Video Game Reviews – September 2010

Reviewed on: Xbox LIVE Arcade (Exclusive)
Street: 07.21
It’s only a matter of time before Roger Ebert’s damning article titled Video Games Can Never Be Art ceases to be a topic of heated debate and slides inevitably toward the category of “Shortsighted Presumptuous Statements Made by Otherwise Passionate and Thoughtful People Throughout History.” There’s no doubt in my mind that Ebert’s sentiments will, in time, take their rightful place alongside Bill Gates’ famous “640K of memory should be enough for anybody.” For now, as the debate rages ever onward, developer/publisher Playdead is offering some pretty damn convincing evidence for the defendants. For what amounts to the meager cost of theatre admission for you and your imaginary girlfriend, you can download LIMBO on Xbox LIVE and experience an evening of moody, atmospheric puzzle solving, all while skirting the embarrassment of saving a seat in a crowded theatre when you know damn well you came alone. Just kidding, I’m sure you’re a socially well-adapted human. Lord knows I am. Anyway, LIMBO is like nothing I have ever seen, and I’m no spring chicken.  The game evokes its moods very successfully—everything about the experience contributes to a profound sense of dread and isolation on the part of the player. The puzzling is tight, responsive and just challenging enough. Although it’s essentially a cut-and-dry side scroller, regarding presentation, concept, art style and atmosphere, it’s altogether brilliant and wholly unique. It’s also pretty freaky. My imaginary girlfriend, Kathryn, was legitimately scared by the whole first act—surprising, as she’s a big fan of horror movies. –Jesse Hawlish

Puzzle Quest 2
Infinite Interactive / D3
Reviewed on: Xbox LIVE Arcade
Also on: DS, PC, iPhone, iPad, Web Games
Street: 06.30
When the original Puzzle Quest was released back in 2007, my then-roommate claimed to have spent an entire day playing the game, stopping only twice to masturbate. I’m not entirely sure if his self-manipulation was inspired by the goings-on of the game or some sort of outside stimuli, but the game is good enough that I can definitely see the appeal of the former route. Three years later, the sequel transports the player to a world in distress, and you have to save it the only way you know how: by matching three or more of the same puzzle piece together in the name of righteousness. Basically, Puzzle Quest is like Bejeweled, but with a bunch of goblins, cockatrices, werewolves and many other girl-repelling, nerd-bonerfying fantastical creatures to battle. While the primary goal is to cause damage to your enemies by matching “skull” puzzle pieces together, matching colored orbs creates mana which can be used to cast spells, and matching “gauntlet” pieces powers up your weapon, allowing you to forego all that fruity puzzle shit and attack your enemies directly. Even non-battle scenarios are handled through puzzlin’, as you engage in mini-games to disarm traps, loot treasure and break down doors. Character customization isn’t too deep, but this game is so addictive that I really don’t care. If you have ample free time between bouts of masturbation and are inclined towards D&D-style nerdiness, I really can’t recommend Puzzle Quest 2 enough. –Ricky Vigil

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Beta
Blizzard Entertainment
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Street: Q4 2010
The general trend of all WoW expansions, content patches and MMO add-ons in general is to add content for only the most dedicated of players. The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King upped the level caps by 10 levels each and added plenty of high-level raid dungeons and ridiculously rare loot that us normal people could never dream of obtaining. Cataclysm doesn’t forget about those high-level diehards, but the real attraction here is how much Blizzard has changed the world everyone has become so familiar with over the years, making everything exciting again at the low levels. The short version of the story is that some dragon was awoken and fucked shit up, old school. Azeroth is in disarray, and any zone you knew from before has changed drastically. Blizzard has done a spectacular job tearing the place down, and every zone I played was almost unrecognizable from before. The Barrens has a huge chasm ripped through its center and water has flowed into former wastelands, transforming them into lush tropical paradises. In addition to the new and changed zones, Cataclysm adds two new races to the mix, the lovable Goblins and some other Alliance race that no one gives a flying fuck about because the Alliance is only played by annoying 12-year-olds. Something that really stands out about the Goblins is how well the quests are structured. None of them were of the typical “kill this, fetch that” formula, which made every one feel just a little bit more fun than the usual chore. The whole package is tied up with some fancy new graphics that are still about five years behind the curve, but who cares about graphics? –Ross Solomon