Updates from July, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • unmanneddrone 2:03 pm on July 17, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Firedance Games, , , , , , Science Fiction, ,   

    Salvation Prophecy (PC) – Review 

    One man. One vision. Firedance Games’ debut title fights an intergalactic war on all fronts.

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  • unmanneddrone 7:18 am on July 14, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , SunAge, Vertex4   

    SunAge (PC) – Review 

    It took ten years of development for an indie studio to create a classical RTS. Are the fruits worth picking?

    (More …)

  • Mohammad AlHuraiz 12:41 pm on July 5, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , Adventure   

    Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS) — Review 

    Mohammad AlHuraiz checks out Solatorobo, a modern take on those “anthropomorphic animal” cartoons of yore.

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    • RedSwirl 5:30 pm on July 5, 2012 Permalink

      Main, this nails what attracted me to Solatorobo in the first place. I haven’t gotten to finish the game yet, but I was instantly drawn in by its charm that reminded me of the games, movies, and TV shows you mentioned. It just nails that bright charm. It also brings back pre-rendered backgrounds to great effect.

    • asatiir 7:39 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      I forgot to mention that the soundtrack is awesome too, the game comes with the OST in the same package.

  • unmanneddrone 11:10 am on July 5, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: 1999, , Battlezone 2: Combat Commander, Pandemic Studios, , Strategy   

    Think Think Bang Bang – A Battlezone 2 Retrospective 

    One of 1999’s most interesting best-kept action-strategy secrets.

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  • unmanneddrone 5:46 am on July 5, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Dark Colony, , ,   

    Get Your Mouse To Mars – A Dark Colony Retrospective 

    From the RTS Golden Age, a forgotten title left an unsung legacy.

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    • bowlisimo 8:17 pm on July 5, 2012 Permalink

      Interesting, never heard of it. Looking at the screenshot up there, it looks like it clearly falls on the C&C RTS tech path of using a giant sidebar to build units, which was pretty handy back in the day.

      Was it Starcraft that overshadowed this game? Or was it Total Annihilation? Or was it that RTS games were a dime a dozen in the mid-late 90’s, and this one just didn’t differentiate itself enough from the pack to be remembered? The first Age of Empires came out the same year, was very different and is still remembered today despite Starcraft’s long, dark umbra.

      Either way, I’m definitely glad that mirrored faction idea is a thing of the past. Also, I wonder if that day/night cycle was Blizzard’s inspiration for a similar cycle in Warcraft 3.

    • unmanneddrone 10:36 pm on July 5, 2012 Permalink

      An old school RTS appreciation thread sprang up on NeoGAF after someone was trying to remember Warzone 2100…and Dark Colony was mentioned by a fair few folks (undoubtedly genre heavies and obsessed with curios).

      I think it might have been a culmination of all the things you mentioned, the glut especially, but Dark Colony certainly had a lot going for it – symmetry notwithstanding.

      In regards to Age of Empires, thematically it cast its own shadow and enjoyed a position outside of the sphere of its pulpy fantasy/sci-fi contemporaries. Not to mention it had the Microsoft backing…in DC’s case, SSI probably didn’t have the marketing swathe – being a publisher primarily of neckbeard entertainment. Sort of like if Matrix Games wanted to tussle with the big boys.

      The late 90s/early 2000s were my favourite times for the genre. So many interesting and ultimately forgotten titles to sift through. Force 21, The Gladiators, Submarine Titans, Conquest: Frontier Wars, those strange Homeworld B-tiers in Starmaggedon and Offworld Resource Base etc. etc.

      I’ll rustle up another retrospective on a far newer title that I think you’d enjoy, or at least be intrigued to read about.

    • bowlisimo 4:33 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      You’re clearly more versed in the genre than I am. Haven’t heard of most of those games. As a teenager without a lot of dough, I pretty much stuck to Blizzard, Westwood, and Ensemble, with a few deviations here and there.

      Yeah, the Age of Empires formula was pretty strong on its own for a while, begat several series like Empire Earth, Rise of Nations, and then went out with a whimper. Its only surviving heir is the facebook game, I guess? Kind of a shame, but Total War satisfies that niche for me now. Tried playing my .01 cent copy of Age 3 last month… yuck.

      On that note, I kind of want to see a graph that shows the entire history, starting from Dune (or whatever), everything that arose from it, and all of the subsequent evolutions that spawned from them up to present day (if they made it). I wonder how that would look. Probably way more complicated than I’m imagining.

    • unmanneddrone 5:31 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      Most of my investigations came after the fact, both via bargain-binning and second-hand stores. Dark Colony was a second-hand pick-up of curiosity. Turned out to be a fond favourite.

      I hear Age of Empires 3 is a great multiplayer game, if anything. I didn’t have the massive love affair with the second and, arguably, greatest in Age of Kings, but it certainly has a wide following all these years later. Ever play Galactic Battlegrounds, the Star Wars reskinning? Not bad.

      Would love to see that graph as well, with all the moments of mechanical inception. As far as I know, Eugen Systems’ first ‘big’ title (that’s The Gladiators) was possibly the point of divergence for the Dawn of War squad-based RTT idea. You’ve got other titles prior that feed into the idea, but it’s the closest common ancestor I can find.

  • Pete Davison 3:11 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: 4X, Amplitude, , turn-based strategy   

    Squaddies by the Fireside: Endless Space 

    Pete and Alex C settle down for a lengthy chat about Amplitude’s upcoming 4X title.

    (Caution! Extremely lengthy, multi-page post ahead.)

    (More …)

    • bowlisimo 7:05 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink

      That was a fun format, although it took me like 4 paragraphs to realize it was imaginary (…or was it?)
      You guys should have told me, I’ve got a baller space-conference room at Praxus HQ you could have used. It’s pure white and lined with Teladi holo-walls. The board of directors likes to have ancient Earth leaders serve them pangalactic gargleblasters. Weird, right? I’ve been meaning to talk to them about that. The rehab for our monthly meetings is starting to cut into our bottom line.

      Intrigued by Endless Space, for sure, sounds right up my alley, “but can my aged computer run it?” is the question. Also kind of bummed to hear it lacks a touch of personality and that diplomacy isn’t all there, although I think a lot of space games struggle with those aspects. Actually I feel like all 4X games (at least the ones I have played) struggle with diplomacy the most, even the mighty Civ. It’s all you can do to keep every A.I. from acting completely irrational and dickish.

      As for personality, it’s hard to love an empire of faceless planets. A council is a good start. I really think the planetary council in Alpha Centauri was a nice step in the personality direction, and it gave you reasons to contact faction leaders for more than just trading. There was a nice game of politics there that focused around votes and who you could persuade/buy off to vote your way on issues that affected everyone. I don’t see why there couldn’t be an inter-empire version of this, or maybe that’s too much to deal with. Civ 4/5 have the U.N. council, but it’s little more than a floating GUI with text.

      And did Alex really drop a Star Wars Rebellion reference? Here I thought I was the only one who played that wonderful, but flawed, wrist-crippling strategy game. It definitely had personality, you recruited Star Wars characters for god sakes, but it also sounds like Endless Space has a similar combat system where you watch ships auto-battle with very loose interaction from the player. It worked back then, despite looking like ass, so I can image it still works for Endless Space. I’m down with the spectacle and cinematics. I don’t care about micromanaging battles as much.

      OH, and yes to 4X narrative, however thin.

      Anyway, I’ll probably pick this up the first time it’s on sale.

    • Pete Davison 9:49 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink

      Good stuff. I’m pretty sure you’ll dig it. As for the personality and diplomacy issues, it’s worth reiterating that the game isn’t “out” yet — the version that’s currently up on Steam is an unfinished beta and the devs freely admit that not everything is implemented yet, with diplomacy being a particularly prominent item on their “To Do” list. So it’s possible there will be some strides forward in that department before it releases for realsies.

    • unmanneddrone 2:41 am on June 21, 2012 Permalink

      I think it’s definitely one of those genres where your own personal drive and direction can conceivably make up for any narrative absence or limited sense of character. That said, I do find ES to be on the more fulfilling end of the spectrum.

      And just as an aside to this Squaddies by the Fireside chat…it’s nice to be able to engage in some of that high-level discussion that is usually reserved for podcasts, as the logistics, timezone and familial duties will always prevent anything further…a man weeps.

      Anyway, Bowley, I echo Pete in saying this is very much your bag.

  • RedSwirl 6:42 pm on June 18, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Grasshopper, ,   

    Lollipop Chainsaw (PS3, 360) — Review 

    The latest Grasshopper joint.

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    • Karl Weller 9:55 pm on June 18, 2012 Permalink

      This does look incredibly fun! And after playing “Shadows of the Damned”, I’d like to think I prepared for anything now.

  • Pete Davison 5:59 pm on June 18, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: FuturLab, PlayStation minis, , , , Vita   

    Velocity (PS3, PSP, Vita) — Review 

    Pete kicks it old-school with this great shmup from the PlayStation Minis catalogue.

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    • unmanneddrone 11:52 am on June 26, 2012 Permalink

      You were not joking about the glory that is Velocity, Pete. Good find. Hideously intuitive, which is a great aspect. That Vita analog stick makes for fantastic arcade-style controlling.

  • Pete Davison 11:18 am on June 18, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Good Old Games, Martian Dreams, Savage Empire, , Worlds of Ultima   

    Worlds of Ultima 1 and 2 Available for Free on GOG.com 

    GOG.com delivers the goods once again.

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  • Pete Davison 2:29 pm on June 14, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Auditorium, bundle, Escape Goat, Iconoclasts, Indie Royale, Noitu Love 2: Devolution, PixelJunk Eden   

    Pay What You Want for PixelJunk Eden, Escape Goat, Noitu Love 2 and Auditorium 

    Four great games (and an alpha preview) for the price of… whatever you want, really.

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    • slapshot82 10:34 pm on June 14, 2012 Permalink

      I’ve actually been toying around with PixelJunk Eden, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve read so many mixed things about it over the years, but it’s well worth checking out.

      Auditorium has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first review codes I ever obtained. 😀

    • Pete Davison 2:01 pm on June 15, 2012 Permalink

      PixelJunk Eden was once described as a Squaddie as “the game I’d like to wear”. I think that’s pretty apt, given its awesome visual style.

      I tried Auditorium for the first time last night. I’ve been aware of it for a long time but never actually played it. What a fascinating experience! Reminds me, if anything, of Jeff “Yak the Hairy” Minter’s “light synthesiser” experiments in the ’80s and early ’90s — Colourspace and Trip-A-Tron, if anyone remembers those. (I’ll be impressed if you do.)

  • unmanneddrone 3:25 am on June 12, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Arcade, , Mad Riders, , , , , , ,   

    Mad Riders (PC, 360, PS3) – Review 

    Have Techland Nail’d the notion of Pure fun, or will the competition pass this cheap racer in a Blur?

    (More …)

  • Pete Davison 3:50 pm on June 11, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Hidden in Plain Sight, , Xbox Live Indie Game   

    Hidden in Plain Sight (360) — Review 

    Got some friends over? Then perhaps you should give this entertaining little local multiplayer Xbox Live Indie Game a try.

    (More …)

  • Pete Davison 11:34 pm on June 9, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Atooms to Moolecules, BeatBuddy, Blackwell's Asylum, DIVO, Imagine Earth, , Level Up 2011, MilitAnt, Splice, , The White Laboratory, ThunderWheels, Trash TV   

    Level Up Winners Give a Sneak Peek at Upcoming Indies 

    Indie darlings of the future or unworkable nonsense? Pete delves into the 2011 Level Up winners.

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  • Pete Davison 11:22 am on June 9, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: dumb fun, , Grand Theft Auto, Jason Rubin, opinion, , , THQ   

    Dumb Fun Has a Place 

    THQ’s new president believes Saints Row: The Third developers Volition can “make something that isn’t embarrassing”. Is Saints Row something to be embarrassed about, and is there a place for games like this?

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    • feenwager 11:40 am on June 9, 2012 Permalink

      I chalk it up to the industry’s never-ending case of movie envy. Let’s face it, Skyrim & Red Dead are no Schindler’s List. In the race to be taken seriously, everyone wants to ‘elevate’ the whole hobby. I say humbug. They’re called video GAMES for a reason, they’re supposed to be fun.

    • unmanneddrone 11:49 am on June 9, 2012 Permalink

      @feenwager Indeed. Agreed. I’m all for powerful experiences, but I had a lot of fun with Saints Row: The Third and not really any of that enjoyment stemmed from what Rubin and Crecente are pointing the finger at. It was wry, it had great dialogue and voice acting and knew exactly what it was.

      We’re getting our powerful and unique experiences at the same time, and seeing things like The Last of Us, Metro: Last Light etc. show that there’s a great balance being struck via taking cinematic queues and fusing them with traditional game mechanics…

      …but come on. This po-faced want to fast-track videogames’ cultural legitimacy has its place, and by all means, despite falling out of love for the most part with narrative-heavy games and ones with social commentary, I encourage developers to follow in the footsteps of industry leaders like Irrational et al., but not at the expense of creativity.

      And given THQ’s current situation, Rubin should be encouraging Volition to run in any direction and keep working their magic.

    • Pete Davison 2:52 pm on June 9, 2012 Permalink

      Agreed. I’m all for video games to have increased “legitimacy” but that doesn’t mean they should lose their lighter side — as you say, Feen, they’re called GAMES for a reason. There are far more embarrassing games than Saints Row, anyhow.

  • Pete Davison 5:33 pm on June 6, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: expansion, Frozenbyte, , , ,   

    Trine 2 Coming to Wii U, Getting Expansion This Holiday 

    Gorgeous indie puzzle-platformer Trine 2 is on its way to Nintendo’s upcoming system with all-new content.

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  • Pete Davison 11:51 am on June 6, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: GOG.com, , , Space Rangers 2: Dominators, Space Rangers 2: Reboot   

    Get Space Rangers 2: Reboot for Just $3.99 

    E3, schmee3. The big news of today is that you can get one of the strangest, most wonderful space games of all time for about the price of a cup of coffee.

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    • unmanneddrone 12:20 pm on June 6, 2012 Permalink

      Very good! We need to get on the SR2 squad mission at some point. I wrote this a few years ago after falling desperately in love with the craziness.

      Vladivostok conjures stark and lonely thoughts in most people; a frozen port somewhere in the north, a place hemmed with cracking ice and mitted hands. It is, however, the place from which a phenomenal take on non-linear gaming sprang forth. From the frigid windswept edge of Russia’s east comes Space Rangers2: Dominators. While the obviousness of the name has the ability to raise eyebrows, it is one of the deepest and most enthralling space adventures available in this section of the known Universe. More importantly, it fails to be boxed into a specific category. It is multiple games in one.

      Starting out in Space Rangers 2: Dominators drops the player into an open galaxy, with independent economies fluctuating; star bases opening, thriving and going out of business; the five empires rising and falling in influence; all amidst the encroaching threat of the Dominators, a tri-factional horde of self-replicating and self-sufficient robots intent on living up to their name. The player can forge whatever existence they choose to pursue. Working for, against and in between the five great empires, the possibilities are nigh upon endless.

      Traversing between planets, solar systems and space bases is done via a top-down view, with gorgeous celestial backdrops overlayed with the player’s ship and hundred of space phenomenon and NPCs. Movement and combat on this screen is by a simultaneous turn-based system; everything happens during the player’s turn, the game then pauses to allow new commands to be assigned, then once triggered the game continues. There is no waiting for NPCs or enemies to have their turn, which keeps the game flowing nicely. Space itself is populated by traders, pirates, military vessels and a swathe of other assorted civil craft of all shapes and sizes; each able to be contacted at any time to trade, form alliances with as well as ascertain news and gossip from. This dynamic playground is brought to life by the sheer number of non-player characters and events that populate SR2. But this part of the title is simply the beginning, as what can be accomplished reaches far beyond pointing and clicking on a rich 2D plane.

      A player can make their fortune simply by keeping an ear to the ground in terms of what is going on within the solar system they find themselves in. The ebbing and flowing of economies, as well as natural and civil disasters, mean that if something is in need, a crafty trade-run can bring untold riches to those who make the best of a bad situation. Governments rise and fall, and profit is there to be made in times of upheaval. What makes SR2 stand out from the crowd is the fact that such instability ripples through the 60+ star systems and 250+ planets, causing trade routes to change and diplomatic and military missions to occur.

      As the player progresses through this non-linear experience, the surrounding worlds and people – granted they don’t succumb to the ever-present threat of the Dominators or civil or system war – make technological breakthroughs that allow for much better equipment and cargo to be purchased or plundered. Nanotechnologies, disease serums, weapons and more become headily advanced after a while, and highlight the changing nature of the universe on show. Ships themselves come in eight different material types, as do fuel tanks, force-fields, boosters and others. Skill and material points can be assigned after experience gathering, making for sheer RPG mechanics on a grand scale. It does feature much more microscale tweaking than most 4X space-trade/empire games, but then, it seems content not to put itself too far into that category. Especially when it comes to planetary battles.

      Sword of the Stars featured a great galactic empire-building infrastructure with good RTS moments for ship-to-ship engagements and planetary sieges. SR2 defines itself as becoming a totally 3D RTS game on the ground; the player commanding platoons of custom-made robots across varied terrain in order to capture planets from Dominator incursions. While the RTS elements won’t beat Supreme Commander or any recent RTS heavyweight, breaking up the pace of the 2D space elements is somewhat enjoyable. What’s more, the player can turn the RTS experience into a third-person shooter affair by taking direct control of any of the created units and aiding the allied troops in capturing resource points and other bases, ultimately resulting in a planetary-wide victory. SR2 simply refuses to be put in a single genre.

      While the trade and RTS elements play a big part in the experience, SR2 keeps giving in the most unorthodox of ways. There are planetary quests to take part in by the aforementioned mechanics, but upon entering a black hole, as one does, the player is subjected to an arcade battle of sorts; an old school top down shooter in the vein of Galaxian or Solar Striker. It is this audacious jump from genre to genre that makes each playthrough different and exciting. The arcade games are set in hyperspace and winning means rare and precious items, as well as being the domain of the Dominator leader…if he can be found to combat, or if the player actually chooses to do so.

      Another feature of this audacity is the large chunk of text-based adventures available to the player. The title is known for throwing the dichotomy of trading in space to managing a ski resort via a choose-your-own-adventure structure. These stories range from leisurely to insanely difficult, but each incredibly rewarding to finish.

      SR2 is a deep game, but one that does not have a serious bone in its body. It is wonderfully light-hearted and features some chuckle-worthy tongue-in-cheek dialogue and writing. However, it straddles such a balance so that while the player might find the lack of seriousness makes for a more relaxed gameplay experience, the actions of the player have ramifications system-wide. While other massive space-trading games feel the need to implore a furrowed brow-state of play, SR2 begets smiles. The graphics, while not groundbreaking, are lovingly crafted. Everything from the introduction menu screen to the ship load-out and customisation menus are beautifully rendered and deserve to be poured over. The sound design is fantastic, too. Trawling through space is accompanied by blissful music that aptly suits the endeavour.

      SR2 is an easy recommendation for anyone interested in jumping into a sprawling universe crawling with independent NPCs and factions, while not feeling overwhelmed. The player can aid particular groups and become enemies of others at the same time, yet the non-linear nature of the game doesn’t shoehorn players into canned confrontation. With SR2, there are ways around everything and nothing is certain.

      Space Rangers 2: Dominators is one of the finest examples of what makes games that refuse to be genre-specific special. It’s not perfect by any means, but it has a solid core of pure gold gameplay on many levels.

      Incredible game. And we’re getting an HD retooling this year, too! Widescreen and all that jazz.

    • Pete Davison 1:56 pm on June 6, 2012 Permalink

      There most certainly should be a Squad mission on this at some point — perhaps in time for the HD rerelease whenever that is. Consider it on the Pile.

  • ckim 6:02 am on June 3, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , Review,   

    Alpha Protocol (PS3, 360, PC) — Review 

    “Ever hear of anger management?”

    “No, because I killed all my therapists.” (More …)

    • Pete Davison 12:07 pm on June 4, 2012 Permalink

      I adore Alpha Protocol. Reading this just makes me want to play it again. Great job, sir. 🙂

    • pepperized 4:03 pm on June 18, 2012 Permalink

      My brother picked this up. Sure I liked it, sure as hell didn’t think it was bad.

    • Pete Davison 4:18 pm on June 18, 2012 Permalink

      Right. I think the sloppy console port and the fact it was a lot more of an RPG than Mass Effect didn’t help matters. People went into it expecting certain things and were disappointed/confused when that didn’t happen. It’s best to take it as its own thing, not as a contemporary of Mass Effect, which is the mistake most reviewers made around the time of its original release, I think.

    • pepperized 4:20 pm on June 18, 2012 Permalink

      Yeah about that… One of my biggest shames on the shame pile is the Mass Effect series.

  • Pete Davison 12:01 am on June 3, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: ,   

    How to Post Articles 

    So you have an amazing idea for an article and want to share it with the Squad. Here’s how to go about it.

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    • pepperized 9:50 am on June 5, 2012 Permalink

      I like the idea of making articles, so could you add me to the members list please.

      Thanks in advance.

  • Pete Davison 10:33 am on June 2, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Among the Sleep, Krillbite, ,   

    Through the Eyes of a Child with Among the Sleep 

    Here’s one sure to tickle the Squad’s fancy: a first-person horror adventure in which the player takes on the role of a two year old child.

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    • wrdsmth 1:06 pm on June 11, 2012 Permalink

      Mother of mercy does this look fun.

    • Pete Davison 9:48 pm on June 11, 2012 Permalink

      Looks great, doesn’t it? I love the idea of games told from unusual perspectives. There’s a great interactive fiction/text adventure title called Child’s Play where you play a toddler, and it’s very cleverly done.

  • Pete Davison 9:50 pm on June 1, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: , PlayStation Network, PlayStation Portable, ,   

    Corpse Party (PSP) — Review 

    Pete Davison spends some time with the ghosts and tries not to cack himself.

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    • asatiir 10:51 pm on June 1, 2012 Permalink

      The game was quite excellent, I wasn’t able to beat it without the use of a walkthrough. While I usually would just give up when games did that to me, the story did keep me going, and even with walkthrough, that did not take away any of the haunting horror that this game had.

      I really loved this game.

    • Pete Davison 11:12 pm on June 1, 2012 Permalink

      @asatiir I was very fond of the fact that the “bad endings” were mini-stories in their own right. Some of them went on for a very long time — and at least a couple of them lull you into a false sense of security, making you think that you’ve nailed it… only to dash your hopes against the rocks in a rather bloody manner.

      An excellent game. I really hope we see more.

    • asatiir 7:11 am on June 2, 2012 Permalink

      Yes but you would spend like 20-30 minutes into the game with the bad ending activated. I’m a fan of consequence in video games but to find out you were “wrong” in your decision far beyond retrying can be irritating at some points, especially in the later and longer chapters.

    • pepperized 4:11 pm on June 18, 2012 Permalink

      Hmm, somewhat reminds me of the When They Cry game, although I never played it. This has sparked my interest but I don’t own a vita yet.

  • Pete Davison 9:13 pm on June 1, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Android, Carmageddon, Game Center, , , mobile, Stainless Games   

    Carmageddon Goes Mobile 

    The classic crash-and-splat racer is headed to iOS and Android this summer.

    (More …)

  • Pete Davison 4:12 pm on June 1, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Hironobu Sakaguchi, , Last Story, Mistwalker, Nintendo Wii, Nobuo Uematsu, , Xseed Games   

    The Last Story (Wii) — Review 

    Pete Davison explores the strange, compact world of Lazulis Island and discovers a fresh new take on the JRPG in the process.

    (More …)

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