Posts Tagged ‘ Genre: Action ’

Review: Lollipop Chainsaw [2/3]

   Chainsaws, Cheerleaders, and Suda51.

If I had to describe the game in one word, that word would have to be loud. It’s loud in a literal sense, to be sure. Enemies and bosses are always yelling at you about something (especially the game’s first boss, Zed, whose screams become physical attacks) but it’s also loud aesthetically, narratively, and emotionally. I can just picture Suda sitting down and writing a design document, and he has the caps lock key taped down…


It’s not unlike Suda’s previous few games that seek to smack the player in the face with their outrageousness. It’s a very violent and graphic game that’s framed in a semi-cartoonish fashion. It’s everything that juvenile males have come to expect from zombie killing games but it’s all dressed up in girlish stereotypes held by the same juvenile males. While playing the game, your reaction most likely will be “what?” or “Japan.” but Suda has once again woven a tapestry of madness and vulgarity. It feels like the same zany Suda song and dance which is, for myself, getting a bit tired. It is what it is though and sometimes it’s hilarious and other times it is tedious.

What about the game though? There is a solid set of combat mechanics in Lollipop Chainsaw. Juliet, the game’s protagonist, can use several basic actions. She can carve high and low with her chainsaw, she can bash with her cheerleader pom poms, and she can jump or dodge around zombies. The chainsaw feels more like a sword; it is used for cutting through zombies rather than grabbing them and tearing them to shreds. It also takes a fair number of cuts to bring enemies down unless you first make them “groggy” allowing you to decapitate them in one strike.

At the heart of the game is this system: in addition to surviving zombie hordes, you need to destroy them strategically in order to maximize your score. It is by no means a survival horror game. The player is empowered and encouraged to round up enemies and eviscerate them. To aid in this task, Juliet also has a super attack meter, which when filled and used allows her to decapitate zombies without having to make them groggy or sufficiently bring down their health. You can also enlist the aid of your sidekick, Nick (a decapitated head who still lives), which can used as a projectile, a bludgeon, a goodie-dispenser, among other things.

The primary issue I see with this game system though is that while it is about racking up high scores by managing groups of zombies, it takes at least one play-through to unlock what you need to be able to do this effectively. Having a limited move-set also makes the process of learning how to do what’s necessary to get a high score becomes frustrating and tedious. It’s games like this that need cheat codes (man, I miss cheat codes) to get the most out of it.

There are Interesting bits of storytelling scattered about in a sea of stupidity which is the game. Juliet is depicted as an airhead, but as the game progresses you get the sense that she might actually just be a sociopath. She never stops to reflect on what’s actually happened except when it directly is affecting her. At one point, she fights her entire cheerleading squad, kills them, and remarks that what happened was awful, but entirely awesome. She’s a bit creepy and it culminates in her treatment of her boyfriend, Nick.

All in all, Lollipop Chainsaw is a good game that takes some digging to get into. Its presentation and sense of humor has the capacity to be great at times, and dreadful at others. Even being as short as it is, I’m glad it didn’t last any longer. Going back and replaying earlier levels can be rewarding once you have unlocked the appropriate skills. If you’ve enjoyed Suda’s previous games then chances are Chainsaw will be right up your alley, that is unless Suda hasn’t already worn out his welcome with you.

Rating: 2/3

See also: Trailer, Official Site, More thoughts at Ruminatron5000

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Review: Ziggurat [2/3]

   Alien Freaks.

I’m a little late to the party as far as games on the touch interface go.  But I knew once I did, the first game on my list to play was Ziggurat.  Well, here I am, iPod touch in hand and a fair bit of time spent playing Ziggurat.  The player finds him or her self stranded on top of a mountain above the clouds with alien/skeleton things (freaks?) chasing them from all sides.  The player’s goal is to last as long as possible, but I assume the aliens never stop climbing.  The player is armed with a canon though (one that somehow reminds me of Lazerblast) which gives you a half decent chance at defending yourself.  Shots are charged by touching the lower portion of the screen while aiming and then released to fire.  By timing shots correctly, they will cause a large explosion when they hit a target which may in turn catch other aliens in the blast radius.  Each enemy that’s dispatched also causes another smaller explosion.  And it’s at this point that the strategy starts to get interesting.

As you learn how to control the canon, the goal evolves from surviving for as long as possible to managing the screen for as long as possible.  While the basic enemies slowly hop towards you on the screen, there are several other types that force you to keep on your toes.  Some take much more damage before they are dispatched, while others can strike from the periphery with little warning.  The game is balanced well enough to give you a steady sense of progress as you play it, without making you feel as though you’re being cheated when killed.  The game’s core is solid and enjoyable, but I can’t help but feel it would execute better if I had a controller in my hands.  Given the touch interface, the player is forced to perform the aim and fire verbs simultaneously and thus give up a degree of control.  And for a game that’s all about control, the touch interface is holding it back.  The game is a great value, and a lot of fun to play but it does not reach it’s full potential.

Rating: 2/3

See also: Trailer, Official Site, More thoughts at Ruminatron5000

Buy it on the Apple App Store

Review: Trials Evolution [3/3]

   With Trials, there’s no need to mess with success.

Trials Evolution, at its core, is still the same game as Trials HD: a game about jumping dirt bikes through increasingly challenging levels.  Set against a 2D plane, the player controls the bike’s throttle and forward rotation.  The basic controls are fundamentally no different than that of Excitebike.  What Trials adds to the formula though is a more advanced simulation of dirt bike physics.  Everything from traction, to the position of the rider, the shocks on the bike, and momentum become factors in how you proceed through each leg of each course.  RedLynx knows this, and later courses force the player to be aware of these factors and to master control of them.  It’s a surprisingly satisfying process learning to play the game.  In addition, Trials Evolution has improved it’s online components (though the core of the game is what’s evaluated in the score) and has included an extensive level editor as well.  It’s a great value as far as downloadable titles go and a great game as well.

Rating: 3/3

See also: Trailer, Official Site, More thoughts at Ruminatron5000

Buy it on Xbox Live

Review: SSX [3/3]


   SSX: High flying action with staying power. 

Many times, when I play sports games, I find it difficult to evaluate the game apart from the sport it depicts.  I suppose in many instances these are simulations, a genre of games that I don’t have a lot of experience with.  But when it comes to the arcade sub-genre of sports games, I have no trouble.  And SSX falls squarely into that category.  As a game, SSX executes across several layers: runs, character management, and online competition.

At its core, SSX is a game about snowboarding; snowboarding quickly, stylishly, or dangerously.  Players traverse different mountain slopes as though they were snowboarding with jet packs attached to them.  Tricks can be executed while in the air, and completing them grants the player boost time that is stored until they are ready to use it.  Boosting will propel the player’s character even more quickly and can be used to get ahead in races or to hit ramps with an extra burst of speed and hang time.  If the player executes tricks well enough will also fill up a “Tricky” meter, which when full grants infinite boost and access to uber-tricks.  In addition, many of the slopes specific hazards that can only be negotiated with special equipment such as ice picks, oxygen masks, and wing suits.

Each slope differentiates itself from the others well enough that makes each one memorable and worthy of player mastery.  There are always multiple ways to tackle each one, and in virtually all instances the ride is smooth and entertaining.  When everything comes together, tricking your way through the course is satisfying as though you were playing an instrument as part of a band or orchestra that’s playing a great piece of music.  Everything that SSX’s trailers depict is what can be experienced in the game as the player learns how to play it.

Learning to play the game can be accomplished through the single-player campaign which serves as a series of staged goals for the player to follow.  They introduce the player to a series of more and more difficult slopes.  It won’t hold your hand through this process, but leaves you to discover the ways by which you can improve your run times, your scores, and your control as confront the game’s hazards.  In essence, you’re being forced to learn how to play the game well in order to progress.  Of course, the single-player campaign can be entirely dismissed in favor of exploring each one of the mountains freely.

Performing runs in the single-player campaign, as well as in the explore mode will net the player points with which they can unlock more slopes or improve their characters with.  Each character gains levels as they are used, and with new levels come new equipment.  This could have been a point of frustration if the game were balanced in a way that access to better equipment was arbitrary constraint to game play.  But equipment really seems to simply augment and tweak how the characters perform, rather than dictate how they perform.  Customizing each character’s equipment gives the player the chance to tune them in accordance with their preferences.

Where character management really makes a noticeable difference is in competition with other players online.  Your friends will appear as ghosts playing along side you in the level based on their best run.  In addition to modifying a character’s equipment, you can also purchase stat “mods” that can be used while attempting to get the fastest run time or highest score on one slope.  Once you move on to another slope though, the mod expires.  They can be used to increase your ability to quickly perform tricks, adjust your boost speed, or your base speed.  When competing with others online, you may find that you’ve mastered a run, but still fall behind your friends.  The strategic use of points to tweak your character will make or break your performance relative to them and represents a sort of game going on around the game.  How and where can points be invested to give you the best edge among your friends.  It’s a simple system, but it provides the potential for engagement with the game beyond just unlocking and personally mastering the levels.

SSX doesn’t exactly push the boundaries of the genre or medium, but it exhibits all of the qualities of being an excellent game that will keep you playing for quite a while.  When so many other games are striving to bring you a cinematic, complex experiences, SSX is here to remind you of all the simple joys of playing games.

Rating: 3/3

See also: Trailer, Official Site, More thoughts at Ruminatron5000

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Review: Modern Warfare 3 [3/3]

   Another small step forward for gaming as an entertainment medium.

Modern Warfare 3 picks up where the blockbuster Modern Warfare 2 leaves off. The series villain, Vladimir Makarov, has succeeded in instigating a war between the United States and Russia that acts as subterfuge for his own agenda. Soap and Captain Price return to stop him and to seek revenge for other events that unfolded in the series’ previous games. If you’re a fan of the previous games, then MW3 will not disappoint. Infinity Ward (with the help of Sledgehammer) have polished the series formula to a shine that culminates in a tremendous final showdown with Makarov that is both an excellent finish for the series as well as one of the highlights of the genre.

For those who are only now jumping into the series: the player is dropped from location to location around the world as one of several different soldiers in order to witness and participate in spectacular battles. The experience is often compared to a roller coaster ride based on the linear structure of the stages and the dramatic events that unfold as the player moves along them. The player’s job is to utilize the weapons and artillery to make their way with allies through enemy targets to the end of the stage. Each stage stands independent of others and the player’s performance and decisions on one will not have any impact on the others. The variety and weapons and vehicles, in combination with unexpected twists and turns will keep each stage entertaining and novel throughout the game.

The Modern Warfare series continues to break entertainment records. I’m sure that’s in large part due to it’s multiplayer component which refines and builds upon the combat mechanics of the single player campaign while introducing competitive goals rather than simply getting from point A to point B. It also introduces a survival mode that tests the player’s skill against waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Both of these modes introduce options for the player to make decisions about how to arm themselves and prepare their defenses which almost becomes a separate game in its own right. But whether you are playing Modern Warfare 3 for it’s single or multiplayer modes the game as a whole represents one of the best game packages of the year that takes the simple foundation of the FPS and builds a layered and multi-faceted experience that is pushing gaming into the mainstream’s consciousness.

Rating: 3/3

See also: TrailerOfficial SiteMore thoughts at Ruminatron5000

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Micro Review: Aliens: Infestation [1/3]

  A shallow and underwhelming excursion into the world of Alien

I can’t help but get excited about a game that blends Contra, Castlevania, and Aliens (which is undoubtedly one of my favorite movie experiences of all time.) Unfortunately though, while Infestation does an excellent job of bringing the atmosphere of the Alien series to the DS, the gameplay is very underwhelming. The game can offer tense exploration of several different locations utilizing weapons pulled straight from Aliens. Your “lives” are essentially individual marines which are given short back stories and unique dialogue. One appears on the screen at a time, and several others wait in reserve in the event that the player is killed. Losing a marine can be disappointing, but it’s unfortunately the only way that the player can acquire new characters if their team is already full. And oddly, many characters are given personalities that feel entirely out of place for the game (for instance, a Korean girl that sits around texting — in space (where no one can hear you scream.)) Combat is initially an engaging part of the game but becomes either routine after upgrading your weapons, or entirely irrelevant during boss battles that have no discernible strategies for winning. These battles are reduced to simply unloading magazines of bullets and sacrificing marines until the boss is dispatched. If you are a fan of the Alien series, Infestation is fun but shallow. Otherwise you’ll be better served by watching the movies or playing a Castlevania game instead.

Rating: 1/3

See also: TrailerOfficial SiteMore thoughts at Ruminatron5000

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Micro Review: Gears of War 3 [1/3]

   A fun game that’s hobbled by it’s investment in it’s own story

Tis’ the season for sequels. The nice thing about them is that they continue to keep a series out in public view long enough for people like me to finally take notice and play them. Such was the case with Gears 3. On an impulse, I decided to rent it and play through the campaign cooperatively. Gears of War 3 (and I safely assume the previous games) have some great verbs that players can execute. Using the chainsaw bayonet doesn’t get old, and it’s easy to just run around like you’re leatherface tearing into meaty bad dudes. Everything on the surface of the game is a lot of fun.

Here comes the but: Gears 3 sacrifices fun for drama and makes for a bummer of an experience. Where I felt like I was having a fun blasting through everything that was unfortunate enough to be in my path the game was telling me “everything sucks and Marcus is sad/mad.” Every so often there is a funny line of dialogue but the entire atmosphere is saturated with a manufactured sense of dread and contrived drama. Using “Mad World” worked as an idea for a trailer but it isn’t representative of the experience of playing the game and, furthermore, works against the game’s strengths. How much Marcus hurts inside has no bearing on the fun I’m having stomping monsters and it is really irritating to follow along in a story I’m not interested in. By the end of the game, I was made to feel like I really was leatherface, and for no good reason. My avatar was an asshole, and it deflated my enjoyment of the underlying game play.

I suppose that all of this indicates that the multiplayer game modes would be more satisfying, but the single-player campaign sends mixed signals and delivers a story that tries too hard to be dramatic.

Rating: 1/3

See also: TrailerOfficial SiteMore thoughts at Ruminatron5000

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