Review Archives - Page 2
January 28, 2008
The latest addition to Criterion's long-running, turbo-charged, truly insane race 'em up series turns the franchise on its head via a surprising new free-roaming slant, with oddly conflicting results to show for it. While Burnout Paradise is often a fantastic, truly original title that supersedes its predecessors right across the board, it just as often proves a frustrating and flawed exercise in missed opportunities and even flat-out monotony. Allow me to explain.
On firing up the game for the first time, you'll find yourself almost instantly set loose upon Paradise City minus any sort of leash. There's all but two minutes of a tutorial to get you up to speed, and scarce little in the way of unlockable content for which to work towards, with Paradise instead throwing an entire god damn world at you in pretty much one go. The idea is, you blaze around this wide-open city, pull off stunts, track down collectibles, and partake in any of its endless list of challenges and events as and when you please. It's all up to you, fella.
This is all fantastic stuff at first too. Beholding the exquisite detail of Paradise City, and the luscious fluidity in which you careen around its plush, sensual innards awards it instant love that's hard to deny. For a while, you feel as if you're witnessing the very future of racing games in fact, not just graphically, but in terms of sheer design. All of the series' landmark traits — the ludicrous speed, the demented pile-ups and the jaw-dropping crashes — come through in-tact, but this time via a seamless, less constrained and undeniably next-gen universe in which to now savor them. Wow.
Unfortunately, the actual content within this world often fails to live up to the premise. Over time, the challenges reveal themselves to be a repetitive, cut-back and under-realized bunch, giving the game a far more hollow feeling than perhaps one would've liked. Criterion boast the presence of a new such challenge at each and every crossroad in the entire game — with you merely holding down the two triggers to enter any at will — but in practice, the majority of its 120 odd events prove a little too similar for comfort.
You've got good old "Road Rage" challenges — the pick of the litter — that see you bashing enemies to death as you navigate the streets at immense speeds. Enjoyable "Stunt Runs", that enforce gravity defying jumps and crazy drifts within a set time limit. And of course the traditional Burnout races that you'd expect, in which you go toe to toe with seven AI combatants in a blitz for the finish line ala previous titles in the series. The difference being, Paradise has much improved new car handling, way better graphics, and some pleasing new depth to its boosting system. And hey, that's great.
What ain't are the actual "tracks". An unfortunate side effect of the free-roaming world in which they're set, sees these city-based routes never feeling setup, nor specifically designed for actual racing. Grid-like streets simply can't match the cornered-off, impeccably designed circuits of similar such driving games, and the added freedom of multiple routes can make such races notoriously confusing too. Given this game's extreme speeds, it's mildly annoying having to continually monitor your mini-map in order to gauge where to turn, with you regularly heading off down the wrong street and spontaneously having to backtrack at a split-second's notice. Expect many a lost race due to this. And grinded down teeth.
With only eight potential finishing lines peppered throughout the entirety of the city, races all end in a worryingly similar fashion too. You'll return to the same roads and same locations so darn often, déjà vu becomes a prominent gameplay feature. A new "Marked Man" twist on these races spruces them up occasionally, in which you'll have to zoom to the finishing line by your lonesome while kamikaze AI drivers ram you off the road to much amusement, but even these grow old in time. A pity.
What started out fresh and invigorating then — heralding the pinnacle of its genre — grows slowly stale and bland as you progress. Scrapping the challenges, hitting the streets sandbox-style, and merely seeing what crazy off-road secrets you can uncover becomes a far more gripping way to spend your time as a result, and there's plenty of nooks and crannies tucked away within Paradise City to set your sights on with that in mind. This can't hide the fact that the single player game is a somewhat short-lived affair for the most part though, and five or six hours in, I was just about done with it. Particularly in light of the city's shockingly small size that lets you blitz from literally one side to the other in about 4 minutes flat.
Thankfully, all is not lost. Paradise boasts a superb online mode you see, one that goes a hell of a long way towards filling in the blanks. A mode, oddly enough, that reminds heavily of Crackdown of all things. In the same way that game was always at its best when played online — with you and a buddy merely tearing up the town and causing as much improvised mischief as you could — Burnout is no different. Just er, trapped in a car this time out. Ignoring the plot — or in this case, the races — engaging in your own demented multiplayer stunts is where this game truly shines, only it supports a whopping great 8 players by comparison, and is choc-full of superb mini-games for you to partake in along the way.
Paradise weaves such inventive tomfoolery into the actual game design, you see. One minute it may task your group with pulling off 100 jumps between you in quick succession, the next it may have you pile every single car onto one specific level of a particular building without falling off, and so on. The subsequent calamity and group-based bundles prove endlessly enjoyable and undeniably hysterical, with literally hours dropping off the clock at a time as you work your way through its laundry list of shenanigans. The average newcomer will often be left with a, "Guh? I don't get it" look on their face on first firing it up, and given the co-operative nature of these challenges, it can be annoying when just one of your eight won't play along. Once you get your head around how it all works though, simply fartin' around with your pals starts to make up the very core of Paradise's brilliance, and with a decent host making full use of the challenges, it proves truly amazing stuff. Not to mention utterly unique.
Sure, for more traditional online fun, there are more familiar multiplayer races on offer too. You can partake in 4-round mini-leagues should you so wish, at which point the game reverts to more of a Burnout Revenge-style versus game. All the "rivalry" features of its predecessor return thankfully, with new Vision Cam/PlayStation Eye support giving such violence a new — and often mature-rated — twist, and it's pleasant enough fun I'm pleased to say. The finicky niggles and mass confusion of the single player races turn into plus points when played alongside humans, with all players regularly zooming off in the wrong direction to much amusement and giggly group banter. With no one at a distinct disadvantage, races can turn drastically at a moment's notice, right up to the very home straight, making 'em far more enjoyable and exciting than against AI. Combined with the aforementioned co-op mini-games, this multiplayer suite affords the game much needed mileage most noticeably lacking from solo play.
Burnout Paradise is an intriguing experiment all in all then, that at often times works, yet just as often fails. In addition to the plethora of negatives outlined above, a series of smaller annoyances like the lack of an instant "retry" option, the removal of the ever enjoyable "Crash" mode, and the inability to turn off the god-forsaken "takedown" cam continually grate, all culminating in far from the nutso racing classic some might have been expecting. There's no denying though, that in its first few hours alone, it's one hell of a spectacular ride, and with a server full of pals, there's no multiplayer game quite so original...nor so god damn hilarious.
Providing you have friends, I'd say it's worth the pinch.
PLUSES: Traditional Burnout car-bashing antics prove just as fun as you'd hope, while flawless graphics with a seldom-faltering 60 FPS render 'em better than ever before. Amazing multiplayer modes provide plenty of longevity.
MINUSES: Single player challenges lack variety, while the city feels small after just an hour or two of exploring. No instant retry on the events can be frustrating, as can the reliance on a mini-map for one so fast-paced.
FINAL VERDICT: 7.5 BUY IT!
January 15, 2008
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Science tells us that air expands to fill a vacuum. This weekend, I was able to witness the cinematic equivalent of this phenomenon, as Uwe Boll’s In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale attempts to fill two hours of screen-time with the best Lord of the Rings ripoff money and a B-list cast can provide.
Anyone who follows these movies closely knows that the Boll business model revolves less around box office, and more around video sales and exploiting German tax loopholes to make the movies on the cheap. Still, when you go to a movie on opening weekend and there’s 14 people in the theater, that can’t be a good sign. Especially when one of them brought a newspaper.
In a superficial way, the movie is based off the 2002 video game Dungeon Siege, but the phrase “A Dungeon Siege Tale” is code-speak for “the video game never had much plot to begin with, so we’re gonna be winging it”. Jason Statham plays a farmer named, conveniently enough, Farmer. To move things along from farming to ass-kicking, the Krug (orc wannabes, even in the original game) attack Farmer’s hometown, killing his son and kidnapping his wife. Farmer embarks on his Revenge-n-Rescue Road Trip, which soon intersects with the broader policitcal intrigue of the realm – the Krug are part of a plot to get the King of Ehb (Burt Reynolds) off the throne, so that his moron nephew (Matthew Lillard) and the evil mage Gallian (Ray Liotta) can take over. Technically, there’s other pieces to the puzzle – wizards, Amazonian tree women, the requisite grizzled sidekick for comic relief, the serious military guy who disdains the hero at first but grows to respect him -- but you get the general idea.
But that wasn’t the movie Boll he wanted to make. What he really wanted to make was, well, Lord of the Rings. Superficially, you get things like surrogate Ringwraiths, an Eowyn subplot, or a big battle in a rainstorm because, well, that’s how it looked at Helm’s Deep. This would be forgivable, but the movie also insists on making the characters speak in pseudo-profound quotables; everyone’s fishing for Gandalf-ian nuggets of wisdom, and it’s pretty mind-numbing after about the first 20 minutes.
Yet at the same time it’s being pretentious, it’s also infected with the stupidity common to bad movies where people say and do completely idiotic things to keep the plot moving. This is a movie where a character will get two arrows shot at him, and wait around for the third because he’s supposed to die; a movie where Liotta makes the typical madman speech about how there’s no good and evil and rules are irrelevant, but then decides to fight Farmer hand-to-hand instead of just zapping him off a cliff or something. Sun Tzu would so not approve.
There are some additional technical sins against the cinema gods, including some scenes left hanging due to curious editing and the overall level of the acting – for example, Farmer’s reaction to his son’s death is more on par with the irritation you’d associate with a parking ticket. But let’s also give it credit for a few of the things it does right. The combat choreography is usually pretty good, as you’d expect from a Jason Statham movie, and the magic effects were fairly well-done, though I found myself wishing they went a little further with the CGI mayhem.
There are probably other things to complain about, but to do so would miss the larger point -- the ultimate failing of In the Name of the King is that it’s tough to sit there for two hours and be beaten over the head with memories of a much better movie. It’s sort of like going on a date with someone who does nothing but talk about their ex. There will probably be a collective knee-jerk reaction to proclaim it among the worst films ever, just because it’s Uwe Boll, but that seems a little unfair to me. If I had to grade it by the five-star system, I’d probably put In the Name of the King around 1.5 – it’s not awful in the same way something like Deuce Bigalow is awful because it tries to be more than that; then again, “tedious” and “derivative” certainly aren’t compliments.
January 11, 2008
MapleStory iTrading Card Game
MapleStory is a free-to-play MMORPG and is cute — super cute in fact. You couldn’t ask for a more family-friendly (E10+ ESRB Rated) MMORPG, all of the monsters look like stuffed animals, the characters look like children dressed up for make-believe, and the reading level is pretty easy. The game mostly "free", however it does make money by selling the best armor, weapons, quests, and items for "real money" via micropayments at the Cash Store. That’s pretty much it except for some special events or quests you can discover by talking to the NPCs.
Of course this super-cute game was not satisfied with simple video game world domination, so it teamed up with Wizards of the Coast to try its hand at the Collectible Trading Card Game (TCG) market. Taking full advantage of the MMORPG, the MapleStory card game ties directly into the online game by providing your online characters items from the cards themselves. Hence, they also renamed the genre as an Interactive Trading Card Game (iTCG ... everything must have that little “i” letter these days). Although relatively simple, I found the game refreshing and fun.
The MapleStory iTCG is also cute — dare I say “super cuter?” The game is as cute as the Pokémon TCG, and a little easier, I think. This game was intended for all ages, so it lacks the complexities of Magic: The Gathering and is simple for little kiddies to pick up and play.
You play by having your main character duel another character ... that’s it, what could be simpler? The duel is won by leveling up your main character, playing monster, item, and tactic cards, and reducing your opponent's hit points to zero. Quick, simple, and fun.
As for the cards, there are only three types — tactic, monster, and item cards. Tactics are actions which take place immediately, monsters will defend you and attack the opponent, while items will enhance your monsters. The ingenious mechanism of the game is that each card can also be used to level up your character.
Hence, the key gameplay mechanic of the MapleStory iTCG is that you can either use the cards in your hand to play immediate actions, summon monsters, and equip your monsters with new items, or you can sacrifice your cards in order level-up your main character. So throughout the game you must always make a choice — do you sacrifice the cards in your hand in order to make your character more powerful or do you use the cards in your hand to strengthen your position?
Of course the iTCG ties directly into the MMORPG game. All characters and items are taken directly from the MapleStory MMORPG and anime (yet to be released in the USA) and each card is either a regular or a "super-special" silver card. Silver cards have special online code which will earn you items from the cash shop at no extra cost, so essentially a small part of the cost of a 9-card booster pack goes towards one or two items on the online cash shop. Barring certain character, level, and job restrictions, you may use these new items right away. For example, I got a red lounge chair which increases my health recovery rate which I was able to use in both games.
MapleStory iTCG is perfect for anyone who plays card games like the Pokémon TCG. The starter set comes with a CD to install the MapleStory MMORPG client software, two mini-decks and a booster pack. The starter set is a great way to discover both aspects of the MapleStory universe, and they complement each other nicely. See the Wizards of the Coast official site for more information on the MapleStory iTCG, including a game play demo.
January 9, 2008
Hi everyone, Chuck here, on board for my first review at Gaming Steve. For my first time out, I thought I'd touch base on a slightly older game that's gotten a bit lost in the shuffle of all the shiny new consoles hitting the market in the last year or so: Final Fantasy XII.
Grinding on the other hand, is when you really need to be higher level to fight that next boss but the monsters that give you the most experience aren't particularly interesting, or challenging. While there are several side missions that can help mask the grinding, or at least make you feel like you're doing something (other than grinding), the middle of the game especially has long periods where you are either grinding for experience or grinding for gold to upgrade needed equipment. The difficulty curve of the bosses spikes well beyond the typical monsters, meaning you need to kill lots and lots of them in order to be an appropriate level for the bosses.
MINUSES: Too many cut-scenes focusing on stock villains; level grind occasionally feels forced.
FINAL VERDICT: 8.5 BUY IT!
December 18, 2007
It's the end of the year and that means everyone has to release their "lists". So I join in the fun and go through my picks of 2007. What were the best games of 2007? What were the hidden gems that fell through the cracks? What were the most disappointing games? And what was my pick for Game of the Year? (I guarantee that my pick will be a surprise.) Plus find out the status of the Name That Game contest where you can win a free next-gen game console. Enjoy the show! Gaming Steve Episode 66 Program
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December 13, 2007
Sure everyone loves to read about the best games of year, but just how many times can you read about Super Mario Galaxy and Mass Effect? I’m here to tell you about ten excellent games that somehow fell through the cracks in 2007, all of which well deserve your time and attention. So after you've gotten your fill of Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3, give one of these gems a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Well now that the weather can turned cold and wintry you owe it to yourself to check out this fantastic title from Starbreeze Studios, the makers of the 2004 “way better than the move” Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Based upon the Top Cow comic book, The Darkness successfully mixes horror, action, and adventure into a unique First-Person Shooter. Without giving too much away you become possessed by a demonic force and you’ll need to combine FPS gunplay with your unique demonic powers. It’s a cool combination that never gets old and allows you to play the game in a variety of ways. Do you use demonic stealth power and kill your enemies at a distance, or will you just run and gun down your foes? Oh yeah, and don’t forget to eat your enemies hearts to boost your power! That never gets old.
One of the more interesting aspects of this game which was included for no other reason other than to add to the game’s atmosphere you can literally sit and watch entire movies, television shows, cartoons, and music videos inside the game itself. I actually watched To Kill a Mockingbird on a TV within the game, which is either really sad or cool (I still haven’t decided which). It’s little touches like this which make this game stand out from your standard FPS fare.
Plus it doesn’t hurt that this game looks fantastic, especially on the PS3. Now that you’ve finished Halo 3 and Crysis look toward The Darkness to fill your FPS fix.
Orcs & Elves does its best to recreate the feeling of those old school fantasy RPGs released in the 80s/90s but combined with modern FPS gameplay aspects. Think Quake but with magic and goblins and with a dash of RPG thrown in for good measure, and after years of starvation from the old-school dungeon-crawling genre, Orcs & Elves is like a five-course feast that will stuff you with RPG goodness.
The game starts out as your standard FPS fare – walk through corridors, kill monsters, collect loot, improve your weapons – but as you play you’ll start to see why this game received such acclaim when first released last year. The combat is addictive, quests are fun, your selection of weapons is extensive, characters are silly, the plot is always changing, and the game is expertly paced. Cut from the “just one more turn” school of gaming, this game will continuously keep you engaged and challenged.
Filled with fun quests (including bartering with dragons and drinking with ghost dwarfs), monsters which actually require tactics to defeat, and a plethora of weapons and magic this is a game which will keep you engaged from beginning to end. For $20 you won’t do much better when it comes to old-school monster-killing.
The graphics are insanely gorgeous, the action fast and furious, and the gameplay innovative. Sort of the “Pulp Fiction” of video games, Odin Sphere tells its story through five protagonists, each of which you’ll get a chance to play. Each character has its own unique fighting style and controls, which always keeps the game fresh and new. Plus as you explore their history you’ll reveal a larger, overarching story as each character intersects with the others. The final result is an epic story that continuously keeps you interested throughout.
Gameplay is your “standard” 2D-fantasy-action-epic-RPG (heh, when was the last time you played one of those?), only on this world all of the levels are designed like spheres (get the title now?). Like the classic game Defender, the levels continuously loop and will only allow you to escape once you defeated the appropriate number of foes. Oh yeah, and you need to kill monsters in order to grow your power-ups from plant seed. You know … like sheep.
Come on people! Isn’t the PS2 like the best-selling game console in the world? Don’t you have like four or five PS2 in your house collecting dust? Why aren’t you playing this crazy beautiful game?! Send your PS2 off in style with this fantastic game.
The top screen is used to display the dungeon using relatively simple 3D graphics from a first-person point of view. While the bottom screen is used to map your progress through the dungeon, just like the classic days when having a pad of graph paper next to your computer was mandatory. And this simple act of mapping your progress really connects you to the adventure and makes you want to explore the 25-level dungeon.
Extremely challenging and well-designed, Etrain Odyssey is a refreshing blast-from-the-past. The gameplay is relatively simple – build party, kill monsters, gain levels, explore the dungeon – but with a wealth of character customization you’ll actually enjoy the occasional grind just to level-up your characters and try out their new abilities. Oh yes, and the music is easily the best ever to appear in a DS game to date.
If you cut your teeth on rigorous dungeon crawls from the Apple II+ days this game will be right up your alley. And when you complete this long, brutal game, you will have (in your best John Houseman voice now) “Earned It!” Bonus: The sequel is being released in Japan next year.
With a strange name and an even stranger storyline – the retelling of the story of Joan of Arc within a fantasy world with talking animals, demons, and magic powers -- Jeanne D’Arc is an attractive and vibrant game that is accessible to newcomers and SRPG veterans alike. Unlike other SRPGs which require a PhD to completely understand Jeanne D’Arc takes the time to explain to you how the elaborate combat system works. And between the intense battles and the intense story you’ll never be bored by this 30-hour game.
If you’re looking for a solid strategy game and aren’t afraid to learn a bit about history (granted this history has talking dogs and orcs) you won’t find a better PSP game this year.
Sure I could go into detail about the beautiful graphics, immersive storyline with plenty of unexpected twists, and a fun action-combat system, but what you need to know is this. If you like RPGs then you will like this game. In fact, I put this game up against any RPG released on the PS2, including all of the Final Fantasy games, and say that this game is as good if not better than all of them. And the action-combat system actually makes combat fun, unlike those tiresome turn-based combat systems which take forever to complete.
And since this game was released nearly a year ago you can get this game cheap! In fact, I just saw this game in the bargain bin at Best Buy just the other day. This game does not deserve the silent funeral that is the gaming bargain bin. So while you are waiting for Final Fantasy XIII to released sometime in the year 2000-who-heck-knows, break out your PS2 and start exploring the Rogue Galaxy!
But what makes this game so great? Where to start? Let’s see – the combat is deep, the world is fun to explore, each character feels completely unique, the story is interesting, the music and voiceovers are fantastic, and the rival gangs are truly original. Where else can you fight gang members who walk around in top hats and mime makeup? And with twenty gangs in the game you’ll always have someone interesting to fight.
The PSP version is a near perfect port of the original PS2, or if you want get the PS2 or Xbox versions for a song. If you love Rockstar and the “feel” of their games then it owe it to yourself to pick up this gem. It’s as if this movie was custom-made for Rockstar to turn into a video game as no other game “feels” more like a Rockstar game than this one.
Listen to Cyrus, “Can you dig it?”
Sure there is a main plot, but the core gameplay consists almost entirely of puzzles. You will need to solve a series of levels, each of which is presented to you with a Rube Goldberg-type layout. By correctly performing a series of mind-bending actions you’ll be able to solve the puzzle and receive your prize. Those familiar with the popular Hapland games will feel right at home here (and for those of you who have never played the Hapland-style games make sure to check out these mind-boggling games).
The puzzles in Zack & Wiki range in difficultly from easy to fiendish, but yet are never frustrating enough to make you quit the game in its entirety. Plus the game has its own in-game help system for those who are truly stuck. And best of all the game fully utilizes the Wii Remote where your on-screen actions mimic the actions of the Remote. Need to go fishing? The Wii Remote mimics a fishing rod. Need to light a torch? Wave the Wii Remote into the firepit. Using the Wii Remote in this manner feels natural and is a lot of fun.
Something else worth mentioning is that this is a great game to play in a family or party setting. The puzzles lend themselves to group with one person controlling Zack and the others helping out. Others can even use their Wii Remotes while you are playing, which turn into a “Wii laser pointer” device, to help point out areas for you to explore. In fact, I would say this game is even more fun to play with others, especially those who aren’t the “gaming type” as the puzzles and Wii controls will appeal to just about anyone who likes to have fun. And for those “gaming types” out there, don’t be turned off by the colorful graphics and funny animations. Even the most jaded gamer will crack a smile when playing this game.
At $40 this game is a total steal and one of the best games out for the Wii right now. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with this one.
You play as the Overlord, a nameless, faceless brute who controls an army of goblin-like minions who tell as many jokes as they do throw punches. There are four different types of minions, each having a different ability, and through them you’ll need to traverse through a fantasy world and defeat seven “goodie-two-shoes” heroes. And although the combat and strategy elements are fun, it’s the simple act of exploring the world where this game really takes on its character. Everything you will see is familiar, but twisted. Hobbits are gluttonous brutes, elves are morose sloths, dwarfs are physocpathic moneybags, and so on. Diving deep into this “Lord of the Rings-esque World Gone Bad”, and then systematically destroying most of it, is a truly fun experience.
As a bonus unlike so other games which contain humor, the humor in this game is actually funny! The graphics, the voiceovers, the quests, your minions – everything is colored with a wonderful contemporary British humor. You’ll come for the game, but you’ll stay for the jokes.
Best of all you can play this game on the GameTap service as well as the Xbox 360 and PC. So if you were looking for an excuse to try out this excellent service now you can sign-up just to play Overlord. And you too can “be evil … or really evil!”
No seriously, have you sat down and dedicated yourself to play Portal from beginning to end?
Or your friends?
Or your family?
Or your friends of the family?
I’m serious here. Not since the release of Tetris has a game been so perfect and shown the true power of the emotional response that gaming can achieve, and Portal is a game no man, woman, or child shouldn’t play at least once in their life. If you consider yourself a “gamer” and haven’t played Portal yet, well, then you simply aren’t a “gamer”. It’s just that simple. Your knowledge and understanding of what gaming is and what it can accomplish will never be complete until you play and experience the sublime masterpiece that is Portal.
Sure Grand Theft Auto and Halo get all the headlines and press, but Portal is something more. It is one of those extremely rare games that show the true power of what gaming can convey across multiple levels. Portal is up there with the genre-defining masterpieces of Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, and The Legend of Zelda, but perhaps even better. Portal is perfect in every measure of gaming, and in most measures of popular entertainment as well.
But why you ask? Let’s examine the ways:
The story is engaging and has a clearly defined three act structure, just like the greatest movies and plays of all time.
The visuals convey the world of Portal perfectly, everything is familiar but yet odd and at no time will you be taken outside of the game because of a misplaced pixel or design element.
The sound design beautiful, perfect, unearthly and will haunt your memories for years to come.
The controls will make you do things you never though possible and expand your mind in new directions. You’ll accomplish things you’ll never knew were possible just a few short hours before you started to play this game.
The ending is easily one of the greatest endings of all time, for any medium, and will keep people talking (and singing) for years to come.
The length is perfect. Sure it is short; taking only around 2-3 hours to finish, but this allows Portal to be played exactly like it should. If Portal was yet another 25 hour FPS it would have been remembered a good game with interesting controls and that would have been it. But by being short it allows you to appreciate every single second that you play the game, lets you marvel and how they were able to pack so much story into such a short period of time. There is no “dead time” in portal, no filler content, no repetitive tasks. Portal is exactly the perfect length for the story it needs to tell, and it will keep you wanting for more. And at three hours there is no excuse for you no to play this game at least once. Everyone can finish the game of Portal.
Portal isn’t just a game … it is art and helps move the entire medium that much closer to being respected and viable medium for telling a complex engaging story as good, if not better, than any other popular medium.
So once again I ask … have you played Portal?
December 4, 2007
Since I've been gone for a little while I decided to make this show a bit special. Not only do I have a great guest but I have my biggest contest yet where you can win a free next-gen game console! That's right, a brand new console, as well as other great prizes, and all you have to do is listen to the show! And in celebration of National Dice Day I have a great interview with Christopher Perkins from Wizards of the Coast. Chris and I geek out and talk about Dungeon & Dragons new 4th Edition and it's upcoming transition into the online world. Enjoy the show! Gaming Steve Episode 64 Program
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March 27, 2007
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October 16, 2006
Something I love to do is try to find the "hidden gems" of the gaming world. Games which have little to no press but are fun, solid games. Games such as Puzzle Pirates, Weird Worlds, and Ticket to Ride are type of games which really get me excited, games which will generate little to no press, but yet have a cult following and are a ton of fun to play.
Of course, how do you find these hidden gaming gems? I have found GameRankings and GameFAQs as the best sources as they have exhaustive gaming lists. Often trying to find these games is a hit or miss exercise, often turning up something like Skydive! rather than Space Rangers 2. Which brings me to my latest find ... MapleStory.
Never heard of it before? Join the club, until I saw it listed as the number two most popular PC game on GameFAQs (right below World of Warcraft and above Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion!) I never heard about this game before. And don't bother looking for this game on Gamespot or IGN or any other major gaming web site, they all have no information on this game (it's not even listed in GameRankings). Yet this side-scrolling MMORPG game is wildly popular with an unofficial 50 million players worldwide. That would make MapleStory seven times more popular than World of Warcraft ... how can this be?
How can a game with no advertising and no press be so popular? I've seen this game listed as the #2 PC game on GameFAQs for over a year, and yet I have to find a single person who has heard or played this game! What is going on here? Why isn't this game getting more coverage? Could it be that MapleStory needs to spend some money on advertising to get some coverage? (That's a topic for another day.)
Well, I gave what appears to be the most popular MMORPG in the world a try for a few weeks and I will say that there is nothing groundbreaking here, but it is a fun, solid game that has a lot going for it. First of all, it's totally free to play (that's good) ... sort of (that's bad). You can download and play the whole game without paying a cent (that's good). However, if you want some cool gear or a cool pet you'll have to use "real money" to buy these special items (that's bad). This method of giving the game away for free while requiring players to buy the very best equipment is very popular with Asian MMORPGs and has proven to be extremely successful (that's good). I am still surprised that more western MMORPGs don't use this pricing method, but expect this to change in the upcoming years (Frogurt is also cursed ... that's bad).
The gameplay in MapleStory is strange combination of platform action, RPG character classes, pixilated graphics, and MMO grouping and ends up playing unlike anything out there. Exploring all the content in the world within a 2D environment takes some getting used to, but the colorful, bright graphics always make the journey interesting. But you will get a workout moving your character during fights while activating your special powers and trying to chat all at the same time. Whether this style of gameplay is fun or just a carpal tunnel syndrome trainer is undecided.
Like everything else in the game, the interface is solid and gets the job done, but the buttons are so large that I often felt like I was playing a game designed by Playskool. The character classes and quests are your standard RPG fare, nothing new to see here. But what the game lacks in originality in character classes it more than makes up when it comes to monster design. Where else can you kill candle monsters, zombie mushrooms, killer birthday cakes, and dozens of other bizarre monster creations? It's as if the designers took everything fun and harmless from your childhood and turned it into a man-eating spawn of the devil. Now I can see why this game is so popular throughout the world! Who can resist killing pink wind-up killer teddy bears?
Perhaps the best part of MapleStory is a huge friendly community (where did all of these people come from?). It's always easy to find a group and although many of the players appear to be of the "younger" crowd, the gameplay is light enough that you never have to worry about a Leeroy Jenkins messing up your "epic" quest.
October 3, 2006
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