Throwback Thursday: Win Defense Grid 2 on XB1 or PS4!

October 23, 2014 19 comments

DG2It’s that time again. Time to acquire some awesome gamage for the cost of free. And this week, we’re teaming up with our old friends at 505 Games to bring you Defense Grid 2 on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4! Now let’s tighten up those defenses and get to winning!

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, simply let us know what your favorite tower defense game/series is in the comments section below. Please include your console choice (XB1 or PS4) and, if you’re on Twitter, your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

Sample Comment
Iron Brigade
@ItsStillTrenchedToMe
XB1

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Thursday, October 30th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT on Thursday. 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!

DLC Review: South Park (Zen Pinball 2)

October 23, 2014 Leave a comment
Hell yeah I want Cheesy Poofs!

Hell yeah I want Cheesy Poofs!

By: Mike Chen

South Park is really on a roll when it comes to video games. First came the stellar RPG The Stick Of Truth, and now Zen Studios has released two South Park-related pinball tables for its flagship Zen Pinball game. As with The Stick Of Truth, these tables are chock full of references and assets from the show. What’s even better is that they stand out as among the best gameplay tables on the Zen Pinball platform.

The South Park table package includes a general show theme and one based around the life and times of Leopold “Butters” Stotch. The main table is a jam-packed table with ramps, interactive objects, hidden areas and light-up bonuses, most of which are associated with main characters from the show.

There’s also a unique mini-bumper area near the launcher area that is associated with Kyle‘s light-up bonus. In addition, there’s the standard Zen mix of mini-games, a side window shows animations and highlights from referenced episodes as you activate features. If you know who Mrs. Crabtree and Manbearpig are, you’ll have a blast with this table.

Multimedia is always a highlight of Zen Pinball tables, and the South Park tables come with plenty of it. Interactive triggers play sound bites and music from the show, the dot matrix board offers both game information and treats for fans, and the actual table presentation is filled with artwork and details from the show. The humor is a little toned down from the show’s standards, so while you’ll get plenty of references and laughs, the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) of the show gets sidestepped for more PG-13 laughs.

The Butters table is a little less dense than the main table, particularly on the bottom half. However, it makes up for that by being loaded with references and the opportunity to open up a mini-table based on Butters’ super villain alter ego Professor Chaos. From a difficulty level, the Butters table can be a little more challenging. However, both tables bring enough humor and references that even mild South Park aficionados will want to play over and over.

OVERALL

While not as raunchy as The Stick Of Truth, the South Park tables for Zen Pinball are a must-have for any even semi-dedicated fan of the show. For those who love pinball but only have minor interest in the show, smart table design with fun mini-games still make both tables appropriately challenging and entertaining.

XBLA Review: Jet Car Stunts

October 22, 2014 Leave a comment
Vroooooooom!

Vroooooooom!

By: Quinn Potter

You know that feeling you have when the pit of your stomach drops out and the tires on your car squeal magnificently as you floor the gas so you can launch your car off the top of a very tall building and carve out some wicked cool aeronautical tricks?

Yeah, me neither… but get yourself onto Jet Car Stunts and you’ll get a taste of this kind of awesome fun. Really, the name says it all here. You are in control of a car-jet that does stunts. It’s just that cool.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

Controls are well-placed, easy to learn and very responsive. You can only reset the controls to specific keys, but it’s hardly necessary to reset anything to work through the game.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.5/5)

The graphics on the track are exaggerated, like a cartoon, but the visuals off the track are pretty spectacular. The clouds are just mind-blowing. They have a tremendous sense of depth for such a race-focused game. You can see the sun through scattered clouds, hot air balloons and beautiful green islands below as you fall off the track. The locations change from islands to mountains and high clouds.

There’s a little rock and roll music for the intro to each race, but the best sounds are the revving of the engine, clink of metal when you smash and the “bink, bink” of the air brake.

GAMEPLAY (4.5/5)

The game starts with a short, easy track that you drive off of and into mid-air. It takes a few attempts to figure out the jet and play with the brake flaps, but, before you know it, you’re flying through hoops in the sky. Each step of the tutorial walks you through a different aspect of handling your vehicle.

There’s a complete and utter lack of guidance, which can get a little frustrating, but the fun wing sounds (bink-bink-bink), throaty engine rev and endless number of oh-so-creative epic fails (go backwards – fail, go off the side of the course – fail, hit the barrier – fail) make the steep learning curve thoroughly entertaining. Watching your vehicle slam into the side then fall apart into a smaller pieces or just flail across the sky in a zen-like moment of calm puts the fun back into failure.

There are five tutorials that start hard and get harder as you go. By the time you finish the tutorials, you have use of an air boost, which is another nifty gadget for your racing enjoyment. After the tutorials, there are 25 levels to master.

Tracks start off short and sweet (30 seconds to a minute) and build to progressively harder, longer challenges (2-3 minutes). As your driving improves, you can unlock more difficult courses in a number of different modes.

If you choose the “time trial” mode, you can race against the clock for a gold, silver or bronze medal. If you choose “platform,” you’re just racing against yourself to register your own best performance. In “collector” mode, you collect stars.  Want to see how you compare against your other attempts or other players? Turn on “ghost” or check the leaderboard.

OVERALL (4.5/5)

Jet Car Stunts is a little gem of a single-player puzzler that’s fast, challenging, fun and addictive.

PC Review: SpaceCom

October 21, 2014 1 comment
Pew pew, you sunk my spaceship!

Pew pew, you sunk my spaceship!

By: Ted Chow

SpaceCom is a true strategic Starfleet command game in which tactics and decision making in battle can usher victory or total defeat. The 4X genre has always been a personal favorite of mine, especially space sims, and I was innately curious how SpaceCom fared against the heavier contenders.

Akin to other 4X titles such as Sins of a Solar Empire, you will explore, expand, exploit and exterminate the opposition with extreme impunity. However, does SpaceCom bring any innovative ideas to the genre that normally holds strategy in high regards?

CONTROLS (3.5/5)

The controls for SpaceCom are relatively simple as the entire game relies only on your mouse. Left mouse button is used for all actions and movement of troops, while the right button is used to pan the world map. Beyond that, there is nothing of importance to note.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (2.5/5)

Like most games with a space theme, the environment is mostly black with a lack of color to convey. SpaceCom suffers more so than other space games as the backdrop is the same for all missions, skirmishes and multiplayer modes. The ships you command as well as the planets you conquer are bland circles and triangles that really hamper on the overall presentation.

While I can understand the minimalistic approach for artistic choice or optimization, hand drawn planets or spaceships would’ve given more life to the game without compromising anything. The out-worldly music fits well with the ambience of Space and is probably the only aspect that is captured correctly.

GAMEPLAY (2.5/5)

When I envision a space game that wants me to command an armada to take over the universe, I expect to see grand space battles, gorgeous planets, interesting tech trees and diverse alien races. Yet, we get none of that in SpaceCom and, as it stands, it’s completely bare bone in terms of strategy. There are no factions to play as, no tech trees to research, no diplomacy and no visual anchor to keep you engaged.

So what is left you ask? Well, you get a completely stripped down experience of essentially moving triangles into circles. You’re left to your imagination of epic space battles and role-playing your experience like an old-school D&D pen-and-paper game.

The gameplay is extremely simplistic compared to other games of the 4X genre. The three different spaceships available are attackers, siege and invaders. Attackers are great for taking out enemy spaceships, invaders are good for capturing planets and siege for destroying the system.

Planets come in different sizes as some gather resources for you to build more ships, while others are designated repair stations. Certain planets can build kinetic shields and defense platforms to help defend against most attacks, but that is the limit to the interaction with your assets.

The overall goal is to completely destroy the enemy to win the match. And while there is some strategy involved in liberating planets and establishing supply lines, the underlying gameplay fundamentals are severely watered down.

Necessitating you to pause the game every time you decide to opt out and do anything else is a poor design choice as it forces players to micromanage their game instead of letting upgrades and movements advance naturally. It would have been a wiser choice to let players enjoy browsing the web or multitask other errands rather than waiting on ships to finish building or staring at a screen devoid of life.

Things can be sped up with the fast-forward button available within the match to alleviate that issue, but the system falls completely flat in multiplayer where only the host can adjust the speed.

Available game modes are limited to single, multiplayer and skirmishes. The story is told through purely text-based prompts that don’t really elaborate on the mythos of the SpaceCom universe and act more as a tutorial.

Skirmish is the mode to test your skill against the computer AI with various difficulties, and multiplayer brings you into a lobby where you can create or join available games. Multiplayer is essentially the only endgame available, however, which makes me worry about the title’s longevity.

OVERALL (2.75/5)

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled with great 4X games such as Sins of a Solar Empire where there were interesting tech trees, a stellar art style and epic space battles. In comparison, SpaceCom is a game that completely under delivers, not only aesthetically but also in viable strategies. Ultimately, there are plenty of games within the genre that offer more enjoyment than what SpaceCom can provide.

Categories: Reviews Tags: , ,

DLC Review: Crown of the Ivory King (Dark Souls II)

October 20, 2014 Leave a comment
Yep, things look pretty desolate.

Yep, things look pretty desolate.

By: Jeff Cater

Crown of The Ivory King is the final piece of DLC in the Crowns Trilogy for Dark Souls 2. As you visit this frozen land, you will notice that the most prevalent enemy is actually the weather! That alone is probably the coolest twist that the DLC provides, as we have never before seen severe weather effects in a Souls game.

Not only does the constant storm in one area try to force you to another, but you can choose to try to brave the elements in a vast field of snow and constantly contend with blinding sheets of ice (as well as infinitely respawning enemies!). You can also choose to go ahead and fight the final boss of the DLC right away, as long as you can successfully brave the storm.

Crown of the Ivory King sends you to the icy kingdom of Eleum Loyce, a lost land that stands atop the snow and is wrapped in the usual mystery of the series. In another rather unique twist for the series, Ivory King actually feeds you a bit of story. Forcefully. It was quite a nice change of pace from the usual storytelling of the game.

Fans of old, do not fret! There is still loads of room for speculation as to what this place even has to do with the original storyline, and item descriptions are still written in fresh, Souls-y flavor. Ivory King doesn’t offer too much in the ways of new enemies — many of them are re-skins — but how they are placed within the environment provides the real challenge.

In another very cool addition, if you spend enough time exploring the stages you will eventually run into several knights that can join you in your fight against the boss. It almost felt like gathering a small army to take down the tyrannical king (no spoilers there), and it proved to be a fun and invaluable new strategy for the game.

OVERALL (4.5/5)

This may well be the best DLC for the game; it just feels so fresh in comparison to the usual grind.  Although there are few new enemies, Crown of the Ivory King takes what it needs and utilizes the chosen elements very well while still providing an experience that feels unique without straying from the challenge that the series is known for. You’ve slain dragons, slug beasts and capra demons in your days… what’s a little bit of snow going to do?

PS3 Review: Natural Doctrine

October 17, 2014 Leave a comment
Let's kill them all with the power of jazz hands!

Let’s kill them all with the power of jazz hands!

By: Uma Smith

Once in a while, we’ll come across a game that pushes one’s patience to the limit. Such is the case with Natural Doctrine, which sees just how much players can tolerate. For those looking for straightforward and enjoyable gameplay from the start, then it will only be “natural” to lose interest here.

CONTROLS (2/5)

Theoretically, Natural Doctrine is easy to navigate through, given that you can see the button guides at the bottom of the screen. The problem lies with the fact that there is so much on the screen that the whole appearance is convoluted and unorganized.

This is further exacerbated when there is even more clutter from all the characters moving about in an uncooperative camera angle. Considering that a lot of the buttons on the controller, along with both sticks are being utilized, strap in for one hell of a learning curve!

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3/5)

Although the portraits have a beautiful and artistic look attached to them, you’re not going to get the consistent quality with the rest of Natural Doctrine. The environments, including the dungeons, appear quite bland and uninspired while the characters are detailed to the same degree as you expect from a PlayStation 2 game.

The audio adds further to Natural Doctrine’s lackluster impression. Musically, the score isn’t memorable nor does it help add any excitement. On top of that, the effects hardly go beyond their functionality, so you’re not going to get any heart-thumping moments. Luckily, all is not lost on the audio front. The voice acting is well done as they breathe life and personality into their characters.

GAMEPLAY (2.5/5)

Humans are facing extinction, and the only road to salvation is this scarce mineral called Pluton, which grants magical energy. You take on the role of a group of professional raiders, known as Bergmans, who are tasked with journeying into these dangerous mines to collect minerals. Prepare yourselves as dangerous beings are waiting to greet you with a warm welcome.

Natural Doctrine is a turn-based strategy game that allows your characters to move freely in a given area. However, the order of your turns can be changed as you see fit through the link system. To illustrate, your friendly units that happen to occupy the same or adjacent area can override the priority of the turns and thus give you the opportunity to attack immediately.

While the gaming concept seems basic and perhaps even interesting enough to attract players, the tutorials fail to explain sufficiently. Consequently, trial and error will dictate your success in not only completing your levels but also performing basic commands in the game. It can get confusing very quickly, thereby robbing players the opportunity to enjoy the battles.

But the most agonizing part of Natural Doctrine is during situations where your enemy can quickly wipe you out, thus resulting in a game over. Just take one wrong step, and the enemy will take advantage of the link system and kill your units off.

Believe me, with plenty of chances to make the wrong choice, this occurrence will be frequent. And because Natural Doctrine has a slow pace to its gameplay, these death moments are time-consuming. When you know you’re done, it’s best to bite the bullet and move on quick so that you can learn and change your approach. In the case of Natural Doctrine, however, you have to wait through all these enemy attacks and animations as well as make confirmations of the enemy movements!

One positive thing is the ability to play with others via the versus mode or even through online. Here, you can take control of other creatures, including goblins and minotaurs, which is a nice change. Aside from the complicating appearances on screen, this portion of the gameplay does make the experience way more entertaining. That being said, perhaps this particular title is more suited as a multiplayer affair.

OVERALL (2.5/5)

Natural Doctrine has a lot of occurrences that can lead to dissatisfaction and irritation. Now, if you can overcome these frustrations, the game can actually be enjoyable. Nonetheless, you may get a more fulfilling experience with other titles within the same genre as this without having to experience the headaches.

Throwback Thursday: Win Sherlock Holmes: Crime & Punishment on XB1 or PS4!

October 16, 2014 121 comments

Sherlock

We’ve been bouncing between Xbox and PlayStation giveaways lately, but this week we’ve got everyone covered… provided you’ve taken the next-gen leap that is. Thanks to the folks at Focus Home Interactive, we’ve got Xbox One and PlayStation 4 copies of their ambitious adventurer Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments! Now it’s time to see who can solve the mystery of winning a copy.

HOW TO ENTER

Entering our contest is elementary, simply let us know who has done your favorite portrayal of Sherlock Holmes (Downey, Cumberbatch, Miller, etc.) in the comments section below. Please include your console choice (XB1 or PS4) and, if you’re on Twitter, your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

Sample Comment
Benedict Cumberbatch
@SherlockSmaug
PS4

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Thursday, October 23rd. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT on Thursday. 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!

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