Mirror’s Edge – Review

Since it went free on PSN, I went ahead and did a second play through of Mirror’s Edge. And boy does this game try to be “edgy.”  The 2008, under-the-radar release about a free-running female in a world where every building has been painted in mono (and every gamer seems to wax nostalgic about on the internet) still has its moments of brilliance. The game is definitely one that made innovative gameplay its first priority. Unfortunately, having a memorable art style was its second priority, and there is no third priority to be spoken of. The game has a few good things going for it. Ultimately however, Mirror’s Edge is like having an awesome dog that can do  really cool tricks… that also makes a point to take dumps in your house, humps the leg of every  guest you ever have, and occasionally tries to smother you with a pillow as you sleep.  This review could get ugly, so it’s best to start with what Mirror’s Edge gets right. The shoulder button control scheme can seem pretty funky at first, but actually functions intuitively with a little play time. Wall running over incredible heights and looking down was the highlight of my time in the game. Playing ME is fun when things are working as they should. That’s a pretty general statement for all videogames, but it’s crucial here. The game feels slick as a pubescent boy’s greasy forehead when the game lets you know what you’re supposed to be doing. And being able to see the path and execute it perfectly had me feeling like a parkour master. But that is something the game rarely does a good job of expressing. The gimmick in the trailers and pre-release coverage about the game’s “Runner Vision,” which would dot the way forward by making certain things in the world an obvious shade of red, was awfully misleading. The game decides to completely forget about this mechanic in many levels, most notably within the frustrating interior areas. Mirror’s Edge often devolves into a not-so-rousing game of “where the fuck do you want me to go?!?” In a game about parkour, a form of movement literally centered around getting from point to point in the fastest manner possible, that’s just unacceptable. Here’s some of the game’s broken logic: “Okay, I’m in a room with 3 different doors. Since none of them are red, I can’t go through them, despite the fact that every time I’ve gone through a door before, I had just kicked it open regardless of locks. So I need to find a way out of this room via vent in the ceiling in the most elaborate and unnecessary way I can think of.” The game’s lack of direction isn’t exclusive to the interiors either. Plenty of rooftop areas, and once in a particularly badly designed scaffolding section, had no clear indication of what to head towards or how. The button that points the camera in a general direction you want to go would often spaz out and point towards radically different locations, none of which were right. Don’t you just love when things don’t work the way they should?At least the game looks good, right? How could it ever go bad with style like that? To be fair, the game does actually look very, very nice. The relatively sterile environments and the use of the pop art color scheme does allow for some surprisingly good looking graphics for its time. The level of detail put into the game’s textures and aesthetics is worthy of praise. The way in which far-off surroundings blur when something is up close to your face was a small detail I appreciated DICE having the attention for. However, the palette swapping levels grew tiresome eventually, and certain areas literally hurt my head looking at them. The hell that was the fiery red-orange warehouse was not only full of the aforementioned feelings of being lost, but started to strain my eyes to the point where I literally had to stop playing. It was taking me an absurdly long time attempting to figure out (yet again!) where the game needed me to go, and I just could not look at the game any more. (Pro tip: the vent you’re looking for is on the floor and only visible when you’re standing right over it!) Mirror’s Edge had me thisclose to a “The Yellow Wallpaper” style breakdown. Turns out that just like everything else in this game, there are sections that are really nice, and others that had me sacrificing goats in the hopes that maybe Satan might rescue me if I sell my soul. I just can’t wrap my head around the need to drench some areas in bold colors, when they’re used as nice accents in others. I highly doubt that fluorescent blue carpeting will ever be considered good interior decorating.  I suppose Mirror’s Edge is commendable for having tried something new, even if it is just glorified concept art.MirrorsEdge 2008-12-16 01-27-46-40So far, the things I’ve described are problems that can kinda-sorta be looked past. They’re the kind of things that make you go, “huh, well it is the first entry in a new series trying some new things. They could probably fix that in a sequel.” Sure, the ultra intense bloom lighting (and the fact that your in-game eyes never seem to adjust to brightness) will fry your retinas. Sure, it’s a little sad that even for someone who has played the game before, knowing where to go and what to do is often a guessing game. But the real stinker here is the convoluted, confusing, poorly addressed, flat, cliche ridden, Esurance commercial-looking excuse for a plot. Not only does this game completely lack any worthwhile narrative motivation for the player throughout the course of its length, but this game might just have one of the worst endings in videogame history. I mean that with a completely straight face. If you’re not willing to just accept that the story is terrible and just laugh at how nonsensical it is, you will be angry when you reach its lackluster, lifeless, incomprehensible conclusion. Be prepared for that going in. I recommend just skipping all the cutscenes (which look dreadful, by the way) as soon as you can, so you can get back to wall-running and getting stuck because you don’t study the game like speedrunners do. I’ve gotten prizes inside boxes of Cracker Jacks that were more engrossing than this.I bet you thought I was done ranting, didn’t you? Well you’re wrong. So, so, so wrong. I just need to point out how poorly utilized the Faith character is in this game. She’s become one of those instantly recognizable videogame characters, and is always looking like a right badass in any artwork she’s in, but she is a woefully empty shell of a human being. This game had a lot of potential to make a relatable (or at least mildly interesting) female lead. Somehow, even as the protagonist of the story, Faith manages to have no arc whatsoever. The game literally puts you in her funny looking ninja shoes, and the most the audience ever gets out of her is a sort of vanilla, tough chick trope. It’s more than just missed opportunity, it’s bad writing. Faith has about as much personality as a slightly damp paper towel, and seems to be impervious to conveying any emotion. On a couple occasions, I think she might have accidentally had feelings, like when the stereotypical guy-in-earpiece-who-tells-you-to-run dies a bloodless death toward the end. But then she’d quickly correct that and go right back to being as one note as the walls she walks on. It turned out that I unintentionally began giving her a persona due to the way I played. Since I took every opportunity I had to gun down almost every optional enemy in the game, Faith actually became a character. Weirdly though, that character was a cold-blooded, sociopathic rebel/terrorist with no qualms about murdering duty-bound security and police forces (probably with families), all without a shred of remorse for her victims… Normally, I laugh at the hipster notion of Ludonarrative Dissonance, but when a character is this bland, it’s much easier to project different connotations in place of a real personality. It made me laugh, so I guess that’s one thing.MirrorsEdge 2009-01-18 17-30-05-86This is a genuinely difficult game to recommend. Probably more so than it was when this game was actually fresh. Oddly enough, I still feel like the sequel that’s currently under development has potential to make amends for the sins of this game (so long as the rumor of Anita Sarkeesian’s involvement isn’t true), but for now, it really depends on what you’re willing to put up with from a game. The game can be a clunky eye-sore sometimes, but it’s relatively short and the first-person platforming is an intriguing break from the mold. You might find this game easier than I did. You might find it harder, too. To be perfectly honest though. The only thing that will keep you going forward is to see the way the next area is colored. The plot is just unspeakably bad. I’m talking M. Night Shamalamadingdong level trash. (If anyone tells you different, they are lying to you and you should never speak to that liar again.) Before writing this review, I thought about how poetic the game’s title is. Most games have pretty straightforward names concerning what their game is about. Now I realize that just like the game it’s for, “Mirror’s Edge” is just something that’s meant to sound nice and doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s all a lot of gimmicks and cliches. Tentatively, I say go ahead and give it a shot. Maybe just start with a demo of it even. If the gameplay doesn’t grab you somewhere within that span of time, nothing in this game will.

Obligatory Number at the End: 6/10

Batman: Arkham Asylum – Review

Can you believe that only 5 years ago, WB games and other publishing studios weren’t trying to scam people out of their money? At least not in the way that has notoriously taken firm root since. The first of the Arkham games has, get this, only TWO suits for Batman. Unlike the sequels to follow, you won’t find any option to spend out the ass for alternate costumes! Crazy, I know. It was a simpler time. A wholesome time; with proper moral values. I give this game 10/10. *gazes blankly yet fondly at nothing in particular*  … oh shit. Wait. I actually have to critique this game. Well, I guess it was a good thing then to start off with something good about it being an older title. Because as I’ve found out, when looking back at games retrospectively, it is difficult to find the same level of enjoyment from elements that got better in quality as the series went forward. Kind of like Emma Watson’s looks in those dreadful Harry Potter movies. (Getting all the HP fans out of here now) After playing through the game again, I was slightly taken aback by how much my memory of the game was tinted in rose. The game isn’t bad by any means, but the series definitely improved from here. Yes, naysayers, Arkham Origins is better than this.You, the Batman, have just caught the Joker for the umpteenth time and have brought him back to Arkham Asylum. The game has you stroll through the immensely dense security process, as you accompany the purple-wearing clown prince while the opening credits appear on screen.  The Joker is currently restrained to an upright gurney, and multiple guards armed with riot gear and automatic weapons line the hallways, as you would expect.  Then the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen happens. Once they reach the first area with rudimentary cell blocks, (not even the kind you would want to put a psychopath of this magnitude either, mind you) for no good reason whatsoever, Joker is transitioned out of his Hannibal Lector restraints and put in handcuffs, and the guards around him have been reduced to two, unarmored, mall cop types and a doctor… Needless to say, I was unimpressed when Joker beat them up and got away. In fact, I kind of rooted for him a little bit, considering how he exposed how incompetent the security was. Batman is literally within eyeshot of him, yet Joker is able to pull a Dr. Robotnik and run away. The entire reason this game even happens had me face palming so hard it left a crater. (Lazy writing is not commendable, Rocksteady!) But if you’ve witnessed the incredibly ludicrous ending of this game, then you’re already aware of the questionable narrative. The main plot functions as a flimsy excuse to have Batman beating up bad dudes (who all have the same 3 voices) and crawling through all the vents of a facility so dilapidated, it’s a small miracle such an unsanitary sanitarium hasn’t been demolished yet. (I guess they wanted their asylum to have a spooky vibe in case something like this game happened.) At any rate, this is no Batman: Year One or Dark Knight; just something campy to get things going. The story of Arkham Asylum isn’t the only component reeling from the effects of dubious decision making. The series might have taken a few too many liberties with the character design in this one. Central pillars like Batman and Joker feel tonally right, and I liked Killer Croc’s monumental, foreboding presence which worked well with his level’s unique, anxiety inducing jump scares. Poison Ivy is kind of ridiculous, (am I really supposed to believe that a teensy blouse and a piece of lettuce was the uniform assigned to her by a mental institution??) but overall she’s alright. In fact, most of the characters who were left intact are all just fine and dandy. However… the other weenies who call Arkham home are pretty stupid. Harley Quinn looks like a trashy, 10 dollar Tijuana hooker wearing boots that would have looked terrible even in the early 2000’s. Bane is an even bigger, dumber version of the meathead Joel Schumacher made him into. And Scarecrow… is just a mess. I actually used to be fine with his 2spooky4me redesign until I really thought about it for five seconds and realized he got turned into a knock-off Freddy Krueger, right down to the nightmarish dream sequences Batman must escape from. Seriously, what is with that glove? Did he watch Nightmare on Elm Street and get inspired? Why does he need four needles attached to his hand? Wouldn’t just the one do fine? Is he really going to be doing any poking with that pinky finger needle? How did he get that glove anyhow? Was it on him when he was captured or did he make it from needles there? In that case, why is there fear serum in it? Wouldn’t they have emptied that out? Or did he concoct that too somehow? How could he have made that intricate device in the hour or so that he was free? Also, why does he have a gas mask on if he uses a fluid to induce fear in this universe? Wouldn’t gas be a smarter way of doing it anyway, since you wouldn’t have to be in arm’s reach to affect people? Is he a fighter now? Is that like some sort of gauntlet? Does he honestly think Batman wouldn’t be able to stop a guy who is basically fighting with one hand? Does his obsession with fear now include transmitting diseases to the people he pokes? Why are so many nerds dressing up like him on Google Images? I’m going to stop now before the lack of logic makes me go insane, too. At least his levels are mildly clever, and are an interesting diversion from the main game. That’s what really matters, right?Wow, all this nit-picking made me neglect the majority of what this game is about. Y’know, in case that part has sort of slipped under your radar in the past 5 years., it’s about you being a bad ass in a cape, who has spider sense (?), and is really good at giving roundhouse kicks.  I will say this, though. The “freeflow” combat system, the one that kicked off this style of aggressive, multiple enemy fighting in games (which everyone already seems to have forgotten started here for some reason) is actually somewhat unreliable in the first entry. Too often I’d find myself in a rhythm, enjoying my role as the head chef at the All You Can Eat Knuckle Sandwiches Buffet, and suddenly see my 40+ hit combos implode because Batman decided to punch next to the guy I wanted him to, as if swinging for the jaw of the baddie’s invisible BFF. The game has no visual targeting or aiming system when it comes to melee combat, so your combos are always at the mercy of the game’s internal aiming. When it works perfectly, and you’re mixing in special moves and batarangs and all that jazz, it’s exactly that: perfect. But every now and then, Batman says “fuck you, I’m a pacifist now,” and that is absolutely infuriating in the Challenge mode. I don’t know what it is about Challenge modes in games, but they always seem to reveal the biggest problems with the game. In order to get the 3 Bat rating, it’s imperative that Bats gets big combos. And some of those missions are already harder than a priest at Altar Boy Con 2015, so it’s not fun when the secret, ever-present enemy making things unintentionally difficult is a wonky targeting system. Collectibles are the fat, sweaty imps of game design. Sometimes they’re necessary, other times they’re not. Sometimes they add a fun diversion to the main game, other times you’re left questioning why the hell they were even put into the game. I like to think that Arkham Asylum’s Riddler trophies and “riddles” are more good than bad. The riddles are generally just a game of eye spy, and the collectibles are mostly dependent on whether you have the right gadget to get them, but it works well in tandem with the Metroid-esque levels the game employs. Returning to previous locations with new items (implying Batman packs unprepared in the Arkham-verse…) means getting that one green question mark that evaded you earlier and the reward of de-cluttering the map. Despite having already solved all the riddles back in 2009, I still found it worth going ahead and getting the 100%. The only problem though is that you shouldn’t expect to get anything out of it. The game’s final prize for solving all of Riddler’s crap (when did he have the time to do this, by the way?) is literally a 1940’s styled radio broadcast in which you can hear the Riddler’s hideout getting raided by the police. Yep, not even a cutscene. It’s not very good either. It plays out like a novice foley artist trying to pass a sound design class or something. You can almost see the Riddler shaking his fist at the meddling Batman, it’s so cornball. For a second, I half thought Chester Cheetah was going to show up, because that finale was DANGEROUSLY CHEESY.Arkham Asylum is what we in the biz call a “juicy contradiction.” Where “we”  refers to myself, and “biz” refers to narcotics smuggling. Stupid jokes aside, my terminology still stands. The game has a lot of personality and doesn’t feel at all like it’s ripping off other successful titles. It’s originality, structure and excellent handling of an existing IP does enough to rank it amongst the best comic book based videogames ever made. Everyone’s already heard all of that from a million and one other review sites, though. The truth is that the game has its fair share of flaws that ought to have been smoothed out. As well as the ones I already mentioned, other minor problems include, but are not limited to, some muddy textures, architecture that makes no sense (like one room that batman must enter in via a grate, even though the room looks like a normal office with paper work and everything), and the fact that 9 out of 10 NPCs look like rubber dolls outside of the hi-res cutscenes. These are things that became more noticeable after having played the sequels that fixed and added on new features that made this game seem very rudimentary by comparison. Definitely still worth playing even if you’re only casually aware of Batman comics. Not quite the 10 out of 10 I gave it earlier, but the game still gets more things right than it gets wrong.

Obligatory Number at the End: 8/10

Footnote: This is a thing that exists.

Mortal Kombat: Arcade Kollection – Review

Considering the fact that Capcom has been able to make a killing just by restoring and reselling its back-catalog of 2D arcade fighters (Street Fighter, Marvel Vs Capcom, Darkstalkers) on current-gen online marketplaces, it really was only a matter of time until Netherrealm Studios did the same for its own notorious fighting series. The 90’s arcade games that catalyzed the formation of the ESRB rating system due to its “realistic” display of violence and gore, return in the form of the Arcade Kollection. The digital download title includes Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Ultimate MK3, and all are given a decent enough paint job and a handful of different viewing options to make it as much of an authentic experience as possible. However, it’s a lot of that very same authenticity that highlights exactly why Mortal Kombat had for so long been considered  entertainment first, as opposed to a more balanced, competitive fighter. In the end, the Arcade Kollection comes up short, proving itself to be a neat retrospective novelty whose remaining interest lies only with the small audience willing to look past its flaws. The Arcade Kollection can be boiled down to 3 modes. Each of the arcade cabinets can be selected from the main menu, and each allows for solo ladders, offline versus, as well as online competition. And coming from a Mortal Kombat fan, it’s unfortunate to say that all three modes of play suffer from issues caused either from questionable game design or technical issues. The one mode that still has the potential to be fun, offline competitive play, is marred by issues related to out-dated control schemes and finishing moves made needlessly difficult to pull off. Sure, it’s technically not a problem to adhere as much as possible to the original game, but why are strange new criteria added? For instance, the Animality finishing move now requires an act of Mercy to be given by the winner. Seriously, these games aren’t exactly packing as much depth as the newer fighting games, so why make fatalities nigh-impossible to perform? I mean, who would be playing this game for any other reason beside, “I want to do the old school fatalities”? The fact that the original release of UMK3 had the option for one button fatalities and this game doesn’t have that is absolutely bewildering. Instead, you and your friends can have fun doing things like: struggling with asinine button combinations, struggling to know where the game needs you to be, not having enough time to move into the required position, and inexplicably not having it work regardless. Despite playing with various groups on separate occasions, we would always eventually give up on trying to do any of them. The time limit is ridiculous, and the crushing frustration of failing them for unknown reasons is just dispiriting. It was a stroke of luck if it ever worked. So the question becomes: if you’re going to try and sell games that haven’t aged gracefully, and have fundamentally much less to offer than modern titles, why not simplify, or at least give the possibility to simplify fatalities? Instead of  over-complicating your one cool gimmick, maybe let the players enjoy the pixelated bloodshed by implementing advances from the new MK. Thankfully, on a positive note, the game has all your special moves in the pause screen; something the originals did not. But considering how meh each round ended, there never was a need to get any good at really learning a character since we’d moved on to different games anyway. There is another mode of play in which the game does require you to do more than button mash. The single-player offering remains just as painfully, stupidly, annoyingly brutal as the originals. Mortal Kombat 9’s ladder modes can be tough, but they are easy mode compared to the cheap, quarter-stealing AI of the arcade originals. The game difficulty spikes at such an exponential rate, that once you reach the bosses, it will take either a miracle or resorting to a cheap exploit to win. Never have I felt victory quite like dethroning Shao Kahn in UMK3. The original MK proved to be only slightly less nightmarish to complete, if solely because you could count all the moves in the game on your fingers. The developers had no problem making the bosses capable of killing you in less than 5 hits. I understand that this sort of design was intentional, so as to rob 90s kids of their money. I decided to run a little experiment for the hardest of the three games, MK II. I was going to count up how much money it would cost for me to win. Results of my scientific inquiry: this game is a mother f*cker! It was so difficult, that once I’d realized it was impossible to beat on normal, that even on Easy difficulty, it was still harder than an Expert level MK9 ladder. The game is not only cheap, but it legitimately cheats too. The game’s programming works so that in harder fights, the computer can read your button input, and decide more often than not, that instead of letting you make contact with certain moves, it will instead hit you with a grab, at a speed faster than a human could. The nano second timing can best be used with this analogy. Imagine a fan and a lamp in the same room. Also imagine a switch for the fan you can turn on. Now imagine every time you switched on the fan, the lamp turned on first… and then a heap of dung was thrown into the fan. The average gamer would’ve lost 25-30 dollars trying to overcome this, pardon my French, utter bullshit. It also didn’t help that MK II’s bosses required me to switch from my preferred fighter to other ones, based on the fact that mine did not have something I could spam to win, unlike Mileena, whom I’m convinced will be the only person I’ll ever beat that ladder with. Especially since these ladders left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don’t plan on ever returning to them to try other characters. Such a shame considering the endings I did get were rather humorous. Finally, we need to talk about the online play, which is nearly extinct at this point. The online might’ve been a serviceable alternative from other, newer games at one point, but is a barren wasteland now. Of the handful of people I could connect with, nearly half of the games were crippled with varying degrees of lag, both input-wise and visibly. Some games would just crash after a minute or so, while others chugged on like a laptop trying to run Crysis at max settings. I decided I’d tough it out though, even if just to get the trophies and walk away. It became a chore, and the aforementioned problems made it a challenge to enjoy myself. It’s really sad. But then again, Mortal Kombat really should be played with someone holding Controller 2, anyway.The big takeaway from this review should be that this game is only for those who are true Kombatophiles. And even then, someone with that kind of love for the game would probably already own the original Genesis versions. What may have been revolutionary for the time is now just hokey, dated fun at best (and agonizing at worst). The games don’t provide enough content to keep interest and is too punishing for so little reward. It’s hard to even say the cost is justified for this game. Honestly, you could just go onto youtube and watch all the fatalities and character endings without wasting your short life on trying to do them all yourself here. Personally, the only reason I’m still keeping it is because of my adoration of the MK brand and for arcade games AND I never got to own the originals. It’s so niche that I couldn’t even bet on anybody reading this also fitting that criteria because all the bookies would have taken that one off the board. It’s a strange critique to call a game “too hard,” but in this case it’s true. Fighting the bosses is like pulling teeth; not exactly an experience that will have you crawling back for more. (unless you’re Likes also include ballgags, chains, and dressing like an extra from the Matrix sequels) The 1v1 could be fun if the online were any good, but sadly it isn’t. And even more depressingly, the iPhone version of the game had more sensible fatality requirements than this console version! There are ways to spruce up games that have passed their expiration date, but the Arcade Kollection does it Weekend at Bernie’s style. Don’t get this game unless it’s at least half off and you’re a big retro/fighting game/MK nerd.

Obligatory Number at the End: 5.75/10

Sonic CD – Review

Many, many moons ago, back in the days of yore when everyone dressed gawd-awful, MTV was actually about music, and watching the new Terminator 2 movie meant getting a VHS rental, there was a discolored, anthropomorphic hedgehog in shoes. And he didn’t even suck.  (Shocker, I know) Truth be told, I have gone to the mountain top and have seen it for myself. Before Sonic became an absolute laughing-stock; before he was “Sanic”; before every single one of his games became another twist of the blade in Sega’s metaphorical Seppuku, and before he was ever transformed into…

…this douchebag…

Sonic platformers actually had some charm! After playing through the HD port of the 1993 release for the Genesis add-on, the Sega CD, I came away pleasantly surprised by how fun it was. It’s one of the most pure “videogame” experiences I’ve ever had. I even felt compelled to go ahead and play it a second time over, determined to complete it faster and with more finesse. If you enjoy older games, or are just looking for something other than a first person shooter to waste a day or two on, this game is the answer. The game has some annoyingly difficult parts to it, but is nonetheless, quite possibly the best Sonic game ever made. And no, unlike my previous review, I say that with no sarcasm.Sonic’s story is exactly what it needs to be in this game: defeat Robotnik. No dumbass dialogue. No cringe-inducing relationships. No voice acting that makes you literally roll on the floor laughing at how terribad it is. Just plain and simple, beat the bad guy. After coming face to face with the game’s garishly 90’s styled main menu screen, the game begins with a short animated sequence (yes, real drawn animation!), that immediately hits you over the head with the “90’s kid” thing. The cartoon shows the somewhat childlike Sonic running through a valley and defying the laws of physics (as he should), before gazing upon what is essentially a Death Star ripoff floating in the sky. That’s it. There’s the set up. The game doesn’t bother you with trying to make the game anything more than what it’s supposed to be – just a fun game. The only notable twist is the game’s introduction of the Metal Sonic character, one of the few things I’ve ever found legitimately cool in a Sonic game. The guy will f*ck you up, and he’ll do it in cold blood. It felt oddly refreshing. Not only is his silent, malevolent presence unnerving, but it was a brilliant touch adding in a villain who could mirror the speed of the blue marsupial. Kudos from 20+ years in the future, 90’s Japanese developers! Also genuinely cool:  when Sonic is hauling so much ass that his legs turn into a goddamn infinity symbol. Getting Sonic to stay that sprite feels more badass than anything Shadow the Hedgehog ever provided. *is forced to resist including an image of him so as not to die of secondhand embarrassment*Enough about the window dressing though, how good is this game you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya, son, it’s fun. Damn fun. (Now get off my lap) The majority of the game takes the player through a series of stylistically different worlds, each one with various one-off environmental nuances, and each ending in a fight against Robotnik. The levels are a nice variety of things you’d expect, like the obligatory water levels, as well as new changes to the formula, like the insanely bouncy floors of Wacky Workbench. I was impressed by how many different things they’d managed to put into this game. Pipes, conveyor belts, a shrink ray, and a slew of other environmental doodads are littered all over the levels for Sonic to interact with. If you’re one of those people who carry the misconception that Sonic is all about moving from the left side of the screen to the right as fast as you possibly can, then you may want to curb that notion before playing this the first time around. Not only are the levels incredibly dense with varying paths and areas to explore, but the game will punt you in the rear end for trying to  blaze through it willy-nilly. Older videogames are notorious for being generally more difficult than games of today, and it’s true. Sega gave those 90’s kids no mercy. There are parts in this game (like the race against Metal Sonic) that will have you calling BS twenty to thirty times before realizing that the only way to get through it is to get better. This isn’t to say that it isn’t annoying sometimes. I mean, I can deal with the piles of spikes, or the spring board placed right at the end of a level with the sole purpose of shooting you backwards and messing up your time, but certain gameplay designs are frustrating. For instance, if Sonic lands on the middle section of a walkway angled at 45 degrees, for God knows what reason, he simply can NOT walk up the ramp. Seriously?? You have the legs of the Flash and yet you can’t muster the momentum required to walk up a tiny slope? It’s irritating and a cause for lost immersion. *Poof.* Gone. Fortunately, only a couple levels had areas where this could happen. Two features differentiate CD from its counterparts. The first and most obvious one is the inclusion of time travel. Yes, time travel is a thing that Sonic is capable of, apparently. When going through story mode, certain posts labeled past or future can be ran past. At which point, assuming you can keep traveling at a consistently fast pace for a few seconds, Sonic will literally run through time. In this case, into one of two alternate versions of the level. These levels have a unique look and soundtrack to them, and occasionally contain entirely different level layouts. The feeling of accomplishment derived from warping space-time was enough  exhilaration to entertain me every time (because I’m 7 years old and easily entertained), but there is a purpose for the gimmick besides simply being awesome. The game includes in both the past and future, statues of Robotnik and Metal Sonic generators, which the player is encouraged to find and destroy. However, the reward for your diligence is utterly disappointing. The game features two different endings. One in which Sonic manages to destroy all statues and generators, and one where he doesn’t. Literally, the only significant difference in the ending is that the “good” ending has flowers in the final shot… Needless to say, when I figured that out, I didn’t see the reason to bother. But if you’re into collecting achievements, I suppose there’s that too. The other aspect of the game worth talking about is the bonus levels. (pictured above) Wow. So apparently after ending a level with 60 or more rings in his wallet, Sonic drops acid like nobody’s business and is teleported (through a giant ring no less) to a 3D world in which you must run around and destroy… UFO’s?? It’s easily the strangest bonus stage set-up in any Sonic game, but collecting the Chaos Emera-… err… “time stones” in CD is the most fun I had out of any of them. The bizarre Mode 7 graphics, coupled with trippy backdrops that’ll have you swearing he’s cross-faded, had me trying my hardest to not lose any rings just so I could see what the next one looked like. I only managed to beat a couple of them (they’re pretty difficult and you only get one shot at them), but they were an excellent inclusion to the game, nevertheless.

Back in the early 90’s, the words “sonic” and “game” were met with praise and excitement (or bitter trash talk if you only played Super Nintendo), rather than the outbursts of laughter it has since earned. As adamantly as it seems that Sega is trying to get the last few diehards to stop liking their current Sonic games (seriously, who are these people?), there was a time when Sonic meant excellent platforming. The fact that this game has been made easily available and for dirt cheap on PSN and Xbox Arcade was a good move, and means there’s really no excuse for passing up Sonic at his peak. The inclusion of Time Trials which allow you to choose whatever level you want, the HD visuals, the inclusion of Tails as an unlockable character, and the ability to switch between the Japanese and American soundtracks (the former is more electronic-jazz fusion, the latter more 90’s rock guitar) are all worthwhile bullet points of the new remaster. Initial playthroughs can last between 2 and 3 hours depending on skill level, and repeats an hour or less, making it a quick pick-up-and-play type of game. It isn’t long, but it doesn’t need to be. It offers a (mostly) enjoyable and rewarding experience from beginning to end and doesn’t over stay its welcome. This one is getting a big and broad-reaching recommendation and should be considered a “must play before you die” game. You’d have to be a pretty soulless husk to have a bad time with Sonic CD. This is quality gaming. Obligatory Number at the End: 9/10

Don’t Shit Your Pants – Review

So I guess the first Thursday of the year is actually also the first day of the year. Now, for most, this would probably be enough reason to just scrap the upload, resign to watching the College Football Playoff, and delay the new post for another day or two. But not here. Nay, I’m taking this opportunity to not only review a game, but review what might be the greatest interactive experience ever crafted by human hands. (assuming it truly is a man-made masterwork and not actually a gift parted onto us from a divine being) I am of course referring to the browser-based, flash adventure game, Don’t Shit Your Pants. You are a nameless, purple-hued man. Your mission: to avoid shitting yourself at all costs. This deceptively simple premise is the perfect set-up for a plot that is actually incredibly powerful and is capable of sucking you in whether you like it or not. It’s so captivating, so gripping. And the themes that have been weaved seamlessly into narrative, such as the fragility of existence and the complex philosophical nature of free will,  are both expressed and challenged flawlessly in DSYP. Never before from a videogame, have I seen such a superb understanding of what it means to own agency as a player, and simultaneously be able to convey concepts of such magnitude with unrivaled ease. The fact that the game doesn’t necessarily end once you find a way to accomplish the main goal is a testament to the creator’s ability to make the audience think critically of what true accomplishment in life really is. Is there an endgame to everything? Or are we all just floating through our lives, continually finding ways to simply pass the time? Any fans of Samuel Beckett will be able to appreciate the narrative being told here.As for the aesthetics of the game, well, we all can agree that they speak for themselves. The graphics are absolutely jaw-dropping. I haven’t seen photo-realism this good since the trailer for Batman: Arkham Knight. I mean WOW! Rocksteady might as well just throw in the towel. Wrap it up, boys. Call it a day and try again next year. Hopefully there won’t be a sequel to DSYP that blows you out of the water by then. The audio  too… astounding. Hopefully you can play this game with an $800 surround sound set-up, (or at the very least, a $700 pair of headphones with a rapper’s name attached to them) because this game will make you look at every other videogame soundtrack with disdain. The Mario and Halo themes ought to just go into hiding, because they don’t have even half the gall necessary to clean the metaphorical shoes of the DSYP score. In fact, it’s so good, you’ll likely not even be able to hear it. The commonly accepted theory as to why that might be is that it is actually not meant for human ears, and that even catching a second of it is like looking through the eyes of God himself.What are you still doing reading this? Hurry! Go! Run (don’t walk) to your nearest browser open up a Kongregate tab so you can consider yourself amongst the lucky members of society who’ve been able to live such blessed lives as to play the best game ever made – Don’t Shit Your Pants. It’s educational. It’s provocative. It’s a testament to human creation.This is something that will be talked about for generations. Be a part of history and play this game immediately.

Obligatory Number at the End: 11/10

 

Obligatory Lists at the end of the year ~ part 2

This is going to be a quick post today, seeing as how it’s New Year’s Eve and all, and there’s many a thing to be done… Actually, who am I kidding? It’s going to be pretty much exactly like that twitter photo of Squidward at 12 o’clock for me. (You know the one) Anywho, this is all about what I’m looking forward to in the next 365 days. 2015 looks to be a much stronger year than 2014, so videogame-wise, things should be fine. Now let’s all just hope that Episode 7 doesn’t suck.

THE 2 GAMES THAT I’LL FINALLY GET A PS4 TO PLAY

– Uncharted 4: A Thief’s EndIf you read the first three reviews that I’ve posted onto this site, then this one is a no-brainer. Naughty Dog has been consistent in their ability to create quality titles since the era of the original Playstation, and after watching the trailers, I feel confident that the next (and most likely final) entry in the Uncharted series is going to be another home run for Sony. ND has always been able to achieve the best of the best in terms of technical achievement on their consoles, and I’m expecting to see what the PS4 is truly capable with A Thief’s End. (I mean, just look at Drake’s face. How am I expected to resist gently caressing that?)

Mortal Kombat XYou know, I don’t often say “yasssss, betch. Yasss,” but when I do, it’s generally because some morsel of news has been dropped about this game. Seriously, every new crumb of sustenance I can find about this game, be it new gameplay or a new kombatant trailer, and it is pretty much the highlight of the day. I’ll probably wait out for the inevitable “ultimate” edition, though, seeing as how Netherrealm Studios has historically put out great DLC add-ons post-launch. Everything about next year’s sequel to the excellent MK9 makes me giddy as a school girl.

THE GAMES I GOT ON PS PLUS AND CAN’T WAIT TO PLAY

Since subscribing to the Playstation Plus service in the summer, I’ve pretty much come down with the console equivalent of Steamsaleitis. I have gotten so many games that I’ve been meaning to play for free or at extremely reduced prices, and am buried underneath them all now. These are the ones that are currently in my metaphorical queue that I really want to just start up. (real life obligations be damned)

Lone SurvivorI know next to nothing about this game, and yet, since picking up the Director’s Cut on a whim for a measly $3, it’s been sitting in the back of my mind, whispering “play me, playyy meee.” From what I can tell, it’s a 2D sidescroller with pixelated graphics (so, pretty much the typical indie game), but the strange, atmospheric trailer did an amazing job of selling me on it. (so, good work, marketing dept. A gold star for you) Lone survivor appears to be a horror game and a pretty disturbing one at that. I’m very interested to see how the scares will translate into two dimensions.The fact that I have so little details on it, and am resisting looking up more, only adds to the building intrigue.

Deus Ex: Human RevolutionI found the Director’s Cut of this title on sale, and I’ve only heard good things about this game and it’s soundtrack, so I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t check this one out. I never played any of the original Deus Ex titles, but from the looks of it, I think I’ll be fine just skipping into this one. The game looks to be sporting a very specific color scheme, and the futuristic world looks interesting. I’m just hoping that, as a narrative focused RPG, Deus Ex allows me to make decisions that are actually impactful. Aside from that, I’m willing to let the other aspects of this game surprise me.

Deadly PremonitionWow, okay, so… this one is another Director’s Cut. Yeah, I feel somewhat awkward about that, too. Can we just go back to the Capcom tradition  of just tacking on incredibly boisterous adjectives? Like, what about “Deadly Premonition: Ultimate Gold Turbo Edition ++” ? Anyway, this game is supposed to be one of those “so bad it’s good” type of deals, and as a fan of the classic film, Troll 2, I’m really excited to play a game with that sort of… “charm.” Did I mention yet that this is supposed to be a horror title? What does that say about me that I have included so many games in these lists with that in common? (Hint: it means I am 2spooky4u) Also, this is a Japanese title. Which is great. If there’s something I love besides hilariously bad idiosyncrasies, it’s hilariously bad, Japanese idiosyncrasies.

Runner Ups (seriously, I have way too many games to play now):

Beyond Good and Evil HD

Okami HD

Strider