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Batman Arkham City: Harley Quinn’s Revenge Review


There used to be a review here, but it can now be read here.

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Mindless Mini Reviews: Pac-Man, Red Dead, AC Brotherhood and more

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

There were a whole bunch of games that came out during 2010 but since I was in school all year I didn’t have nearly enough time to review everything I wanted to.  So to make up for it I’m going to do several mini reviews on a couple games that I feel are worth mentioning.

Costume Quest
If you looking for a solid RPG with a great sense of humor Costume Quest is definitely worth a look. It’s Halloween and you control one of two twins.  Depending on who you are the other is mistaken for a giant piece of candy corn and gets taken away by some monsters.  So it’s up to you to save your sibling or face being grounded if you fail.

The writing and humor is great in Costume Quest more than once I found myself laughing out loud over some of the dialogue.

The rest of the game plays like your typical RPG, but with a Halloween theme.  Instead of random battles you go door to door trick-or-treating not knowing if a friendly face waits for you, or a menacing ghoul. The battles are turn based but every action you perform has some sort of context sensitive aspect to it so it makes the combat a lot more involving.

The real treat is seeing how the various costumes transform when the enter battle, what might be a crappy cardboard robot, turns into a giant mech towering over the town when you enter battle.

Costume Quest has a great RPG with an amazing sense of humor, and it’s definitely worth a look even outside the Halloween season.  8.5/10

Assassins Creed Brotherhood
Ezio Auditore da Firenze is back in the sequel to 2009’s Assassins Creed 2.  Ubi Soft did a great job of taking the formula from AC2 and building upon it to make another great entry to the series.  New additons like building your own brotherhood of assassins and sending them on missions is easy, but very rewarding to do.

Multiplayer was also added but I never ended up trying it, but from what I can tell it seems like playing tag, but with stabbing.

The story picks up right after the events of AC2, and just because this isn’t a number sequel doesn’t mean the story is any less important, if you think you can skip this and play AC3 you’re dead wrong. 9/10

Red Dead Redemption
When you take the GTA formula and set it in the wild west you get RDR.  With a beautiful open world environment to explore, and a good story with an interesting set of characters RDR is easily the best game that Rockstar has but out to date.

Though the story and environments are really well done the combat could use some work.  The game makes you become really dependent on using the Dead Eye system that slows down time so you can hit multiple targets at once. With it combat becomes really easy, but without it some of the targets are moving way to fast to hit so you the game really makes you use it.

But even with the combat issues RDR is definitely worth checking out. 8/10

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
This game is CRACK… I mean it.

The people at Namco somehow found a way to concentrate crack down to video game form and that game is Pac-Man Championship Edition DX.

It takes the basic Pac-Man formula and give it a new twist.  Featuring a variety of mazes and game modes the object in PMCEDX is to eat all the dots on a path, as you finish up one path another path of dots appears and you keep going until time runs out.

There are also a lot more ghosts this time around where as usually there are only four, this time around you can have up to 30 ghosts chasing you at once in a nice little conga line.  It’s hard to describe how satisfying the feeling is when you grab a power pellet and turn the tables on a mob of ghosts chasing you.

The game is all about trying to get as high a score as you possible can having and having online leaderboards really pushes you to want to do better and better.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is extremely fun, and very addicting. Highly recommended. 9.5/10

Enslaved: Odessey to the West
I’m going to go out an say Enslaved is the best game I played this year that nobody else did.  Ninja Theory’s second game is a great story with a fantastic cast of characters that really steal the show.

Monkey and Trip are two of the most believable characters I’ve encountered in a video game in a long time and that is no doubt do to the fantastic motion capture performances and some of the best facial animations anywhere. All of these factors combine to make two characters you really end up caring about.

The gameplay is a bit of a mix of Uncharted type climbing mixed with God of War type combat system but not as deep as either.  You can upgrade your abilities as you go to open up combat a bit, but not to much.

Despite a few short comings Enslaved is still a really great game it’s one a highly recommend. 9/10

Darksiders
It’s a mature Zelda, but you play as a horseman of the apocalypse, with art direction by Joe Mad.  I think that sums it up nicely.   8.5/10

So there you have it, a slew of some of the best games from 2010 that I didn’t have enough time to mention earlier.  Coming up next a review for Mass Effect 2 on PS3 (spoilers it’s awesome!).

Mindless Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

The Donkey Kong Country series on the SNES was one of my favorite franchises back in the day, so when the announcement came that a new Donkey Kong Country was coming out for the Wii I was over joyed.  Now that Donkey Kong Country Returns is here, is the return a welcome one?

Taking the helm of DKCR is Retro Studios, the folks behind the Metroid Prime series, but instead of reinventing the formula like they did in Prime, Retro instead chose to take DK back to his platforming roots and build upon the formula that made the series such a success in the past.

The story if you want to call it that centers around Donkey Kong having his famous banana hoard stolen by a bunch of tiki creatures (in place of the series mainstay villains the Kremlins) and Donkey Kong must go through hell and high water to get his precious bananas back.  The story doesn’t really matter here because it’s the gameplay where it counts, but at least the story explains why a bunch of tiki creatures are stealing DK’s bananas.

So DK will journey through 8 different worlds, with about 8-10 levels in each.  Gameplay is very typical for a platformer, you move from left to right, using the buttons to run and jump.  Other actions, such as rolling and stomping the ground come into play by a shaking of the wiimote.

There are two options for control, playing with the wiimote on it’s own for a more classic feel, or by playing with the nunchuck.  The wiimote on it’s own is the best way to play since it’s like playing with an NES control which is best suited for this kind of game.

Many of the series mechanics returns such as barrel blasting, mine cart riding and vine swinging, and there’s enough new added to the mix to keep the experience fresh.

One notable absence in the formula are the underwater levels, which where a game staple in the past.  It’s disappointing that not one underwater level shows up in DKCR, cause in most cases I hate underwater levels, but the ones in Donkey Kong Country where actually really good.

Two new additions are the ability to grab on to grassy areas to climb them, and rocket barrel levels where you navigate DK through a a bunch of obstacles by raising and lowering his flight path.  The rocket barel levels are a great new addition to the series and prove to be some of the game’s most challenging levels.

Speaking of challenge, DKCR is hard. I mean really hard.  If there’s one thing I can guarantee about DKCR it is that you will die… a lot.  One level I started out with 40 lives and by the time I was done I was down to 5.

Don’t let the challenge discourage you from playing this however because it’s the challenge that makes the game so damn good to begin with.  It harkens back to the Golden Age of gaming where it actually took skill to beat a game.  It’s rare to get such a high sense of accomplishment for beating a level these days, but it’s something that DKCR offers a lot.

Visually the game looks really good, there is a lot of variety in the stages in not just how they play but how they look.  The silhouette levels in particular are some of the more visually stunning levels in the game.  DKCR also does a lot with perspective to make the action seem more intense and it’s something that just couldn’t be done back on the SNES.

There is also an option for 2 player co-op where the 2nd player takes control for DK’s long time pal Diddy Kong.  While playing solo Diddy hangs onto DK’s back to give him some more hit points, and extend his jump due to his jet pack.

There is also some incentive to go back and replay levels, each level has for letters that spell Kong, and puzzle pieces.  Collecting them all unlocks bonus content like galleries and extra levels. There are also Time Trials for those who want a real challenge.

Donkey Kong Country Returns, stands out as one of the best games of 2010, and it’s a definite buy if you’re a fan of the older Donkey Kong Country games, or if your looking for a game with an extra bit of challenge.  Simply put, if you have a Wii buy this game, because for my money Mario isn’t the king of platformers it’s Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong Country Returns: 9.5/10

Categories: Awesome, Review, Video Games

Mindless Review: Shank

August 30, 2010 1 comment

If my time playing Shank has taught me anything it’s you don’t mess with a guy who’s named after a prison knife.  Shank is a downloadable title for PSN and XBLA that has you playing as the titular character on his quest for revenge, after your former boss betrays you and leaves you for dead.

The gameplay in Shank plays a lot like a 2D version of Devil May Cry, mixed with a few platforming sections in between.  You move Shank with the control stick, which is an odd choice for a 2D game.  It feels a bit odd at first but once you get used to it, it’s fine.

You have your standard set of light and heavy attacks as well as the ability to fire guns at any time.  The combat is very fun and fluid, it’s great to take out a bunch of enemies with a chainsaw, launch one up in the air and keep them afloat with a barrage of bullets.

The bosses can be pretty entertaining from the usual fights you find yourself in, but really all beating them comes down to is dodging them until the right opportunity arrives for you to deal major damage.

At the beginning of the game you start of with some knives, a chainsaw and duel pistols but you get more weapons as you progress through the game.  Each weapon actually has a different feel to them so you’ll benefit form using different weapons for different situations.

The look for Shank is very stylized, it looks like your playing a very violent HD Saturday morning cartoon in the vein of Samurai Jack.  The characters are all clean and crisp with a lot of detail, and the animations are very fluid.

The sound for Shank takes on a bit of a Mexican-Western feel to it and goes well with the game setting style and tone.  But the voice acting isn’t as good, as a lot of the time I found myself rolling my eyes at the delivery of some of the dialogue.

The story of Shank isn’t really all that good or creative either.  It’s your typical revenge story with no real twists, but the gameplay is solid enough that you’ll want to see it through till the end.  The main story for Shank is also very short, clocking in only at about 3 or 4 hours.

I personally don’t have a problem with the game’s length because it’s an enjoyable experience. But I know the length of a game can be a factor for some people.

Also included in Shank is a separate co-op story mode that serves as a prequel to the game’s main story. It’s local co-op only thought so if you want to play this you’ll have to get a friend to play it with.

While gameplay is more the same as the single player mode, you’ll really need to work together to take down the bosses.  It’s a very satisfying feeling when you work together with a friend to take down a boss twice your size.

It’s weird that they didn’t make an option to play the full campaign with co-op though since a lot of the levels in co-op look like the levels found in the main campaign.

There are a few problems with Shank however the biggest one is how you go about picking up health.  All you do is push the light attack button and Shank picks up nearby health.  This is fine when there aren’t any enemies around but in the heat of battle I found my self picking up health when I didn’t want to.  This can prove frustrating when your fighting a wave of enemies, than you accidently pick up health leaving you with no way of recovering when you really need it.

Also the load times at the start of the game and in between levels can be pretty long at times, which really hurts the pacing and flow of gameplay.

None of these complaints are really game breakers, they’re just some things that should have been tweaked or changed to make the game better.  Considering the game was made by a very small team it’s easy to overlook a few small problems.

Overall Shank is a really fun experience although a short one.  And though it does have some problems none of them really bring the game down at all.  So if your looking for a good action game in the vain of Devil May Cry, but with a 2D twist give Shank a shot.

Shank: 8/10

Categories: PSN, Review, Shank, Video Games

Mindless Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game is a downloadable title thats a love letter not only to fans of the comics, but to fans of old school beat em’ ups such as River City Ransom and Final Fight.

Based on the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World roughly follows the plot of the books.  All you get in terms of story is that Scott Pilgrim is in love with Ramona Flowers and you must defeat her seven ‘evil exes’ in order to be with her.

Thats really the only piece of exposition your given in the game, but with beat em’ ups, story isn’t really that important it’s the gameplay.  You don’t need any knowledge of the graphic novels, or the movie to follow along, but having some definitely does add some bonus enjoyment to the experience.

You have the choice of choosing between four characters to play as: Scott PilgrimRamona FlowersKim Pine and Stephen Stills.  Each character plays the same for the most part.  Each has light and strong attacks that you can string together for combos.  Each character has their own unique special attack, and the ability to call in a ‘Striker‘, or an assistant character that comes in to lend a hand.

As you fight you’ll level up and learn new moves to beef up your character.  Taking a big influence from River City Ransom you’ll also go to shops to buy food and items that will increase your base stats.

You’ll fight your way across seven stages, with the option of going solo, or fighting with three friends through local co-op.  The levels are actually quite lengthy, and they sport a lot of variation.  You’ll go from snowy Toronto streets, to fighting on top of busses, across movie sets and more.

The game isn’t to long, roughly only five hours or so.  If your a fan of the series you’ll want to play through as each character since they each have their own endings.  The fact that I’ve beaten it twice and going through it a third time is testement to not only it’s replay value, but also to how fun the game is.

The game sports a great retro 16-bit style look, that perfectly captures the look of the graphic novels in moving pixel form.  The sprites look great sporting a lot of detail, colour and personality.  Each of the main characters has their own uniques attack animations, alternate colour schemes and end stage sequence that references other classic games.  There are tons of visual nods to other classic games littered within Scott Pilgrim.  The map screen for example is a through back to the map screens of Mario Bros 3.

The best part of this game is easily the music.  Chip tune band Anamanaguhi provides the music for the game and they did an excellent job with it.  This is easily one of the best soundtracks for a game I can think of.  Sure you have all the classics like Mario and Zelda, but Scott Pilgrim is the first game I’ve played where I wanted to play just so I could listen to the music.

The biggest downside to Scott Pilgrim is that there is no online co-op.  While this doesn’t ruin the experience since you can still call three friends over and play co-op locally, it just seems like a huge misstep in this day in age not to have online co-op.

Aside from having no online co-op, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game is a great old school beat em’ up, that even people who aren’t fans of Scott Pilgrim can enjoy.  Boasting a great 16-bit look, a sold combat system and one of the greatest game soundtracks I’ve heard in recent memory, for only $10 you’d be a fool not to pick this one up.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game: 9/10

Mindless Review: Dragon Quest IX Sentinels of the Starry Skies

DQIX is the latest game in the long running RPG franchise from RPG giant Square Enix.  While the last installment of the franchise was last seen on the PS2, DQIX is exclusive to the Nintendo DS, and sporting a brand new multiplayer focus. Does Dragon Quest IX live up to the reputation of it’s predecessors or has it’s ninth live been used up?

I’m going to get this right out of the way, DQIX has a large online/multiplayer focus.  You can join up with 3 friends and go adventuring together, or access a special shop that’s updated regularly through the DS’ wi-fi connection. While there is this large focus on multiplayer and online features I have not been able to experience any of them for two reasons.

1) DQIX is local multiplayer only, and since none of my friends have this game I really couldn’t try it out.

2) For some reason whenever I tried to access the online store my DS would tell me that it isn’t compatible with my Internet security.  After playing around with some things, I couldn’t get it to work so I gave up.

So this review is based solely on the single player experience.

The story of DQIX is set around a group of heavenly beings called Sentinels.  It’s the Sentinel’s job to guard over a town and keep it citizens safe and happy.  Keeping the people happy gives ‘benevolence’, which is given to Yggdrasil, the “world tree”.  When the Yggdrasil tree is given enough benevolence it will bear fruit which will allow the Sentinels to return home.

You as the hero, are the newly appointed guardian of a small town called Angel Falls, have gathered enough benevolence to give to the Yggdrasil tree so that it will finally bear fruit.  But among offering up benevolence something goes terrible wrong, and you end up falling down to the mortal world stricken of all your heavenly powers.  So it’s your job to figure out what went wrong, and find a way to get your powers back .  Thus the story begins.

One thing I like about the story is that there is no melodrama that is present in the stories of most RPGs.  You basically have a go save the world scenario, and you get a nice variety in story scenarios spread among the game as your tracking down the pieces of fruit.

The story is also pretty hefty, you’ll get a good 40+ hours out of the main story alone.  Among completion my playtime came to about 51 hours of gameplay.

If you’ve played any Dragon Quest game before than you most likely know what to expect from the gameplay. During the main quest you journey form one town to the next taking on quests that help move the story forward, and fight many monsters along the way.

Outside the main quest there are a few other things you can do keep you busy. You can take on various side quests from NPCs, explore randomly generated dungeons, or find ingredients so you can make weapons and armor through the alchemy system that returns from DQVIII.

The battles are old fashioned turn based fights, you select your commands from a menu and the action plays out.  While the basic formula is the same, asteticly a lot has changed about the battles themselves.

Taking ques form DQVIII you now see your party members, and the enemies attack each other opposed the just some slash animation appear over them like the older additions to the series.  But unlike DQVIII, your party and the enemies are moving around the battle field to line up with who they’re attacking.

It doesn’t change the gameplay at all but it’s a nice added detail to see that the series is trying evolve, but still keep the core elements in tack.

The biggest improvement to the gameplay is that there are no more random battles. Now as your walking around the world map you can see monsters on the field.  You can choose who and when you want to fight.  Sometimes the  monsters will chase after you, but if your at a high enough level than they’ll flee at the sign of your presence.

Graphicaly the game looks really good for a DS game, the characters take on a bit more of a chibi look to compensate for the DS’ hardware limits, and resemble what the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III, and IV looked like.  The style consistent to the franchise returns thanks to Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, who once again does the character designs.

In terms of customization there are tons of options available in DQIX.  You create your hero at the start of the game, with a variety of faces, hair styles, hair colours and skin tones to choose from.  You also create every one of you party members that will be accompany you through out the game.

A nice added visual touch is that every weapon and piece of armor you equip on you characters changes the way they look.

You can also choose between a variety jobs for each party member, and as you level up you can allocate skill points to different areas to customize how your characters develop.

There is one big problem with DQIX however.

Because you create your hero and party members yourself there is no real personality among them, and that creates a big disconnect between player and character.  Your basicly walking around with a bunch of lifeless dolls who’s only purpose is to help you in battle.  Other than the hero none of the party members appear or are even mentioned in the story at all.

Because of that it’s up to the NPCs in the game to carry all the weight of the storytelling, and while for the most part they do a really good job of it, it’s just doesn’t give off the same experience when you don’t have party members you can really care about.

In today’s age where every RPG is constantly trying to reinvent the formula it’s very refreshing change of pace when a game comes along that is routed in the traditions of the Golden Age of RPGs   Although it might not be the best of the series it’s still a very good addition to the franchise.  I can only hope that when Dragon Quest X rolls around it gets a big console release that it deserves.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies – 8.5/10

Categories: Review, Video Games

Mindless Review: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour

Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is the final volume to the Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels and having just finished it I’m quite happy with how it all ended.

The first bit of the volume revolves round Scott dealing with the events of the previous volume.  In order to get over what happened Scott proceeds to hit on/make out with almost every female character in the book, and battles with his own personal demons (literally).

Once Scott gets his head on straight (at least straight enough for Scott), the main event begins.  The rest of the volume is mostly Scott’s fight with Gideon Graves Romona’s last ‘evil ex’.

This is definitely the most action heavy volume of Scott Pilgrim which is something that can be expected since this is the final confrontation.

What’s good about this is that the action doesn’t come at the expense of the story.  Even as Scott and Gideon fight your getting details and revelations as it goes on, and it doesn’t seem forced or unnatural.

The art is on par with the rest of the series and it’s simplistic style helps make the action very fluid and easy to follow.

If you’ve read the first five volumes of the Scott Pilgrim already than you don’t need this review to tell you to go and get it cause most likely you already have.

But if your someone who never read a Scott Pilgrim book before it’s definitely worth the money to go buy this and the previous volumes of one of the best comic series I’ve read I’m awhile.

Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour: 9/10

Categories: Comics, Review
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