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    1. The Surge Review: The Dystopian Future is Now

      The Surge is a new setting for the recent style of  “
      ” pioneered a few years back by Demon’s Souls. While most of the games in the genre have taken a turn to a darker, more macabre world (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, et al), The Surge places its brand of action squarely into a dystopian future.
       
      You enter the storyline of the game expecting a new lease on a damaged life but quickly come to realize things are not what they seem. Throughout the game, Deck13 Interactive pioneers a few unique twists to the combat mechanics that feel both new and borrowed from other games and genres, but overall work out quite nicely.
      Preparing for the Apocalypse

       
      The gameplay is very involved. You can target specific parts of your opponent to acquire pieces that can be crafted into new equipment for yourself. The general action elements of the combat system are easy to pick up, but animations adjust in their style, speed, and utility based on the armor, equipment, and weapons you use. The game looks nice, sounds nice, and should be able to keep your attention as a time-killer if you’re waiting for something else to release.
       
      Unfortunately, it’s just not overly engaging on its own. Don’t get me wrong. The game is good. It’s a fun bit of action for an hour or so at a time, but I didn’t find it to be the kind of thing that I got roped into for a completely unintentional binge-gaming session.
      Robots and Grim Future

       
      I think the problems it ran into in that regard were two-fold. The story starts out pretty interesting, but starts to feel off-kilter and failed to hold my interest as things progressed as it was all very predictable. And the “Hardcore” aspect of this “Hardcore Action Game” just didn’t feel right. The game felt more like the difficulty lay in figuring out how to “game” the system instead of adapting to an unexpected opponent. The AI rarely, if ever, changes its approach. Tactics for defeating your enemies quickly become very “rinse and repeat.” The game just doesn’t have that sense of serious tension in combat that it needed to shine on its own.
       
      The game does show us that this formula can work in more than a melancholy, depressive medieval apocalypse. But, then again, do we want it to? Part of the original's appeal was that overbearing sense of dread around every corner. The Surge presented something of a jump factor where the unexpected cyborg may pop out at an unexpected or inopportune time, but it lacked continuous tension.
       
      But, all in all, if all you’re looking for is a cool bit of cyborg bashing, gear grinding and a little bit of maze-exploration, the game is good.
      The Looks and Sounds of The End

       
      Graphically, the game was pretty well done. There wasn’t anything overly spectacular about it, but it didn’t disappoint by any means. The developers did a good job in altering the environment in different areas so that nothing looked overly repetitive or recycled. The shadows were well utilized and sensibly placed – something I feel many games fail badly at, but which The Surge did very well.
       
      The sound is generally pretty good and keeps well with the ambiance of the setting, but could have had a little more variety to it. But the 300th time of hearing the exact same impact noise when you swat a cyborg you start to wonder if they couldn’t have invested a little more time in variety in the “attack noises” department. Well, considering most of what you’ll be doing in the game is beating on things. However, I may be being overly critical. There are plenty of games out there with this exact same issue.
       
      Modular Upgrades, Bullet Time and Exoskeletons

       
       
       
      Gameplay was a good bit of action styled, timed-swing beat-em-up with the unique aforementioned targeting mechanism that the game utilizes to mix things up a bit from the standard mold. Mix in some crafting, gear grinding, and RPG elements related to upgrading your equipment and you've got a game. Once you get into it and understand the core elements, it quickly becomes second nature. It has plenty of replayability in short bursts just for the fun of it, but you might find it hard to get truly engrossed in the storyline.
       
      The game was well developed, all things told, and I can’t say that I ran into any serious bugs during my run through it. If anything, I ran into one instance where an enemy I wanted to kill accidentally glitched through the wall and I couldn’t reach it. But, this game respawns all its enemies each time you run back to the base to modify your gear. So, a quick jaunt back to the lab and back was all it took to fix the fluke.
      The Surge : Final Thoughts

       
      The only real place I have to say the game was disappointing was with the storyline. I felt really excited at first. The game was showing me something in the very beginning with my character that I thought was going to see some serious development- then it just jumped into sci-fi trope land. I would have liked to see the game explore your characters underlying backstory and personal struggle more.
       
      Instead, you run into the action trope: a character who picks something up they’ve never handled before in their life and has somehow suddenly and inexplicably innately mastered it.
      All in all, pick it up if you’re looking for a well-made smash-em-up to fill time between the last thing you beat and your next anticipated release. It will keep you occupied enough to feel like it was worth the investment, but I can’t promise it will end up on your all-time favorites list.
       

        • Post Type: Review
    2. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 Review

      Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a first person shooter developed by a relatively small studio (CI Games) whose prior works have pretty much revolved around a series of other Sniper titles and a brief dip into third person fantasy combat with Lords of the Fallen. That said, I went into this game with some pre-conceived notions about what I was expecting to play. So let’s talk first about what it is that the game really “is” and what it does.
      The Lone Sniper

       
      The entire function of the game is built around the idea of the player being a lone sniper out to get the bad guys and provides the player with tools and options to do so sight-unseen. In an attempt to provide the game with some degree of personal immersion, the story puts the player into a position where they are also pursuing a personal mission in the process of doing their job for the military.
       
      The game takes into account aspects of weapons handling that many other games regrettably neglect. It takes into consideration the significant effects of elevation, wind shear, breathing, and distance in scoping out and eliminating your target.
       
      They’ve also created an open world concept for the game that is different from past games in the series and, to an extent, it could be argued that this was an attempt to give the player more freedom in choice of their operations. Players also get to choose between three different skill trees as they gain experience and flesh out their play style.
       
      However…all of this seems pretty irrelevant when you take into consideration that there are other games out there that have done it better and are just more enjoyable.
      Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 Brings Back Realism

       
      Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 certainly has some good points. It takes the ridiculously unrealistic and absurd aspects of sniping that are unfortunately a part of so many first person shooters and brings it back to reality. So if there is anything Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 should be admired for, it’s bringing back realism and sanity to a task that’s been made so gamified that it actually ruins the game it’s put in.
       
      So if your thing is that you want realistic sniping, go ahead and give this game a try. You will more than likely be pleased by that aspect of the game. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing I can say about the game that really made me go “Wow, this is great!” There is a lot left to be desired in the rest of the game.
      The Devil's in the Details (Graphics)

       
      The graphics aren’t bad. They certainly look nice at long distances and they were appealing enough that it didn’t look dated, but with graphics, the devil really is in the details, and there were certain little demons running through the programming as I played the game that really killed the immersion. A few examples may be…
      Everything looks nice until the game deliberately zooms in to a kill-shot while sniping, then the entire animation when the bullet is supposed to strike the enemy looks cheap, poorly articulated, and in some instances even pixelish. This really destroys the immersion and takes a lot of the satisfaction away from what should have been a victorious moment.Hearing a helicopter fly overhead gives you a brief moment of anxiety as you rush to the nearest bushes…until you watch the helicopter fly directly over a series of trees/bushes that should bend and sway with the force of the approaching chopper…and instead they look exactly like they did when the chopper was nowhere in site. The execution is all very wooden and uninspired.A variety of graphical bugs have popped up almost routinely and kill the experience altogether.
      That said, I do feel like I need to say something about the overall programming of the game, which leaves a lot to be desired.
      Glitches, Bugs, and Long Load Times

       
      This game is unbelievably buggy. Everything from minor graphical glitches that phase out instantly to literally falling through the ground and disappearing beneath the map on multiple occasions. That by itself almost kills the game completely for me, not because of the inconvenience of the map glitch, but because that glitch then requires a complete re-load. And loading screens in this game are PAINFULLY long. When I say I’ve sat at a loading screen for a solid five minutes, I am not kidding. I have not seen loading screens this long in several generations of consoles.
       
      Sound in the game isn’t great either. It’s certainly not bad, but there needs to be a lot more “oomph” to certain things that just sounded too dull or under-emphasized and left me feeling a bit under-satisfied.
      Predictable Story & Character Development

       
      The story is pretty predictable and the character development…well. Let’s say they found the most painfully stereotypical writer they could to do the narrative for these characters. The characters don’t particularly have any personally heroic qualities to them that make you want to get attached to them, the acting is undeservedly melodramatic – characters will go from 0 to 100 on the drama scale and back again almost instantaneously – and the overall attitude of the main characters leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, if you were trying to create a genuinely unlikeable and groan-inducing character, that would have been easily achievable here. But, somehow, I don’t think that was the intention.
       
      Replayability isn’t really there either. Once I put it down… I was pretty certain I’d played enough of it and could move on to bigger and better things.
      Leaves a Lot to be Desired

       
      Overall, it’s not a bad game, but it certainly leaves a lot to be desired. If you’re looking for a realistic sniping game that does enough right in that regard to be a unique experience and get away from the complete and utter garbage fire that is “sniping” in most other FPS games, then definitely give it a shot. But if you’re looking for a fun, engaging storyline with a strong attention to immersion that will have you coming back every day eager for more…there are games out there that offer much more of that than Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 can muster.

        • Post Type: Review
    3. Top 10 couch coop and versus games for the holidays

      It's that time of year again! Time for families to make the trek back home or for people to attend parties, or do none or all of the above. Even with all of the festivities and travel, there is no excuse to stop gaming - in fact, there is every reason TO game. Let's be real - games are a big part of holiday fun. With technology today, we are no longer limited to only board games - though those are incredibly fun. What better way to spend the holidays than screaming at your siblings over an exciting co-op couch game! Not sure what's out there exactly? Well, here are my top ten co-op games!
       
      Let's be clear - these aren't in any particular order, as they are all great in their own way. These are also COUCH games - online play doesn't count for this list, though it could add to the fun! Without further ado...

      Nintendo Land  

      System: Nintendo Wii U

      Players: 1-5
      One of first co-op games on our list comes from those geniuses over at Nintendo: 
      . Players can explore this amusement park-themed game where they can team up to save Hyrule, hunt each other down in Luigi's Mansion, or a number of other fun "Nintendo-themed" activities. The mini-games aren't limited to multi-player events; there are some addictive solo games where players can try to beat each other's high score, like Ninja Castle. What's better than throwing ninja stars at things? Additionally,  Nintendo Land is easy to play, but it has enough challenge for adept players. Overall, this one is good for all ages and gamer levels.
      LittleBigPlanet 3

      System: Sony PS4

      Players: 1-4 (Plus Online Multi-Player)
      LittleBigPlanet 3 is an insanely fun co-op platformer following the adventures of Sackboy in his attempt to save Bunkum, the
      universe. This puzzle game requires a bit of cooperation and all of the players you can get. Players team up to explore and conquer levels, gathering items along the way. While any gamer can attempt this one alone, some puzzles and hidden items require team work! Of course, this is no problem when a player has a few partners. This game is adorable, addicting, but requires a little finesse. In addition to playing the story, gamers can also create their own levels, which adds another layer of fun to the mix. While this game is a blast, it might not be the best for novice players.
      Mario Party 

      System: Nintendo Systems

      Players: 1-4 (5 for Mario Party 10)
      This one seems like the most obvious of all the co-op games on the list. Party is in the title!
      games start as far back as the N64 and there is no sign of them slowing down. With a number of different boards, players follow a 'board game' style system that pits everyone against each other. The objective is to gather as many stars as possible before the final round; the player with the most wins. Of course, it's not as simple as that. Players must move around the board, gather coins, win mini-games, and deal with the treacherous Bowser! In the lastest version, Mario Party 10, a player can even play as Bowser. While the mini-games require a bit a skill, the game is mainly luck based. This one can grate on the nerves after awhile, so be sure to have another game handy.
      Super Smash Brothers 

      System: Nintendo Systems

      Players: 1-8
      The best co-op games often involve two or more characters beating each other to a bloody pulp. What better way to deal with holiday frustrations, right? Well, Super Smash Brothers provides a
      game with all of our favorite characters. The fighting mechanics range from easy (for you button-mashers out there!) to difficult, depending on what kind of combos a player plans on pulling out of his or her arsenal. There is a character for everyone, unlockables, and seeing Jigglypuff fly off the stage is so satisfying for some reason. Of course, fighting games aren't for everyone. If you aren't a fan, it's best to try another option on this list.
      Super Mario 3D World 

      System: Nintendo Wii U

      Players: 1-4
      Nintendo has it's fair-share of fun co-op games, and
      is no exception! This exciting platformer requires skill, cooperation, and puzzle solving - unless you like watching your friends die. In that case, all bets are off. Players team up and navigate the Mushroom Kingdom to save the Sprixie Princesses from Bowser. While it can get frustrating trying to play through the levels when one person is messing around, this game can be a blast for a four-player team. Plus, if anyone has ever played any Mario game before, no training is required!
      The Jackbox Party Pack 3 


      System: PC/Mac/PS4/Amazon Fire Family/ Xbox One

      Players: 1-8
      Here's an utterly awesome and almost effortless party game! Gather everyone around the TV and whip out your cell phones! The
      contains 5 crazy fun games that include trivia, terrible drawing skills, and quirky word play. Each game is straightforward and all players really need to know is how to use a cell phone with internet access. Players log into jackbox.tv, enter the code, and join their friends in board game-inspired fun. This game is for anyone and everyone, and actually has a 'clean' version - and how 'clean' it is can depend on your answers. Easy to set up, fun to play; this is gaming done right.
      Rocket League 


      System: Microsoft/PS4/XBOXONE/OS X/ Linux

      Players: 1-4(8)
      If fighting, trivia, or platform games aren't for you - maybe cars are more your speed!
       is an incredibly addictive competition that combines soccer, basketball, or hockey with demolition derby. It works beautifully. Rev up those engines, design your car, and take to the field to face off against local friends or attempt some group free-for-alls online. While it may take a few minutes for a novice to get the hang of the controls, the excitement and smack-talk that follows will be legendary.
      Wii Sports


      System: Nintendo Wii

      Players: 1-4+
      An oldie, but a goodie! These simple turn-based sport activities are easy and enjoyable for just about any level of gamer. Things could get incredibly exciting if you turn these into drinking games--ha, but I digress. Though there is a nice dose of competitive play, most of the Wii Sports games are low impact and quick to grasp. So grandma and your kid brother can both try their hand at bowling, baseball, golf, tennis or boxing. Play in teams, or go solo - but most of all, get up and have some fun!

      Overcooked


      System: Microsoft Windows/ PS4/ Xbox One

      Players: 1-4
      There's a saying:
      . This is not true when it comes to Overcooked. This game was meant for multi-player! It thrives on culinary chaos as players work as a team to put together as many dishes as they can in a limited amount of time. Play against each other or team up in a simple 3-4 button game that requires a little teamwork and a plan. Either that or just let everyone run wild and burn the kitchen down.
      Mario Kart 8 


      System: Nintendo Systems

      Players: 1-4
      This is the ultimate
      . Racing games are always a blast, but Mario Kart 8 is a cut above the rest. Get ready to burn rubber while dodging pesky banana peels, navigating obstacles and winning that coveted trophy. It's hard to find someone who hasn't heard of or played any Mario Kart game before, but it's easy enough to play for even the most clueless gamer. Soon enough, Great Grandma will be cackling like Wario as she blasts you with red shells like a boss. It's classic, and it's a good time. 
      When it comes to co-op games, any one of these games is a winner. So what are you waiting for? Gather everyone up, pick a game, and start swearing at each other - and have an amazing gaming experience at the same time.
       
      What do you all think? What are your favorite co-op games? Prefer some old school two player action? Why not hop on the Nostalgia Train and check out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, or my personal favorite, Contra.
       
      Have a great holiday!
       


        • Post Type: List
    4. Overcooked Review: A Taste of Victory

      You know what's more fun than cooking in an actual kitchen? Being a master chef of the video game world! And what better way is there to spend time screaming at your friends or loved ones than sitting on the couch with Overcooked. Team 17 created a fun and fast-paced cooking based game that everyone can enjoy. Whether you are prepping the kitchen for four or going solo, this game is a great way to pass the time.
       

      Setting Up The Kitchen
      Our culinary quest starts like any other adventure; King Onion and his dog, Kevin, plead with us to save the world by satisfying the hunger of The Beast. Unfortunately, as players are cooking newbs, the only items they can serve up is salad. Let's face it;  the Beast's hunger cannot be satisfied by salad alone.
       

       
      King Onion takes it upon himself to send the players back in time to travel about and sharpen their cooking skills for a rematch. In order to prepare, the future master chefs (not to be confused with Master Chief...that's another game) must head through cities, go on the road, and venture into outer space to conjure delicious dishes to satisfy the Beast.
      Overcooked Recipe Book
      Overcooked has several different modes: Campaign, Versus, and DLC in the Lost Morsel, and Festive Seasoning. Regardless of the mode you choose, the game has the same focus.
       
      The object of Overcooked is to prepare and serve food while avoiding obstacles and beating the clock. The quicker players put out orders, the more tip money and points they receive. Each level usually has a particular recipe to prepare, such as soup, burgers, fish and chips, or pizza. Orders will consist of various ingredients that must be chopped, cooked, assembled, plated and sent out. In some cases, players are responsible for cleaning dishes, while in others they must avoid kitchen hazards like moving counter tops and jumping between food trucks.
       
      In the campaign mode, players tackle a series of levels that require a mastery of 1-3 stars to advance to the next section. Each level has a particular score that needs to be hit to earn a rank, and players must cooperate in order to master the kitchen. Versus mode pits players against each other in an all-out cook out. Overcooked's DLC options offer would-be chefs more levels and more avatar options.
       

       
       

      Next Top Chef?
      When I purchased this game during XBOX ONE's Black Friday deals, I was reminded fondly of an Atari game called
      . My nostalgia factor took over, and I sat down to play this game. First off, the graphics are pretty great. The game has an old school feel with smooth, modern graphics. The music is catchy, though forgettable - but that's not really what matters in a game like this.
       
      This game is addictive, especially as a co-op game. It's not enough to get one or two stars. I had to have them all, and each stage had a fair amount of difficulty. While not the hardest game on the shelf, some of the levels could prove to be pretty challenging depending on how well your team works together, or how many players you have.
       
      The controls are simple enough, and when it comes time for Versus mode, there is a fair amount of challenge swapping between avatars to beat your opponent - unless of course, you have more players.
       
      I found myself saying pretty often, "There's no way you could do this with one player." That being said, it really isn't as fun with just one person. I'm not sure it's meant to be played solo.
       

      Overcooked: Final Cook Off
      If you are looking for some good, competitive fun, this is the perfect game to pick up. It's a great game to play with a couple of friends or family members, provided you work as a team. Of course, if cooperation isn't your thing, you could find yourself screaming "CHOP THAT ONION" at someone you thought was your friend, but clearly doesn't know his or her way around a kitchen.
       
      Regardless, it's a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, and with the added DLC, players can keep coming back to the kitchen for another round.
       
      So what do you think? Have you played Overcooked before? Which avatar is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
       
      Want to try Overcooked?
       
      Buy it here on XBOX ONE,  PS4, or Steam!
       

       
       
       
       

        • Post Type: Review
    5. Nintendo Switch First Look: The Next Generation

      At approximately 10 am, on Thursday Oct, 20th - Nintendo released a first look at the
      : Nintendo Switch. As I watched the trailer, I couldn't help but be hyped and filled with expectations. The sleek, chameleon-like console is making some pretty big promises. Nintendo boasts a system that can not only function as a high powered console, but one that can be taken mobile. In this new era where gaming is evolved, this next gen console could be just the boost Nintendo needs. 


      First Look at NX Gen Hardware
      Nintendo has always been a powerhouse in the hand-held market. While the numbers for their home consoles have been dropping since the Wii, this is an interesting way to bring both worlds together. It's adaptability for a new era of gamers.  Other systems have tried to have the ability to take the hardware of console gaming mobile. Nintendo Switch appears to have the capabilities of a home console taken on the road. With adjustable and convertible controls, the system can go from console and controller to hand-held with ease.
       
      Another interesting feature is the mobile multi-player, which allows numerous Nintendo Switch owners to pair up and play together. The preview makes it seem that while mobile, up to two players can use the Switch. However, it also shows a number of players gathered around to play Splatoon together. Nintendo has always been an advocate of linking up with friends to really enjoy gaming. It's good to see that the developers are keeping fun and camaraderie at the forefront.
       
      [gallery link=file" columns="2" size="full" ids="4885,4890]

      Nintendo Switch: Switching it up
      What's most appealing about this new console is the controls! It has the old stand-by pro controller, a convertible one for the road, and it splits off for multi-player. This provides a lot of opportunity for game developers to really expand upon this system. It seems that other companies agreed as the interested parties are through the roof. What the Wii U lacked, the Switch is planning to make up for ten-fold. Just think: Final Fantasy XV back on a Nintendo console! Playing Elder Scrolls on the go! There is no telling what the next gen holds.
       


      Questions and Concerns
      With such an innovative console, there are a bound to be concerns. With the mobile capability, I'm curious to see about how the quality and battery life is affected. Mobility is fine as long as the battery life is there. I'd hate to constantly be worrying about charging up a dead battery. Of course, quality switches from console to mobile are a concern, as well as the size of the portable controls. Regardless, this seems to be an exciting new step into the future of games for Nintendo.
       
      So, what do you all think? Are you as hyped up about the NX preview? What are your thoughts on Nintendo Switch. Let us know in the comments below, or sign up for our Nintendo Switch forums and join the discussion!

      Order the Nintendo Switch on Amazon!
      The Nintendo Switch can be found on Amazon now!!
       
       
       
       

        • Post Type: News
    6. Fallout Shelter Review

      For fans of the outstanding Fallout video game series, there’s a nifty app out there that you may not have heard about. First released on the iOS platform in June 2015, Fallout Shelter is also available on Android and MS Windows. The latter has been available since July of this year.

      Fallout Shelter is a different kind of gaming experience; you won't find a vast, open world with seemingly no boundaries here. The game is essentially one-dimensional (although when zoomed in the graphics have a satisfyingly rich, 3D quality .) The horizontal game orientation gives the vault an ant colony quality. At first glance, the layout might pretty simplistic may appear mildly unappealing.

      From the teasing glimpse of the world outside the front entrance to the fluorescent glow of the inner chambers, Fallout Shelter looks like an arcade game at first. While it might look simplistic, however, there is a lot going on inside each one of those cells. Fallout Shelter offers depth where a lot of other app-oriented games fall short.
      Various Levels of Character Happiness

      Players can zoom in close to their vault inhabitants to see and hear what's going on. Playing the role of “overseer,” the game player watches as various characters go about their duties expressing either joy or sadness. A percentage meter indicates not only overall vault morale, but individual employee happiness as well. This is one of the first organizational details of the game. As in the other Fallout games, each character has a series of attributes identified as S.P.E.C.I.A.L. These letters stand for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. Much like role-playing abilities, these attributes help the character succeed in endeavors related to the ability.

      Each ability fits the function of a room. When the paired to a room where they have aptitude in that ability, characters improve happiness and morale.


      Morale drops for those dwellers at work where their aptitude is low. They no longer smile, and make negative comments in hopes the overseer will hear them.

      As with any overseer game, it’s important to keep the people happy. To keep the dwellers satisfied, the overseer must assure that the proper resources exist for the health and well being of everyone. There is still more to the vault than running the day-to-day. Occasionally an emergency occurs inside the vault; Fires break out, production falls below minimums and people get sick, or one of the chambers fills with creatures. Proper layout is important for successfully overcoming these breakouts. A monster invasion of rad rats, or a fire, can quickly spread to other rooms, overtaking the vault and killing the inhabitants. In addition to the internal emergencies, dwellers must also fight raiders and monsters during periodic attacks on the vault.

      [arve url=https://youtu.be/XJ2pHe2U260" align="center" description="Raider Attack, Fallout Shelter]
      Infinite Development in a Finite Structure

      There is a limit to how much development your vault can undergo. It takes a while to achieve, but there is a cap on the number of vault dwellers allowed inside the vault. While making babies and inviting in the occasional wanderer helps expand the fledgling vault, after a time the population maxes out, and the overseer must deny newcomers or release existing members of the vault community into the wild. In addition, there are only so many rooms that can be built.

      Weapons development takes a long time, and isn’t entirely necessary at the higher levels. Outfit design becomes useless as explorers return with countless uniforms. As the explorers continue to fill the vault to capacity, there’s little beyond the uniqueness of the various missions to keep the game interesting. Eventually everything devolves into a series of daily repetitions with little reward for the gamer.


      Additional Humbugs in Fallout Shelter

      Another challenge in the design of the game is the hold-and-drag feature. When moving a character from one room to another, players must press on the figure, then drag them across the vault to the new location. Moving characters to a full room will cause the lowest skill character in that room to switch places with the new character. Movement around the vault requires a swipe action on the screen. In the act of this swiping motion, it’s too easy to accidentally grab a character in one room and swipe them to another location. This causes havoc as characters run through the vault, switching locations and disrupting the assignment structure the player has put in place.

      A feature that would be nice to have is an ability to see the full stock of equipment being used in a given room. Currently the player must look at every character individually to determine the type of weapon they carry. For some missions, it is necessary to equip the explorers with a specific weapon; with 200 vault dwellers to look at, the one-by-one method of searching is frustrating.

      All of this action goes on inside the vault, but there is more to do beyond home for the successful overseer.
      Exploration: The Not so Great Outdoors

      One of the first things the overseer can do beyond the vault is to send dwellers on exploration missions. Sending well-armed and provisioned dwellers out into the wasteland generates the opportunity for external encounters. Explorers can also discover useful items and money(bottle caps) to help the vault thrive. Characters sent into the wasteland explore until the overseer either recalls them, or they die.


      Once outside of the vault, the character will radio in if they come across another site to explore (truck stops, markets, and other vaults.) The overseer can then decide whether he or she should enter. The overseer can also tap on the outside landscape and see how the explorer is doing. While exploring the wastelands, the explorer keeps a journal of his or her discoveries.
      Quests: Don't Lose Your Head

      Dwellers also go out into the world via a series of quests found in the overseer’s control center. Up to three dwellers can form a party to travel and complete various missions for items, caps, lunch boxes, pet crates, and Mr. Handy bots. Some of the more interactive missions include a questions/answer game called “Lose Your Head.” The team is able to avoid a fight by correctly answering a number of difficult questions.



      All the Charm of the Original

      Fallout Shelter maintains the spirit of the original series with the same quirky, 1950s oriented post-apocalyptic kitsch. The music sets the mood and the figures' cartoon charisma blends with an edgy violence to create the unique blend of sweet and savory that is the Fallout world. While the setting is nowhere as detailed as the console games, there is a very convincing sense that you are operating in the same world. The nostalgia of the parent games carries forward through various encounters in a way that is satisfying for fans of the franchise. The action is substantial and the challenges are consistent enough to offer many hours of entertainment even to players who have never tried the console games.
       Parting Thoughts

      Fallout Shelter is a fun game to play and is especially rewarding as an interlude between releases of the major console games. The shortcomings aren’t insurmountable, and for those who enjoy being an overseer, the reward is perpetual. Building a successful vault is an enjoyable challenge, and there are a lot of discoveries throughout the game-play experience. While the repetition becomes a bit of a drag, for a free app, it’s worth the time invested. After that, it's a matter interest.


       

        • Post Type: Review
    7. Tales From The Borderlands Retrospective

      The folks over at Gearbox know a good thing when they see it, and when it comes to the Borderlands franchise they’ve got a good thing. Since the release of the original Borderlands game in October 2009, the series has expanded through Borderlands 2, Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, and now Tales From the Borderlands, an offshoot from the Gearbox brainchild via Telltale Games.
       
      The entire Borderlands franchise is a DLC dream. This is Monty Haul crossbred with Seinfeld. The setting of Pandora, which is the central world of Borderlands, is unique, atmospheric, and enticing. In every instance, you want to get back into that world over and over again. With the game’s mix of story and action, cut scenes, role-playing, and adventure, the game far surpasses its status as a FPS, and moves into the realm of epic narrative.
       
      In Tales From the Borderlands, the aesthetic realizes its full potential: in plot, characterization, humor, and playability. It is built as a cinematic presentation interjected sporadically with timed options for the player to choose a response to various prompts, mostly determined through banter between characters. This is choose-your-own-adventure at its finest. Every choice the player makes in response to a prompt determines the arc of the story-line. The responses even determine the development of character relations.
       
      A third component of the game blends action and cinema to create a nearly seamless narrative experience. The player has a only a brief moment to react to combat prompts, usually intended to move the character out of harm’s way, before the character is smashed, shot, or otherwise killed.

      No Shortage of Personality
      The story centers primarily on Rhys, a Hyperion middle-runger hoping to climb higher on the corporate ladder. In short,Rhys finds out that his boss has been replaced by his nemesis, and that he isn’t getting the promotion he was expecting. Rhys and his friend Vaughn decide to make a trip from the Hyperion Space Complex to the surface of Pandora to conduct a little side business.
       
      Rhy's parallel story follows Fiona and her sister Sasha. Over the course of trying to make an exchange for a supposed vault key (the ever present motif in all of the Borderlands stories) Rhys and Vaughn get caught up with Fiona and Sasha and mayhem ensues. The writing is brilliant and the characters are unforgettable. The wit and flirtatiousness between Rhys and the female leads rounds the characters to form making every moment enjoyable, and it contributes to the player’s ever expanding understanding of the great Pandora and beyond.
       
      All of the beloved trappings of the Borderlands universe are here: dingy, dangerous Pandora; sterile, corporate Hyperion; cameos by the mysterious and enigmatic heroes of the Borderlands Hall of Fame. The graphics maintain the signature art-comic style of all of the Borderlands products, and while the style has been off-putting to some users in the past, fans of the franchise have nothing to fear in terms of the consistency and enjoyment they’ve come to expect.
       


      A Few Things That Bug, Tho
      At this point, it might seem like Tales From the Borderlands is a flawless gem of a game and that everyone who loves the Borderlands franchise is going to love this, too. Well, yeah, that’s probably pretty accurate. Still, for those who are tired of Handsome Jack and his apparent omnipresence, well, he’s back at it again. And it’s not like the story-line isn’t full of new characters to love and loathe. The story is rich enough with colorful villains and sideways anti-heroes that major personalities from earlier releases don’t need to be reprized.
       
      Another aspect of the game that some might find distracting is the interactive style. With its sideswipes and button mashing, one is reminded of the old arcade classic (and clunky at best mechanics) Dragon’s Lair, where dexterity and timing are the difference between success and failure. But the action in this game is fluid and it allows for a different sort of gaming experience from the straight up shooter that the other Borderlands products comprise.
       
      It’s worth mentioning that this game is episodic;  since it came out in 2014, all five episodes are available for one purchase price. For those players who enjoy the serial nature of a good story-line, the episodic style probably isn’t a problem. For players looking for a more unified narrative, or straight up action, this isn’t the game for them.

      The Borderlands Elephant In the Room
      The ultimate tease throughout the entire Borderlands story-line is the adventurer’s pursuit of the magical, mystical vault. The mystery surrounding the vault, and the promise of hoards of weapons, wealth, fame, and bizarre technology, has driven the story along for nearly a decade – but one has to ask, will they ever reveal the vault?
       
      As Tales From the Borderlands proves, players want more of Pandora. The promise of finding a vault has become a side-story to the tributaries of intrigue that the deeply complex and wildly fascinating Borderlands universe creates. Actually adding the vault experience would seemingly deepen the satisfaction of this well-designed concept. With the question of the vault answered, the world can continue to develop and the franchise would still thrive. If not, the pursuit of yet one more unattainable vault becomes gamer click-bait, and the hope and excitement will fade with the realization that no one is ever going to see inside one of Pandora’s vaults.
       
      Tales From the Borderlands is a hit for all the right reasons. The storytelling is brilliant and original. The characters are fresh, yet still familiar according to the style of the franchise. The mix of the interactive game-play with uninterrupted cinema is a new twist for the franchise that only adds to gamer satisfaction. There’s a lot to like about this game and virtually nothing to criticize. The fact that it’s available across a variety of platforms and so easily accessible means that everyone who can play it, should. Maybe soon, with all of the love fans of Borderlands have for the game, we’ll get a peek inside that vault after all.

        • Post Type: Editorial
    8. I am Setsuna Review: A Glimpse on Past Glory

      The highly anticipated I am Setsuna was designed in the shadow of legendary JRPGs to fill a void. While newer Western RPGs take a leaf from a grittier book and classic JRPG titles constantly evolve in order to keep fans, there is an emptiness where masterpieces once told epic stories. This was a time where battles revolved around an active-time battle system. A bi-gone era that had gamers searching sprawling maps for secrets, probing NPCs for much needed clues, and scratching their heads behind well-developed ‘plot-walls’ that granted restricted freedom.  Modern RPGs have taken a different route, involving more exploration, focusing less on controlling a group of characters, and incorporating more action-based combat.  With all of these changes in mind, Tokyo RPG Factory developed I am Setsuna for the PS4.
       

       
       

      Story First Look: I am Nostalgia
      I am Setsuna follows the journey of a hired swordsman as he tries to fulfill a contract. What starts as a simple 'hit' mission becomes a sprawling adventure as our main character, Endir, escorts his former mark, Setsuna, on her quest.  It's her duty to reach the Last Lands and sacrifice herself to stave off the impending monster invasion. Without giving too much away, the story is a simple trope that pays homage to many previous JRPGs.  We have a motley crew taking part in a very somber journey where many parts feel familiar and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Our semi-silent protagonist, strong-hearted girl, and many other characters create an enjoyable, if short-lived, tale. I am Setsuna provides the audience with interesting twists and a compelling story that fits the genre very well.
       


      Second Glance: Sacrifice for the Sake of Time
      While the story has a lot of potential, there are times when I am Setsuna misses the mark. Many of the main characters had interesting back stories,  but others needed little extra development - including the silent protagonist. Endir's involvement in the game was refreshing and different, but he was basically flat, and understandably so. Other characters in the past had the same design, but Endir wasn't some youth in a coming of age story. There is mystery behind the mask and it would have been interesting to explore it. The development of the villains also falls a bit short. At first, our main villain is menacing. However, as time passes and the true 'villain' is revealed, the build-up is rather anti-climactic.
       
      Another pain point is the ending. With much effort to leave out spoilers, the ending felt fast, forced, and somewhat confusing. It was almost as if the developers meant to carry on a greater story, but ran out of time. There were many little things I discovered in game exploration that could have added layers to the story, but the writers didn't build upon them. Instead of taking a place next to some of the great JRPGs, I am Setsuna's story fell a little short on expectations.
       
      Don't get me wrong, the story was decent. However, there were certain aspects that could have been expanded upon and the plot could have come together more seamlessly.
       

       


      Under Attack: The Battle Mechanics and World Navigation
      The basic play of I am Setsuna was modeled off of older JRPGs, particularly Chrono Trigger.  Three exchangeable party members navigate the world map (slowly) by foot or airship in search of dungeons and towns. While inside towns, players can talk to NPCs, find treasure, and purchase various items from shops. In dungeons, players can find treasure and encounter monsters. Players have the option of avoiding a fight, getting a first strike, or they can be ambushed. A victory earns EXP and sell-able spoils, but no actual gold. Gamers can get money by trading in their battle spoils to the Magic Consortium.
       
       
       


      Shops! Shops! Shops!
      There are four particular merchants in I am Setsuna: an Item's merchant, a blacksmith,  the Magic Consortium, and the Chef. Each of these merchants are typical of RPGs - one sells items, one sells weapons, one has abilities, and the final makes stat/material/and EXP consumable boosting items.
       
      The exchange system is rather unique in I am Sestuna. As mentioned previously, the Magic Consortium is the place to get gold, but it's also the only place where players can acquire abilities. Selling spoils not only results in cash, but a number of useful abilities for the party.
       
      With money in hand, players can purchase weapons, items, and stat boosting treats. In order to gain access to the treats, gamers should hang on to the green spoils they happen to pick up on their travels. Certain townsfolk will be looking for these ingredients and they will exchange the recipe for the items they need. Afterwards, players can hand off the recipe to the Chef and purchase the item as often as they wish.
       
      While characters can purchase whatever they want, they may have a hard time selling things like weapons and armor. Items and spoils are typically the only things that can be exchanged for gold.
       


      Character Set-Up : Spritnites, Weapons, and Talismans
      The character set-up for I am Setsuna is pretty basic and easy to follow; each character can equip a weapon and a talisman. The talismans provide boosts to battle stats, Fluxes, and special abilities, while the weapons increase attack and defensive stats.  Talismans can also give characters ability slots for items called Spritnites. Most Spritnites are character specific abilities, but there are many support Spritnites that can be shared among the party.  They are essentially the magic of the game and using them drains MP. When used in conjunction with one another, talismans can allot characters with fearsome abilities and strong defenses.
       


      Battle: Sneak Attacks and Escape
      When a party heads though a dungeon or any area with monsters, they have the option to engage in battle - much like Chrono Trigger.  A player can avoid a battle by dodging the monsters on the map, or try to get the jump on them for a first strike. I am Setsuna uses the ATB system with a little twist. As a battle begins, characters can attack like normal, but with the addition of a timing mechanic.
       
      Players can hold off on attack in order to build up Special Power or SP.  When a character is just about to attack, players can hit a button and use this 'SP' to deal extra damage or add special skills to an action, much like Super Mario RPG. Each character can store up to three SP at a time, and it's best to use them - they do not carry over from battle to battle.
       
      During an encounter, players control their party and choose from three actions: Attack, Tech, or Item. While Attack and Item are self explanatory, Tech acts as the 'special attack' that consumes MP on the menu. The type of tech a character has access to depends on which Spritnites he or she has equipped. These techs can be combined with other party members for a single powerful action. From that point, battles turn tactical. It's important to learn about the enemies in order to defeat them quickly and acquire rare drops. Thankfully, the game has a fun beastiary that provides useful tidbits about how to defeat enemies previously encountered.
       

       


      The Good, the Bad, and the Missed Chances
      The battle system and game play were very good in this game; it was basic and it worked - it was pretty safe. I liked the addition of the timing, the specific character classes, and the ability to customize my characters to a point. My biggest gripe with the actual game play is the same as the story. There simply wasn't enough. A few dungeons felt repetitive, and there were open areas that players had no reason to explore. I tried to explore as much of the map as possible, but found little reward for doing so. I actually wondered at some point if I was actually missing something - which I might be! There were many areas for growth.

      Final Thoughts
      Overall, I enjoyed playing through this fun RPG. The battle system was easy to learn, the characters were interesting, and the graphics were incredible. With a bit more game play,  more character development, and perhaps a little variation to the dungeons, this game could have been a classic. I am Setsuna is a fun, nostalgic nod to the great JRPGs of the past, but it doesn't match or surpass them. So, what did you all think of the game? Want to give it a try? Get it on PS4 or Steam.
       


        • Post Type: Review
    9. This is the Police Review

      It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate time for the release of This is the Police. However, like the game’s creators, I have no desire to make any political statements in this review. There are plenty of things about this game to discuss without broaching the subject of current events. It bears mentioning, however, that This is the Police does not shy away from the topics of racism, sexism, rape, corruption, terrorism, or other such atrocities. With this matter out of the way, let us begin to discuss the game itself.
      As a combination visual novel and police management sim, This is the Police attempts valiantly to blend its gameplay with a strong narrative. At the outset, the player discovers that they are Jack Boyd, the sixty-year-old police chief of Freeburg. Jack has only 180 days remaining before the Mayor installs one of his family members as police chief. Immediately, we are shown just how unlikeable and corrupt Freeburg’s Mayor is, and this fact is hammered home early and often throughout the game. The visual novel portion kicks off the game and teaches us about Jack’s home life (or lack thereof) and his desire to track down his wife of many years. In addition, he bids farewell to his longtime deputy and begrudgingly welcomes a new, younger replacement. Boyd’s deputy has suspected ties to Freeburg’s mafia and, though he was acquitted, decides to step down and eventually flees the city. Indeed, Jack’s deputy was involved with the mafia and begs Jack to help him repay his debts. We are given reason enough to assist him, but the player is still presented with the option to do so. Choose to help, and Jack assumes his deputy’s debts and is now beholden to the Sand family mafia. Refuse, and the mafia calls on you anyway. Whatever you choose, you learn that Jack is focused most intently on making a cool $500k for his retirement fund, and the game allows Jack to do so in a variety of ways.
      After the rather lengthy introduction and a short press conference, wherein the player can choose the responses to each question, the game switches to its management section. Each day, you must assign police to tasks that pop up throughout the city. Most of these are 911 calls that require your attention. Often, however, the Mayor will ask that you assist in less important matters. The mafia will also begin to ask for your officers’ precious time and attention. Of course, as with any management sim, the player will have to soon make tough choices. Do you prioritize one type of 911 call over another? Do you ignore the mayor’s pleas for assistance and instead help the mafia in order to make more money? What will you do when the mayor orders you to fire all of your black officers because of a death threat they’ve received? These ultimatums happen regularly, and provide the bulk of the game’s difficulty. Cutscenes occur with regularity as well, in between many of the “day” transitions.
      As one might expect, each choice you make carries rewards and consequences. Support the mafia over the mayor? Make more money in the short run, but city hall cuts your budget and requires you to cut a space on your roster, reducing your effectiveness. Suck up to the vile and corrupt mayor? Money trickles in much more slowly, but you can choose a boon from the city each week, such as more staff or a fatter paycheck. Snub them both, and quickly realize how hard it is to operate with no money and a hampered police force.
      Music and Sound

      While this provides a general overview of the game, the strongest and weakest points of This is the Police are found in the specifics. First, let me say that the soundtrack is fantastic. Each day, the player may choose a record to place on the turntable (a cassette or CD later in the game). From funky jazz to soothing classical, these tracks are sure to combat the stress of your job. Chopin and Beethoven are on display here, along with the Pearce-Pickering Barrelhouse Band, along with a few soundscapes presented in the late game. The music selections fit both the style of the main character and that of the game perfectly.
      Graphics and Design

      This is the Police shows off a unique art style, most often on display during the "visual novel" portion of the game. It appears to be a mix of polygonal abstract and watercolor, with detail often missing from faces and limbs. Officer portraits, however, are fully formed. It's an art style that works well for the genre, and the minimalist style almost seems to speak to Jack's mental state throughout the story. I encountered no glitches or bugs with the artwork or scene transitions, and the cutscenes play out smoothly.
      Writing and Story
      The writing proves to be very strong during both the visual novel and management sections of the game. Each call or situation feels distinct, even if some are more detailed than others. Let it be known that if indeed each call is unique, then around one thousand or so calls are present. Sensitive subjects are on display throughout, as mentioned earlier, but each is handled in a very human or believable way. The corrupt mayor is a complete and utter scumbag, most certainly, yet his racism, sexism, and derision are tools that build him as your adversary from the start. Jack remains a tough guy throughout the narrative, regardless of how the player guides him. This makes it difficult for him to relate to his friends, and also impedes his ability to handle his addiction and health concerns. He’s a very well written character, even if he doesn’t change much based on the player’s input. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that he is played by Jon St. John, the much-beloved voice of Duke Nukem. Mr. St. John gives an indisputably stellar performance alongside many other very capable voice actors.
      Gameplay
      What’s more, I found the gameplay to be rewarding and enjoyable throughout most of the experience. Your officers, each rated by a score called Professionalism, are each unique with their own distinct names and portraits. Some days your officers will tell you they can’t come in, and it’s your job to decide whether to tell them to suck it up or give them the day off. You then select what you believe to be the best cops for the 911 calls as they come up, making sure to prioritize more serious or labor-intensive calls. Some will be fakes, but it’s often too difficult to guess. During some calls, your officers will phone back and ask for advice. The responses you can give range from the ridiculous (“pick up a stick and sword-fight the offender!”) to the proper and appropriate procedures (“draw down on the offender and tell them to drop the sword”). I found myself making up stories about my officers, and often sent them in specific pairs. My buddy cops were unstoppable, even if they required the assistance of the SWAT team on occasion. The only implied drawback here, which is felt relatively early, is that your officers do not have much personality, and you don’t interact with them outside of fielding their complaints, combatting their negative attitudes towards you, and sending them on assignments. I would have enjoyed seeing more interaction with these officers, even if such interaction would be somewhat unrealistic.
      The player can also help solve crimes alongside your detectives. After dispatching a lead investigator to the crime scene, you get testimonies and “frames” (picture snapshots) that you use to put the events together. Get it right, catch the crook, and each of your involved detectives and officers get a Professionalism bonus. At a certain point, you’ll be investigating entire gangs from the ground up. You even have the chance to help the Feds catch a serial killer that comes to town, which proves to be a very rewarding experience.
      Though the game does its best to not date itself too specifically, one can presume that the game does not take place before the mid-80’s (when cell phones and CDs saw widespread commercial release). Civil demonstrations occur in support of equality in all forms, combatting sexism, racism, LGB discrimination, and even ageism. All the while, the mayor hands down mandates requiring that you support his regressive and self-serving agenda. Here, dear reader, is where the fatal flaw in the game’s design maligns what would otherwise be an overall positive experience.
      Final Thoughts
      As the player’s sense of morality and ethics guides them away from the mayor, so too does the game punish them. As stated above, the player loses access to officers and detectives each time city hall decides you haven’t been doing a good enough job. This judgement is based on several factors, including how successful you were in handling crime throughout the city, whether you declined to complete mandates from the mayor, and how often civilians and officers were killed. With each mistake, another slot on your roster is lost. With each lost slot, more 911 calls and mandates from the mayor will be failed. A vicious cycle begins.
      During my playthrough, I noticed this cycle relatively early in the game. At that point, however, it was too late to stop it. I simply could not do my job as police chief and keep up with the mayor’s deplorable demands. I continued to lose officers and detectives until, around day 101 out of 180, I had zero remaining staff. The game did not seem to notice this, however. The next day began, and the whole shift played out without my involvement. There was no mention of the FPD having no officers whatsoever. At that point, I was simply amused. I let several days play out in the same way, until at a certain point, the mayor called again saying – surprise – the police department was not doing a great job. He cut my staff yet again. This time, however, I didn’t have anyone to cut. No “Game Over” screen flashed, nor did an alert box pop up. The game simply asked me to cut a member of the staff. I clicked everywhere on the screen and nothing happened. I tried to reload the game to see if I encountered a bug. The same events transpired in the same order. I had lost the game without actually losing the game. I was then about 11 hours into the experience and quite close to the game’s prescribed end point. Suffice to say, I ended my playthrough then and there.
      I did not make too many errors throughout the game. I was generally successful in sending my officers to combat crime, even if I did occasionally assist the mafia. The game does allow you to reload any previous week, but because I did not support the mayor from the beginning, I would be just as well off restarting the game from scratch. All in all, by failing to capitulate to the demands of a disgusting despot, I set myself up for failure and, far more disappointingly, an unsatisfying end to an otherwise satisfying experience. While not everyone will have this same experience, I imagine many will.
      In my humble opinion, This is the Police can and will be a fine game, just as soon as this important issue is fixed in some way. Though it is not necessarily my place to do so, I would like to offer the suggestion of including an option to allow the player to take a pay cut in their weekly salary instead of firing an employee, or instead allow the player to hire and pay their officers directly. I could certainly afford to do so towards the end. At the very least, the game should provide a “Game Over” screen and a brief wrap up in order to provide some sense of closure to the player’s very personal experience. Regardless, in its current state, I cannot in good conscience recommend this title for its full asking price of $14.99. I do, however, highly recommend that you keep an eye on this title for updates, especially if you like great narrative, amazing voice acting, and intriguing management sims.

        • Post Type: Review
    10. Letter Quest: Remastered Review

      A blend of word know-how and RPG tactics, Letter Quest has the best of both worlds when it comes to fun, challenging puzzles and tricky wordplay. Bacon Bandit Games made it extremely easy to get addicted (and with a name like bacon, I half-expected it) to this quirky little word game.
       


      Spelling it Out: Modes and The Basics
      Letter Quest is easy to play, but it’s more than just basic word puzzle challenges. The game is full of role-play inspired details and that lends a unique twist to a classic game. We follow Grimm and his female counterpart, Rose, on their quest to beat up baddies using only words...and a big scythe. The objective is to defeat Grimm and Rose’s foes by spelling out words from a random selection of letter tiles.
       
      The simple concept is made complex by adding various other elements to the mix. Players can choose between two different modes: Story Mode, and the new Endless Mode. Regardless of the mode, players must do their best to tap into their inner dictionary in order to come out victorious. Players control Grimm or Rose, navigating either one through a gauntlet of monsters. Each battle is turn-based and it is important to keep an eye on your character’s HP; if it falls to zero, you lose.
       
      The best strategy is to be mindful of the letter tiles, each enemy’s weakness, and the size of the words being used. The bigger the word, the more damage it does – also, pay attention to the tiles; the more dots, the more damage it does. There are also special circumstances that can cause the letters to crack, be poisoned, turn to stone, or other various status ailments. These can effect the damage a player can do. Letters can also turn to crystal – which can earn players gems –which are pretty crucial in the Story Mode.
       


      Story Mode
      Letter Quest’s story mode sets players on a winding path across multiple stages, testing their vocabulary, and defeating monsters. Players enter various levels with four different parts. While a player only needs to play through a level once to move on across the map, there are three addition playthroughs that have special objectives for added difficulty. The additional levels usually include a timed completion, a particular handicap, and an elite final level. Completing the first three levels earns a reward a yellow star each, but if a player manages to conquer the elite level, he or she will receive a red star.
       
      One of the game objectives is to obtain every star possible, but the levels vary in difficulty. Like most RPGs, players must defeat boss levels. These bosses require specific strategies in order to win and move on. The boss levels can be repeated 4 times. For their efforts, players are rewarded with a funny little comic.
       
      Completing levels not only earns players a star; defeating enemies results in earning gemstones which can be used to purchase upgrades, equipment, and items.  Much like an RPG, as a player completes the different stages, the enemies get harder. Not to worry, there are specialty shops available between levels where gamers can use the gems they’ve earned in battle to buy potions, equipment upgrades, stat boosts, and other helpful items.  In addition to the level completion bonuses, players can also earn extra gems from achievements like spelling words without vowels, or busting up a certain number of gem piles. If the RPG elements make your head swim, no worries – there’s another mode for you.
       





      Endless Mode
      This part of the game is new to the Remastered version. While the Story Mode has players battling enemies in episodic levels, Endless Mode is much like running the gauntlet. Grimm must face a slew of monsters of varying difficulty without upgrades in an attempt to see how far he can go. Players receive coins which they can use to purchase health and stat boosts, but they must survive longer, more treacherous stretches of ghouls before each check point.
       
      This mode is perfect for players who care less about the RPG stats and more about achieving a high score.  It’s always fun to try and beat your high score.
       


      Any Last Words?
      Letter Quest is a pretty fun game when all is said and done. There are certain little quirks that give the game a little extra. There is a small screen on the side that tells players the definition of the words they spell, and there are little enemy descriptions for each encounter.  I enjoy the extra details and the RPG twist the game added. The character animation is great, and the graphics match the theme very well. In addition to fighting monsters, there is a neat little ‘Wheel of Fortune’ guessing game that can result in battle boosts which I found refreshing during longer levels. It was a nice change of pace. Each aspect is carefully detailed and the game play is insanely addicting.
       
      However, the game is not without some minor flaws. The music could get a bit repetitive and some of the upgrades weren’t very helpful – but these are minor flaws. Overall, Letter Quest Remastered is an enjoyable word game that is extremely fun and challenging.
       
      Letter Quest is available on Steam, App Store, Google Plaay, Amazon apps, and soon the PSVita!!
       


        • Post Type: Review
    11. Top 10 video games inspired by legend

      There are various key components to creating an amazing video game, especially when it comes to cementing a franchise. It’s not enough to have cutting-edge graphics; incredible video games are a cocktail of enjoyable game play, balanced mechanics, and an entrancing story.  For a franchise, it’s difficult to keep the series feeling fresh, while, at the same time, connecting the updated details with the familiar framework that fans love. This is particularly true when it comes to writing the story. That's what makes them legends.

      Legends that Inspire
      The plots in action/platforms tend to be pretty simple: save a princess, save your family, save the world. One of my personal favorite tropes is the ‘Legend.’ There are so many exciting adventure games that utilize legends to create a particular game ‘formula,’ but the end result is some pretty incredible stories.
       
      As I get excited to pick up the latest addition to another unforgettable series, Uncharted 4, it's only right to take a look at the games inspired by legends. (Not including FPS, or RPGS) This list is in no particular order, and as always, if you don’t see your favorite here – just give me a shout out in the comments below.
       

       

      Shadow of the Colossus

       
      In
      , we journey as The Wanderer as he enters the ‘Forbidden Land’ in search of a way to resurrect a young girl named Momo. This is a game based on ancient lore and a mysterious protagonist. While it’s speculated that the spectral guide ‘Dormin’ is a nod to a biblical King Nimrod, the premise of the story revolves around evil demons and gathering/defeating macguffins known as the Colossi. 
      The Wanderer is equipped with a special ‘sword,’ must battle forgotten creatures, and all to right the wrongful death of Momo. While this game contains a vague legend, it doesn’t stop this game from being legendary and filled with heart. There is no shortage of fantastic game play and the soundtrack brings players to that ancient time, where warriors fought for their cause, regardless of the price.
       

       

      Ninja Gaiden
      The original series of
      begins with an amazing cut scene and a ninja battle.From there, it's non-stop action and swearing at this exciting NES game. Ryu Hayabusa must stop the revival of an ancient demon called ‘Jashin,’and avenge the death of his father. This particular legend has two demon statues that hold the evil creature, and of course there is a bad guy who wants it released. Throw in a little bit of CIA involvement and rich man and you’ve got yourself a game! 
      Of course, like all legends, the demon is real and Ryu must take it down. After this first insanely frustrating game, Ninja Gaiden became a series. Ryu continued to battle the evil that wished Jashin restored and the Gate of Darkness opened. From the second entry and into current day, the game has changed a great deal as far as plot goes, but the first holds onto the ‘Nintendo hard’ persona and who knows when that ‘legendary evil’ will rise again.
       


      Max Payne

       
      This exciting action-thriller has players gearing up as the notorious Max Payne as he shoots his way through hordes of drug king-pins and mob bosses. While not the traditional action-platformer, this shoot’em up story is full of mythological references, particularly from Norse mythology.
       
      While the game itself isn’t focused on the Norse myths, they are in the connecting elements of the story. The Valkyr drug, Project Valhalla, and the Aesir Corporation are just a few of the references. The developers even slapped an eye-patch on Alfred Woden, the allfather. It’s actually pretty interesting to see how the mythology fits into such a modern game. Full of grit and gore, this psychological thriller is definitely one to pick up.
       

       

      Kid Icarus

       
      While on the subject of mythology, we join Pit on his journey to gather the sacred treasures of the gods: The Mirror Shield, the Light Arrows, and the Wings of Pegasus. Based on ancient Greek Mythology morphed with Christian overtones, Kid Icarus is a rare, but fun side-scroller for the NES. While Max Payne is a bit more subtle about it, this game hits players over the head with it – but it only borrows elements from mythology; it’s not 100% loyal.
       
      There are many elements of the game that feel out of place like wizards and angel wings. Pit’s main adversary is Medusa, the snake-haired gorgon or ‘the Queen of Darkness.’ This entry, much like Ninja Gaiden, falls under that ‘Nintendo Hard’ category, and it’s a rare find. If you’ve never played it, you could always get motion-sick from the sequel, Kid Icarus: Uprising.
       


      Castlevania

       
      This one seemed like a no-brainer. This is a series based on a mixture of legendary characters from classic horror, but none as fearsome as Count Dracula. Dracula himself is rumored to be a creative spin-off the very real Vlad the Impaler.
       
      While Frankenstein’s monster, mummies, Queen Medusa (again? She seems to get a lot of screen time), and the Grim Reaper are fearsome, Dracula is Simon’s greatest foe. Armed with only his magic whip, Simon Belmont battles these devilish creatures from ancient nightmares. Believe me, these games will give you nightmares and not because of subject matters.
      is easily one of the most difficult games ever made. 

       

      God of War Series

       
      There couldn’t be a mythology/legend list without this game. Spartans, Greek Gods, and Titans; oh my! Unlike Kid Icarus, this game is rich with mostly accurate Greek mythology. Between battling Cerberuses and finding Pandora’s Box, the Ghost of Sparta, Kratos, is shoulder deep in a River Styx tide of mythology.
       
      The details of the entire series are filled with legendary goodies; sisters of fate, the ancient Titans once destroyed by the Olympians, and countless Gods trying to kill Kratos. This high-adrenaline game is known for its action sequences, graphic scenes, and amazing visual. Each of the games in the series comes with a fair amount of challenge and fun.
       


      Tomb Raider

       
      Another easy pick for this list involves the many adventures of this English archeologist. Every single part of her character and video game series revolves around the search for and discovery of ancient tombs and ruins. Though Lara Croft’s own story has changed several times, her character still yearns to uncover the secrets buried in the forgotten crevasses of the world.
       
      Her latest journey has her digging into her late father’s research in order to discover the ‘Divine Source’ a supernatural spring located deep in
      city of Kitezh. While this certainly isn’t her first, or her last, journey, each entry in the Tomb Raider series has Lara uncovering items we could only imagine in our wildest dreams. 

       

      Assassin’s Creed
      While most of
      main story takes place in the past, that’s not exactly what earns this title’s place on the list. Assassin’s Creed's lore lies in the ‘Pieces of Eden’ and the ancient species the Assassins and Templars claim to be. Abstergo is seeking these ‘Pieces of Eden’ for nefarious purposes, and of course, to alter the fate of humanity. 
      What’s more is the main character, Desmond’s interaction with the ancient rulers: Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno.  These three names match those of Ancient Roman Gods(and pretty much the Greek Gods.) While avoiding spoilers, Assassin's Creed takes lore to a different level, and it will be intriguing to see how the continuation unfolds.
       


      Legend of Zelda

       

      is one of the most well-know series for Nintendo. Each entry looks to the past in order to establish an intricate story for the future. Whether the legends speak of the Hero of Time, the Hero of The Four Sword, or the mysterious Triforce, each entry in the franchise is seeped in lore. 
      Whenever a new LOZ game is introduced, it only adds to the in-depth backstory. A young hero dressed in green must take up the legendary sword and smite evil in a never ending loop of destiny. No matter which game in the series you decided to play, each is an enjoyable tale with fantastic game play and an amazing soundtrack.
       

       

      Uncharted

       
      The final legends-inspired video game is the very reason for this list. Named for 'Sir Francis Drake,' from his first journey to uncover the lost treasure from El Dorado, Nathan Drake has been on a mission uncover riches. Raised a thief, this uncover-er of legendary places is less archaeologist, more treasure hunter. His lonesome journeys have taken him to Nepal, across the Arabian Peninsula, and to his final destination.
       
      It seems a fitting end for a thief's journey to search for the long-lost treasure of Captain Henry Avery - the most successful pirate. This final chapter has Nathan Drake looking at what he has gained over the years, for better or worse, and what he has to lose.
       
      Have you played
      yet?  What are some legendary games that you've played? 
       

        • Post Type: List
    12. Child of Light Review

      Fairy tales are the magic in our lives. We are told stories like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood as we grow, and we discover more through theatrical story-telling from industry giants like Disney.  Fairy tales, like Child of Light, transport us to distant lands, teach us lessons, and allow us to escape where there are ‘happily-ever-afters.’ Well, that is, of course, if you’ve never heard the original stories. Sure, they all wrap up in a neat little bow on screen, but more often than not; these old stories contain a gruesome twist that you may not remember.  The happily-ever-after party may or may not even occur.

       
      Regardless of which version you’ve come across, chances are that nearly everyone has heard these fairy tales in one form or another. It is in the nature of fairy tales to be told again and again, in different ways, by different mediums – but the outcomes they share are almost always the same. It is a rare and beautiful thing to find a new and original story that can hold its own against the veterans. Child of Light does just that.
       
      Born from an idea rooted in real-life events, Child of Light is a magical tale that is not only engaging, but incredibly fun to play. With wonderful animation-inspired artwork and a fun battle system, this game is definitely worth the time investment.

      Here’s the Plot; Trust me, There’s a lot!
      Our story begins in the year 1895 Austria, which is ruled by a Duke. His wife dies unexpectedly, leaving him to raise his daughter, Aurora, alone. He marries again, like most dukes do in fairy-tales, but on the Friday before Easter, Aurora goes to sleep and her skin becomes icy. The kingdom believes her to be dead and the Duke falls ill.
       
      However, Aurora awakens upon an altar in the fantastical land of Lemuria. She frees the Lady of the Forest, who explains that the land of Lemuria was once ruled by the Queen of Light, but she abruptly vanished. With the light gone, darkness gradually took over, and the Queen of Dark, Umbra. sent her daughters to steal the rest of Lemuria’s light: the sun, the stars and the moon.  Umbra also took it upon herself to steal a mirror that leads into Aurora’s world with plans of destroying the light there as well.
       
      For helping her, the Lady of the Forest creates a firefly by the name of Igniculus. He acts as her guiding light and companion through the darkness Umbra has spread. Together, Aurora and Igniculus must journey to restore the light and reunite Aurora with her father.

       


      Heroes Rarely Go Alone; For Others Have Troubles They Bemoan
      The plot is simply wonderful. It truly takes inspiration from the Grimm’s brothers, Hans Christian Anderson, and the more modern stories from Studio Ghibli. It is not a light-hearted tale, though the dialogue would have you believe it. There are many twists and turns in the plot that are unexpected, and the characters are just as engaging. The cast of characters is very diverse, and unlike some role-playing games, the story is simple to follow.
       
       Like many fairy tales before it, Child of Light tackles some very common themes: the evil step-mother, child abandonment, fear, rejection, and betrayal. Though theses motifs are used often, the game takes a different approach by developing the plot in a unique way.
       
      Aurora’s origin story begins with her mother’s passing and a doting father, not unlike Cinderella. When a step-mother enters the scene, she suddenly falls ill. This is a typical development in most fairy tales and it often leads to one of the greatest fears a child may have: being abandoned or forgotten. With the introduction of a new mother, children are often worrisome that they will be left behind.
       
      When Aurora falls ill and she is transported to the Alter of Light, she vanishes from her world completely. Her father falls ill as a result, and she has a longing to let him know she lives. However, she is given the task of a chosen one.  This particular motif helps connect Aurora with gamers; though we may feel abandoned or without hope, we all have a chance to forge our own path and destiny. We all have the chance to pick up the reigns.

      Common Themes and Intricate Dreams
      The other themes are present in each of the characters Aurora encounters on her journey. While some cowardly characters must find their bravery, several others face the issue of abandonment – being left behind, losing a parent, a love interest, or even his or her entire clan.  Each character has personal motivation, but they find the light in Aurora.  The intertwining story-lines knit an intricate tapestry connecting us with the adventurers on a personal level.
       
      They are given purpose, but never compromise who they are regardless if they are a coward, a sad clown, or a loyal solider. This is all done simply and it will truly draw gamers into the story. Pair this with Child of Light’s easy-to-follow game mechanics, and this title truly engrosses gamers wholly in an enriching experience complete with fantastic visuals and a moving soundtrack.
       


      Here’s How The Game is Played; Learn it fast, Don’t Delay!
      Child of Light is an exciting side-scroller with a role-play twist. The side scrolling elements have players controlling Aurora as they navigate Lemuria. In an exciting scene, Aurora is granted the ability to fly and players must traverse each area searching for treasure, gemstones, and fighting enemies. The world isn’t without its obstacles. It is very possible for gamers to fall victim to the hazards of each stage. The worlds connect rather seamlessly, but each section is riddled with puzzles that players must crack as they explore. In addition to the physical hazards, players can encounter enemies. When approaching an enemy, there are several different outcomes. Aurora and an enemy can collide and the fight will go on with no advantage for either side, players can be “ambushed” by an enemy, or they can launch a “surprise attack” by catching their foe unaware.
       
      The battle itself is much like an active-time battle system. Players can control up to two characters during a battle and could freely swap them out. The bottom gauge is affected by character stats and magical boosts. Each character has particular skills – and they are all very useful. As characters prep for an attack, they can interrupt, or be interrupted during battle. If a character is set to attack, but is hit before they perform an action, their commands are lost. This requires a bit more strategy, especially when it comes to fighting bigger groups of enemies.
       


      Igniculus, Oculi, Overview; That’s a lot of Hullabaloo!
      Though the character slots are limited to two, Igniculus is actually useful during battle. Gamers can move Igniculus about, shining his light to delay enemies or heal his allies. His abilities are quite useful outside of battle as he can be used to open special chests, unlock doors, and solve puzzles.  After winning a battle, all characters receive experience points which level up stats and bestow new abilities.
       
      In addition to leveling stats, characters can be equipped with stat-boosting gemstones called Oculi. Each character can equip up to three stones at one time as an attack modifier, a defense modifier, and stat modifier. Gamers can collect Oculi throughout the game and upgrade the gemstones by combining them. The better quality of the gem, the better the stats.
       
      While fun and easy to play, the game mechanics aren’t completely revolutionary – but that is okay. It allows enough for a fun gaming experience. Each character provides a useful contribution depending on the type of enemy players face, and the buffs actually prove to be very useful.
       


      The Odds and Ends Come Together; They Definitely Make This Game Better!
      Though the story and game mechanics are a reminder of days gone by, this is by far one of the more visually stunning games I’ve ever played. Make no mistake, when it comes to games, graphics aren’t normally a huge selling point for me, (I grew up in the pixel era for goodness sake) but I’d be lying if I said the visuals of this game didn't add to the experience. Truly, Child of Light is a storybook come to life.
       
      Aligned with the breath-taking graphics is the elegantly composed soundtrack. The simple and beautiful piano and accompaniment adds brightness to the world threatened by the dark.  Composed by the amazing Coeur de pirate, aka Beatrice Martin, the soundtrack lends a finishing touch to an entrancing game.

      Not all is Well That Ends; But We Shall Make Amends
      Child of Light is not without its flaws. For one, the rhyming dialogue, while charming at times, seems forced at points and takes away from the message. I understand why the creators decided to do the dialogue in that way, but some of the rhyming doesn’t fit.   Considering the fact that the entire game is rhyme, that is to be expected.
       
      In addition, the secondary character development comes to a halt for some of the party members when they join. The game is ultimately about Aurora, and the game tries to keep the characters involved by showing conversations within the party; it needed a little more though.
       
      Also, more could have been done with Oculi. This was a missed opportunity – there were only so many combinations I could do with the gemstones, and once I reached a peak – there was really nothing more I could do with them. I would have liked to see more exploration with this system. Overall, these are minor details and didn't distract from an exciting adventure.

      Final Thoughts
      Child of Light is a visually-stunning RPG with interesting game mechanics and lovely world. Though it has some minor flaws, it is definitely worth picking up.
       

       
       

        • Post Type: Review
    13. Rocket League Review

      What happens when you throw soccer, speed boosts, and a demolition derby together? The answer is one of the most addicting games ever released on a console.  Rocket League has players pitted against each other in a battle royal in an attempt to score as many times as possible.  Whether you prefer online play or want to try your skills against the bots, Rocket League provides hours of mindless fun for any skill player.
       


      Score:  All About Game Play
      Rocket League pits a certain number of drivers against each other as they attempt to score goals with an over-sized ball. Players can pick up boosts, drive on walls, flip jump, or spiral in order to rack up points for their team.  It’s also possible to take out other drivers by ramming and blowing up their cars. No worries, the destroyed cars re-spawn only moments later, but that could make the difference. Each match is set at 5 minutes; it’s easy to feel the pressure to score as much as possible.
       
      During a game, players can earn points depending on what actions they perform in a match. Scoring goals can rack up big points, but so can blocking a goal, assisting a goal, or centering a ball. As racers earn points, their skill level grows and they win new cars, decals, and other decorations.  These small details really allow a personal touch for each player experience.
       
       
       
      [caption id=attachment_3161" align="aligncenter" width="1920] Are we laughing yet?[/caption]
       
       

      Modes: Bots or Free-For-All
      Rocket League allows for
      t modes:  single mode and multi-player. Single player mode allows gamers to practice their skills alone or with local friends. There is also a Season mode that allows players to play against bot teams of varying difficulty, much like any sport.  This mode is particularly fun with two players. 
      Gamers can also play online in 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, or 4-4 matches. While waiting for other opponents, the game fills in open slots with bots, but as players join – the bots are taken out. It is likely that you can join a game that is already underway. Depending on how chaotic you like it, a match with 4+ players can get pretty crazy, but that is part of the fun. As players join online matches, the system takes under consideration where a player ranks – whether he or she is a rookie or a veteran – and it pairs him or her with the best possible matches. It balances out the teams and makes for a more enjoyable experience.
       


      Exciting Add-ons and DLC
      Rocket League’s DLC involves some themed goodies and fun car customization. Packs include new cars, nods to Mad Max, and cool new cosmetics that are not crucial to game play, but are fun to have.  Let’s not forget the Back to the Future, Batman v Superman, and Knight Rider DLC options! Depending on the platform, Psyonix made licensing agreements with particular franchises that brought
      to the PS4 and Halo-Themed and Gears of War vehicles to XBox.  There are so many customization options, it's easy for players to really stand-out. 
      In addition to awesome decals and vehicles, Rocket League features some free updates that allow a twist on the original format. These mods include low gravity, a cubed ball, or other challenging options to change-up game play.  There are also two variations involving other popular sports: an ice-hockey inspired and a soon-to-be basketball-inspired version.  The hockey version went over so well, it became a permanent addition.
       
      What’s most exciting about Rocket League is the most recent announcement:  cross-platform compatibility.  Imagine this; you have an XBOX 1 and your friend has a PS4. Soon, you can play Rocket League together regardless of your system loyalty! That sounds like a win-win to me. Of course, this is all new technology. We shall see what the future holds; choice may not be an option. It is a step in the right direction.



      Overall:  3…2…1…

      Rocket League is quick, mindless fun that any gamer has time for. Anyone can squeeze in a five minute round, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop at one. With well-designed game mechanics, a simple concept and a purely fun design, it’s a game that is easy to pick up, but hard to put down.  No wonder it received so many awards. Now, go score some goals!
       
      What do you guys think of Rocket League? Give us a review down below!
       


        • Post Type: Review
    14. Unravel is a spool of memories and symbolism

      Memory is a powerful tool.
      Thoughts about our past govern how we live our lives and make choices in the future. They start off strong, freshly formed, and they fade behind us as we grow older and wiser. Memories connect us to who we are, who we were, and to the people and places that weave in and out of our lives.  Memory is a powerful device; it can sell things, conjure up emotion, and even rule the way someone lives his or her life. It can attach us to places, objects, and people we never thought possible, but above all else, memories can disappear completely. Unravel for XBOX One is a stunning, visual game that not only captures what makes a memory, but it creates an experience that almost all gamers can connect with.
       

       
      We follow the journey of Yarny, an anthropomorphic thread of yarn, as he explores a captivating world to piece together lost memories in a photo album. As the tale unfolds, gamers will awe, connect, and feel their way through Unravel discovering their own personal connection with memory.  This game is the exploration of everyone’s personal journey and the obstacles we all must overcome.  With a rich story and stunning visuals, this ColdWood Interactive game is most definitely one worth playing.

      Symbols on a Journey 
      There are many wonderful symbols that tie the events of Unravel together.  The richness of the scenery, the haunting and enchanting score, and the items Yarny discovers are all pieces of the tapestry that weave an entrancing story. Interactions and inanimate objects serve as a gateway to unlock a simple, yet truly touching story in unspoken silence. Each of these symbols set the stage for this truly entrancing game.

      Yarny: The Game's Fabric
      Yarny, our guide, is our first symbol.  He is bright red, the color of passion, but mainly a color that stands out as a life force, energy. He leaves a trail of yarn wherever he goes, like we all leave a path wherever we tread.  Yarny serves as two separate purposes. The first is the Unravel metaphor that we all blaze a trail and leave one behind us, while the second is something of a connection to comfort and simpler times.
       
      As Yarny journeys in search of his trinkets, he must use part of himself to move forward to the point where he almost completely unravels, until he finds new yarn that is. He grows as the experience takes him to new places and through dangerous territories. Life takes a lot out of us as we journey, but we always find a way to grow and remake ourselves in different ways.  Yarny shows this by using his yarn to explore his world and finding new bits of yarn to continue on. He is in constant reinvention of himself, though he keeps the same appearance throughout the game. Over time, it becomes more difficult to find yarn to build himself back up as he pieces together his memories.
       


      Tangible Symbols
      Also, much like the Velveteen Rabbit or Edward from The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DeCamillo, people often find a connection with pieces that reflect child-like wonder or bring us back to that time. These objects are inanimate, but the journey gives them life and personality we would not see otherwise.
       
      Consider your own childhood; growing up, many children take to a toy or a blanket that provides comfort.  These items remain special to us, even after we stop using them. While each of us has a connection with a certain item, it is not the same for everyone.  Really, it is a small part of our life that provides us solace when it seems like our world is collapsing.  At times, we may seem so insignificant – like when Yarny is so simply swept up by a crow or weighed down by water, but there are many wonders to be found and even at the bleakest points, Yarny finds a way to lift himself up.
       


      Unravel the Scene
      Each level reflects a memory.  This game has some of the most incredible graphics I’ve ever seen in a game, and there is good reason for it. We are reliving these memories through Yarny.  When recalling a memory, there is always a little uncertainty that our recollection is at all we imagined it to be. We recall our memories so vividly and our brains fill in the gaps.  We will remember the visual parts as crisply as we think they were, though the real memory may not match it.
       
      The scenes in Unravel have a life of their own, whether Yarny is walking a forest path, exploring an old car shop, or facing a terrible snow storm.  The scenery builds upon the mood in every chapter, setting the tone without having to say a word.  We feel the lighthearted joy of a fun winter’s day, while moments later we can feel its bone-chilling clutches. Each scene captures the tone and development of the story in the simple touches in the sparkle in the water or the gray sky.
       
      While the vivid visuals give us a sense of tone, the music, too, tells a story. It guides gamers through tense moments and carefree exploration intensifying each second of game play. Both mediums capture scenes of sorrow, happiness, and mournful woe.  It couples well with the crisp imagery for a truly awe-inspiring game.

      Fibers of Game Play

      Unravel is exciting with its puzzle game play. There are plenty of head-scratching riddles for players to solve and many secrets to uncover. Players control
      as he searches for his memories and his only tool is the yarn he is made of. Players explore this vivid world building bridges, swinging from branches, and climbing obstacles to find the coveted knit piece. 
      The game is not without its dangers – while there are a few riddles that require some deep thought, others are time sensitive as Yarny must escape the threats in his tiny world. Sections can be downright brutal when a player is thrown down by a gopher or gets carried away by a wind gust. Even after all of the hardships, the discovery of that carefully crafted memento, those lovely knit keepsakes, make all of the trouble worth it as Yarny cradles it close.  It is both challenging and exciting to traverse the different terrains and unfold the memories behind each piece.

      Memories: Time and Space
      This simple, yet beautiful game reminds us that life is full of memories and obstacles.  As we live, we leave pieces of ourselves behind and face many trials. We dig and discover our own past experiences through items, pictures, and places.  Unravel manages to exceed all expectations to tell a story that is personal, heartfelt, and worth more than a few tears.
       


        • Post Type: Editorial
    15. The lead writer of Mass Effect is joining Bungie for Destiny 2

      Somewhat breaking news, video game lovers! Chris Schlerf has moved on from BioWare Montreal for Bungie.  After concluding his work on
      , the lead writer of awesome games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age has jumped onto the Bungie train to be the lead writer on the upcoming Destiny sequel. 
      While it seems there is no bad blood between Schlerf, who called his time working on the two game franchises one of the “best experiences” of his career, it is exciting to see what a great writer could do with the next installment of Destiny – having previously worked on Halo 4. That is, of course, if his hands aren't tied.
       
      This raises a few questions, mainly: What can Schlerf offer the Destiny franchise?  The Bungie title has received praise for the game, but heavy criticism for the lack of story- that is until you download all of the DLC. 
       
      Schlerf's first work, Mass Effect, is a widely successful intergalactic adventure that extends to several sequels from 2007- to the upcoming release of Mass Effect: Andromeda in 2017. Over the years, the game series has solidified itself as a mainstay action RPG of sorts and has a universal following. Bungie, on the other hand, is responsible for most of the
      series – a juggernaut franchise for the XBOX - before the buyout and their next project, the online-FPS Destiny. 
      Both of these series are in a similar 'sci-fi mystical adventures' vein, but one can’t help but wonder what this partnership could mean for both franchises. What will happen to Mass Effect following the departure of the lead writer? What will Destiny inherit?
       
      Destiny’s greatest flaw wasn’t in the game play, but in the string of “Pay to play” content that would “evolve” the world overtime. If you don’t have deep pockets, Destiny could be a very disappointing game experience. Plus, with the original Destiny purchase, players had to access a website in order to figure out what was going on.  The story lacked cohesive connections, was filled with shallow plots, and uninspired settings.  Though it was positively received, it wasn’t without major flaws. This didn’t stop it from being one of the highest selling games of 2014. This raises an important question: would hiring a well-known writer help a series that is near the end of development?
       
      While Destiny is slotted to get a huge expansion at the end of the year, Destiny 2 will not be out until 2017 – which, truth be told, is not actually that far away. Recently, Bungie made mention that the sequel would experience a delay; this may be because of the involvement of Schlerf.
       
      One can only hope he can add something brilliant to the story.
       
      What do you all think? Have any theories as to why Schlerf decided to part ways with BioWare and join team Bungie? Will this help or hurt these two well-known game franchises? Let us know in the comments below!
       


        • Post Type: News
    16. The Monopoly Mogol

      So far I've talked about Super Nintendo, NES, and PlayStation games. I think it's about time to talk about board games. I am a bit of a board game lover. I will be the first to jump on the opportunity if one of my friends offer the suggestion, "

      [caption id=attachment_2646" align="alignleft" width="206] All games aren't fun...[/caption]
       
      Nerdism isn't limited to analog controllers and PC headsets. This being said, there are many games that I would love to play over and over again. Some have even crossed the gaming line from board to buttons and screens. But some games should just stay off of the game systems entirely.  One of the longest lasting, most played, most irritating games in the world is Monopoly.
       
      Along with having the many board games versions to purchase, Parker Brothers has a few versions translated into the gaming world. I give everyone the evidence. Monopoly for the NES.
       
      For those of you in the board game world, this game is always grounds for controversy. Why? Well...recall anytime this quiet little board game is being played at home.

      The Game From Hell
      [caption id=attachment_2647" align="aligncenter" width="150] No Jigsaw, NOOOO![/caption]
       
      Everything starts off as '
      ' and then the tears start when your little sister lands on Park Place where, waiting for her, are three hotels and bills pile up so high she can roller-coaster down them into bankruptcy. Tears, curses, and a flipped game board later, your father is arguing with you about how you should have 'let her win!' She's your sister! Wouldn't you lend her money? You wouldn't let her go bankrupt! 
      [caption id=attachment_2648" align="alignright" width="150] This is you after student loans...or after your parents disown you because of this game.[/caption]
       
      Thankfully, I have no little sister. Unfortunately, I am the little sister. But, I'm impatient, and the game of Monopoly allows me foolhardy purchases and an early exit from the game. Baltic Avenue and Reading Railroad seemed like a good idea at the time. My father is too good at making deals, however, and I don't know how, he'd always end up with all of the properties in the end, 

      Monopoly is the devil.  In fact, Monopoly almost single-handedly responsible for my non-existence.
       
      My father was playing my mother and destroying every bit of confidence she had. She was up to her elbows in debt and she owed him big. He offered a trade, which he is still famous for, and she obliged by handing over Pennsylvania Avenue. The very next turn, she landed on Penn Ave and the board sailed into the air.
       
      To this day she will never play him again.
       
      All the old wounds aside, Monopoly is still a fairly popular game. When it was introduced the NES, the game took on the old school style. Up to four players could play or a player could go solo against the computer. (I think the computer cheats, personally. That might just be my angst for Monopoly talking.)

      How to Cheat Your Way to Victory!
      When playing the game, a player rolls virtual dice to go around the board and picks up properties, after he or she chooses a token. The originals are all there from the boot to the little doggie.
       
      [caption id=attachment_2656" align="alignright" width="150] Hahaha! Take that, losers![/caption]
       
      The player then rolls and moves from property to property. Those that do not get purchased strait out get auctioned off.
       
      As the game goes on, it is much like a normal round of Monopoly. The player starts to purchases houses and hotels, eventually the game turns into a rolling/pay off roulette. The player can make deals with the other players, or the computer (which is 3 other players). They can land on community chest or chance spaces, or even go to jail. Basically, Monopoly NES is pretty simple.
       
      However, if you are impatient, like me, a back-handed player could cheat in order to win. The best way to do this was to claim that more than one player was taking part in the game. You can take all of the properties from the computer characters using the first and second players. The system never fails, and the game integrity is ruined. But you win at Monopoly. Monopoly is also available for SNES and the N64, but they aren't as fun to play.
       
      Why play on any game system when the board game is still a juggernaut?



      And Now, Some Ridiculous Monopoly Games
      There is a Monopoly style for everything and everyone.
       
      [gallery link=file" columns="4" ids="2657,2662,2661,2660,2659,2658,2664,2665]
       
      These are just a few of the many Monopoly 
      !! Ok, some of these are over the top. Do we really need an all pink Monopoly? Also available are Seinfeld, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Penn State, Sponge Bob, Dora, and thousands more versions of the game. There is a Pirates of the Caribbean Monopoly. When will the Monopoly invasion stop?! Sure, it teaches young players simple math, but at what cost?
       
      Of course, most of these games mirror the old school Monopoly, but a newer 'high-tech' version is available to reflect the change in cost and real estate over the years. Who knew selling and buying places would end up being a pastime and possible divorce of families all over the globe? Kudos to people who are excellent in math.
       
      So, what do you all think? Do you hate or love Monopoly? Which form do you prefer?
       


        • Post Type: Editorial
    17. Horror Game Settings: Raccoon City vs The Warlock's Castle

      When it comes to fear, everyone has their own poison. Some are afraid of clowns, others spiders, and some might be afraid of plastic wrap, but the general idea is that everyone is afraid of something. I have a handful of irrational fears: the dentist, needles, clowns, and zombies. I'm not really sure why, but something about each of those 'things' freaks me out. Aside from phobias, it is easy for me to be frightened by things, and I blame my love for music and writing.
       
      Music and writing can pray on your fears like a mantis on the head of her mate! It lulls video gamers into a false sense of security, or just nerves them up and boom—you are dead. Still, the mark of a decent writer or a composer is the chills that make a gamer want to vomit as they enter that creaking door.
       
      Now hold on. You know, some people like to be scared. Horror games are a pretty popular genre. But when is a game really scary? I mean, a number of games can have zombies, or ghosts, or...chainsaw wielding killers, but honestly, half of what players hope to be frightening ends up just being ridiculously bad. I, on the other hand, am stuck in a time warp. Times have changed for the horror genre and there are new ways to make gamers wet themselves, but is the style really different today? Do the same skin crawling techniques apply to the current generation of gamers?
       
      [caption id=attachment_2131" align="aligncenter" width="1024] Um...That's a big bowl of NOPE.[/caption]
       
      Actually, I'm not too keen on the horror genre. In fact, if anyone asked me if I've played any recent horror game, I may respond by screaming and throwing holy water on the poor soul. That being said, I'm going to take you way back to a bygone era when I did dabble in scary stuff before my belly was painted yellow.
       
      Now, there are two games I blame for current day cowardice: Shadowgate for the NES and Resident Evil: Director's Cut.  How can this be? They certainly can't be too scary now! Not so fast. Maybe my childhood nightmares send me into a panic whenever I hear a zombie shuffle down the alley, but it may very well be the very fibers of the horror genre that still grip me. Consider early horror movies; they are the trend setters for the future of horror! Perhaps the same could be said about video games. Let's examine each game starting with Shadowgate.

      Scary Point and Click Games
      [caption id=attachment_2132" align="alignleft" width="218] Clearly a lovely way to pass the time.[/caption]
       
      So, why in the world would this lovely game make me want to cry every time it was inserted into the game console?
       
      Well, for starters, the premise of this game is pretty simple. It is a text based game where the player guides the protagonist through a dungeon, searching for an evil warlock. This warlock lord plans on summoning a Behemoth and taking the whole world to hell. It is a nice basis for a typical medieval text based RPG. However, when the player begins the game, the music isn't the normal 'knights and lady fair'
       <---- LISTEN! 
      [caption id=attachment_2133" align="alignright" width="234] I'm sure nothing bad will happen once we go inside.[/caption]
       
      Now you get to enjoy 8-bit music while trying to figure out how this stuff is even the least bit scary. Continuing on, Shadowgate's game-play is based on puzzles that lead the player through the dungeon and ultimately to the Warlock Lord. No actual battling takes place; it's essentially a point and click game, but the player needs to find objects in order to get through the castle alive.  If the player doesn't find what he or she needs, death is an instant result.
       
      [caption id=attachment_2135" align="alignleft" width="247]
      Click me to hear creepy music as you stare into my glowing coal-stone eyes.[/caption] 
      Yes, death lurks around the corners of every hallway a player might venture down; it's best to save often. An added bonus of creepiness, the player must constantly keep a torch lit, otherwise, when darkness falls, unseen demons feast on the protagonist.
       
      If the creepy music and the sudden death idea isn't enough to scare the horror seeker, consider the following; it is possible to commit character suicide in this game by various methods. A player can burn his or herself to death with their torch. A player can smash a mirror unwittingly and be pierced by the shards of glass and writhe in agony until he or she bleeds to death. (Coincidently, a player must choose which mirror is the correct mirror to break out of three.) A player can be eaten by a shark, burnt by a dragon, or impale his or herself on a sword. And once a player dies, the haunting death theme plays and the grim reaper shows up with glowing eyes.
       
      [caption id=attachment_2136" align="alignright" width="307] All of these situations end in death.[/caption]
       
      The type of horror displayed in this game doesn't have to rely on view-able violence or evil creatures. The text describes what happens to the 'hero' as events occur, and the music lingers as a reminder, just like the Warlock Lord's eyes that watch the hero from time to time.  Shadowgate creates a moment of panic, because there is no telling what will happen to the player at any given moment. It keeps the player on his or her toes, so to speak. If the player doesn't react quick enough, they might have to start over. There are limited torches in the dungeon, specific solutions to the puzzles, and everything is difficult to remember. This captures the basic survival horror themes, but instead of limited ammo, players have limited light - and one false move can destroy all progress.
       
      If anything makes this game frightening today, it could just be because of the power of text. You are given images, words, and music - the rest up to you, the player. The unnerving fear lies in the self-discovery. Try playing this old gem at night; it is possible to saturate the couch seat with sweat...or urine. This is just a game formed on the basics of horror; the second is a bit more visual.

      Zombies and Other Freaky Stuff
      [caption id=attachment_2137" align="aligncenter" width="320] Do I have to?[/caption]

      As a reminder, I am afraid of zombies...so a logical choice for a scary game is Resident Evil. I am aware of the irony. I had this old gem on the PS1, and it has since been remade, remastered, and had it's world destroyed by some terrible movies. (Sorry.)
       
       
      [caption id=attachment_2139" align="alignright" width="320] Because Bazooka[/caption]
       
      Besides the zombies, Resident Evil makes good use of its score. Deep cello for opening windows, no music at all for sections, orchestrated selections for random attacks; all were effective for creating tension the dialogue lacked.It's best to ignore the terrible acting and get right to the game play. Just the Music.
       
      Like Shadowgate, Resident Evil uses the element of the unknown. The player never knows what to expect. The dead silence can prove to be unnerving, as well as the apparent lack of communication with the outside world. Essentially, the characters are trapped in this mansion full of scientific experiments and zombies. There are no explanations or answers, and the player must choose who will be the hero of their adventure.
       
      Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield are the choices and each provides the player with different scenarios. The game can be beaten in a number of different ways, and not all of the endings are happy ones. I usually pick Jill. Why? She gets a bazooka and Barry. Barry is helpful from time to time, but the Bazooka is amazing when it comes to killing zombies. Speaking of zombies...
       
      [caption id=attachment_2140" align="alignleft" width="320] Oh...hai... [/caption]
       
      ...
      is what Chris or Jill walks into in the first few moments of the game. Neither of them has any clue what is going on, and following this scene, whoever a player did NOT choose vanishes.This game is far more violent in terms of visual effects, though it is possible that mental anguish could be more frightening. The game establishes a survival instinct, and in order to survive, a player must navigate through the mansion. 
      Shadowgate and Resident Evil both involve puzzles and dungeons of sorts. Jill must keep her gun bullets stocked, while the hero against the Warlock Lord must keep torches handy. The scarcity of these essentials ups the stakes and each hero is on their own, facing the
      What makes both games so intimidating? Nothing is worse then facing an enemy in an unpredictable world. Though the subject matter might be fantastical, the situations are life-like. Life is unpredictable. The hero doesn't always have to survive. 
      Our new age of entertainment today takes that turn with shows like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. We thrive on the unpredictable - we hate and love it. That is the draw of horror; no one is safe. The fear of uncertainty plays the same notes and pulls on similar heartstrings. When the odds are stacked against our heroes, that moment where the music switches gears, and the very second a final scene is set - that familiar feeling of dread starts to sink in. That tension is what horror is all about. No matter the scene, a good game should have a player on the edge of his or her seat so that when the signs appear, they can still be shocked by the result. 
       
      [caption id=attachment_2141" align="alignleft" width="320] Adorable zombie dogs too![/caption]

      Horror is in the untapped veins of musical notes scratched across a chalkboard, silence, uncertainty, and abandonment. There isn't always need for blood, just the unknown and chance a character might be instantly killed. I think I need to turn the lights on now.
      So what do you all think? What games made you want to wet your pants? What are your favorite horror games? Let me know in the comments below!
       
       

        • Post Type: Editorial
    18. Gaming For The Nerd at Heart

      Well, first off, this is my glorious ode to my life-long love affair with games. Included in these posts will be stories of games gone by, reviews, and "deadicated" insight on the games of now.

       

      For the most part, I am a big nerd trapped in a smaller nerd's body; but I say embrace that inner nerd. It is for the best. What else could we be if we were not true to ourselves?

      These posts will range from personal tales that connect me to the video games of old to comparisons and reviews in modern times.

      Honestly, anything is "game"... 

      HAHAHAA. Okay, enough.

      Anywho, I plan to wade into an ocean of board, PC, and console games alike! 

       

      I hope that you'll enjoy and look back at your own gaming lifetime and smile. I grew up on games - and I hope those of you, out there enjoy a nostalgia trip as much as I do. 

      Thanks for reading!

       

      -Sera

        • Post Type: Editorial


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