing time to slip away is the only way to die.


December 28, 2011

Sweet’N Low – Difficult Loves

Shadows of the Damned
I’d like to suggest that no female videogame character suffered more in 2011 than Garcia Hotspur’s ladyfriend, Paula. Dragged to hell, desecrated by perverted demons, and paraded through the underworld in heels and stockings only to be torn apart again and again, I’m hard pressed to name another woman from any videogame that endured such unrelenting torture.

Cloaked in horror camp, Shadows of the Damned pushes plenty on the tongue-and-cheek train, but alongside the circus of comedic horrors, the perils of Paula serves as the centerpiece – the emphasis for Garcia’s demon stomping rampage. The game was certainly not content in presenting the iconic Princess in a gilded cage as the obligatory motivation.

Paula’s time within the game was split between playing the damsel in distress calling out to Garcia for help, being used as the white lace rabbit meant to lure him deeper down the demonic rabbit hole, and becoming the instrument of his destruction during chase sequences where a single possessed kiss from her lips ends his life.

What the player is often left with is a woman who falls into your arms while brandishing a knife, torn between whispering sweet nothings and cursing you for her suffering – and perhaps the familiar feeling that relationships are always a tad more complicated where Suda51 is involved.

While the comparison isn’t easy for the surface differences and thematic shift, I can’t help thinking about Travis Touchdown’s appraisal of Sylvia Christel from No More Heroes 2 –

Sylvia, I can’t figure you out.
You don’t like me?
I didn’t say that. But there’s a lot of things about you I don’t get: you lie, you’re greedy, you’re a fucking contradiction in heels.
You hate me?
Well, your personality kind of sucks.
So you -do- hate me.
…I’m fucking crazy about you.

Garcia uses the word crazy to paint a different picture of Paula, whom he is equally infatuated with while unable to question or comprehend the reasoning. Love is a many splendid things of course, none of which seem easy to explain.

I suppose a great deal can be written off given the agenda of infantile offence Shadows of the Damned pushes on the player. But it certainly sticks in my teeth while looking back over a year’s worth of releases.

December 8, 2011

Lenin’s Pigeon, and Other Tales of Interest

Lenins Pidgeon
With the tide of Holiday releases unleashed and digested, fragments of info for other gaming destinations have begun surfacing once again, making a pleasant excuse for grab bag posts with misleading headlines.

My itchy trigger fingers got a tease with Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture announcing that their co-developed shooter, Sine Mora, will be exclusively hitting Xbox LIVE Arcade courtesy of Microsoft – the tease of course being the lack of any date or pricing. If you’re unfamiliar with the “diesel-punk shoot ’em up,” I shall again attempt to point your interest in the proper direction – namely here.

And not to be left out of the bullet party, G.Rev released video for their HD release of Under Defeat, which is currently set to hit Japanese Xbox 360’s and PlayStation 3’s next Spring. The buzz so far is that the 360 version will not be region-free, so catch the video below and then commence harassing your publisher of choice. Perhaps we can organize some sort of letter and signal flare campaign…

And finally, Nintendo fans should be made aware that Club Nintendo Rewards will now be offering the chance to trade reward coins for downloadable titles, at least for a little while. I was able to log in briefly to the site, which has since imploded for the day, but the rewards section showed the WiiWare title Fluidity, 3D Classics: Xevious, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! and the original Super Mario Kart.

Trading coins for digital titles sounds good to me, and wondering how far Nintendo will expand the offering of titles is a pleasant distraction from the debate over what Miyamoto’s interview with Wired does or does not mean.


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