Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Maw – Review

January 23, 2009
Maw requires food -- lots and lots of food.

The Maw

Review by: Justin S.

For those unaware of what The Maw is, it’s the latest XBLA title that puts you in the role of Frank, a quirky little alien guy, who teams up with Maw, the cute little purple blob that essentially acts like Frank’s pet. The two are fighting their way to freedom from the bounty hunters attempting to destroy Maw (the poor little guy is a threat to the universe). That’s all you need to know about the story. In fact, you really didn’t need to know that, either, as story plays practically no part in the game – and on top of that, does it really matter?

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Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia – Review

January 21, 2009
Order of Ecclesia

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

The morning Sun has vanquished the horrible night

Review by: Chris C.

Order of Ecclesia is the 3rd installment of Konami’s Castlevania series on the Nintendo DS. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent hours of your childhood glued to an NES cursing medusa heads and feverishly battling Dracula’s minions until your thumbs blistered, and while the series has since gone through more iterations than you can crack a whip at, some things never change (damn you medusa heads!). The newest edition sports many of the Metroid-inspired trappings gamers have come to expect since PS1’s Symphony of the Night, but thankfully it manages to make enough changes to set it apart from other recent entries. These tweaks manage to breathe a welcome breath of fresh air into a formula that had begun to show its age after a half dozen games shaped from the same basic mold. The differences this time around remain more evolutionary than revolutionary, but added up, they make for a unique take on the franchise and deftly manage to both feel fresh and fit like an old glove.

At the outset players are introduced to Shanoa, a member of The Order of Ecclesia, an organization created to prevent Dracula’s return in the absence of the Belmont Clan. The presence of a female protagonist is a welcome change of pace from standard Castlevania fare, and she proves to be as formidable as any character in the series. Shanoa’s sprite is drawn and animated beautifully, and the controls are tight and responsive. Everything about the character just “feels” right. She has the ability to absorb magic glyphs, which are similar to the soul system in Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow or the DSS card system in Circle of the Moon. The main difference is that glyphs act as primary weapons rather than secondary spells. Three glyphs can be equipped at any time; two for regular attacks and one which grants her unique abilities or stat boosts. Using glyphs drains magic, which refills automatically when you’re not attacking.

Shanoa controls excellently both in and out of combat.

Shanoa controls excellently both in and out of combat.

Attack glyphs can be mixed and matched and you can either alternate between them rhythmically or use both at once for a powerful combination attack, although not all glyphs combine successfully. Button mashing or overusing powerful attacks will drain your magic quickly, leaving you on the defensive as your meter refills. It really forces you to consider your attacks strategically and land blows if you want to survive, especially early on in the adventure. This new combat system gives enough leeway to avoid feeling artificially restrictive while smartly giving a reason to pay attention to even common enemy encounters, which raises the stakes and makes the gameplay more engaging. It’s a novel approach and imparts a nice sense of balance while fighting enemies.

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Fable II – Review

January 15, 2009

fable2background_011

Review by: Justin S.

When I finally decided to sit down with Fable II, I had already experienced my highs and lows with it on my hype-o-meter. The original Fable left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth – it’s not that it was bad, it just wasn’t too great, either. With all the issues I had with the first game, I took on a very pessimistic stance with Fable II. However, all the praise upon release was hard to ignore, so I went ahead and plunked the money down, wondering if what I was doing was a mistake.

As it turns out, it wasn’t. What I found with Fable II is that Peter Molyneux’s promises actually held up this time around. The game is molded by your actions, and being good or evil adds extreme weight to each decision you’ll have to make.

One of the first things I noticed is that upon going the evil route, the in-game characters were plenty capable of making me feel like a dick for my actions. Sure, villagers will interact with your hero accordingly, but it’s not their reactions so much as it is the things the player does along the way to become an evil bastard.

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Braid – Review

December 8, 2008

Review by: Justin S.

After much procrastination, I’m finally able to add Jonathon Blow’s Braid to my list of completed games. Braid seems almost universally praised, and upon completing the adventure, it’s easy to see what the fuss is all about.

As far as downloadable games go, it’s one of the top in its class. I wouldn’t sell that honor short, because there have been some amazing DLC games this year, including Mega Man 9, World of Goo, Geometry Wars 2 and Lost Winds.

Starting with the looks, the art style is beautiful. As a 2D fan, this artistic representation of a classic 2D side-scroller is stunning. On screen, and in all its high definition glory, Braid plays out like a moving painting. To put it simply, Braid plays like a moving work of art.

Painting or screenshot? It's hard to tell, but this is a screenshot.

It's hard to tell, but this is a screenshot.

But, focusing on its visual elegance would sell the title short. Braid’s story unfolds via various books throughout the game. The books give bits of backstory about Tim, the lead character, and his love of a girl who has escaped him. His goal is to find her, and recapture her love, or so one of the many interpretations of the story goes.

Let’s drop the story stuff for a minute though, because while it’s deceptively thought provoking, there’s an element that I feel brings the mood altogether, and that’s (more…)