Games The Polly Has Completed In 2013

Presented in chronological order for everyone to not care about, it's the 2013 edition of games I've completed in 2013!

This list's actual starting date is around December 24th, as I was already finished with my own internal "of the year" deliberations for last year by that point.

With that said, let's get started!

List items

  • Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken is a fairly harmless 2D side scrolling shooter that takes a lot of patience to enjoy and would take a miracle to love.

    Awful controls and shooting, pitiful to frustrating enemy placement and behaviour, and a lack of consistency in the game's own rules (sometimes you can take cover...sometimes you can't!) make the game hard to recommend, even at a bottom-of-the-bucket price point. The game's only real strong points are the background graphics and decent soundtrack provided by New World Revolution.

    While there are subtle hints of a good game here, getting just a whiff of some tasty fried chicken isn't enough to cure one's hunger, now is it?

    (I will not apologize for that terrible joke.)

  • NyxQuest is a graceful little platformer with exceptionally tight control, a unique and detailed aesthetic, and a wondrous little score that not only surprised me, it delighted me almost the entire way through.

    The platforming with flying and floating controls combined with using the mouse to move various objects in the environment just feels fantastic. The level designs and puzzles are cleverly built around all the skills at your disposal, and the game's pacing is such that it builds upon previous challenges while it doles out new mechanics and powers for you to play around with very quickly.

    The only real sticking point is the stage entitled "Field of Argos" which may drive you up the wall in frustration with its somewhat unfair randomness, but perseverance and quick reflexes should see you through with enough practice.

    For the quality of game you're getting here and the price point, you absolutely can't go wrong with NyxQuest.

  • Nonsensical WarioWare wannabe on crack for the PC?

    Juvenile and pointed deconstruction of the point and click adventure genre?

    Maybe both?

    Maybe just nonsense for the sake of nonsense?

    My girlfriend and I burned through McPixel's Story Mode, most of the hidden stages unlocked by finding all the gags, and all available free DLC in about two hours in one night, and odds are you will too.

    There isn't a lot to McPixel's design other than finding absurd solutions to each 20-second stage and watching the solutions or failures play out. One or two clicks will be enough to know if you've succeeded or failed, and there's really not a lot of logic to what you'll be doing and interactions are rarely ever what you'd expect.

    The humor may be a bit to juvenile for some and the overall premise far too simplistic to warrant a full-price purchase, but I've honestly spent two hours entertaining myself with much worse than than the otherwordly silliness this pixelated and crude mess has to offer.

    Just be sure to enjoy it with somebody else in the room, because McPixel's humor really doesn't fly very far when it's just you. The magic happens when other people are there to react.

  • Hotline Miami is both an amazingly engaging and fun game as well as one with the potential to frustrate one to the point of submission.

    The psychedelic aesthetic and late 80's coke-binged atmosphere are amazing, punctuated further by a pulsing, trippy, and sleepy Sunday morning style soundtrack that will assault the ears with thick bass and beats as much as it will soothe them with drugged-out experimental compositions.

    The fast and frantic nature of the gameplay is satisfying and visceral, and it's hard not to get just a little giddy while you paint the floors and walls with your enemies' remains. There's so much moment to moment fun in Hotline Miami that it's easy to recommend on that alone.

    Drawbacks however come from the lack of precision with controls and difficulty spikes that are entirely and at times pretty unfair. Aiming melee and ranged weapons alike is quite an ordeal with keyboard+mouse or a gamepad and that lack of precision will cause a lot of unwarranted deaths. Enemy AI is at times completely random in its behaviour and what amounts to boss battles in the game are really the worst parts of the game.

    If left in the oven just a bit longer to work out the control and AI issues, Hotline Miami would have been one for the ages. As it stands, it's easy to recommend with the only caveat being a patience for failure that may sometimes not be your fault.

  • *Played with Extended Cut, From Ashes, and Leviathan DLC.<br/><br/>

    For me, Mass Effect 3 felt like catching up with an old friend I haven't seen in years and witnessing the change in them. Good or bad, they're still who they are, but change is both undeniable and oftentimes unavoidable.

    Gameplay-wise, ME3 was simply the most satisfying for me. The frantic pace of combat and improved enemy AI made actually PLAYING the game not feel like an afterthought and its challenging moments were satisfying to overcome because my tactics worked out. So yeah, ME3 is TOTALLY FINE as a game.

    But that's not the main reason anyone comes to Mass Effect. It's the story, and though I felt pretty much all the conclusions to the major sticking points of the galaxy were handled in rather predictable and contrived manners, I still felt invested enough in the world and characters to care when the galaxy decides to come together for a common goal.

    The Extended Cut ending I received only reinforced my stance in how I viewed the world of Mass Effect. I felt, personally, that at the end of the day my journey was worth it and I'd done the right thing, even if heavy sacrifices had to be made.

    So while the whole package of Mass Effect 3 is incredibly scummy with the original endings being dog turds and information contained in Leviathan being as important as it is and stuck behind a pay wall, my experience with Mass Effect as a whole remains one of the more fulfilling experiences I've had this generation.

  • Fractured Soul's mind-bending dual screen gimmick is a great idea to base a game on (though it's not an original one). When a game hinges solely on so few core elements (swapping screens and firing a peashooter) those few mechanics need to be executed near-flawlessly. For the most part, they are. You have tight, responsive controls that provide a snappy and immediate experience that's easy to pick up and play, and the puzzle element of swapping screens to eliminate enemies and navigate treacherous areas can be very satisfying when your brain finally puts it all together.

    Fractured Soul's main sticking point, however, is that its level design requires an almost inhuman ability to perform pixel-perfect screen swaps and jumps to ever see the end. The frustration sets in early and only actually gives you any time to breathe during the final stage. Being asked to perform so flawlessly not only for ratings but just to advance just gets irritating and it took me a good month or two of putting this one down and picking it back up to finally see it through.

    This isn't in any way a game for people who may have impaired vision due to how much attention must be paid to both screens at once, and it's an even harder sell to those easily frustrated by a game that asks damn near perfection from almost every single action.

    Overall, I liked it, but it's not a game I'll be revisiting for better ratings or unlocks given the insane requirements.

  • I originally reviewed this game on my site January 17th, 2010, and that was after already spending a good month or so with it. Three years after the fact, I'm adding this game to my 2013 list because, after three long years of chipping away at all the content this game has to offer, I have finally completed it 100%. All main game routes and challenges have finally been crushed and I had a hell of an awesome time doing it over the last few years.

    Seriously, this is a PSP game to own. It's fun to play, the style is fresh and adorable, and the sheer amount of content is mind boggling.

  • A nice little 30 minute piece of satire that says what it wants to in a humorous and cute way without ever appearing cynical or jaded.

    There's really not much else I can say about it other than you could spend 80 Microsoft Points on worse.

  • I wasn't aware of this game until the Quick Look by Ryan and Patrick, and afterward I was sold immediately, grabbing a copy for both my 360 and PC. At the $1/$3 price points, it was really hard to go wrong.

    Having spent a good six or so hours between both versions and finally "completing" the adventure, I have to say that I'm amazed at how many random scenarios there are, and I was still running into situations I'd never seen all the way through my final victorious run.

    At its core, the game combines elements of roguelikes (your adventures will rarely last over ten minutes due to imminent death or success) and very simple shooting sections which will function either as a shmup or dual stick shooter depending on the scenario. The gameplay itself may not be amazingly engaging, but the rapid pace and amazingly short playtimes are what make the game fun and easy to pick up and play. The dry matter-of-factness with which every story is told provides tons of genuine laugh out loud moments and the randomization gives you plenty of stories to share with your friends on how you took them on a super amazing wagon adventure and they took a buffalo to the face.

    Best $4 I've spent this year so far.

  • If Asura's Wrath isn't necessarily a good or even fun game, it's certainly commendable for being an interesting experiment that focuses entirely on spectacle and your investment in the story. It's essentially a CG anime series that you...kinda interact with through timed button presses and extremely terrible arena and rail shooter combat. There don't seem to be any fail states for missing button prompts and it seems almost impossible to die in the portions of the game you're forced to play. We've never seen anything quite like Asura's Wrath, so it's hard to describe it to people.

    The story and spectacle are nothing short of absolutely ridiculous and over-the-top at all times. Just when you think the size and scope of what's going on can't possibly get any larger, flashier, or brutal, Asura's Wrath just keeps one-upping itself all the way through. The story and characters and their circumstances are the one and only reason one should come to this game, because the parts you have to actually "play" are mind-numbingly bad.

    The arena combat and rail shooter potions are a jumbled mess of bad controls, cheap enemies, terrible framerates (which also mess up button prompts out of combat), and nauseating cameras. It gets annoying trying to fight enough enemies or damage a boss enough just so you can enter Burst mode and continue the story. The parts where you actually PLAY Asura's Wrath are throwaway padding that could have been left out, but it likely would have never been given a green light under those conditions as well. Whether it's worth slogging through those portions of the game is entirely dependent on your attachment to the world.

    The game also falls victim to Capcom's scummy DLC practices in that the ACTUAL ending to the game has to be bought. The entire final chapter of the game is behind a pay wall, and completing the game normally without it actually leaves lots of unanswered questions, drops you off at a cliffhanger, and gives you a prompt taunting you that the ending you want to see is DLC. This is the reason everyone hates you, Capcom.

    Asura's Wrath is certainly an experiment I'd like to see elaborated upon, but it's hard to say what the right balance between gameplay and story might be. Maybe the game's just as enjoyable if you simply YouTube a playthrough and treat it like an anime series. That's how I approached the ending DLC and it felt just the same as when I was "playing" it.

  • Growing up, I guess I never realized that Wanderers From Ys was kinda...crappy. You don't really think about how bullshitty games were back then when you were a kid, you just thought that taping the attack button down in the first dungeon and coming back later when you're at max level is just a thing you do. Most of the Ys games don't hold up really well, and that's why I'm glad Falcom has continually revisited the series while progressing it over the years.

    This remake of Wanderers from Ys is completely top shelf. Sure, the story's still about as dry as it ever was, but the game is just a damn joy to play. Fast-paced, breakneck combat cut with (almost always) just the right amount of punishing difficulty and the spectacularly responsive controls make it a joy to play for those of us that like a good bit of twitch reflexes and pattern memorization. There's rarely ever any need to grind like in the original either, given that each dungeon is set to level you up appropriately before each boss encounter.

    My only real issue is that the game's balance can be a bit wonky and a few boss encounters border on unfair and completely luck based. It's just really weird how a few times simply gaining one level or piece of gear will suddenly cut enemy damage down by 50-75%, and a few bosses can get really cheap in their patterns by either canceling their vulnerable states with attacks you simply can't dodge or unleashing a combination of attacks that trap you in a way that's really unfair.

    Even with its slight flaws, Oath in Felghana was a treat to roll through and I felt satisfied with my victory in the end in a way modern games don't really strive for anymore.

  • Did you ever wanna play a faster, better playing, better looking, better sounding Secret of Mana but with story and characters that are just as dry, uninspired, and predictable? Well, Ys SEVEN is the answer to all your prayers!

    I don't really think people come to Ys for the story much, which makes Ys SEVEN a bit of a bummer because it presents itself as a modern'ish RPG complete with lengthy dialogue scenes and a fairly polished production. Problem is, the story it's telling is positively the most cliche'd Japanese Cartoon fantasy story ever. Within the first thirty minutes "Dragon Warrior," "Dragon Power," and "Chosen One," are all uttered with a straight face, and it only continues laying it on thick up through the final moments.

    The meat of the game is combat, which employs a party system new to the series and is immediately reminiscent of Secret of Mana crossed with the Tales of series. It gets to feeling a bit mashy after a while, but once enemies begin presenting themselves as true threats and bosses enter the picture, things tend to involve a bit more strategy and success in combat feels both satisfying and rewarding.

    That said, I did run into a common problem with JRPGs near the end, and that's the game forcing characters into your active party that you probably didn't spend time leveling up over the course of the adventure. This damn near kept me from finishing the game and made the final moments feel more like an exercise in frustration and attrition rather than the elation one should feel when toppling a big mean nasty.

    Come to Ys SEVEN for the combat, try to spend an equal amount of time on all characters whenever possible, and hold circle to skip all the dialog.

  • Ys I Completed

    Having never played any of the original Ys releases, I was interested in how this whole "bump" combat system would work out, and to my surprise, it was actually pretty satisfying and an interesting approach to RPGs. Even though it was initially born out of hardware limitations at the time, there's still a great feeling one gets from steamrolling through enemies like a Mac Truck, and save for the last three bosses of the game, the system works pretty damn well.

    Simple as the story may be for Ys' first chapter, it does a great job of setting up the series' mythology and throwing Adol into the middle of his life-long adventure that's spanned a bajillion games.

    That said, Ys 1 is only the setup for bigger things to come, clocking in at an almost paltry 2.5-3 hours. It doesn't really say much and ends with a lot of unanswered questions that are picked up immediately at the beginning of Ys II.

    In my opinion, Ys I did what it had to do. It makes me stoked to give the second game a go and is respectful to the original game, almost to a fault. It's a great look back at how developers dealt with limitations, but still had some pretty grand ideas.

  • Binary Domain is a game I honestly stopped playing out of frustration with its controls and the amount of enemies that can stagger and stun lock you, forcing cheap and frustrating deaths.

    My girlfriend picked it back up in my stead, and over a couple more nights with it, we finished it up and the both of us had about the same reaction.

    "Well...this surely is another one of these!"

    The game may as well be the Japanese take on Gears of War, only with a bit more of a lighthearted tone and cheesy anime-style sci-fi setting. The characters were certainly a lot more fun than the chunky Dudebros in Gears, but the story itself is about on par with Bionic Commando 2009's ridiculous plot twists. It may be crazy and totally nuts, but I felt that the game wanted me to take it seriously, rather than looking at these kinds of games and stories in some kinda funhouse mirror.

    If you want some cover-based shooting and a fantastically voiced and written set of characters, you got it. Just don't expect anything all that spectacular or original.

  • Blade Kitten is a pretty tough recommendation at full price, and a cautious recommendation at a sale price. If you're not invested in the Blade Kitten webcomic, then the story is going to make almost no sense to you whatsoever, as it assumes almost full knowledge of who its characters are and what exactly is going on on the part of the player. That said, at least most of the dialog is snappy and Kit is definitely a fun character to see interacting with everyone.

    The game itself is sort of a Strider-lite, padded out with "COLLECT EVERY SINGLE THING EVER" elements. Attention was paid to making sure Kit was as agile and zippy as the game's title might imply, and stages are huge enough for you to explore around in for quite some time. Combat however, is largely unsatisfying and the simple weapon upgrades are hardly distinguishable from one another other than attack power and their various special attacks, which all do the same thing anyway (one-hit kill normal enemies).

    The real bummer is Blade Kitten has a ton of technical issues including terrible framerates, dodgy input detection, and Kit getting stuck inside geometry, forcing checkpoint and stage restarts. The technical issues are common enough to become a hindrance, and there's not really anything you can do on your end to fix them. It's just a game that didn't get to spend enough time in the oven.

  • Space Giraffe is a game I've spent six years both loving and hating the hell out of.

    On one hand, its iterative take on Tempest 2000/3000 is super engaging and satisfying. While it may invoke those older games on the surface, the bulling and Power Zone mechanics really make Space Giraffe feel like more of it's own game than the rehash it's often accused of being. The shooting and dodging are tight and satisfying and the risk vs reward elements make for some crazy intense shooty action. When all that comes together with the visuals and audio in the way that it's supposed to, Space Giraffe is simply astoudning to play and you can almost feel like you're in a trance when you're on a roll.

    When it doesn't work however, the game just feels plain unfair and frustrating. Far too often, the emphasis on eye-searing visuals over gameplay can and will cause many unnecessary deaths due to how obscured the playfield can get. A large chunk of stages also to alter the game's rules subtly without telling the player, which just seems like a cheap and sloppy way to prohibit progress.

    There will inevitably be frustration with this game, but I highly suggest at least trying the demo. It's something I've stuck with since its release and if you can manage to get over its initial quirks and don't mind some frustration later, Space Giraffe feels about as satisfying as Portal can be once you finally "get it."

  • I was a pretty big fan of GridRunner++ after being introduced to it years ago, and it was one of those great "pick up and play" games I'd throw on every now and then for a good score-running time.

    GridRunner Revolution has just never managed to hold me the way the original game has. One is supposed to derive a sense of satisfaction out of curving bullets around the screen to create a psychedelic swath of death, but I've never been able to figure out exactly how this mechanic works or if I'm actually playing it right due to the game's lack of real feedback. I have no idea why my bonus indicator hovers at 10-30 and suddenly spikes to 150+, and am never able to replicate the events that led to it. Giving the player random ships with every life, each with different firing angles and speeds, also doesn't really help one learn much either. It just feels like a big random mess that I'm somehow surviving.

    Stages never really feel like they get a chance to breathe long enough and the game doesn't really seem to start until well the Vindaloo stages, which is well over half the game. The first 100 stages are just boring and slow, and the last half whizzes by because the required enemy counts to finish each stage feel too low.

    I'll just remain content being at odds with critics on this one. Bummer that GridRunner++ is no longer for sale, because I'd really recommend that one over this revolution.

  • Combining masocore platformer with a simple combo-driven mashy combat system should seem relatively neat when you consider how tired this young genre already is. Unfortunately, They Bleed Pixels just doesn't nail it, suffering from terrible combat control, lousy hit detection, and an I Wanna Be The Guy mentality when it comes to enemy placement and level design.

    The two-button (attack and jump) approach simply doesn't work for this game. There are too many different types of attack and defensive actions all assigned to one button. Using the wrong attack happens far too often, and large portions of every stage in the game feel like they're designed purposefully around the idea of you using the wrong attack. The way slashes and kicks are set up is entirely backwards from how one would want to actually use them. It just feels like bad design on purpose on the part of the developers.

    When controls aren't the issue, lousy hit detection on the 800,000,000 buzzsaws you'll see (and moving spike pillars later) in the game will be a constant thorn in your side. It's especially bad when the game is asking you to navigate tight corridors and make pixel-perfect wall jumps anytime a stationary or moving buzzsaw is around.

    Your patience will likely be worn thin by the final 4-5 stages of the game and how positively ludicrous the stage designs and enemy and trap placement are. It stops being challenging in a satisfying manner and starts feeling really mean-spirited and unreasonable on an I Wanna Be The Guy level, especially given how terrible the controls are.

    Play something better. Like Pid.

    (I also have NO IDEA how I earned "The End Immortal" achievement. I died 219 times on the final stage.)

  • Little Inferno is a delightfully relaxing little game. There's really not much to it. Toss things in the fireplace, set them ablaze, enjoy the spectacle, and just keep adding to the pile. There's no fancy gimmicks, no fail states, no time limits. Just you, your fireplace, some awesome tunes and visuals, and the simple, yet effective narrative that unfolds as you make progress.

    Progressing through the game is simple enough: Burn various items together using clues from a list, earn money, and unlock new catalogs. It's entirely stress free, and you'll always have enough money to just enjoy the simple act of burning items and witnessing their unique interactions with one another. There's no need to rush it, just have a nice chill out session by the virtual fireplace and let things happen as they may.

    For those that want to enjoy the more "gamey' aspects, there are 100 combinations of items in all to figure out, and the clues are generally presented well enough that massive bouts of trial and error won't be too necessary. Even when you guess incorrectly, the visuals and chill ambience Little Inferno provides still make the experience wholly satisfying.

    Definitely a game to just chill out with after a hard day's work or when you're feeling stressed.

  • Pid is a game that is seriously at odds with itself. On one hand it wants to be an atmospheric and dreamy little puzzle platformer that has great sense of style and a fun take on traversal, and on the other it wants to be a masocore platformer, killing you over and over again until you get it right. These elements unfortunately never come together. It feels like two entirely different games shoved into a room and told to play nice, but they never really want to.

    Pid's strong suit is its take on using gravity to get yourself around the world and using it to solve simple room puzzles to progress. When the game sticks to that, it's fun, and as it tucks more and more items into your inventory to play around with, the mechanics can get quit advanced and demand a lot of your critical thinking and reflexes. When the level design allows for creativity in passing obstacles with your collected items, Pid excels head and shoulders above most puzzle platformers.

    The parts of Pid that are out for your blood however really drag the game into the mud. When the game decides to go all "Action Game" mode, you're being asked to perform tasks that the laboured character movement, weapons that are needlessly hard to work with, and weak jumping arc simply can't provide. Enemies in this game work better when they're used as obstacles or a means to complete a puzzle.

    When on display, Pid's amazignly realized world, fantastic jazzy soundtrack, and fun gravity puzzle mechanics are when it feels truly alive and sure of itself. Real shame about those parts that don't work, though.

  • "Don't think, feel." These are the words one should keep in mind should they journey into the ooey-gooey meaty depths of Super Meat Boy. The challenges the game presents will seem daunting and maybe even insurmountable at first, but it's a game that is entirely about feeling as if the gamepad is an extension of your body. You don't think about those daring wall jumps between saw blades and over wide chasms, you just "feel" them. It's a game that can really only be truly enjoyed when you shut your brain off and just go with it.

    You're given near-effortless control of Meat Boy to tackle the challenges in this game. It may feel foreign at first because, save for a few rare older exceptions, games don't usually provide this much precision in control and then present you with obstacles that ask you to utilize that precision. This is absolutely not a game you can blame the controls for when you die, so don't even try. You pansy.

    Super Meat Boy's difficulty curve and level design are probably some of the smoothest I've seen in years. There's never any weird random spikes in difficulty or what the game is asking of you, and it flawlessly communicates new mechanics without ever resorting boring tutorials. You just always know what you need to do because the game is telling you.

    It's pretty hard not to recommend a game that can feel so rewarding, satisfying, and brilliantly designed, while at the same time being packed to the brim with content. Get it.

  • A short and fun little take on The Mighty Bomb Jack. The game can be completed in under ten minutes, but mastery of Jill's jump and floating mechanics is the key to achieving the best times possible, as is memorization and quick reflexes.

    Completing the main tower in under twelve minutes grants access to the second, much more difficult tower, where every pixel of air counts and the level design is much more insidious.

    On the whole, it's a fun little game that doesn't require much of an investment and can be rewarding to those that enjoy speed running.

  • Stealth Bastard Deluxe is an easy recommend for those who enjoy the simplistic and well thought-out stealth mechanics of games like Thief and Mark of the Ninja while at the same time revel in the insidious "let me try that one more time" nature of games like Super Meat Boy and Hotline Miami.

    The stealth mechanics couldn't be simpler. If you're in the shadows, you're hidden. Your goggles always point out whether you're fully or partially hidden with their color, so there's never any question and enemies have vision cones to make skirting around them a breeze. Each stage is one huge puzzle full switches, platforms, and strategic placement of lights and shadow that will require a lot of playing around with to see how everything works. Nearly all of Stealth Bastard's challenges are executed well, with almost every victory being cemented by a tense, skin of your teeth escape.

    The only blemish on the game is the final world's introduction of "Seeker" enemies. These enemies require near pixel-perfect maneuvering to avoid and at times their placement feels really unfair. More than a few times, their placement required a complete stage restart upon death because the checkpoints don't reset enemy positions.

    Other than that, Stealth Bastard Deluxe is a fine game, full of great content and fantastic tunes that deserves your attention if you're looking to spice up your platforming love a bit.

  • FEZ isn't your typical platformer. In fact, the platforming aspects of FEZ aren't even the real meat and potatoes of what FEZ is all about and why it's so damn fun. It's about letting yourself get lost in a bizarre cubic world, enjoying the sights and sounds, and gradually picking away at the incredible variety of mysteries and puzzles buried below the game's simple platforming surface.

    FEZ isn't about challenging your skills as a game player so much as it is about challenging your brain. The only difficulty in the game's rotating platforming mechanics is figuring out how it's uniquely tied to the area you're in. Nearly every area of the game (and there are a ridiculous amount of them) uses rotation differently to provide simple and fun little platforming challenges.

    A pen and paper, rather than split-second twitch reflexes, will serve you much better journeying through FEZ's vast world. The "a-ha!" moments you get from cracking through one of the game's many cleverly thought out riddles, systems, or puzzles is just as satisfying though, and as you dig deeper and deeper, each new collected cube only feels more rewarding than the last. Sure, one or two puzzles may take some serious leaps of logic or research, and one seems to be entirely uncompletable without cheating (it is in no way required to 100% the game achievement-wise), but your brain really just starts speaking FEZ's language at some point, and somehow...it just makes sense.

    One of the most satisfying games I've probably ever played.

  • Bleed is a balls-out arcade style run and gun shooter that's honestly not a bad way to spend an evening. Nothing the game does is ever truly remarkable or original, but the near-flawless execution of fundamentals in enemy and level design definitely allow it to stand side by side with all those old-school games that it most admires.

    Bleed adds its own little variations to the formula by allowing you to slow down time as well as a triple dash jump that can be continuously aimed. These mechanics, when used in conjunction with one another, feel satisfying and evoke the action-movie flair that the game wants to emulate so badly.

    The game's only real barrier to entry may be the controls, which will take some getting used to. Trying to shoot enemies at precise angles while jumping around and slowing down time is quite the workout for your hands whether you're on a keyboard and mouse or just a gamepad. There's also some real balance issues when it comes to all the weapons you can unlock, as nothing ever feels quite as versatile as the twin pistols you start the game with, so upgrading doesn't feel quite as exciting as it should.

    That said, Bleed does nearly everything right if you're on the market for a quick-fix action game. It's just the right length to feel arcadey, and you'll probably blast through it in an evening, but my time spent with it felt worth it.

  • While I find a lot of what Sleeping Dogs offers to be a bit by the numbers in terms of open-world games, its ridiculously fun, arcade style driving, simple to use melee combat system, and decently intriguing Hong Kong crime story manage to save it from the mediocrity that most open-world games tend to fall into.

    That said, the parts of the game that are by the numbers are REALLY by the numbers and a bit too tedious and predictable. Pointless item collection (aside from the Health Shrines), boring races, and shoddy gunplay threaten to drag this game down more often than they should, but the story is certainly worth seeing through to the end.

  • Okay, one can never really beat Animal Crossing, but spending about a month with it already, having significantly upgraded my town and house, and played every single day, I think it's safe to put this here given that I got a credit scroll tonight. I'll still be playing, but let's just say I beat it.

    http://socksmakepeoplesexy.net/index.php?a=acnl - I already wrote a big thing about it anyway.

  • Rise of the Triad itself is still surprisingly solid and fun, but like a lot of older first-person shooters, the bulk of the late-game maps tend to drag on far too long and the "puzzles" in them can become a bit too arbitrary and frustrating, involving too many key hunts and weirdo "press the hidden button on this wall" tricks that got old even in Doom.

    I wouldn't call Rise of the Triad essential. It's a fun curiosity, but the other games you know from this specific era of PC gaming are just better. Even Rise of the Triad's over-the-top nature isn't enogh to really make it stand the test of time like Doom, Duke 3D, and Quake have.

  • Beyond its supremely impressive graphical presentation that utilizes special features exclusive to the GameBoy Color/Advance, I really can't think of any other reason Shantae is so lavishly praised. It's a fairly middling 2D Metroid-inspired platformer where exploration often feels pointless or is far more frustrating than it's worth.

    The various dances and transformations Shantae receives aren't really all that impressive or useful beyond their few utility purposes. The exploration done with these powers rarely leads to anything that you couldn't just get farming a few chump enemies, save for the few heart containers that can be found. Labyrinths attempt to make good use of all your powers, but do so in some incredibly annoying ways (turn into a monkey to climb over this one stupid wall...now use the clunky transformation interface to transform into something else and make it over another stupid wall.) It just never feels rewarding or satisfying since you end up buying most of the power ups you'll need anyway. Isn't the whole point of these games to FIND the things you'll need to progress or empower yourself?

    Furthermore, none of Shantae's arsenal of hair flips, kicks, and elbow smashes ever feel worth the time to get because the enemies weren't really designed around them. Most of the time, using a special move will just launch you right into an enemy sprite making you take damage anyway, and even the default hair whip has an unpredictable hit range, making the simplest of enemies a chore to fight.

    When it's not boring it's frustrating. It's really just that simple.

  • Analogue: A Hate Story isn't the kinda thing you'd normally expect to pop up on Steam. It's a visual novel, which means there's loads of reading, some pretty graphics and sounds, and very little in the way of what some may think of as actual "gameplay." Don't let that detract you if you like a good narrative that slowly unravels itself from the middle as you access various log files and interact with two very distinct AI personalities to uncover their pasts as well as the truths behind their society's downfall.

    Saying much more would ruin the experience, so just take my word for it (because I'm awesome, so why wouldn't you?) that Analogue is definitely unique and immersive enough to merit more than a passing glance.

  • Hate Plus picks up where Analogue: A Hate Story left off and continues expanding on the backstories and society of AIs *Hyun-ae and *Mute that may not have been so clear in the original game.

    First and foremost, Christine Love's writing has improved leaps and bounds from the original game. There's a much sharper focus on fleshing out both characters and how the changes in the world directly and indirectly impacted their existences. Navigating through logs and the myriad of often confusing Korean names is made much easier thanks to a cleaner interface that features cross-linked profiles and portraits of the key players in the story.

    There's no reason not to grab Hate Plus if you enjoyed Analogue. It's a much richer and fulfilling experience, and all the loose ends come together as they should.

  • Exposure to Rogue Legacy may cause dependency, leading to a debilitating condition known as "Rogueaholism." Prolonged dependcy on Rogue Legacy may also lead to many hours of fun, and you may find yourself up till the wee-hours of the morning telling yourself, "alright, just one more run." That was my experience, anyway.

    The keys to Rogue Legacy's enjoyability lie in its incredibly easy to pick up and play nature, snappy controls, and a feedback loop that always makes the player feel like each run, though it may have ended in death, was progress. It's easy to play in short 20-30 minute sessions, or hour long bursts thanks to the game's take on randomized classes and map layouts, but what really feeds the addiction is spending all that gold you just collected on new equipment, stat upgrades, and even more new classes to play as.

    You're always upgrading or finding new things to play around with, and the various character "traits" add a whole new dimension to each new character you play as well as a good bit of humor. Once you've completed the game, a much tougher New Game+ challenge awaits, providing even more opportunities for higher level loot and to continue raising and maxing your stats

    About the only sticking point I have with the game is that the bosses are very reminiscent of early 1985-86 era NES bosses, in that they'll require a lot of beating your head against a wall, precise classes and loadouts, or luck to defeat. Other than that, Rogue Legacy is definitely a game for anyone in the market for a great 2D platformer with a fantastic gimmick.

  • Modern videogames struggle with the idea of marrying gameplay to narrative. More often than not, modern game stories end up feeling very detached from the core gameplay elements, making the overall experience feel unbalanced. Brothers manages to avoid this pitfall, leading by example and making its control scheme an entirely integral piece of the overall narrative. Rarely does Brothers ever rip control away from the player for a flashy cutscene. You're free to experience the game's world, full of breath takingly beautiful and surreal sights and positively gorgeous musical cues, at your own pace.

    The size and scope of Brothers' adventure is astonishing in and of itself. There's an honest sense of childlike wonder and fairy tale adventure seeping out of every locale and setpiece the game offers, and you're often encouraged to take your time and let the world and characters around you breathe, as evidenced by all the game's achievements being tied to simply exploring the world. Without ever saying a comprehendable word in any language at all, Brothers is able to communicate all it needs to the player without ever resorting to dialog boxes or tutorials. The world around you and characters' interactions with one another always provides enough context for you to know what's going on or what you need to do next.

    As trite and silly as it may seem to say, Brothers is one of the truest examples of how to create expressive and emotionally engaging interactive fiction without sacrificing either side of the equation. Wholeheartedly recommended.

  • If you absolutely adored old licensed Capcom platformers from the NES/SNES/Genesis eras, then there's not a lot to think about here, This game is for you.

    DuckTales: Remastered is perfect if you wanna relive those old memories with a new coat of paint, some updated tunes, and some of the kinks of progressing through the game worked out. It's the same hop and bop adventure you remember back then, only bigger and better. As for what this game may offer those not familiar with those older games or DuckTales itself, beyond the simple joys (I mean VERY simple) of hopping and bopping enemies and collecting treasures for a larger score, it may be best to wait for a sale.

    While DuckTales Remastered offers a solid recreation of the original game and is genuinely fun if you're up for something simple, the project just doesn't feel like WayForward went quite far enough in trying to make the project truly shine in the same ways that GRiN's Bionic Commando: Re-Armed succeeded. I won't call it lazy, because there's a clear love of the material here with the sprite work, reworked soundtrack, and tracking down all the original voice actors and actresses. At the same time, it does feel like the game had a lack of ambition, time, funds, or all of the above.

  • Gunpoint's title does it a slight disservice. In no way is this game the pixelated platform shooter that images and its title art may make it seem. Instead, it's a crafty, awesomly mechanical stealth puzzle game that's easy to pick up and play that feels genuinely rewarding when you're able to clear out missions in your own ways with whatever gadgets and power-ups you may have.

    The main mechanics are your super jumpy hyper trousers and the ability to re-wire the electrical circuits in every building. The former provides fantastic mobility, letting you launch yourself like a dart at enemies, through windows, and land safely from any ridiculous height you can reach. The latter is how you'll spend a lot of your time working your way through the game's puzzles. With the crosslink ability you'll be hooking up light switches to open doors, security cameras to call elevators, and a number of other fun and easy to execute chain of events. Your creativity and the ease of how all these mechanics work is really what sells the gameplay and makes it fascinating.

    The game's only real bump is the relatively short playtime. Depending on your ability to quickly assess every situation, you could finish the game in as little as three hours, but honestly the mechanics are top notch and satisfying and the narrative intriguing enough to make this worth a play even at its current price point.

    Get it, it's fun.

  • There's really not a lot that needs to be said about this one. You know you're interested or not immediately. If you enjoyed the 80's films, then the writing and characters in this point and click adventure series is right up your alley. Even with the technical limitations of Telltale's engine, this short series still manages to feel very much like a natural continuation of the original Back to the Future trilogy.

    Other than some general wonkiness with animation and some of the puzzles' solutions not always being the most straightforward, there's not a whole lot to complain about for fans of the franchise.

  • The original Splosion Man on XBox 360 was quite literally...a blast. It was a somewhat masochistic platformer with a great gimmick of blowing yourself up to complete progressively difficult platforming challenges and its only real fault was that the creativity sorta ran out by the game's midpoint.

    At first glance, and even first play, Ms. Splosion Man can look and feel an awful lot like a reskin and rehash of the first game, but Ms. Pink and Sassy brings her own bit of originality to the formula that helps keep the concept flowing and interesting all the way to the end.

    While the original game focused almost entirely on platforming, Ms. Splosion Man dashes in a fun bit of puzzle solving, twitch reaction focused speed sections, and fun boss encounters to keep things moving along at a nice pace without ever fizzling out. The stages are much more varied this time around and their scope much larger, which makes hunting down those elusive shoes and secret exits much more fulfilling since the paths to reach them are often fraught with much more danger than a stage's normal path.

    All that said, Ms. Splosion Man is still a fairly difficult game, and checkpoints in stages can sometimes be a little too far apart, so if you're averse to not always having a love-love relationship with your games, you may wanna pass. But if you're up for a bright, upbeat, and endlessly endearing bit of hardcore platforming, Ms. Splosion Man's got something that'll keep you nice and charged up.

  • Two quick things to note before you purchase Bully: Scholarship Edition:

    1. The game runs at 30fps natively (Whoop de doo, but apparently this is an issue for some people.)

    2. An XBox 360 pad or 360 pad emulating software is highly recommended to play this game properly. Other configurations can work, but it works best with 360-styled controls.

    Anyway...Bully: Scholarship Edition is a 2008 upgrade of the 2006 PS2 game, so don't expect a lot of the bells and whistles that open world games of today have, and even in scale it's much smaller than Rockstar's other PS2 offerings. The smaller scale works in Bully's favor however, as the world is much easier to navigate and able to breathe a bit more.

    In the game you'll spend your time juggling your school studies alongside completing various missions to advance the story and curry favor with the various cliques around campus. Mission structures are fairly simple and easy to execute and have a certain charm to them given the high school setting. Blowing up toilets with firecrackers, dropping stink bombs in lockers, and rolling teachers down a hill an a locked porta potty are a lot more charming than the typical Rockstar fare of "Go here, shoot dudes, now go here." There's still a bit of open-world repetition to the process, but the story missions are varied enough and the scholastic mini-games fun enough that tedium rarely sets in.

    Narratively, Bully is more a comedy than most open-world games. There are quite a few genuine laugh oud loud lines and moments that make seeing the story through a worthwhile endeavor. Though the story and characters are brilliantly acted, they're unfortunately not written quite as well as they should be and the overall narrative and anti-bullying messages end up muddled. The main antagonist only appears in the opening and final chapters and the climax feels very slapdash and out of nowhere. With as strong as the Grand Theft Auto PS2 games were in this department, it's a bit of a bummer that Bully ended up getting a bit of a short stick.

    All that said, if you missed Bully the first time around, it's certainly worth a look. There's enough charm, comedy, fun things to get into, and great acting to keep the tedium of an overworld game from creeping up too often, just be aware that the payoff might not be exactly what you were hoping for.

  • If you have any questions about The Stanley Parable, the best advice I can give is to just download the demo. The demo contains no content from the actual game, but gives you a perfect idea of what this little experiment actually is and if it's something you'll enjoy or not.

    Saying much more about the game would ruin it, I'm afraid. It's best to experience for yourself what The Stanley Parable is all about. Yes, it's one of "those games," that a lot of folks like to call "not games" these days. It's an interactive experience with many choices to make, many endings to see, and maybe an interesting note or two about narrative and choice in videogames.

    If you're looking for something a little more meta with a quirky sense of humor, this is definitely the game to go with.

  • GTA IV was a nice little surprise. A game I'd started countless times in the past, but never quite clicked with until the last couple of weeks. I won't go as far as saying the game's quite the masterpiece initial reviews made it out to be back in the day, but it's definitely a fun little experience with a solid set of characters and greatly realized world. I found Niko Bellic to be the most interesting protagonist of the series. Despite the horrible things he'll have to do to survive, there's a very down to earthiness to him that makes him and his "stranger in a strange land" story worth seeing through to the end.

    GTA IV is a slow burn however. It'll take hours for a lot of things to really snag you if they're going to. The first few hours are a lot of back and forth PS2-era GTA style missions without much creativity, and the initial weightiness of your character and learning the ins and outs of driving will take some serious getting used to, but once you've got a feel for it, pulling off hairpin turns properly and ending chases preemptively feel very rewarding. While I still prefer the arcadey feeling of the older games, GTA IV's setup isn't the worst in the world. It's just different.

    Once you're over the starting hump, missions and activities remain consistent for the most part, and getting to know Liberty City and the Bellic cousins was a fun and immersive experience. That said, the game does drag on a bit too long near the end, and the lack of in-mission checkpoints led to some frustrations here and there.

    Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much the game pulled me in, and look forward to checking out the DLC expansions sometime in the future.

  • Gone Home is an experience you're either gonna immediately identify with or it's gonna go straight over your head, there's not a lot of room in between. It's a very personal story set in a very specific period of time that's going to resonate more with those who grew up in the 80's and early 90's. Gone Home doesn't use its setting to set up cheap "Hey, that's a thing I know about" references, it's more of an exercise in extremely detailed world building that provides context and breathes life into a short but sweet narrative that resonated very deeply with me.

  • NOTE: Get DSFix to change the game's internal rendering resolution to whatever you like and unlock the FPS to 30 or 60.

    Oh, Dark Souls. The hardest game ever to hear some people talk, but in all honesty, the game's difficulty is vastly overstated. Yes, it can be brutal, and yes it's going to drop you into a big mean world full of intimidating uglies that want nothing more than to paint the walls with your warm red fluids, but NOTHING in Dark Souls is insurmountable. It's a game that merely plays on some of your worst habits as a player of games and will punish those who think they can rush things their first time through. It's tough, but fair.

    Combat comes down to analyzing your enemies, knowing your weapon and defenses, and managing your stamina. You don't need an overpowered build to win any encounter, just awareness and the ability to react. Nearly every piece of equipment in the game is viable and allows the game to be played pretty much however you wish. (Just don't put ANY POINTS AT ALL into Resistance. It's pointless.) This is definitely not the kind of linear stat progression and equipment system most RPGs present players with, and the game feels much more satisfying overall since you have so much of a say in how you want to defend yourself.

    Being dropped in fresh will be overwhelming at first since the game provides no real direction on how you need to progress, but exploring the dreary and imposing world of the undead is rewarding in itself. You'll never know what's around the next corner, but that's part of the fun. It's hard to think of many other games so focused on atmosphere and discovery these days in the same ways that Dark Souls is.

    I can get why the game may not necessarily appeal to everyone, but those who can tough out those initial few hours are in for an immensely rewarding experience. One of the generation's best, right here.

  • I didn't come into Revengeance expecting a whole lot, and what I got was a game that far surpassed my expectations and catered to my tastes in a way that I honestly never saw coming.

    Platinum Games did themselves a bang up job in taking Metal Gear's most controversial character and not really re-tweaking him so much as boosting his absurdity to off-the-charts levels. This makes for gameplay that makes you feel like the bad ass most games only aspire to do in cutscenes.

    The mechanics are rather simple for this kind of game, but it works with keeping the pace lightning fast while at the same time offering up a suitable challenge. The "cut anything to bits and pieces" mechanic is super satisfying and you're afforded so many chances to actually use it, and despite the fact that it's pretty broken, the game still maintains a satisfying level of difficulty with tricky enemies and over the top boss encounters.

    This is essentially signature Platinum over-the-top ridiculousness that works really well within the confines of the world and character. It's also fairly easy to pick up and play, so it may be a good start for folks looking to get more into these kinds of games.