Posts Tagged ‘2013’

Foul Play Review

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Foul Play Boxart

Developer: Mediatonic
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360 – XBLA
Review code provided

“All the world’s a stage” is a quote which well reflects the realm of gaming. Games themselves tend to be visually represented stories, often mimicking tricks used first from plays or films. But every once in a while we get a game that doesn’t eschew that fact. Instead, we get something like Foul Play in which the lead character narrates his story and then acts out memories through a stage play.

Baron Dashforth is a self-proclaimed “daemon hunter” as well as a gentleman. That much is evidenced through things like his top hat and mustache. Despite his supposed gentlemanly nature though we are tasked with making Dashforth brawl his way through copious enemies and stages. From a beginning in Egypt all the way to the hellish daemon plane, there’s a lot to see.

Fights themselves can easily become button mashing fests. In order to lessen this, developer Mediatonic chose to offer special challenges on each stage. There are three at a time and often ask players to either defeat enemies in a certain time frame, keep civilians safe, or destroy enemies in a certain fashion. Successful completion of all three grants the player a new reward. The hardest challenge to complete almost always ends up being the one that asks players to chain successful attacks in excess of 100 hits.

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What makes pulling off a 100+ combo difficult? Primarily, it is the controls but the visuals also play into it. For one, Dashforth is small and not particularly speedy. Because the game takes place on a “3D” plane, he can move into the foreground, middleground, or background. Getting from one side to the other is pretty slow, even after gaining a useful ability in the third act. With not enough speed, you can find yourself losing a chain simply because you can’t get to another enemy in time.

The art style also causes trouble. Many of the characters are the same skin tone as Dashforth and about his size. When they aren’t dressed up in costume, it’s easy to lose track of your character among them. Similarly, when a massive enemy (or group of them) appear, they can completely obscure the view of your character. Static objects become see-through when you’re behind them so why can’t the big baddies do the same? Then, when there are enemies clustered all over each other, it is simply easy to not notice one is prepping an attack that will break your combo. Dodging and blocking is very easy and quick, but you can’t dodge effectively if you can’t see what’s coming!

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Players can enter into Foul Play solo or engage in local or online co-op. When in co-op the game makes more sense. This is because story scenes feature both characters and then have the second disappear once the single player resumes control. Perhaps the story itself isn’t that exciting, but it is able to offer some laughs along the way.

I did not much care for character designs, but that’s not to say the art as a whole is awful. This is not the case. The animation is smooth and the play aesthetic is used well. Heading to a new part of the screen often has backdrops being switched out, and new things hanging from wires off the ceiling. Similarly, enemies dress up as crabs, bears, and more and you can always see their face tucked into the costume. The concept of having the game be one big stage play is executed well thanks to the art design.

For as cute and silly as the visuals are though there is still work that needs to be done to tune up gameplay. It is easy enough to play but frustrating in other design areas. Even with all moves unlocked, it’s still hard to keep attack chains going far beyond 100. At times, it feels like a chore and that’s something you never want a game to become. Foul Play is one game that seems to emphasize style over substance. Pick it up if you and a friend absolutely adore brawlers and can run through the five acts together.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Ghosts in the Machine Review

Ghosts in the Machine Featured

Ghosts in the Machine

Author(s): Rollin Bishop, Andrew Vanden Bossche, Ian Miles Cheong, Shelley Du, Denis Farr, Ryan Morning, Maddy Myers, Lana Polansky, Ashton Raze, Matt Riche, Dylan Sabin, Alan Williamson, Alois Wittwer
Editor(s): Lana Polansky, Brendan Keogh
Purchase: Amazon, Gumroad, Lulu

Ghosts in the Machine is an intriguing anthology of short stories by a cast of well-known people in the games writing scene and artists. At least, they appear as figureheads of the communities I follow on Twitter. It’s likely the gaming “majority”, whatever that consists of, is less aware of those invested in critically discussing video games.

In any case, the stories aren’t necessarily all about games, but use them as the starting point. Game glitches, the things we all laugh at or get angry about, are what each story shares – although in very different ways. Because Ghosts in the Machine is a special sort of book, I’m going to try to give the review a conversational tone, responding to the short stories with my own thoughts rather than necessarily dissecting them.

Of course, a standard review will also be provided. Take a look at that if you don’t want to see my ramblings. Or read both! With that said, here is the review.

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Dragon Fantasy Book II Review

Dragon Fantasy Book II Featured

Dragon Fantasy Book II Boxart

Developer: Muteki Corporation
Publisher: Muteki Corporation
Platform: PS3, Vita (Reviewed)
Review code provided

Many genres fall in and out of favor over the years but one that has stood proudly throughout time is the RPG. Popular in various flavors across the world, the genre has produced some of the best known series’ in all of gaming history. Every once in a while you have one which attempts to poke fun at itself, but they’re not as common as you might think. Dragon Fantasy Book II attempts to inject a RPG with some much-needed humor.

This is evidenced from the very start when you are introduced to the hero Ogden. Instead of being a spry young male, he is instead a bald, bearded man. Although I did not play the original game, it doesn’t seem you need to. Players are easily ushered into the world and get going on their quest. However, players do begin with characters already leveled up somewhat to compensate for the first chapter.

The first thing that players notice (and what may attract them to the game to begin with) is the graphics. Dragon Fantasy Book II is made to look like a 16-Bit RPG that would be right at home on Genesis or SNES. However, the enemies seem more like Earthbound creatures sometimes with a man in a shark suit and rocks with pirate hats in just the first area.

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One interesting feature of the game is that the battles are not random. Instead, enemies can be seen on the field at all times, meaning you can sometimes avoid them. This is mostly just a technical truth though because most of the time pathways are so small you won’t be able to avoid an enemy. Other times, they will jump out of the bushes and initiate a fight themselves. There’s a dash of Pokemon in the gameplay too as you can catch weakened enemies and add them to your party.

Unfortunately, there is one gameplay based problem that is continuous. After walking into a new screen (area, building, etc), if you continue to press in a certain direction that direction will not function upon entering the new area. If you let go and then press the direction again it will work, but there’s something odd going on to keep it from being mapped initially. The issue is not game breaking of course but is annoying when all you want to do is hammer up to hurriedly run through an area. In an area that is sure to annoy writers, a fair amount of the text also features typos.

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I played the game on Vita because that’s where it seems the best fit. It is suited easily toward quick bursts of play since you can just fight through a few crowds of enemies before pausing. The game also happens to be fully playable with both controller buttons and touch screen. Using the touch screen actually is my preferred way of navigating the big button menus. You can move Ogden around the screen with it too, but my thumbs aren’t keen on hovering over the screen continuously, considering the size and heft of the Vita.

Dragon Fantasy Book II is a cute little RPG that packs a lot of gameplay value into the experience. It isn’t a very in-depth game or up to par with the best SNES visuals, but it’s likely it still will exceed expectations. If you like classic RPGs then give it a look. Just be aware that it is rough around the edges. Still, it’s hard to go wrong with a game that oozes an obvious love for RPGs of yore.


Score: 3
3 out of 5 alpacas


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Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Review

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Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Boxart

Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: Frictional Games
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

In my opinion, Amnesia: The Dark Descent spurred a resurgence in horror games when it launched in 2010. There had been games where you were weaponless and pursued by monstrous beings before, but this one hit it big. Frictional Games became far more well known than they had been with their entire Penumbra series and we still see the results of Amnesia’s popularity today.

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Sweet Fuse: At Your Side Review

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Developer: Idea Factory
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: PSP

Sweet Fuse is an otome visual novel that has an incredibly weird premise.  Your uncle, Keiji Inafune (yes, THAT Keiji Inafune), has built a video game-themed amusement park and you’re invited to its grand opening.  Everything is going swell until the evil Count Hogstein takes over the park and all its staff hostage. It’s up to you and six handsome men to brave Hogstein’s seven deadly games, lest he kills all the hostages and blows up your uncle’s beloved park.

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There’s still time for love, though! All six guys are romanceable at the very start of the game and have their own routes. There’s also a seventh guy whose route is unlocked when you finish Sweet Fuse at least once. To my surprise, I grew to love every guy over the course of my playthroughs (well, except Meoshi). I say it’s definitely worth it to go through every single route that Sweet Fuse has to offer! Even if the romance aspect in Sweet Fuse is minimal, there’s still enough of it to satisfy anyone that is in search of that ooey-gooey stuff.

Sweet Fuse‘s story is surprisingly serious and deep. As you go through each route, you figure out that Hogstein isn’t the nonsensical villain that he’s first introduced as. There’s actually a reason that he’s decided to have all of you participate in his games! All the guys also have some rather interesting backstories that eventually intertwine. I can’t say too much without spoiling the whole plot, though.

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Some of you folks may be concerned that Sweet Fuse is too “girly.” Like I mentioned previously, the romance is kept to a minimum and the game instead relies more on action and drama. It actually feels a lot like Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, if that happens to be a visual novel that you like. Sweet Fuse is an otome game that everyone can enjoy.

I think the only aspects of Sweet Fuse that disappointed me were the rather large amount of typos and the “puzzles.” Before I began the game, I was under the impression that the puzzles advertised would actually be solved by you. Instead, the characters in the game usually come to conclusions for the puzzles themselves (oftentimes bumbling). Sometimes, you’ll get the opportunity to push your group into the right direction by selecting the correct keyword during the “Explosive Insight” phase, but it’s not very exciting. 

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That stuff is easily pushed aside when compared to everything I love about Sweet Fuse, though. What I believed was going to be a silly little visual novel actually turned out to be a very emotional and entertaining experience. If you own a PSP/Vita and like visual novels, then definitely get your hands on Sweet Fuse. 


Pink Score: 5

5 out of 5 alpacas


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Killer is Dead Review

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Killer Is Dead Cover

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platform: 360, PS3

Oh, Killer is Dead, you showed so much promise. It seems with every new Goichi Suda (Suda 51) game I am left wanting more than I get. Or maybe, my expectations are far too high. Perhaps I’m inadvertently a part of the “everything new sucks” club. It’s hard to know why games helmed with his name continue to disappoint me but they do. So let’s talk about why!

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See No Evil Review

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Developer: Bigfingers
Publisher: Bigfingers
Platform: PC
Received review code

See No Evil is the newest niche adventure game on the market by developer Bigfingers. Of course, even most adventure game fans will probably be unaware of its arrival. Why is that? It seems most likely due to the fact that this is a bara game. With that said, it manages to push past whatever notions people might have in their heads about what a bara game must be. As it turns out, See No Evil is a lovely title that deserves a much larger audience.

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Saya no Uta ~ The Song of Saya Review

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Developer: Nitroplus
Publisher: JAST USA
Platform: PC

What a fabulously strange visual novel Saya no Uta is. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I dove into it one night. But, boy, am I glad I did.

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Experiment 12 Review

Experiment 12 Featured

Experiment 12 Boxart

Developer: 12 different developers
Publisher: Self-published
Platform: PC

If you’ve been searching for something very unusual to play then Experiment 12 is something that needs to be on your radar. It is a collection of 12 games from different independent developers. For the most part, those involved are also well known within the community such as Jasper Byrne (Lone Survivor), Richard Perrin (Kairo), and Zaratustra (Eversion).  The multitude of developers decided to each create their own game in the span of 72 hours.

The main experimentation of Experiment 12 was not simply to make a game in a short period of time since that’s what game jams do regularly. Instead, each member of the team had to craft their chapter, pass it on, and the next person would continue the story from what was currently available. Therefore, the story was being generated bit by bit by each member on the team as they finally got their shot at making a chapter.

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Some of the chapters are longer than others but most take 5 to 20 minutes to complete. Things start out creepy and end creepy but there are definitely changes in between. For example, Ben Powell’s segment gives you gameplay like Missile Command in reverse. A few other sections completely change the “feel” of the narrative, but it’s not a flaw.

Only a few of the chapters are difficult making it a good entry point to indie games for many if they are interested. Experiment 12 is free and worth plunking an hour or two into just to see a creatively designed game. I would be interested in seeing more multi-developer work like this come out from far less ‘recognizable’ names.


Score 3:5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity Review

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Gates to Infinity Featured

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Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: 3DS

The main Pokémon games always receive lots of love. The spin-offs, however… They can be hit-or-miss. Usually miss.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is one of those series that appeals to a very small audience. Others dismiss the games as too repetitive. Sure, Gates to Infinity can feel very tedious at points. But it’s a dungeon-crawler; what do you expect? In any case, I didn’t mind the repetitiveness much — Gates to Infinity offers a lot to take the edge off of that. The construction of your own customizable “Paradise” is especially appealing. You’ll spend quite a while playing Gates to Infinity trying to perfect your Paradise and make it beautiful.

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One big thing that’s a problem for most people is the small selection of Pokémon to select as your player character and recruit. The previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games offered almost every Pokémon known up to that point to be recruitable. It is quite a shame that Spike Chunsoft wasn’t able to meet expectations, but I assume it might be an issue like having to create every Pokémon in 3D and animating them.

Gates to Infinity also offers some pretty gorgeous graphics and animation, as well as a touching plot (the ending seriously almost made me cry).

I enjoyed every minute of Gates to Infinity and there’s still so much to do. If you liked the previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles, then give Gates to Infinity a shot.


 Pink Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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