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Archive for the ‘Xbox 360 Reviews’ Category

HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED ANNIVERSARY

Developer: Saber Interactive, Certain Affinity, 343 Industries

Release: Novermber 2011

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure

Format: Xbox 360

I find myself in a very difficult position when it comes to reviewing HD Remakes. For the most part, remakes are a way for publishers to earn a quick buck; cashing in on previous successes. On the odd occasion, there is a genuine reason for a game to be revisited. For instance, Silicon Knights’ remake of Metal Gear Solid on the GameCube, or Capcom’s return to Resident Evil on the same console. These remakes did more than just touch up the graphics a notch, in some cases they rebuilt environments, changed the gameplay, and provided more backstory. These examples aren’t the only ones, but they serve a purpose to prove that some remakes are necessary. However, the real question is: is the remake of the first Halo necessary? Sure, it’s been ten years since this explosive sci-fi FPS stunned gamers across the globe, and yeah, the franchise has made more money than the Harry Potter series. But is Master Chief’s first steps on Halo really worth revisiting? Have 343 Industries et all made enough changes to the gameplay, or is it just a carbon copy with a makeover?

Having the chance to legitimately review the first Halo game is a dream come true; it remains one of my favourite games to this day. After playing an hour of Anniversary, it becomes apparent that the developers haven’t strayed from the original version at all. Besides from a few Kinect voice commands, and the ability to switch between Classic view and Remastered view, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is no different.

Legendary seems an appropriate word to describe the single-player campaign of Halo. From the moment your escape pod crashes onto the ancient ring world, Bungie managed to steal your breath away. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the plot, Halo tells the story of a genetically altered human called Master Chief. The soldier – or Spartan – along with a brilliantly intelligent A.I called Cortona, and a handful of human marines, must fight back against the Covenant, a zealous Alien species who want to wipe out humanity. Their galactic war finds the two enemies battling on an ancient alien construct called Halo, which the Covenant treat like a religious deity. However, even the cult-like aliens don’t know what the rings contain: a nasty space-zombie life form called the Flood that has the potential to wipe out all life in the universe. Suddenly, the fight for survival gets more severe, and it’s up to Master Chief to shoot, punch, and blow up anything that isn’t human.

The plot hasn’t changed, so obviously there are no surprises, but it remains strong and epic, even when compared to some recent releases, which says a lot about originality in the industry today compared to ten years ago (despite us talking about a remake).

343 Industries have remained completely faithful to the original in everything, from level layout, enemy A.I, and gameplay. This has its positives and negatives. In terms of the former, the gameplay remains simple, with no unnecessary power-ups, perks, and bizarre grenade types. The main negative however, is regarding the level design. The majority of Halo’s levels take place in luscious landscapes, sandy beaches to snowy mountains. However, there are still many moments where you must guide Master Chief through bleak hallways and rooms from one fire fight to another, and this can make the whole experience iterative and confusing. Getting lost in the main campaign is bound to happen, so be prepared to go back on yourself.

The inclusion of collectables in the form of Terminals, a la Halo 3, makes a welcome addition, extending the experience and giving you more reason to explore and see every corner of the newly decorated levels. Skulls return, which you can use to alter the gameplay, making things more challenging by reducing ammo and increasing enemy reaction time, or changing things up just for fun, like the confetti explosions every time you pop a grunt in the head (HOORAY!).

The inclusion of Kinect is a strange one, and it feels like it was literally an afterthought. You can use voice commands during single-player, shouting things like GRENADE and RELOAD, but it’s nothing more than a gimmick. There’s a great deal of lag behind it, so if you want to throw a well-timed frag, you’re best off tapping the left trigger, otherwise you’ll just get cut off mid-speech by enemy plasma fire. While speaking of lag, the game allows you to switch between Classic and Remastered view, but this doesn’t happen instantly, so I’d highly recommend you don’t do this in combat. However, it’s a great feature, and it’s cool to look at an iconic structure like the Control Room, and compare the two versions. The game actually runs both engines, the original and the new Saber3D, so it’s somewhat forgivable that it takes the game time to switch. You can’t switch during cut-scenes, but you can just before they start, allowing you to watch the classic versions or the new HD ones.

I’ve always believed that Halo is a co-op experience, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever completed Halo by myself, despite playing it several times in the past ten years. It makes sense to have someone covering your back, especially when you consider the scale of the levels combined with the number of enemies. Now you can do this online, instead of just locally, which makes things more interesting; you can see how Joe Bloggs on Xbox Live plays Halo, compared to you and your closest friends.

The competitive multiplayer actually plays on the Halo: Reach engine, which makes sense, since Reach is the best multiplayer experience in the Halo franchise. There are a few new levels from the original and Halo 2, and a new Firefight mode, but because the levels have been recreated before in previous Halo titles, it seems a bit pointless. Still, it doesn’t take anything from the experience of teaming up with your mates and slaughtering the other teams at Capture the Flag or King of the Hill. Many purist of the original will be gutted to play Anniversary’s multiplayer with Reach’s rules, but at the end of the day, we all knew the multiplayer would be little more than a map pack for Bungie’s final Halo chapter.

Was it necessary to recreate Halo: Combat Evolved? The game literally did everything right ten years ago, taking everything from other successful shooters like GoldenEye and Doom. It’s great to play as Master Chief once again after all this time, and the pretty aesthetic will help those new to the franchise play, especially since they won’t have to suffer withdrawal from HD graphics. Anyone new to gaming will find this a rich experience, and fans of the franchise will of course appreciate the fan service. Seasoned gamers, who have never played Halo before may struggle, since FPS games have changed dramatically over the past decade, so this could be one they miss. As far as HD remakes go, it’s a cut above the rest. It’s not some cheap port; everything has been touched-up beautifully and with the upmost respect for fans and Bungie. If you want to get yourself warmed up for Halo 4, and you’re thinking of playing through the entire series again, then Anniversary is the stylish way to do so. What a nostalgia trip.

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BASTION

Developer: Supergiant Games

Release: July 2011

Genre: Fantasy-RPG

Format: Xbox 360, PC

The writer stares at the blank word document. In his mind, he knows that he must write a detailed review for the XBLA game Bastion, but part of him wants to just crack up a beer and call it a day. No, he won’t do that. The readers need to know about Supergiant Games’ debut title and just how it brings something innovative to the fantasy RPG genre. The writer continues to stare at the words he’s already written, and chuckles to himself at his poor attempt to mimic the game’s narration.

Ok enough of that. Bastion is a fantasy RPG set around an unnamed hero, referred to by the narrator of the kid. Now, for those of us who’ve played numerous fantasy-RPG, we know what to expect: a lucrative, yet complex backstory, blank-faced NPCs who yak-yak-yak-side-quest-yak-yak-yak, huge environments to traverse and plenty of button mashing. Well, prepare for the unexpected with Bastion, which manages to flip the genre on its head. That’s right, Bastion is different. It’s completely original, has innovative gameplay, a brilliant story (superbly narrated), and paces itself very well.

Part of what makes this game so innovative – and for the bizarre introduction – is the literal way the game’s narrated. From the first moment you move the on screen character, the narrator says: “He gets up.” From the get go your choices, victories, fights, and failings are spoken out loud by a wonderful voice actor who should be commended for his work. It must be cheaper too, instead of hiring numerous voice actors to play NPCs to tell the story; you have one bloke do it. What’s also great about this design element is that the narrative can be absorbed without breaking up gameplay. You can continue to fight enemies or smash up the environment, all while taking in what the narrator has to say.

While we’re on the topic of the environment, let’s divulge how the levels are setup and how the game works. Bastion is the central hub world, and when you first discover the land, it’s in ruin. The point of the game is to go to other worlds and collect Cores, which can be used to rebuild Bastion. Each level is uniquely themed, and the way they’re designed is intricate and impressive. The world is created around as you move, so when you walk forward the path will slowly be created in front of you. It’s a very clever idea, because it motivates you to play on from the word go, making the game wholly addictive. Combine this with the colourful design, and it’s like being in control of your own game; as if you’re making the world up as you go.

At its core, Bastion is a hack-and-slash fighter, which is disappointing compared to the aforementioned design aspects. There are numerous weapons for you to collect, melee and ranged, but none of them really give you that much of a tactical advantage. Many enemy types exist, but most can be defeated with a quick combination of bashing the attack and evade buttons. Another disappointment is the ability to explore the dungeons. Despite creating the world as you go, the levels offer very little in terms of exploration, making the game more of a linear action game than an RPG.

However, these are only two things, and considering the game is brief one, it’s not a huge problem. The game has a steady pace, but we’re talking only a few hours until you complete it, plus it’s very addictive, so we wouldn’t be surprised if many of you finished it in one sitting. Bastion may not have brought an innovative combat system to the fantasy-RPG genre, but the way the story is told and how the game progresses will keep you hooked right through to its fruition.

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LAIR OF THE SHADOW BROKER

Developer: BioWare

Release: August 2010

Genre: RPG

Format: Xbox 360 DLC

The DLC available for Mass Effect 2 so far has been average. The two additional chapters Kasumi and Overlord that have previously graced Xbox Live have provided a great deal in terms of longevity, new characters, and keeping Commander Shepard’s adventure a prominent focal point. However, while opting for completely new story arcs both chapters have neglected the game’s overall plot and they haven’t offered much concerning Shepard’s influence on the galaxy. Kasumi and Overlord kept Shepard firmly in the world of Mass Effect 2, but in BioWare’s latest offer the Commander takes his/her first steps into Mass Effect 3.

The announcement of the Lair of the Shadow Broker chapter came with the usual cartload of speculation, mainly because of the title itself. The Shadow Broker is the series’ most sought after mystery; within the first hours of Mass Effect the identity and intentions of this information broker were shrouded with tempting secrecy. The actions of this particular individual were always a mixture of good and evil, however the demeanour was undeniably bad. The second cause for speculation was the return of a central character from the first game, Liara T’Soni, a member of Shepard’s original crew and a potential love interest. Her appearance combined with that of the Shadow Broker meant things would be heating up once again in the Mass Effect universe.

The story begins when Shepard delivers some intel to Liara concerning the Shadow Broker and it becomes apparent that Liara has some fatal unfinished business with the elusive individual. Readers of the comic series Mass Effect: Redemption will have a better understanding of the back-story, but that knowledge isn’t a necessity; there’s enough purpose provided here to keep you interested. The twists and turns involved in this story are too good to spoil with words in this review, however knowing what goes on in this chapter is mandatory for any hardcore fans.

The chapter itself is huge, providing almost seven hours of content spread across numerous locations; from the heights of Illium to the Shadow Broker’s secret base. There’s a great deal of shooting as you would expect, and this grows somewhat tiresome due to the overwhelming need you’ll feel to reach the game’s climatic moments. The content also includes two memorable boss fights, a chance to pursue Shepard’s relationship with Liara, and a new hub world that offers some fantastic bonuses once you’ve completed the chapter.

In terms of canonicity, I strongly suggest you play this chapter after you’ve completed Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission. Although the upgrades and bonus weapons would help with the original story, the chapter’s dialogue assumes you’ve already completed the game.

The Mass Effect games are based on the principal of cause and effect; every choice you make has ramifications and many have and will continue to affect the future of the game and your personal journey. In Lair of the Shadow Broker questions will be answered, but implications of requiring them will certainly play a big part in Mass Effect 3. It’s certainly worth 800 MS points to find out anyway.

9/10

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Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Developer: Ubisoft

Release: May 2010

Genre: Action-Adventure

Format Reviewed: Xbox 360

Other Formats Available: PC and PlayStation3

 

Ever heard of the Interquel? It’s a piece of fictional work that takes place chronologically between two other pieces of already completed work, bridging one to the other, therefore an interquel is a sequel to one work and a prequel to the other – still following? Chances are you’ve probably seen an interquel, or more likely played one. Ever play Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire? That’s an interquel for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Metroid Prime took place between Metroid and Metroid II, consequently it’s an interquel. Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is an interquel, taking place in the seven year gap between the fantastic Sands of Time and the not so great Warrior Within.

With Ubisoft setting the game after one of the best games of 2003, it would be natural to jump to the conclusion that maybe they were trying to rid themselves of the bad reception they received on every single subsequent Prince of Persia game. Each game of the series to be released after the initial reboot has been met with the same criticism: it’s just not The Sands of Time. But alas, it is a new decade and perhaps our favourite Prince could climb to glory once more?

The game takes place in the kingdom ruled by the Prince’s brother, Malik. During one of the most epic opening cinematics ever seen in a videogame, our Prince arrives at the palace where the entire game takes place and finds it under siege by an unidentified enemy nation. Trying desperately to find his brother, the Prince uses his agile climbing abilities to enter the fortress. The palace’s defences are failing miserably and his muscle-headed brother intends to release King Solomon’s Army, a mythical power that can turn sand into great warriors. Unfortunately, the legends were wrong, and instead he releases a horde of terrifying skeletal creatures that resemble the work of stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen. The enemy nation retreats and all other residents and soldiers within the palace are turned to sand, save the Prince and Malik, who both picked up a half of a mysterious seal that separated when the army was released. With the help of a magic Djinn woman called Razia, the Prince begins combing the palace searching for his brother and a way to stop the evil Army of Solomon.

The premise is simple enough and is nothing more than a backdrop/excuse for the protagonist to have something to fight. In all honesty, the game doesn’t really need the combat, the intricate climbing, wall jumping, and trap dodging is entertaining enough. Bringing the game to life are the elemental powers the Prince receives and upgrades throughout the game. After an hour or so of swinging from flag poles, sliding down banners, and jumping from pillar hug to pillar hug, you are given the power to solidify water. Holding in the Left Trigger will freeze a horizontal or vertical spurt of water, basically allowing you to do the same manoeuvres you were already doing, except using water instead of flag poles or pillars respectively. You can also solidify waterfalls, meaning you can wall run and sprint up them to reach higher places. There’s also a time element to using the water power, so quick thinking and dextrous fingers are acquired.

The Power of Time from The Sands of Time returns, just in case you misread a jump or don’t solidify the water quick enough, which you’re guaranteed to do due to the game’s lack of camera control. The final major power, which is obtained towards the back end of the game, is the gift of recalling old structures that have been previously destroyed. By the time you receive this final power, you should already have a knack for the others, and the game does test your skills by presenting some problematic climbs.

A typical example would require you to do the following: time the solidifying of the water and jump to it, now release the flow of water in order for you to jump through a water fall that would otherwise have blocked your progressed, now solidify water again in order for you to grab the spurt behind it, jump back onto the waterfall and wall run up it, jump off and recall the old structure in midair, grab the newly form ledge and breath – this would all happen in a matter of seconds. Eventually it gets harder, and you’ll begin to feel like you’re playing a game of Finger Twister, plus the Palace’s booby traps certainly don’t help – in fact they’re irritating to think about outside of the game.

The combat system is nothing more than a relentless mash of the X Button. Enemies are easy to defeat, though some may require you to kick them with Y first in order to break down their defence or hold X for a few seconds for a more powerful swing of the sword. Four elemental powers can be purchased and upgraded with XP orbs, and they add a little bit of variety to the combat. What’s really cool about the fighting system is the number of enemies that can appear on screen at once; there are so many occasions where you’ll be overrun by a horde of 50 skeletal nasties that you’ll have to evade and use powerful attacks to thin the numbers out. These large battles are normally a reward after a long and challenging climb, but they are usually over within minutes.

A challenge mode exists, but it’s hardly that, just an eight wave battle mode and time trail, the latter needs unlocking through Uplay along with the ability to play as Ezio from Assassin’s Creed II. The game is fairly short; with us clocking out around the eight hour mark on Normal mode (no higher difficulty exists) you’ll probably finish the game in a few sittings. It’s impossible to upgrade everything on the first play-through, but all your powers and XP transfers to your new game, giving a reason, albeit one for those anal gamers among us, to play again. Bearing this, and the game time, in mind and you have a game with poor longevity; it’s unfortunate because there’s room for so much more.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands has almost everything The Sands of Time had to offer; the cheeky Prince is back – though many of his observations are annoying – and the combat and agility is as accessible as ever. However, with games like Tomb Raider: Legend and more recently the Assassin’s Creed games, which provide similar gameplay, maybe its time Ubisoft gave this Prince something new and fresh. Unfortunately we’re going to sound like all those other critics by saying this game is just not The Sands of Time, however there’s a light at the end of the tunnel as we’ll end with this, it’s the better than all the other ones that have been released subsequently. It’s presentation and flowing gameplay is addictive and well worth your time.

7/10

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ALAN WAKE

Developer: Remedy Entertainment

Release: May 2010

Format: Xbox 360

The survival-horror genre has changed a great deal over the past ten years. Most notably would be Resident Evil’s evolution from strategic survival game to visceral action-shooter. The cause for this evolution was obvious; the old format was limited and restricted any changes, and action games rapidly increased in popularity during the Noughties. After Resident Evil 4’s release there were many game’s that surfaced sharing similar aspects, mainly the innovative over-the-shoulder camera view that always stemmed a blind spot. Along with the original format, the fundamentals also seemed to have disappeared; ammo came in superfluous quantities, puzzles were far too easy, and the scares were cheap. Some first-person-shooters like F.E.A.R and the Condemned games veered towards the horror genre, literally throwing monsters in your face Then came along Dead Space, a terrifying game that attempted to revive some of the old fundamentals, but it went a few steps further by capturing the perfect horror atmosphere. But the important question at the moment is: what does Alan Wake bring to the table? Well, first off, it really goes back to basics – by reigniting people’s fear of the dark.

Like Max Payne before it, Alan Wake revolves around one particular gameplay mechanic: using different sources of light to weaken enemies before finishing them off with a weapon. Most of the time you’ll be using your trusty flashlight to keep enemies at bay, but you’ll also use it for the purpose it was initially designed for: to navigate through the menacing dark. Using the right analog to direct and aim the flashlight, and the left trigger to turn up the power, then combined with the right trigger to fire means you’ll be asked to do a lot to survive in a face off with the “Taken” (the name of the game’s enemies).

This core idea is great and the use of light is a far more effective weapon, the flare gun being the true weapon of choice. However, ammo is scarce for that weapon, so the pistol will quickly become your new best friend. Gameplay is frantic, since enemies out number bullets, so deciding when to fight and when to run is essential if you want to survive. The gameplay rarely changes and towards the end it grows stale, but fortunately the underlying concept is solid enough that it will hold your interest for the majority of the game.

The plot is initially interesting and is most definitely the backbone of the whole experience; however it would be wrong of us to spoil it here. Alan Wake is a struggling writer. Despite a few best-selling novels under his belt, Wake’s creative juices just aren’t flowing, so on his wife’s advice, the couple decide to take a holiday to the aptly named mountain community, Bright Falls. However, on his arrival things quickly turn sour as Wake wakes up a week later without a memory of what’s happened and his wife nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, an enigmatic dark presence sends possessed citizens of Bright Falls to kill him. So you’ll be spending the majority of your time escaping Taken and uncovering the mystery of your wife and memory’s disappearance.

Alan Wake himself is frankly a bit of an arse; fortunately this isn’t due to some sort of backfired attempt to make him a badass with an attitude, instead it’s a brave move by Remedy to add more complexity and depth to the character and it pays off. Though we see him being rude to a lot of the town folk and his wife, we also see his redemption as the game progresses. However, his constant narration is an annoyance, and it breaks the tension in the game’s scarier moments most of the time.

The secondary characters are compelling; some of them only get a couple of scenes, yet they manage in that small amount of time to be far more interesting and compelling than the entire casts of other games. Remedy have created such a fantastic and intriguing setting, but unfortunately we barely see Bright Falls, instead you will be spending most of your time trekking through woods and scaling mountains. Some of the driving moments hint at the game’s original sandbox-style, and it would have been nice to have some freedom to explore the place in the daylight and not be shepherded along by the game.

It may not be visually groundbreaking, but the presentation is impressive. Wandering the forests at night the clouds begin to swirl playing with the moonlight. The wind blows through the trees going from a gentle rocking to violent gusts. Like Dead Space, it’s very atmospheric, and while Alan Wake won’t be keeping you awake at night, it certainly has its moments of tension and it commands a chilling ambience, especially as you are pursued by demonic hillbillies and possessed combine harvesters – that’s no joke.

Alan Wake may not be the longest game out there but you’ll never feel like you’ve been short-changed by it. The pacing of the story and levels is spot-on. The game is broken into episodes, a little bit like the most recent Alone in the Dark game, and each episode begins with a Previously on Alan Wake moment. It’s only a few minor niggles that stop Alan Wake from achieving a perfect score, for instance, the aforementioned lack of gameplay variety and Wake questionable narration, but if Remedy sorts this out in time for the sequel, then Alan Wake will become one of – if not the – premier franchise on next-gen consoles.

9/10

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BIOSHOCK 2

Developer: 2K Marin

Release: February 2010

Genre: First-person-shooter

Format Reviewed: Xbox 360

Other Formats: PC

Rapture, how we’ve missed you. 2K Games’ announcement of BioShock 2’s development was received with a mixture of excitement and cynicism. While some gamers were aching to return to Rapture, others believed turning BioShock into a series would tarnish the sheer brilliance of the first game; it did seem like 2K were cashing in on the success. Was it possible to recreate the indefinable essence of BioShock? Before we continue with this review, we’d like to point out that this is not a comparison test. The game’s antecedent was 2008’s Game of the Year, and that’s big shoes to fill. On the front of it, BioShock 2 looks very much like a companion to the first game; the graphics and overall feel haven’t changed. But within its story, characters, and much needed gameplay tweaks is a nourished and immersive game.

BioShock 2 begins with a non-interactive introduction, and though the impact isn’t as strong as the first game, the message is clear; this is a new narrative, with new characters. Set almost a decade after Jack’s trip to Rapture, we’re placed in the heavy boots of Delta, a prototype Big Daddy. Awoken by the familiar voice of Brigid Tenenbaum, Delta is told he must find Eleanor, the Little Sister he was originally bonded to. Incidentally, if he does not find her then a fail-safe device, which is mentally-conditioned to activate if he wanders too far from her, will kill him. The only problem is Eleanor is the daughter of Sophia Lamb, the game’s antagonist, who has the remaining Splicers, Rapture’s inhabitants, dancing to her utilitarianism philosophy. And if that wasn’t enough, she is reprehensible for the new monstrosities that haunt the creaking halls of Rapture, the Big Sisters. The plot fails to live up to the impact of the ‘Would You Kindly’ twist from the first game, but it is nothing short of enthralling. Unfortunately key plot points are delivered through innocuous lines of dialogue, with no clear indication of what’s important and what’s not. The audio diaries make a welcome return; haunting logs impart integral plot developments, which may sound lazy, but in action they work brilliantly, augmenting the ominous ruin that is Rapture.

The characters are as memorable as those of the first, though the motives of some may remain a mystery. Delta is a tragic figure, forced into the slavery that is a Big Daddy, his past never fully explained. Augustus Sinclair, Delta’s guiding hand, smells fishy from the get-go, but he doesn’t live up to the devious malevolence of Atlas/Fontaine. And Sophia Lamb is no Andrew Ryan, but her character is as stubbornly defiant against the protagonist.

After minutes of returning to Rapture we are awash with familiar feelings of dread, pity, and intrigue. The extravagant halls and corridors are full of the familiar art work and sounds; we smiled when we heard the happy beeping of the security bots and the jingle of the ‘Circus of Value’ vending machines. Despite the familiarity, all the levels are new to the game. Highlights include Ryan Amusements, a propaganda fairground that outlines Raptures creation and meaning, and Siren Alley, the red light district of Rapture, which is home to a religious cult that worships Jack from the first game. Each level has its own story to tell, complete with a controlling character that will either hinder or help Delta.

The gameplay in BioShock 2 is a creative mixture of strategy, lateral-thinking, and action. Being a Big Daddy means Delta has access to some of the bigger weapons we saw in the game’s predecessor. The drill and rivet gun are welcomed additions, alongside the recognizable shotgun and grenade launcher. Different ammo is available for each weapon, allowing you to switch depending on your enemy. For instance, fighting an armoured Big Daddy requires armour piercing bullets, while anti-personal rounds work well against Thuggish Splicers. BioShock wouldn’t be the same without Plasmids, a genetic-recoding liquid that grants Delta active powers, such as Telekinesis, Electricity, and Insect Swarm. Delta can use weapons and Plasmids at the same time, making him a powerful protagonist. The degree of free will in combat is astonishing and well worth the experimentation. Don’t be thinking you can just knock Splicers away with one hand though; they’re evolving too, in to stronger and faster enemies willing to take you on.

The Little Sister’s make an eerie return and 2K Marin has taken these encounters one step further. Just like the original, a particular number of Little Sister’s roam each level, gathering ADAM from dead residents of Rapture. ADAM is the addictive substance that is needed to get more Plasmids, and you must gather as much as possible if you wish to be the ultimate fighting machine. After defeating a Big Daddy, you are given access to the Little Sister, but instead of granting you the option to Rescue, you’re asked to Harvest or Adopt. Adopting a Little Sister means you can use them to gather more ADAM for you, and then you can Rescue or Harvest them once they’ve collected the limited amount. When a Little Sister is gathering ADAM, she attracts a great deal of attention from the Splicers, which means you have to protect her. This is done by setting traps using the aforementioned Plasmids and weapons; trap rivets, mixing plasmids, and trap spears all help to fight off the horde. Once you’ve dealt with every Little Sister on each level, the Big Sister will make her way towards you, her scream igniting fear in your heart as you frantically prepare for her onslaught. The threat of the Big Sister becomes predictable towards the end, and the return of Vita-Chambers means death isn’t a great concern. The armoured girls mean very little to the main story, and are more a gameplay mechanic than a plot development. However, a surplus amount of ammo is needed to put them down, meaning raiding the dead and hacking vending machines is essential. Thankfully the Pipe Mania hacking mini-game from BioShock has been replaced by an oscillating marker that you have to stop in the green area, which doesn’t interrupt the flow of the game.

The multiplayer is an entirely new element that actually has a story and setting of its own. It depicts the civil war that leads up to Rapture’s downfall, and can add a few hours of extra gameplay.

The world of Rapture is presented beautifully by art directors, audio producers, and musicians. The extravagant architecture and 1950s American style mixes perfectly with the occult and ocean flooded additions. Delta’s design is a major let down though; his entire getup is unimaginative in comparison to the other Big Daddy models, for instance the Bouncer or the Rosie. Music man Garry Schyman returns with his entourage of violinists, inspiring dread and tragedy with his evocative compositions. The voice work is professionally delivered through audio diaries and radio transmissions, and the insane drivel spouted by the Splicers is a great effect.

Was it worth revisiting Rapture? Irrational Games created a world that was full of wonder and heartbreak, and it would be a shame to lose so many tales to the sea. Maybe they should have left on a high-note, because BioShock 2 doesn’t capture the essence of its antecedent. However, building Rapture was no easy task, and making a second album with is just as difficult. BioShock 2 builds from the remnants of the first game, but it doesn’t add enough to make it a revelation. It was worth returning, but we left unsatisfied, ironically wanting more like Splicers want ADAM.

9/10

This article was published in Issue 23 of Thirteen1


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‘SPLOSION MAN

Developer: Twisted Pixel Games

Release: July 2009

Genre: Sidescrolling Action

Format: Xbox Live Arcade

Taking the humour of Earthworm Jim, the speed of Sonic the Hedgehog, and the ability to blow anything up has resulted in one of the greatest videogame characters ever to grace Xbox Live Arcade. Literally exploding – or ‘sploding’- onto our screens last summer, ‘Splosion Man angers, tickles, and puzzles all who play through the dynamite adventure. Expert timing, lateral thinking, and a persistent attitude is highly recommended if you intend on playing this game.

It’s a spectacular blend of classic platform action with ingenious puzzle set pieces, which are enriched with prismatic aesthetics and a complementary soundtrack. The fifty-odd levels provide something different, and the learning curve is relatively steady due to the simply controls; A, B, X, and Y yield the same result – ‘splosion.

In a brilliant free-running gameplay style, ‘Splosion Man must bounce off walls, ‘splode over pools of acid, and avoid being crushed by spikes in order to complete the level. An optional extra is the hunt for cake in each level – Splosion Man loves cake. Instead of tackling the impossible Hardcore Mode after you’ve reached the game’s ridiculous climax, entreat a friend or two to play the game’s co-op mode, which has specifically designed levels that can only be completed using team work. Gamers will surely enjoy bouncing of each others blasts in order to reach higher places.

Twisted Pixel Games have designed ‘Splosion Man with non-stop fun being the primary aspiration; the protagonist himself is an insanely energetic character with too much uranium in his system. His relentless gibbering and film quotes (get to the chopper!) are sure to induce a smile or two, and if not, the song ‘Everybody Loves Donuts’ will.

‘Splosion Man is a terrifically enjoyable and frustrating videogame. Its brash and immature humour coupled with simple gameplay and longevity makes this game great value and worthwhile.

8/10


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