||Gaming Furever Scoring|
|Fable: The Lost Chapters||› 5 / 5 ‹|
Immersive gameplay, stunning landscapes, interesting characters and stories, and the highest replayability of any game I’ve gotten my hands on, this is game is sure to entertain again and again.
||September, 2005||Final Score||5/5|
No one in the video game industry wants to make a bad game. But given the long complicated process of making a game, there's an awful lot that can go wrong and sometimes it can't be helped. In the case of Ruff Trigger: The Vanacore Conspiracy I have a good feeling that a lot if not everything went wrong during the project. The game was developed by Playstos which to my understanding was an Italian company based out of Milan. Ruff Trigger was published by Natsume, who many know from their Harvest Moon series. Ruff Trigger was released for the PS2 in the middle of 2006, a time when developers knew how to squeeze every ounce of graphical power from the system to give us games that look spectacular even by today's standards. Normally I would pose the question of whether or not if Ruff Trigger is a good game or not. I'm going to save you some trouble, it's terrible. Want to know why? Read on to find out.
Back in September of 2005 Capcom published a game developed by JoWood Studios and Neon Software (both of which are no longer around to my knowledge) exclusively for the Playstation 2. Based on what information I have both development houses were based somewhere in Europe. The game they made was called Legend of Kay, a single player action adventure game set in a far east inspired fantasy world inhabited by various animals. Was this game one of the overlooked gems of the PS2 or is it better left as a memory?
The story tells of a world populated by various animals like frogs, pandas, cats, rabbits, rats, and gorillas. Our hero Kay a young cat training to be a great fighter finds his peaceful village under siege one day when invading gorillas and rats impose martial law as they sweep across the land in an effort to rule everything. Unable to stand idly by as his village and people are taken over Kay leaves and embarks on a journey to stop the rats and gorillas before their hostile take over goes any further. The story seems OK though as you play through the game it never really feels too epic without any real plot twist and more or less just gives you an excuse to go on a romp through various levels which isn't a bad thing just keep your expectations low. All of it is mostly told from motion comics between certain levels and in game dialog.
The game play for the most part is a platformer with some combat and puzzle solving. You'll spend a lot of time running, jumping, and climbing through the various levels having to take on a number of enemies in a fight. There are few puzzles in the game most of which only ask you to move blocks around or push certain buttons and none of them are too difficult to figure out. Kay is a pretty agile character. He can move around pretty fast which is great when moving through most areas but can be a little dodgy when trying to land on small platforms. I found myself easily falling off small platforms mostly because Kay moves around so quickly unless you're more careful with how much you're pushing in on the analog stick. It's worth noting that the first few levels in the game guide you through a number of tutorials teaching various things about how the controls work for platforming and combat. It certainly makes the game feel rather slow at first since the game takes it's time showing you a lot but that's simply due to the fact you have a lot of things at your disposal that you're going to need to know.
One issue I had was with the camera. While it does an okay job of following you it can easily get stuck on a wall or low hanging door way. It also gets rather annoying when you're inside dungeons or houses where there's not so much space for the camera to move around. Occasionally you'll be tasked with racing a warthog through a series of checkpoints while timed. These aren't very fun and really just feel like padding before allowing you to progress through some levels. One unique thing you'll use for navigating around the levels are the Zhong statues which can be used for reaching certain areas. I'll explain more about those later. Aside from your health meter you'll occasionally see a stamina meter appear when swimming through water or moving through areas that are on fire. The basic idea being that Kay doesn’t like to swim (cause he's a cat and you know how they are with water) and he can't breath well around places that are burning. So when your stamina runs out you basically sink or pass out and re spawn somewhere safe. It's really annoying and just feels like something that doesn’t need to be in the game but it's not something you have to put up with often.
Combat is really where you'll need to keep on your toes. At the start of the game Kay is armed with his trusty sword which is a very flexible weapon. Later on you'll acquire a pair of claws that are strong against unarmored enemies with faster attack speed and a hammer that works best against armored enemies but is slower. Your foes come in various shapes and sizes from unarmored rats that are easy to take out, to large heavily armored gorillas that can take a lot of hits and will dish out a lot of damage. Enemies come at you in groups some of which can be very large in the later stages of the game. Square lets you attack, circle is for ducking and rolling, X is for jumping, and the triangle button is used for blocking and dashing towards targets. If you hold down the attack button you'll be able to unleash a magic attack that will strike enemies and objects within range. Although you'll want to have some space between you and your enemies cause they can stop you from charging your magic attack with a single hit. Pressing both X and circle buttons will allow you to dodge roll behind your enemies where you can perform a throw by pressing R1.
The dashing mechanic is one of the most useful abilities you have in the game. As you take out enemies or destroy their armor you will see a combo counter on the right side of the screen showing that you can now use the dash ability to jump at or fly to opponents in an instant allowing you to strike quickly. The higher the combo you have the more powerful your attack gets so if you want to take out a large group of enemies quickly you'll want to build that combo up. Another method used for building up the combo meter are the Zhong which are floating statues that you can break open to start building up your combo meter. As you progress through the game you'll find various types of Zhong some of which you'll need to use weapons other than your sword to break open. Combat feels pretty solid for the most part. The only problem I had with the fighting is the fact that enemies will gang up on you pretty easily especially when they are out of view of the camera and they end up attacking you before you see them coming.
As you progress you'll find upgrades increasing your maximum health and magic as well as upgrades to your weapons. As I mentioned earlier you'll find a pair of claws which can be used outside of combat allowing you to attack while in water. This is mostly used to access areas in a level that are blocked off by bamboo reeds in water which you don't run into often. The hammer which you acquire late in the game can be used outside of combat to smash open broken spots in floors allowing you to uncover certain areas. You'll also notice multicolored gems which don't really serve any purpose other than to build up your score which is really only used for unlocking extras in the main menu like concept art and character models. More useful however are the various colored coins which you'll use in the game's shop allowing you to buy health potions, battle items, armor, and weapon upgrades. Armor in this game isn't permanent however as it last for so many points of damage before it breaks off much in the vain of Ghost and Goblins. There are three different types of armor. Green will take 5 hits, red takes 10 hits, and black takes 15 hits. While it's not permanent you will find plenty of it later in the game and it comes in very handy when dealing with multiple enemies in a fight.
The graphics in the game do look pretty competent for the time. The textures on the walls and floors look nice and never pop. The world has a pretty varied color palette looking bright and vibrant outdoors to looking dark and stoic in various dungeons. The characters look fitting for the cartoonish vibe the game gives off. Although various NPC's all look very much the same save for a few named characters it's easy to see a lot of the work went into animating Kay. Kay has a good number of different animations all of which look great from his martial art attack combos to the various movements he has. One thing in particular I thought was charming is when you see Kay get on all fours and shake himself dry when he gets out of water. Also from start to finish the game always kept a constant and smooth frame rate no matter how hectic things get in combat.
Sound on the other hand is a mixed bag of good and bad. The good being the orchestrated sound track that evokes just the right mood for a fantastical far east world. While you may hear some of the same tunes repeated it's not enough to make it an issue since the music in this game sounds so good. The bad being the god awful voice acting. I know not every game can afford to have an all star cast of vocal artist but could they get someone other than just whatever writers weren't doing anything or the producer's kid? Seriously Kay sounds like an unnamed extra from a Charlie Brown special! Not a single line of his dialog sounds like he's taking anything that goes on in the game seriously at all. The rest of the characters don't sound any better with the rats sounding like a cross between Elmer Fudd and a Chinese stereo type, rabbits who have one bad lisp, gorillas who sound like they're grunting every word they say, pandas who pretty much are a Chinese stereo type, and the frogs who cover the Jamaican stereo type. All I can say is, when it doesn’t sound offensive it just sounds unintentionally hilarious.
Atrocious voice acting aside Legend of Kay is a pretty competent game. The game play is solid with some satisfying combat and platforming. However like a lot of platformers there's the occasional camera problems here and there that doesn’t always give you the best view of the action when you need to see it. Also after you've completed the game you won't really have much incentive to go back to it other than to play on a higher difficulty setting or to try and unlock more of the extras like concept art, character models, etc. It's also a bit of a bummer that there's no new game plus mode at all which would've been great to have all your upgrades from the start of the game especially since this came after titles like Ratchet and Clank or the original Devil May Cry which both had this awesome feature. While it may not have been the best platforming action game for the PS2, it's certainly a decent one that will keep you entertained for the fifteen or so hours that it last.
Legend of Kay gets a 3 out of 5.
The independent developer scene has certainly surprised us over the past few years, showing us that there is indeed a batch of fresh air blowing into the industry. And, just like in the early cowboy days of basement development, the quality of the offerings covers a wide and dramatic spectrum.
The offering du jour is a point-and-click adventure game: Hoodwink. Overall, it is a rather daring little entry from E-One Studio, a development house from Malaysia. Prima facie, this game has all the ingredients that make for a promising new franchise: quirky and colorful characters? Check. Unique visual style? Check. An interesting world? Double check! Unfortunately, despite having excellent ingredients, the resulting concoction falls flat.
Global-01, the world in which the game takes place, has gone to pot in a wheelbarrow. Mutations and plague run rampant throughout the world, the dish on the menu is rat fricasee, and the gallant UniCorp company has taken everybody under its benevolent umbrella full of happy pills... demanding only a trifle in return: total control.
The world is one that has gone bonkers, but its denizens carry on, adopting the ludicrous new standards of life with almost Pratchett-esque stoicism: mutated humans resemble large anthropomorphic felines (called 'Anthros'), who can be seen occasionally hanging out with regular-looking humans and Second Chancers (robots housing the brains of deceased humans.) This is a typical have/have not dystopian scenario turned on its head and handled with delicious sarcasm.
Hoodwink puts you in the rather large shoes of Michael Bezzle, acquisitions expert (it's what Sly Cooper puts down on his business card, too.) The narrative of the opening scene is one that will make you wish the game had been executed properly, because it shows so much promise. After a brief tutorial on how to move and interact with items, Michael settles down to smoke a cigar in a rather cushy-looking Private Eye office ... bu,t suddenly, the door opens and an anthropomorphic leopard in stock duster and fedora walks in, immediately pointing his gun at your gaping maw. In true Film Noir style Michael declaims: "The moment tall, dark and fuzzy walked through my door, I knew he'd be trouble.... it was his office, after all." Turns out that Michael is there to steal a precious ring... because he's going to propose to his girlfriend. Hijinks ensue, of course, and the game proper takes off.
The only problem is that it is a very turbulent take-off, weighed down by bad puzzle design and a clumsy interface, and the flight is over all too soon.
Simply walking around the world of Hoodwink is a chore- the walk cursor only appears intermittently, forcing you to click in several areas until you find the path that has been laid out by the developers... which is usually broken up by interactive objects, so you have to inch closer to them until the camera scrolls and you can click on the space of road directly after them.
Michael walks rather slowly, but double-clicking will activate his running mode. Unfortunately our hero has a tendency to rubber-band back and forth on certain screens when running, taking longer to cover ground than simply walking. Some exits, such as the exit to the main plaza, are not actually marked. In almost every other room, hovering the cursor over exits immediately morphs the cursor into a door, letting you know there is an exit-- this is not the case for the exit to the plaza, which is a nondescript-looking landing that only displays the regular walking icon.
Movement alone, however, is not the only obstacle the player must surmount. Hotspot recognition is extremely finicky, which is aggravated by very poor puzzle design. Developers nowadays must walk a thin line between avoiding the heights of insanity we've seen in some adventure game puzzles of ages past (use an inflatable rubber duck to rescue a key from a canal? The Longest Journey, I'm looking at you...) and avoiding serving everything to the player on a silver platter. Sadly, Hoodwink does serve things on a silver platter. An example of this is the first quest you come upon: As soon as you have escaped from Detective Pyre's office, you decide to talk to your hippie friend (Saffron) for advice on how to pull off your proposal. Her advice? You need to get some chocolates, make yourself smell good, and get your paws on a bouquet of roses.
How difficult is it to achieve these goals? Not difficult at all. In fact, all you need to do is go up one floor, stroll around, and just pick things up as you find them. Two items require you to interact with one character and one element of the environment respectively, and the chocolates require you to find a certain individual in the plaza (and, of course, figure out where that exit is...) and that's it, the challenge is pretty much nonexistent. Later puzzles, such as the one involving a lantern, feel like filler to pad out the experience more than anything else and really don't flow well at all. Puzzles are not necessarily the backbone of adventure games- characters and settings are- but when you have them, they need to reinforce the experience instead of detracting from it.
These glaring issues are a real shame, because the world of Hoodwink is fascinating. Although not explored at length, the quirky society with its odd denizens and rather black sense of humor do beg for your attention, and you'll be wanting to see more of it by the time the curtain comes down.
The graphics are eccentrically unique, a blend of gritty dystopian and cartoony playfulness realized in cel-shaded 3D. Characters do make an impression with their personalities: a second-chancer robot who thinks he still has a stomach, a trash can who is trying to commit suicide by jumping into an incinerator, the anachronistically flower-powered Saffron, and of course your fiancée- the game has more than its share of excellent characterization, and this is the area where it truly shines. The universe is also positively bizarre- if anthropomorphic detectives and brain-carrying robots weren't enough, mutations have also affected flowers: Saffron's supply room is populated by a large carnivorous plant that guards over a crowd of dancing, anthropomorphic roses. Some good throwaway comedy lines can be heard in crowd scenes - but their impact is lessened when heard for the tenth time, repeated by different voice actors (a slight déjà vu of Oblivion's rather schizophrenic voice acting.) Perhaps one of my favorite lines comes from UniCorp's boys in blue, constantly and cheerfully reminding passersby that "Unlawfulness will be met with courteous and lethal response!"
The music is more of a mixed bag- although the sparse soundtrack is stylistically appropriate to match the future-dystopia-meets-noir theme, traclks seem to be triggered at random and after long periods of silence with no discernible rhyme or reason: At one point a tune sprung up in the middle of a lengthy conversation with Saffron, and at least two themes were playing simultaneously when I entered her supply room.
The game itself can be easily finished in three to five hours, and it ends in a cliffhanger in anticipation of future episodes. The cliffhanger isn't as much of an issue as is the fact that it comes so soon and leaves so much still in the air. The world is barely touched upon, and the plot isn't greatly advanced... so after three hours, the player might feel... well, Hoodwinked: The copy I bought was sold on the Origin store for $14.99 which, for a three hour game with these many flaws, is asking too much.
As the hopeful start for a new episodic franchise, I truly do wish E-One Studio the best... unfortunately, I cannot recommend this game to anyone under its current price tag: it is too unpolished a product to be worth $14.99 - we would do well to remember that the Sam & Max episodes from Telltale Studios were selling at roughly $6.99 each. Should a second installment come to fruition in this series, I would recommend that E-One Studio spend as much time on the vital aspects of game play (puzzle design, interface design, path finding) as it obviously spent lovingly creating the visual elements and identity of this unique world. As it stands, it is lovely to see, amusing to listen to, but unrewarding to play.
Two adventure tigers out of five.
||Gaming Furever Scoring|
|Skullgirls||› 4 / 5 ‹|
||Xbox Live Arcade, PSN
Overall, Skullgirls gameplay is rather original for how it handles the fighting and does just enough to stand out from the litter by making a damn good first impression with its graphics, stellar animation and easy to remember moves, and is a welcoming game for veteran fighters or even an up-and-coming new player that wishes to learn how to be better at fighting games.
|Publisher||Konami, Autumn Games|
||1200 MSP, $14.99
April 10, 2012 - PSN
April 11, 2012 - XBLA
Skullgirls Review by The Game Freak
Let me tell you all a story. Once upon a time there were two men; one was Mike "Mike Z" Zaimont and the other was Alex Ahad. Mike wanted to make a new tournament fighter game and Alex was making a world, a story, and characters for a fighting game. Mutual friends of theirs introduced the two to each other and soon an idea was hatched to combine their two projects together to create Skullgirls. A very sweet story wouldn’t you say so? That brings us today to the game itself!
Now I’m going to be honest with you folks; I am a horrible fighter-gamer. I’m the kind that hits random buttons and moves the joy stick all over the place, hoping to land something powerful to help me win. With Skullgirls, however, I find myself doing very little of that. When I first started playing Skullgirls, I was intimidated, but the strange and colorful characters drew me in and actually helped me learn step by step how to fight, block, and do combos. A built-in tutorial for a fighting game is very rare, and I give thanks to Reverge Labs for including it to help welcome newcomers and bad fighters like me learn how to fight.
SO MANY COLORS!
Skullgirls is a nicely made 2D anime style fighting game and a game that actually pulls off some good punches to grab people’s attention: from the art style, well animated characters, and some of the freakiest of freaks to ever be seen in one game. When looking at the move lists for each character, I was surprised to see that there were not any ridiculous number of moves or any complex over-the-top combination you would have to memorize like you were studying for a test. Instead, the moves each character have work with one or two buttons and the simple movement of the joystick or D-pad to execute a move. For example, Ms. Fortune's move “Cat Scratch” is executed by down, down/forward, forward + X or Y. The best part is it’s controller friendly. That’s right, you don’t even need an overpriced fighting pad for this game to excel. But, if you feel better using one, the game lets you use a fighting pad as well.
Fighting in the game is fast paced and addicting, you can play either 1 on 1 or up to 3 on 3 team matches where you can easily call in team mates to help in the combo or to switch out in the fight to continue the fight and let your other fighter to regain a bit of lost health over time but the opponent has the power to send a fighter flying and forcing to bring in a new fighter on the other team to take their place. Another useful move all of the characters can do is a “burst” that lets you free yourself when your opponent pushes you into a corner with an infinite combo stream which in most games have nothing to stop this from happening.
Skullgirls takes place in Canopy Kingdom, where the fighters themselves are in search of a powerful artifact called the Skullheart, which can grant a woman any wish she wants, but only if she is pure of heart. If she wasn’t she would become a monster known as a “Skullgirl.” Each of the fighters have their own reasons to find it and are willing to fight for it; some wish to use it and others want to destroy it. While the story isn’t grade A, it helps people get pulled in, and even after winning the game most of the characters are left with a nice cliff hanger. Maybe to hint there might one day be a sequel? I’d be disappointed if there weren’t any plans for one.
Girls, girls, girls.
While the game is good it still falls prone to some ‘blemishes,’ like graphical glitches where characters will blink out for a second and their hit boxes show and then come back. It's not seen a lot but it the fact is that it's there, and will hopefully be looked at once the makers get around to releasing a patch.
While fun, I still feel it is missing some things… I’m going to list a few “what they should have added…” list
Training bots fight back- For some reason the training mode can let you do a lot of settings and even turn on a ‘death mode’ but yet the AI won’t attack, now that’s good for some but there are people who want to fight to sharpen their skills and learn how to do combos with an opponent that’s fighting back. In a future a patch for this should be looked at at some point.
Single player custom matchmaking- While the game has a story mode and an arcade mode, the lack of a mode to let you make custom matches with AI bots of your choosing and such makes the game feel limited and short to me and that’s honestly sad, as I have really enjoyed this game so far. It might take time to make but I hope they would release a mode like this in the near future.
Let us see the map when we select it- Okay you might be wondering what I mean by this. While there still is a lack of a single player matchmaking, the tutorial does let you select maps to fight on, but you don’t see the map at all when selecting it.
It's at least a short list, but these are things to be looked at for future updates.
Overall, Skullgirls gameplay is rather original for how it handles the fighting and does just enough to stand out from the litter by making a damn good first impression with its graphics, stellar animation and easy to remember moves, and is a welcoming game for veteran fighters or even an up-and-coming new player that wishes to learn how to be better at fighting games. I would say this game is worth the $15 or 1200 Microsoft points if they fixed the few problems I had with it to increase replayability. This game is also available for the 360 and PS3 and reports say a portable version is in the works for the future.
4 / 5