Video Game Reviews

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It’ll be in the scary library—just follow the hallway of stone faces. – The Evil Within

Arcana Hearts III: Love Max
Aksys Games/ Arc System Works
Reviewed On: PS3/PS Vita
Also on: Xbox 360
Street: 09.23
Arcana Hearts III: Love Max is not the generic anime fighter you may suspect, but an intensely fun combat game that bridges PS Vita and PS3 flawlessly. The game is easy enough to jump right into and perform basic combos, but advanced enough to give the player hours of practice time as you happily mash buttons.The seasoned player will find themselves using the homing-cancels to juggle opponents or extend combos. Selecting the correct god or Arcana to compliment your combatants strengths adds an extra layer f fun to the experience. The downside to the title is that the training mode doesn’t lend itself to building combos and setups, but instead forces the player to perform odd menial tasks that help you gain understanding of combat mechanics. While a seasoned player may use this to master the game, it hinders new players who lack understanding of fighting game fundamentals. This classic works well for seasoned fighters and anime fans, but casuals beware. –Thomas Winkley

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
2K Australia / Gearbox
Played on: Xbox 360
Also on: iOS, PC, PS3
Street Date: 10.14
In a nutshell, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is the story of how a man went from terrible and selfish to psychotic and evil – a fitting tale for one taking place between the events of Borderlands and Borderlands 2, leaving the murderous world of Pandora, the pre-sequel tells an equally-bloody tale of rebellion and domination on Pandora’s moon, Elpis, and the space station every Borderlands 2 addict like myself ever wanted to visit. Like most Borderlands games, the story is hit or miss, and not why most come to play: for the loot and the exploration – both of which are hindered by the feeling that The Pre-Sequel is more of a glorified expansion pack than an entirely worthy… well, pre-sequel to Borderlands 2. With repetitive mission design, lackluster character classes, a world vastly smaller than its predecessor – despite some fun new freezing mechanics, lasers and butt-slamming (yes, butt-slamming) Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel often feels too similar to its predecessor. Is it still a fun game? Sure, but it’s an experience of diminishing returns, certainly nothing fresh enough to pour another 300+ hours into. –Randy Dankievitch

The Evil Within
Tango Game Works / Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on: PS4
Also On: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Street: 10.14
The Evil Within drags you through pools of blood, terrifying trap mazes and hordes of zombies for the twisted pleasure of a total psychopath. The story and crisp controls make for an absolutely frightening and mostly enthralling experience. The weapon selection is reminiscent of Resident Evil, but there are a few weapons (namely the Agony Crossbow) that add some unique strategy. The outdoor levels seem present only to add playtime versus telling a story, but still lend themselves to enjoyable zombie blasting. While the rollercoaster between zombie shooter and survival horror intensifies the terror when players realize that an enemy can’t be killed, it also takes some of the game’s identity away when tight spaces and deadly demons are replaced by shambling zombies and rocky landscapes. –Thomas Winkley

F1 2014
Codemasters Birmingham / Codemasters
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also On: PlayStation 3, PC
Street: 10.21.2014
I’m starting to think that I may be the only person who writes sports games reviews for this lovely publication. I’m not complaining – I like sports games. FIFA, Madden, the other yearly titles, FIFA some more…I fucking love them. But I know absolutely fuck all about F1 – so this assignment was foreign territory. The first thing I noticed is this game isn’t fucking around…it is a hard simulation. You’re thrown into a test track when you first start it up and, after completing the track, the game tells you at which difficulty you should be playing. After thrashing around for 90 seconds the game politely told me that I should play on very easy. “Fuck you,” I thought, “I’m a gaming journalist.” So I turned it up to easy – like a goddamn boss – and kicked off my career as an American driver nicknamed The Magician. After pouring through emails and menus and notifications, I was finally out on track for my debut in Australia. Again, I don’t know shit about F1, so I’m thinking that I’m in the race. Lap times are posting, my crew chief is talking mad shit in my ear, I’m driving erratically…it’s about what I expected for race one. After two hours of this, I’m notified that it’s time for qualifying. That’s right, I fucking practiced for two hours. Like I said, this game is insanely deep and really tries to put you in the shoes of an F1 driver. Long story short, I didn’t qualify in Australia and The Magician was visibly devastated.  –Blake Leszczynski

Fenix Rage
Green Lava Studios / Reverb Triple XP
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
Street: 09.24
Fenix Rage is a challenging 2D platformer that will have you swearing up a storm. You play as Fenix, a mix of Sonic the hedgehog and Kirby with infinite dashes and jumps. He’s a little upset that his village was blown up, so he’s chasing after the Oktarus, whom he feels responsible for the destruction. It’s not that important, it’s the increasingly difficult terrain mixed with the simple gameplay that’s the main focus. All you need to do is get from the starting point to the blue cube. This simple combination will cause you to die a ton, it actually displays how many times you died at the end of a level—I got over 50 a few times. This is mostly due to the challenging landscape, but the instant re-spawns accounted for some of my deaths. There’s no load screen to slow you down, but it also means you lose that second to re-calibrate so I would head straight into deadly ooze without realizing I was back at the beginning. The colors are bright, the graphics are standard and, at times, it’s more luck than skill, but it’s still a fun way to waste some time. –Ashley Lippert

Final Fantasy Theaterhythm: Curtain Call
Square Enix / Indies Zero Co., LDT
Reviewed on: 3DS (exclusive)
Street: 09.16
Final Fantasy games have been known for their great soundtracks—Final Fantasy X’s score was one of my favorites and I find that I get the main theme stuck in my head all the time. This new Theaterhythm game incorporates 221 songs from the Final Fantasy series and its various spin-offs. There are a few different types of song types to play through—field, battle and event which you can play on basic, expert or ultimate difficulty. In every song, you’re trying to tap at the right time, or swipe your stylus the right way. The only thing that really separates them are their animations, and the event levels have cutscenes in the background which is distracting. As you play through songs, you gain “Rhythmia”—basically overall experience points that unlock different modes, settings, songs and characters. The cool addition to the game modes is the Quest Medley. You play a series of random songs laid out on a “chaos map”, and work your way to the big boss at the end—it’s essentially a tiny RPG and it mixes it up from simply playing songs. It’s a good rhythm game that’s going to bring back some great memories. – Ashley Lippert

The Long Dark
Hinterland Studios
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
Street: 09.22
The Long Dark is a sandbox-style survival game that will truly challenge any player, no matter their gaming experience. You play as a man who is the lone survivor of a plane that crashed in the Canadian wilderness of the game starts you off in the middle of the woods, nowhere near the crash site, with no signs of human life. You must survive the harsh cold, defeat hungry wolves and fend off starvation. It sounds pretty easy, but you only have limited resources and your equipment only has a limited life-span (if you are lucky enough to find equipment, that is). My only complaint is that the map is a bit small, and there really isn’t much else to the game other than surviving the harsh realities of nature. I hope that in the full version of the game they will add a larger map, more content, and better landmarks. It’s very refreshing to find a good survival style game that isn’t about a zombie apocalypse. Instead you are battling between life and death in the harsh Canadian winter–nature is your only enemy. –Nicole Stephenson

Lords of the Black Sun
Arkavi Studios / Iceberg Interactive
Reviewed On: PC (exclusive)
Street: 09.12
On paper, Lords of the Black Sun should have been one of my favorite games to come out this year. It takes the diplomacy and two-tiered combat of the Total War series and melds it with the sprawling research trees and exploration of Civilization. You take control of a burgeoning interstellar empire with ambitions set on conquest or cultural hegemony across the galaxy, tinkering with diplomacy, spy networks, ship designs and even political theory. Unfortunately, the audacity of Lords of the Black Sun’s design spawned a legion of problems that severely hamper my enjoyment of the game. Firstly, the game’s glacial pace makes each month feel practically meaningless. It often takes 7-15 turns for a home planet to build a single ship, and the month to month events never felt significant enough to warrant undivided attention. The game is also poorly explained, with no tutorial mode available for the beginning player. Instead, the player reads pages and pages of vague instructional text that never actually explains the way fundamental mechanics of the game are supposed to work. As much as I want to like this game, it still feels like an early beta even months after its official release. –Henry Glasheen

Lords of the Fallen
Deck13 Interactive, CI Games / Bandai Namco
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also On: PC
Street: 10.28
A great philosophical question: if it looks like Dark Souls, sounds like Dark Souls, and feels like Dark Souls – is it Dark Souls? The general consensus is yes, Lords of the Fallen is, for all intents and purposes, a Dark Souls clone. Yes, they share a lot of attributes – they’re both action RPGs set in a quasi-middle ages world with a number of challenging enemies waiting around every corner. But let’s really look at the Lords on its own merits. One, the story is fairly compelling – in the game you play Harkyn, a prisoner that gets a chance at redemption. The game doesn’t spell everything out for you, so unraveling why Harkyn gets this second chance is pretty interesting. Two, it’s a lot more forgiving than Souls. This may not be a positive in everyone’s eyes, but often I wasn’t too disappointed with the more generous helping of checkpoints. And three, it’s a pretty fun game. Look, Dark Souls (I never played 2) is a masterpiece, and comparing these two games automatically handicaps Lords, but on its own Lords is a good, and challenging enough experience that I definitely recommend it to every fan of the genre. –Blake Leszczynski

Magnetic By Nature
Team Tripleslash
Reviewed On: PC
Also On: OUYA
Street: 11.10
Magnetic By Nature is a physics-based puzzle platformer that takes a relatively simple mechanic and uses it to create countless worlds and challenges to explore. Instead of creating a high-concept plot and filling it with meaningless fluff, Magnetic By Nature drops you into the action after a brief cinematic. While many games have worked with the basics of magnetism-as-platforming, Magnetic By Nature takes a lot of the platforms out of the equation, instead forcing you to swing through the air with expertly timed changes in magnetic polarity. While the game is extremely fun, it’s also surprisingly difficult. Prepare to die many meaningless deaths before gracefully landing at the end of each level. Yet, tackling these difficult challenges gives the player a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Lance Montgomery’s calm, thoughtful score sets the mood for a game that requires equal parts patience and precision, and an abstract Art Deco visual style gives Magnetic By Nature a timeless feeling. While other indie game developers seem to pine for the coveted triple-A aesthetic, Team Tripleslash dare to embrace simplicity with their debut title. –Henry Glasheen

May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville
Mastertronic
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
Street: 10.15
In this Professor Layton style puzzle game, you play as main character, May, who is in a balloon accident with her brother Tery, who goes missing after the accident. He leaves you a letter leading you into the town of Dragonville, whose mystery you must solve in order to find your brother. The plot is very simple throughout the game but has enough twists to keep it interesting. There are 100 main puzzles to complete the game, and over 100 more bonus puzzles. This is a great game for anyone who is new to puzzle solving games, and even for gamers who aren’t new to the genre. The puzzles range in difficulty from super-easy to difficult enough to look for a guide online. It has a hand-drawn style of animation that is very charming and quite beautiful. However, the music is really repetitive and quickly grows old. For a $9.99 game on Steam, May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville will give you it’s money’s worth in play time, it took me around 30 hours to complete the game, and it always kept me busy. If you are tired of games that lack strategy I would recommend giving May’s Mysteries a shot. –Nicole Stephenson

Monkey Tales
Developer: Larian Studios
Played on: PC
Street Date: 08.28
Recently released on Steam as a collection, the Monkey Tales series are interactive math games designed with a vaguely Indiana Jones-ish theme, and a focus on engaging kids with mathematics through different game mechanics. From puzzle-based mini-games to Galaga-like vertical shooters, Monkey Tales covers a wide array of game genres, all while teaching, testing, and assessing the user’s math skills. At the latter, Monkey Tales is an undeniable success, a great tool for measuring how well one might be doing with particular math skills – but as the former, Monkey Tales can be a mess of fussy controls, some repetitive and/or tedious game designs, and a frustratingly simplistic take on gender roles, all of which can get in the way of the game’s true purpose, teaching math to students. When the game’s focused on math, entertaining young minds with exciting action sequences and challenging problem-solving, it can be a fun, educational title – however, it’s not always as consistently engaging as one would expect it to be. Useful, but flawed. –Randy Dankievitch

MotoGP 14
Milestone S.r.l./ Milestone S.r.l.
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PC, PS Vita
Street: 11.04
This game is as hard of a racing game as I’ve ever played. Firing it up, I thought I could ignore the tutorial and jump right into the (pretty cool) career mode. Nope. On race one, I couldn’t even get past the first hairpin turn without flying off of my bike. It seems to me, that’s exactly how the creators intended. Once you start feeling somewhat comfortable, this is a pretty good game. Usually, consistently being unable to break into the top 10 in a racing game can be pretty frustrating, but in MotoGP finding yourself finish 16th rather than 18th can be extremely satisfying. Early on in your career, I think it might be damn near impossible to finish near the top. You need to work on your racer and fine tune your style to be competitive at all, which will frustrate a lot of people, but was one of the game’s strong points for me. Where this game lost me was the amount of load screens, and the length of each screen. On top of that, the online section, both times I tried to play, was completely empty. Other than that, this is a better-than-average racing game.  –Blake Leszczynski

MX vs. ATV: Supercross
Rainbow Studios / Nordic Games
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PC
Street: 10.28
This off-road racer comes from a resurrected, formerly THQ produced franchise that last saw a release in 2011 – which died along with the California based studio a few years later. Honestly, this game looks, feels, and plays more like a game from 2011. Aesthetically, this game is fairly pedestrian. And it’s not just graphics, but the riders’ movements are so stiff. Typically, in the sport, these guys are shifting back and forth, putting their feet down on tight turns, and generally looking like human beings on motorcycles. Beyond that, the sound, especially on the dirt bikes, just lacks any feel of realism or diversity. In fact, I turned off the sound effects, which should be a feature in racing games, pretty early on in this game. I hope Rainbow Studios gets another go with MX vs. ATV, a once well-received series, because—despite its shortcomings—there are some positives, like dynamic tracks and decent online play – but overall, this one can be a pass for all but hardcore motocross fans.   –Blake Leszczynski

NBA Live 15
EA Tiburon/ EA Sports
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also On: PlayStation 4
Street: 10.28
I enjoyed this game more than NBA 2K15. There, I fucking said it. I know, I know…by almost every measurable standard 2K15 blows NBA Live 15 out of the water. But where Live shines is accessibility. Honestly, it’s exactly what it sounds like, 2K15 is just too complicated and intricate for me to enjoy. EA Canada’s improvement over last year’s embarrassment is immense, which basically means it’s at least playable this time around. But on top of that, the visuals and presentation have taken huge leaps forward, as well as gameplay overall. Again, if it’s a more hardcore simulation experience you want – go with 2K15. I actually think EA should really look at marketing this game this way. It took me all of ten minutes to feel comfortable with everything Live 15. The simple controls, generous AI, blinding pace, and forgiving nature of the game overall seems more appealing to the more casual basketball fan.  –Blake Leszczynski

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution
CyberConnect2 / Bandai Namco Games
Reviewed on: PS3
Also on: Xbox 360, PC
Street: 09.15
Fighting games like Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution aren’t known for being good games—especially the ones based off anime. Revolution does try to give the anime fans what they want through Ninja Escapades, as it introduces a few new backstories for Akatsuki and other characters from the anime, all while peppering in the fighting scenes. The fighting mechanics themselves are interesting, but once you get the hang of them, they’re fluid, and the combos make for some spectacular fireworks. The main chunk of the game is the Ninja World Tournament, where you battle through the ranks to get to the top. The tournament takes place on an island that you can explore in between matches—you unlock parts of the island as you progress through the tournament, so at first, you don’t have a whole lot to do or see outside the matches. You can recruit some peeps to your team by completing mini-quests to get them on your side. Sometimes it’s tedious, like having to read up to get the answers to some questions, and other times, it’s simply beating them in a fight. It’s not your stereotypical, terrible, anime-based game, but it doesn’t have much replay value. –Ashley Lippert

The Shopkeeper
Verse Publications / Mastertronic
Reviewed On: PC (exclusive)
Street: 10.23
While I can certainly appreciate that the developers of indie title The Shopkeeper wanted to experiment with the narrative space of gaming, the result is a bland, incoherent mess. Your goal is to find the right gift for your wealthy mother-in-law – presumably so that she will give you the money for an abstract business venture. The gameplay, if you can call it that, consists of the two most irritating aspects of point-and-click adventure games: trying to find clickable items on the screen and navigating tedious dialogue trees. The Storyteller suffers greatly from the flat vocal performances of its actors, but their indifference is likely the result of a frankly uninspired script. Every line of dialogue feels stilted and overwrought, as though the writer was more interested in appearing literary than actually defining the characters. Even worse, the central mystery can’t be solved by deduction – you can only reach the end of the game with an elaborate series of wild guesses. Even at the humble price of three bucks, there’s not enough substance in this game to make it worth the 20 minutes it will take for you to complete it. –Henry Glasheen

Spider-Man Unlimited
Gameloft
Played on: iOS (exclusive)
Street Date: 9.10
Gameloft’s had a spotty-record with hero-themed video games in recent memory: the mediocre Iron Man endless flyer, the equally average action titles for The Dark Knight Returns and The Amazing Spider-Man… the list goes on and on. However, they may have turned a corner with Spider-Man Unlimited, a pleasant surprise given that it’s both an endless runner and a free-to-play mobile game. Thanks to a clever premise, Spider-Man Unlimited utilizes the vast Marvel multi-verse to continuously add new Spider-Men for players to conquer the Sinister Six with, each with their own unique buffs and abilities, for players to earn through daily events and campaign missions (with new ‘issues’ of campaign missions being added regularly) by pulling them through ‘portals’ opened in New York by nefarious powers. Of course, this comes at the cost of two different currencies and managing one’s energy meter—the unfortunate by-products of the game’s free-to-play nature—but with over two dozen different Spider-Men to unlock and upgrade, and fantastic level design and mechanics (including web-swinging and wall-climbing segments), Spider-Man Unlimited is more than entertaining enough to overshadow the game’s frustrating grind-y F2P components. –Randy Dankievitch

Sunset Overdrive
Insomniac Games/ Microsoft Studios
Played On: Xbox One (Exclusive)
Street: 10.28.2014
Are you ready for a zany, open world shooter with more memes and referential comedy than Reddit’s Front Page? Well Insomniac Games doesn’t give a fuck, because they’ve made it anyway. And, despite some of the fourth-wall breaking comedy not quite working, and the grinding, bouncing, and wall riding traversal system taking some time to get used to, this Xbox One exclusive is an absolute blast, Sunset Overdrive puts you in the shoes of The Player, tasked to help Sunset City, a fictional metropolis with a severe mutant problem. One of the first things you’ll notice is the aesthetic. An overload of color, explosions, and style that spits in the face of the brown, drab-looking shooters that we’ve become accustomed to. The traversal system feels like it was borrowed straight from Jet Set Radio Future and. though I thought I might hate it, it works incredibly well. The best part of the game, however, is the raucous soundtrack. A barrage of garage punk rock from bands like Cheap Time and The Bronx that perfectly sets the tone for one of the year’s best games.  –Blake Leszczynski

Sunset Overdrive is all about surviving the apocalypse and having fun. The whole world didn’t end, only your city called Sunset City. A huge corporation, Fizzco, decided to release their new, untested energy drink, Overdrive in your town. It obviously goes terribly wrong and the soda turns people in monsters ranging from the human-sized OD, to the Herkers, gigantic, backhoe-toting monsters that can crush you with boulders. OD travel in packs and can surround you in seconds if you keep your feet on the ground—bouncing to higher ground and grinding on buildings and telephone wires quickly become a way of life in order to stay alive. At first, shooting while you’re grinding is a pain in the ass, but you get used to it and actually begin to hate being on the ground. You can still beat monsters with a crowbar while you’re grinding so you don’t lose any of the satisfying head-smashing of up-close combat. The game has bright colors and some great graphics; it’s a beautiful game to explore and Sunset City has a lot to offer. There’s a lot to find, plenty of monsters to kill and much fun to be had. –Ashley Lippert

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
Sora Ltd. / Bandai Namco Games / Nintendo
Reviewed on: 3DS (exclusive)
Street: 09.03
Super Smash Bros. has been one of Nintendo’s best properties since it made its first appearance on the Nintendo 64. Every installment has just gotten better, though most professional Smash players go with Melee as the best over Brawl. The 3DS version isn’t going to make it to the top, but only for a few simple reasons—it’s too small of a screen, and when there are four players spread out, you can barely tell where you are. It’s caused quite a few accidental deaths in my matches. Other than that, it’s definitely a great Smash game to carry around. For those of us who get bored with just fighting, there are challenges to complete to earn stages, tons of trophies and customization pieces. I love that you can customize not only your Mii characters, but the actual characters in the games—you can add speed, defense and edit their attacks as well. The stadium modes are mostly the same. The new Smash Run mode isn’t that great, and the classic mode is updated a bit with risk-reward choices. It’s going to fulfill your need for Smash. –Ashley Lippert

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