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Fans of the Borderlands franchise rejoiced when Gearbox announced that a new game would come out for the series.  Set between the original game and Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre Sequel (a made-up word that’s a play on prequel and sequel) would be the fix fans of the game needed while patiently waiting for Gearbox to start working on Borderlands 3.  So did it live up to what fans were expecting?  For the most part, yes.  However, despite being the best new game that I’ve played this year, it still does not compare to its predecessors.  But that’s okay.  It’s still a blast to play.

Overview

Borderlands: The Pre Sequel is a first-person shooter that supports both single player or online cooperative (up to four players).  It was developed primarily by 2K Australia instead of Gearbox, who is the original developer of the series, and was published by 2K Games.  However, Gearbox did work with 2K Australia during development.  Much to the dismay of many fans, it was released only for PC, PS3, and XBox 360 on October 14.  Gearbox stated that this was because there is much more of a demand of the game for the last generation of consoles versus the current generation (Source: Gamasutra.com).

The Pre Sequel is a nice addition to the Borderlands franchise.

The Pre Sequel is a nice addition to the Borderlands franchise.

Story

Taking place between Borderlands 1 and 2, the player gets to see Handsome Jack (or just “Jack” at this point) go from hero to the  much-hated (or much-beloved, depending on who you talk to) villain of Borderlands 2.  At this point, he’s just an employee of Hyperion, a corporate conglomerate with its eye making tons of money from Pandora (a wild, wild west type planet with a lot of resources; hence, “Borderlands”).  However, after the company’s Helios space station is attacked by a group called the Lost Legion, Jack must become the hero and save Helios and Pandora’s moon, Elpis.  In order to do this, he commissions the help of a group of colorful characters to go to the moon and gain back control.  It certainly was interesting to see Jack as the hero instead of the villain.

I will have to say that the set of playable characters you get to choose from this time are absolutely awesome.  I actually had a hard time choosing which one I wanted to play first.  They are all pretty cool characters, and it doesn’t seem like you can go wrong with any of them.  There’s Athena, the Gladiator.  Her special skill involves a Captain America-like shield that players can either use to block attacks or swing to kill an enemy.  Wilhelm is the Enforcer.  He’s the character that I’ve played the lease but has a cool little drone that flies around and helps you kill bad guys.  Nisha is the Lawbringer, and she is the character that I have played the most.  Her skill involves an auto-lock firing sequence that is actually quite powerful.  Then there’s Claptrap.  He is by far the most fun character to play, especially when playing in a group.  His special skill basically is a malware program that could be one of many different skills, some good and some not so good.  If you are playing with others, the program can actually affect your friends as well.  It sounds annoying, but it’s actually hilariously delightful.  Sure, your teammates might moan and groan if they get affected, but at the end of the day, everyone’s laughing.  The Jack Doppelganger is a DLC-added character as well.  I have yet to play as this character, but will update what I think of him in another article.

The Pre Sequel has a group of really fun characters to play.  It was hard to choose which to play first.

The Pre Sequel has a group of really fun characters to play. It was hard to choose which to play first.

One of the things that makes the Borderlands franchise so special is the fact that the setting and characters are so memorable, especially some of the non-playable characters.  Although some favorites from the first two games make appearances (my personal favorite happens to be Torgue), the new characters on and around Elpis don’t seem to be as memorable in the Pre Sequel.  Sure, there is still wacky humor and some interesting satire, but it’s not quite up to the same level as Borderlands 1 or 2.  The feel of the game is even a bit different, since it’s on a moon instead of on Pandora.  The whole Firefly-like space western vibe that the other two games had going on is lost a bit with the change in setting.  However, I did enjoy the futuristic electronic soundtrack.  It felt a bit Tron Legacy like in sound, but to me, that made it enjoyable (also, speaking of Tron Legacy: there are two characters on Elpis that look like Daft Punk, and I thought it was quite amusing).

 Game Play

The game play has not changed too much from Borderlands 2.  Zainy missions, skills trees, Badass Rankings, and tons and tons of weapon choices and loot are still there.  There have been a few new game play elements that were added as well.  Laser guns were added because, you know, it’s the moon and why not?  Besides the usual elemental effects for guns, a freeze one has been added, though it’s probably my least favorite of all of them.  Due to Elpis’ low gravity, players can jump higher and do “Butt Slams” (no, I didn’t make that up), where the players smash down on enemies from above.  Also, since it’s a moon without an atmosphere, non-robotic characters must wear Oz kits in order to breathe.  Oz kits also generate effects for Butt Slams.  I played with one in particular that made farting sounds every time I did a butt slam.  It was quite hilarious.  All of these new elements were pretty good additions.  However, the one thing that I really did not like was the wacky level designs for many of the areas.  Because of the low gravity game play, a lot–and I mean A LOT–of vertical level designs were used.  That might sound fun, but it can be quite frustrating when where to go isn’t exactly clear.  I had to go to YouTube several times to figure out where I needed to be to complete a mission.  Also, there were too many cracks and crevices throughout some of the larger maps.  Those made it very hard to just goof around with friends when there is constant worry about jumping over places.

The cooperative is pretty much the same as Borderlands 2.  It’s four player co-op at its best.  I wish that there were other games like it, but at this point, it’s pretty unique since I can play by myself as much as I want, and then invite a group of people into my game without missing a beat.  One of the things that I love about Borderlands is that it really does encourage goofiness and fun among a team.  You really can’t take the game that seriously with how it presents itself, and that’s a good thing, since I can’t stand when people take online FPS games too seriously.  The game was a bit glitchy at launch and didn’t seem as polished as Borderlands 2.  Still, it wasn’t too bad, and I was able to play both by myself and with friends without any major issues.

The Pre Sequel isn't as polished as Borderlands 2, but it is still a blast to play.

The Pre Sequel isn’t as polished as Borderlands 2, but it is still a blast to play.

 Graphics

The graphics are pretty similar to Borderlands 2.  Obviously, if you are looking for a pretty game to play, choosing the cell-shaded Borderlands franchise and a last-gen game probably isn’t for you.  With the new group of games that have come out, the graphics do show their age a bit, but that’s okay.  You don’t play Borderlands for the graphics.  You play it for the game play and the goofiness.  You play it for the amazingly fun online cooperative.  In a way, the very original style that Borderlands creates with its cell shading is making waves in its own way.  It’s immediately distinguishable from other games, and it also lets the play know that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously.  I maintain that if it had been “pretty,” it wouldn’t have done as well.  Most fans would also argue that they wouldn’t want it any other way.

 Fun

At the end of the day, games are here for our enjoyment.  Borderlands: The Pre Sequel hits high marks under this category.  The zany story and characters are good enough to keep a player’s attention, the game play is a blast (even with a few issues), and the online cooperative is still probably the best in the industry.  It’s one of those games that you can get on with a good group of friends and have a blast and goof around.  The game will keep you laughing, regardless of whether it is something in the story, a silly character, or one of the crazy weapons.  For me though, the best part is the fact that I don’t have to be online to play if I don’t want to.  I don’t have to worry about if a server is working or not.  My game doesn’t become a paperweight if the Internet is out, which is one (of many) things I really don’t like about  Destiny.  Sometimes it’s just okay to play on your own.  However, if you want the awesome team experience, it’s right there for you.

The Pre Sequel is the most fun I've had in gaming all year.

The Pre Sequel is the most fun I’ve had in gaming all year.

 Overall

Unfortunately, the time frame that the Pre Sequel came out was a little too late.  Many people have moved on to a newer console and some have even sold their last-gen console.  I’m not seeing as many people playing, and there is a lot of steep competition from this fall’s slew of next-gen games.  The Pre Sequel probably could have done a lot better if it had game had come out in the summer when there was a dry spell in the industry for new games.  However, the game is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the franchise.  It’s actually been the most enjoyable game I’ve played this year.

 

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Watch_Dogs is the much-anticipated blockbuster game from Ubisoft that makes hacking look cool.  While the game feels very GTA-inspired, it actually stands on its own as a unique game play experience.  The game is a lot of fun.  It will definitely sell a lot of copies and make Ubisoft a lot of money.  However, it does not feel like a game that is going to stand out as one that people will remember for years and years down the road.  There’s a lot to like about this game, but unfortunately, there’s not much to love.

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Note: This review is being done for PS4 without any added DLCs.  PC users have complained of issues about the game.  My colleagues have reported buggy problems with the game as well, point to the Conspiracy DLC as a possible culprit.  I personally did not have any of these issues, but it is good to be cautious. Watch_Dogs is a third-person/driving action adventure game that was released on May 27 this year.  It was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft.  It is an open-world game that allows that player to explore the streets of a digital version of Chicago.  The game incorporates an online multiplayer element as well as several “mini games” throughout the main game. The story follows hacker Aiden Pearce, an anti-hero who skirts the law in order to bring about justice.  After a hacking heist that went bad, Aiden is bound and determined to go after the people responsible.  Known as “The Vigilante,” he is ready to bring down the people who messed up his life.  Overall, the story was pretty strong.  It’s actually a lot deeper than any GTA plot, and it definitely gives the player some things to think about.  Is it memorable for years to come?  Probably not.  But it is entertaining and does hold some value.

Aiden Pearce is a very cool character.

Aiden Pearce is a very cool character.

Game play is probably one of the game’s stronger points.  For one thing, there is a variety for the player.  Some of the game is car-oriented.  Other parts are solely on foot.  Most missions highlight Aidan’s hacking abilities, which are a nice added bonus to the game and can be quite fun.  The game play is often compared to a GTA game, but they are really only similar.  In Watch_Dogs, unless the player wants to go the “evil” route, killing pedestrians and police officers is a “no-no.”  Much of the game involves strategy and sneak skills.  It is very similar to a game like The Last of Us, where the player can go the sneaky route and not shoot a single round or go the more direct route and get into a fire-fight.  Having the option to do either adds to the game play variety.  There is also a skill point tree and a HP system.  Aidan learns new things as he gets more experience, making a ten minute police chase seem a lot less annoying when the player gets points after it.

The game may look like a GTA game, but it actually plays very differently.

The game may look like a GTA game, but it actually plays very differently.

The graphics in Watch_Dogs really demonstrates what the new next-gen consoles can handle.  The level of detail is amazing.  From the potholes in the street to the reflection of the rain to the dampness of Aidan’s coat when the player makes him take a plunge in a river, the graphics are definitely a highlight for the game.  Happily, though, the graphics are not the only good thing about the game.  The graphics could be horrible, and the game would still be a lot of fun to play. This game is a lot of fun.  Whether it be the smooth game play, the cool hacking abilities, the cute mini games, and the online play, the game can truly hold its own.  It is easy to blow thirty plus hours on the game without really even trying.  There’s a lot of game play variety as well, which helps to keep things fresh and the player still interested in the game.  Even buying it at full price, the player will get his or her money out of the game. Overall, there is a lot to like about Watch_Dogs.  It’s fun.  It’s hip.  It’s cool.  However, the biggest problem with the game is that it’s not exactly “epic.”  Even though Ubisoft will probably be making more sequels, the game doesn’t exactly feel memorable.  It’s not exactly “top video game of all time” material.  In fact, it’s not even close.  It doesn’t have the same feel as some other games that make you think about them even years after playing them.  Watch_Dogs is definitely a good game, but it’s not a great game.  That’s not exactly a problem, since most gamers don’t expect every game to be great.  But we can hope, right?  

By Sean Jacobs On 2 Jun, 2014 At 04:33 AM | Categorized As Indie Spotlight, Reviews, Uncategorized, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments
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One of many upcoming Unity engine games developed by independent studios. Press Play presents to us Max: The curse of brotherhood heads the way on Xbox One’s indie showcase 1st class. Just like the title infers this title is based on a tale of two brothers. One is a seemingly tween aged boy who is starting to outgrow his slightly younger sibling, just like the old story goes. Max the older brother decides to very early in the game (Actually, the beginning sequence) to go online to his worlds popular online search engine humorously named “Giggle” Max has one goal in mind, getting rid of his little brother. Max finds an odd website geared towards witchcraft he then recites the words to a spell on the sorcery site of ill will. Surprisingly to Max a portal opens up behind his brother and a creepy looking hairy armed beast snatches scrappy little brother Felix from their realm to another dimension. Max instantly understood his misdeed and goes after Felix right before thee portal closes.  

 

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Max: The curse of brotherhood is a solid puzzle/platformer, it is the best platformer available on Microsoft’s flagship console to date. This title is endowed with great puzzle solving elements and classic gameplay mechanics that made this genre the most go to genre to date. This title has its moments of difficulty and I probably at the time of writing this review have logged in 11 hours to beat the game. I have yet to 100% complete the game currently my completion is at 52% progress in game objectives and 82% XBL achievements.Max: The curse of brotherhood was perfect in mostly all areas, I will give you what I liked and what I didn’t. I will start with the worst elements of the game.

 

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STORY

The only part of the game that was lacking, while this title is littered with voice acting keep the game interesting and progressing the narrative of the game. My biggest gripe with the story element of Max is that the story is bare bones in terms of the epic journey Max is obviously on. The story progression is only pushed forward by in game animations and short game engine video sequences. The character progression is also leaving me wanting more, out of the five characters focused in on in this game zero characters backstory was moved forward if built up at all Max really did not impress. I must strongly say that’s while for me story in a platformer or any game is considered one of my four pillars of a solid game whereas Story, Gameplay, Controls & Art direction take precedence above anything else. Max’s other three pillars transfers the weight onto themselves helping you to forget the lack of story and focus in on everything that makes this game awesome!  

 

“…the best platformer available on Microsoft’s flagship console to date”

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  GAMEPLAY

One of the most premier pillars of this game, Max: The curse of brotherhood really shines. As Max you will utilize the power of your marker endowed with magic (pun not intended on my end) This “Magic” marker Max has will gain multiple powers which all are derived from nature. Earth, Trees, Vines, Water and Fire will all be at your disposal soon as you unlock them from their temples. Each power adds to your arsenal and can be used at anytime to traverse your way through each level. You will use Earth to create platforms to lift Max up to get past or trap enemies. You will be able to create bridges and platforms with the powers of the Tree,Max will also be able to create customized shapes of branches like steps, ramps, rafts and any weirdly shaped object to get you through the levels. You can snap off and drag your newly created objects across the stage for puzzle solving purposes. Vines can be used to cross chasms by swinging or by crossing over them hand over hand also, you can ascend or descend within the stage. One great thing about all of your powers is that you can combine them in inventive ways to Solve your way through the end. One such way is creating a tree branch then drawing a vine connecting it to the branch either helping you cross something or maybe you can find other ways to utilize this new object to further your goals. Water will allow you to draw custom shapes to ride the waves or direct them at molten lava to turn it temporarily into stone creating platforms to get out of a flaming hot situation. You finally get to have fun with Fire when you create projectiles to pummel some of your enemies into a powdery dust or use the projectiles to break down barriers. I’m sure with all of these powers available to you by this time in the game you will be able to find other tricks to barrel your way to the end.  

 

CONTROLS   

The key to saving your little brother Felix is you “Magic” infused marker this is how you will draw your way through each stage and you will find that when it comes to control this element is spot on. You as Max will start the drawing process by pressing RT+A buttons while using the left analog stick to draw the shape you want your select power to turn into. You can then cut/ erase your object by holding RT+X button and crossing the objects path using the left analog stick. While playing I have had zero experiences where these controls were anything less than superb while, you will understand the control scheme early on it will take more time for you to master them later on within the game. Later you will get more imaginative battling your way through each level creating strings of power combinations making you feel like you are ready for anything. Max: The curse of brotherhood animations moves smoothly with seemingly cruising at a steady frame rate. Press Play has created this puzzle/ platformer with speed runners in mind in my opinion.  

“…this is a pleasant platformer sure to please”

 

 

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ART DIRECTION

I love the pre-rendered design the character models have. Each stage has its own unique feel they reflect what powers you will use or obtain as you delve deeper into each environment. The dramatic camera angles immerses you into the game along with having background, mid & foreground activity happening all at once or separately. As small as Max is in scale to the world he is apart of the camera plays a large part in bringing you close into the excitement or show you the grandeur of the environment. The large, lush, beautiful environments coupled with bright visuals and particle effects Max: The curse of the brotherhood’s graphical fidelity and camera work is unbelievable for the measly $14.99 you will pay for this small and jam packed title.

 

I must admit that I am a newcomer to the XBL lifestyle I am typically drawn to Nintendo and Sony’s consoles yet I have kept an eye on on the games out, Last Xbox I owned was the original one two whole generations ago. This generation I have all three eighth generation consoles with that being said out of all three consoles Max: The curse of brotherhood is one of my top 5 puzzle/platformers so far available.This outer dimension out world that Max sent his brother into has a history I would like to sink my teeth into further. I only hope this game does well enough to garner yet another return to this franchise. If you have any apprehension about trying this games out I highly suggest you purchase this title right from the Xbox Store this is a pleasant platformer sure to please.

 


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Inspired by Adventure Time, Minecraft, and Legend of Zelda, May’s Loot Crate has to be my favorite so far! Loot Crate is a monthly subscription box filled with nerdy goodies – toys, stickers, t-shirts, etc. It’s like getting nerd Christmas every month! This month featured a Legend of Zelda t-shirt. If you look closely, it’s Link made out of words. My very favorite item in this Loot Crate was the Adventure Time tin. Not only do you get an awesome character tin, but you get a blind bag figure inside. My tin was Fionna and I got BMO inside! This was my favorite because those are two of my favorite Adventure Time characters.

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A very close second for favorite item is the Legend of Zelda key chain. It doubles as a bottle opener and it has a picture of the famous scene, “It’s dangerous to go alone…” I always love when Loot Crates come with practical items. Another item worth mentioning was a Minecraft blind bag “hanger,” which I guess works as a key chain because the ring on it is sturdy enough for one. I got a skeleton.

Other items in this month’s Crate are tons and tons of stickers from Polaris and Maker studios, as well as a soundtrack for the talk show The Friend Zone.

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One strange thing about this month’s Loot Crate, however, is that it didn’t come with the usual monthly magazine that explains what came in it and the occasional article. Maybe it was just a mistake and they forgot to put it in my Crate?

Either way, I would consider May’s Loot Crate to be my all-time favorite so far. If you like what you see, Loot Crate is $20 per month, including shipping. Go to LootCrate.com to sign up and be sure to follow Loot Crate on Facebook for discounts and contests.

sine mora gameplay

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Sine Mora is a game developed by Hungarian and Japanese game developers Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture. They have been well received and have been made available on PC, many consoles including the OUYA, as well as receiving mobile game releases. I can’t speak on the merit of the mobile adaptations of the game because I played the game on PC, so consider this a review of how the game plays on PC and consoles.

The game itself is a horizontal shooter where the gameplay involves controlling airplanes through a barrage of projectiles while attacking your opponents. In terms of bullet hell it isn’t as hellish as some other games I’ve played but challenging nonetheless. The challenge largely comes from the bosses, whom can be frustrating if your weapons aren’t leveled up enough. The game doesn’t involve skills as much as it involves strategy due to two factors: capsules and special attacks. Different capsules have different effect, which can save your life when dodging especially difficult bullet patterns or a barrage. Special attacks depend on the character you’re playing. Special attacks tremendously help when you’re trying to finish off bosses when used wisely. The game can be played either in story or arcade mode, with only arcade mode having the most difficult settings, hard and insane.

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I would highly recommend this game if it wasn’t for the life system and the game’s pace. You’re “alive” (your plane doesn’t randomly blow up) as long as your timer doesn’t run out. This would be perfect if the game was more rapid, or the landscape progressed along with the player, but no. The screen drags along to an almost unbearable snail pace. Your time gauge only get replenished if you get the appropriate powerups and kill enemies. This is extremely inconvenient when you’re in the hard or expert mode with less time in a part of the game with barely any enemies. In story mode they were obviously designed as exercises in control with cramped spaces and few enemies in the way, but they’re needless and frustrating when you’re praying the next giant slug comes out so you can replenish your time gauge seconds away from instant death when you haven’t even been hit by one thing! Even the great capsules you can’t use in story mode don’t make up for this major flaw.

Even in story mode this was frustrating.

Even in story mode this was frustrating.

Not only does it make it inconvenient to play in arcade mode, but the game itself feels dragged out when playing in story mode. The cut scenes even have a fast forward option if you don’t want to spend 5 minutes looking at footage of planes flying. Hell even when you play the game there are “cut scenes” with the plane flying by itself, but there are no different camera angles, transitions, or anything else that would prohibit the player from flying normally or continuing to play.

When you’re buying this game consider you’re only getting it for the story mode. The story itself is pretty good, although a bit confusing with anthro animals and planets and races and whatnot. This however did not keep me from enjoying the characters whom had good dialogue and made me more interested in the story. When story mode is finished you unlock an encyclopedia with all the info on the world of Sine Mora, which I’m halfway through and found pretty well done. A lot of thought went into this game; if it weren’t for its fatal flaws it would’ve been another memorable shooter, and what a shame. This is definitely a game made with love, considering how much planing went into a story where you only see the characters on the side of a dialogue box.

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I love Durak, she’s a badass!

Sine Mora is a good game, but you should only expect to kill a few hours with it since it has low replay value. Try it if you want to but, just don’t pay full price for it.

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South Park on TV can be a vulgar and shocking show. It can be crude yet hysterical, poking fun at celebrities, social trends and issues, anything and everything under the sun. When the released their movie in theaters back in 1999, having more freedom from censorship, the movie reached new levels of raunch and shocking their audience. Even now the show finds new ways to shock people. However, this game blows all of that out of the water! If you are someone who doesn’t like how far South Park pushes the limits, let me give you your review, stay away from this game. For all those who like South Park and RPGs and want to know if this game is any good, the answer is…

Yes, not only is this game fun, its hysterical and outright shocking at times. And I mean seriously shocking, I hesitate to mention to mention some of these moments as it would take away knowing what you will see. But there were a few instances where I had to pick my jaw up off the ground due to what I was looking at. But a game can’t survive on shock factor alone, how was the actual game?

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The game starts with you creating a silent protagonist who moves to South Park with a mysterious past. From there you meet the other kids who happen to be having a LARPing session. You can choose from one of four classes; Fighter, Mage, Thief, and Jew. Yes, Jew. They all play pretty similar aside from their special abilities and attacks. You play with Cartman’s faction of Humans and Kyle’s faction of Elves and eventually decide who’s side you want to join. From there you get involved in an adventure way bigger than you and meet just about all the colorful characters of South Park. From the goth kids, to Al Gore, just about every South Park Character is in this game. This game is also filled with tons of easter eggs long time and even short term fans of the show will be able to appreciate.

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The mechanics of the game is like Paper Mario. You and a single partner fight in turn based RPG style battles, Cartman remarks that it’s lame but that’s the way they are playing. In battle, you choose an attack, magic, buffs/debuffs, or super and either hit the on screen buttons or press the attack button when you character glimmers for adding attack power. There are some magic effects such as gross out and on fire that add strategy to your battles, overall it’s a pretty simple battle system just about anyone can pick up. Outside of battle you can explore a fully realized South Park. You can walk around, enter people’s houses and businesses and such for a plethora of collectables and surprises.

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This game looks just like an episode of the show. If someone walked in on you they might think you’re watching the show, if the FCC just decided not to care about them anymore. As mentioned before, if you dislike the show, you’ll hate the game. The vulgarity will turn someone people off, and that might be the only downside I could find about the game. It was reported some players experienced a lot of bugs and framerate drops. I can say that for me the game never crashed, though sometimes in exiting one part of the map and entering another there was a little drop in framerate.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fun RPG that took me roughly 15 hours to complete. With tons of collectibles and side missions, easter eggs, social commentary and even jokes on the video game industry itself, this game will having you either laughing on the floor or backing away in disgust. If you know this type of humor isn’t for you, stay away. However if you can get past that type of humor or enjoy it, you’ll be presented with a fun hysterical game.

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a crooked mile

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Have you ever wanted to see your favorite childhood fairytale characters as scumbags, liars, criminals, and prostitutes? The Wolf Among Us is a five part point and click game by Telltale Games letting you do just that. Based on the Fables comic book series, you play as Bigby – the human version of the Big Bad Wolf. You’re the sheriff in Fabletown – an underground community of fairytale characters who have lost their home world. For the past two episodes, Bigby has been investigating the murders of two prostitutes, with the help of Snow White.

In this episode, everything you thought to be true about the villains is wrong. By the end of episode three, you find out that there are bigger powers at play – not just Ichabod Crane acting out his sick and twisted fantasies. We find out about a new villain – The Crooked Man. He might be the real mastermind behind the crimes, but with the way the plot twists, you never know.

I think episode three has been the best so far because the plot is paced better than the other two episodes. I never felt like I was in a cut scene too long, or clicking on clues too long. There were just enough quick time events and dialogue woven throughout the game to keep it interesting. There was never a dull moment and I didn’t feel like the episode was too short, like I did with episode two. I never felt like the creators put all their eggs in one basket in one scene. Because of this, I say The Wolf Among Us – A Crooked Mile is a must buy.

The Wolf Among Us is available on PC, Mac, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

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Have you ever watched a Bond film and thought “that’s what I want to do”? Well, you might change your mind after you play Alpha Protocol. Not because the game is specifically bad, but because you’ll get a feel of what being a spy in the field is actually like.

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Alpha Protocol is an action role-playing stealth game. What a mouthful, but accurate. It was released in 2010, and for a four year old game it feels…older. That’s not a bad thing, mind you.  Most gamers would say their favorites are from a generation of consoles that are no longer distributed, but those games are chosen quite often out of nostalgia. On the one hand those games were the best of their time, but on the other hand they fall short compared to some modern innovations. The point here is that Alpha Protocol feels like one of those games. Something you loved for what it was back when you played it the first time, but over the years it has lost its edge.

To start, Alpha Protocol is truly a spy story. You are Michael Thorton, a new recruit in the Alpha Protocol program, and your job is to serve your country and stop the bad guys. Sounds simple enough given this is the idea behind more than few games. However, you are a spy. Your job is to get things done with minimal exposure. Whether you kill everyone in your way or just leave them with a tortuous headache, no one should know you’re there. Stealth is a great game mechanic, and Alpha Protocol does a great job of using it. Except for the bugs.

Let me talk about those for a moment because most of the issues I had with this game stem from bugged stealth mechanics. There were times when I would be crouched behind a wall, completely out of sight and fully buffed in sound dampening, and taking a few steps alerted a guard more than ten feet away. This would then alert every guard on the map. And if I should come out of cover and actually be seen, one guard would be enough to expose my location to every guard who would then proceed to start shooting. It’s easy enough to rid yourself of guards and turn off an alarm, but in a minute I’ll tell you why this was such a problem.

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This game is good. It’s hard to call it great, and at times it isn’t all that fun, but it’s good. Agent Thorton is betrayed on his first assignment for Alpha Protocol and is set on a path to make things right. Here is where my favorite aspect of the game comes in. Choice. As Thorton you get to choose what happens. How you interact with others can determine how they respond to you and your actions. Gaining friendship has advantages, but so does rivalry. Who you get on your side can change the outcome; deciding who to ally with and who to piss off, that’s the trick. This game requires you to pay attention. Between gathered intelligence, dossier information, and other tidbits you collect along the way there is an abundance of knowledge. Knowing where you’re going, why you’re going there, and who you’re facing will make things far easier. The game doesn’t do all the thinking for you. The missions you choose to do, and the order you choose to do them in, also has impact.

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That’s all great, but how do you actually play? It’s simple enough. There is combat, stealth, hacking, and collecting. In combat you can put points into different weapons: shotguns, SMGs, assault rifles, pistols, and hands. There are also gadgets; from grenades, to flash bangs, to health kits, you can carry a minimal set into missions and use them for different situations. Stealth, while not a requirement in mission, is a good way to get all that you want. Hacking is dealt with in three ways: computers, keypads, and safes. Hacking a computer requires finding a series of non-moving letters and numbers amongst a stream of flashing figures. A keypad is simply hacked by matching numbers is ascending order to their circuit. A safe is a lock picking screen where you move pins into position and click them in place. Collecting is just what it sounds like. Make sure you explore every room because information, money, and security systems may be hiding anywhere (which is useful when you are lacking cash to buy that armor you want). You will spend the majority of the game working on these skills, getting used to being in cover and sneaking into position, only to reach “boss” fights and the final mission.

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Remember when I said how bugged the stealth system was? Here is where that becomes important. Boss fights, including most of the final mission, are tough. Add in the fact that stealth becomes useless and they get tougher. Here, fight a helicopter that can shoot you through cover, never loses target lock, and you have to fire one RPG at a time at it and those RPGs are scattered across the map. On top of that, here are five men who are going to shoot you, chase you, and know where you are because the helicopter never loses target lock. And if one enemy knows where you are, they all do. It’s infuriating.

I will say that I had fun with this game. The story pulls you in, and you feel like a true spy when things go right. The stealth is fantastic, when it works. The characters are ranging, and often have unexpected stories. I plan to try it again, make some different choices and see what happens, but I do like where my initial instincts lead. And that’s good. This isn’t a game that says “here, make a choice” and then gives you a cookie cutter ending. Who you decide to be will change the path, and that’s nice to see.

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There are other things I could cover. How bad targeting is, how wonky movement can be, how bad pathing is for NPCs, how many boss fights I won because of glitches…

If I were to recommend this game it would be lightly. If you like stealth games and spy stories try it out. If you don’t, skip it. Alpha Protocol requires dedication. It asks you to sit down, pay attention, and accept that things will not always go the way you want. You may do a bit of reloading, but know that the only save option is auto saves.

With all that said, you can always use brute force, and then stealth doesn’t matter so much. It will take more time, you’ll face more enemies, and you may lose out on some of the finer points, but at least you’ll know why all the guards are after you.

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Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons is a beautiful game perfectly offset by a dark and bloody story. In Brothers you set off from a nice peaceful town, where the biggest obstacle is a random bully, in order to save your ailing father to dark and bloody areas filled with despair and death. As you travel across the world with their unique controller setup you’ll have to navigate countless simple puzzles and save the occasional NPC who will in turn help you along your journey; which is only becoming more and more perilous as you go.

In between these moments, however, is where you’ll experience the bulk of the game’s brilliant storytelling. Brothers is a nonverbal game where the characters speak in a fantasy language and your only context are the characters heavy use of hand gestures and actions that do a wonderful job of making everything clear while also showcasing each brother’s personalities. While the older brother’s actions are far more focused on helping his father the little brother’s interactions with others and the environment are more carefree.

Simply going down the alternate paths will reward you with experiences you would have otherwise never knew existed. For instance I’m moving on to the next area and I look down to see a man standing on a chair. What I didn’t notice until I went down his path to look was that there was also a noose tied around his neck. Now you can either watch a man commit suicide or have the older brother hold him up while the little climbs the tree and unties the knot. Brothers is full of moments like that in each and every area and the controls really enhance the experience.

In Brothers you simultaneously control them maneuvering a series of puzzles working together through beautiful landscapes. Each brother is assigned a half of the controller and it works flawlessly. While you use the analogs to control each brother’s direction the triggers control their actions. The only problems I experienced with the controls were user based which at times can cause a little frustration. I would routinely have the little brother running into some random wall because I was paying attention to the other or use the wrong side of the controller and falling.

Puzzles or I guess obstacles are obviously the main challenge of the game and all of them use the teamwork component. Whether it’s the big brother using his strength or the little brother using his size each obstacle is easy to navigate for the most part. The challenge comes when you have to “quickly” traverse the area. You’ll be so focused on doing it right and finding your rhythm and it may take you a little longer than expected. The best part about this, however, is that there isn’t a task that will take you forever to figure out or even do. The “harder” ones will take you a few tries tops and you’ll be on your way. Once you learn the controls you’ll be able to fluidly move through every challenge.

Brothers is an extremely short game, but appropriately so. You won’t have this incomplete of rushed feeling by the end of it. Brothers is a must play for anyone who can appreciated a good story and in my opinion should be enjoyed by all. Gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s truly a beautiful game. 9/10.

You can find Brothers: A tale of two sons on Xbox live arcade or currently for free with a PlayStation plus membership.

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Saints Row began as a Grand Theft Auto clone back in 2006. If you played that game and compare it now, there would be nothing recognizable to the current franchise aside from the name; which is a good thing. What started as clone soon grew into a crazy, insane world all of it’s own, and Saints Row 4 continues that lunacy into epic proportions, for better or for worse.

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At the end of Saints Row: The Third, your custom character, who’ll we will from this point on refer to as the Player, has taken over the city of Steelport and are the biggest celebrities in the world. So where do you go from there? President of the United States obviously. Yes, the Player is now President and running the country, however that is short lived as an alien invasion begins led by Zinyak. The Player is then abducted and thrown into a simulation of Steelport where, like the matrix on crack, hacking the system grants you super human abilities. It is not long before cars become obsolete as you run faster than anything and jump across buildings and obstacles.  From here the player must perform crazy antics to disrupt the system, find your friends, and bring down Zinyak.

 

And here is where the double edge sword appears; while the powers are “super fun” (no more puns I promise), the quickly diminish the challenge of the game. This might turn some people off, yet this game isn’t about challenge. It’s about being thrown in increasingly ridiculous situations and having fun blasting your way through them. The tongue and cheek humor makes this game a gem, whether it be the dialogue, the crazy weapons, or the game’s villain trolling the Player and another character by ruining a song they wanted to sing, this game will keep you laughing.

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Most of the game takes place in the simulation, with missions taking you either into the real world or in other characters version of hell. Loyalty missions will, once completed, give your friends superpowers and a new outfit. These outfits range from racy to parody; of course someone would look like Morpheus. This game is also ripe with parody from movies to other games. My personal favorite was the Metal Gear solid mission. Side missions and collectables abound, this game will give you hours of play.

 

While a fun game, it has its problems. The graphics aren’t bad but not great either, looking more like an early generation game. I found that the sound would cut out briefly from time to time and the game was prone to crashes every now and again. While annoying, it wasn’t game breaking. In my 20 hour playthrough my game my have crashed a total of 5 times. And while not a glitch, until you beat the game the whole city is in perpetual night. It’s dim and gloomy and gets old very quickly.

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Aside from a few bugs and glitches, Saints Row 4 is a very good game. It’ll keep you laughing all the way through and scratch that destructive and insanity itch you have. Great voice acting, funny story, good gameplay, yes Saints Row is insane and charming. If you are a fan of the series or just want some insanity in your life this is a must buy.

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