The Conan Lorebook

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Portal: Still Alive

I recently tried the demo of Portal on XBLA, and was really impressed by this offbeat game. I went ahead and purchased it (1200 points -- the only downside!), and have had a blast playing it. This is unlike any other FPS I've played, because the focus is all on the puzzle-solving aspect. A few maps have timing/agility aspects as well, but generally it's all about playing smart and staying alive.

The game did feel a bit short, but it was still very satisfying. The challenge maps, which are stand-alone maps not part of the main game, are a nice bonus for replayability because you are trying to achieve certain scores on each challenge map, like fewest footsteps, lowest time, fewest portals, and so on. There are also some cool easter eggs / achievements sprinkled throughout the game.

I think Pat would really appreciate the deadpan humor of this game, but I suspect all the bubbas would enjoy it. Try the demo out for yourself!

Game Review: N+

N+ is the new hotness on XBox Live Arcade, created by metanet software as a sequel to their flash game, N.  Lauded as a paragon of substance over style, it is a hit with game reviewers all over.  It has a laughably small download size: 13MB. 

The game prizes control and level design over fluff like graphics.  The biggest problem with the game is that the control feels heavy, and the level design is tedious.

Obviously, they're trying to make it feel "physics-y", where the character has weight and momentum, but it only occaisonally comes off that way.  If you aren't making a gloriously long leap after a run, the character just feels sluggish.

As to the level design, I have to admit that I was only playing the demo, and there are something like 200 levels in the full game.  But they were often merely passable, not clever.  When I see a long corridor of 40 deathtraps that I have jump one by one, stopping each time, I am not enjoying it.  And when I die halfway down that hallway, I'm not only not buying the game, I'm deleting it.

N+, you're just going to have to try a bit harder in the fun department. 

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Pat's Rating system:

  • How much would I pay for the game? Maybe $3-5, if I'm bored.
  • How many times would I replay it? Do I really have to finish it?  It has people hooked, but I just can't see myself trying the same level over and over again like I can with Puzzle Quest.  Multiplayer is supposed to be fun, but that's not enough justification.

XBLA Undertow mini-review

So I finally played some Undertow over the last couple days... seems like a pretty nifty little game, with some very nice graphic effects. I enjoy "territories" game types (ala Halo 3), so this one is mostly right up my alley. Mostly.

 

Pros:

1. Really nice graphics

2. Fast and furious gameplay

3. Character selection and upgrade

4. Cool powerups

5. Multiple ways to traverse the map

 

Cons:

1. I have a really hard time figuring out how to switch my character in the base

2. Do I have any control over how often my teammates spawn, where they spawn, and what kind of characters they are?

3. Very limited life, and no way to ram people, so the bigger ships seem almost useless.

4. No real strategy for the solo game; it's just jump in guns-a-blazin'. And why don't my teammates protect our bases more? It's not like my one character can be everywhere at once.

5. Could the story mode have any more cheese in the cut scenes?

 

Summary:

 I like the game, and would really enjoy playing multiplayer to see if it improves some of the strategy limitations. I got mine free on XBLA so it's a great value overall, but would I have paid for it? Hard to say.

Mass Effect and Lego Star Wars: the Complete Saga

Just some quick notes on two games I've been playing lately, though haven't finished:

 

Mass Effect  is a futuristic Role Playing Game (RPG) set 200 years in the future with all sorts of aliens.  

 So far it's a fun game.  The conversation system is unique, and often makes me wonder if I said the right thing to a character, and if not: how it might affect me in the future.  These "cut-scenes", which would normally be out of the player's control, feel almost like being a director or script writer.  They also have a very cinematic feel to them, with interesting camera angles and characters which are in or out of focus.

 

The fighting is a lot of fun, though the enemy and friendly  AI is probably not that advanced.  It's  fun to give your squad simple orders; it's not so fun to see them just stand in the line of fire even after giving them an order to take cover.  

 

The most boring part of the game I've seen so far is the Citadel -- a giant space station/city which takes up more time running around/getting lost than anything else. Thankfully, they do offer fast transportation to about a dozen or so hot-spots.   

 

The vast number of planets to explore is pretty neat.  You start with the Milky Way galaxy, then can zoom into a smaller portion of the galaxy, then a cluster of stars, then a solar system and finally the planets themselves.  Most planets either need to be scanned for resources or already have info in the computer about them. Some, though, can be explored on the ground (to an extent). The latter is where you'll find ancient ruins or space pirate posts to explore.

 

Fun game so far.  I only wish we had an HDTV to fully appreciate the very nice graphics.

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Assault Heroes Review

Well, I spent two evenings on this game...and Voila (not sure how you spell that), I have beat it.

 I would have to say, Assault Heroes reminded me of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.  You are set in a future time it seems, where you are the last left of and elite force.  You drive a dune buggy and a speedboat throughout the game and you are after a rogue cyborg and have to destroy all his little minions to get to him.

 The game is compromised of four zones (levels) with each seeming to have 3-4 areas.  Once you clear each of the areas, you are able to restart from the finished section.  Also, each level has an underground layer where your little guy gets out of his buggy to do some on foot combat.

 The game play is fantastic.  Your left analog drives your car and your right analog shoots in the direction you want.  You get three different weapons on your vehicle, minigun, flamethrower, and flak cannon, all of which you start with, but you can upgrade them with certain items that enemies drop.  You can throw grenades or nukes from your vehicle too.

There is always a lot going on.  Switching weapons to deal with certain foes better, dodging bullets,  and I always like making the car do donuts.  You can also get out of your vehicle to pick up certain powerups or bonuses that are unattainable by vehicle.  Or if your vehicle blows up, you are on foot until your vehicle reappears (about 1/2 minute). This creates another new aspect of gameplay.  Trying to stay alive while outside of your vehicle, but you do get double points for kills!

One thing I absolutely loved about Assault Heroes is the fact that you heal over time.  So many top -down shooters you have to find health packs or the such to heal.  You heal slow, but none-the-less you heal, and it makes a frantic game great.

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Conan for the Xbox 360

What an appropriate name for a game for an unappropriate website!!!

 Anyways, I have spent the past few weeks beating this game.  First of all I rented the game because I remembered as a kid loving the movies and Arnold. 

 First of all, there is a gratuitious amount of gore (dismemberments, decapitations, etc.) in this game, so, not for the faint of stomach or people who are not a fan of this sort of thing.  

My first impression of the game was this is silly.  The animation was done in strange style.  The back ground is 3-D, but the characters were done in cartoonish aspect, while still trying to hold on to a 3-D image.  After playing the game for a while, it really fit the style.  And the graphics of the gore and fighting are excellently done.  This game is almost a carbon copy of God War I&II, just set in Hyboria.

The storyline in this game is very simple, reminiscient of the Conan movies.  So, if you want to play this game don't get it for the story, get it for the adventure.  This game packs a ton of action.  Very well thought out battle system, multiple fight styles (Sword and Board, Dual Wield, & 2-handed sword), 20-30 different moves in each fighting style, cinematic slow motion of moves, very smart AI, and great environments for use to down your enemies.  Any weapon an enemy has you can use; any spike, boulder, crate, barrel, or stone pillar in the game can be used too.

 The only downfall to this game is the boss battles.  Long (5-6 instances per battle), extremely hard, and no clue what you are doing for the first few tries.  Though the end sequence where you have to push buttons and the right time to get a very cinematic death of the boss is very satisfying.

 Other than the fact that the game is a bit hard and boss battles get ridiculously hard, this game is blast to play, and it only takes about 6-7 hours to beat. 

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Game Review: Puzzle Quest, Challenge of the Warlords

Puzzle Quest totally rocks! See an overview here. Download at least the demo now. This is the second entry on my "must-buy" list of things on XBLA, along with Assault Heroes. (Is it weird that I haven't bought anything on my must-buy list?) The game is also available for PC, DS, and PSP, and is slated to arrive on Wii, PS2, and Cell phones.

It's like a two-player Bejeweled, with each player taking turns on the same board trying to make at least 3 gems in a row. If you knock out four in a row, you get another turn right away. The gems you clear away will either give you mana for spells or do damage to your opponent. When you have enough mana, you can choose to cast spells on yourself or your opponent with a variety of effects.

Add to that some RPG elements like a lightweight story, equippable items, and character improvement, and you have a rockin' time. Try it today!

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Pat's Rating system:

  • How much would I pay for the game? Oh, probably in the $30 range would be my upper limit. Thankfully, it is only $10-15 on XBLA, so that is well within reason. But should I wait for the Wii version?
  • How many times would I replay it? Repeatedly. The demo doesn't save your progress and only has a 30-minute storyline, and it limits you to level 7, but I've played through it 3 times. Add multiplayer and XBL-multiplayer and you've got something.

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