It’s extremely difficult for an independent developer to produce a runaway hit when up against blockbuster games with million dollar budgets. Even more strenuous is creating a memorable character, however there’s something brilliantly simplistic about a small talking red cube of meat (aptly-named “Meat Boy” for the carnage he’s set to endure). Indeed, if the character was given any more physical dimension en par with say Mario or Metroid this would be a more brutal title and imagine would have a hard time getting passed the Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and WiiWare censors.Continue reading »
Demon’s Souls was first released to North American audiences it was purported as one of the most difficult games in existence, a reputation it rightly deserves. Friends traded stories about this excruciating challenging title to other friends (and for those that eventually went on to complete the game there was no shortage of bragging rights to be had either). As word spread about Demon’s Souls’ notorious difficulty more became interested in playing it and in the two years since its release a rather sizable audience was prepped and ready for a sequel. So the question became how do you create a sequel to one of the most challenging games ever created? The answer: you make it harder. That end product was ‘Dark Souls‘.Continue reading »
Now that the honeymoon phase is over and the dust has finally settled many will advocate that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the better game with its Michael-Bay-esque storyline and constant injection of action, but this is simply untrue. What is true is that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was more highly anticipated than its predecessor as many believed Black Ops was merely a stop-gap title to bide time before Modern Warfare 3?s release. In any case, Black Ops was something special in the genre of first-person shooters, especially after Modern Warfare 2 and World at War. Its emphasis on story and character development is what drove this near-perfect blend of action, drama, and tension.Continue reading »
From Dust seems like the most unlikely title to come from a studio whose recent library is made of blockbuster franchises. With series like Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia, and Rayman in its arsenal Ubisoft shows no signs of slowing down. But when the company released its downloadable title From Dust the game made a big splash by separating itself from other action-oriented titles the studio usually scribes to.
There are few games that have benefited society with real-world results that don’t fall under the term “educational”. Sure, I have a better understanding of the world having hunted down Carmen Sandiego more times than I can count, and I truly have a newfound respect for the frontier pioneers that crossed America having died of dysentery on the Oregon Trail. Sure there are tales of indirect applications brought about by video games, like purposely releasing plagues in World of Warcraft to test the spread of epidemics or analyzing the virtual economies of games like Entropia to better predict stock markets, but no game has the potential to solve the world’s most pressing problems more than ‘Foldit’.
(I’m going to preface this review by stating that I’ve never been a fan of online multiplayer in the Modern Warfare franchise. I realize this entry is supposed to focus on Battlefield 3 but it’s hard to talk about one without bringing up the other. I’ve always likened multiplayer in the Call of Duty games to fighting in a fish bowl or a hamster cage. There’s too many campers, the maps are too small, and don’t even get me started about the kill streaks. And while I understand they’ll always be millions of people who favor this franchise over Battlefield I thought I’d be better to get this out of the way sooner rather than later.)Continue reading »
The Stanley Parable is a short experience but a worthwhile one (and a must-play for those thinking about either a career in video game writing or video game design). At best it’s a metafictional quagmire, at worst it’s an absurdist mind-fuck en par with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot or Albert Camus’ The Stranger. Created by Davey Wreden, known on forums as “Cakebread”, The Stanley Parable is a mod that utilizes Half-Life 2?s Source Engine and is free to download off Steam provided the player has a Valve title already on their account.Continue reading »
Last year I had the chance to have a chat with Video Game Live‘s Tommy Tallarico before his show in Toronto that year. This interview has been played on the radio a few times at CKLU, but unfortunately the audio files were a little too broken and corrupted by the time I finally was ready to post them up on the site. Fortunately I was able to reconstruct them and transcribe the audio. It was an honour to be able to interview Mr. Tallarico. Personally, I’ve been a fan of the man since he was on Reviews on the Run and more so after playing Advent Rising which he composed the music for.Continue reading »
Not since Killer7 have I had the pleasure of playing a unique experience such as Catherine. This game is a true gem. Its greatest strength is that it takes your expectations of what a game should be and makes you realize what a game could be. Like Demon’s Souls, Persona 4, and Odin Sphere that came before it, Catherine falls in the tradition of Atlus Games’ tendency towards the peculiar and the macabre.Continue reading »
Magicka is an action role-playing game for players that don’t normally play action role-playing games. It lends its success for three very distinct reasons: its humor, its simplicity, and its accessibility. Initially developed by eight students at the Lulea University of Technology in Sweden, which would later become Arrowhead Game Studios, this is a game meant to be played with a mouse in one hand and a keyboard in the other, but not in the way you think. The game draws upon inspiration from titles like Warhammer and Diablo with its roots entrenched in Norse mythology, albeit however loosely.
For those who’ve never played Magicka let me present you with a primer. Players take on the role of wizards allowing for simultaneous co-operative play using available elements (Q,W,E,P controls water, life, shield, and cold respectively, and A,S,D,F controls lightning, arcane, earth, and fire respectively) to create spells. Spells are created through any number of element combinations. For instance, combining shield with ice creates an ice shield while combining ice and arcane creates an arcane coldbeam. But there are drawbacks. The more elements you have charged the slower your characters moves. Similarly, if you cross two contrasting elements together (lightning/water, arcane/life, etc.) you can do serious damage to yourself and your friends. Having said that, I take issue with calling this an action role-playing game because Magicka differs from its genre forebearers in very distinct and notable ways. There’s no class structure or leveling system. There’s also no limit to the amount of magic used with a “mana-bar” and its acquisition of goods and materials during gameplay is scant at best.
Now I can’t go further in this retrospective without talking about Magicka’s humor. Firstly, when characters talk they speak in a garbled Scandinavian-dialect akin to the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, more to do with how Americans think Swedish people sound rather than actual Swedish. There’s also no shortage of pop-culture references in-game that are bound to put a smile on your face. At one point you come across a mourning Connor McCloud before decapitating him with his own sword and receiving a “There can be only one!” achievement, a clear reference to the movie Highlander. This humor isn’t lost in its first expansion either, Magicka Vietnam, which takes historical liberties by putting our wizard characters in war-torn 1960s Vietnam amidst Vietcong-themed enemies.
According to its developers, Magicka sold over 200,000 units in its first two weeks and it’s no secret why. It’s charm, whimsy, and tongue-in-cheek humor helped propel this game to success merely through word-of-mouth, and while the game emphasizes enjoyment over strategy, simplicity over complexity, and accessibility over specificity, it’s still an amazing achievement that’s more than worth your time.