Round 95 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Insanity Prevails reviewing the Arkahm trilogy from the beginning, and he seems to have a very good first impression of it based on this review. He describes it as the authentic Batman experience as you beat down bad guys and even snoop around like as if you are the Batman!

Batman: Arkham Asylum Score: 9.5/10
Genre: Action

It's a licensed game that avoids the common pitfalls such games fall into and provides an excellent blend of action and stealth for the Batman experience you've been waiting for.

quote Insanity Prevails
Who am I? You want to know who I am? I'll tell you who I am. I'm the goddamn Batman.

This factor is the special thing about Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum. It isn't just a case of a company successfully shaking off the "all licensed games are bad" stigma to create a good game with Batman. Instead you are Batman and the entire experience is skilfully crafted around that central theme to form a product that might not be quite the same without the iconic series name behind it.

Events kick off with Batman bringing in familiar villain Joker to the titular Arkham Asylum. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a game to have the bad guy dealt with before the opening sequence and even the titular hero seems very much aware of this. Despite coming along, things take a turn for the worse as expected and Batman suddenly finds himself stuck in the asylum to deal with the antics of the Joker.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Batman: Arkham Asylum Who am I? You want to know who I am? I'll tell you who I am. I'm the goddamn Batman. This factor is the special thing about Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum. It isn't just a case of a company successfully shaking off the "all...


Read more

Round 94 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Lukas reviewing the latest entry in the fairly long running and reasonably successful Ratchet & Clank series, Into The Nexus. He, unfortunately, finds that it doesn't quite live up to the quality of the PS2 games or the Future trilogy on the PS3 as there's some signs of franchise fatigue between only maybe a few genuinely creative and inspired weapons and mostly lazy storytelling. There's still quite a bit of hope as it's still fun and satisfying to kill hordes of aliens.

Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus Score: 7.5/10
Genre: Platformer/Third Person Shooter

Its aspiration towards being a longer downloadable game actually hurt it in the long run, really. It's a shame because it has all of what makes these games tick. It's full of high octane action and hardly ever lets up. There's just so much to blow up and it's so satisfying laying waste to so many robots and aliens that it never gets boring.

quote Lukas
Another year, another Ratchet And Clank game. At least this entry is more like the older games than like the last two games that tried to either be a co-op top down-y shooter or a MOBA-esque shooter. But it also goes to show why All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault/Q-Force had to be what they were; it's a gameplay style that's still really good, but it's just getting a bit old. It's mainly because this is the twelfth game in the series and the tenth to use this style. At first, it was all about improving itself with each successive game in the series, but they had practically reached their plateau with Deadlocked so they just sort of stagnated. This would be something of an issue if Tools Of Destruction and A Crack In Time didn't feature such good stories and Quest For Booty didn't have so much zazz in its story – don't get me wrong, the games were still fun, but like I said, they kind of stagnated in terms of style and overall quality. I think that's the issue I have with Into The Nexus – I've played this before and I just can't justify playing this over any other Ratchet And Clank game. The original quadrilogy showed steady improvement over the gameplay while having fun stories to tell, and the Future trilogy had a surprisingly compelling story with a memorable cast of characters. It's far from a bad game; in fact, it's a good game, but it's definitely one of the weaker Ratchet And Clank games.

For the most part, you have a lot of the series' trappings like a large variety of high tech weaponry, gadgets and lots of shit to blow up. There's the usual stuff like plasma blasters, mini bombs, disc launchers and rocket launchers, and there's also the series' mainstay – the RYNO, which fires tons of bullets and wrecks everything in its path. But there are some unique weapons like a weapon that turns enemies into snowmen, a shotgun that places enemies in slow motion, and a weapon that scares the enemies stiff. Yeah, you can sort of tell that they're running out of ideas, but twelve games would do that to you – Capcom ought to know since there are more Mega Man games than there are people in the world. But it hardly matters when it's still fun and satisfying as shit to blow up all sorts of aliens and robots with these weapons. It's just the effect these games have on you as they send lots of enemies your way throughout most of any given level. Sure, there's the occasional platforming segment and the "run/fly for your life" segment, but then you'll have more enemies to deal with right after that. Yeah, there's a scavenger hunt involved, but more than half of what you have to find are inside enemies and they'll usually be accompanied by smaller enemies that'll try to distract you. Then you take down the big enemies, reap the rewards and feel like you've earned those bolts and the eventual rewards.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus Another year, another Ratchet And Clank game. At least this entry is more like the older games than like the last two games that tried to either be a co-op top down-y shooter or a MOBA-esque shooter.


Read more

Round 93 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Polarity taking the gold with his rather meaty review of Super Meat Boy. For him, it's a practically picture perfect marriage of old school gameplay and new school style, which is a necessity in keeping things relevant in the year 2014 - well, 2010 in the case of this game - although he states that most worlds have weak boss fights ending them. I suppose we're none of us perfect.

Super Meat Boy Score: 8/10
Genre: Platformer

The duo from Team Meat, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, understood that in order to get today's crowd, you have to find a way to keep them coming back.

quote Polarity
If man yearned for one thing in our fast paced work-a-day world, it's to relive the glory days - to take a moment to remind themselves of what had once motivated them to live life. For some folks, it involves video games. There's been a clear shift from arcade games where the objective is to get the highest score and maybe beat the game, to more cinematic games where the objective is to watch snippets of a movie, witness a crazy set piece and sometimes play the game. Obviously, some developers weren't too happy with this, but thankfully, they have found a way to relive their boyhood days, and that's through emulating the games of the past. The problem is that a lot of them can *bleep* it up by reminding us of why we are where we are. Not only have basic game design principles changed, but so has the audience, and today's players aren't all that interested in dying and starting over a million times. This is especially evident in today's games where AI replaced reflex based play and outright trial and error. Thankfully, there are developers who get this, and the duo from Team Meat, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, understood that in order to get today's crowd, you have to find a way to keep them coming back.

Yes yes, we've heard the tale a million times - “oh my god Super Meat Boy is soooo hard man!!” The thing with Super Meat Boy is that yes, it is hard, but the only reason you're dying so much is because you suck. Well, okay, maybe that's a little too harsh, but really, Super Meat Boy's difficulty is quite fair in its design; it just happens to be harsh by its nature, if that makes any sense. There are plenty of tricks and traps like saw blades, spikes, missiles, lasers and all sorts of other nasty hazards that'll splatter Meat Boy across the walls and all over the place. However, they're not just plopped onto levels willy nilly; each hazard is placed onto the levels with plenty of care and attention, all in ways that force you to react quickly - given that Meat Boy runs as fast as a Jamaican athlete - without it seeming like they were inconveniently placed. At the same time, the game requires a fine grasp of the controls in order to progress. They can take some time to get used to as you'll really need to get the feel for different jump heights which can influence your survival – getting it right will allow you to live while over or undershooting can lead to your death – and also getting a hang of the two different speeds that Meat Boy can run. It's easy to say that they're quite loose, but the levels are, more or less, designed to accommodate towards Meat Boy's movements.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Super Meat Boy Developer and Publisher: Team Meat If man yearned for one thing in our fast paced work-a-day world, it's to relive the glory days - to take a moment to remind themselves of what had once motivated them to live life. For some folks, it...


Read more

Round 92 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Taake's review of Rayman Legends. Well, I suppose we have to keep up appearances somehow (this person also won with his review of Rayman Origins a year and a half ago, albeit under the monicker of Rift). Anyway, he describes Rayman Legends as one that tops Rayman Origins in most regards, but manages to also be a bit of an inferior sequel due to their ambitions outweighing the actual implementations of the extra stuff.

Rayman Legends Score: 8/10
Genre: Platformer

Rayman Legends does exactly what a sequel should do – it takes its predecessor, improves on it and adds whatever it deems necessary to add.

quote Taake
I absolutely adored Rayman Origins. It was a return to form after a series of party games, but it wasn't merely a return to the more popular stylings of Rayman 2 and 3. It was more akin to the very first Rayman game for the Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC in which you move from left to right, collecting stuff whilst making it to the end of each level, although it wasn't quite as hard. You also learned “new” techniques along the way, such as punching, floating in mid-air and swimming. In many ways, it was a modernization of Rayman 1, but like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it was able to become palatable towards newer gamers without insulting the intelligence of older gamers. It was brilliant, focusing on a more rhythmic structure whilst culminating its elements into a sublime experience. Even now, it's possible to pick up Rayman Origins and still find yourself enthralled by it.

But what about Rayman Legends? Well, it's a good game, too! It has all of the hallmarks of surpassing its predecessor with its fine-tuned art style, tighter gameplay mechanics and a higher focus on rhythmic level designs placed on a larger scale, but it also had those moments where it felt like it sidestepped whatever issues may or may not have been prevelant or even relevant in regards to Origins' design and as a result, it feels like a sharp step down. A lot of the additions to the overall formula are admirable, but sadly, whatever excitement generated from the elements are cut down once the realization that they're either gimmicky or haphazardly executed at best hits you square in the face. Don't get me wrong, none of these elements turn Rayman Legends into a bad game or even a mediocre one; however, they undermine the improvements that were made on the elements established in Rayman Origins.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Rayman Legends The Introduction: I absolutely adored Rayman Origins. It was a return to form after a series of party games, but it wasn't merely a return to the more popular stylings of Rayman 2 and 3.


Read more

With all that's said and done, we end round 91 of the Articles Of Excellence Solid Snake 4Life's review of Fallout 3 taking the win and blowing up the competition at that. He describes his experience as the sort that'd redefine what it means to have choice in how you explore a post-apocalyptic wasteland within a video game - from how you customize your character after birth and during your time in the wasteland, to the decisions that you make with each individual person and the multitude of factions, there's just a lot on offer that most games just can't keep up with... leaving them in the dust, so to speak.

Fallout 3 Score: 9.5/10
Genre: Role Playing Game/First Person Shooter

It’s a unique one of a kind experience that should be on the shelves of all who consider themselves fans of the role-playing genre.

quote Solid Snake 4Life
The vault door groans to life and rolls open. You have just enough time to say a heartfelt goodbye before security is on your ass. A small tunnel lies ahead of you and at the end you can see light peering in through the doors cracks. You open it and step out into the world for the first time in your life. The sun is blinding. Your eyes aren’t use to the intensity of the natural light but they soon adjust, and you begin to make sense of your surroundings. You think you can make out an old radio broadcast tower against the horizon but it’s impossible to tell from this distance. You know you should be on the hunt for your dear old dad but that tower is tantalizing, teasing you with the secrets that it may or may not contain. Luckily deciding what to do is entirely up to you. Welcome to the Capital Wasteland.

Its scenarios like the one described above that has allowed Fallout 3 to captivate a generation of gamers. The house that The Elder Scrolls built is no stranger to creating sprawling worlds that just beg to be explored but Fallout 3 was the first time that Bethesda really managed to fill one of these worlds with set-pieces that stay with you after you’ve finished playing. Wreaking havoc as the pint-sized slasher in Tranquility Lane, besting your first Super Mutant Behemoth with the trusty Fat Man, taking a stroll with Liberty Prime and more are all some of the past console generations most memorable moments.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Fallout 3 The vault door groans to life and rolls open. You have just enough time to say a heartfelt goodbye before security is on your ass. A small tunnel lies ahead of you and at the end you can see light peering in through the doors cracks.


Read more

Note: This was originally meant to be posted on the 7th of January, 2014.

With the year of our lord 2013 ending and 2014 taking over, we end round 90 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Hell Fire's review of Tales Of Xillia winning. He describes his experience as a great first impression, implying that it's a great game for newcomers to the Tales series to start with while still having a lot of humor and action to keep old timers like myself (calm down Gryzor, Tales Of Symphonia isn't quite 10 years old yet) entertained.

Tales Of Xillia Score: 8.3/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

The strong twisty-turny plot, interesting characters and fast, exciting battle system (even if a little easy most of the time) all contribute in making it a well-rounded, enjoyable experience.

quote Hell Fire
I’m quite surprised that I’ve never crossed paths with a Tales game before, being the enthusiastic RPGer that I am. Part of this is due to my seemingly never ending pile of games on my to-do list, but also because of the consoles that past Tales games have called home (X-Box Shmex-Box….. yeah, I said it). The good news is; the two most recent additions, Tales of Graces F and Tales of Xillia, made the PS3 its home, which suits me just fine. I’m happy to announce that the positive reviews for Xillia were completely justified, and that for me, it goes down as one of the strongest JRPGs released over the past few years.

The story starts in the town of Fennmont, capital of Rashugal. Jude, a young, aspiring medical student, becomes curious when his professor mysteriously disappears, and decides to investigate (break in to) a military facility for answers. On his way, he encounters a mysterious girl, who has her own reasons for breaking in to the building; to destroy a weapon of mass destruction. Of course, this just doesn’t roll with the authorities, so things immediately start to pick up when they become enemies of the country and are forced to flee. This is just the tip of the ice burg in terms of plot points. Most of the time when characters say “we’ve come so far”, they really haven’t, but in Xillia so much happens (twists and turns galore) over the course of the game that it really does seem like the epic journey that it’s meant to be.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Tales of Xillia I'm quite surprised that I've never crossed paths with a Tales game before, being the enthusiastic RPGer that I am. Part of this is due to my seemingly never ending pile of games on my to-do list, but also because of the consoles that...


Read more

Round 89 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Insanity Prevails surprising the circuit with his first win in what feels like forever! This one review happened to be on F.E.A.R. 2, the psychological horror shooter featuring that creepy little girl. He confirms that Alma is, indeed, creepy, but she really enhanced what was a standard ordinary (albeit well designed) shooter.

F.E.A.R. 2 Score: 8/10
Genre: Survival Horror

While I think some of the stuff could have been executed better, I did find that I enjoyed myself playing through the game. Perhaps not entirely for the reasons the developers had intended, but the fact that I wanted to go back in and keep progressing is a good sign.

quote Insanity Prevails
When it comes to the horror genre a good number of the more well known series play from a third person perspective - either a playable view behind the character or that awful fixed camera option. Yet it feels like first person would be the more ideal choice, putting the players squarely in the shoes of the poor sap that is due to be victim to whatever supernatural forces the developers care to drop in. FEAR 2 goes that route, putting us closer to the horror than other games would as we deal with the dangers of Alma.

You're part of a task force attempting to reach someone involved in some incidents before other special forces reach her first. Then shit happens and then you end up trying to reach your fellow squad mates while dealing with a creepy women who seems drawn to you and then blahdeblah blah. There is a lot of backstory you can dig up about everything though, which comes in the form of data disks scattered around throughout. The environment itself does a good job of providing elements of the story too. When you arrive at the school it initially just plays out as a hiding place for a NPC. As you explore you realise that the school itself holds numerous dark secrets.

The stand out part of the story for me was Alma, as I gradually learned about who she was, how she was involved in everything and why she kept appearing where I was. Despite the interactions with her going the route of OMFG SHE'S HERE I'M SCREWED she was definitely the character I was the most interested in. By comparison, I found it hard to care too much about the others. The most notable friendly NPCs - that being "Snake Fist" and squad leader Stokes - have little interaction with the player so they don't really seem to go beyond their assigned roles. You do get the odd radio transmission from them, but not enough to really flesh them out. The antagonists other than Alma also seem to have little presence. You see them in the first few parts of the game and then they mostly vanish entirely up until the final areas of the game, apparently content to leave all the work to the mooks. I'm not sure why I'm supposed to care about finally confronting one any more than I did about replica soldier 851 whose blood I'd just used to decorate the walls two rooms earlier. The ending is also obvious sequel bait, which may be a little annoying if you're not actually sure if you want to invest in FEAR 3 too.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin When it comes to the horror genre a good number of the more well known series play from a third person perspective - either a playable view behind the character or that awful fixed camera option.


Read more

Round 88 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Aevers swooping in with a review of Obscure. She describes her experience with it as one that's all too familiar, but thankfully has the spooky atmosphere to back it up for a while.

Obscure Score: 7/10
Genre: Survival Horror

Where it really shines is in how the first half of the game really sucks you in as you explore the dark, twisted hallways of the empty school, hoping that you can gather some supplies before you get jumped by monsters.

quote Aevers
Released at the peak of survival horror's quality (or at least the Alone In The Dark/Resident Evil style one, anyway), Obscure takes the tried and true Resident Evil formula, adds a few things and sets it all in a high school. It'd be easy to dismiss them as cheap gimmicks implemented to vainly mask the fact that it's a generic survival horror game, and to be fair, I feel like Obscure would lose its edge without these things. Without its approach to co-op and its characters, it would play out like a rather generic and top heavy survival horror game, and by generic, I mean generic with a capital G. In other words, it feels like Obscure works not necessarily because of its overall structure, but because of its theme and its approach to the survival horror genre. Oddily enough, it's these things that'll make the game well worth your time.

Leafmore high school is no ordinary school – at least, not once you head into the basement. Kenny Matthews finds this out after chasing somebody down to the basement and finds himself surrounded by cages with some syringes poking around the place. Not only that, but there are some people in there who seem to be mentally scarred, and monsters in the darkness. Just as he's about to escape, the door shuts, trapping Kenny in the basement with the monsters. Kenny's girlfriend and sister notice that he hadn't come home that night and, alongside two guys, they decide to search the school for him. It's like a teen horror movie – starting off with a dark, scary scene showing Kenny investigating and then getting trapped in the basement before it transitions to a brighter scene of people entering the school. As you play through the game, you'll find notes that'll unravel the mystery and the final scenes will bring it all to light, ending the game on a satisfying note
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Obscure Released at the peak of survival horror's quality (or at least the Alone In The Dark/Resident Evil style one, anyway), Obscure takes the tried and true Resident Evil formula, adds a few things and sets it all in a high school.


Read more

Round 87 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Monterey Jack just waltzing in after a brief period of hibernation and casually handing in a review of Doom 64 that manages to score him yet another win! He describes his experience of Doom 64 as a dark, gritty shooter with sublime lighting and plenty of moments where you shoot down groups of demons with big guns.

Doom 64 Score: 9/10
Genre: First Person Shooter

It's not just the dark and foreboding alleyways, the dark sky and the fire and brimstone; it's also a stark raving badass marine killing demons. By the end of the game, you'll be giving these denizens of hell a taste of what the world of the living has to offer by literally giving them hell.

quote Monterey Jack
Doom was the shit! While not quite the first of its kind, it was the game that took the first person shooting formula and made it its own. Everybody who played it loved it, and it became pretty big. Not quite Mario and Sonic big, but for the PC crowd, it came close enough to that level. Bit of a shame it was linked with the Columbine Massacre, but them's the brakes I guess – Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson used to be linked with bad shit too. Anyway, Doom had to expand its mighty empire, so it was ported to most any console that was available. It'd be easier if I listed what it wasn't ported to – the Sega Genesis and the Nintendo 64. Even then, it was ported to the Sega Genesis' 32X add on, but not the Sega CD for whatever reason. As for the Nintendo 64, well, its controller isn't exactly first person shooter friendly like a keyboard is, and all that gory Satanic imagery on what was mostly a kiddy console wouldn't really sit well with parents – hell, it didn't sit well with Christian organizations when it was on PC! So Midway went and made something completely different using a modified Doom engine...

...and while it started off innocently enough – or about as innocently as gunning down zombie marines and carving up demons with chainsaws got, anyway – it wasn't until the ninth level (of which there are 32) when you went into hell itself, and that's when shit gets hectic! All of a sudden, the barren UAC bases with the occasional zombies and surprise demon attacks are like tea time with the Teletubbies compared to the fire, brimstone, pentagrams and guys in red pyjamas sticking pitchforks up your butt (and that's if these demons don't make you jittery with that trigger finger). Honestly, while Doom on the PC had satanic imagery and demons out the ass, Doom 64 upped the ante in terms of sheer atmosphere, especially once you entered hell. It probably helped that Doom 64 has an entirely ambient soundtrack consisting of droning noises rather than MIDI formatted heavy metal, but then you take note of the colors and the lighting, and from there, it becomes clear that this isn't your older brother's Doom.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Doom 64 Doom was the shit! While not quite the first of its kind, it was the game that took the first person shooting formula and made it its own. Everybody who played it loved it, and it became pretty big. Not quite Mario and Sonic big, but for the....


Read more

Round 86 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Rift banging out a review of Ninja Blade. Despite his vocabulary consisting mostly of big words and small, difficult words, Rift is a man with simple taste as his review of Ninja Blade demonstrates. Sure, he'd rather a game that commits itself towards being fun and challenging rather than tepid and uninspired with bosses having more HP than Jesus, but hey, if you can get a campy story and quick time events right, he'll forgive you.

Ninja Blade Score: 6/10
Genre: Hack and Slash

It almost seems like this game would've worked better as a Shenmue/Indigo Prophecy-esque game, rather than Ninja Gaiden with a crapload of quick time events.

quote Rift
As the industry moves more towards churning out quadrillion dollar cinematic experiences with less engaging interactive gameplay than a DVD menu, I often mull over the cause of such a direction. It's the kind of direction that causes a game to spin against the way that it drives – sure, its cinematography is fine, but when it comes to interaction, it ranges between boring and maybe sort of interesting if I honestly have nothing better to do. The irony of it all is that there are times where this can work to its advantage and actually make things more interesting. Shenmue, Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain showcased quick time events as a means of interaction during an action packed cutscene that couldn't be replicated nor bettered by actual gameplay. Furthermore, games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Sleeping Dogs displayed a more fluid approach to hand to hand combat, games such as Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and No More Heroes showcased fast, furious and flashy combat, and lest we forget the forefather of quick time event driven games - Dragon's Lair.

As you can tell, my disdain towards cinematic gameplay is not due to principle or whatever bullshit 4chan decides to pull out of their collective asses, but rather, it's due to developers lazily using them as a crutch to elongate gameplay or give their otherwise boring as sin cutscenes an edge. Oddly enough, Ninja Blade is a game that you'd quickly assume was a game that should've just been a movie as it relied more on flash than substance. When I had first played this game, I was turned off by the low rent Ninja Gaiden meets Heavenly Sword gameplay and the plethora of quick time events that were to follow. I played about a couple of hour's worth a content, wrote it off as a mediocre hack and slash, and went on with my day. But four years removed, for whatever reason (perhaps Resident Evil 6's flawed cinematic escapades got to me), I decided to pick this game back up and just go through it. By the end of the game, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself rather enamoured by the experience. Granted, the hack and slash gameplay still felt like a poor man's Ninja Gaiden, but the quick time events were surprisingly excellent and as a result, the game found itself a place in my heart. It's not exactly a great game nor one that I would replay once or even twice a year, but it's a game that succeeds where other games fail... incidentally, it also goes through the motions where other games tend to excel.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Ninja Blade The Introduction: As the industry moves more towards churning out quadrillion dollar cinematic experiences with less engaging interactive gameplay than a DVD menu, I often mull over the cause of such a direction.


Read more

Round 85 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Praetorian_Lord banging out a review of Journey. He describes his experience with Journey as one that bridges the gap between a mere video game and art with its superb usage of beautiful graphics and a grandiose, downright moody soundtrack, although it has moments of reminding you that it's a streamlined video game.

Journey Score: 9/10
Genre: Platformer

If it comes to a choice between a game lasting only a few hours yet polished to perfection, or a colossal Skyrim-style open world full of glitches and bugs, Journey is Exhibit A when it comes to demonstrating why the former shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.

quote Praetorian_Lord
‘Artistic video games’ is quickly becoming my favourite genre, because it’s increasingly clear to me that AAA developers don’t have any balls. They sink so much money into game development that anything less than a major hit represents huge financial losses, and as such they can’t afford to take any risks. So instead they pander to the lowest common denominator by creating games which last for dozens of hours and include every gameplay element they can think of, perhaps in the hope that throwing enough shit at the walls will result in something sticking. We gamers are to blame to an extent since we’ve come to expect a predictable bang for our buck, but it’s watered down all the individual genres to the point we’re they’re all starting to resemble each other. As usual it’s left to the minor studios or the indie scene to push existing boundaries by jamming their fingers in their ears and staying true to a single, initial vision. And every once in a while a previously unheard of developer strikes gold. If it comes to a choice between a game lasting only a few hours yet polished to perfection, or a colossal Skyrim-style open world full of glitches and bugs, Journey is Exhibit A when it comes to demonstrating why the former shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.

There’s no definitive story to Journey – you play as a cloaked humanoid figure which could as easily be male or female, human or alien. There’s no dialogue whatsoever to provide you with any hints. While there’s a handful of cutscenes which act as a transition between ‘zones’, these are purely visual and so heavy with imagery that every player will have a slightly different interpretation of what’s really going on. It takes a while to settle in with this style and you probably won’t arrive at your own conclusions after a single playthrough. Some gamers will inevitably be put off by that philosophical chestnut of projecting your own personality onto the player character, but all the same there’s enough there to give you the general impression of a message of self-discovery, character building, adversity – you know, all those clichés associated with journeys being more important than their destinations. But unlike many other artistic games, it’s in fine balance here – Journey is deep enough that you can read into it as far as you want to, but it also isn’t so distracting as to be pretentious. You’re free to make of it what you will without it much affecting your enjoyment of the gameplay.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Journey Highlight this box with your cursor to read the spoiler text. 'Artistic video games' is quickly becoming my favourite genre, because it's increasingly clear to me that AAA developers don't have any balls. They sink so much money into game dev...


Read more
First place in the Retro Game Review Challenge 2013!!

Final Fantasy V (Import) A princess cannot help but worry as the wind suddenly falls silent atop her castle tower. Below her, on the ocean, a beautiful buccaneer also stands befuddled as the sails of her ship cease to flap. And furt...

Second place in the Retro Game Review Challenge 2013!

Duke Nukem 3D Here to kick ass and chew bubblegum, Duke Nukem is both a celebration and a parody of 80s and early 90s action movies, and Duke Nukem 3D is the same thing, only with 90s first person shooters. It doesn't take itself se...

Third place in the Retro Game Review Challenge 2013!

Super Mario World

Spoiler: Trailer
Highlight this box with your cursor to read the spoiler text.

Round 84 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Hell Fire winning it out with his review of Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night. Looks like Halloween has come early with this one, folks! He describes the game as one full of wonder, whether it's within the catacombs of Dracula's Castle or even through the secrets necessary to find in order to get the good ending.

Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night Score: 8/10
Genre: Platformer

Move over Twilight, Vampire Diaries and any other wimpy blood sucking vampire text plaguing our screens, Alucard is the real deal, and is here to kick some ass.

quote Hell Fire
It’s safe to say that most gamers these days have old games lying around the house that have never seen the light of day. However, most of these games probably get to escape the confines of their cheap plastic casing within a couple of years. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (SOTN) hasn't been so fortunate. All it wanted was some love, yet I kept it in the darkness of my cupboard for over twelve years. After moving house, my eyes once again met the cover of the game and I thought enough was enough, why not give it a shot? I’m glad I did, because what SOTN offers is something that’s incredibly hard to come by these days, and that is a quality, 2D action-RPG experience. While the game isn't without its flaws, it is easily one of the leaders of the genre. If you’re into this sort of game, then SOTN is a must play.

The game is set four years after a short intense-interactive-introduction (say that ten times) which involves the slaying of Dracula (you tried it, didn't you?). A mysterious castle has appeared and Alucard (the main character, also Draculas son) tasks himself with destroying the castle, and in turn his father. Now, unless you’re a pre-teen girl, I’m sure you’ll agree that the film and television industry has recently turned vampires in soft, shiny, twinkly pretty-boys. Fortunately, Alucard kicks some serious ass. His journey, however, is unfortunately quite short and simple and there are only a few other character in the game that you’ll interact with. And let me tell you something; these interactions are as cheesy as….. cheese. On one hand, I don’t know what the developers were thinking when they both wrote the script, and chose the voice actors, but on the other hand, it kind of gives the game a bit of charm. With that said, it would be unfortunate if you missed out on experiencing this charm by completing the game pre-maturely…..
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night It's safe to say that most gamers these days have old games lying around the house that have never seen the light of day. However, most of these games probably get to escape the confines of their cheap plastic casin...


Read more

Round 83 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Stalagmite netting her first win in a long time. This time, she gives Super Mario Brothers 2 a spin. She describes it the same way Mario would describe it - like a dream with nightmarish parts. Only in this instance, the "nightmarish" parts are underwhelming bosses while the levels, controls and even different characters are like a dream.

Super Mario Bros 2 Score: 8.5/10
Genre: Platformer

Super Mario Brothers 2 is a dream-like experience. Not quite in the sense that you're probably thinking of - whether it's dreamy like Ico, weird like Katamari Damacy or nightmarish like Silent Hill. No, it's an experience that's more akin to all three put together.

quote Stalagmite
Released in 1988 by Nintendo, Super Mario Brothers 2 is a dream-like experience. Not quite in the sense that you're probably thinking of - whether it's dreamy like Ico, weird like Katamari Damacy or nightmarish like Silent Hill. No, it's an experience that's more akin to all three put together. It's weird in that the residents of the dream world known as Subcon aren't the same as those found in the real world. It's nightmarish because you're plopped in the middle of its takeover by the evil Wart, who had imprisoned the guardians of Subcon. It's dreamy due to how many different environments you go through. In the original Super Mario Brothers game, you pretty much went through some plains, trekked through underground passages and all through each of Bowser's castles - in Super Mario Brothers 2, you went through grassy lands, deserts, ice lands and even up in the clouds with no real transition other than "it was all a dream", combined with some high quality graphics that manage to perfectly capture that experience. In short, Super Mario Brothers 2 is a dream that you won't want to wake up from.

It's amazing how some of these ideas came to be. The idea of a four legged creature wearing a mask is a bit odd. My estimation is that they're the souls of the people who had committed suicide due to bullying, or the souls of people who had burned to death that Wart had brought from hell or purgatory to do his bidding. Coupled with the fact that the rulers of this dream world are sprites and their captor happens to be a giant frog, and it's clear that nothing is rooted in the confides of reality besides the landscapes. Not that the Mushroom Kingdom is the paragon of realism or anything, but Subcon makes the Mushroom Kingdom look normal by comparison. But one thing I'll never understand is how Mario and friends exit each level – so they defeat this dinosaur with a wide open nose that spits eggs (and occasionally, fireballs), take the crystal ball that it spits out upon defeat and then go through... a hawk's open mouth? In even my most intoxicated and stoned state, I still cannot fathom the idea of going through the open mouth of a hawk to get to the next level in a world. I guess prior to going to sleep, Mario had saved Princess Peach from the clutches of a giant hawk and his engagement ring somehow fell into its mouth so he had to reach in and grab it. From there, he was like “it's like being in a part of another world”. That's the only explanation I could think of that makes even a fraction of a percentage of sense, really.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

One night Mario has a strange dream while sleeping. In this dream he saw a very long staircase that ended in a door. When the door was opened a vast new world lay before him. A voice declared the world as Subcon, and pleaded for Mario's help again...


Read more

Round 82 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with another review of a Square game - this time, Secret Of Mana from Polarity. While people look fondly on this game, Polarity takes off the rose tinted glasses and looks at the game for what it really is, which is an unrefined action RPG with some interesting gameplay elements, a poorly translated story and fantastic presentation.

Secret Of Mana Score: 5.6/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

It's just too unpolished and borderline sloppy at the worst of times to really have fun with, and given the dissonance between its happy atmosphere and its more serious moments in conjunction with the borderline hackneyed translation, it's certainly not good enough to pass itself off as an experience.

quote Polarity
Ambition is a double edged sword – on one hand, it can create a genuinely fantastic game that goes above and beyond its contemporaries; on the other hand, it can create a cluster*bleep* of a game. Secret Of Mana is a mix of both. It manages to take the Legend Of Zelda style of gameplay that a lot of gamers at the time loved and added RPG elements like stats and levels, culminating in an experience that could potentially serve as a fantastic game. In practice, it's a confused mix of unrefined gameplay systems, illogically bullshit moments in combat, inconsistent computer companions and – at least in the case of the English translation – a story that's smaller than it really is. It's certainly not without its positives; there are some systems that are surprisingly well done and the production quality is pretty high, but there are far too many moments where you wonder just what was going on inside Square's headquarters during development...

Ted Woolsey, the translator for the game, had remarked that he had to significantly shrink (or “nuke”) the dialogue down to the bare essentials. It's not because gamers had ADD, but it's because there wouldn't be enough space in the text boxes for a detailed story. So essentially, if you're coming into Secret Of Mana with the expectations of there being a deep, thought provoking story, you will be sorely disappointed unless you play the Japanese version or find a really good fan translation. Instead of being an epic tale of a boy saving the world after accidentally dooming it, it instead reads like a children's pop up book. That's how badly neutered the story got - text size limitations and not wanting to do anything drastic such as adding more text boxes all but killed the story. Most developments for the relationships between our characters, as well as the motives of certain characters are lost in translation.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Secret of Mana Developer and Publisher: Squaresoft Ambition is a double edged sword - on one hand, it can create a genuinely fantastic game that goes above and beyond its contemporaries; on the other hand, it can create a cluster*bleep* of a game. Se...


Read more

Round 81 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with another Final Fantasy review winning, this time from Upmagic. He describes the experience as one that goes between being a well constructed fairy tale full of beautiful imagery... and an turn based RPG with little challenge that moves at the speed of a tortoise in a chronic state of bullet time.

Final Fantasy IX Score: 6/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

To the developer's credit, they really did get just about everything, but then it's no surprise that as a standalone game, Final Fantasy IX doesn't have an identity to call its own. In all of its pretty, purposeful pastiche, it forgets it needs to be something playable. A game, even.

quote Upmagic
The kingdom of Alexandria is busied with great excitement as its people prepare for the performance of "I Want to be Your Canary," a famous play and favorite of her highness, Queen Brahnne. The giant of a woman sits atop her castle balcony, cooly fanning herself as she indulges in the fireworks, staring on as a theater ship sails through the sky and into the arena. Ticket buyers take their seats, less privileged delinquents navigate the city's rooftops in hopes of catching a glimpse of the spectacle, and the stage is finally set. The Queen cannot hide her anticipation. But while her maniacal eyes grow wider with joy, there beside her, with a gaze cast downward and wearing a face of somber indifference, sits her daughter, Princess Garnet. Perhaps the subject matter of the play -- a story of a royal girl breaking free from the cage of castle walls -- has her longing for something more in life.

It would be a girl's lucky night, then, because the theater troop below is actually a ruse, the actors and stage workers aboard the airship a guise for a band of thieves and their plan to kidnap the princess, yet unaware that she herself has already made plans to slip away during the evening's entertainment. The confusion that follows is unforgettable, running various characters around the castle in a playful chase for the princess, a girl more daring than either her knights or kidnappers had ever imagined. Captain Steiner of the Queen's Guard hopelessly tries to assemble his worthless soldiers into a rescue effort while Zidane, a scrappy and wild boy (he has a tail, in fact), infiltrates the castle; his comrades putting on the show for the queen, demonstrating the game's battle system on stage in between volleys of acted drama.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Final Fantasy IX The kingdom of Alexandria is busied with great excitement as its people prepare for the performance of "I Want to be Your Canary," a famous play and favorite of her highness, Queen Brahnne.


Read more

Round 80 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Aevers snagging a win with her comprehensive review of Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, which has a graphical remake of Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. She regards Final Fantasy IV as a fantastic game that contains a brilliant story full of characters you'll love, and gameplay that's easy to get into. She unfortunately describes its direct sequel as a game that doesn't hold a candle to the original.

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection Score: 9/10
Genre: Role Playing Game

It's with these bold steps forward that Final Fantasy evolves from a basic dungeons and dragons-like game to an experience that you sit back and feel a little something for.

quote Aevers
This is when Final Fantasy started getting really good. Let's recap before we begin to emphasize that fact - the first game was good for its time but was more about level grinding than anything as the story hardly existed until the last dungeon, the second game was overly ambitious with some dickish design choices amongst a good story, and the third game had some great ideas compounded by harsh difficulty. Where does Final Fantasy 4 get it right? By being a more character driven experience while introducing the ATB system that relies on quickness to add legitimate challenge to a game that otherwise relies on simplistic strategies. Through everything that it does, it opens up a new level of Final Fantasy, taking everything from the first games, irons out the flaws and plays to the strengths. It's not a perfect game, but it comes pretty damn close to the mark at the best of times and even at its worst, it's still a reasonably good game.

Oh and there's the direct sequel somewhere that I'll also cover in this review.

Final Fantasy 4 begins with our protagonist, Cecil... forcibly taking a crystal from a nearby kingdom and delivering it to the king of Baron. He questions why he has to lead the squadron of Red Wings to attack kingdoms carrying the four elemental crystals, which doesn't sit well with the king as he's stripped of his rank and sent on a seemingly menial task to deliver a package to a nearby village shrouded in mist. With fellow knight and best friend, Kain, in tow, Cecil heads off to deliver the package, and at that point, let's just say that shit hits the fan. From there, Cecil has to atone for his dark deeds by shedding his dark knight powers in favor of light paladin powers in an effort to slay the dark beings. Along the way, he'll meet with characters who will have their own reasons to fight alongside him, whether it's to help him outl (either under orders of a leader or because they want to be with him) or for their own personal revenge and/or atonement.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection This is when Final Fantasy started getting really good. Let's recap before we begin to emphasize that fact - the first game was good for its time but was more about level grinding than anything as the story h...


Read more

Round 79 of the Articles Of Excellence ends with Gryzor taking another win, this time with a spin off of the Metal Gear franchise from Platinum Games known as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. While he finds the story to be one that goes in one ear and out the other while serving up a lame final boss and bad camera controls, he also finds the overall game to be a fast and furious romp that feels like an adrenaline rush and is just so much fun to play through that the bad stuff can be overlooked... to varying extents.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Score: 7/10
Genre: Hack and slash

There's just too much working against Revengeance to consider it a great game, though for what it does right, it most certainly comes recommended.

quote Gryzor
Platinum Games and Kojima Productions working together on a Metal Gear game? If you're the kind of person who digs anything and everything campy and crazy, this would pulsate your *bleep* into a diamond carving machine. I mean holy shit, fun and exciting gameplay with some over the top set pieces to go along with an exposition heavy story full of crazy plot twists? Sign me up! Sure, it took a long time and the only reason Platinum Games was even involved was because Kojima had some issues and needed somebody to essentially redo it for him and Shinji Mikami was more than happy to help out, but it did eventually come and with everything at their disposal, I'm sure they've developed a fantastic game, especially since it's based on...

...Raiden? You mean the guy from Metal Gear Solid 2 that people hated because he wasn't Solid Snake? Who wound up becoming a cyborg ninja in Metal Gear Solid 4 and got people loving him and even wanting games based on him because he was doing some sick Matrix shit? Interesting – and really, that's a word I'd use to describe my experience with this game. Raiden is able to slice up robots, slow down time to cut them into tiny little pieces and harvest their spines for health (otherwise known as Zandatsu), and given that there are a good amount of enemies and bosses to take down, it makes for some frantic action. There are so many instances where the phrase “holy shit” is uttered to a point where my voice is hoarse and not just gravelly.
Read the rest of this review and leave feedback


pc playstation 3 xbox 360 neoseeker related gaming related

Read more

Ryan Blythe

  • Anywhere, in the galaxy
  • Joined Dec 25, 2005
  • N/A
  • 22 years young
  • private
Site Positions
  • CRS Staff

Statistics

  • Profile views 10,437
  • Number of logins 2,513
  • Forum Posts 2,140
  • Neopoints 588
  • GameGrep Points 383
  • User Reviews 80

Communities

(0.1913/d/web8)