Posts Tagged ‘ Rating: 2/3 ’

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…

THIS GAME IS GOING TO BE ABOUT THIS BLOND CHICK THAT HAS A CHAINSAW WHO IS ALSO A ZOMBIE HUNTER. ALL HER FRIENDS FROM SCHOOL ARE DEAD, BUT SHE DOESN’T CARE. HER BOYFRIEND GETS BITTEN BY A ZOMBIE AND SO SHE HAS TO CUT OFF HIS HEAD (WHICH SHE DOES WITHOUT A SECOND THOUGHT.) RAINBOWS AND SPARKLES.

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

Buy it on Amazon
Rent it on Gamefly

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Review: Lone Survivor [2/3]


   A reminder of survival horror’s past.

Purchased as a gift for me, Lone Survivor is a game that sets its sights on re-capturing the atmosphere and experience of playing Silent Hill, but in two dimensions. At least, this is what I had heard about the game before I got my hands on it. Being that Silent Hill is one of my very most favorite games, I leapt at the chance to play Lone Survivor, and surprisingly enough it delivers in a way that even Silent Hill fails to anymore.

The player takes the role of a character simply referred to as “you” who is trapped in a city abandoned to monsters and a mysterious disease. Daylight never comes and it’s up to You to figure out how to escape while maintaining your health: physical and mental. Where other games have employed this mechanic in as far as maintaining your sanity, Lone Survivor takes emotional well being into account as well. It’s not enough to merely avoid unpleasant scenarios, “You” benefits from small things like watering house plants or cooking a meal. It’s a game that’s as much about defeating despair as it is about survival horror.

The protagonist requires food and rest to survive, and batteries to power your flashlight. Setting out with limited supplies requires the player to carefully consider how far they will explore on any given day, and when they need to return. Following this rhythm in combination with the puzzles that “You” must solve creates an atmosphere of tension. But even when conditions are ideal, there are still an array of creatures which stand in your way. It’s up to the player how they intend to deal with them. Monsters can be destroyed, snuck around, or distracted. The first and last options require use of valuable supplies, whereas the second option isn’t always available to “You.” Having to determine the best course of action adds another layer to the game’s tension.

While it’s possible to exhaust your supplies, more can be acquired by scavenging or (by means which are not explained) by taking pills and going to sleep. These transport the player to dream worlds inhabited by other characters. When “You” wakes up, he now has more supplies, but his mental health will be affected in different ways.

Lone Survivor does an excellent job of creating a world around “You” that’s threatening and all encompassing. Similar to Silent Hill, Lone Survivor does an effective job of creating an artificial sense of claustrophobia that motivates the player to find a way out as quickly as possible. Even in 2D, the monster designs are unsettling and at times almost frightening. Jasper Byrne (the game’s creator) knows the right combination of visual design, sound design, and animation to get under your skin and create a sense of looming danger. It helps that the game’s mysteries are left mostly for the player to speculate on as well. It will provide resolution without answering all of your questions, which is something else I admired about the original Silent Hill.

Really, the only fault I can find with the game is that it is too short to be able to allow the player to fully explore its mechanics. It offers a world that’s going to stick with you after you’re done playing but its qualities as a game aren’t fully realized. It’s Silent Hill in miniaturized form, capturing the classic elements of survival horror and all I can ask of it is for more. It’s tough to justify that sort of game in AAA form, but Lone Survivor demonstrates again that there are great games and great opportunities beyond the AAA realm.

Rating: 2/3

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

Buy it on LoneSurvivor.co.uk

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

Micro Review: Shadows of the Damned [2/3]

   Stupid, fleeting, fun.

Shadows of the Damned is fun while it lasts (which is about one play through.)  After that, there isn’t a whole lot left.  It’s not that it’s a bad game, SotD is competent in most regards, it just isn’t very compelling.  The the game play and characters all have potential that Grasshopper fails to follow through on.  It’s as though they got warmed up and decided to call it a day.  The game’s presence is punctuated by events and dialogue that if they had not been delivered in an extremely over exaggerated fashion would have just been boring.  There are high points though they mostly serve to make you wonder what more the game could have been.  One can only hope that there will be a sequel that delivers a more substantive, consistent, experience.

Rating: 2/3

See also: TrailerOfficial SiteMore thoughts at Ruminatron5000

Buy it at AmazonRent it at Gamefly

Review: Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together [2/3]

 

   A deep, yet flawed, game.

Following my play-through of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions a couple of years back, I was interested in seeing what Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (a remake of an SNES game preceding FF: Tactics original release) would be like. Tactics Ogre has kept me occupied for months on end since its release, which has proven to be a dual-edged sword. There’s a great deal to do in the game’s world and also a great deal that restrains the player from enjoying it.

Let Us Cling Together follows the story of a young man named Denam who, along with his sister Catiua and his friend Vyce, are plotting on how exactly they will participate in the flagging Walister resistance. The Walister are a Valerian minority are being subjected to ethnic cleansing by the Galgistani who have backed the resistance into a corner. Denam, together with his party and a group of knights exiled from their home kingdom, attack Almorica castle in order to free the leader of the resistance.

This sets the stage for the player’s role in the game: to assemble a fighting force that’s capable of establishing independence for the Walister, and defending the greater nation of Valeria from outside foes. This challenge manifests itself in several forms, the most obvious of which is the process of character building and skirmishes. Much like Final Fantasy Tactics, characters are assigned a class that is enhanced as that character participates in battles. Their vital statistics become stronger and they gain access to more powerful abilities.

Crafting a well balanced team is essential to succeed, though the player can expect to be challenged at a more abstract level as well. Denam will continue to assume greater responsibilities as the game progresses and will be faced with morally difficult situations. It is not a scenario where there is no clearly drawn line between “good” and “evil”. Rather, the player must evaluate the pros and cons to each decision and contemplate their own principles.

The game’s plot can take a number of different paths as a result of the player’s decisions. On top of all of this, the player must also be considerate of their team’s loyalty. Every character in the game has a racial affiliation as well as a clan affiliation. Denam’s actions with each of those groups can affect his team’s loyalty to the point that they will abandon him if he severely neglects or offends them. Tactics Ogre provides a layered and nuanced approach to issues surrounding war: logistics, strategy, tactics, and morality.

Though, for all of its thoughtfulness, Tactics Ogre has a tendency to over-engineer its game play. It’s easy for the complexity of the battle system to become overwhelming. Players will more than likely try to tackle one aspect of the system at a time and digest it piece by piece throughout the entire game. I found myself learning something new about it fairly frequently even after completing the main campaign. This lends itself to taking advantage of the game’s “World Tarot” system which allows players to revisit earlier portions of the game.  It also gives me the impression that I missed out on an important aspect of the game play.

Tactics Ogre can discourage the player from experimenting with new character classes if for no other reason than meaning to have to start a character over at level one again. Each character’s level is tied to their assigned class. The class itself gains levels rather than the character. Undoubtedly this is designed to minimize the pain of permanently losing a character. As a result, the penalty of losing a character is transferred to developing new classes, which proves to be far more of a detriment to the experience.  Integrating a swordsman class into my team would mean having to spend a considerable amount of time training that class before they would cease being a liability.  Its also worth noting that the game’s graphics are prisoner to it’s original era.  This doesn’t detract from the game play, but it makes it difficult to appreciate the gravity of it’s themes.

Tactics Ogre offers a unique experience with a message about war that would be difficult to express in any other medium. It requires a great deal of investment from the player, which is welcome in some ways, but entirely frustrating in others. For those willing to learn the ins and outs of the system its a great game that will continue to challenge and reward you well after you finish the campaign.

Rating: 2/3

See Also: TrailerOfficial SiteMore thoughts at Ruminatron5000 
Buy it at AmazonRent it at Gamefly

Further Reading: Let Us Remember Together: A Tactics Ogre Retrospective

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