When Warner Bros announced the next game in the acclaimed Arkham franchise would be a preequel, the reaction was mixed. When they announced that Rocksteady would not be returning for the prequel, instead handing the reins to Warner Bros Games Montreal, the reaction was negative. It felt like a cash-grab, a stop-gap while Rocksteady worked on whatever would follow the brilliant Arkham City. Was this reaction premature or right on the money? Read on to find out. Continue reading Review: Batman: Arkham Origins
Hardcore games on the Wii have been few and far between lately. Despite Nintendo’s proclamations that their next system will focus on hardcore games before casual, it still took a massive online campaign to get the Big N to release Monolith’s epic JRPG, Xenoblade Chronicles, in the United States. Now that they have, was it worth the wait? Continue reading Review: Xenoblade Chronicles
After the well-publicized falling out of Infinity Ward and Activision, the Modern Warfare franchise returns with (presumably) the final chapter in the world-devastating saga. There is no question that this game would sell a ton of copies, but the real question is can the remnants of Infinity Ward, along with a little help from their friends at Sledgehammer, maintain the quality that the fans demand? Continue reading Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Mickey Mouse has become a mascot, so much so that many young people have no real idea that he was once a pretty great cartoon character. Enter Warren Spector and Epic Mickey, a Wii-exclusive designed to relaunch the lovable mouse, while also introducing the world to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s prior creation that he lost the rights to oh so many years ago. Sadly, Mickey and Oswald both deserve better than this.
Epic Mickey starts out as Mickey is pulled into the Wasteland through a series of events brought about by pure mischief. See, in the olden days before Donald Duck, Mickey was the one who was always getting into trouble and it appears that Disney is looking to bring that aspect of his personality back to the forefront. Messing about with Yen Sid’s magic paintbrush leads the Mouse on a great adventure, trying to undo the damage done by the Shadow Blot, which Mickey inadvertently created. Continue reading Review: Epic Mickey
People first started suggesting I cover Minecraft on Bytejacker a little over a year ago. I messed around with it a bit and felt lukewarm on it. At the time, it was basically just a world of Legos – a cute sandbox you could dig and build in with others, but really nothing more than a technical demo. “Impressive for being made by one guy,” I thought. “I hope he can turn it into something.” Continue reading Minecraft: The Guest Review
The God of War franchise has become the premier beat-em-up in the eyes of many gamers, with its super-tight controls, stunning visuals and excessive brutality. God of War and God of War II on the PS2 were massive successes, both critically and commercially and Sony’s Santa Monica studios has pulled out all the stops to finish the series off in style.
The story of the game is simple and complex, oddly enough. Basically, Kratos has declared war on the pantheon of Greek gods, with his eye on Zeus, in particular. The bulk of the game is Kratos traveling from place to place, wiping out a god here, a demi-god there and acquiring whatever magical item is needed to help him succeed in his quest. The part where things get complex is that much of the game hearkens back to the first two games and even the PSP entry. It’s not a big problem because the game describes what you need to know through gorgeously animated scenes, but I was struggling to figure out opening Pandora’s Box in the first game was affecting events in this one. A minor quibble, however.
The controls, as ever are responsive and you always feel like Kratos is doing exactly what you want him to. The platforming sections are rare, which is good because Kratos’s boots were not made for jumping. The combat, though, is second to none. Each weapon Kratos has (you get four by the end of the game) has its own combo system and feel and upgrading these and then performing the new combos you unlock is extremely satisfying. Each weapon also comes with a magical ability and in addition to that, you have items that you use, such as the Head of Helios, which lights up dark areas and uncovers secret chambers. In short, Kratos has a ton of options at his disposal.
Which is very handy when dealing with the tons of enemies the game throws at you. It’s difficult to count when you are fighting for your life, but there were over 30 enemies onscreen at one point and the game didn’t even seem to notice, as there was no slowdown at all. There was one battle where I was fighting 6 giant cyclops and literally all hell was breaking loose and the game chugged along perfectly. This is a highly polished and beautiful game.
One thing I want to mention is that there is enough variety in enemies that I never felt like I was getting bored or slogging through it. The game will introduce a new enemy and once you get the hang of it, either throw a ton of them at you or combine them others. Gorgons too easy? Try fighting them with a chimera backing them up. These types of things make the game challenging and fresh.
A lot is said about the Quick Time Events and I feel like I would be remiss if I did not address this: I love them. See, when you beat an enemy down, an option appears to start the QTE. You can ignore this and finish the enemy off with normal attacks or you can watch a brutal kill that will grant you extra experience. Personally, I never get tired of watching them and I often exclaimed out loud how how disgusting many of them were. From ripping out eyeballs to disemboweling Titans, Kratos shows no mercy to anyone during the course of his journey.
The game should last you anywhere from 8-10 hours and there are bonus modes to play once you finish it, in addition to hidden items that grant you bonuses on a second playthrough, such as unlimited health or magic power. These turn the game into God Mode and while I don’t care that sort of thing, it does give you the chance to play the game without fear of dying, so I guess it’s good for trying new things.
Gorgeous graphics, sick gameplay and an epic story that slices its way through Greek mythology? I couldn’t sign up for this fast enough. God of War III showcases what the PS3 is capable of and if you have one, you have to play it.
OK, word of warning first: this review might contain words that, when strung together to form a sentence, may or may not become spoilers. You’ve been warned.
If you’ve been paying attention to the pre-release hype for Mass Effect 2, one thing that BioWare was constantly touting is this: your Commander Shepard can die. Not like the cheap video game deaths where you re-load a save and try again, but permanent death. This applies to all members of your party, and you’re constantly reminded of your mortality as Mass Effect 2 progresses. The Grim Reaper is waiting for you out in the reaches of space. Will you sacrifice yourself to save humanity or will you pull through against impossible odds?
Death comes repeatedly for Commander Shepard, though, who gets turned into space dust by a brutal surprise attack in the opening moments of the game. Not one to let a little incineration put him down, Shepard’s body is recovered by shadowy pro-human black-ops group Cerberus, headed up by the Illusive Man, ably voiced by Martin Sheen. It seems that after you saved galactic society at large two years prior, the threats presented by the Reapers, sentient machines that harvest all life in the galaxy every 50,000 years, have been swept under the rug. Only Cerberus knows who the true enemy is, and they’ve brought you back to deal with them.
Continue reading Review: Mass Effect 2
This thought runs through my head over and over as I eat my dinner, barely focusing on the food before me. My thoughts are filled with the bloodstain chock-full of souls I left splattered in the middle of the Boletarian Castle, surrounded by demon warriors just waiting for me return for them.
I need those souls back.
Demon’s Souls is the new action-RPG from Atlus and it is not for the faint of heart. If Halo ever frustrated you with the Library, then you are not ready for Demon’s Souls. This game makes the Library look like World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros. The concept of the game is that you are a warrior who decides to try to lift the darkness from the world by defeating the evil demon lords who rule it. Or something like that. The story, though well-written and voice-acted, is barely there. It’s simply an excuse to throw you into hell and watch you claw your way out.
The game is played in a 3rd-person perspective and at the start you create a character and choose one of several classes to start with, but fear not: you are not constricted in anyway by what class you choose. You can start off as a mage and never learn another magic spell if you desire and become a powerful melee warrior. The choice is up to you. The classes merely determine how your initial stat points are distributed. It’s up to you how you want to distribute them, one point at a time.
Which leads to how you improve your character. Now, let me preface this by saying that you don’t have to level up a single time. You can literally play the entire game with the stats you start with, from start to finish, and defeat the final boss as such. God help whoever does that, because I expect you will be doing about 1 HP of damage to said boss per attack, so I hope you don’t have to go to the bathroom because you can’t pause Demon’s Souls. Ever. At all. Just warning you..
Now, when you defeat an enemy you gain souls. Some enemies give you as little as 8 souls, some as much as 2000. It just varies on the strength of the foe you have vanquished. Souls are used as both experience and currency. Want to level up your character’s HP? Get some souls. Want to buy a better sword or upgrade it? Get some souls. Need arrows or healing items? (And you will) Get some souls. Magic spell in the shop caught your eye? You guessed it…souls. The fun part is that the amount you need to raise your attributes increases every time you do so don’t expect to grind your stats and simply overpower the game because you will likely go insane first.
When the game starts, you find yourself in a brief tutorial area, which ends with you getting pwned by a giant boss. Your souls goes to the Nexus, which is the hub of the game. Here you level up, buy weapons and spells and pick which area you want to go to next. There are 5 worlds, each one having a few sections in them and once you defeat the first area, you are free to explore as you wish. I recommend doing so, as some great items can be found in different areas if you look hard enough. When in soul form, your health is cut in half, although a ring you find near the start brings this up by 25%. As a bonus, you do more damage in soul form, which is fine because you will spend most of the game in soul form. In order to get your body back, you must defeat the area’s boss or use a rare item. Generally, beating the boss is the best option.
When going through a level, in soul or in body form, when you die (Notice I said WHEN, not IF) you will return to the Nexus with all of your equipment and items, but you lose your souls. So if you had about 3000 souls and didn’t return to the Nexus to spend them, they are gone. Unless…you manage to fight your way back to the place you died and touch the bloodstain you left. If you can do so, you get your souls back. If you die on the way, those souls are gone forever. Now, since enemies respawn every time you return to the Nexus, you can always fight more demons, but you run the risk of doing what I did the other night, which is play for an hour and a half only to lose all my souls and have nothing to show for my wasted time. Being overconfident and not focusing on the battle at hand has led to many a lost batch of souls.
So why does such a game, which reeks of repetition, which I revile, appeal to me so much? Namely, thanks to the combat, which is so spot on, that when I die, I know it was MY fault. I mistimed a parry or didn’t watch my stamina bar close enough. There are NO cheap deaths here. The enemies all have distinct patterns and it is a matter if simply being observant and quick. When you see an opening, don’t hesitate or you will regret it. I got more of a rush playing Demon’s Souls than any game since the original God of War. When you slice through katana-wielding lizardmen like a hot knife through butter, you know it was complete skill that won the day for you and that feeling is addictive.
Demon’s Souls also boasts the most unique online system I have ever seen. As you play, you sometimes see blue specters running around. Those are other people playing the game right at that moment, at that spot. You are always connected to the servers, unless you sign out of PSN, but I would not play any other way. There are also messages, short and tweet-like, that players can leave for one another. Some give hints such as, “There is a treasure up ahead” or “The next enemy is weak against fire”. Such messages can be a life-saver, as one instructed me not to bother with a shield, which was sage advice because if I had tried to block the ensuing attack with my shield, I would have died. And if messages are helpful, you can give them a thumbs-up, which heals the person who left the message, wherever they are. This can be a great boon when you are in trouble and suddenly you are notified that someone liked your message and your health fills. It creates a great sense of community, of us against this harsh game world, and it truly adds a layer of awesome to the whole thing.
If you are having trouble and are in body form, you can drop a blue stone and pull someone in the same level who is in soul form into your game and suddenly, Demon’s Souls is a co-op game! Together you can defeat the boss of the area and then the soul form player returns to his game. The soul form player must also drop a similar stone, so don’t worry that you may get pulled out against your will. But there is a more sinister aspect of this: another player can invade your game if in soul form and attempt to kill you! If they do, they get their body back. Imagine the terror of seeing a message that states, “Black Phantom Starkiller81 has invaded your realm!” and knowing that there is another human being walking around your level, waiting for you to be hip-deep in demons before plunging a knife in your back. Talk about survival horror! Dead Space and Resident Evil can’t compete with that kind of tension.
One thing I want to mention that adds to the difficulty is the fact that you can’t manually save the game. Demon’s Souls auto-saves almost constantly, so if you think you are going to simply reload your last save and recover your souls, you got another thing coming.
The graphics and music are also very well done and coupled with the tight controls that never fail you make for a game like no other I have ever played. Except for the extreme difficulty of the game, there is not one bad thing I can say about it. Demon’s Souls is one game that no hardcore player can afford to miss out on. You will curse and gnash your teeth, but you will dive right back in again and again until the last demon is slain. For Christmas this year, I received Demon’s Souls, Dragon Age: Origins, Uncharted 2 and Modern Warfare 2 and I have been playing a little bit of each waiting for one of them to really hook me. It has finally happened because for the last 4 days, I have been on a straight Demon’s Souls bender and there is no end in sight. I can’t recommend this game enough, one of the best of the year.
How does our grading system work? Check out our grade chart!
New Super Mario Bros Wii is Nintendo’s attempt to make Mario a party game without calling it Mario Party or making it suck. They succeed. But NSMBW is also a fun single-player experience, akin to Super Mario World, which if you believe THIS joker, is the best Mario game ever.
The plot is not exactly anything worth mentioning, but I will anyway. The Princess is kidnapped by Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings, which means that now all of Bower’s children have teamed up to make Mario’s life hell. Mario, Luigi and two unnamed Toads set out to rescue her, through 8 worlds filled with obstacles and enemies new and old. Stop me if you think if you have heard that one before. The story is inconsequential, which is how it should be. Remember that they tried to throw story into the Sonic games and we all know how that turned out.
Mario is all about gameplay and it delivers. The game is set up with the overworld map seen in Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World. Some levels have secret exits that, when discovered, open up new areas of the maps that lead to cannons which warp you to a later world. The control is tight, as Mario’s jump has been perfected over the years and it doesn’t change here. He can still do triple jumps, like in Mario 64, and they added a wall jump, which has saved my ass more times than I can count. The only motion controls found here are a quick shake to do a spin jump or launch yourself high into the air using the new Propeller Hat and occasionally you control a platform by tilting the Wii Remote accordingly. Both are done well and sparingly.
The levels are varied and colorful. The graphics aren’t going to blow your mind, but the game looks like the natural progression from Super Mario World. In fact, this game feels like the direct sequel to that one. Each world has a theme that every level exploits, such as an ice world, a tropical island world and wait for it…a lava world! Some things never change. And that is a good thing, if you ask me.
One thing that is different is, thanks to the power of the Wii, is the dynamic nature of the environments. Ever heard the term, “rolling hills”? Well, this game takes it literally, as the green hills roll and try to dislodge your timing. Pipes move up and down, platforms spin around and enemies are ever present. All of this makes for a challenging Mario game. Now that you will ever see the GAME OVER screen, as NSMBW is highly liberal with the extra lives, but you will die quite a bit.
Which leads me to that controversial feature, the Super Guide. All that uproar was for naught because I never even saw it. The only way you can lose it is if you die 8 times on a single level. While I admit, I came close a few times, I never died enough to unlock it. But if someone is having that much trouble, I see no issue with it and the hardcore fans should just deal with the fact that Nintendo wants as many people as possible to play and experience their games in full. So I have nothing bad to say about the Super Guide. If anything, it added an incentive for me to play better as I did not want to see the option pop up, thus maintaining my elite Mario skills status.
The other big deal is the multiplayer, which I did not mess with until I had completed the game. I took my Wii over to my fiancee’s house and played it with her cousins on Thanksgiving. And it was a blast, with one caveat: do not expect to breeze through the game with 4 people. This game, as already mentioned, is difficult enough when playing solo, but add in the chaos of 3 other people and you just have to smile and deal with it. The game pauses for a brief second when someone dies or gets a power-up, which has resulted in deaths many times over. Thankfully, as long as one person is still alive in the level, the others can be revived, which means you find yourself rooting for your teammates to clear that jump and bring you back into it. It’s a great addition to the Mario series and a fun way to hang out with friends or family.
Even using our new grading system, it is tough to judge this game. It doesn’t do a whole lot new, despite it’s title, but it gives us what we have clamored for: an old-school Mario game with updated visuals and gameplay. There are a few things that are annoying, such as the fact that you can only save after beating a fortress or castle, unless you do the Quick Save option. After beating the game you gain the ability to save anywhere, which is so pointless and so Nintendo-like that you just have to shake your head in amazement. Despite this, New Super Marios Bro Wii is a stellar entry in what is one of the most revered and popular series in all of games and if you have ever loved a Mario game, you should seek this one out. I doubt you will be disappointed.
How does our grading system work? Check out our grade chart!
Dragon Age: Origins is the newest RPG epic from Bioware, creators of other notable titles such as Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and Mass Effect. Their newest game takes things a little more old school, returning the quest programmers back to the days of yore, where dungeons waited to be crawled and dragons were there for the slaying. The studio has repeatedly said that Dragon Age: Origins was always a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, and they weren’t kidding. But is it any good?
Yes. Yes it is. Very good, in fact. This may spoil the rest of the review for you, but Dragon Age: Origins is simply one of the better RPG experiences in this generation.
Continue reading Review: Dragon Age: Origins
I love Ratchet and Clank. Full disclosure: These games just make me happy on a level that few games can. That being said A Crack in Time is not the best entry in the series, but it’s still more fun than 90% of the games out there.
A Crack in Time takes place after Quest for Booty, the PSN exclusive released last year. The premise is that Ratchet and Clank are separated and Ratchet is trying to locate his robotic buddy. Clank was kidnapped by the Zoni, who were duped into it by Dr. Nefarious and his butler, Lawrence. Dr. Nefarious, you may remember, was the villain from Up Your Arsenal and he wants Clank so he can get into the Orvus Chamber, which will allow him to travel back through time and alter history. Clank’s origins are revealed in this game and we learn why he is the only one who can get into the Orvus Chamber.
Ratchet and Clank’s story is not really the main draw, but one thing must be said: it’s hilarious. The characters, from Dr. Nefarious to my personal favorite, Captain Qwark, all have moments that made me laugh out loud. The cutscenes are very well done, making the game look like a Pixar movie. In most games, I can barely pay attention during the cutscenes, but during this game, I was looking forward to them.
The gameplay is divided into a few sections. There is Ratchet’s traditional platforming/gunplay, which is always fun, especially for those who love collecting things. The planets you visit, while not as numerous as other installments, are varied and no two ever felt the same. The weapons you use during these areas are not as exciting as those that came before, but there are a few cool ones, like the gun that turns enemies into monkeys. Never got old. For fun, use the Groovetron to turn the monkeys into disco dancing freaks.
Once Ratchet gets his ship, right after the first planet, you will find yourself in an area of space with a few small planetoids that you can fly to and complete objectives in order to aquire Gold Bolts and Zoni, which unlock extra skins and upgrade your ship. These are pretty fun and are good for getting extra bolts to buy new weapons, but I grew tired of them after about 10 or so. They are round spheres that you walk over, which some have compared to Super Mario Galaxy, but was actually done first in an earlier Ratchet game, Going Commando. When Nintendo is cribbing from you, you must be doing something right.
The final section is interspersed throughout the main narrative, which is Clank traveling through The Great Clock using a very inventive puzzle system. Clank’s sections have a little platforming and combat, but are mainly puzzle-based, which is a nice break from the constant explosions of the Ratchet sections. The puzzles involve Clank making copies himself to open doors and hit switches. For example, Clank stands on a time platform, starts recording and then walks to a switch on the floor and stand on it. The switch raises an elevator to a higher level. Next, you stop recording and return to the time platform. You stand on a different platform and record and play the recording you just made. The copy you just made walks over and raises the elevator while you walk over to the elevator and are taken to the top. This is just a simple example, as it gets much more complicated with up to 4 copies of Clank running around doing different things. The feeling of satisfaction I get from completing is something I have only felt while playing Portal, so I highly endorse this section of the game.
A Crack in Time is a step forward in some ways, a step back in others and simple stands still at other times. This series is so much fun though, I hesitate to say that it needs to be overhauled. The franchise has evolved into gaming comfort food. Kind of the way I look at the band Collective Soul. They aren’t going to blow you away, but you are going to get 12 songs that you will be humming for the next month, no doubt about it. I loved this game, but it’s not the next level in platforming goodness.
How does our grading system work? Check out our grade chart!
I love The Godfather. I have practially memorized the movies, especially the first one and have been known to watch the first two back to back. I enjoyed the first game in this series back on the PS2, so I was looking forward to playing the sequel, especially with the Don’s View I had read so much about.
Continue reading Review: The Godfather II
Before there was Final Fantasy, before there was Mass Effect, there was Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior previously). Dragon Quest was the RPG that focused on gameplay, grinding and consistency. It left the cinematics and mind-blowing graphics to other JRPGs, focusing on creating a fun world to explore with awesome monster designs and old-school notions. It’s actually more popular in Japan than Final Fantasy is. Shocking, no?
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen was previously released in the United States in 1992. On the NES. If you were wondering why you never played it, that would be the reason. Sad to say, its also my reason. But now we have the DS release from this past October. Bringing the game into the new century with a few tweaks here and there and updated visuals, this is a must have for any RPG gamer.
Continue reading Review: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
Having been a great fan of Bethesda’s earlier RPG series, The Elder Scrolls, I was eagerly waiting for Fallout 3 and their decision to make it into a FPS/RPG hybrid. Not having played any of the previous Fallout games, I was not concerned with any drastic changes they might have made, so this review will come from the perspective of a Fallout noob.
The Sands of Time, the Warrior Within and the Two Thrones were some of favorite games on my PS2, especially the Sands of Time. The fantastic controls, the platforming, the sweaty palms as I guided the Prince past buzzsaw traps and rolling logs with spikes…all of it made for a fantastic gaming experience.
So with great excitement, I started on this latest adventure. First thing to note is that this is not a sequel or a prequel or anything like that. It is a reboot, no characters return except the Prince (who isn’t even a prince now) and Farah (who is now a donkey). This kind of thing never really bothers me, so I can’t blame the developers for wanting to start fresh on a new console.