Category Archives: Reviews
The age old idiom “If its not broke, don’t fix it” is known to be especially true of puzzle games. I mean feel free to add things, move stuff around a bit – hell, even throw in some new power ups… but if the core game-play is solid then leave it the hell alone! Lumines: Electronic Symphony for the PS Vita is a great example of this; elevation without innovation. It doesn’t add a slew of new design or features, but what it does add, streamlines an already great experience.
Lumines is a musical puzzle game, where groups of coloured blocks drop into the game area from the top of the screen in grids of 4(2×2 to be precise). The player must join four or more bricks of the same colour before the end of any given “turn”. On each “turn”, the rhythm bar (which is kind of like a metronome) passes from left to right and destroys any groupings of four or more, giving the player a score based on how many blocks were joined during that “turn”. It’s a simple concept but its the mixture of visual and aural fidelity, alongside the solid mechanics that have made Lumines such a runaway success.
I missed out on Lumines in it’s debut appearance, despite buying my PSP day one, I more than likely picked up some muck like “Dynasty Warriors 2 PSP” . My assumption now is that I saw it on the shelf and presumed it would be a by the numbers Tetris clone, full of repetitive Techno music. Its worth noting at this point in the review that I am not a huge fan of Electronic music; for some devotees of Lumines, this game without the music is like Gran Turismo without cars! When I finally played the game (this was the Xbox Live Arcade Version) I was very impressed with the game design and remember convincing one of my flat mates to buy the game, just so I could play it.
Flash forward to Lumines: Electronic Symphony.
There is a certain challenge to reviewing an episodic adventure. I mean, you need to set the benchmark in your first review, as no matter how good or bad the events in each episode, the overall game-play is not going to change dramatically from the first episode, right? I am pleased to tell you that the game-play and narrative present in The Walking Dead is so damn good, that it will take some serious missteps from Telltale in the subsequent releases, to bring this episodic series down.
Two things might have an impact on your experience of The Walking Dead.
1:) Have you played and enjoyed any of Telltales other Adventure games?
2:) Have you read The Walking Dead comic book series?
The Vita had an unusual launch. The actual day of launch lineup was fantastic, containing titles like Uncharted, Wipeout and Fifa. Since the console’s release however, there has been a severe lack of new content. It was in this gap that I found myself picking up Rayman Origins; A game I had already played quite a lot on the PS3. I was skeptical that the Vita would be able to accurately showcase the incredible hand drawn visuals and jaw dropping audio found in the high def console version’s of the game. I was, to put it bluntly, proven wrong…
For the uninitiated, Rayman Origins is a 2D side-scrolling platformer developed by Ubisoft and serves as a sequel of sorts (despite the games title) to the popular Rayman franchise. Rayman Origins uses a new graphics framework called Ubi-Art to provide incredibly beautiful characters and environments; these are animated to perfection and do well to serve as a showcase for the power of Ubi-Art. The gameplay is pretty straight forward and sees the player progressing from right to left (or left to right) through levels, taking on enemies, collecting lums and doing the usual platformer fare. It’s the sheer level of polish and masterful game design that has Rayman Origins stand out from the crowd.
Resident Evil – A series best known as the daddy of mainstream survival horror. Raccoon City – Every Resident Evil fan’s favourite doomed metropolis. Surely a game with both of the above in the title can do nothing but succeed. I mean, that’s just awesome fan service, right? Yeah… Well… unfortunately, for Operation Raccoon City, that’s not quite the case.
Lets be clear here. Operation Raccoon City is not THAT bad. As a matter of fact, it can actually be a hell of a lot of fun. For it’s many missed opportunites and failed potential, Operation Raccoon City is a competent shooter that excels when played online with a few friends. That should be good enough for most shooter fans out there, but the problem with this game is that Capcom and Slant Six have failed to bring us an entry which delivers any of the atmosphere or “feel” of previous games in the franchise, even though it’s littered with character cameos and familiar iconography throughout.
Well, to begin, the general controls of Operation Raccoon City are fine, fulfilling the basic necessities of the contemporary third person shooter. One of the only issues I have with the controls, comes in the form of the game’s cover system. The cover is not handled by a button press; instead when you get close to an object that you can use for cover, your character will lock to it automatically. Now early on in the game this didn’t bother me and I actually thought it was handled really well – but in the games more difficult chapters, the cracks begin to show and the game becomes insanely frustrating, as you don’t have direct control of the cover mechanic and you will more often than not find your head being pumped full of Spec Ops assault rifle rounds, as you attempt to fumble your way back behind an overturned shopping trolley, which will clearly protect yout from armour piercing rounds… Right…
To say that I am a fan of survival horror would be the understatement of the century. I love it. I love the shoddy controls. I love the sense of uselessness and complete sense of disempowerment. I love the quick debate in your head as you try to decide to fight or flee, as something bloodied and nasty edges ever closer to your wimpy, underpowered character. This is the stuff of my dreams … well nightmares… nightmarish dreams??
Lone Survivor is an indie survival horror title by Jasper Byrne, available for both Windows and Mac. I have no fears about stating that this game is the most polished, genuinely scary and atmospheric horror game I’ve played in a decade.
The art of survival horror, like the characters within, is seemingly being killed by the increasingly popular opinion that it’s an unresponsive, archaic genre better left in the late 90’s and only remembered nostaligcally. In recent years traditional Survival horror, in the vein of Clock Tower or Silent Hill has been dropped more and more in favour of Panic or Action horror titles like Resident Evil 4 or Left 4 Dead. Jasper Byrne is clearly a developer who understands the best elements of traditional survival horror and is more than capable of using that knowledge to deliver an amazingly chilling title, that makes horror video-games relevant again.