The Harvest Moon franchise has been running for fifteen years and the key to its continuing popularity is its ability to tweak its formula with each new addition to the series. While Tale of Two Towns shares most of its game engine and graphics with last year’s DS iteration, Grand Bazaar, it adds a new twist to the series by forcing the player to choose to focus on either growing crops or raising animals.
Archive for the ‘Blurring the Line’ Category.
The Harvest Moon series boasts of a long history that hardly requires introduction. While detractors will likely only groan at yet another DS iteration, fans of the series will be tickled by the tweaks to the Harvest Moon formula that make Grand Bazaar a fresh experience.
Continue reading ‘Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar – Staff Review’ »
Dissidia: Final Fantasy was a game that kind of took players by surprise. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe that it took this long to make a fighting game out of Final Fantasy, and on the other hand, it’s hard to believe that you could honestly make it work. The result was one of the best games on the PSP to date, so when a prequel was announced, it had some big shoes to fill. Ultimately, Dissidia 012 is a fantastic, yet oddly named game that needs to be in your library. Continue reading ‘Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy – Staff Review’ »
The Zone is a harsh mistress, as all who’ve followed the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games can attest. GSC Game World’s adventure-heavy shooters borrowed from both the real Exclusion Zone and works of related science fiction to present a unique, beautiful, and deadly environment. The games featured their own hazards to the player: technical instability, a steep difficulty curve, and unforgiving gunplay. With Call of Pripyat, however, GSC has pulled off the impossible and delivered a stable, well balanced, and surprisingly complete entry into the series. Though still far short of perfection, Pripyat‘s take on the Zone is fascinating and rewarding in ways that few other games are. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Call of Pripyat – Staff Review’ »
If you played it to completion, the safe money says you’re not forgetting Bioshock anytime soon. 2K’s recent entry into the hybrid role-playing/shooter genre is sometimes a victim of its own hype, but it never lacks for imagination and proves a fun, engaging journey all the same. Bioshock 2 brings us back to the crumbling city of Rapture, evolving the gameplay in all the right places. Sadly, the plot never quite has the legs to stand on its own, and it seems to keep forgetting that the story of Rapture – and its extremist founder Andrew Ryan – is the more interesting one. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: Bioshock 2 – Staff Review’ »
To hear the Warhammer universe tell it, the far future is bleak and brutal. Across the galaxy, humanity lives in constant fear of assault by impossibly huge numbers of aliens. Be they the brutish Orks, the conniving Eldar, or the ravenous Tyranid, there are countless creatures that see humanity as food, pawns, or just someone else to fight. And so humans genuflect to their God-Emperor and the Space Marines, a legion of genetically enhanced super-soldiers who literally exist just for the purpose of fighting. Thus is the setting of Dawn of War II, and throughout its bleak atmosphere it manages to deliver a compelling, if repetitive, twist on the usual real-time strategy formula. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Staff Review’ »
In 2007, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords combined gem-matching puzzles with RPG gameplay to create a unique and entertaining experience. Puzzle Quest Galactrix for the Nintendo DS attempts to replicate the experience… and fails entirely. Riddled with control problems, a sloppy port to the DS, and frustrating gameplay, Galactrix is a poor successor to Challenge of the Warlords.
The gaming world is filled with unusual mascot characters. Nintendo has a rotund Italian plumber that eats mushrooms to gain power. Sega gave us an insanely fast hedgehog with a surly attitude and a flying two-tailed fox for a friend. However, none are quite so unique, offbeat, or downright strange as the Prinny: the knife wielding, peg-legged, exploding penguins that embody the souls of sinners punished to a lifetime of slavery. Also, they say “dood” a lot. In Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?, the seemingly weakest creatures in the Netherworld star in their own game. Continue reading ‘Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero – Staff Review’ »
It’s been ten years since a quirky game that fused farming with dating sim first appeared on the Super Nintendo. Since then, Harvest Moon has spawned countless games and appeared on just about every system. Island of Happiness for the Nintendo DS, which commemorates the series’ ten year history, brings together a mix of tried and true elements and a few new twists. It also represents a significant departure from the series by giving players very few resources at the outset with the result that the beginning of the game is somewhat more challenging than is traditional. This decision makes the game more interesting in the long run, but it may put off some players who are expecting the easy ride typical of Harvest Moon games. Also, as an added bonus to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Harvest Moon, Island of Happiness offers players the choice of a male of female character (whereas typically the series releases a “girl” version of a given Harvest Moon game after the fact). That choice is a welcome addition. Continue reading ‘Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness – Staff Review’ »
After the many adventures that took place during The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Link is finally getting a chance to relax a little bit. Of course, this peace does not last long, and Zelda quickly finds trouble again. It’s up to Link to investigate the mysteries of the ghost ship and the ocean king in order to set things right. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is indeed a direct sequel to Wind Waker, though aside from one major spoiler, the story doesn’t carry over all that strongly, allowing newcomers to pick it up just fine. That said, there are some similarities in mechanics and world, many of which have been improved upon since the original, though this isn’t always the case. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass’ »
Hot on the heels of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl comes a prologue hyped to be everything last year’s unpolished, but memorable, first-person adventure was supposed to be. Clear Sky takes us back into the blighted Chernobyl exclusion zone, showing the events immediately preceding Shadow. The new gameplay elements have substantially expanded Clear Sky‘s depth, and the sense of genuine adventure is as compelling as ever. However, the underlying weaknesses from Shadow again rear their ugly heads here, and the game is saddled with a few new setbacks to call its own. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky – Staff Review’ »
It has been rightly said that every book written represents the death of a perfect idea. This principle can easily be applied to video games, and perhaps none embody this like the obscure Russian first-person survival game Pathologic. With a haphazard English localization, a dated engine and very unforgiving gameplay, Pathologic lacks even the cult status to be salvaged from the bargain bin. The tragedy in this is that the game deserves a look by anyone who ever claimed to support the idea of video games as art, for few other games to date have been as bold, uncompromising and mature. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: Pathologic – Staff Review’ »
Ports are very often a point of contention among fans. An inferior port can leave would-be fans in the cold when it arrives on another platform, while one that’s clearly better or has a ton of extra features can earn the scorn of its established base. They can be resource intensive, requiring considerable recoding to transfer from one set of hardware to another, or to reconfigure controls. They’re risky, too – expensive gambles that the gaming public liked the game enough, or heard enough positive press the first time, that they’d be willing to buy it en masse again. To this atmosphere we have Mass Effect for the PC, a surprisingly positive example of how porting can improve the final product without changing the core experience. Continue reading ‘Mass Effect: Now in PC Flavor!’ »
Neku Sakuraba is a boy with a bit of a problem. He just woke up in the Shibuya’s scramble crossing, the busiest street crossing in the entire world, and he has no idea how he got there. In fact, he doesn’t remember anything other than his name. His only clue is a strange black pin with a skull on it. It’s not much to go on, and before he can figure things out, he is bombarded by peoples’ thoughts. Neku doesn’t even like other people, and yet, now he can hear everything they are thinking. If things weren’t going badly enough, he also got the strangest text message on his phone. “Get to 104. Fail and face erasure.” Despite his best efforts, Neku is unable to delete what is obviously some crazy spam message. And that’s when the frogs started attacking him. This is not a good day at all. In fact, it’s leading up to be a bad week. Continue reading ‘The World Ends With You – Staff Review’ »
If all we could discuss in a review are the facts, the nuts and bolts of a game, then S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl would have been dead on arrival. The long-delayed shooter from THQ and GSC Game World falters on too many technical points for one to fairly recommend it without a whole heap of warnings. However, when the topic changes to the ephemeral, to things like atmosphere, artistry, a sense of adventure, then any attempt to score it suddenly becomes far more complicated. Know at least this: for all its faults, you’ve never played anything quite like it, and may not for a very long time. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl’ »
Right from the beginning, Mass Effect presents itself as an epic RPG with a lush opening movie, some intriguing character development, and a sci-fi story that piques your interest. But then you’re dropped on a colony under attack, and suddenly there are genocidal robots with guns trying to blast you right off the miserable planet you’re desperately trying to save. That’s when you know that Mass Effect is also a no-nonsense shooter.
Continue reading ‘Mass Effect – Staff Review’ »
Coming in on the heels of the popular Fallout RPGs, Fallout: Tactics was bound to confuse more than a few fans with its radical departure in gameplay and story. As a squad-based strategy game, Tactics feels closer to titles like Silent Storm or X-Com than its role-playing ancestors, with the Fallout license as essentially a coat of paint. Though it has its share of problems, and suffers simply by virtue of not being Fallout 3, Tactics is nonetheless a competent strategy game with an uncommon amount of content and depth. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: Fallout: Tactics – Staff Review’ »
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is a game of gale-force winds and wide open oceans. It strays from the conventional setting of the Zelda series, but it retains the tradition of engaging puzzles and exploration that make the series enjoyable. This focus on convention isn’t all positive, however, as Wind Waker has a number of problems which are fairly commonplace to the series. It inherits inexact control and a distinct lack of originality from its brethren, as well as a few issues that are unique to this entry. The biggest of this latter category, and possibly the game’s biggest issue overall, is the boredom of sailing long distances over seemingly endless stretches of water in order to move from island to island. In the end, Wind Waker is a game that will probably appeal most to people who can get past the idea that Wind Waker isn’t a ground breaking or revolutionary entry in the series. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker’ »
It’s difficult enough for a video game to tackle the second World War without seeming stale and cliche; to remind us we’ve landed at Omaha beach before, and in better games. Compound that with the typical problems of an expansion pack – that they tend to retread the same ideas in the same engine featuring the same story – and you’ve got every reason to believe that Nival’s add-on to their sleeper hit Silent Storm is going to be underwhelming. Against all odds, however, Silent Storm: Sentinels is bolstered by the strong gameplay of its predecessor and brings enough new ideas to the table to keep the formula fresh – or at least from becoming too stale. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: Silent Storm: Sentinels’ »
Forget about a good chunk of what you’ve heard about Bioshock, the spiritual descendant of the System Shock games from the same people that made them (2K Boston, formerly Irrational/Looking Glass). Forget about what the box advertises and the developers promised, forget about entering a living world complicated by moral choices and topped with profound questions. Forget everything except the fact that it’s a great shooter with an interesting story and wonderful atmosphere, because that’s pretty much what you’re going to get. The final package is ultimately shallower than one might expect, but at the end of the day Bioshock is still a shooter worth the attention of anyone who likes a little intellect with their action. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: Bioshock’ »