Video Game Reviews – January 2008

Comic Book Creator 2.0: What's Your Story?
Planetwide Media
Street: 08.14.2007
Although making comic books is cool, it can be quite limited when the number of characters and backgrounds are only restricted to clip art. But now with version 2.0, the comic book backgrounds and characters have been stripped away and the software reworked to become more of a photo-layout style suite.

The page editor allows quick drag-and-drop from the side bar into the workspace. Besides backgrounds, there's quick access to four folders on your PC of your choice, a number of pre-designed text boxes and a text layout editor. On top of that, individual cells can be modified with new borders and the like. For an extra cheesy touch, there's also a plethora of dialog balloons in case you want to add some speech captions to your photos, and finally you can also add sound and animation to your cells.

Although it's probably not practical to just drag and drop you entire photo collection into What's Your Story? it's the perfect way to take a smaller collection of photos, such as a set of vacation photos, and give them more of a scrap-book like layout rather than just tucking them away in your "My Pictures" folder or shoving the hard copies into a photo album. Personally, I plan on laying out a few pages from a recent road trip and printing them up for a more animated and customized feeling album complete with narration, dates and comments. No Spiderman clip art needed.

4 out of 5 of my captions are vulgar

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Neversoft Entertainment/RedOctane
Street: 10.28.2007

Nobody can accuse the folks over at Guitar Hero headquarters of not knowing a good thing when they've got one. Right on the heels of the ultra-popular Guitar Hero II, developer Harmonix has handed over the reigns to Neversoft for this great follow-up title. Luckily, the new guys managed to keep what made Guitar Hero II so great completely intact, while at the same time adding some new coolness to make rocking out just a bit more enjoyable.

The first thing you'll notice with Legends of Rock is the ultra-cool wireless controller. Finally, those sweet spin moves I've been working on don't end with my console flying off the shelf and knocking me unconscious! The wireless controller, does weigh a tad more than the old controller which gives it a more substantial feel. The buttons and strum bar all work perfectly, and the range has yet to be reached in my humble abode. Instead of the very tasteful white Gibson Explorer from Guitar Hero II, we are now blessed with the mother of all rock axes, a black Gibson Les Paul! The guitar also comes with a complete set of stickers to customize your axe with the standard butt-rock selection of flames and skulls.

There is one huge difference in the game play: the introduction of the boss battle! After every few sets of songs, you face off against a super-guitar hero and battle to the musical death. The way this works is that by nailing certain passages you gain "weapons" to try and derail your opponent during their turn. Screw them up enough and you will soon be head banging atop their defeated video corpse. Another cool twist is the option to skip your boss battles if you get slaughtered too many times and just want to strum your way through the rest of the game. So welcome back, plug-in and get ready to rock the world again!

4.5 out of 5 frets a' blazing

The Orange Box
PC/Xbox 360/PS3
Street: 10.11.2007
First person shooter

The Orange Box is really three games in one from our friends over at Valve. First up is Team Fortress 2, a multiplayer-only bullet-fest, pitting teams against each other in an all out war based on capture the flag scenarios. The action is brutal and relentless, and the cartoonish characters are very likeable as they shoot holes through you. The one thing that is lacking here is the variety, since characters, despite the great selection of classes, can't be changed or "leveled up" as you play the game and the maps are not very abundant. The emphasis on team building will be a bonus for some players, but a turn off for others who are looking for a more independent experience.

Portal is a new game from Valve that is based primarily on a simple puzzle-room layout. However, Portal delivers far more than just some mind (and thumb) bending puzzles. In fact, the voice over in Portal is hands down the most hilarious thing I've ever heard in a video game. I was literally laughing out loud as I played through this game. Valve has created an instant classic that I hope will be receiving a follow up as soon as possible.

Half Life 2: Episode 2 is the much anticipated second installment to the follow up to one of the greatest first person shooters of all time, Half Life. If you've been a fan of the series then, odds are you're going to buy this disk anyways (this game is the cornerstone of The Orange Box) to play the newest episode and find out the haps with Dr. Freeman. There's not a huge amount of new weapon/action developments since Half Life 2, but considering how fantastic that game was, that shouldn't stop you from picking up this newest installment. You'll also get Half Life 2 and Half Life 2: Episode 1 on this disk which all told with the new installment is going to give you over 25 hours of video game history.

5 out of 5 contestants prefer cake