Archive for September, 2010

26
Sep
10

heavy rain

First of all, I want to apologize for the delay of reviews.
There has been some technical issues that has put a stop to our productivity, but that will change.
Sorry about that.
We’ll be up and running with weekly posts on fridays from now on.

Videogames used to be an arcade thrill in pixels back in the days.
You needed to think fast and learn how the stages/laps proceeded. It was all about skills and wits and not as much variation. Today, gaming has reached a whole new level and with games such as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, they became a lot more an experience than actual hardcore button-mashing.
Heavy Rain is at the peak of this progression and is in an easy (although not very justifying) way described as a movie which gives you, as the player, options to alter the story with quick time events (QTE’s).

The story takes place in 2011 and a serial killer, known as the Origami Killer, is on the loose.
The killer kidnaps young boys between 9-13 yrs of age. Since the cops have not yet managed to catch the killer or rescue any child, they all end up dead by drowning, with an orchid and an origami animal by his side, the signum of the killer.
Ethan Mars is an architect and a father of two sons. When one of his sons dies in a tragic accident, he loses himself and becomes depressed and isolated.
Madison Paige is a journalist that suffers from insomnia and involuntarily gets dragged in into the investigation of the mysterious killer.
Norman Jayden is an FBI agent that uses ARI technology (Added Reality Interface – a pair of glasses and a glove that can trace otherwise invisible leads on crime scenes) in his investigations, but to a high price.
Scott Shelby is a retired cop that has become a Private Investigator that now hunts the Origami Killer.
Lauren Winters is a former prostitute that has lost her son to the killer and decides to find the murderer.
These five persons fates will intertwine and the plot will take many turns before it unravels itself.

If you usually plays shoot’em up and action/adventure games, this one might seem a bit dull. To be honest, I found it a bit slow for my own taste, but it does not stop me from calling it a masterpiece. And by masterpiece, I refer to the atmosphere and the dramaturgy. This game truly is remarkable as it delivers a plot worthy of any well-produced crime/triller movie and the characters are not made up, in a physical way of speaking. The faces you see can easily be found if you search the internet for the actors behind the characters. Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid) is made up. So is John Marston (Red Dead Redemption), Sam Fischer (Splinter Cell) and Cole McGrath (InFamous).
These characters are “real”. And they certainly feel real in the game. No Final Fantasy bullshit, where everyone has to be homogenically supersexy and beautiful. No, these are REAL people and that is what gives the game credibility and it’s own, more authentic sense of beauty.

The score is good, but WAY too overdramatic for my taste. At one time, you have to take Ethan through a crowd of people at a train station and since he suffers from agoraphobia (fear of being in open spaces, in a crowd, to sum it up) this is a crucial moment. And the music gets REALLY dramatic at this point. Not anything creeping, like there’s a tension. It’s more like “For fuck’s sake, destroy the ring, Frodo!”.

The trophies are excellent, as far as I know. I’ve beaten the game once (which gives me at least ten more times to do it) and of all the trophies, there are only four(?) of them that are not secret ones. When you’re having an option in the game (save him/her, do NOT save him/her) you might get a trophy, depending on your actions and decisions. This gives the game a replay value, not only for the sake of the trophies, but for you to find out what would happen in you’d done things differently. And trust me – the “what if…”-factor is big in this game.

The only thing I can complain about is the voice acting. I don’t find it as convincing as it could have been. It’s good, but not good enough. The lip-sync is great and the credability on that point is great, but I just wish the sorrow, anxiety and anger could have had a better portrayal. A big plus for the fact that the voice actors are the same people that gave faces to the characters. That, on the other hand, gives it a credability that stereotypical (Solid Snake, Mario, etc) can’t deliver.

This game is not to be played as a game, as much as it should be viewed as a criminal thriller where you participate through QTE’s.
It is a kind of experience no other game will give you and I strongly recommend that you play it.
Not only for the different take on videogame experiences, but as to get perspective on how home console videogames have evolved through the aproximately 40 years they have been around. From “The Brown Box” of the 70’s, to our modern PS3, 360 and Wii.

Why movies and videogames mesh splendidly…

Keeping it real – Real faces, real voices.

What if…? – The re-play value is really cleverly designed.

“Cutie” – This is what Quick Time Events were made for.

Light, camera, action! – A new strain of videogaming experience.

06
Sep
10

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game

I was browsing through the Playstation Store, when I stumbled upon the demo of this game.
Sooo, let’s see… Big, fat pixels in HD, 8-bit music…yeah.
Yeah I’m hooked.

Written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim is a comic in six volumes, that started in 2004 and the 6th book was finally completed this year.

The story takes place in Toronto, where the 22-year old boy Scott Pilgrim lives. He is the bass player of a band called Sex Bob-Ombs (SMB2, anyone?) and together will Stephen Stills (the talent, guitarist and singer) and Kim (female rough neck and drummer) they try to become famous. In the midst of this, Scott meets Ramona Flowers, to whom he falls in love. The only this standing between Scott and Ramona are her seven evil exes that he has to defeat in order to date her.

A movie has been released, based on the comic and the game was produced and co-released with the movie. As soon as the game was available for download, I got the demo and tried it out. My expectations were met and surpassed.

The music is written by the band Anamanaguchi and is a strange, but ingenious combination of chip tunes and punk rock. I’m not a huge fan of punk rock, quite the contrary, but this is actually really good. The soundtrack was released in the US just a few days ago and I’m looking forward to get my hands on that. Check out their MySpace page here.

One of the first things that come to mind when playing this game is the challenge. Not that the enemies are particularly hard to beat, but the levels are intriguingly long. When you level up (oh, yes, it’s one of those games) you gain new abilities which comes in handy when dealing with exes and other frantic brawlers. If you use these techniques right, you shouldn’t have much of a problem maiming your way through. The controls are really simple and easy-to-use, so the only one you can blame for messing up, is yourself. Well, except for the counter move. It more like a 50/50 chance to succeed with that one.

Another great add-on to the game play are the several shops that you pass by on your journey. You can eat sushi, fajitas, drink coffee, energy drinks, etc. Every item gives you a few points in either strength, defence, speed and/or willpower, topped with some extra experience points. When I played River City Ransom (beat’em up for NES) I enjoyed the small shops you could enter and buy food and beverages, so when that part returns in this game, 21 years later, I’m getting a fuzzy, nostalgic feeling inside.

Since I have a Ph.D in trophy prostitution, I checked out the trophy list pretty quick and I must say – this is the weakest link in this game.

No co-op trophies, no knock-out-50-enemies-with-thrown-bottles-trophies, etc. You have one trophy for clearing the game with Scott, but what about the other three characters? I’d like to have trophies for, let’s say, “beating the first level without losing a life”, “beating the second level…” and so on. The aforementioned “throwing bottles trophy” got my senses tingling as well. You only have two boss-related trophies, which leaves five bosses out. That’s a bummer, if you ask me.
That put aside, I think it’s a great game that manage to capture that cozy retro feeling and since I am such a huge sucker for pixels, this goes down as AWESOME in my book.

The game is packed with gamer easter eggs. As the picture above suggests, the NES gets its fair share of tributes throughout the game. It’s Super Mario, Kirby and Mega Man, to name a few. If you get this game and have a history (and hopefully a present) that involves NES games, you should recognize the details as they occur.

And last but not least – Read the comic!
For the love of all that’s funny and/or holy, read the comic
before you play the game! You’ll enjoy the game sooo much more if you do so, trust me. I believe it’s a good order to start with the comic, play the game and last but not least, see the movie.
Comic-game-movie!

Why Scott Pilgrim kicks ass…

Bookworm True to the comic.
Take fighting to a new level Experience points. Period.
Gucci who? Anamanaguchi’s music is awesome!
Hip to be Square Pixel perfection.