March 9, 2013

Review – Tomb Raider

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 11:52 pm

Review Tomb Raider
Vegetation reclaims the land around ancient Asian temples. Turrets built during the Second World War rot into the cliffs overlooking ships that lay battered and broken against the rocks, where angry waves warn off any thought of escape. And the diaries of countless inhabitants throughout time are scattered across the ruins of an island rich with a dark history.

While Lara Croft’s first expedition uncovers an island prison run by years of stranded inmates, she also discovers a landscape that abandons the idea of singular globetrotting digs offering a sterile glimpse into frozen pockets of time, instead uncovering a complex web, where the strings of history intertwine around a mystery beating a rhythm of madness heard across the entire island.

And while Lara unearths the pieces to this puzzle, the franchise mirrors her efforts with a dig through the more recent history of the medium. It doesn’t take a gaming archeologist to see the influences running throughout Tomb Raider, particularly the unsteady ground and quick time events that fed Uncharted’s cinematic flow.

But as a student of history, Tomb Raider isn’t looking to simply copy answers during the test.


July 8, 2012

Review – Quantum Conundrum

Review Quantum Conundrum
Conundrums exist all around us. Just this morning, I puzzled over a way to make coffee without getting out of bed – though maybe that’s more of a daily annoyance than a true conundrum.

The conundrums offered up by Kim Swift and Airtight Games tend to challenge players to navigate rooms of perilous lasers and other hazards in order to activate pressure switches to open the way forward. And the ludicrous scientific adventure that unfolds draws quick comparisons through the gameplay and Swift to Portal, which makes it rather easy to suggest that if you loved Portal, you’re in fine hands here.

There are plenty of similarities to discover whilst visiting the eccentric Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, voiced by Star Trek The Next Generation’s John De Lancie, who offers companionship with a disembodied voice that continually comments on situations and regales players with the history of the Quadwrangle family, as well as his own scientific accomplishments.

Key among the similarities are the aforementioned pressure switches that require the constant manipulation of recurring objects. Conundrums often involve finding the means to cross dangerous environments as well, continually mixing these two challenges to create rooms that do something familiar – find me wandering off to do something else until suddenly realizing the solution and running back to the computer to test my hypothesis.

Whenever a game gets under my skin that much, I figure it must be doing something right.


June 15, 2012

E3 2012 – Quantum Conundrum

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:11 pm

Quantum Conundrum E3 2012
Just for kicks, I’ve been trying to think of a way of discussing Quantum Conundrum without mentioning Portal, but that doesn’t seem to be happening today. Of course, referencing Portal to discuss Kim Swift and Airtight Games’ upcoming release is probably a good sign that we’re about to discuss a very solid title, which we are.

As with Portal, Quantum Conundrum features a series of puzzles that require the use of a rather strange device in order to solve them, and aside from the physicality of interacting with objects in this space, that’s probably where the similarities end – although there’s certainly a common thread that offers players a chance to see more in the minor details that merits mention.


June 11, 2012

E3 2012 – Tomb Raider

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , — Jamie Love @ 11:02 pm

Tomb Raider E3 2012
Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of Lara Croft was a title I salivated over prior to E3. Still punch-drunk from last year’s showing, the footage offered during this year’s Microsoft Press Conference strengthened the belief that my optimism would be rewarded.

I’ve been pretty hung up on the idea that Tomb Raider really can offer an earnest portrayal of a female protagonist, one struggling to cope and overcome the dangers that seem to plague Lara around every corner of new footage shown – that the medium could gain a female protagonist capable of standing against the stereotypical idea of female characters in gaming the industry continues taking criticism for.

And if Lara Croft, who for so many years served as the poster for that idea of the stereotypical female videogame heroine, could fight against her own past to deliver a sincere and authentic portrayal of a woman fighting for her survival, well, it seemed like a rather perfect turn of events prior to my trip to Los Angeles.

These were the thoughts turning over in my mind as I sat down at the Square-Enix booth for a closed screening during E3, where I was entirely unprepared for what they planned to show me.


January 31, 2012

Review – Scarygirl

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — TJ "Kyatt" Cordes @ 8:59 am

Review Scarygirl
Scarygirl is a new downloadable title based on a Flash game, in-turn based on a graphic novel. I’m not that familiar with either, but a few levels into the game prompted a startling realization – Scarygirl reminds me a lot of another game I’ve been playing recently. That game, for the curious, is Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

How are the two games similar?

Let me count the ways…


January 13, 2012

You Tell Us – The Final Fantasy XIII-2 Demo

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , — Jamie Love @ 7:54 pm

Final Fantasy XIII 2 Demo
I’m generally possessed of fond memories regarding Final Fantasy demos. The wayback machine reminds me of purchasing Parasite Eve in 1998, and the extra disc of Squaresoft wares that offered an early slice of Final Fantasy VIII for instance. Some of you may recall the demo for that release, which offered a chance to lead an early mercenary assault that was the final test before graduating as a member of SeeD. I had no idea about the time-bending twists that took place throughout the full game at that point – I just knew I wanted the game as soon as it released based on the mission and cinematic sorcery that demo unleashed.

While I’m not alone in losing a long-running connection to the franchise in recent years, the desire to renew a bond with a series that dominates so many of my earliest gaming memories has been boiling, peaked by the release of a demo for the upcoming sequel to Final Fantasy XIII that is now available on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Unfortunately, my best attempts have been dashed this week, because after playing through the demo twice now, I’ve never felt so completely lost, as if that short taste of XIII-2 somehow verifies that I actually have no idea how to play a videogame and have deceived you all for years somehow. Or perhaps that Square-Enix is pioneering some future for the RPG that leaves me in the backwoods talking to myself about how things used to be.

The demo drops you into a very dry town filled with dreary characters dealing with a very large nuisance, offering a chance to jog around fighting smaller monsters and even stumbling across a side-quest opportunity. There’s a shortage of narrative justification and an emphasis on simply jumping into the fray, gaining defeated monsters as allies that can be added to your party, opening up further possibilities of fusing monsters together like a mad Shin Megami scientist.

The battle system itself still creates a chaotic space where Paradigm Shifts switch between auto-battle inclined strategies, all while I pine for something I can take more measured time with like the RPG luddite I seem to be.

And I could go on chewing on that bone, or I could put the call out to you fine Sugarfiends to go forth and play this demo, and then return and tell me something about it and why it may or may not be the most important creation since sliced Moogle-bread – which is delicious with strawberry jam by the way. Since that seems like the better option, I’ll add that I’d really appreciate it if you would check it out over the weekend, assuming you haven’t already, and offer some opinions of your own in the comments.

Not only can you potentially help me understand Final Fantasy again, but you can also save this post from appearing rather lame should no one chime in.

August 31, 2011

Review – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 8:46 am

Deus Ex Human Revolution
I spend most of my days waiting for games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution to come along; games that do science fiction well, and authentically.

William Gibson has said that all great science fiction isn’t really about the future, it’s about the present—and that’s part of the strength of Deus Ex. At the heart of Human Revolution is the augmentation debate, and within it are shades of modern day quandaries, reflections of the everyday arguments of politics, science, and religion.

Care has been taken here to craft a genuine, believable world. This game doesn’t feel like a caricature; the ideas and conflicts feel true to life, and so does the argument the game hinges on. That fidelity informs Revolution down to its core, and makes it successful.


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