Category Archives: Game Reviews

Batman: the Telltale Series Episode 3: New World Order

After the good but not great Children of Arkham, the third episode of Batman: the Telltale Series takes a turn for the even better. It has shocking bleak plot twists that make for compelling viewing and playing.

With Harvey Dent the new Mayor of Gotham, he makes stopping the Children of Arkham the first priority. After an early rescue mission, Batman investigates the Children. This investigation is eventually sidetracked by romantic interludes with Catwoman and the pressures being Mayor is putting on Harvey awakening long-suppressed psychological problems of his.

Meanwhile, the controversies surrounding what Bruce Wayne’s father did so long ago are coming to a head. Wayne Enterprises’ board of directors is so suspicious of Bruce that the latter’s resignation is demanded. Bruce winds up not liking who the new head of the company is one bit.

Public humiliations make for dark stories.

This is a great story! A little too over the top in its bleakness at times, but still great. The player is enticed to keep playing to see how things turn out, what with all the suspense and whatnot!

The only issue is Harvey’s mental breakdown. Anyone who’s seen any other version of the character knows it has to happen, but to say it happens quickly is an understatement. It would have been better if some signs in previous episodes of it has surfaced. Instead, it’s just the pressures of running a city alone that force it. Not that this isn’t possible, It just somehow feels… wrong.

But things work well in the ending. It’s a surprising, dramatic finish that heads into the fourth episode with a bang!

Not unlike the bang of being slammed head-first into concrete!

This was a short review because there’s only so much I can say without including excessive spoilers. And New World Order relies on surprising plot twists. Just know that this is a great continuation of Batman: the Telltale Series.

Overall: 8 out of 10

NCAA Football 12

What happened to this series? Oh right, the players got wind of the fact that EA was using their likenesses in these games to profit without giving them any credit. The case is still in the courts. Not that the students aren’t totally in the right, but this has disappointed many because it means that Madden’s little brother is in the day care center for now.

Anyhoo, before the eventual release of another of these games (whether it’s next year or in five years), I think I’ll review one of last of them. While it does have the college football feel, it’s ultimately sunk by a number of flaws. Every problem Madden gets criticized for (grating load times, ridiculously dumb Computer-controlled teammates, etc.) are even worse here.

Not what this Alabama fan likes to see.

Plot: N/A

Graphics: 3 out of 10

The models and stadium landscapes don’t look so good. Un-detailed and unsophisticated, they look outdated even for a late PS3/X360 era title.

All this would merit a 6, except that the load times are a nightmare. I’m more patient with them than the average gamer, but even bringing the save file for your fictional scholarship or coaching career takes awhile. The Maddens of the original Playstation didn’t take this much time loading, and they couldn’t even do convincing people in the stands!

Sound: 7 out of 10

Commentary’s reasonably good. I also like the loud “smack” sounds that happen after a tackle. Very satisfying.

When you drop a pass on third down… you really drop the ball.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10

One thing to note: if you think it’s easy to score touchdowns in Madden, think again. Long runs and deep balls are not hard in the NCAA Football series. This is true to real life. Because of the simplicity and fast pace of college schemes, making it physically harder on defenses and easier for quarterbacks to figure out, 80-90 cumulative points in a close game is quite common. So it makes sense that scoring can come quick and easy here. Remember, though, that the opposition will find it just as easy to score on you.

Other than that, this is Madden with a smaller playbook. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You have less options, but you’re unlikely to be overwhelmed by these options.

Three plays. Decisions, decisions…

The one issue is starting a career as a player instead of a coach is a chore. Your computer-controlled teammates are absolutely horrible. Quarterbacks throw picks and ignore open guys, receivers don’t honestly fight for the ball, defensive backs blow coverages, ect. This is a problem with Madden, but it’s a much bigger problem here.

Challenge: 4 out of 10

To be true to life, playing a career against Computer opponents can’t help but be unbalanced in its difficulty. This is because there is a huge gap in college football parity. You see, schools are not equal in how prestigious they are and how much money they spend on the football program.

In game terms, there are opponents that are just too easy. Others are modestly challenging.

10-0 Florida in the first quarter is the Georgia-Florida rivalry, all right.

Overall: 5 out of 10

I’m sorry, but this series is way overrated. Even if you’re a college football fan (as I am), these games aren’t great. If the NCAA Football series comes back after EA resolves its legal dispute, there are definite improvements to be made.

Super Mario Kart

Although Super Mario Kart was the beginning of a series that would eventually lead to Mario Kart 8, I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, nuck FASCAR! On the other, this is a really good game to play. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters. It’s the kind of quality game that a company that was badly losing the sales wars to Sega at the time needed.

Plot: 8 out of 10

Despite the use of the Mario license, this is a racing game at its core. Still, they do appropriately incorporate elements of the games have have the playable racers react to certain situations in character. So I’ll give this high marks despite the lack of much of a real plot. Also, this is the first of these spin-offs to allow those of us morally conflicted enough to pick a bad guy to do so.

Myself included.

Graphics: 8 out of 10

Not the best-looking of games, but still visually solid. Nothing is all that flashy or photo-realistic. However, it does have that “Mario” look about it. And in the pre-voice era everyone acting perfectly in character falls on graphics.

Sound: 6 out of 10

OK, this game doesn’t sound as well as it looks. The sequels are a different story, but the songs in this game sound like uninspired filler.

I always found making the cloud guy the ref to be funny.

I should note that a lot of racers half-ass it here. The idea is that because you need to focus on driving, good sound only distracts. I disagree. If you take this concept to its logical conclusion, I guess no game of any genre that requires focus and/or skill should have good music, voices, or environmental sounds.

Gameplay: 9 out of 10

There are eight racers to choose from: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Jr., Toad, and Koopa Troopa. They have varying strengths and weaknesses. For instances, Toad is slow but handles well, while Bowser is slow to accelerate and corners badly, but is the fastest of them all once he gets going.

Who believes that go-karts could handle this kind of dirt road?

The controls work very well. To shake things up, you can run over “?” tiles to get an item. Many of these items are weapons out of the main Mario games that are designed to momentarily stop an opponent. Weapons are even the focal point of the Battle Mode in which each player’s racer gets three hits before losing. As I recall, this was the most fun mode to play with a friend because of its intensity. Just remember: keep it civil.

Challenge: 10 out of 10

This game has the perfect range of difficulty: from very easy to very hard. You start with the 50cc and 100cc difficulties and Mushroom, Flower, and Star Cup tracks available. The much harder Special Cup becomes available after you get the gold trophy against the computer on all other tracks in 100cc. The 150cc difficulty is unlocked by getting the gold on all 100cc tracks. This is clearly meant to slowly warm you up.

These ghosts are a lot less scary then they would be if they attacked. This issue would be cleared up in later games.

Mushroom Cup on 50cc is easy as pie, but the difficulty gradually ratchets up after that. I still can’t do much in the Special Cup in 150cc. Someday…

Overall: 8 out of 10

A bit overrated in the SNES library, but quite playable and the beginning of a big series. Once you look beyond the obvious cash-in on the Mario franchise, you have a lot of fun playing this one. It’s still totally a cash-in, though.

NHL 17

nhl17titleSo what’s new in EA’s latest hockey game? Well, it seems that after the backlash over features being cut out of the 15 version (full disclosure: I missed 16), they put at least some of those features back in. Shootout mode is back, along with other stuff.

Other than that, it’s NHL as usual.

Plot: N/A

Graphics: 9 out of 10

These are among the best-looking games on the consoles (of course, so is NBA 2K, though not Madden). Faces are fantastic, as are stadiums and uniforms. Everything about this visual presentation is just right.

nhl17a

Comic book hockey.

Sound: 5 out of 10

Unlike in some other recent NHL games, there are no good intro and menu songs in this one. The theme song of nationally syndicated NHL games is recreated well here, but even that is compromised by Mike Emrick’s inferior, half-hearted commentary. He’s not just phoning it in for these games, either. He sucks at calling the real games as well.

nhl17b

There’s French writings in Canada? Learn something new every day.

Gameplay: 9 out of 10

The controls handle extremely well. They are extremely smooth and fluid. Becoming a hockey player in this game works just fine.

Also, it seems easier to trigger fights than in previous installments of the series.

nhl17c

They got the slogans right, I’ll give them that.

The only problem is that seasons in this game are still too long. Playing an entire career is ridiculously time-consuming because there are so many games to play before the playoffs (admittedly, that is true to real life).

Challenge: 7 out of 10

Goalies on both sides aren’t very good, but computer opponents do have great formations that make for high-scoring, modestly challenging, fun games.

Why protective but vision-hindering cage masks have their drawbacks.

Why protective but vision-hindering cage masks have their drawbacks.

Overall: 8 out of 10

I would recommend this title. As a hockey simulation, it hits the nail on the head. As a pure video game, it’s an exciting, balls to the wall experience.

Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing

bigrigstitleThere are some questions I won’t talk much about on this blog. “Hardest game ever?” The clear and obvious answer is I Wanna Be the Guy. There actually can be an interesting debate if the question is rephrased to “Hardest game ever sold in stores” since I Wanna Be the Guy was not. Because then there are a number of candidates including Ghosts ‘n Goblins, the 3D Ninja Gaidens, and the Dark Souls series.

By the same token, there’s only candidate for the title of worst game ever. Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing is so bad that it doesn’t even work. It’s pretty much broken and would not have been put on the market if not for the PC gaming industry’s total absence of quality control.

Plot: N/A

Graphics: -3 out of 10

Everything is as flat as a mid-1990s 3D game. This game was made in 2003. It gets better: Vehicles don’t go with the backgrounds and among other oddities, lampposts are completely lit up, not just the bulbs.

All this might have merited a 1, but…

bigrigs1

Yes, grass grows on the road. But disappears in a moment.

Sound: 1 out of 10

I think this is the best part of the game. Why? Other than an engine hum so loud it sounds like a jet there is no sound. Can’t glitch up what you don’t do.

Gameplay: -8 out of 10

So the technical aspects are shit. But gameplay is where it counts the most. Look at Minecraft and Angry Birds. Does Big Rigs also redeem itself here? Hell no! First, the driving controls for this racing game are rather clunky. Steering without letting up on the gas can be tricky. Also, there are only five tracks, one of which doesn’t work. Pick Nightride and the game crashes.

bigrigs2

They can go f*ck themselves!

Speaking of glitches, this game is just full of them. If you try driving into the small buildings littered throughout tracks, you pass through them like they’re not even there. You can’t cross bridges. Instead, you pass through them to descend underneath them, then drive up the opposite structure to get to the other side of the bridge. That’s right, you can climb walls as a truck. Faster than driving on the road, in fact.

And if you climb the hills on the extreme sides of the screen? You’ll discover that you can leave the boundaries of the game. This is where the game goes beyond a waste of money and becomes officially laughable.

bigrigs3

The truck of the future!

Challenge: -10 out of 10

Any game that you can’t lose get’s a -10 in Challenge automatically. Because your opponent never starts his engine. Do you really need anything else? Well, OK.

bigrigs4

A grammatical error in a two-word sentence? Oh… my… God!

Overall: -8 out of 10

Big Rigs is what I would expect from a high school student doodling a free game and uploading it onto the Internet. But no, the box art clearly shows a ESRB rating. So apparently, this was actually sold in stores. I never imagined that the worst game of all time would have actually been released, but there you go.

Street Fighter V

sfvtitleStreet Fighter V is, of course, the latest in the series of games that got the fighting ball rolling. Which really isn’t saying as much as it once did because fighters aren’t what they once were. The days of them overwhelming this industry proved to be short-lived. Virtua Fighter is dead. Fatal Fury is dead. Dead or Alive is in deep decline*. It’s rare for a brand new fighting series to even be attempted anymore. But the old icons — Street FighterMortal Kombat, and Tekken — have survived on their name recognition. Almost the only other fighters that have done particularly well lately are those based on DC Comics and Dragon Ball.

How does Street Fighter V measure up? Not so well. While it does have a very Capcom competence to it, the way it shortchanges gamers is also very Capcom.

*Another reason DoA isn’t what it once was is because its appeal relies heavily on sex. And gamers are much more gender-sensitive than they once were.

Plot: 5 out of 10

The plot advances in the short stories in the Story Mode that tell you what role every character plays in this game. The character interaction in these short stories are very good, I must say. Everybody acts in character and the dialogue is strong.

sfa

It’s funny how these chance encounters when traveling the world keep happening.

Only problem is that there is no Arcade Mode. That means that the characters have no endings. That hurts the plot a lot. I’ll further discuss how the lack of an Arcade Mode hurts this game later.

Graphics: 8 out of 10

One great thing about SFV is the graphics. The backgrounds and character models look incredibly good! You get a close-up look at the fine attention to detail whenever you perform a Critical Art (this game’s name for super moves that require you to fill up a power meter by fighting).

This bit is animated well enough to make us forget that Zangief's head should be violently impacting into the rock as well.

This bit is animated well enough to make us forget that Zangief’s head should be violently impacting into the rocks as well.

Sound: 5 out of 10

Music’s fairly catchy. It’s not great, but it’s serviceable. But the cutscenes in the aforementioned Story Mode have terrible voice acting. Lack of improvement in voice-overs since their infancy a generation ago is a sign of how Capcom has an unwillingness to shake things up when needed similar to Nintendo’s.

Gameplay: 4 out of 10

The controls work pretty well. Although there’s not much new added compared to SFIV. In some ways this doesn’t feel like an entirely new game. At least there are some brand new characters.

But that brings me to another problem. There are only sixteen characters immediately active, without recourse to buying downloads off Playstation Store. Mortal Kombat X had more. Tekken 6 had more. Injustice: Gods Among Us had more. Hell, Street Fighter Alpha 2 had more, and it came twenty years before SFV.

Another serious problem is the lack of an Arcade Mode. The short Story Modes are pale imitations. You can play online, but the lack of a traditional Arcade Mode makes the game seem incomplete.

sfvc

Does he go everywhere in his underwear?

Capcom admits that the reason why this game didn’t sell as many copies as were hoped for was because word spread that this game was going to shortchange gamers. The stated reason for the lack of an Arcade Mode was for a SFV tournament or whatever that Capcom was hosting. This almost sounds like a bullshit excuse because companies have been doing these contests and still made complete games for decades.

Challenge: 3 out of 10

The Story Modes are as easy as they come. They’re clearly designed to train beginners for online play.

sfvd

Notice how much life I have left. Some challenge.

Overall: 5 out of 10

Capcom is out of step with consumers, I’m afraid. With the shortage of built-in characters and no Arcade Mode, nobody should have been surprised that SFV sold about as badly as any game in a series this big could. It reminds of how NHL 15 did after a number of features that NHL 14 had were terminated. But that wasn’t this bad because NHL 15 didn’t do away with its Be a Pro and/or Be a GM modes. I realize that Capcom is in a rough financial spot, but screwing over gamers is not the solution.

Pitfall!

pitfalltitleSorry if this disappoints, but I have very little childhood memory of Atari. Most of the gaming I did before the NES was in arcades. The only Atari 2600 playing I really did was in schools, day care centers, and the like (it was already old enough to be bought cheap). In fact, I best remember this company for the failure of the Jaguar that eliminated it from the console market.

Pitfall! is among the most praised games on the company’s most popular system. It was a platforming pioneer and provided action. So over thirty years later, I’m reviewing it. How is it?

Plot: 8 out of 10

Not that 98% of those who played this game knew or cared, but the protagonist is an adventurer named Pitfall Harry. Harry is going through a jungle full of dangerous forests, jumping and swinging on vines (a la Tarzan).

pitfall1

“AIYAYAYAYAYAYA!!!”

This is pretty much a typical Atari plot. If there even was a plot, which many of them didn’t even have.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

Those who continue to love the Atari will tell you that the almost stick figure graphics actually have a certain charm to them because you have to use your imagination. As much of an excuse as that may seem like at first, once you start playing, there comes to be something to that.

Pitfall! has great graphics for this system. While a lot of characters in these games can’t represent what they’re supposed to be, everybody actually looks like they should in this game.

Sound: 8 out of 10

But the lack of music I can’t deal with. Part of reason why Atari never sold the amount of consoles that Nintendo and Sony did in later years. That said, the sound effects are really good.

Sure, Harry could just block the logs with his legs, but isn't jumping more fun?

Sure, Harry could just block the logs with his legs, but isn’t jumping more fun?

Gameplay: 10 out of 10

This is about running and jumping over predators, swinging on vines, and using crocodile heads as stepping stones.

The controls work just and more important, this game is very fun. The action gives you a very good time.

Gator bait?

Gator bait?

Challenge: 8 out of 10

Many Atari games never end. You just play until you get tired of it. This game actually has an ending. But it’s difficult to get that far. You have a time limit and level design is cleverly crafted to challenge you. But it’s emotionally rewarding when you finally do it.

Overall: 9 out of 10

A true gem of the first very successful console. I can understand why the kids who had Ataris liked it so much.