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South Park the Stick of Truth

18 Mar

Words can hardly describe the experience that is, South Park: The Stick of Truth, as it is one of the raunchiest licensed games and the most “true to South Park” game created.

After several developmental pushbacks, instilled by the game directors themselves, Stick of Truth was finally released on March 4, 2014. And much to no one’s surprise the game lives up to the South Park name in its entirety.

Developed by Obsidian entertainment and published by Ubisoft, Stick of Truth tells the story of a silent new kid whose name is chosen by the player yet the characters refer to him as “Sir Douchbag” in true South Park humor, poking fun at one of the many RPG tropes. There is a standing war between the humans, who are led by Eric Cartman, and the Drow Elves led by Kyle Brofloski, in pursuit of control over an “ancient” artifact called the Stick of Truth, whose holder controls the Universe. This is nothing more than a dramatization of the boys’ playing since the story unfolds as a continuation of the Black Friday Trilogy form the T.V. show and blends incredibly well with the cleverly handled “Larping” RPG gameplay.

The player creates the character to their liking and can choose between four different classes, including Fighter, Mage, Thief or Jew, yes Jew. Once a class is chosen you are taught the basics of combat and the specialties of your class as the player is introduced to the basic, turn based RPG combat system, all while being entertained by the tongue in cheek dialogue. Speaking of which, every aspect of the game from the look, the animation, voice acting and writing are perfectly recreated and feel like you’re playing an interactive episode of South Park. This isn’t surprising given the team behind the development of the game.

For starters the game isn’t technically a “licensed” game as it was managed and directed by the creators Matt Stone and Trey parker, along with the same studio that produces the television show. That being said the two take full advantage of the freedom that comes with making a video game in America, and even the strong willed South Park supporters will have to brace themselves for the things found in the game. Not only does the game feature some the grossest most disgusting shock humor possible, it will also be fighting foreign countries on censorship of the extremely offensive material that could possibly be thought up by Stone and Parker.

That being said the game still feels natural in its execution and anyone who is a fan of South Park will know what to expect when picking this game up. Even if you are not a fan of the game it still could be worth a try as the gameplay is more than just an excuse for jokes as it takes notes from well-known RPG’s such as Super Mario RPG and the old Final Fantasy games. Mechanics like timed attacks and interactive actions keep every battle interesting and engaging, and cannot be completed by just mashing the same button.

The gameplay is also deep in its execution as it gives you new things to use throughout the campaign but so much of it that you get to choose however you want to play. That, coupled with four different classes, a cavalcade of adjustable equipment, side missions and 17 years’ worth of South Park history make The Stick of Truth an early contender for game of the year and well worth the price of admission.

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Fre(aking Hard!)eze

18 Mar

Although it seems as if Nintendo is going into a financial crisis in the wake of the Wii U’s paltry sales, the humble company still puts out a fantastic product for those who did buy one.

The game sees the Kong family celebrating DK’s Birthday when an army of arctic animals called the “Snomads” attack. Using a magic alphorn the Snomads blow the Kongs out of their home and put the tropical DK Island in a perpetual winter a la “Frozen” style. The Kong’s must traverse the different Islands taken over by the icy invaders and take back their home.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the latest game in the DKC franchise and employs the same 2D platform gameplay the games are known for since the first one developed by the OG’s at Rare. In single player you play as the titular Donkey Kong whose larger body feels realistically heavy but still tight to control and can use one of his three relatives as assists which change up the dynamic of your controls.

With Diddy you can use his jet pack to get an extra second of air time, using Cranky allows you to pogo with his cane to avoid spiky terrain and kill horned enemies and last but most useful is Dixie who uses her ponytail to give a lot more amnesty and control during tricky platform sections. In Multiplayer Player one controls DK, while a second player controls one of the three supports independently and both can still come together to perform the same actions.

The game consists of six different vibrant worlds, from Bavarian mountain tops to deep sea caverns, all with an icy coat to keep up with the game’s theme. Each level provides a surprise in terms of gameplay, with fast mine cart sections and in look, such as certain levels turning the in game characters into art deco silhouettes. This is all made better by the fact the great optimization of the graphics keeps the game at an extremely smooth frame rate  Each world is finished by defeating a boss character,  each with their own strategy and theme that tests the player to their limits.

The music is composed by David Wise who helped compose the music for the original DKC and returns with old remixes and new scores that will stay in your head as you play the game.  The new voice acting for the Kong family is also a hilariously campy and will alleviate the frustration when you miss that split second jump.

DKC: Tropical Freeze is a beautiful game that keeps the hardcore, challenging platform spirit alive and makes a cool way to pass the time in waiting for the next masterpiece.

Thanks and see ya Later!

DBSLAYER7

The Last(PS3 Game) of Us

10 Feb

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It’s not surprising that the team at Naughty Dog, the people responsible for the beloved Uncharted series, to pull off a game that not only keeps the player engaged with great gameplay but also legitimize story in games. In games it’s rare to come across a good story since it’s just a framing device to get the players in the game that you don’t mind sitting through but it’s different in the case of The Last of Us. At face value TLOU may look like your typical, generic zombie shooter, but it looks can be deceiving as it’s played.

In TLOU you play as Joel (Troy Baker), a middle aged man who, after 20 years of surviving the disaster of the cordyceps virus that creates the zombie-like hordes, must escort a young orphan girl Ellie (Ashley Johnson), who was born and raised in the new desolate world, to a group of mercenaries in order to get a weapons cache. The pathway there is rife with zombies and the occasional group of “sane” survivors who will shoot first and ask questions later.

Speaking of the zombies, they come in three flavors: Runners, which are basically feral humans in the first stage of the virus; Clickers, who are the iconic cauliflower, faced biters that cannot be engaged physically; and finally the Bloaters that throw fungus bombs with pinpoint accuracy and God help you if it gets a hold of you.

The gameplay is probably the best thing about the game as you have to make do with what you find in a wonderfully realized scavenger system. Everything you use from health items made of rags and alcohol to more Macguyver-esque smoke bombs made of fire crackers and sugar is crafted in real time. As for the firearms you use, it’s all up to what particular ammunition you can find and you’ll want to horde every bullet and only use it in last resort scenarios.

The reason for this being that the shooting is less arcade and more simulator, with aiming being more realistic, jostling with natural movement and the fact that it takes multiple bullets to take a human down unless you get a headshot and good luck with that.

The game also emphasizes stealth and that the fact that there is always different ways to go about different situations. All that is well and good but what about the game giving you an A.I. companion that runs around in tense situations? Thankfully Ellie doesn’t technically exist as she’ll give her position away but not make the enemies alert which is one of the smartest decisions made in game design but will inevitably make the games immersion break from time to time.

On top of all the greatness there is still room for a game that looks absolutely gorgeous. A perpetual sunset beams across the dilapidated buildings covered in luscious overgrowth and water effects that look like water and not bunches of paper Mache.

TLOU is a beautiful game that keeps its finger on the tension and applies more pressure as you explore the world in an effort to face past problems and create a more enjoyable future.

See you later!

DBSLAYER7

Games of the Year-2013

25 Dec

Hello one and all, it’s the end of the year and that means it’s time for ranking various products side by side and figuring out which one is the best! Just kidding, I’m going to indulge in the new trend of picking, “Games,” of the year and telling you why a handful of games deserve more attention than the rest. So sit back and enjoy my ramblings as I recount the 2013 year in gaming.

Top 10 Games of the Year

10. Rayman: Legends

Not completely surprising but all the same this game is a testament to staying true to your-self. Michel Ancel keeps the colorful, cartoony spirit that was present from the first Rayman game from 1995 alive. A current example that not only is the 2D Platformer genre is alive, but that it’s also able to thrive and innovate in new ways. The main game is enough to warrant a purchase but the game is packed to the brim with musical levels that are some kind of magic and it even features a pseudo HD re-release of the first game. Here’s to more Rayman in the future.

9. Pokémon X/Y

Finally the Pokémon game fans have been waiting for since the old days of color. A slew of New Pokémon and a beautiful presentation come from developer, Game Freak’s, latest title. The one thing that’s been missing from Pokémon has finally returned i.e. effort. Interesting, fun, collecting and strategy gameplay with a traditional story will put older fans’ hearts at ease for the new generation of children entering into the Pokémon fandom.

8. The Stanley Parable

Don’t call it a copout but this game is one that can’t readily be explained. The epitome of non-games, The Stanley Parable satirizes current gen games while keeping with its own unique feel. Explore the office building where Stanley works as you try to find out where your fellow employees have gone all while the narrator keeps pushing you in the right direction, if you want to of course.  The narrator alone is something magical, but coupled with a game that always keeps you guessing this one is an immediate recommendation.

7. Papers, Please

There are games that are made by hundreds of people and still attain panning from critics and end up feeling like a waste of time. But the indie hit Papers, Please, which was made by one person, stands as one of the most unique experiences ever birthed from the mind of a creator. Experiencing a world through the eyes of a checkpoint guard puts things in perspective. Simple gameplay and a rustic presentation keep Papers, Please above the rung and in our heads as a source of intrigue.

6. Bioshock Infinite

After Bioshock 2, the lackluster sequel to one of the best games of all time, everyone was spinning in anticipation before the release of the latest foray into Philosophy: The videogame. Infinite presented a new look into the world crafted by the folks at Irrational Games which saw the player in the preverbal opposite of Bioshock’s Rapture. The opulent Columbia, a floating city in the sky filled with a living breathing society that the player gets to explore. Even though the gameplay may seem generic the experience as a whole will stand tall in the halls of gaming history.

5. Tomb Raider

Reboot the dying franchise by taking notes from more successful games in the genre, an amazing amount polish and keep its own “girl power” flavor and you have the best Tomb Raider game to date. Shrugging off the years of meme worthy campiness that the older games and Angelina Jolie put on and comes out like a glorious butterfly from the cocoon of mediocrity. Square Enix and the developers seem to love the series and while the game takes a more serious tone it’s all for the setup of a strong character so that future adventures can have that added, relatable layer in the newest addition in the action genre.

4. Injustice: Gods Among Us

What do you get when you marry the tight intuitive controls of street fighter with the colorful and diverse nature of the DC comics universe? One of the greatest fighting games in recent history Gods Among Us is an example of a company pouring its time and resources in what’s really important, the game, or more or less everything you see for the most part. The cut scenes are stiff and the story is old but the game is new and fun which is why it outsold.

3. Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus

Ending the year in a surprising little treat the good folks at Insomniac games delivered a short but sweet addition to the Ratchet and Clank Franchise. Into the Nexus is packaged as a sort of epilogue to the PS3’s “Future” series and stays true to the run and gun/platform gameplay. Complete with ridiculously fun weapons like a gun that turns enemies into snowmen while playing Jingle Bells and a new jetpack mechanic that made the game 10 times as fun as you live out your Looney Tunes/Rocketeer fantasy. A welcome return to form and a sign of goodwill that the franchise is still alive and will most likely thrive in the coming generation.

2. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

A lot can be said about this game but one factor remains clear and that is that this game is the shot of juice that JRPGs needed. Not adrenaline but “juice,” the juice of heart, effort, and a story that can stand among the greats. Ni No Kuni captures that same magic that made the old Final Fantasy games great. Able to balance pathos and levity and create a world filled with endearing characters brought to life by the beautiful artwork done by Studio Ghibli. The gameplay may be frustrating at times but it never gets old and here’s hoping that a franchise was born.

1. Grand Theft Auto 5

The latest in the world sized series that takes the best of the genre and makes the most of its seemingly bloated budget that has since seen turn a profit on at least five times the investment and for good reason. The parodied world of Los Santos and Pike County are the tremendous settings to the parody of California with deserts, mountains and a beautifully realized city are a gigantic playground for madness and mayhem. Three different characters to play with, the game never gets old and gameplay that addresses fun over function. A game that is a non-stop thrill ride that left its mark this year as the greatest.

Have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Here’s to a great New Year and may 2014 be a better time for all. Thank you for reading and as always I’ll see ya later!

DBSLAYER7

Rayman Legend(ary)s

2 Dec

Video games as a medium and as a vehicle for stories have advanced beyond the point of just being toys for children. Video games can tell stories that intrigue people as much as Shakespeare, and look as gorgeous as a new Pixar movie. It’s pretty surprising however to see simplistic games such as the Rayman titles not only survive in the current market but also thrive.

Rayman Legends, released Sept. 3, was developed by the Montpellier branch of Ubisoft and directed by series creator Michel Ancel and the same, beautiful cartoony atmosphere and presentation. Even though Ancel and the team that worked on Origins is present, Legends takes what Origins perfected and attempts to take it further, but it ultimately misses what made Origins a nearly perfect experience.

Set in a surreal world created by an old shaman like character called the “Bubble Dreamer”, Legends features the titular character of Rayman, a limbless hero of sorts, his best friend, a blue frog named Globox, a new character, the warrior princess Barbara and little creatures called the “Teensies” jumping back into action as the nightmares caused by evil Teensies plague their world once again. The group must traverse through different worlds via magical paintings in order to save kidnapped Teensies and magical sprites known as Lums from the Nightmares’ clutches.

RaymanLegends

As convoluted as the story may sound it, like the one found in Origins is extremely cut and dry and borderline random, which is the point. It’s just a simple framing device for the game. There is only one line of discernible dialogue in the whole game while the rest is comedic gibberish.

Legends is a basic 2D side scroll platform game reminiscent of old Mario games with 4-player co-op, and has you jumping, punching, and floating your way through six themed worlds including a Medieval fantasy setting with dragons and ogres, and a mouth-watering food world designed after the Mexican holiday, Dia de Muertos filled with colorful skeletons and cake.

Origins was noted as having incredibly jarring difficulty spikes and Legends addresses this with more forgiving checkpoints and ample foresight into what you have to do in each level, reducing the need for frustrating memorization. Legends features new content like a soccer mini game, costumes, pets and daily challenges for those with internet access.

One major downside with Legends is the new “Murphy” levels which need the assistance of a timed button prompt to let the character of Murphy perform a necessary action in order to advance through the level. These levels came from the game first being a WiiU exclusive and work well with a touch screen but the PS3 and XBOX360 versions of these levels seem tedious and slow down the fast pace the games are known for.

One thing Legends and other Rayman games do get right is the jaw dropping presentation. For one thing the visuals are some of the best produced by artists with expansive, hand-painted backgrounds, environments. While it looks could it sometimes looks “too” good as the characters are as detailed as the backgrounds and leads to them blending in, instead of popping out like in Origins.

MINITORIAL-More detail is bad?: As said above the art has been incredibly improved since the last game but it has also turned into something that is a bit ugly. Having everything, characters, items, enemies and backgrounds have the same level of detail makes everything blend together. While its all still beautiful it actually affects the game itself and not in a good way. Being harder to differentiate characters from the fore ground makes a myriad of levels that much harder to traverse and while more detail is appreciated it should still have good conveyance.

Another source of majesty in this game is the music scored by Christophe Heral and Billy Martin featuring original tunes and some more notable melodies. One of the highlights of Legends is its newly introduced, “Orchestral Chaos” levels which have the player performing actions to the beat of familiar songs like a hard rock cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty,” or a flamenco style cover of “Eye of the Tiger.”

As good as the music is it couldn’t be help feeling repetitive, some of the more prominent songs from Origins were pulled into the game, and multiple levels will use the same track with little to no difference.

Legends is a fantastic title but it is nowhere the level of a complete experience as its predecessor is and feels more like an experimental expansion pack, but consider this experiment a success.

Grand Theft(of time) Auto V

7 Oct

The Grand Theft Auto games, since the first release in 1997, have always been the poster child for the worst side of video game culture, the sex modification “Hot Coffee” scandal, the promiscuous artwork and the fact that the main action of the game and its identity is associated with a criminal offense.

But when a game is around as long as the GTA series, it has the ability to grow into a pop culture phenomenon to not only rival but also obliterate blockbuster movies in terms of sales.

GTA V, released on Sept. 17th, cost around $270 million to make and in the first 24 hours of going on sale it made $800 million dollars. Trouncing previous records set by the likes of Call of Duty: Black Ops which sold more $200 million in about a week.

The effect this game has on the population is immediately apparent, as numbers don’t lie. Grand Theft Auto V has instantly become the best-selling game of all time.

So, is it deserving of its success? Or is it just an overblown fluke of titanic proportions?

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GTA V is the latest installment to the massive series, created by Rockstar Games and subsequent branch Rockstar North, and features similar gameplay and atmosphere from previous titles.

An open world game, advertised as being three times larger than any other map the team has developed, a do whatever you want action game, with guns, cars, planes, bikes, and a myriad of activities ranging from skydiving to tennis, all tied together by a coherent narrative.

The story itself puts the player in the shoes of three separate protagonists who live in the fictional state of San Andreas, and the city of Los Santos which mirror California and Los Angeles respectively.

Franklin, the black youth who’s tired of the small time repo work and has something to prove; Michael, the retired big time criminal whose materialistic family is driving him insane; and finally Trevor, the most deranged, frightening, and nasty videogame character to date.

As light hearted as the GTA series may seem this entry especially needs a gigantic red, “Not for Children or the Squeamish,” sticker plastered on the box art.

GTA V has intense scenes of gory violence, extensively horrid language, and an un-ironic handling of the satirized material found in games like these.

MINI-TORIAL-Everyone’s bad, so it’s okay to kill them.: One thing I’ve noticed about the GTA games is that I never feel guilty about a single soul. This could be that I’m a rational human being and that I’m not actually hurting anyone, or it could be that everyone you meet in the games, NPC or otherwise, are awful ugly people. You never see children or kindly old people, just a wide array of 30-something A$$-holes waiting to curse at you or flip you off for no reason. This of course makes it easier to expend these jerks as you revel in your own debauchery as one of the three awful human beings you play.But amidst the vulgar story and presentation there is a beautifully realized game. The city of Los Santos feels alive with the chatter of NPC’s, sounds of sirens music and driving cars makes you feel like you’re living in the world.

You can level up different abilities of each character by performing mini-games. A shooting range will improve weapon handling, as well as performing in triathlons will increase a character’s stamina.

Driving and handling vehicles in the game has been incredibly improved from the more “realistic” driving found in titles like GTA IV. The graphics are top notch, as the game squeezes every last bit of power out of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Buyer, beware though since this working of both systems has led to some major graphical issues.

On the PS3 the game will randomly crash or become corrupted to the point of being unplayable and requires a reinstall of the game data which can take up to 10 to 20 minutes at a time.

As for the Xbox 360 the game has to install the data from one disc and play it on a separate disc just to keep up, and if you install both discs the game will lag to a third of the games actual speed. The PC version couldn’t come sooner.

But when the game is playing successfully it’s easy to get lost in the world as you switch between the different characters and commit to different missions, the highlight of which are the Bank heists that allow you to plan out from different angles and let you make your own team to perform the job.

As GTA and open world games in general go this is the gold standard. While the story and character dialogue is hit or miss the game as a whole is fantastic, filled with time sinking side missions, a whole city to explore and three different perspectives in which to enjoy it, GTA V does indeed deserve its phenomenal success.

Papers, Please(Try This Game!)

5 Sep

Today big budget, gigantic games, featuring epic storylines and graphics to make Pixar look weak can maybe crank out 10-20 hours of gameplay, and then you’re done. Why is it that a ten dollar indie game about paper work can deliver up to 50 hours of engaging entertainment?

The game, Papers, Please, is a fairly new indie title and is basically an immigration border checkpoint simulator. That may sound boring but the interesting thing about it is that it was created by Lucas Pope who designed, scored, wrote and coded the entire game by himself.

Papers, Please has the appearance of an old MS-DOS computer game and only the most basic of animations and clip art graphics set to nothing but the sound of the equipment you use and your own breathing making it more realistic than first looks show.

You play a family man in the fictional country of Arstotzka which is set in a parody of Eastern Europe during the Cold War era. You have been selected to run the border as an inspector and must decide whether or not a person is allowed into the country.

You have a set salary and get paid an extra five credits when you successfully let people into the country but if you let people through who have incorrect information you will be penalized. The tension and excitement comes from trying to get as many people in the country as possible, without making a mistake and making enough money to feed and take care of your family, who without sufficient funds will eventually starve or get ill and die.

Even after that the game may not sound that appealing but there is strength in its simplicity. Several things happen in and out of the checkpoint and your life and job effects the life of everyone who comes through the gate.

The basics of gameplay is verifying someone’s papers through a point and click interface and checking various things such as name, age, height, weight, expiration date focusing mostly on the passport and stamp it approved or denied on your discretion. This can get hectic as the days go by and your miniscule desk space forces you to check things almost one at a time all while having a time limit.

A conspiracy involving a secret organization, daily wanted lists and even some more humorous characters that  succeed to frustrate you as they waste every precious second you have dedicated to doing your job and taking care of your family.

This is a fantastic game and a testament to how an emphasis on how a plot is interwoven through the gameplay to make an unforgettable experience.

Two swollen thumbs up.

Thanks and See Ya Later!

DBSLAYER7