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Spiral Knights

Developer: Three Rings Design
Publisher: SEGA
Genre: MMO/Dungeon Crawler
Release Date: PC, Linux, MAC
April 4, 2011
Rating: None
MSRP: Free To Play, with paid features

Spiral Knights takes the typical MMO, takes out leveling, and adds in heavy reliance upon teamwork. Add in cute characters that look like the Heartless people from Kingdom Hearts, a ton of dungeon crawling, and a system that utilizes real cash transactions wisely, and a new breed of MMO is born.

Albeit small, there is some back story to Spiral Knights. The knights have crash landed on an alien planet, Cradle, and are trying to ban together to stay alive. Using the resources from the monsters and planet, each knight must explore the Clockworks, an underground civilization of such that is home to many hostile creatures, including mutant jellies. The objective? To reach the core of the planet to see what this strange new planet has in store for the knights!

The worlds themselves are based off of real time, so going down in the morning will not be the same as going down during the evening. This adds a bit of a random element to the typical monotony of dungeon crawling. There is also a very easy party crafting system that really does all the work in the back-office. There is really no touching it unless there is a specific knight that the player wants to add in themselves. Leaving a party open allows anyone to join, and joining a party is as simple as going to the world and clicking join. It is very easy and intuitive.

All of the areas are instanced, meaning that the player and their party are in their zone alone. No one can steal that party’s loot or currency (labeled crowns in this game), and the party is free to roam at their own pace. The game is heavily based around party play, so there is little effect when trying to go it alone. I can give you many stories of the ill fate my character has found trying to solo beyond a certain floor. The floors themselves are broken out into tiers, where a gate stops a character from going further down without having the proper equipment. This is also good, as being under equipped will find a knight being pummeled much earlier than he or she wanted.

Dungeon crawling costs a knight Mist Energy (ME). Each day, the servers provide 100 ME for each knight to adventure on, that is gradually regenerated (I believe it is one energy every 15 minutes). To go down on an elevator costs 10 ME. Once all of the ME has been expended, the player must wait until they have enough energy to perform actions again. This energy is also used for crafting weapons armors, and items, as explained below. This is all the free portion of the game, and can be used to fully enjoy the game’s features. There is also the option to purchase Crystal Energy (CE) which can be done in one of two ways. The first way is by actual funds. The cheapest amount is $0.75USD, while the most is $49.99. The most expensive nets the knight 20,000 CE, which is a whole lot of adventuring and crafting. I personally was able to make 5,000 CE units last for about two and a half weeks, and that was with making errors and spending my energy unwisely. It can deplete faster, and it can deplete slower. It is all dependent upon the gamer’s play style.

There is also a feature to use crowns (in-game currency) to purchase mist energy from players. It is usually pretty expensive, but is driven entirely by a market system. Therefore, supply and demand of said energy is solely the determining factor on how much one must pay to receive 100 units. The energy is only sold in 100 unit increments. This is a more friendly way to purchase more energy without having a credit card handy. The best part about this game is that it does not rely on money to allow a player to enjoy the game. Granted, that player may not advance as fast as someone who is using money, but the dependence is non-existent.

There are vendors who sell equipment and recipes, but there is sort of a ratio to it all. Equipment from vendors is expensive as sin, cannot be made over and over but is relatively accessible. Recipes from vendors allow for crafting of that equipment at any time, usually at a lower cost for both the recipe and the weapon, but also use crystal/mist energy to craft anything, thus cutting down play time if no extra energy is purchased. The final way is via another player, who usually sells either the weapon or recipe at a premium, but makes it much easier to obtain as they have all ready done all of the work. Once obtained, the pros and cons stated above still apply. One thing I do not like is the difficulty to achieve the latter equipment pieces. It can take a player upwards of weeks to find one piece of armor or helmet that is needed to move further.

Death in a party is carried out very differently in Spiral Knights, as there are no experience points distributed, there is no real way of penalizing the player for dying and reviving themselves. Therefore, they have made the feature cost ME/CE. It starts out at a very low amount, and gradually increases each time the feature is used. I have seen it go upwards of 300+ CE to revive, which can start to get costly if the player continues to do it. The other way of revival is if a player comes to revive the downed knight, however it is at the cost of half of their health bar. I will admit, about 90% of the community is good with teamwork, but there have been the select few that simply do not understand the concept and will not revive anyone.

The final aspect that the player should be aware of is the mineral system. I do not have full mastery over it, however the Spiral Knights Wiki should be able to provide the necessary information needed to understand it. Throughout the levels there are mineral deposits that the knights can carry on their back. The mineral deposits are shared, so if one knight picks up a blue mineral worth six units, then the entire party receives that six units. Therefore, it behooves the players to seek out the biggest gems they can find. These minerals are used to construct the stages that the knights can play on, and alter what they see within the worlds. For example, if a knight places in so many of one mineral, then the overall element that the enemies may end up carrying is fire (allowing them to set you on fire with each attack). It is a complex system, but incredibly worth seeking out the solutions if finishing the levels are the player’s ultimate goal.

As it is an MMO, I feel the need to make mention of the community and the community driven aspects of the game. The game places a lot of emphasis on teamwork both in and out of the dungeon, so when exploring the dungeons has been completed for the day, there is much trading to be done. As far as I could see, the people were generally friendly. I had no real issues. There are plenty of servers, and none of them carried any real lag issues worse than the others. Overall, I was pretty satisfied with what I was playing with.

Graphically, the game does not give any real wow factor behind it. My system was powerful, so I was able to render the graphics at the highest setting, and really, it looked no better than an early PS2 title. The polygons were smooth, and there were no over the top glitching with sprites falling outside of where they should be, but there will be no one playing this game simply for the visual aspect of it. The coloring and shading are perfect for this style of game, however.

All in all, the game was an exceptionally fun game, with new twists and game elements that made it fresh and new. There are not many MMO’s like it, if any at all, and if you are confined to playing a game with no credit card, I would definitely recommend this one. Spiral Knights is an entertaining game that breathes life into the free MMO’s by offering gamers a new and challenging MMO, with little reliance on outside currency. The game also requires no real install, which is useful if the computer being used is not allowed to have games installed on it. Despite both the pros and cons, I would tell those who appreciate a good MMO to give it a shot, because I do feel it is worth playing, but I assure you that you are not missing anything dire if you do not. If you fall into it as I have, I can assure you that it is insanely addictive.

Overall: 7.0 / 10.0

Likes:
+New Style of MMO
+FREE to play
+Cute and quirky characters

Dislikes:
-Later equipment becomes harder to acquire
-Payments are needed to advance quickly/play for longer periods
-Mineral system is difficult to understand

Innovative:
~Dungeon crawling made easy with a quick build party system
~Mineral system determines what worlds will be like
~Worlds change based on current time

Pilotwings Resort

Developer: Monster Games/Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Flight Simulation
Release Date: 3DS
NA – March 25, 2011
EU – March 27, 2011
JP – April 14, 2011
AU – April 14, 2011
Rating: ESRB E
MSRP: $39.99

When the need for a casual flight sim, with easy going objectives and a laid back feel arises, Pilotwings Resort steps up and rises to the call. Having nearly a 15 year break from the franchise, Nintendo chose an ideal time to launch a sequel to the franchise. I was certain that a game of this caliber, with a very small fan base of only the most hardcore gamers would be laid to rest after the Nintendo 64 title, Pilotwings 64, was launched. However, born anew under the turn of the new revolution for handheld games, Pilotwings Resort brings all of the fun into a whole new dimension.

Pilotwings Resort is very self explanatory from the moment the game is turned on through each and every menu. From the title screen, there are two separate game modes available: Mission Mode and Free Flight Mode. The other menu option (aside from Options) is Diorama, where unlockable images of the vehicles are placed to view. Fans may recognize the island that the game takes place on. It is none other than Wuhu island, the same place used in Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort.

In Mission mode, the objective is to advance through the classes, starting at Training and ending with Platinum, totaling 42 missions all together. Each mission is assigned a specific vehicle that must be used to complete the objectives while being graded on the very familiar scale. This scale measures how fast the mission was completed (with a time set to obtain the most points), how many rings/orbs/speed panels must be obtained, landing impact, and landing accuracy. These points are then tallied up at the end of a stage and give a ranking of one, two or three stars. The three stars can also be outlined in red, signifying a perfect score (140/140, for example).

Free flight mode isn’t as simple as it sounds. Using any vehicle, the player is able to freely fly about the island with only one restriction: a time limit. While flying, there are balloons, rings, trophies, stunt rings and information circles that can be flown into to collect. As those items are obtained, more time is given during free flight, and dioramas are unlocked. The vehicles available to use are based on which ones were unlocked during the Mission mode, so there is a lot of reliance upon each game mode to complete the game. The game also requires the player to use all of the vehicles to obtain the different balloons and rings, as only the ones applicable to the vehicle being used are actually highlighted and able to be accessed during that flight.

Some of the new features that they’ve added is the ability to use a Mii saved on the console to be the avatar within the game. The Mii isn’t blatantly visible except when a mission is over, or the vehicle has been wrecked in some manner. Speaking of, wrecking in this game no longer constitutes an immediate mission failure, but rather restarts the aircraft in the last viable place to continue the mission. This makes for a much more fluid experience as the player is no longer required to restart from the very beginning just because of one simple mistake. There are also the addition of speed plates. These plates require the vehicle to be traveling at a certain speed to break through them and score the points. This can also be challenging, as the plates must be broken towards the center as well to obtain the maximum points. Therefore accuracy and speed are both needed to ensure a good score at the end of a level. There are also a few brand new vehicles that have been added to the repertoire that add quite a new flair to the game. While I will not spoil all of them, I will talk about one: the squirrel suit. Quite easily the biggest surprise, the character starts off with a jet pack, and after flying through a special ring, the Mii throws off the jet pack. Much like sky diving was in the old games, the character is plummeted towards the island. However, the suit that the Mii is equipped with is webbed under the arms and legs, allowing for wind resistance to slow and maneuver the character within the sky. It absolutely blew me away the first time I saw it.

Visually, the game is beautiful. With no 3D, it is easy to see that the 3DS makes leaps and bounds above the DS/DSi’s graphics. With much smoother polygons, as well as a further visibility range, it is quite easy to see the difference between the two systems, and just how much raw power that the 3DS is capable of. Where the “awe factor” really comes into play is the 3D aspect. It took my eyes a bit of getting used to, but, as stated in my 3DS first impression, that the 3D slider does not make the images pop out of the console, but rather adds depth to the game, allowing the player to determine distance with greater ease. Rings are much more easy to fly through, there is no more last minute correcting to fly into an orb, and accidental tree smashing are no longer a problem. The aircraft’s relative distance to everything in it’s surroundings are all very clear now. This became very apparent when I had to fly through a cave. I (nearly) made it through without hitting a wall. I got a little bold, however, and went a bit faster than I should have.

Musically, the game does retain the peaceful soundtracks that I can remember from the older games. Flying a hand glider will present much softer music than, say, using a jet pack. I personally was not overly impressed, and actually don’t feel like I am missing anything when I turn it down to listen to something else. Still, the game is not renowned for its impeccable soundtrack, and therefore, I have not judged too harshly on it. It still goes with saying that listening to the soundtrack will not spur the urge to hunt on import sites to purchase a copy to listen to outside of the game.

A few things I wish they had or kept within the game were the second rendition of the hand glider. In the Nintendo 64 version the player was presented with a hand glider that had an enormous wingspan. It looked a lot more incredible flying with that than the stumpy hand glider that is usable in this game. Also, I miss having the instructors for each flight class. A flight simulator is hard to give ‘personality’ to, but those instructors, who were done away with after the first game added personality and flair to the game. They were proud when the player’s score was high, disappointed when it was sad, and angry when the player made foolish mistakes. It might just be my own personal preference, but I do believe they added an element into a flight sim that simply will not be found anywhere else. With the addition of the 3DS’s new online capabilities, some way of sharing best times or even flying with friends would have been a simple, yet effective way to prolong the life of the game. While it has a decent amount of re-playability, Pilotwings Resort, unfortunately, will not last forever.

Overall, for brand new 3DS owners, Pilotwings Resort is the perfect game to not only demonstrate the capabilities of the 3D features, but also a perfect introduction game to ease the player’s way into the 3D gaming realm. Without being high stress, games like this are few and far between. Offering seven vehicles, 42 missions, and hundreds of collectibles during Free Flight mode, there is enough content in this game, despite its multi-player drawbacks, to make Pilotwings Resort a solid game to own.

Likes:
+3D is gorgeous
+Lots of objectives
+New vehicles

Dislikes:
-Soundtrack is okay at best
-No multi-player functionality
-Re-playability is low after game completion

Innovative:
~Vehicles
~Crash Sequence
~Free Flight Mode is Objective oriented

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

Heavy Rain – Quantic Dream – PS3

Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Interactive Drama
Release Date: PS3 Exclusive
NA – February 23, 2010
EU – February 24, 2010
AU – February 25, 2010
UK – February 26, 2010
Rating: ESRB M
MSRP: $59.99
Console Played On: PS3

Heavy Rain is one of those games that is not easily forgotten. The game stars four main characters, whose stories start separate, but gradually intertwine within each other to create a compelling, and emotionally driven storyline. The Origami Killer, a deranged lunatic who abducts children, murders them, and leaves behind a small origami figure within the child’s hand is the main antagonist of the game. The main character is Ethan, a distraught man who is struggling to keep his family together, and is pushed to the brink of insanity when his only son is kidnapped by the Origami Killer. His story, along with Madison, a photojournalist who suffers from insomnia; Norman, a profiler detective from the FBI covering the Origami Killer case; and Scott Shelby, a retired detective turned private investigator, become deeply woven in a powerfully emotional story.

Interactive dramas are not widely known as a popular style, so to pick one up and play it was an experience in and of itself. The game is played not on a scale of “beat the game or it is game over,” but rather an “every choice has a consequence.” Every action that is taken throughout the game influences what sort of ending is received and those consequences could cause any or all of the said main characters to die. The mystery of the Origami Killer could remain a mystery, and the kidnapping could end in murder, just as all the rest have. There are so many possibilities within the game; it is almost too complex to think about simply through words.

How far would you go to save your loved ones?
Graphically, the game is breathtaking. Within the game, the developers show how they modeled real people to achieve the facial expressions, which are so real it is as if a movie was being played. There are no animations where arms glitch funny, or a leg mysteriously falls through the floor. The motions were all captured using tiny cameras on real human bodies. Therefore, if an arm can bend in a certain way, then it can in the game. This plays in well with the trials that Ethan will have to face to save his son from the killer. Everything was rendered from the same images and polygons, so the cutscene characters are the same ones being used to play through the game.

The gameplay mechanics are simple, and yet quite complex at the same time. On a very basic level, Heavy Rain is played with a series of well timed button presses, tapping and holding, with a mixture of joystick rotating and controller shaking. Combining some or all of these actions together will allow the character currently being used to interact with his or her environment or surroundings. This can be as simple as pressing X, or as complex as holding X first, until square shows up, holding that and X, and then shaking the controller to allow the character to climb a fence. Quantic Dream really did a wonderful job integrating a simple control scheme to feel more involved than it really is. During the course of the game, R2 will allow the player to listen to the thoughts of your character at any given moment. This not only allows insight of what the character is thinking, but allows greater depth and understanding of the characters within the game.

Listen to the thoughts of your characters, they’ll help you through the game.
The story speaks volumes for itself. I personally got emotional through various parts of the game, and was involved from beginning to end. At the very beginning, it can be a little slow at first, but the game really uses that introduction to teach players the functionality of the controls, and how your actions change the outcomes. The player will also be presented with moral choices to make through the game that make the player question whether or not the decision that was made was actually right. The game, as spoken by the producer, is only meant to be played through once though, as you get the best experience making all of the choices the first time around, and reaping those consequences (both good and bad) the entire way through. At any point in time, the decisions and actions can be costly, even going as far as to killing off all of the main story characters, allowing the Origami Killer to remain free.

I can honestly say the only flaw within the game is the fact that it is really only meant to be played once through. The decisions that are made the first time around are spontaneous and, therefore, are the staple of how the game is meant to be played. Afterwards, obtaining trophies is all that is really left, and that is simply a matter of replaying chapters in a different fashion to earn them. Do not get me wrong, the first play through will be glorious in and of itself. However, like a good book, once the ending has been revealed, re-reading that book does not have the same luster as it did prior.

The player’s actions can cause a character to die at any moment.
Overall, Heavy Rain is a must have for anyone looking for the reason why gaming is an art form, and not just a hobby. With a compelling storyline, a gripping plot, beautiful surroundings, and one of the most unique ways of playing a game that I have ever experienced, Heavy Rain is a game that in and of itself makes having a PS3 worthwhile.

Liked:
+Incredible story and realism.
+Highly fleshed out characters
+Unique gameplay (enhanced with Playstation Move)

Disliked:
-Limited replayability

Innovative:
~Gripping story from beginning to end
~Interactive drama is brand new for PS3, and is a unique genre overall
~Listening to the thoughts of the characters

Rating: 10 of 10

Castle Crashers – The Behemoth/Microsoft – 360

Developer: The Behemoth
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date
X-Box 360 – August 27, 2008
PS3 – August 31, 2010 (NA), November 3, 2010 (EU)
Rating: ESRB T
MSRP: 1200 Microsoft Points
Console Played On: Microsoft Xbox 360

Castle Crashers is a typical side-scrolling beat-em-up that’s not so… well… typical. The Behemoth has taken this old formula, added a little spice to it (some role playing elements), and stuck it in the oven to reheat, and when it came out, it was a smoldering hot dish with a bit of flair added in. The objective of Castle Crashers is to rescue the four princesses that have been abducted by the evil dark wizard, who just so happens to wreck the town while he is at it. The game starts off with four unlocked characters: a fire knight, an ice knight, an electric knight, and a poison knight. The Behemoth does a fantastic job recreating this age old formula into something new, exciting, and quite frankly, a blast to play.

The story starts out in a little party that the knights and civilian are all enjoying. A little bit of music, some good food and dancing for everyone! That is, until the day is completely and utterly ruined by the dark wizard, who selfishly takes the kings crystal and all four princesses. Thus begins the journey of the Castle Crashers! There are over 30 stages to play through, and the story is rather entertaining. The humor is very sarcastic, with a strange affinity with stool. I know this sounds foul, but I promise upon playing the game, the stool fits into the storyline perfectly. While it is difficult to really establish a story when the majority of the game is meant to be a series of button mashing, Castle Crashers does a really nice job keeping everything flowing in a neat and orderly fashion, despite the chaos.

With that being said, while being a beat-em-up style, the game doesn’t require severe cramping of thumbs to get the job done. They offer various combos in the form of mixing light attacks with heavy attacks, culminating various results from it. These attacks are unlocked as you progress through your levels. Each level up grants a knight stat points to place into attack, magic, defense and agility. The knights are also equipped with various types of magic, depending on the knight you use. There is also a slight variation between the looks of each magic, with many types of ways to use the magic (wide area, focused bullet, etc.). Castle Crashers also offers various sub weapons, from a bow and arrows, to a sandwich to turn the knights into giant, muscle headed rage machines.

The multiplayer feature is nothing new in terms of this style of game. Where The Behemoth has taken things a step further is by allowing knights to battle it out in various arenas and mini games within the game. The two mini games available are called “All You Can Quaff” in which the player presses buttons alternatively to eat food as fast as possible, and “Arena” where the player may partake in five different events. Also, at the end of any level where a princess may be rescued, the knights are forced to battle it out to the death, as only the strongest knight may stand victorious and receive the kiss from the princess. The mixture of cooperative and competitive game play adds for a surprising twist during the stages.

Castle Crashers has a plethora of different things that make it fun in terms of replayability. There are several pets (called animal orbs) that can be collected throughout the stages that give you various bonuses or perks. Some are as simple as allowing a knight to jump higher, while others give more experience for each enemy defeated. There are a slew of weapons that are both well designed, and hilarious. The knights can wield anything from an ice sword to the leg of a skeleton. I even fought with a giant piece of sausage at one point. After completing the game, there is an insane mode that becomes available, which grants the ability to play through the game one more time on a much harder difficulty, but allowing more experience points to be earned. With four characters to start, and 23 total playable characters (not including downloadable/secret unlocks), 64 available weapons (not counting DLC, for PS3 there are 69), and 26 animal orbs, there is plenty to do within Castle Crashers. There are also mini games that can be played outside of the original adventure.

Graphically, Castle Crashers is a 2D side scroller, so there isn’t anything that stands out. However, everything is illustrated vibrantly, and nothing looks like anything seen in another game. It reminded me of the kind of art that we are seeing in Flash powered games now. That being said, the graphics really didn’t do anything for me. It is different, but nothing is over the top. Musically, however, the game is impressive. The soundtrack isn’t doesn’t always fit with the game, but it’s really unique in that aspect.

All in all, Castle Crashers proved that games using old formulas can still bring something new to the table and be exciting and original. The Behemoth team has done an excellent job redefining what it means for a game to be a side scrolling beat-em-up. There are many facets to this game that make it an enjoyable experience for anyone to pick up and play, and have a good time doing so. As with any game of its kind, the feeling of repetitiveness will loom overhead as the formula is constructed to only go so far. Do not take that as a fault though, as I still feel this is a solid game to have in any gamers’ collection.

Liked:
+Tired formula born anew.
+Tons of characters, weapons and collectables.
+Extremely replayable.
+Music was catchy.

Disliked:
-Repetitive
-PvP is a little one sided

Innovative:
~Weapons, Knights and Magic is all fresh and new
~Pet System
~Catchy, upbeat music

Unknown Gamer gives Castle Crashers an 8 /10.

Costume Quest – Double Fine Productions/THQ – 360

This was the review I wrote to get my job at UnknownGamer, hence the difference in style. This is probably how most of them are going to look from now on.

Game: Costume Quest
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: THQ
Genre: RPG
Release Date (NA and EU):
NA: October 19, 2010 (PS3)
EU: October 20, 2010 (PS3)
NA: October 20, 2010 (360)
Rating: ESRB E10+
MSRP: 1200 Microsoft Points
Console Played On: Microsoft Xbox 360

Costume Quest begins with the role of young Reynold (male) or Wren (female), who just moved into a new town around Halloween. On Halloween night, their parents insist that they should go out with each other to make new friends, but their actual goal is to ditch the sibling and come home with as much candy as possible. Either sibling (depending on your choice) is then abducted by creatures called Grubbins, who are there to take all of the candy from the unsuspecting town. Costume Quest is one of the most innovative twists on an RPG that I have seen in quite some time.

From the moment the game is turned on; the player will immediately notice that this game is unlike any normal RPG tale: the sense of humor is subtle, but it is hilarious within the story. The relationship between the main character and the sibling is easy to relate to (assuming one has a sibling to relate to) and makes for some interesting dialog and snarky remarks. The objective of Costume Quest is simple: find the sibling, while raiding the neighborhood of as much candy as possible in a door-to-door trick or treat fashion.

Throughout the course of the game, there are many side quests to obtain that have many rewards, including various objects from battle stamps to Creepy Treat Cards. The battle stamps can be equipped to each of the party members to give them different abilities in battle. These range from added HP and attack power to paralyzing an enemy for a few turns with toilet paper. Creepy Treat Cards are simply a collection that must be filled in order to complete an achievement during the game’s progression. There are also various costume parts hidden throughout the town, which are one of the games main premises and carry with them many abilities both inside and out of battle.

Battles take place by either smacking a Grubbin with your candy pail, or by fighting random Grubbins who have invaded the houses around town. It is a typical turn-based RPG in the sense that each side takes turns fighing, with the heroes generally taking the first turns. When attacking, the game prompts the player to enter a certain button or perform some action (such as rotating the joystick) to allow for more damage. Likewise, when being attacked the player can press a button accordingly and reduce the damage to the characters. This usually is the difference between life or death, so a player cannot mindlessly jam the A button like some other RPG’s allow. One of the most unique aspects of the game is that the abilities that each costume offers are incredibly well thought out for each. The player is offered the option to use the ability after three turns have passed, and every one does something different from normal damage with fire damage over time, to healing and resurrecting party members. This is usually accompanied by an amusing animation that works to highlight the characters ‘superpower-like’ ways.

The music and visuals are very fitting for the game. Musically, the game’s eerie soundtrack is soft, but powerful enough to set the tone for what’s going on within the game’s story. There are haunting soundtracks that add just a touch of suspense (but not much, compared to the cutesy graphics). The art is very clean and well manipulated, and while I noticed a little slow down during the graphically intense parts, there was nothing so overbearing that absolutely could not be overlooked. The shadows and atmosphere are key to providing this game with the Halloween-ish feel through and through.

Overall, the game was a very solid game to play, giving a new take on the traditional RPG, with elements fun enough to keep the player engaged. There is a very low level cap, so there is never a feeling of grinding out levels to beat bosses. As long as the player keeps in mind the elements of pressing a button during battle, chances are the game will not be challenging to the point where it cannot be completed. My only peeve with the game was that it felt incredibly short, with only a few areas the player was able to explore). They have recently added DLC, however, which I have not had a chance to experience yet. With over 20 quests, nine costumes, and enough dialog to keep the player from ever getting bored, this game is a must have for any gamers who love RPG’s and are looking for something that brings a new element of game play to the table. After all, how many times can anyone say they saved their sister/brother AND brought home more candy than their pillow case can hold in a single Halloween night?

Liked:
+Originality and story.
+Creative costumes/abilities.
+Refreshing RPG elements.

Disliked:
-Too short.
-Repetitive.
-Difficulty wasn’t consistent.

Innovative:
~A holiday meets an RPG.
~Amusing dialog.
~Costume utilization.

Unknown Gamer gives Costume Quest an 8/10.

Assassin’s Creed – Ubisoft – 360

(This review was written for RPGamer in an attempt to apply for their open reviewer position. This is the reason for the odd format that is clearly different than the rest of this blog.)

Title of Review: Assassin’s Creed
By: Peter XXXXXX

REVIEW
Intro:

Assassin’s Creed (AC) is one of those games that when you first pick up and play it, you know you’ve got yourself a piece of history in your hands. When it comes to originality in the gaming world, it’s very hard to find something that is so completely new and refreshing, that it simply knocks your socks off and puts a brand new pair back on. AC does just that. You are Desmond Miles, a seemingly captive individual inside a facility by the name of Abstergo. Inside, Warren Vidic and Lucy are standing next to a large table, beckoning you to lie down inside the machine. The machine extracts memory glitches from your DNA of a past life you once were. Basically, it allows the individual to relive memories of one’s earlier descendents. Enter the game’s main protagonist, and who you will be playing as 95% of the time, Altiar, a used-to-be high ranked assassin within the Hashshashin living in Masyaf. His master, Al Mualim, has stripped Altiar of all of his high ranked privileges, and it is up to you to earn them back. This is done by assassinating a few powerful officials amongst the land whose motives in life can be questioned greatly. With the ground rules set, and your objective in mind, you pick up your blade, and off you go, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, blending in with the crowd to perform your duties as promised.

Battle System:
While nothing to be completely ‘wowed’ about, AC takes a decent system and implements it well. Breaking the system down into two modes is probably the easiest way to go about it: stealth and open conflict.

While stealthy, controls are fluid. You have complete control over where Altiar’s blade goes, and with good reason. You can assassinate anyone moving and quickly move away without ever being detected. The assassinations can be done in a number of ways, from various angles and distances. The choice is yours. While fun to do, there’s not too much that can be said in the way of excitement. You’ll come to find that while the real challenge lies in trying to remain undetected, you may end up having an easier time just beating your enemies to death with swords. You’ll tend to find the main set of missions (and even some of the side missions) get really repetitive as time goes on.

In open conflict, the camera conveniently moves up to a ¾ view and gives you a very good look at what is going on. Nine times out of ten, you will be out numbered, and in the beginning of the game, this can be tedious and frustrating until you learn a specific move later in the game. You can easily switch your target simply by moving your controller stick towards the opponent you wish to fight. It’s simple, but it works really well for what you’re doing

Music and Visuals:
One of the things I noticed right off the bat was how awesome your locale looked. You felt like you were in the Middle East. I played this game on a 32” (1080p) with HDMI and the visuals were breathtaking. From every building to the people roaming around, each tree and face was taken into consideration. To put short, the location is believable.

The music was something that when you first start playing, you don’t notice it right away. In fact, it rarely plays a part in the game. However, if you listen closely you’ll notice that all of the music does fit in well with the rest of the game. The snake-charming flutes and the drums go well with the bustling town that you’re walking through. The only time I ever noticed the music getting loud was when there was absolutely nothing going on, and you were roaming the city.

Difficulty and Completion Time:
The game has its own variable difficulty, starting off relatively easy, and gradually getting harder as you progress through the game and unlock more ways to assassinate your targets. I never felt so overwhelmed while playing that I wanted to quit. On my first play through, while achievement hunting and the like, I got through the game in about 25 to 30 hours of game play. That isn’t bad, considering how many achievements I got. The game does get tedious at points, especially if you’re looking to complete all of the memory strands, and you can feel yourself grow weary of the formula. Taking it for what it is (the first entry in a continuing series), you can find it’s enough to push through. Give me this game before the sequels were out, however, and I may have become a bit bored with it.

Interface and Localization:
The interface is very clean, and fitting for the setting of the game. Your health bar is located neatly in the top left of the screen, your current weapon selection in the bottom left (this vanishes away when you aren’t utilizing it), and a mini-radar in the lower right, showing you all of your destinations and such. At any point you may hit the back button to bring up the large map and set ‘waypoints’ for yourself, which will appear on the mini-map as well. Overall, the integration of the interface is well done, providing you with the information you need, when you need it, without interference to your playability.

Originality and Story:
Hands down, the game is unique in every sense of the word. I’ve never played a game quite like it, and you’ll not find a game much like it. The story is well done, giving you a well etched timeline of Altiar’s life from the assassin’s side of things, while leaving you confounded throughout most of the game as to what role Lucy and Warren play in the story. This unfolds as you progress further into what becomes one of the most engrossing games you’ve ever played. The worst part about it all is that you don’t even get the entire story when you beat it! You’re left dazed and confused, trying to sort through the puzzle you’ve just opened up for yourself. To me, that’s what makes it all the more wonderful. A game that can leave off with such an awesome cliffhanger, and still be good, is truly an amazing feat, and one you don’t see often anymore, if much at all. Best of all, is that it isn’t a cookie cutter story of hero saves the day, or rescue the princess, but a true-blue once told story.

Conclusion:
While you may find that the game can get repetitive after the third or fourth memory glitch, that doesn’t stop Assassin’s Creed from being a great addition to your game library. Little peeves like not being able to swim, and not having much variety in your assassination missions are just small under sights to the big picture. This game ultimately sets up the story for one of the most epic story’s I’ve seen in a game since the last solid Final Fantasy game. Assassin’s Creed opened up a can of worms, and finished them all. For the first go around in the series, you cannot put Ubisoft Montreal’s efforts down the drain just yet. This game is definitely worth borrowing from a friend, if not owning your own copy.

FAST FACTS
Platform: X-Box 360
Battlesystem: 4/5
Interaction: 3.5/5
Originality:5/5
Story: 3.5/5
Music and Sound: 5/5
Visuals: 5/5
Challenge: Moderate to Hard
Completion Time: Roughly 25 to 30 hours

Overall
3.5 / 5

Highlights and Lowlights
+Original and refreshing storyline.
+Life the live of an assassin? Yes please!
+Fluid movement and battle mechanics.
-Lots of collecting little things.
-Repetitive after the fourth mission.
-You can’t swim… really?

(Rating: 7.0 / 10.0)

Kirby’s Epic Yarn – Nintendo – Nintendo Wii

When E3 aired online last year, I know Nintendo fanboys like myself went nuts over some of the titles that were being previewed. This excitement only got stronger when we saw that a lot of the titles were coming out before the year’s end (Zelda didn’t though… boo.) This was one of those games. My first impression of it just watching the video: awesome. After beating it, I feel no less.

The game stars our wonderful pink pile of puff in yet another adventure where he is helping out his friends from impending doom. This time, however, it is not King Dedede that is terrorizing Dream Land, but a new threat by the name of Yin-Yarn, an evil sorcerer of sorts from the world of Patch Land. Frustrated with Kirby’s attempt to eat his Max Tomato, Yin Yarn sucks Kirby up into a sock… and turns him to yarn!

I know, epic right? The storyline is absolutely adorable though. It is narrated like a children’s storybook, and you cannot help but grin every time the narrator tries to get angry. He uses his own voice to make the voices of all the characters while telling the story, and it brings you back to the days when your teachers read the books for you. The story does not lack though. It has, albeit a simple, beginning, middle and end as it should, and it is not broken in the least.

With Kirby’s new look comes so many opportunities for Nintendo to make Kirby look adorable, and boy, did they nail it on the head. From turning into a mini-submarine while swimming, to changing into a parachute while gliding, each and every form that Kirby possesses is absolutely squee-worthy. But enough with the aesthetics. Onward to the nitty gritty!

The game itself is solid. I couldn’t find a single fault in how it is laid out and played whatsoever. The objective of each stage is simple: run through the stage, collecting as many beads as possible, find two hidden patches, and a music CD in each stage (assuming you’re looking to get 100%). You don’t ever die in the game. Jumping off a cliff, however will force a fairy to come pick you up out of the hole, dropping all of your hard earned beads back into it. Receiving ‘damage’ will also make your beads explode all over the place. You can pick them back up for a limited time, but they fade away rather quickly. Kirby cannot fly in this game, but it adds a new level of difficulty to the game. Gone are the days when you can simply coast in the sky from beginning to end and complete a stage. Besides, you’ll be too busy collecting beads on the ground, swinging your yarn around like a whip to worry about flying.

Musically, the game impresses me on every level. Each stage has it’s own track (that can be collected, as mentioned above) to listen to at any time in the game, and it is one of the most beautiful OSTs I’ve heard in such a long time. Each song is perfect for the stage your playing, completely setting the mood for how the stage is supposed to feel. Music is very important to me in a game, for an annoying soundtrack can cause you to lose your patience quickly. I can assure you that the only time you notice the music is when you realise just how awesome it is, and continue to sing the songs well after you stop playing. It feels like old SNES music in terms of likability, but with today’s technology, if that makes sense.

Graphically, the game looks exactly how it should. The colors are vibrant, and the stage interaction with the whole ‘yarn’ feel is awesome. Some of the points in the game (like when you unzip the background) just leave you with your mouth open at how cool it looks. Moments like that make you have to think of things on a new level.

The multi player feature is actually a step above what it has been in the previous games. Multi player does consist of you playing as Prince Fluff, the Prince of Patch Land as you would with any other Kirby game. The Prince has all the same moves and abilities as Kirby does, and functions exactly the same. Where they took the step above is when you obtain the patches to transform Kirby into the super transformations. For example, in single player, Tank Kirby can move his head up and down, and shoot missiles from his mouth. With a second player, you can now swing the tank arm around, allowing for extra damage at melee range. There are nine total transformations all together (if I remember correctly) and each one has a little quirk like that between single and multi player.

The re-playability of the game is sort of non-existent if you received 100%. I haven’t really found a reason to pick it back up other than to show people the cuteness, or if they were interested in seeing it. I don’t know if it will live up to Kirby Superstar in that aspect, at least in my own opinion. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pick it up though.

Overall, the game is a great game, and they took the old formula, added a little jazz to it, and reinvented the wheel with a bigger, stronger tire. This is how these games should be done, honestly: preserving the old style by adding new-age game play twists with it. If you’re a fan at all of Nintendo, or even own a Wii, I would highly recommend adding this game to anyone’s collection.

Rating:
9.5 / 10.0