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editor and podcast host for www.mytwocopper.com

Occupation: Records Analyst



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Recent reviews

Even the Best of us Make Mistakes

Posted : 14 years, 9 months ago on 7 June 2009 04:40 (A review of Hellgate: London)

The team at Flagship Studios, the creators of Hellgate: London, had a tall order to fill. The last time this team produced a game, they were still at Blizzard, where they gave us the iconic Diablo II and its expansion pack, The Lord of Destruction. While they bring many of the things to Hellgate that made those two titles great, they have dropped the ball in many ways, leading to a disappointing product that fails to live up to its expectations.

In Hellgate, it is the near future and Demons have invaded Earth. You play as one of the last surviving members of humanity, striving to drive out the Demon occupation and reclaim the surface. On the way, you’ll battle both endless hordes of monsters as well as unique bosses and rare and epic versions of basic monsters. Players can choose from one of six classes, split into three basic categories: the melee oriented Templars, remnants of a holy order that has been preparing for the invasion for centuries, the magic wielding Cabalists, who turn the energies and powers of the demons against them, and the Hunters, the ragtag remnants of humanity’s armed forces. While the game originally launched with an online service available to players, that has since been shut down due to the game being a commercial flop, and now only single-player play is available

While you probably are already filled with visions of battling endless hordes of the damned Army-of-Darkness-style with an endless supply of ammo and weaponry, there are some major problems with this game. First and foremost, the game has serious issues with how it handles system resources. The average load time on a 3 GHz 64-bit processor with 1 gb of DDR ram from the moment you click the icon to when you are in the game ranges from 6 minutes on the low end to as long as 15 minutes online during peak hours. This creates a huge barrier to enjoying the game, and is really just unacceptable in this day and age, especially for a product that has been in development for so long. While Flagship claims to be working on a solution to this problem, we are currently over two months out of the gate and the situation has really not improved. The game also crashes at a frustratingly frequent rate on my system. My record for continuous play time without a crash is two hours, and from what I’ve heard from others I know that are/have played the game, this is not a phenomenon unique to my experience with the game. These two features combine to create a situation where, on the rare occasion that you are willing to sit through the load time, you will probably only play until the first crash, and once you reboot your machine, you will likely simply find a different game. The environments are also very stilted, and players will quickly find themselves noticing repeats in the tile sets that rapidly become extremely dull and put a serious damper on player immersion.

That is not to say this title is a total loss, however. The game does recreate, fairly successfully, the feeling of one man against impossible odds that Flagship produced so well in Diablo II. Also, they do a really good job of spinning a story more complex than the basic “retake earth from invader x, y, or z” that it very easily could have become. The loot-grinding system of the Diablo games returns here, and adds in an innovative twist, such as the ability to upgrade gear you’ve grown attached to so that it stays comparable in value. The variety of Monsters is excellent, ranging from standard issue zombies and demon bats to giant slugs the size of houses that produce smaller monsters that run at players at explode. The epic scale of some of the combats left my pulse pounding like few titles have recently, and certainly more than I can remember for any RPG game in a long time.

Once in awhile, a game comes along that really provokes frustration and irritation. While the potential for a good game is there in Hellgate, the diamond is lost in so much rough that few gamers will ever find it, and most will simply give up long before they ever find it, especially in the current market of high competition in the PC RPG market. If you can get this title to work, there is a good game there, but only if you can get it to work.

Experience with the game: Played through 95% of the game in multiplayer, 25% in single player.

Reccomendation: Avoid

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Seriously, just go play the PSX version

Posted : 14 years, 9 months ago on 5 June 2009 03:42 (A review of Lunar Legend)

The GameBoy Advance, over the years, has basically become a portable SNES, and as someone who looks back on the 16-bit era with a lot of affection, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. However, every now and then, a game comes along that doesn’t necessarily “fit” with the whole portable-SNES setup. Lunar Legend is one of those games.

Lunar Legend is basically a remake of Lunar: Silver Star on the Sega CD(AKA Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete for Playstation). Some of the elements are trimmed out. For example, the overworld is replaced with what is basically a level select menu that’s laid out over a map(think the level select system from Super Mario World without the obvious roads between levels, and you’ll be on the right track). Several large chunks of story have been cut out as well, presumably in the interest of saving space on the GBA cart. If I had to estimate, I would say that this amounts to approximately a 15-20% reduction in game length, but I can’t be positive. Lastly, all of the anime cutscenes that you loved in the Playstation version are gone, and replaced with anime stills.

The Playstation remake of Silver Star was not only one of the most beautiful JRPGs on the system, but it featured beautiful anime cutscenes throughout that were almost Disney-quality in some moments(if you don’t believe me, go watch Luna’s Boat Song again). The voice-acting was pretty awesome for its day, and the game was fairly challenging with a gentle learning curve.

Well, if you’re gonna play the GBA port, you can forget all that. The anime cutscenes that were so awesome on the Playstation are obviously gone, as there is no way the GBA can handle that, but the choice to replace them with stills does nothing but remind players what could have been before going back to the SNES graphics. I’m by no means a cutscene whore, but if you’re gonna take them away, don’t tease me about it, just don’t mention it so we can all move on. There is no voice acting either, again due to the limitations of the hardware most likely. Also, the difficulty curve is completely gone, and the game is ridiculously easy. I’m talking easier than Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. By the time I made it to the last dungeon, I wasn’t even watching the battles, I merely held the A button down while I watched a movie until I heard the victory music. Folks, the last boss died in roughly 8 rounds! That is a little bit to easy.

There is very little to like here. About all I can say positive is that it does play like a classic RPG, so if you’ve finished all the good RPGs on the GBA and still need a cart to scratch your itch, pick this up from a used shop. Otherwise, don’t waste your time, just go play the Playstation version.

Experience with the Game: Finished the Game
Reccomendation: Skip It

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There's Nothing Creative About This Game's Origins

Posted : 14 years, 9 months ago on 23 May 2009 04:31 (A review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition)

Do you like God of War? How about Hugh Jackman, star of X-Men Origins: Wolverine? If so then boy have I got a game for you!

X-Men Origins:Wolverine is the game based on the movie of the same name. The game’s plot is basically split into two sections, one a flashback to a mission Wolverine underwent for the military in Africa somewhere(they never tell you where exactly), and the other section being the present day. The gameplay is your stand God of War style action game, where the player mows through mobs of enemies to get points to spend upgrading his abilities so that he can more quickly mow through hordes of enemies.

This game does do a couple things right. The music is decent, and the graphics are pretty good throughout. Also, the controls did seem to be pretty responsive and solid. Wolverine responds to your commands quite readily, and it is very easy to get caught up in the carnage of the moment and really get absorbed into what’s going on. However, that’s pretty much all there is to say good about it.

Wolverine is a ridiculously easy game. Like never challenging. At all. I died maybe five times on my playthrough of the game, all of which were stupid moments like accidentally running off a cliff because I wasn’t paying attention. Wolverine’s regeneration kicks in so fast, that if you ever are actually in danger of dying, simply run away/block for 15-20 seconds and you’re back at full health. Also, while Wolvy does have a fairly robust combat repetoire, the lunge ability is so abusively good that you only use the other moves because either a) you want the achievements for using them, or b) you are fighting one of the 3-4 enemies in the game that you cannot lunge at. The story is abysmal as well. The climax of the movie is barely shown in the game, and other scenes from the movie are not even mentioned. The Africa mission that I mentioned above is taken from maybe a 20-30 minute scene in the movie that exists purely for explaining why wolverine and sabretooth don’t get along anymore, as well as introducing you to the movie’s other mutant stars. This 20 minute scene is drug out into 3-4 hours of gameplay intersperced between the modern day missions. The modern day missions were interesting and varied, but the Africa missions felt like the same level over and over again. I actually audibly groaned when the game flashed back to Africa, because I knew I was in for the same thing yet again.

So here’s the bottom line: If you really like this style of game, or if you are a total Marvel Comics nerd, rent this game. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even spend the three dollars on a rental.

Experience with the Game: Played through the entire game on Normal Difficulty
Reccomendation: Avoid It

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Posted : 14 years, 9 months ago on 12 May 2009 05:56 (A review of F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon)

F.E.A.R. – It still works five years out

There is a real problem with “scary” games. Most of them rely on cutting edge graphics to scare you(example: Dead Space). Rarely does a scary game come along that is scary, not because its gory or “gross”, but because it genuinely screws with your head. F.E.A.R. is such a game.

F.E.A.R. starts out in predictably hokey scary-game fashion. There is a man with crazy powers commanding an army of clone soldiers that attacks an office building, and only you have the power to stop him. You do this through a butt-load of kick-ass weaponry and the ability to slow down time. Add in some mysterious supernatural happenings and theme of scientific creations run amok that is very reminiscent of Resident Evil and you have a complete package.

F.E.A.R.’s biggest plus is the edge-of-your-seat feeling it causes. The music, voice acting, level design, and lighting all combine to create this constant feeling of brooding tension that only gets worse as you progress through the game. By the time the game reaches its climatic finale moments, I was literally glued to the action in a way that has not happened for many years in a video game. The music is top-notch, and even though the story ends up being fairly predictable, it still throws some nice curve balls your way.

However, it isn’t without its share of problems. While the slow motion abilities in the game are amazing, it pretty much forces you to use them, making it virtually impossible to take on more than one opponent in real time. The biggest problem with this game, though, is that it has a hard time deciding what it wants to be. For the first few levels, it is very much a horror game; ghostly apparitions appear out of nowhere just long enough to scare the bejesus out of you before they vanish into ash, you hear voices in your head, and, most impressively, you frequently encounter scenes where the entire environment transforms in a flash into a horrific scene before flashing back as quick as it came. However, after the first couple of levels, this all abruptly stops, and is replaced by a standard FPS set in an office building. Then, two or three levels after that, the scary returns in full force. It almost feels like the middle third of the game’s story was designed by a different team altogether, so great is the disconnect.

In conclusion, I would definitely pick this game up, especially given how cheap it is currently.

Experience with the Game: Finished entire game on Normal difficulty
Reccomendation: Buy It

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Castle Crashers(XBLA)

Posted : 14 years, 10 months ago on 7 May 2009 06:42 (A review of Castle Crashers)

A Fresh and Fun Take on a classic genre

There are some games that get really repetitive; just the same thing over and over again, with very minimal effort to provide variety. Castle Crashers can certainly be one of those games at times. On the other hand, there are games that take a classic genre and add refreshing gameplay mechanics. Curiously, Castle Crashers is one of those games too.

At its core, Castle Crashers is a simple arcade-style beat-em-up, in the vein of Final Fight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or my personal favorites in this genre, the Dungeons & Dragons series of arcade games. The plot is pretty straight forward: you are one of four knights with magical powers: Red for lightning, Blue for ice, Orange for fire, and Green for poison gas. The game opens up with a rockin’ medieval party, which is rudely interrupted by a dieing soldier and an evil wizard who proceeds to steal the King’s magical crystal and kidnap his four daughters. You promptly tear off in pursuit, chasing The Wizard and his henchmen over the course of many, many levels comprising around 5-8 hours of hack and slash gameplay.

Gameplay in this title should be pretty standard for anyone that’s played an action game in the last decade or so. Players move from level to level, beating up hordes of baddies that fall into one of three main categories, with a couple exceptions: random cannon-fodder infantry, roguish fast infantry that specialize in ranged combat, and big muscled infantry that hit like a freight train and take damage like an Abrams tank. Occasionally a boss breaks up the monotony with some challenge, but never anything terribly difficult. Shops and Arenas also exist as a means to acquire new weapons/pets/items/characters, but I never found myself needing to explore any of them beyond buying potions between missions. There is an experience system, complete with points to assign to stats, which have a huge impact on the game. By maxing out my Strength, I was able to down pretty much anything in the game in fairly short order.

However, while this game is fairly run of the mill, it does have some awesome features. The visual style that made the developer’s previous game, Alien Hominid, so endearing has returned in all its cell-shaded glory, and I have no problem with that. There is a heavy dose of humor in this title, and isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself or the industry at large on occasion. Unlike many jokes in video games, which frequently come off(to me anyway) as stale and lame, I found myself laughing out loud several times while playing this game. Multiplayer and the ability to play with 3 friends either on your couch or online adds a lot of replayability to a game that would otherwise be stale after one playthrough. The controls also perform quite well, I rarely found myself frustrated by response times or button combos misfiring.

In conclusion, Castle Crashers has some flaws, but they are made up for in spades by its amazing strengths. If you like to wade through hordes of enemies with your friends, or even if you just want a good laugh with your beat-em-up, then this is the game for you.
Experience with the game: Finished the Game

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Hardcore Service

Posted : 15 years, 1 month ago on 12 January 2009 04:23 (A review of Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness)

I enjoyed the original Disgaea on the Playstation 2 when it first came out. However, I quickly lost faith with developer NIS when it became painfully obvious that they had no intention of doing anything original from that point on. Instead, they felt content to simply take Disgaea and add on more gameplay mechanics, whether those mechanics were taming monsters(La Pucelle), possesing items(Phantom Brave), or vehicles(Makai Kingdom). Now, they have come to the inevitable square-enix conclusion: why bother with making new story lines and characters when we can just release the original game on new platforms?

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against remakes(I own all four english versions of Final Fantasy IV, for example). I would have even encouraged releasing this game as a straight remake. It had become rather hard to find by the time the PSP version was announced, and easily sold for in excess of $70 on Amazon/Ebay in its height. The added bonus of add hoc multiplayer for trading and fighting only sweetens the deal, and the bonus Etna mode, where you play as LaHarl's sassy female second-in-command in an entire new campaign, was a nice addition.

However, there is one addition to this game that I am not particularly happy about, and thats the ball-bustingly brutal difficulty. The original PS2 version of this game was challenging, but it was a different, more cerebral kind of challenge. Through the use of Geo-Grids, specially colored squares on the maps which affect the characters standing on them, the developers created very original and challenging puzzles in many of the levels, which helped to relieve the monotony of the lumber across the grid, kill some dudes, rinse, repeat that characterises so many of these games. Once you "solved" many of these puzzles, the game presented only a modest challenge. However, now, in the PSP version, once you solve the puzzles, you must deal with brutally difficult enemies. In the original version, I only reached two "grind moments", moments in a RPG where you simply have to go back and level up your skills through some repetitive grinding before you can overcome the next challenge. In the PSP version, this was occuring every chapter by the time I reached chapter 7 of the game's 14 chapters, and sometimes, more than once in the same chapter.

Which brings me to my main argument agaisnt this game: GRINDING IS NOT FUN. I do not enjoy fighting the same two or three scenarios 30 times in order to gain enough power to advance another 15 minutes into the story. If NIS wanted to provide more difficulty for veteran players, then why not make a new gameplay mode called "expert mode" that the series vets can play, leaving the regular mode intact for newcomers who aren't masochistic? Doubling up on the difficulty is not the way to get players to commit more time to the game, but rather, its the way to make them run screaming from your franchise and never return.

Experience with the game: Played through the main campaign

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An Excellent Port of a 32-Bit Classic

Posted : 15 years, 3 months ago on 2 December 2008 05:43 (A review of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)

The original Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was possibly one of my fondest memories of the Playstation era. Before this installment, I had never been a huge fan of Castlevania, the series to me allways came across as, at best, just another platformer. This game changed all that, however, and I'm now firmly a fan of the series. The port to Live Arcade of this game has been done very well, and I can find very little wrong with it, to be honest, but I'll do my best.

Everything you loved abotu Symphony of the Night on the PSX is still here. The music still sounds great coming out of a 360, and the game's art style and difficulty curve have been preserved masterfully. The developers made excellent use of the 360's power advantage over the PSX to reduce load times, and the achievements provide some added replay value to the title.

While, as I mentioned above, there is very little I can find wrong with this game, most of the problems come with irritations about the original that were not repaired and/or removed. The graphics are starting to show their age a bit, and some smoothing might have helped avoid some of the PSX's characteristic pixel-problems. Also, while the music sounds great, some of the sound effects in the game clearly need a little touch-up for modern audio.

But, like I said, these are nits at best that I'm picking here, and small ones at that. I strongly reccomend anyone that is even remotely interested in RPGs, action games, or platformers to pick this title up. You will not be dissapointed.

Experience with the game:

Finished the game as Alucard with 190% completion and half the achievements.

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R.A. 3: Its everything you love and hate again

Posted : 15 years, 3 months ago on 1 December 2008 06:51 (A review of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3)

Red Alert 3, the latest in the Command & Conquer brand of RTS games to come out for PC, brings back alot of what makes the Command & Conquer games, and the Red Alert brand in particular, great. Unfortunately, it doesn't do very much to change that.

First off, let me get full disclosure out of the way and say that I'm a huge fan of Command & Conquer. I've played every C&C RTS to completion. As someone thats into History and not prone to Sci-Fi however, I've allways prefered the camp and alternate history of Red Alert to Command and Conquer's darker alternate future story line. Red Alert 3 brings back everything that made the series great.

And thats exactly the problem. This game is really just more of the same. All the problems from the series are still here. The game is wildly imbalanced when it comes to units; five of any unit in an RTS should NEVER be able to wipe an opponent off the map, yet I did this several times with Apocalypse tanks as the soviets or my crazy japanese Samurai mechs. The imbalance in favor of air power is not only back, but its made even worse with helicopters that never have to refuel and japanese copters that can transform into aa mechs. These are all problems that have plagued the entire series since its inception, and for that reason I'm inclined to think its a conscious design choice. After all, these are things that fans have been complaining about since the original Command & Conquer came out, and they've never made any noticable effort to change it. Also, while they have some real quality acting talent in this game, like George Takai and Tim Curry, it is totally thrown off by some of the other choices. If you want to have Jenny Mccarthy in a game for the pure sake of T&A, thats fine, but don't make her a central character to the story, for god's sake!

There are a few small additions, like unit abilities and the ability to construct bases on water, but these are totally unnecessary to enjoy the game. The single player campaign makes very little effort to introduce the player to the alternate powers, and to be honest, with the exception of a couple Rising Sun units, I never even used them. You can't build bases that are totally aquatic unless you want to play the game without vehicles or infantry.

And while we're on the subject of the games new faction, The Empire of the Rising Sun, I found their whole storyline to be very tacked on and unnecessary. This happens all the time in long-running RTS series. Franchise getting stale? Add a new faction! The trouble is, with the exception of maybe Warcraft, it hardly ever works. In this case, the Empire feels like, at best, a bonus mode, and at the worst, a cheap attempt to grab some Otaku money with its manga-esque designs and kitchy samurai feel. Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against that sort of thing, but it feels really out of place in what is supposed to be an alternate-history game. Its just seems really silly to have crazy-psychic anime schoolgirls and ninjas running around on a battlefield surrounded by tanks and modern infantry.

However, I don't want to just dump on this game. Its got a great sense of humor. Thats what I think alot of reviewers and gamers are missing. When the game does things like deliver troops to the battlefield via cannon, its supposed to be funny. If you want serious RTS from EA, then go play Command & Conquer. All you have to do is look at the box to know that this game is all about crazy weapons and ridiculous characters. After all, whats more farfetched, RA3's battle bears, mechs, and cannon transports, or RA2's storyline about a psychic dictator that was trying to conquer the world with an army of clones?

Red Alert 3 is a good strategy game that isn't afraid to poke fun at itself. If you like your RTS alot, and you like it a little on the silly side, then I'd definitely go with Red Alert 3.

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