Sam and Max Season 1 Episode 4 (PC) – Review

I promise a full review of the ‘season’ once all 6 are out, but I will say that Episode 4 “Abe Lincoln Must Die!” felt a lot meatier than the previous installments, though there are still some issues with it’s episodic nature that can get in the way (which is why I plan to replay all 6 and review at length when available).

There’s a few more twisted puzzles in this game than the previous ones with a bit more reliance on lateral thinking problems.  This one had a couple that I was stumped on for a bit more, and it took me a bit more than 2 hours to complete, so the challenge, one could say, is building.  I also liked the fact that this game felt closer in concept to Hit the Road because of the involvement of Americana within the game (though you don’t travel far at all).  Add in a killer musical number, and I was laughing all the way through this one.

Beyond the length and some of the easiness of the puzzles, I am finding that these episodes are falling into a familiar pattern.  You have basically a 2.5 act show: one set of puzzles leading to a critical event, another set of puzzles leading to a second critical event, and then a final puzzle or handful to resolve the case.  Certainly, knowing how old LucasArts games worked and playing with Inform 7 for text adventures, the separate “act” approach to adventure games is relatively easy to do and can help to box the player in from doing other things you don’t want him to do yet, but I’d like to see a bit more mix-up in that for these episodes.

Still, however, in the barren land of adventure games, this series is still a gem.

Crackdown (360) – Review

Crackdown - CoverTying a full game to the chance to beta test the highly anticipated Halo 3 may seem like a cheap marketing tactic by Microsoft in order to push Crackdown, but the game itself is much more than just a free Halo 3 ticket. It’s a well done take on the open world genre, focusing much less on missions and instead giving the player an incentive to build up their character’s abilities in order to do more amazing feats within the game, with a pacing in this buildup rather critical to keeping the game interesting throughout the entire main plot. While it’s certainly not perfect, it’s definitely a title that should hopefully inspire similar styles of open gameplay in future games.

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Touch Detective (NDS) – Initial Impressions

This is pretty much (to some extent) like old style LucasArts games, save for using the touch screen to touch where you want to go, and what to interact with, which is all pretty straightforward.

The part I’m trying to deal with is that, I want to say it’s a game for yonger female gamers, but the writing is way too witty to be limited to just that.  You play as a young MacKenzie, a girl that’s got a detective agency, and you interact with other girls around town as well as other NPCs, solving mysteries for your friends.  However, besides having the touch screen to show the active area, the top screen shows a closeup of MacKenzie, with facial and body expressions matching her reactions and though bubbles that appear to comments made simultaneously to the conversion on the lower screen.  A character may be going off on a rant, with MacKenzie thinking “Here we go again…”, or MacKenzie may offer to take a case, but be thinking to herself “I have no idea what I’m doing…”.  It’s a very cute mechanic, and if you’re a speed reader (fortunately text speed is pretty good), you’ll possibly miss some of these.  The game itself isn’t hard – it’s just usually a matter of finding the right object to click to discover something new, but I’ve only done part of the first case so there may be more later.

Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters (PSP) – Review

Size Matters Cover“Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters” is the 5th game in the popular shooter/platformer series, though while the previous entries were created by Insomniac Games, this installment comes from High Impact Games, which does include a number of former Insomniac people, and is also the first to appear on the Playstation Portable. While the game has every element of a Ratchet and Clank game, there’s just something out-of-place with it due to how the elements are combined that make this title definitely lacking from it’s previous namesakes.

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Crackdown (360) – Initial Impressions

Finally, a game that’s just stupid fun, with jump-right-in type approachs for the 360 (more so than Saints Row).  Take your open world of GTA, the complete chaos that occurred in the otherwise dismal State of Emergancy, and you get Crackdown.

The player is overpowered (though I’m playing on the easiest, default setting), but not so much to make it a cakewalk.  But as soon as you start earning the skill levels and getting even more powered, the game becomes, again, stupid fun.  Sure, there’s missions and side events, but just wandering the city on foot looking for the HUNDREDS of bonus orbs seems like a great way to waste an hour of so if you need it.

Of course, this is only an hour of so of play time, so the question of easiness and repetition remain.  Hopefully there will be at least some challenge from the AI down the road.

Manhunt (XBX) – Initial Impressions

I had never played Manhunt when it first came out, thinking it was way too violent and gruesome.  Of course, now that I’ve played through much more gruesome games (including the GTA games that followed it), and with pending news that a Manhunt 2 is on the way out, I figured it would be a good idea to play through this as well.

It’s an intersting mix of Thief-like stealth and action.  Unlike Thief, getting caught isn’t the end of the world, as you can easily defend yourself against an attacker, but if you get caught by too many at one time, that’s a bad thing.  Of course, the “thrill” of the game, to speak, is to get the special stealth takedowns using specific weapons as to meet the odd requirements of your benefactor, and using the shadows, tapping on walls, and generally using light and sound effectively can go a long way.  A lot of the elements of GTA games can be found here: item circles for pickups and  the color triangle indicators to show a target’s health.

The game’s seem to have aged well, the engine is obviously last generation but still with enough detail that makes it interesting to work through, along with Rockstar’s signature dark humor.  However, I would have liked to seen more voiceover work for your benefactor when he gives you instructions outside of the controls, just to add some immersion.

Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters (PSP) – Initial Impressions

So far, so good – there’s always worries in taking a game that was built for the Dualshock and making it into a PSP.  ‘Daxter’ did a good job of this, and I’m glad to say that R&C has made the transition to PSP as well.  The controls allow you to move with the analog nub or the dpad (as you see it), the other control being strafing.  You can also set the camera to be dynamic and thus remove the usual need for the second analog stick.  Everything else seems to be standard for the game, save for a twist in dealing with jumping issues.

All the usual elements are there are well, so despite not being a Insomniac title, it looks like it will be good.

Call of Duty 2 (360) – Replay Impressions

So I’m going for what I think are easy Xbox Live achievement points in that completing Call Of Duty 2’s missions on the hardest, Veteran mode, should be relatively easy (60 points for each mission plus an overall bonus).

That was a huge mistake at least in that thought process.

I realize that for the computer AI to get a leg up over you, the player, it needs to cheat a bit, but I swear, just getting through the entire Russian campaign took a heck of a long time simply because there were so many points where you’d be shot immediately after poking your head around the corner because the game cheated badly with soldiers knowing exactly where you are as if I were playing a wall-hacked CounterStrike game.  Again, I have to say it is a matter of making it fair to the computer since once you’ve died, you now know where to expect the enemy and thus makes it easier to defeat them, but there’s also something to be said about the near-perfect aiming with machine guns at long range that makes me wonder how many tricks the AI is pulling here.

I’m similarly working through the harder levels on Gears of War, but it’s interesting how learning to use cover in Gears is helping me alot to think about some strategies on the more open points for COD2.

And it’s actually surprising that this game looks, well, poor, given what’s come out since, but more that it feels much more like a direct PC port or a game where the graphics engine was standardized among all consoles and PC and not given any spit and polish for the 360.

Lunar Knights (NDS) – Initial Impressions

I’m one of those that listens to subtle internet rumors on games, particularly ones for portable systems, and heard that Lunar Knights might be one of the better RPGs for the system in a while (add to the fact that the Metal Gear Solid team is behind it), so I picked it up, and definitely not disappointed.

First, the game actually sounds like one of the best DS titles, effectively using the surround stereo mode for music and minimal, but sufficient, voice clips for the characters. That’s always something to appricate for a system where voicework tends to be ignored due to the medium limitations.

The game itself is an action-RPG, more comparible to western RPGs like Neverwinter Nights or even to Zelda only in the sense that you have no distinction between explore and battle mode. You can sword swing, block, enter a powerful Trance mode, and more. There’s still very standard jRPG elements, which include weapon synthesis, a magic system, effects of night and day AND weather, and more. There’s a good bit of subtle humor among the story too, though certainly it’s too early to determine how it will all work out.

Wii Play (Wii) – Initial Impressions

Basically, everything is about as good as Wii Sports for implimentation, graphics, etc. (most of the interface is heavily borrowed from Sports, to no big surprise). However, Wii Play has the most annoying problem that you have to play through all the basic game modes in a progression in order to unlock them. ARGH. That is, you can’t just put this in the moment you get it and play pool. No, you have to a certain number of levels of the other games to get there. And some of the other games are on the weaker side (like Mii recognition).

However, the additional Wii Remote isn’t a bad deal for this package. Always helps to have these for party games…