By: Uma Smith
Valentine’s Day may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean that love isn’t still in the air. With help from Alawar Entertainment, you will perhaps find it in the forest with their latest PlayStation 3 title, Forest Legends: The Call of Love. The real question, however, is whether or not this game will get enough love with what it has to offer.
A game like this is best played either using the mouse or touch screen. That’s because Forest Legends: The Call of Love involves a lot of pointing and clicking. With the PlayStation 3 controller, the overall feel is still satisfactory, but it doesn’t give the same degree of control and autonomy in terms of movement.
On the surface, Forest Legends: The Call of Love looks pretty decent with background scenery that is artistically and beautifully designed. The particle and lighting effects add a majestic impression that gives the forest a fantasy atmosphere. That being said, it’s unfortunate how awkward and mediocre the animation is featured in this game. To rub salt in the wound, the audio doesn’t hold up well in the game, especially since the voice acting is awful.
Playing as a princess who has just fallen in love with a “werecat,” you enter into a quest after your beloved gets shot by your father. Taking note that Forest Legends: The Call of Love is essentially about solving puzzles and collecting items, the gameplay will involve lots of pointing and clicking. Specifically, you’re tasked with finding items within the environments you come across, after which you would use said item on particular objects in order to unlock another challenge.
The good thing here is that the game will highlight the specific object that you should be examining if you happen to be stuck. Additionally, you can summon a baby dragon, who will breathe fire onto an area on screen to aid you on where to search. So you won’t run into the danger of being stuck indefinitely on a puzzle. But at the same time, the game also won’t be a mindless clicking fest since you can’t constantly summon this dragon as each time it’ll need a moment of rest.
Forest Legends’ entertainment can be short-lived, especially when the game can be completed in just a few hours. That lack of longevity is really unfortunate since the puzzles are challenging enough to get players addicted. You’ll need to put in some effort in order to progress further in the game, and the story is engaging enough that you’d like to see how it turns out. While the bonus chapter tells what happens several years after the main story, the overall experience does end up being shallow in the end.
Despite the sub-par animation, atrocious voice acting and short gameplay, Forest Legends: The Call of Love has plenty to offer for players that give it a chance. Since it’s littered with engaging puzzles against a beautiful backdrop, this PlayStation 3 title still deserves a little loving from players.
Back when I started the Throwback Thursday initiative, I had intended for it to be a chance to win games that had been out for a while (hence, Throwback). So, while we have strayed from the path over the years, this week we’re respecting the original spirit and, in honor of Namco-Bandai releasing Dark Souls II next week, giving away Steam codes to download Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition.
HOW TO ENTER
To enter and win a copy of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition simply post the phrase, “I’m prepared″ in the comments section below. If you’re on Twitter please include your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.
THE FINE PRINT
Winners will be selected on Wednesday, March 12th. All entries must be submitted by 8 PM EDT/5 PM PDT on Wednesday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.
By: Matthew Striplen
As a casual guy, I’ve been known to play a casual game or five. While initially skeptical of certain gameplay elements due to numerous similarities with other games, I was quickly won over by CastleStorm Complete. What’s not to like about battling Vikings, destroying castles and commanding a ballista? The answer to that not-so-rhetorical question is nothing. For Vikingland!
Despite its casual exterior, CastleStorm requires a significant amount of mental and physical coordination to play well. Thankfully, the layout of the controls is very intuitive, though because of the sheer number of abilities they take some practice to master. The player gets to command a wide variety of different troops, ballista munitions and magic spells. One of the spells summons a hero, where the player manually fights through the onslaught of enemies. Again, everything is very intuitive.
The only problems I came across were pertaining to the hero controls. As the hero, you have the choice of using a sword/war hammer, bow/throwing knives or shield. Though none of them can be used simultaneously, switching between them can sometimes be laggy. Additionally, after taking a hit from an enemy, your hero will sometimes stagger, rendering him or her momentarily helpless. That’s all fine and good, but if you get surrounded by large numbers of enemy troops, you’ll be quickly immobilized and very dead.
One of the first similarities I noticed between CastleStorm and preexisting games was the soundtrack. For those of you who are super nerds like me will instantly recognize that the soundtrack is identical to the one used in the 2007 flash game Age of War by MaxGames.com. I was ready to cry plagiarism, but it turns out the developers over at CastleStorm hired the same composer, and he just recycled a bunch of his existing tracks.
The graphics are cartoonish and fun, with caricature-like character models. While the quality of the graphics is unremarkable, especially for a 2013 game, they certainly don’t detract from the experience.
CastleStorm Complete presents players with a wide variety of game modes with four full campaigns (including all previous DLC, From Outcast to Savior and The Warrior Queen), skirmish, survival and hero survival. Since the campaign is by far the most extensive, let’s start there.
Each campaign follows a different story and hero on their quest. The stories are cute, funny and chock full of puns and inside jokes from other video games. Even the now infamous “arrow to the knee” meme from Skyrim makes an appearance. Though the stories are very enjoyable, they lack extensive voice acting and are, at the end of the day, of little consequence. This fact does not bother me much since CastleStorm is aimed a casual audience.
The first campaign begins with a short and sweet tutorial explaining combat basics. Most gamers should have a decent handle on things after that alone, though the tutorial can be played as many times as needed. After that, players will be faced with a number of different challenges. Standard battles consist of two castles facing each other across some form of terrain, each trying to either completely destroy the other castle with projectiles or by capturing the opponent’s flag. The castle destruction is the second of the many similarities to previous games. This element is borrowed from another classic flash game, Crush the Castle. Fans of this title know it best for being the game that was ripped off by Rovio to create the unstoppable behemoth that is the Angry Birds franchise.
To capture the flag, players must utilize the various forms of troops at their disposal. Ranging from grunts on donkeys to majestic griffons, the sheer number of different troops keeps gameplay interesting. This troop usage is identical to the Age of War series. The quantity of soldier types available is greater than the amount you’re allowed to bring into each skirmish, so choose carefully.
The spells seem to be the only truly original aspect to Castle Storm, at least to my knowledge. Again, large numbers of both offensive and defensive spells are usable, including the hero summon. By the way, literally everything can be upgraded if you have the coin. Everything, from the ballista projectiles, troops, spells and even the castle itself can be tinkered with to your heart’s desire.
The castle upgrades are arguably the most crucial to success. Each room serves a different purpose, like increasing the size of your army or gold production. Once destroyed by the enemy, the player will lose all benefits bestowed by said room. To prevent that from happening, the castle walls can also be upgraded. Additionally, the weapons and troops available to you changes depending on your allegiance. My personal favorite weapons are the Kingdom’s apple bombs and the Viking Elite’s Stormbringer.
Several other types of challenges will also be presented. Certain levels call for the hero alone, or for the player to simply survive rather than destroy a castle. Each level is scored on a point and star system. Stars are earned by meeting goals like having above a 70 percent accuracy rate or not destroying a single room in the opposing castle.
They can also be earned by upping the difficulty. Normal difficulty alone can be a challenge, but the game completely transforms itself on Hard mode. The all-important trajectory curve of the ballista, which many players rely on, disappears, making hitting even the largest target much, much harder.
The other game modes are perfect for gaining absurd amounts of cash. Each mode replicates one of the battle scenarios featured in the campaign. Scores from each mode are then uploaded to the server to be compared with your buddies.
Both local and online multiplayer modes are offered, allowing players to battle in a skirmish, survival or hero survival setting. All levels are reset from the single-player mode when using this, so be ready to do some serious leveling up when you join.
Although most of CastleStorm Complete‘s components have been borrowed from other games, they are combined and polished in such a way that they feel new, fresh and exciting. I would definitely play this game over the older titles I referenced. With lots of replay value and addictive gameplay, CastleStorm is sure to provide a good time.
Please note that since each episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2 features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the final four reviews. To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of All That Remains.
After the initial episode of Season 2 I thought we were in for something of a slow burn. That isn’t the case at all, however, as Clementine finds herself confronted by an unnamed visitor in the early moments. In the interests of treading delicately around spoilers I won’t go into much detail, but suffice to say the interaction between the two makes for one of the most tense and legitimately menacing scenes I can remember; something you can only do with a character that you’ve spent time growing fond of and who is at a physical disadvantage.
It’s this new threat, voiced by none other than Michael Madsen, that ends up stealing the show in A House Divided. He’s not some disposable villain that wants to take what you’ve worked hard to earn or a psychopath that’s snapped under the weight of a post-apocalyptic world. Instead he’s disarmingly calm, projecting a constant threat no matter what he’s doing without uttering a single word. He doesn’t want all you have. He wants you.
Naturally, Clementine and her newfound companions aren’t going to just roll over, and their exodus in hopes of distancing themselves is the episode’s focal point. There are a handful of action sequences involving the titular walkers, but there’s no doubt that A House Divided is about choices. You’re given a number of significant, course-altering decisions to make during your journey, and it often doesn’t take long to see the repercussions played out.
Providing tough choices has been one of the series’ two most outstanding features (developing the characters to make those decisions difficult being the other), and that kind of intelligent writing and story development are on full display as the game treats you to another emotional roller coaster — surprisingly so considering we’re not even at the halfway point of Season 2, yet.
I felt genuinely guilty when I was forced to choose one person (or group) over another. And sure, in typical Telltale fashion you’re shown what other players did with some of the critical decisions throughout the episode, but what stuck out to me about that was how many choices that I felt were important that didn’t even make the list. Trust me, this is a loaded episode in that regard.
We also get to see some things tying together from Season 1 and 400 Days, though once again in the interest of staying away from spoilers there’s little else I can say on that front.
A House Divided might be the best of the seven Walking Dead episodes to date. The two-plus hours contain precious little down time, instead propelling the story forward at surprising speed with lots of critical conversations and some solid action sequences as well. Clementine is really coming into her own as the lead, and I’m absolutely champing at the bit to see what direction In Harm’s Way goes.
Good news! Thanks to Telltale Games we’ve got a few goodies to hand out; for XBLA and PSN, we have codes for Episode 2, A House Divided, and for Steam we have a Season Pass! To enter, simply post the name of your favorite new Season 2 character below along with your @Twitter name and console preference. Winners will be selected on Wednesday, March 12th. All entries must be submitted by 8 PM EDT/5 PM PDT on Wednesday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win. Good luck!
By: Jeff Cater
Earth Defense Force 2025 is the latest in the long-running franchise developed by SANDLOT and published by D3Publisher. Odds are you’ve heard about the EDF series, and the strange success the bug hunt has had, but does the latest installment do its lineage justice?
What has usually been the strongest feature of the series is one of the weak points here. While the basic controls are rudimentary, the addition of three new warrior classes muck things up considerably. Each character class handles differently and has different bindings for their controls. Going from series staple The Ranger, who handles like any common third-person shooter character, to a new addition like The Fencer (a large, hulking suit of armor that can use tank weapons) is extremely confusing.
Each weapon you assign to your character will be bound by one of the shoulder buttons, but the only way to figure out controls is to check the options menu for that character after selecting them. There is no in-game “help” pop-ups that let you know that R1 is going to send you rocketing into the air. After a few matches, you’ll find comfort in the confusion, but the first few attempts at a character class can be pretty frustrating.
Along with the different control schemes per character, each class feels unique in movement and abilities; The Ranger has some snappy accuracy, whereas The Fencer will sluggishly trail the crosshair behind your intended mark to simulate the weight of his armor. So, while the controls are initially cumbersome, after a while they feel appropriate.
The EDF series has never been a looker, and this game is no exception. Part of the charm of the previous games was that while it did look pretty crappy compared to other titles of the time (or even titles years before) the frame rate was generally consistent and provided a slick, fast-paced experience.
Unfortunately that is not the case with EDF 2025. Although the title looks as though it was developed for a PlayStation 2, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the frame rate chugs along terribly. In most cases, the game seems to be running at around 20fps consistently, with dips and jolts (like when you look straight up at the sky).
Onto the sound. This department had their work cut out for them, shouting lines like “The bugs that haven’t been seen in seven years are here again, after seven years!” and “I lost my magazine!” So, the hilarious charm is there, even if the lines are over-performed. Sadly, the sound effects for most weapons sound pretty weak save for a few of The Fencer’s artillery cannons. The soundtrack is well done.
Textures feature a lot of grey concrete, and lots and lots of flat grass. Character models are bearable; the insects look pretty good and akin to their smaller, real-life counterparts, and the models used for the players’ characters are well done. Unfortunately, frames of animation seem to be missing: everything jerks across the landscape, completely changing orientation when stepping over small objects. For example, a Giant Ant crawling across a park will turn upright 180 degrees if the engine detects that the ant is crawling over a two-foot high rock. Of course, things like that have been in the series since Day 1.
This has always been the heart of the series; tapping into everyone’s secret desire to slay gigantic waves of plus-sized insects in order to save humanity. While the visual or aural flair may be lacking for games of this generation, the fun is still completely there. Experimenting with the new character classes is great fun, as you may pick from a list now:
1) The Ranger; the original EDF star. Jack-of-all trades, master of being eaten by Wasps.
2) The Fencer; a hulking dude able to carry four weapons at the cost of moving 1 mph with a tail-wind.
3) The Wing Diver; a sexy chick with a jetpack that allows for aerial assault and has armor that’d make any MMO Elf Chick blush.
4) The Air Raider; whose sole responsibility is to support other players via artillery support and vehicular slaughter. He also wears some kind of welding helmet.
During your play, you’ll find that each mission quickly becomes the same thing: find bugs, kill bugs, find more bugs, kill them, find some more bugs, kill them, and so on. Fortunately, it really doesn’t get stale. Every now and then you’ll have to repel massive ships that drop ants all over the place, which is intense as you’re largely locked to the streets and alleys of the city.
EDF 2025 also features more than 50 missions and hundreds of weapons to unlock and grind for, so you’ll never be at a lack of things to do. You are also able to invite a friend to complete the campaign with you either via split-screen or online co-op, which, as you’d suspect, doesn’t really help the frame rate issues.
Earth Defense Force 2025, and the series in general, has definite room for improvement, primarily the graphics and sound, because the gameplay is just as good, fun, and silly as it ever has been. With the addition of new character classes, the only way for this series to go is up, so let’s just hope that someday they give us a new graphics engine for bug shooty time. My 15-year-old self gets all sorts of giddy playing with the images of a truly next-gen EDF title, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Please, Sandlot, show us you want our money!
By: Uma Smith
The major advantage of portable game consoles lies within the name itself: its portability. That is no exception for the PlayStation Vita. In fact, we can enjoy better quality visuals while on the go. That being said, what better way to enjoy playing video games outdoors than to play sports games meant for… indoors?!?!? Called Indoor Sports World, this particular PlayStation Vita title will let you relive those social past times that you’d normally have will drinking down some alcoholic beverages.
With the help of the developer, Super Icon Ltd., Indoor Sports World allows you to play such games as snooker, pool, darts and air hockey. Whichever you choose, you get to make use of either the d-pad or the Vita’s touch screen. But depending on what game you actually play, your satisfaction levels with the controls will vary. I found that when playing pool or snooker, the d-pad is the way to go while air hockey and darts call for the touch screen. Occasionally, the camera can get in the way of enjoyment based on how it can be positioned too close to the action.
There are quite a few modes contained within Indoor Sports World. You have the typical arcade where you can just jump right into the matches and season mode where enter into challenges against players in leagues. In addition, you can engage yourself in the Exhibition mode where you can play at your pace as you decide on the difficulty level as well as the rules.
By playing through the game, you’ll be able to unlock new equipment. These don’t actually add a lot to the gameplay other than changing the overall look during matches. For instance, you could have a different colored puck while playing air hockey. Although your progression at least gives you some recognition and reward, the amount of enjoyment is limited nonetheless. In time, the repetitive gameplay and absence of depth will hinder players’ attention span.
Indoor Sports World attempts to keep itself from looking monotonous not just by offering different activities, but also by offering different locations and arenas where they take place. While the graphics do keep their head above water, the issue lies with how the environment feels so empty, as if the game is foreshadowing that no one should be spending too much time here in the first place. Even though the 8-bit music playing in the background does add some life to the atmosphere, the overall presentation doesn’t offer a whole lot here.
Although Indoor Sports World isn’t really a bad game, it just doesn’t have a lot to offer other than uninspiring gameplay and an empty, lifeless atmosphere. Plus, there are other games available for the PlayStation Vita that would serve as a worthy substitute. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say to steer clear of this game, but I would have to say that may want to think twice before spending your $4.99.
When last I reviewed a Pac-Man game I made the blanket statement that I love Pac-Man. Well, Namco-Bandai is putting my fandom to the test by bundling together nine titles from the series’ history that range from well known to rather obscure. Dubbed Pac-Man Museum and priced at $19.99 on both Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, let’s see if this is a worthy collection or something that should’ve stayed buried in the past.
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way. Pac-Man remains a classic. As does its sequel, Ms. Pac Man, which is actually the 10th game in the collection — anyone that purchases Museum before the end of March gets to download it for free; after that it’s an extra $4.99. Both games are still loads of fun to boot up, and while I’ve always been partial to Ms. thanks to the evolving colored dots and mazes, you’d be hard pressed to hurl much criticism at either of these titles.
From the modern side of things comes the excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition. It still rates as one of the best re-imaginings I’ve ever seen with slick visuals, pulse-pounding tunes and a truly clever twist on a timeless formula. Strangely, however, Museum features only the 2007 version and not the superior DX (or, obviously, DX+) build that was released in 2010. It’s truly a head scratcher that arguably the best title in the series’ history is absent.
Pac & Pal and Super Pac-Man are essentially one-offs of the original. In Pac & Pal you flip over cards to unlock areas where you can collect items. A ghost will try to steal said items, though, so quickness is a necessity. You also have offensive capabilities based on other Namco titles (such as eating a Rally X car to earn a smokescreen). Super Pac-Man also implements the “collect an item to gain access to part of the maze” gameplay mechanic, only its hook is that Pac-Man gets REALLY BIG. Ultimately, neither one is different enough from the original to make up for the fact that they’re not as good, either.
I’d never even heard of Pac-Land, and after just a few games I could see why. The game is a bizarre side-scrolling platformer where the ghosts travel around in bizarre vehicles, jump on pogo sticks and other general oddness all while a timer runs down. Pac-Attack also resides in the WTF files as this puzzler is pretty much a clone of Dr. Mario. Maybe you could get some co-op enjoyment out of Attack, but I can’t see anyone playing Land more than a couple of times as a curiosity.
Pac-Mania takes the concept of the original and moves it into an isometric, forced 3D perspective while also granting you the ability to jump over ghosts. The game is actually pretty fun in short bursts, though it does have one fatal flaw: you can only see a fraction of the screen at a time. That means if you miss a dot or two they can be tough to locate, and it also means that ghosts have an unfair advantage since you frequently can’t see them until it’s too late.
Of the more obscure installments, Pac-Man Arrangement and Pac-Man Battle Royale offer the most enjoyment. Arrangement takes the best elements of Mania, lets you view the entire screen and does a solid job of introducing new ideas while retaining the original’s spirit. And then there’s Battle Royale, which is probably the biggest selling point of the collection as this is the first time it has been available on consoles. Battle Royale allows you to play versus other players, dodging ghosts and eating power pellets that allow you to consume your friends (in a decidedly non True Detective kind of way).
Unfortunately, this multiplayer-centric entry can only be played locally as Museum doesn’t utilize any online components outside of leaderboards. Each game has a number of options to increase/decrease difficulty, number of lives, starting world and the like. There’s also a central hub to view collectables and a “stamp book” that challenges you to reach certain score thresholds, play for a set amount of time or other game-related accomplishments.
Even though there are 10 games included with Pac-Man Museum (counting Ms. Pac-Man), it seems doubtful you’d play more than half of them for an extended amount of time; and as great as some of the games are, only Battle Royale is truly new. It’s a strong collection for fans and nostalgia buffs, with the notable omissions of CE DX, but if all you want is Battle Royale you’re probably better off waiting for the inevitable sale to come around.