Review – Async Corp.

Async Corp is the latest, and probably last release from indie developer house Powerhead Games.  There are many reasons to mourn Powerhead’s departure, the biggest of which is that Async Corp. is a marked improvement over Glow Artisan, its award winning predecessor.  While Glow was a wonderful concept, Async demonstrates some of the fundamental qualities of the all time classic puzzle games.

In Async Corp, players are given two wells filled with squares of three different colors. Players select one square on each side to swap with each other in order to form a packet.  Packets are generated whenever some number of same-colored squares are arranged in the shape of a rectangle (squares being rectangles too, of course).  … Read the rest

Review – Kayne and Lynch

Kane and Lynch: Dead Men was, for lack of a better pun, dead on arrival in the minds of Internet savvy gamers, all thanks to the fiasco surrounding Jeff Gerstmann’s scathing review for Gamespot.com, and Eidos Interactive’s possible manipulation of the site.  That being said, if the controversy never occurred, I don’t imagine the game would have fared any better.  The signs of a troubled development process are all over the place, and the final product is a constant stream of highs and lows.

Where to start?  Visually, the background objects are gorgeous, but the foreground environments are criminally ugly.  The game often tries to hide this by placing levels in the dark, or by filling setpieces with several layers of tear gas smoke.… Read the rest

Review – The Last Remnant

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about The Last Remnant. On the one hand, its Akitoshi Kawazu pedigree shines through, with an incredibly nuanced battle system that never fully makes up for its terrible plot. On the other hand, that battle system is really very good and worth playing the game for on its own, it’s just that the plot was made even worse – seemingly deliberately – to balance things out.

Kawazu has a long history of working on the SaGa games, and it is entirely reasonable to call TLR a stealth entry in the series, since it has many of the hallmarks.… Read the rest

Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: etc, etc, etc

In a sentence, imagine Street Fighter II with slightly nicer graphics and hyper combos.

In more than a sentence, why is it that Capcom’s fighting games are allowed to be so lazy and yet get relatively good reviews? Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and the 1.1 versions of both of those. Shallow and lazy. Particularly the versus series. Great potential for some kind of interesting story mode reduced to a handful of cool cutscenes.

So. What do you get in Tats vs Caps? Not a lot. Punch people in the head on seven stages in Arcade Mode. Punch people in the ahead against the clock in survival mode and punch as many people in the head before your life runs out in Survival Mode.… Read the rest

Time isn’t on my Side (and I’m okay)

Former VL writer and Powerhead Games designman Matt recently posted a question on Twitter, to which I responded as succinctly as a I could.  All told, it’s an interesting topic, so I wanted to elaborate on it a bit more in a meatier blog post.
Matt’s initial question was the following:

With so many new games being released every single day, what does that do to a player’s appreciation for a single title?

I’m not exactly sure what, if anything, he is getting at with the question, but I know what it means to me.  My response was this:

honestly? It makes me appreciate that title more, if I’ve come to see most of those new games as “noise” in the release year.

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Digital Distribution is the Future — and Soon it Will Have the Past too

This evening I felt the need to sift through my old book of CDs — mostly PS1 and 2 games, but a smattering of PC.  First I noticed one game I had a digital copy of, then another, then another… and, well, things went on like this for a while.  By the end of it I had a small pile of games I had bought twice — voluntarily, of course, to support distributors bringing such old games back.  And surprisingly, I play them, too — I had not actually beaten Baldur’s Gate II until a few months ago, when I purchased it from Good Old Games

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Review – Rune Factory 3

I think Neverland is set for life with Rune Factory. Few other series can withstand being rehashed over and over again without much in the way of innovation. Most stagnate enough that even the die-hard fans abandon them. Dynasty Warriors is a good example of one of the few capable series; perhaps it’s because the beat-em-up is that ideal genre where one only need switch up a few move-sets and add new characters and people will be satisfied.

Surprisingly, this game does not directly cater to the, er, fur-inclined.

Surprisingly, RF3 does not cater to the, er, fur-inclined.

Despite the fact that every Rune Factory is very similar, the three I have played feel very distinct.… Read the rest

Alternate Take – Nier

Note: Some folks on Twitter asked me if I was going to write anything about Nier after finishing it.  I obliged, as I did find the game very interesting, but I want to point out that the game was already reviewed by Chris back in December.  The original review can be found here, and I recommend you read it first.  It covers some of the same ground, and  Chris has a much better handle on the genre than I do.

Nier is a bog standard action adventure game in which the lock and key puzzle system of modern Legend of Zelda releases is replaced with traditional jRPG time wasters (mainly sidequests and weapon upgrades). … Read the rest

Review – Glow Artisan

I have been meaning to review Glow Artisan for a very, very long time. Unfortunately, I had trouble sinking my teeth into it after just a couple of days (though those couple of days were, admittedly, fun). Did my struggles signify that it was, in fact, a bad puzzle game? I had to weight all the possibilities. My conclusion, at least for now, is that Glow Artisan is a good game, but it triggers a major psychological stumbling block within me.

Glow Artisan takes place on a grid of small squares. You are meant to color in the grid, using the three primary colors (which naturally create secondary colors when mixed) and an eraser.… Read the rest

Review – Radiant Historia

Radiant Historia gets so, so close to being a bona fide classic. For three quarters of its length, it was my favorite genre-piece since Demon’s Souls. After that, it segued into its (shockingly) boring, generic final act. The biggest surprise of 2011 became the biggest headscratcher.

Radiant Historia is a classically styled jRPG with a time travel mechanic at its core. The player guides the protagonist through two different timelines, with the ability to travel to the past or present of either of them at will, maybe to fix a mistake, or to ensure that a certain event occurs. Time travel is at the very core of the game’s design.… Read the rest