B3: Game Expo for Bees! The newest super quirky indie game exclusive to Wii U does not fail to deliver in the departmentsof style and uniqueness. What it does fail to deliver, however, is a worthwhile gaming experience or any real substance. You play as Security Bee, the security officer (obviously) at the B3 bee game expo. The dreaded RoboBear attacks the expo, and you have to defeat it! You'll spend the next 30 minutes (maybe 60 if you EXTREMELY stuck looking for one not-even-all-that-well-hidden item like I did) solving basic puzzles, shooting five enemies and two bosses (and it's just the same boss twice), and generally wondering why you're spending your time on such a sub-par game.
It's not that the game's bad, per se, but more that it's just so minimal and short and - frankly - pointless. It feels less like a game and more like a college student's project for a programming class. It does, at least, control well, and if you see it on sale (its new regular price is $5 down from $10), then I'd say give it a download just to have the quirky title on your Wii U, but it's not something anyone should rush out to buy. It is, at the very least, unique and quirky.
My Rating - 2 Neps
"What the hell? The fuck is this? 'Epic Dumpster Bear?' What kind of a name is that? Just more Wii U eShop shovelware...." WRONG, FOOLISH AND IGNORANT PLEBIAN FOOL! This is the practically-no-budget indie platformer of which we've dared only dream for years. This is the game that recaptures the beloved bullshit "why the fuck not?" spirit that game conception has so woefully lacked these last 20 years! THIS is the masterpiece system seller that the Wii U has needed!
Okay, so maybe I made up the last part. But seriously, don't let the name or visual presentation fool you; Epic Dumpster Bear is a legitimately fun game. It's an indie game made in Unity by one person, and it shows, but not like The Letter or Cutie Pets Pick Berries (though I love the latter for the lol factor). It uses its obviously low budget to enhance its charm. This isn't a platformer for people who don't know what the word "fun" means, and it's not one for people who are too hardcore to get over themselves and won't play anything that doesn't have the tightest, most mechanically flawless controls around. It IS for people who want to play a silly game with a ridiculous plot and learn about bears. It's also Canadian as fuck. Just read the official synopsis from the developer.
An evil corporation destroyed his forest, forcing him to eat dumpster food to survive. Now its his turn to take out the trash.
How can you NOT love that? And every loading screen will teach you a bear fact. It's fun AND educational. It's your standard run-of-the-mill platformer for the most part. It's broken into six main worlds with a seventh "bonus" world, and each world fits a theme (forest, tundra, desert, ridiculously busty blonde babes, etc). The second to last level in every world is a castle (think the last level in every Mario world), and the last level of every world is a boss battle. Surprisingly, except for the World 6 boss, they get easier each time. I seriously think the first boss is the hardest in the game, and I beat the World 5 boss on my first try without taking a single hit.
The game is a total cake walk in the first world (minus the boss), the second world is still really easy, but halfway through the third world, the challenge kicks in. Not too bad at first, but you'll have to actually pay attention to what you're doing. By the second half of the game, you'll probably hit some frustration. I legit had a neighbor who lives two houses down from me tell me yesterday that he could hear me screaming "FUCK!!!" from his front yard the night before (but he's also a gamer just a couple years older than I, so he thought it was hysterical).
The bosses are, truthfully, a joke. But they're fun and ridiculous. Take, for example, a 25 foot tall wasp brainwashed by the unnamed evil corporation whose last words were "Avenge me..." You can't make this shit up. This game is indie gold, and it seems like us North Carolina folks are the only ones who've tapped into this unabashed brilliance. I know it's hard to live up to Jordan's and my magnificence, but yall seriously have got to play this game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox 360
I ordered this game on a whim after seeing a couple of guys on the Racketboy forums mention what a good (and, apparently, increasingly hard to find) game it is, and as usual with recommendations from Racketboy members, I was not disappointed. At all. In fact, I was giggling like a lunatic for most of the game because of how damn AWESOME and fluid the gameplay is. Seriously, why has Platinum not announced a sequel yet?!?
Anyway, for those unfamiliar with the game (as I was not long ago), it's a third person cover based shooter developed by Platinum and published by Sega. That alone should tell you that it's going to be good, and it is. It plays a lot like how I would imagine it if it Mass Effect and Bayonetta had a baby. It is DRIPPING with style and caricatures the trope of the "gruff space marine" beautifully. It also gets one thing very, very right - enemies.
In my world, a game is automatically at least "okay" if its enemies fit into at LEAST one of the following categories - Russian, communists, Nazis, robots, or aliens. You spend the whole game fighting Russian robots (who may or may not be communists; they use symbolism alluding to both the Soviet Union and the czars, which are contradictory, so it's hard to tell). And most of the robots are painted red. It's just so damn good.
The game's gimmick is your ability to "boost" in your special super space marine suit. Basically you lie down and shoot shit as you rocket across the floor with foot mounted jet engines. Oh, and you can slow down time (SUPER helpful for getting rocket locks on bosses btw). I played on the default "Normal" difficulty, and it's too bad save for a couple of frustrating boss fights (I always hate bosses that have an instagib attack). People who (unlike me) are good at video games should probably play on Hard if you want any challenge, but even just tearing through enemies feels so damn good.
The plot is basically a block of cheese, but it's like well aged cheddar accompanied with a mustard dip; it's just so damn good. Or am I the only person who dips cheese in mustard as a snack? Anyway, go buy this game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox 360 and Windows
After my evidently less-than-common opinion of Gone Home, let's see if I'm more aligned with the masses on Double Dragon Neon. This is a game that I've had downloaded on my Playstation 3 for several years, but I was turned off to it early on by the 2.5D perspective. Having a couple of friends over today, however, made me think "Hey, it's a decent co-op game. Let's give it another whirl." We ended up plowing through all 10 levels in one sitting (which, admittedly, only took about three hours).
So Double Dragon Neon was WayForward's shot at rebooting the Double Dragon IP, and all things considered (given how hit or miss the series has historically been), I'd say that they did a pretty good job, but it's not quite the rebirth I think long time Double Dragon fans like me had hoped for. First and foremost, as I mentioned, I don't think the 2.5D perspective was perhaps the best design choice. I get that, in the 21st Century, 2D games tend to look a bit odd unless it's a straight platformer (or one of the intentionally "retro" styled games I've bitched about in other threads), but throughout the game, all three of us (we passed the controllers around) frequently had difficulty gauging just where on the Z axis we were. We'd either miss attacks or get hit by enemy attacks because we were a little to far up or a little too far down. By no means does it ruin the game, but it is a constant aggravation and worth mentioning.
One thing that this game does EXCEPTIONALLY right is the style; it absolutely DRIPS with 1980s stereotypes. The music, the dialogue, the aesthetic style of the characters - everything screams homage to the 80s. For some people, the tropes are going to get old fast; for me, however, it felt like a beat-em-up version of Far Cry Blood Dragon, and NOTHING about that is a bad thing in my book.
Now being a punk ass bitch, I thought the difficulty could have used a bitch mode. The default difficulty (and the only one unlocked initially) kicked my ass by level 4. Granted, I got through it, but that was mostly because one of the two guys playing with me is better at video games than I am. The other was fine until it came to anything remotely resembling platforming; he was rather helpless with spike traps. The one big gripe that I do have is that extra lives bought in the shop do NOT carry over to the next level. If you buy 8 extra lives with your hard earned cash anticipating a tough boss battle and end up not dying a single time, you start the next level with the default 2, not 10. You also don't get back the $4000 you blew on those extra lives. I wouldn't expect to see that money again, but I would expect my lives to carry over to the next level.
All in all, hardcore Double Dragon fans will probably still prefer the arcade original or NES port - I do - but it's a competent game and certainly better than the abysmal fighting games that got released on Genesis and NeoGeo. One last thing to mention, though - as a white Southerner with Confederate ancestors (I'm thoroughly ashamed of my heritage), I felt extremely uncomfortable using the whip weapon that Poison drops to defeat black enemies with FANTASTIC 70s/80s afros, especially since the two friends playing with me were both black gentlemen. It was one of those awkward I-don't-know-what-to-do-but-laugh-nervously moments. They, however, cracked up at my discomfort.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Xbox One, OSX, Linux, and Windows
Gone Home is, in my opinion, the finest of what the relatively newly popularized "walking simulator" genre has to offer. This game is at once both grossly engaging and completely relaxed and laid back. It's also free for PS+ members right now (which is how I got it), and I STRONGLY encourage you to add it to your library while you can do so for free just on the off chance that you decide to give it a shot.
In Gone Home, you play as Katie, a girl who has just gotten back to her family's home in Oregon from a long trip to Europe in the middle of night (apparently late-night flights were cheaper). Being that this is 1995, cell phones weren't a thing (unless you count those god awful ugly and book-sized car phones like the one my mom used to have), so she has leaves a voicemail message on the house's answering machine that she'll be in late that night (apparently it was a short-notice plan change), but she gets home to find the house empty. Ooo, mysterious. Where are her mom and dad? Where is her little sister, Sam?
You go through the house at your own pace (and Jesus, this house is huge) as you explore each room, opening cabinets and (if you're like me) compulsively flushing every single toilet in the entire mansion. Along the way, you find little clues to the family's life and situation - here's the mom's work coat, here's a letter from the dad's boss, here's Sam's report card, etc. You also get to dig into some of the family's history, not all of which is sunshine and roses. The game takes place late at night, as I said, but also during an extremely severe thunderstorm, and as such, the electricity flickers a bit. Mix that with the fact that you're in a massive house all by yourself, and the atmosphere established can be downright creepy at times.
What really stood out to me most about this game was the attention to detail. You can pick up and examine things as insignificant as a roll of toilet paper, and that will likely lead most players to wasting a LOT of time examining EVERYTHING on the off chance that there's a clue or even just a random tidbit of information. There are a few "puzzles" - and I put that in quotes because it's a stretch to call it there - where you have to find locker combinations, some necessary to finish the game and some just supplemental for story. It also provides a subtle but effective glimpse into some of the social struggles of the mid-90s. To me, especially, this was interesting as I was a little kid during the mid-90s (I was three when this game takes place), so it gave a very personal view of a period I'd mostly only seen through the impersonal lens of academia.
What makes this story so engrossing (and it is EXTREMELY engrossing) is the truly smash-up job the writers do with characterization. By the middle of the game, you really start to feel like you're getting to know Sam (as most of the direct story and narration are provided through her journal entries). When you hear or read about something good that happens to her, you smile with her. You fear for her. Your heart breaks for her. Few games have made a character feel this REAL to me in the past. It's because of that that the ending of the game - the last ten or fifteen minutes if you're going through the game at a leisurely, exploratory pace - so emotionally straining. You're given vague mentions of what may have happened to Sam and your parents - suggestive enough to lead to some horrifying guesses but vague enough to have holes aplenty in any theory you devise.
Now this type of game is not for everyone. There are no enemies. There is no combat. There is no way to lose. This is a journey through the eyes of a girl 20+ years ago to find out why her family is mysteriously not at home when she gets back from an extended vacation. Did some tragic fate befall them, or is there a more benign answer waiting to be discovered? This game is very much how I imagine Myst would have been made had it been developed 20 years later. The feel I got playing this was very similar to the feel I got while playing Myst (minus the frustration at my inability to figure out what the fuck was going on on that god damn island). Regardless, I STRONGLY recommend that everyone give this game a try. It won't be to everyone's liking, but those of you who like a game with well developed characters and a fascinating plot, you would be remiss to forego this one.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available for Xbox One and Windows
Homefront: The Revolution is a hot mess. I mean that with every negative connotation that comes along with it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but this game is, from a technical standpoint, a steaming pile of shit. I don't know what the guys at Dambuster Studios thought they were doing, but it clearly wasn't "release a quality game." Hell, it wasn't even "release a complete game." FFS, in a patch intended to fix minor bugs, they ended up CREATING a major bug - they broke the map, making ALL objectives, both primary and optional, inaccessible. It basically rendered the game unplayable.
Anyway, I pre-ordered this game because I was one of the few people who LOVED the first Homefront game. I have a super hard on for anything post-apocalyptic or even similar (and, in my book, being occupied by the North Korean military counts as "similar"). The game, as far as I can tell, is unrelated to the first Homefront except the same concept and IP. It takes place in Philadelphia under the brutal occupation of the KPA (Korean Peoples' Army). The basic premise is that it diverges from history in the 1980s; instead of crashing with the decline of the Soviet Union, the North Korean economy continues to prosper and boom, reaching a technological level today that most Americans probably tend to associate with Japan. Through the state-run corporation Apex, they achieve effective economic domination globally, buying most of America's debt as well as selling us more or less our entire electric infrastructure and military equipment. When we default on our loan payments one too many times, the Koreans (by this point, North Korea has forcefully reunified the peninsula) just "turn off" America. All of our planes and helicopters fall out of the sky, our ships are just adrift and powerless in the ocean, none of our tanks or trucks or cars will start, and our electric grid is dead.
This, naturally, causes a massive state of emergency, so the generous and benevolent KPA send a MASSIVE military force to help us maintain order and stability. Think King Edward I of England's attitude toward Scotland following the death of Scotland's King Alexander III in 1286. The Koreans quickly set up an iron fisted occupation aided by American "collaborators," people who decided that they'd side with the winning team in hopes of living in less shitty conditions. You play as Ethan Brady, a young resistance fighter with an insatiable lust for Korean blood. Better dead than red.
The game is largely open world, just divided into four or five "districts." Each district has a number of "strikepoints," or strategic locations, that you can capture to increase resistance influence in the district, establish new safe houses, and incite riots among the civilians. Usually there are between 6 and 10 strikepoints per district. Be aware, however, that the trophy for capturing all of the strikepoints is bugged as I PAINSTAKINGLY capture each and every fucking strikepoint in the whole damn game and didn't get the trophy. I'm still salty about that.
Anyway, the gameplay is your pretty standard FPS gameplay except that this game runs at a nice, silky smooth 15 to 20 frame per second. Recent patches have made marginal improvements, bumping the average to 20 or 25, but given the precision that most people prefer in a first person shooter, it's still pretty bad. Honestly, the frame rate is my biggest issue with the game. If it had been at LEAST 30 FPS (though honestly, it's not that graphically impressive a game; if the developers had ever heard the word "optimization" before, they could have gotten it to run at 60, I feel sure), I would have said "Yeah, go out, buy this game, and kill some fuckin' Norks!" But the framerate, man....It's not as bad as Chasing Dead on Wii U (not by a long shot), but it's pretty bad. It's not so low that it's comical, but it's juuuust low enough to screw you up.
There are some other minor bugs. People will randomly just blink out of existence in front of you (I mostly noticed that at the very end of the game), there are invisible walls in what should be gaps between railing or fences (that's a HUGE pet peeve of mine), and bodies will sometimes randomly fly off in a random direction when you shoot someone. There are some other irritations that are more sloppy design than bugs - the game stalls for a solid 5 seconds or so whenever it auto-saves (which it does frequently, even after the patch to reduce that); recruited NPC allies will just stand in front of you like a brick wall, trapping you in a room (and you're not allowed to shoot them); you can carry two primary weapons at a time, but you can't just switch to them on the fly - you have to pull up the weapon wheel and select the other primary weapon while everything is exploding around you.
Also, the flamethrower is REALLY underwhelming, and since that's basically my favorite weapon in any game ever, that's a huge disappointment. All in all, it would be a really fun albeit generic game if the framerate just didn't suck such massive commie nuts. Seriously, fix that one issue, and I'll recommend this game. Until they can get it to run at a solid 30 fps, however, I really just can't recommend this game. I've only played it on PS4, but I'd guess it's no better on Xbox One. It's not much better on PC, either.
Oh, one cool thing, though; there's an arcade machine in the prison area where you can play the first two levels ofTimeSplitter 2.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on Wii, 3DS, and Wii U via Virtual Console (Japan only)
Firing up my Retron 5's translation patch feature for the first time, I popped in my very first Super Famicom game and dove into the older releases of my favorite Nintendo franchise. I then proceeded to get my ass handed to me by a mix of tactical errors, bullshit critical hits, and good old fashioned hard-as-balls game difficulty. And hot damn, was it fun. Mystery of the Emblem is exactly what you'd expect from a Fire Emblem game - turn based tactical combat on a grid based field.
The story was good, but it should be; it's one of three remakes of the original Fire Emblem. Well, Book One is a remake ofthe original Fire Emblem; Book Two is a continuation that picks up a couple years after the events of Book One. Without spoiling any of the plot, it revolves around Marth, prince of the kingdom of Aritia, and his quest to defeat the dark mage Gharnef and the Shadow Dragon Medeus. Along the way, Marth must gain alliances with the other kingdoms of the continent of Akaneia and build his army to stand against the fearsome dragon.
As I was playing a fan translation, some of the names were a little bit off from the official name translations (the Kingdom of Grunia, for example, is called Grust in the official translations), and some of the grammar felt stilted and awkward, but with the exception of one or two minor menu things, everything was fully translated and perfectly understandable.
There were couple of gameplay differences that tripped me up a bit. The Horseman unit - a mounted archer - does not counted as cavalry for the Knight Killer (officially localized as Horseslayer), inflicting regular damage rather than bonus damage. Likewise, the Knight Killer lance doesn't do any extra damage to Armor units (officially localized as Knight) even though both melee cavalry unites and Armor units use the Knight Crest to promote. Those aren't negatives, by any means, but just gameplay differences that threw me off at first having gotten used to the later released and officially localized games. Oh, and the regular non-boss Earth Dragon that pops up in Book Two isn't considered a dragon for the Dragon Killer's special effect. Got Marth fucked up in a heartbeat making that mistake...
Overall, while the difficulty is in a different ballpark entirely from the more recent games (except maybe for Conquest), it's an extremely rewarding game. There are two endings - the "true" ending if you collect all 12 shards of the Star Orb in the first half of Book Two, and the "normal" ending (I guess it could be considered the "bad" ending) if you miss any Star Orb fragments. I ended up finding 11 of the 12, so I got the "normal" ending and did NOT feel like replaying through Book Two just to get the extra three or four levels. That's why it's listed as Beaten and not Completed in my Backloggery. But yeah, for fans of Fire Emblem or SRPGs in general, I'd definitely suggest playing this (preferably through a legit cartridge, but emulators are okay, too, I guess).
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Mirror's Edge: Catalyst is a game I've been anticipating for years. I played the first Mirror's Edge three or four years ago, and I was hooked on it from the start. When Catalyst got announced, I was one of the only ones I knew who was actually excited for it. For those who may not know, Mirror's Edge is what I would call a first person platformer, though most critics seem to call it just "action adventure." You play as Faith, a "runner" who lives off the grid and outside the law in a future dystopian world ruled by corporations.
This game has gotten mixed reviews, and to a certain extent, I agree with some of the common criticisms that I've seen, but rather than "mixed," I would call this game solidly "positive." Not a game for the ages like Xenoblade Chronicles or The Last of Us, but definitely a good one. The biggest change from the original game to Catalyst (aside from the graphical boost that comes from being released a generation later) is that Catalyst is an open world game whereas the first game was a fairly linear Point-A-to-Point-B game. That's what a lot of critics have been citing as a positive, but honestly, I'm lukewarm on the addition of the open world. By no means is the open world bad or detracting from the game like, say, the original No More Heroes. No, the open world here works but I don't feel like it really adds anything to the game. The open world is rather bland, to be honest, with the only "excitement" being infrequent enemy encounters and collectibles (which I, personally, felt pretty unmotivated to hunt down and collect). I'm not going to say that the game was better when it was linear, but I also don't think it's better being open world.
Now what a lot of reviews I've been criticize is the story. The story wasn't amazing or anything (certainly not after playing Spec Ops: The Line last week), and there was definitely a lot of room for improvement as well as portions that should have been better explained and better fleshed out, but the story was interesting overall. It was interesting to find out more about K-Sec, the corporation controlling the city, and the immediate plot of the game kept me engaged and interested, especially the second half. Part of why the game leaves some things, I know, is because this was a prequel - a lot of the story is continued in the first game (of which I, of course, remember almost nothing).
What the game excels at, however (and this is a minor thing to most people), is that it's actually entertaining to get to the start of a mission. As in most all open world games, you have to traverse to the starting location for your missions, but because the game is almost constant parkour, it's actually fun to get around the city. It's not all that interesting, mind you, given the aforementioned blandness of the open world, but the actual mechanics of the game is a lot of fun, so you don't really mind running from one end of the city to the other.
All in all, the decent story and the fun gameplay mechanics make this an overall good game. The parkour is extremely fun, and the combat is pretty fluid, although there's some fine-tuning that I think could have been done to the flow of the combat physics. It's not amazing, but it's definitely worth playing, especially if you're a fan of platforming or the climbing/jumping aspects of Assassin's Creed. If you see this game for $20 or less, I'd definitely urge you to pick it up. If you're a fan of either of the two things I listed or of the original Mirror's Edge, I'd say go ahead and pick it up now or in the near future. It may not stand out years down the line as an 8th gen classic, but it's definitely a fun game that ought not be missed.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available for Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, PC-Engine, Saturn, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Xbox, Xbox One, and arcade
I had trouble sleeping last night (mix of too much caffeine too late and some hamburger I *probably* should have cooked or thrown out a few days ago), so I was up in the early hours of the morning playing 1943 just kind of for the lulz, and I managed to get to the "false ending" after level 17 before I died. That made me think "You know, I can beat this. If I keep at it (and use my NES advantage for the turbo fire and a more arcade feel), I can totally beat this."
Here's the NES version I played this morning
Thus began my 5+ hours of (nearly) uninterrupted gameplay. Now I'm a HUGE fan of the arcade original, especially 1943 Kai. Every time I see it in a multicade in a bar or restaurant, I spend at least a couple dollars playing it, and I frequently play 10 or 20 minutes of my NES copy here and there, so I'm no stranger to 1943, and it always felt like one of the easier vertical shooters on the NES to me (though that may be due to my relative familiarity with it). Inevitably, though, I always make a careless mistake and bite it. Finally, however, through perseverance, dumb luck, and turbo fire, I managed to conquer one of my favorite shumps this morning.
This isn't about my conquest, however; I want this to be a glowing recommendation for those of you (if there are any) who haven't played 1943. It's not an obscure title by any means, and Capcom isn't exactly a small-time developer, but it's a damn good shooter worth playing. It's also fitting since the day I played this and am writing this review is the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day invasion (wrong side of the world and wrong enemy empire, but hey, at least it's the same war, right?).
Obviously, being an arcade port from the late 80s, the arcade version is far superior in every way, but what makes the NES version stand out is just what a faithful and competent port it is. It doesn't suffer from the weaker hardware; Capcom did an excellent job of making it work on the NES. The controls are extremely tight and responsive, the game looks great, and it sounds fantastic. The only complaint I have is that there tends to be some pretty big slow down in the boss battles against battleships when there's a LOT going on at one time on the screen, but if you've played older shmups you probably know that slow down can be as much a boon as a bane.
You start the game with a standard two shot weapon which (unless you're a cheeky dick waffle who uses turbo fire) needs to be repeatedly fired. You can upgrade that to a number of other weapons, my favorite being the shotgun (which is REALLY useful for defense since it can destroy enemy bullets), the four way shot, the rocket launcher (not sure if that's what it really is, but it shoots giant bullets that tear through enemies, so that's what I'm calling it), and my favorite - the cat laser. It's two huge laser beams that go through enemies and damage everything its path, and the pick up sprite is - for some reason - a cat.
There's not a whole lot else to say about it. Each level is divided into three stages - fighting planes in the air, fighting planes and ships near the water, and the boss phase. The game has 24 levels - each one taking approximately 5 or 10 minutes, I'd guess, to finish if you don't die - but you get a "false" ending after level 17 where it says something to the effect of "Yay, you destroyed the enemy! The war is over! Oh shit, nevermind, here's their real fleet." The seven more levels. Great game. Go play it.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available for Xbox 360, OSX, Linux, and Windows
This game is a fucking work of art. Let's get that out first and foremost. This isn't something you play so much as something you experience, and I don't mean that it's an interactive movie or visual novel or anything. The gameplay is a straightforward third person shooter. What I mean is that this game will sit with you and really force you to reflect on what it is you just experienced. I might be a little biased since I really love any narrative that forces you to confront the ugly parts of reality, but I really do think of this as to video games what Heart of Darkness (of the inspiration is very, very clear if you've read the book) or The Killer Angels are to literature.
Parts of this will be in spoiler tags to avoid spoilers for those who have yet to play the game but want to in the future (either coincidentally or as a result of my glowing praise). The game starts off with your character and two fellow Delta Force operatives being deployed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates for reconnaissance following transmissions from a lot US Army battalion that redirected to Dubai following the end of their mission in Afghanistan to assist with evacuations. The reason that Dubai is being evacuated is because record setting historic sandstorms have destroyed the city, cutting off supplies and forcing the UAE to declare it a "No Man's Land."
The subtle point of the entire game is force you to question both how you look at war as well as how you look at war in video games. You witness unspeakable atrocities and war crimes justified as being necessary for one reason or another (self-defense, for example), but you're really forced to look at the reality of what you or a non-player entity did in the name of necessity.
BE WARNED; THERE BE
There are two examples that really stick out to me more than any other. The first is the now infamous white phosphorus attack. You come across this courtyard swarming with hostile soldiers, and your character decides that the only hope your team has of getting through the courtyard alive and proceeding with your mission is to use a nearby mortar with white phosphorus shells (WP being a chemical weapon that creates a dense white smoke cloud with incendiary properties, ensuring that pretty much anyone caught in its area of effect suffers an agonizing death by immolation). You find out that what you thought was a cluster of enemy soldiers in an encampment was really a group of nearly 50 refugees - mostly women and children - who were being sheltered by the soldiers you were attacking. You're forced to walk through the courtyard slowly and both see and hear the slow, painful deaths of the soldiers as they burn alive, and the game forces you to walk through the innocent civilians who burned to death because of your actions.
The other example is towards the end of the game when you're trying to save Lugo following the helicopter crash. You try to get to him as quickly as possible, but you arrive in a sort of makeshift refugee camp with refugees surrounding the gallows they've used to execute him, shouting what I assume are (well earned, by this point) anti-American cries. Your character shoots the rope and tries to resuscitate him, but by this point, he's already gone. Now, in fairness, the game gives you a choice here; you are able to refuse to open fire on the crowd, but the game strongly encourages you to give in to the primal urge to avenge your friend and comrade via your surviving ally's insistence that you "give the word" to authorize him to open fire on the civilians. Wanting to experience the full horror that this game tries to show players, I made the ethically unconscionable choice to mow down as many civilians as I could to avenge your friend, and it makes you suffer for it. You hear the screams of your victims as they die trying to flee from shots to the back.
OKAY, SPOILERS ARE OVER
Towards the end, the game makes damn sure you get what it's trying to tell you, too. Loading screens will have messages such as "This is all your fault" and "The US military doesn't condone the killing of unarmed combatants, but this isn't real, so why should you care?" If memory serves, one message reads "They're all dead because of you," although I may be confusing that with a line of dialogue from the game.
Of course, with that last point, I still love horribly gory video games, but I have to admit, it felt so REAL in this one that it made me uncomfortable to play this game the way I play most games. They really did to an excellent job of humanizing the civilian NPCs in subtle ways. The other questions, though, are worth asking. Speaking as an American, we've spent decades justifying unspeakable acts by saying that it was necessary to ensure either our own security or the security of the world or our allies. I'm not trying to pass judgement on that one way or another (I'm just here to review a video game), but it's worth asking if our justifications for such things are truly justified or if we're just rationalizing the unforgivable.
This is one of those games that I think everyone needs to play for the emotional and psychological impact the game has (I say similar things about The Last of Us). This isn't your standard Call of Duty romp through a Middle Eastern combat zone, though. This game sets out to make you think and feel, and at least for this player, it succeeded. Be warned - this game is not for the light of heart or emotionally fragile.
BONUS TRIVIA - This game is banned in the United Arab Emirates due to its destroyed depiction of the city of Dubai.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available for Xbox 360
I fired up Splatterhouse wanting a game with senseless violence and unnecessary gore. I was not disappointed. I started the game by blasting one of my Disturbed CDs (using my 3DO and the other TV, of course) because I figured I wouldn't give a shit about the story. Then I realized the guy who voiced the mask was the same guy who voiced Sgt. Hawk in the later Army Men games (along with every other male character, evidently), so I was like "Well shit, the Army Men fanboy in me need to hear his dialogue." Then I found out, to my pleasant surprise, that the story is actually not bad. It's not a gripping narrative, but it's interesting.
Basically you're a lanky nerd who's going with his girlfriend to some creepy ass house because plot devices (I think she was going to interview a creepy old scientist or something), and then oh no, you've been disemboweled. Fortunately, there just happens to be magical possessed mask that promises to heal you and help you save your girlfriend if you put him on your face. What could go wrong?
You spent the next 9 or 10 hours (depending on how often you fuck up the traps, which I did a LOT due to my immense impatience) spilling approximately 4,378,462 and a half gallons of demon blood all over the place while you watch the world end. You rip out several hundred spines and dozens of sets of lungs, as well. It's great. This game earned its M rating in the best way possible. OH, and if you collect the optional photo pieces lying around the levels, you get to see your girlfriend's boobs. It's like this game was made for me. All it needed to be perfect was a flamethrower and anime chicks with either pink, purple, or blue hair.
Imagine crossing MadWorld with H. P. Lovecraft, and that's pretty much the plot. There were a lot of technical issues that I noticed (severe frame rate drops when the action got heavy, leading to several deaths when the hiccups messed up the timing of my dodges or screwed me up jumping over lava), but that may be a PS3 specific issue; I've not played it on 360 to compare. Either way, while the issues are severe when they occur, they're infrequent enough that the game is playable and enjoyable once you get used to the standard frame rate (which runs at about 25 fps).
If you like gore and senseless violence, I'd recommend this one. I'd recommend it on 360, though, since it probably runs a lot smoother than it does on PS3.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available for iOS, Android, OSX, and Windows
Republique is a really unique kind of stealth game, and I've never played another game quite like it. Imagine if Five Nights at Freddy's and Metal Gear Solid had a baby. That's a kind of what this game is like. Now those who know me and my gaming habits well will know that I don't much care for pure stealth games; I like games that allow me to be stealthy but also allow me to murder everyone in a five kilometer radius when I inevitably fuck up being stealthy. So my personal opinion of this game is rather lukewarm because it's just not my style of game, but I'll try to review it as objectively as I can here (though, as with any art, every review is going to be somewhat subjective).
So you're in an unnamed totalitarian state (or it's called Metamorphosis, one of the two; the game was vague), and the vibe I got from the game was that it was a kind of militarized micronation, but the game was extremely vague about the context and history of the setting, and what little it revealed tended to be done via easily missed collectible pick-ups. Anyway, the whole game has a very 1984 vibe (and that's quite intentional), and while I was a bit confused about what was going on and why from beginning to end, they really nail the authoritarian atmosphere. You play as a weird camera hacker sort of guy; you see the game's world through various security cameras, but you control Hope directly (she's the girl you're trying to guide in her escape from Metamorphosis). You've got to sneak around and avoid being sighted by the Prizrak (the paramilitary guards), and while you don't have the option of "fighting" them, you can pick up pepper spray, tasers, and sleep gas mines to incapacitate a few or escape if they grab you. Really, though, you're avoiding them; pepper spray only distracts them for like 20 seconds, and the other two are tough to find.
The game is broken down into five episodes, each one taking between two and three hours depending on how thoroughly you search for collectibles (it took me about 12 hours to finish the game). There's no manual save, but the auto-save seems to be fairly frequent (though I still make sure to finish an episode before quitting just in case). My biggest complaints about the game are that the overarching story never really gets adequately explained in my opinion (there are a lot of questions left unanswered at the end, but not in a "we're-setting-up-for-a-sequel" kind of way) and the last 15 minutes or so of the last episode just gets....weird. And boring. Imagine crossing scanning planets in Mass Effect 2 with Tron. That's kind of what it felt like. I won't say more than that for fear of spoiling something. By no means does it kill the game, but the ending is a bit underwhelming IMO.
For fans of the stealth genre, I absolutely and very strongly recommend this. For fans of dystopian, autocratic worlds (like I am), I recommend it. If you fall into neither category, then this is probably a game you're alright skipping, but it's a pretty good game. Not great, but pretty good.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available for Windows
Let me preface this by reminding (or informing if you're new to my gaming habits) everyone that I'm Hyperdimension Neptunia Super Fan #1. I fangirl over that series harder than anyone on the Racketboy forums past, present, or future. Keep that in mind as you read my review of this game.
This game is horse shit. There it is. I said it. This game sucks. "Oh, well, it's about school girls - who are goddesses that personify game companies - killing zombies in miniskirts because weeb pervs; of course it sucks." I mean, yeah, there's that, but I also enjoyed Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection which is just a raising sim where the CPUs become pop idols. Okay, my standards really aren't that high when you've got cute anime girls (let's be honest, I'm one of those weeb pervs). And this has cute anime girls in SCHOOLGIRL outfits. Seriously. I should love this game.
But I don't. I own all 11 games in the series currently out in the West (and I have the 12th game pre-ordered), and I can honestly say that this is, without rival, the weakest entry in the series. The writing, first and foremost, is shit. I mean, you don't really expect a literary masterpiece from a series that is 110% fan service, but the other games were at least clever and made some marginal sense. This game is a fucked up kind of frame story where it's about the CPUs being students at a school and trying to make a movie about zombies to save the school by getting more kids to attend but then there really arezombies so they just film them actually killing the zombies for the movie and half the story is that while the other half is the movie script that Blanc wrote (which is an unmitigated and cringe-filled disaster). Like, it's not even the funny/endearing bad kind of writing like the entire House of the Dead series. This just hurts.
The other awful thing is the gameplay. If you've played Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, then you know what to expect from the gameplay, but imagine a super gimped version of that. There are 12 "scenes," each of which have, on average, 6 or 7 "cuts" (basically chapters and levels, respectively), but each cut takes less than a minute to finish on average. I could have finished this game in its entirety in one 3 hour sitting even with the lengthy dialogue scenes. Imagine if Dynasty Warriors had about 80 levels, all of which could be complete in between 30 and 60 seconds and had between 30 and 50 enemies each. Now put a Neptunia skin on it. That's this game.
There are some optional scenes that you can unlock based on who you use in a certain level, but I never bothered with them for the same reason that I spaced this game out over four or five days - it was so fucking boring that I had to make myself finish it. It hurts me to tell yall what a steaming pile of shit this game is. It really does. You all know how much I adore this series and how hard (and obnoxiously) I push everyone on the Racketboy forums to play it. I don't like telling you guys to steer clear of this game because it makes the rest of the series look bad, but this game is fucking awful. Unless you're a hardcore Vita weeb like me and my buddy Exhuminator or are a Neptunia super fan like me, don't bother with this game. Play the rest of the series. Don't play this.
And truthfully, I can't even recommend my equally eroge-loving friend Exhuminator pick this one unless he finds it for less than $10, even with the anime schoolgirl miniskirts.
My Rating - 2 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.