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Posted:
2015-03-19

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

Xbox One

7.3

'Dragon Age Inquisition' on the Xbox One is an fantasy action role-playing video game which was developed by BioWare and released by Electronic Arts on various consoles including the next gen consoles.

Rarely, it seems, is there a franchise born into excellence. 'Dragon Age' seemed destined to buck that trend. The first title was also developed by the same team a few years back. A sequel followed it to middling reviews. Many wondered where the third entry in the series would go. Well, for those that waited patiently by their Xbox Ones the answer is finally here: the game came out a classic.

'Dragon Age: Inquisition' is the third title by BioWare in the series and it released to near unanimous praise. After winning the Game of the Year award the title went on to sweep the field critically and commercially. That is all we really NEED to say about the game, but we wouldn't get to play it more unless we wrote a deeper review. SO with that being said, here is why 'Dragon Age: Inquisition' is the best RPG on the Xbox One.

On to Thedas...

'Inquisition' brings players to the continent of Thedas, which is a giant and new fantasy world for players to explore. This new land is already many times larger than the prior two games and it gives players more of difference in terms of geographical locations to explore. Now it isn't 'Skyrim' but it doesn't have to be.

The game starts out when a conference on peace between the Templars and Mages is disrupted by a gigantic explosion. Numerous different rifts are open, along with the Breach, and demons begin to pour out. Everyone is killed in this horrific attack except you, the player. You don't escape unharmed, however, as there is a mysterious mark on your hand that allows you to close different rifts. Your memory is wiped from the experience and you are soon pulled into a group whose sole quest is to close the rest of the rifts and finish the last orders of the Divine. Your job is to close the Breach and if your first experience is any indication, remembered or not, things are going to get much bloodier before they get better.

This cataclysmic event perfectly sets up the rest of the game for you. You are instantly transported into a world that is rife with magic, alliances, Machiavellian schemes, and more despair than you can even understand. The world is unfolding before your every step and it is living and breathing in a way that most titles just don't match. This is the beauty of a Bioware title. Everything matters. The story is rich and complex and deep and so much more than just a video game, it is a true experience.

Following the recent trend in video gaming, 'Inquisition' is an open world title. Some of us will naturally get more excited by this fact (myself being one of those people) and others will grown. Open world gaming is trending dangerously close to 'fad status' and it could just be a gimmick to give poor games a reason to be played. The past two 'Dragon Age' titles were not open world and they excelled in certain places due to the strength of their writing. Was the decision made here in order to cash in? We aren't sure, but we are glad that it was made.

The game is cohesive and intricate and the open world keeps you absolutely immersed into life on Thedas. There are missions, side quests, ambient events, and so much more that will keep you glued to your screen. When you aren't determined to push the campaign forward toward the end you can bide your time and grind away on an array of different missions. Travel all over the land. Raise your stats, get some swag, and kill some baddies.

I found that 'Inquisition' really didn't hit its mark until the 25 hour mark or so. This was where what I wanted out of the game and what the campaign was offering seemed to most match up. We'll avoid saying what happened here in order to protect you from spoilers, but it was one of the greatest moments in video games for the year. While we wax philosophical on the nature of the campaign, it feels important to stress how important everything is in 'Inquisition'. Every choice that you make sculpts the world around you. You are living in a place that doesn't rest in black and white territory. There are morally gray areas. There are hard decisions to make. You must acknowledge the sacrifices in order to gain the prizes.

As the leader of the Inquisition you will spend a fair bit of time pointing people in the direction that you want them to go. You'll head the War Table and have to deal with a host of familiar faces as your advisers. You may need their help in order to win this war but you'll need to keep them firmly in line. Send soldiers out to the right places, dispatch your spies and diplomats. You must curry favor with Fereldon and Orlais. You'll eventually have run across almost 300 total missions in the game alone, offering you all sorts of rewards to keep you pushing forward.

In order to proceed forward into new areas you must unlock them by gaining power. To gain power you must complete numerous missions, shut down rifts, and work diligently with your war counsel. Some will feel shackled by these artificial gates, others will appreciate the creative way in which they are employed. Monsters do not scale with the player so it is almost necessary to keep the levels in check. It's a decent way, in the end, to do an unpopular thing.

'Dragon Age: Inquisition' on the Xbox One is an exceptional title that seems to push all the sorts of things we love in modern RPG games and place them together. We love how precise the storyline is and how fantastically fleshed out all of the characters are. The alliances and betrayals all feel real to us. The crafting system is interesting, the graphics are wonderful, and the War Table is a great gameplay element.

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Posted:
2015-03-17

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

PS4

8.2

'Watch Dogs' on the PlayStation 4 was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft in 2014. The game promised to give its players a sandbox look into a futuristic world that was filled with technology to exploit, bad guys to kill, and people to save. In short we were being promised a revolution in a PS4 title. With so few new IPs popping up to truly impress us on this generation of consoles we were more than willing to buy into the hype and dive in. So did 'Watch Dogs' pay off or did we end up getting bit?

The opening scene in 'Watch Dogs' shows us hackers working at an almost magical level. By flying their fingers across keyboards the heroes were able to do feats that would leave most people with a headache. And that is sort of how the game pushes forward once you finally get to take control of our hero, Aiden Pearce.

Set in a futuristic Chicago, 'Watch Dogs' gives gamers the chance to run around a world that needs to be set right. You might be asking yourself why you are here and that is a fair question. Aiden Pearce, it turns out, has quite the backstory.

Aiden has never been a truly good guy, he is a hacker after all. When working a job alongside his mentor, Damien Brenks, things get a little too heavy for Pearce. Brenks and Aiden are transferring a giant sum of money via the hacking that their smartphones are now capable of. They find a strange file in this process and realize that it has alerted the security team as to who is doing the hacking and where they are. Aiden ditches Brenks and tries to get home to his family to keep them save, without admitting what he has done. He convinces his wife and two children to get in the car and leave, pretending to go on a family trip. But it's too late. Soon two hitmen intercept Aiden and the resulting violence sees his wife, Lena, killed.

Flash forward and Aiden is now wandering the streets as an outlaw by the nickname, 'The Fox'. His one goal in life is to hunt down the hitman that killed his wife. This mission turns the world upside down for Aiden and soon he is on the run, trying to extract vengeance on a seemingly larger than life entity. His journey will take him all over the globe, with much of the game taking place in and around a scaled down Chicago, Illinois.

The pride and joy that 'Watch Dog' developers promised was the open world map. They did not under sell this point to fans. The map is huge and wildly detailed. You can go from one end of Chicago all the way to the other and experience the differences that the city naturally gives. You can find yourself wandering the rural suburbs or winding down alleyways in Chicago's large urban sprawl. The city feels breathing and alive around you in a way that we haven't seen since 'Grand Theft Auto'.

As you wander through the city you will be tasked with a multitude of different missions and side engagements. Not unlike the 'Assassins Creed' series, there are side quests that you can do to further your character without pushing the actual story ahead. These are great because they give you some more meat to chew on a pretty thin storyline.

We can't discuss 'Watch Dogs' without talking about how gorgeous the game itself actually is. Back when 'Watch Dogs' was still in development a few screenshots leaked to the public and fans went appropriately wild. The game runs smoothly at 30 frames per second and the environment is beautiful as a result. The game comes to life with color and texture and dynamic weather adds another layer to the beauty. Try wandering down the streets of Wacker Ave during a rainstorm or sit on the dirt paths of rural Pawnee when the sun is coming up. There are brief moments absolute wonder couched away in this open world experience and you would do well to slow down and experience them.

On that same note we have to compliment how the characters look, act, and feel. From Aiden all the way to the most side of characters, everyone is beautifully textured and animated. The voice acting is top notch and the cut scenes really capture our attention. The only complaints that we have are in regard to Aiden himself. He is a rather bland character and he doesn't ever jump of of the screen at is. Fortunately many of the side characters are colorful and they steal our attention when they are on screen.

Looking past the look of the game we have to assess the actual gameplay. What is it you will actually be doing here? Well, the game is in 3rd person and it tries to steer players away from violent confrontations. You are a hacker, not a super soldier, so you should know ways to dispatch your enemies without catching a bullet or two thrown your way. You're obviously able to pick up a gun and get in a shoot out, but it is obvious that your actual skills should be put to the test first.

There are a few random tweaks that made us fall in love with the depth of 'Watch Dogs'. As an elite hacker you can scan just about anyone to learn about them. These character backstories are randomly generated and always entertaining. You'll learn their jobs, hobbies, and a few facts of their life. This humanizes the otherwise random NPCs that are constantly surrounding you.

For the PS4 there aren't many games that give us this sense of adventure. We loved being able to wander through the city and work at our whim. The main storyline should last you about 20 hours, but you'll probably exceed that number via your propensity just to run around and take in the sights.

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Posted:
2015-03-17

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

PS4

7.0

'LEGO The Hobbit' on the PlayStation 4 is an action-adventure video game developed by Traveller's Tale and published by Warner Bros. Interactive.

The 'LEGO' series of video games has brought immense joy to just about every single person that has come across them, young or old. The franchise, which was developed by Traveller's Tales and MGM Interactive, got its start almost a decade ago back on the Xbox 360. Now numerous cinematic franchises are being adapted and the most recent of them is 'The Hobbit'. Published by Warner Bros, 'Lego The Hobbit' is meant to give the breathtaking story new life to a whole generation of gamers. Its release coincided essentially with the cinematic schedule and because of this our level of immersion was as high as it has ever been for a LEGO video game. We got our hands on the PS4 version of 'Lego The Hobbit' in order to give it its fair shake. We were anything but disappointed.

A game meant for its hardware.

The LEGO series has never been one to push the limits of the hardware that houses it. Always content to be quirky and engaging (and there's nothing wrong with that), the games never were confused with titles that tried to push the boundaries. For the PS4 it seems like the team at LEGO wanted to make a difference with 'The Hobbit'. It's the first game in the long line of releases that actually utilizes its hardware to the max. The visuals in this release look almost entirely different form the last gen release and audiences are rewarded for this fact.

What are you getting from this game?

When 'Lego The Hobbit' released the cinematic franchise had only released 2/3rds of the planned trilogy. As such the story stops where the second movie finishes off, but that doesn't mean you get shortchanged. Instead the team at Traveller's Tales packed in a whomping Hobbit-load of action and adventure for its loyal consumers, both young and old.

The story follows the tale that Peter Jackson adapted from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The main character in the game is an affable Hobbit by the name of Bilbo. Bilbo is conscripted into a great adventure by the wise old wizard, Gandalf. Soon his home is overflowing with colorful and comical dwarves and this eventually leads to the group setting off for the Lonely Mountain. There is nothing incredibly new here for old time fans of the story but it is still nice to see rendered in yet another universe.

Seeing as the game only covers the first two films you won't get to see some of the most epic pieces of the adventure, but you will still see so many iconic moments that you won't have a problem anyways. Along your journey you will run into mysterious Elves, giant comical trolls, and even a dragon by the name of Smaug. There are barrel scenes, epic battles with the Goblin King, and so much more ahead of you.

The tried and true formula of the LEGO games has always been to place you into the world and have you bash your way through it with a friend by your side. That gameplay element is still largely in tact, even though you are now in Middle Earth. You get to play as Bilbo, Gandalf, or any of the dwarves that tag along in your employ. Each character has their own special weapons and traits and you will need to switch to them in certain situations in order to further the story. For example, in our battle with the Goblin King we had to switch over to Kili in order to use his archery skills to attack a certain enemy. Then we were free to jump back into the shoes of Bilbo, wielding his sword, or Dwalin with his large axes.

Though the gameplay is fundamentally the same as the older entries, there are still some new tweaks. Instead of having a central hub where you unlock new characters, you instead unlock them at the end of each level. This may bum some people out but we found that we didn't mind very much.

The most important change in the series is the addition of the crafting system. Instead of traditional collectibles you will instead be on the look out for special materials. If you get the right materials you can use them in a crafting recipe to create a new item for your players. Collecting these materials is simple and intuitive. Bust down LEGO construction and you will get your normal studs while also occasionally getting a piece of crafting material. This gives you an extra incentive to destroy EVERYTHING. You can create cosmetic items (think special capes) or new weapons that have special abilities or amped up statistics. These crafted weapons aren't usable in the Story Mode but they are usable during your Free Play adventures.

Aside from crafting we also found that 'Lego The Hobbit' had the most in depth questing mode. We had to do certain objectives and quests in order to unlock certain materials. The feel was loosely like 'Skyrim' and it made us feel like we were getting a deeper-than-normal experience for a LEGO game. These quests gave us new mini games, dance parties, new items, and even special features while pushing through the story mode. We loved this element and it will definitely be appreciated by the older audiences that play the LEGO games.

The story itself is told through charming and quirky cut scenes, as is traditional for the LEGO franchise. The sound design is licensed and sounds wonderful. We couldn't help but get an ear to ear grin whenever those Middle Earth style notes would swell through our speakers. That isn't to say the experience was completely perfect, though. All LEGO games struggle with platforming and this wasn't any different. The slightly isometric view still gave us pause in certain situations and we hated that the game ended on a cliff hanger.

At the end of the day what we wanted out of 'Lego The Hobbit' on the PlayStation 4 was quickly delivered to us. We can't help but suggest it to fans of the LEGO franchise or 'Hobbit' franchise.

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Posted:
2015-03-12

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

Xbox One

5.0

'Dead Rising 3: Operation Broken Eagle' was developed by Capcom Vancouver for release on the Xbox One as an exclusive launch title. Released in November of 2013 the game quickly went on to become one of the more popular launch games. Featuring the giant sandbox/open world that we've grown to love and powered by the advanced hardware of the Xbox One, we had a hard time putting the game down. Still, all courses will eventually run themselves dry and 'Dead Rising 3' was no exception. So as a way to revitalize our enjoyment, Capcom Vancouver decided to release an array of 'episodic' DLC pieces that focus on new characters that attach to the larger, overarching story. While many of the DLC packs have been considered bad, at least by the bar that Capcom sets, we held out hope for 'Operation Broken Eagle'.

Redefining the word 'shoot out'.

Welcome to the Untold Stories of Los Perdidos. In the four different DLC packs that will be released we get the chance to meet and live in the shoes of a variety of different survivors that all exist while Nick is aimlessly working through his own issues. We've met Nick Ramos, now it is time to put on the shoes of Adam Kane.

Adam Kane is a military op who has been sent into the infested Los Perdidos to take care of a top secret mission. Things don't go perfectly for the super soldier and you can stop us if you've heard this one before. The power of 'Dead Rising' has never been in its interesting character arcs so off of the bat we are willing to forgive Capcom for delivering us more of the same. What we are really interested in is how the episode furthers our enjoyment of a title that we paid so much to get at launch date.

Our story starts when Kane and his guys crash land in their helicopter in Los Perdidos. Guns come up pretty much instantly as you can imagine that an explosion would attract some not so friendly people and the equally unfriendly zombies. Fortunately for us, Kane and his guys are pretty skilled when it comes to handling their weapons. From that point on we push through a variety of missions that advance thanks to cinematic cut scenes and quick player to NPC interactions.

Whiel the game itself is set before Nick gets to work, it still is attached to the bigger story line at large. There are hints of things to come and tips for things to look out for in the future. The bulk of this DLC doesn't spend its time waxing philosophical about what it is and instead commits to what it does best: killing.

Adam Kane lands on the ground as a man with a mission and there is virtually nothing that will set him aside from his course. 'Operation Broken Eagle' focuses on one of the toughest characters in the 'Dead Rising' franchise but he is also equally uninteresting. The fact that he is a complete commando who is dead set on his mission, without any real character flaws turns him into a sort of walking robot. How can we really get into his conflict when the man hos no internal conflict of his own?

We may be acting too harshly towards the commando. After all he is sent on a pretty tough mission and he is armed with clear cut orders. His goal is to find the President of the U.S. and to bring him back to safety. Anybody that gets in the way is considered dead meat, and this includes the group of 'Illegals' that serve to fight back against the oppressive government that Adam Kane works for. We get to inhabit the boots of these 'Illegals' in a later DLC patch in the form of a female character by the name of Angel, but we don't get to see her here and that's too bad. It would have been nice to see two characters that are fundamentally good go toe to toe in order to complete their equally honorable missions.

Most fans won't even think twice about the lack of story based direction. Instead the casual fan will fall in love with some of the newest in zombie slaying technology. Our new favorite was the chaingun, which almost doesn't need any explanation. But we'll give you one. This long barreled gun shoots at an incredible rate of fire and it is capable of virtually cutting anything in half.

Outside of projectile weapons you'll also get your hands on a nice shield and a gritty axe to do your dirty work. The shield works great when you confront human characters and an axe to the head has always been the cure for a bad case of Zombie-ism. Kane wields both weapons capably along the way to completing his mission.

Outside of weapons we do want to mention the Armadillo. This is a light tank with a minigun attached to the top of it. One of your side quests will lead you into contact with the vehicle and we strongly suggest taking it for a ride. Not until Hunter's motorcycle, in later DLC, do we get a vehicle as enjoyable to ride.

Kane is relatively focused in his missions and this keeps the run time of the episode down to a paltry 45 minutes. The $10 you spend on this episode begin to feel awfully hefty once you realized that you actually played through it all in the time span it would have taken you to watch an actual episode of a television show. There is also no cooperative play in this DLC.

The fun in 'Operation Broken Eagle' exists pretty much continuously throughout the missions. While Kane is uninteresting as a character, he is truly built to destroy zombies. The lack of coop and the short run time leave a bitter taste in our mouth. So even though we enjoyed our time with the episode, we can't suggest it as a valuable download. The cash to playtime ratio is just not good.

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Posted:
2015-03-19

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

Xbox One

6.0

The Crew is an open world racing video game developed by the guys at Ivory Tower and Ubisoft Reflections. Published by Ubisoft in December of 2014, The Crew released on the Xbox One as one of the first big racing gigs in the next generation. The game promised to bring something completely new to what fangs were proclaiming was a completely stagnant genre. As we have mentioned numerous times on our website, we feel like 'open world' and 'sandbox' games are going to be the buzzwords of this generation. In order to cash in on those genres the guys at Ubisoft pushed for a product that catered to them.

To understand what The Crew was trying to do we had to look ta the title from the perspective of a company (Ivory Tower) still trying to make their name upon the industry. Ivory Tower released The Crew in 2014 and it was their first major release ever as a studio. This means that they are likely trying to create a longstanding, franchise worth IP. With those things in our head we unpacked the game and popped it into our Xbox One, eager to see what the guys could do.

The game opens up with our hero, Alex Taylor, being chased by local police in Detroit, Michigan. While he is trying to escape the police (for what reason, we do not know) he gets a call from a man named Harry. He tells us that our heroes older brother wants us to come to a big race. Dayton, Alex's older brother, is the founder of a moto club in town called the 5-10. We get there and are immediately told to hush up and stay out of the way by Dayton. Before we can even reconcile what has happened our heroes brother gets shot to death by a mysterious stranger who had driven by. The police show up before too long and Alex is sent to jail.

After five years an FBI agent by the name of Zoe comes to Alex to tell him that the 5-10 motor club has a new leader named Shiv and that she thinks he is the one who killed Dayton. In order to capture the man and put hm behind bars she needs Alex's help collecting evidence. From there we are thrown back into the world of questionable motor clubs, illegal races, and backstabbing intrigue.

So with that fairly recognizable plot out of the way, what is there to really fall in love with in this title? After all, all we've seen is a game that caters to basic cliches like vengeance, dead family, and backstabbing friends. The hook, it turns out, is in the execution. The Crew offers gamers the ENTIRETY of the continental United States as a place to drive. Harkening back to the classic road trips of old, you are able to take whatever you want out onto the road while you travel around. You can go through the dusty suburbs of Austin, Texas all the way to the urban populous of Chicago.

While these different notable cities are not 1:1 recreations of their real life counterparts, they are all faithful in their adaptation. The guys at Ivory Tower made sure to cater to the realism that a game like this needs in order to succeed. For a sand box, open world game to work we need to feel like we are immersed in it. That means we should see Palm Trees in Detroit, Michigan. You wouldn't see snow all over South L.A.

More than racing, more than the storyline, more than the cars, we fell in love with the ability to seamlessly ride around the country. Seriously, how cool is that? With wonderful graphics that harness all of the power of the Xbox One, we were able to travel all over the country. The map is scaled appropriately so as not to feel small nor feel too big that the journey lags needlessly. As you travel from coast to coast you will see that the terrain casually changes in an almost imperceptible way. You will never have that immersion breaking moment of, "Oh, I guess I'm in Wisconsin now."

So what is the point of all this space? Well, being that The Crew is an online compatible game the point is that the space is filled with other players. A genius way to incorporate the server side of online gaming, the continental United States becomes your online playground. So rather than running into countless NPC cars filling up the road, you will instead run into various other tricked out rides before you even realize it. From there you can go ahead and challenge them to a race, try to destroy their vehicle, or merely be on your way with just a hello as they pas by. The experience is really up to you and how you want to play it.

While we love the epic scope that The Crew brought us there were some issues that we ran into. While you can technically do any of the missions in the game with any of your cars, there is a soft level barrier installed. The game will suggest that you wait until you are have a better car in order to do missions. If you try to do them anyway you will soon come to the realization that the computer AI is working against you at a subversive level. The game literally seems to slow you down from winning.

We also hated the grind that is necessary in order to unlock new cars. Racking up Crew Credits seems to take forever and the game subtly pushes micro transactions onto its users. We understand the need for these cash shop transactions but we always feel bummed out by their inclusion into console games. We already paid for the disc.

At the end of the day The Crew on the Xbox One is an inventive way to experience a racing game for a new generation of players. As we go along further we will expect more and more from the guys at Ivory Tower.

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Posted:
2015-04-09

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

3DS

6.6

'Pac-Man Party 3D' was developed by Namco Bandai Games for the Nintendo 3DS. The title seeks to capitalize on the goodwill churned up by the titular character, Pac-Man. Released in 2011, the game was designed in replacement of the ill fated 'Pac-Man Carnival'. This is a party game not unlike many of the succesful 'Mario Party' games. With Nintendo easily utilizing that genre to extend their classic franchises, we shouldn't be surprised to see other companies give it a shot. still, we went into this handheld party game with a fair amount of trepidation on our side. What we found after our time with the game was done reaffirmed our initial fears. Keep reading to find out why 'Pac-Man Party 3D' should, or shouldn't, be added to your gaming library.

When we looked at 'Pac-Man Party 3D' we were pretty sure that we knew exactly what we were getting, we just hoped that we'd be getting a better version of it than we feared. As we mentioned above, it is hard not to admire the success that Nintendo has had with the branding of their flagship character Mario. He seamlessly falls into an array of different genres that range from RPG titles all the way to sports and party games. 'Pac-Man Party 3D' is Namco's attempt to do something similar. Using the iconic 'characters' from the 'Pac-Man' universe, 'Pac-Man Party 3D' seeks to essentially clone the 'Mario Party' franchise, only the team failed to capture the heart and frenetic energy that fuels it.

You can play 'Pac-Man Party' with your friends, provided they have a 3DS and a copy of the game, or by yourself in the story mode. Either way you do it the beginning stays the same. Players are launched on one of three different game boards. Once on these boards they are assigned a target number of 'cookies'. Cookies essentially are icon swaps of the stars and coins that we are familiar with from 'Mario Party'. Once you find out how many cookies you have to collect the game gets into full gear. Players move around the board, determining their number of moves per turn via mini games and lucky encounters. We'll touch briefly on the minigames now. Each minigame runs about 30 seconds total and involves either timing or luck in order to win them. You'll have slot machines, dart throws, races and much more of those sorts of experiences. Do well in the minigame and you will walk away with a nice handful of cookies.

In the game there are three different modes that you can play on your own. The story mode combines all of the available boards and mashes them together for one overarching plot: In Pac-land someone is attempting to take steal the secret recipe of the most delicious, tasty, and rare cookie in the entire world. In order to stop that from going down, the recipe is handed off to Pac-Man to keep safe. Things go predictably wrong when the Ghosts that we know and love swoop in, steal the recipe, and go speeding off. Thus begins the admittedly flimsy storyline that would have you play minigames with your enemy rather than just take back what is yours. What can we say. Pac-land isn't known for its twists and turns in the drama department.

Parrty mode lets you play through the different boards from the Story Mode without having to follow the actual plot. You can play as any character, and play against any characters that you choose. This is a simple no-frills way to play the game and it feels as dull as it sounds. Without the flimsy story there to push you forward it feels like a pointless exercise.

The final available single player mode is the Minigames Mode. Here you can play through the 50 different minigames in whatever order you like, and with however many players you want to play with. Since all of the minigames are unlocked, and there is no board to play with, you compete for points instead. Despite the short duration of the minigames, this mode still manages to drag on entirely too long.

Despite the flexibility of the different available game modes, we still had trouble finding something to entertain us. The biggest issue we had, and it was apparent in all three game modes, was that the experience felt slow and dated. The games moved like a slow board game. You spend time watching mini actions, cut scenes, and castles being built and torn down. The animations begin to get grating and you can't skip any of them. Not even to mention the fact that the AI takes forever (seemingly) to actually make a choice on their turn. The wait times are just too long for a game that should be snappy and entertaining. We also found that some of the minigames were unresponsive to our controls. Shooting games and motion based games don't feel responsive enough for us to believe that they are final products. It begins to be readily apparent that this was a lazy port of an unpopular Wii game.

We DID like how multiplayer as accessed. You can play with up to three other friends provided you all have a 3DS. As it turns out, you don't need to each have your own individual copy of the game. This means that only one person has to buy the game for everyone to enjoy it. This is probably the biggest highlight of the experience and it makes up for the fact that there is no online play.

Namco also threw in three of their classic titles: Dig Dug, Galaga, and Pac-Man. You can play these games on your 3DS in their original incarnation. They only appear on your top screen, though, so you might be thrown off if they look a little bit smaller.

'Pac-Man Party 3D' on the 3DS as it turns out, is a vanilla affair. There isn't enough going on here to differentiate it from the pack, and what it steals from better games it doesn't accomplish well.

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Posted:
2015-04-05

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

3DS

8.0

'Star Fox 64 3D' on the 3DS is a fantasy flight simulator which was developed and published by Nintendo. This video game has been fully rendered in 3D and has been given a graphical makeover for the handheld console.

Star Fox' for the Nintendo 64 was probably one of the most iconic experiences for many of us gamers born in the early '90s. The game featured an array of talking, humanoid animals that were considered elite pilots in a futuristic world. The series was developed and published by Nintendo with its first major release hitting the Super Nintendo. Since its debut in 1993 there have been seven total titles, with 'Star Fox 64 3D' being the most recent handheld title. We busted out our Nintendo 3DS and prepared to dive back into the weird but completely enthralling universe that we had grown to love in our childhood. We strapped into our chairs and got right back into the Lylat System.

We could wax eloquent about what Nintendo has done for video games and spend thousands upon thousands of words trying to capture the essence of what they've given. We'll keep it sweet and short, though. Nintendo is to video game IPs as gold wine is to an alcoholic. The guys at Nintendo are incredible at starting up original IPs and turning them into long running franchise. Star Fox is no different and we were delighted when we heard that the 14 year old title was going to get a reboot alongside another Nintendo favorite, 'Ocarina of Time'.

Despite the fact that this game is a remake, it is still entirely new to a whole generation of children. Being 14 years old, there are plenty of kids who have never touched the N64 version of the game. Those kids are coming into this experience completely fresh, and probably at the right time too. After we spent a few hours with 'Star Fox 64 3D' we found our mouths hurting from smiling so much.

For those few folks who are unaware of the 'Star Fox' style of gameplay, let's take a moment to break it down. As you can guess from the back cover, 'Star Fox 64 3D' is an action/arcade game that puts you into a spaceship. You'll fly through several different levels (planets) in order to complete missions, defeat bad guys, and explore the entire Lylat system. The levels themselves work almost like rail systems in that you only have control of going up and down and left and right. You don't get to fly whenever, as the game is always pushing you forward. There are levels that change things up a little bit, with a big 'Hoth' like battle being one of them, but for the most part you move forward almost like a 3D fox styled 'Galaga'. You have allies on your wings and a host of different weapons to utilize in order to survive the different worlds you must visit.

What we remember most about playing the original 'Star Fox' was how colorful and gorgeous the game world was. Obviously the game itself hasn't aged well, with jagged textures and poor 3D, but the remake made sure to improve for a current generation of gamers. 'Star Fox 64 3D' is just as vibrant and colorful as we remembered and the 3D effect creates a beautiful depth of field that allows you to actually lose yourself, a little bit, inside of the game. When the 3D mode is fully equipped you'll see all of the textures popping out at you, and it looks more immersive than any other current 3DS title. For those afraid that the 3DS will butcher their nostalgia, don't be. The game still looks like it originally did and you'd be hard pressed to know the difference unless you compared them next to one another. Now that doesn't mean that the game looks dated, no we are actually complementing the original for looking as good as it did.

The most important aspect of 'Star Fox 64 3D' are the controls. The original game handled tightly with all of your action occurring due to a few button presses. Your ship, the Arwing, twitched in whatever direction you wanted ti to go merely by dragging the controller stick. You could shoot your bombs with the 'b button' and even initiate tricky flying maneuvers by hitting the right combo. The controls are still tight, thanks to the great design of the 3DS, and we couldn't be happier with how everything moves. You can set up your controls to closely mimic that of the Nintendo 64 or you can use the native controls for the 3DS. You also have the gyroscope to utilize and that changes the game pretty mightily. We kept with the old school controls, approximating the thumb stick with the circle pad while also using the shoulder buttons to great effect.

Looking past the controls we can see the actual content of the game. You have your original Main Game. This mode focuses on the primary seven missions that you have to partake in, in order to defeat the evil scientist Andross. The storyline itself is sort of irreverent and goofy and you likely won't miss much if you don't pay attention to the dialogue. But still, it's a throwback to fun and simple times and there is strange satisfaction in pushing along the different planets. You have branching paths that you can take during this game mode so you actually have 16 total missions you can partake in. You will have to play twice in order to get 'everything' out of the game that you can.

Other than the primary story you can play the Training mode and the Score Attack mode. In Score Attack you play different unlocked missions as many times as you want as you attempt to unlock more medals. Don't worry about your lesser objectives and focus primarily on destroying as many enemies as possible. Training is self explanatory, it is a mode that will teach you the bones of the game.

We really liked what Nintendo did with 'Star Fox 64 3D' and we loved the throwback feel of it. The 3DS version of the game doesn't reinvent the wheel but it makes it easier to play and accessible for a new generation of gamers.

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Posted:
2015-03-19

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

Xbox One

6.0

'Call of Duty: Ghosts' on the Xbox One is a action shooter video game which was developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision.

For the first time since 2008 we are getting our hands on a 'Call of Duty' title that doesn't include the words 'Black Ops' or 'Modern Warfare'. 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' is the tenth entry into the storied first person shooting game franchise that has taken the world by storm. The developers at Infinity Ward have been hard at work on 'Ghosts' in order to give their fans something new and enjoyable to experience. The FPS genre is so fickle in the way that it can become tired and trite seemingly overnight. With new revolutionary releases like 'Titanfall' hitting the shelves, we needed 'Ghosts' to be a home run. We tried out the game for the Xbox One and had quite the interesting time playing it.

'Call of Duty: Ghosts' is set in the near future of an alternate history. Set in the Middle East, you step into the boots of various members of the U.S. Special Ops group titled simply 'Ghosts'. This special unit of war heroes is led by Captain Elias Walker and his sons Logan and David Walker. This family unit is rounded out by a German Shepherd pup, Captain Thomas Merrick and Sergeant Keegan Russ. The story is set in 2017 and it follows Walker and his two kids on a harrowing adventure that would take them all across the globe.

We won't get too deep into the territory of spoilers but we were pretty let down with the story that the developers at Infinity Ward came up with. With 'Modern Warfare' completely tied up, the guys had every chance to take the franchise into a whole new direction. We know that FPS games aren't typically revered for their story (Looking at you, 'Halo') but that doesn't mean they couldn't have tried harder. Instead of something approaching original we get a package of cliches and tropes thrown at us for the ten or so hours it'll take us to run through the campaign. From the stiff but loving father who 'only has his two boys' all the way to the caricatures that present themselves as our villains, there is nothing original here.

That doesn't mean it isn't fun.

'Call of Duty: Ghosts' gives gamers a heavy dosage of exactly what they are looking for. It is easy to tell who we are rooting for and it is equally easy to tell who we should be shooting at and killing. The game is filled with big budget, blockbuster type spectacle. There are moments geared exclusively to play at our emotions (we're looking at you, dog) and there are scenes of ultimate 'tough guy-itus' (imprisoned Ghost flicking off his captor? Sure!). In between giant firefights we got cut scenes full of barely recognizable techno babble that spoke of some greater story going on in the world. We could physically feel our eyes glazing over during these parts, but that's okay.

The driving force behind any 'Call of Duty' game will always lie in how the action feels once you are in the thick of things. Fortunately that is where Infinity Ward continued the path of excellence that Treyarch so firmly established in their prior installments. Fighting through the hectic big budget levels is as fun as ever. You'll feel like you are being swallowed up by a truly giant war as you never know who or what is going to come after you next. There is a slew of interesting guns to rock out with and you will quickly find yourself growing accustomed to how they all handle.

While the story mode is fun it is hardly where we expect most gamers to spend their time with the game. Online multiplayer is the bread and butter of the 'Call of Duty' franchise, and the FPS genre as a whole. Online gaming has to be on point for these titles to survive and warrant a sequel. You simply won't see another 'Call of Duty' if the online component doesn't keep people playing for a year or two after release. Fortunately the Xbox One makes the online gaming easier than ever and 'Ghosts' players are rewarded accordingly.

'Call of Duty: Ghosts' felt just like any entry that had come in the franchise before it. The trademark hectic firefights are all there. The perks, load out customizations, crazy death matches and so on also hammer home the point that this is a 'COD' game through and through. But unlike previous entries, 'Ghosts' doesn't have anything special to hook us into playing. There isn't anything slightly new here that we want to hang our hat on or talk to our friends about. There are no game changing new missions, alternate paths, or special endings. There is just a linear game that you'll come to an end.

The one definable new addition to the game is 'Squads', but that isn't a good thing. Squads is a multiplayer game mode that had lofty goals but lagged behind in execution. In Squads you design ten different AI soldiers with their own loadouts before going into a match with them at your side. You'll have a team full of bots as you go against another team full of bots with a human player. On paper this sounds at the very least interesting, but in practice it doesn't do much for us. We found that we spent more time twiddling with our different custom bots than we did actually playing in the game mode.

At the end of the day what we wanted out of 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' was pretty simple. We wanted a game that continued to feed us adrenaline filled action. We wanted to be able to push through a mindless yet entertaining campaign where we only had to think when we were selecting between different weapons. We wanted to be able to go on the internet and kill friends and strangers alike. We can do all of those things because, at the end of the day, 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' for the Xbox One is a competent entry. It isn't revolutionary, though.

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Posted:
2015-04-15

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

PS4

6.7

'Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes' was developed by the guys at Kojima Productions for all of the major consoles out in the marketplace, including the PlayStation 4. The guys at Kojima have been on the cutting edge with Snake and everything his franchise has to offer for the better part of the last couple of decades. Moving the stealthy title into the current generation is a big step for the devs and one that makes many 'Metal Gear' fans notably nervous. We busted out a copy of the new game, 'Ground Zeroes', for our PlayStation 4 with the eager hope of finding a new classic game. While 'Ground Zeroes' was far from perfect, there were many redeeming moments. Let's take a look at the game.

The game opens up with a long shot of our primary bad guy inside of a prison camp. Inside of the camp we get to see some of the great new animating standards that Kojima Productions is setting in place. From the movement of hair to the wiggling of fingers, everything looks beautiful. The minor facial quirks and movements that create immersion are fully realized and real. The beginning is here and gone before we know it and once more we are out into the world of 'Metal Gear'.

Before we dig too much deeper into the game we should have you know that 'Ground Zeroes' serves as a prologue chapter to the upcoming 'Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain'. As such, the game is notably shorter than what many people are going to expect. Going into this experience with the right frame of mind will prevent you from feeling too upset about it, though, as the experience is still worth taking part in.

What 'Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes' does is it creates a bridge between 'Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker' and the upcoming 'Phantom Pain'. Using that bridge the guys at Kojima are able to create an entirely new system for stealth based combat as well as push the envelope on an open world style of play. No longer are you pushing ever onward toward a finite ending. With 'Ground Zeroes' there will always be a little something else for you to spend some time doing. Beating the game doesn't mean your experience is over. Nope. The credits roll and you get to continue playing, looking for new missions and activities to unlock. There are secrets aplenty for you to find, using your new skills.

Perhaps the strongest part of 'Ground Zeroes' is the fact that the cinematography of the game is so on point. The story sequences that we see in the title are beautiful and they showcase just how far the franchise has come in the years since its inception. We get to see the brutality of the Big Boss, a battlefield wunderkind who has long since vowed not to align himself with the crooked United States Government. We get to see his effort to establish himself as a merc for hire. We know that 'Metal Gear' has always gotten a little bit of flack for their ambitious cut scenes that unravel due to animation and graphical issues, but that fortunately is no longer the case. Harnessing the power of the PlayStation 4 as well as years of hard work and evolution, the game looks prettier than ever. Lighting effects and particle work makes this one of the prettiest games that we have ever seen.

Characters move in the game with a grace that transcends what we'd expect from video games. Their movements add to the immersion of the title and the sounds, and voice acting, bring us all the way there. Actor Kiefer Sutherland voices Big Boss, instead of the well beloved David Hayter. Sutherland has a natural grit that is both believable and menacing when the lines demand it.

You start the game with your first mission on a dark night at Camp Omega. This is a secret base out on the coast of Cuba. You have to break into the heavily guarded base in order to save some members of your entourage. In order to make it through this mission you will have to harness all of the tactical abilities that you learned through prior titles. You will need to observe, sneak around, and interrogate when necessary.

The narrow third person view, along with the almost non existent HUD, leaves much of your screen open for actual on screen action. This allows you to see as much detail as possible while fully immersing yourself into the experience. This means that you will likely feel a ton of anxiety as you try to work your way through heavily guarded operations where a single false move could result in your characters death.

So in order to succeed you will have to hug every shadow area that you come across while crouching, ducking, and diving behind the right objects. Stay out of opposing lines of sights by strafing and crawling through the grass at night. If you DO get caught, however, be prepared to make some quick decisions. Once you are spotted you have an instant to decide what to do. Time in the game will literally slow down in order to allow you to make a decision on what to do with the guy who found you. This slow down is both annoying and absolutely cherished. It gives us a chance to maintain our stealth but it also makes us feel a lot like we are cheating.

Eventually you will be spotted and when you are things go a little bit crazy. Similar to 'Shadow of Mordor', enemy bases will soon be overcome by motion and noise. After being spotted you will see alarms going off, enemies running around, vehicles assembling and more. Since this is an open world game you have a few options: do you face this army at your doorstep or do you run, in order to return at some later time.

For the PlayStation 4 we think that this is an ideal and beautiful way to get back into the world of 'Metal Gear Solid'. The game has issues and the short 10 hour run time can be a turn off, but the content inside of the game is better than ever.

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Posted:
2015-03-21

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

PS4

7.8

'Child of Light' on the PlayStation 4 is a side scrolling 2D role-playing video game created and developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft.

It is sort of incredible how far we have come in the video game industry. It seems just fifteen years ago that there were only so many video games being made and the industry was rather closed to newcomers. If your IP didn't fit in with what Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft was trying to do then, well, you were out of luck. Now we live in the age of independent video games, digital downloads, and crowd funded ideas. 'Child of Light' is at its core a solid representation of the new open world of video games. Created as a digital download, 'Child of Light' was made available to owners of the PS3, PS4, PC, PS Vita, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. We got our hands on the PS4 version of the game and we were absolutely enamored by what we saw when we finally got it all loaded up.

In the world of micro video games it becomes almost a mission to become unique and stand out in the crowd. That is precisely how Ubisoft must have tackled 'Child of Light'. This title is a side scrolling, 2D game that features hand painted artwork all over the screen. It is truly gorgeous and one of the most elegant video games that we have ever seen. The way that our hero breathes in the scenes, with her hair whipping behind her, is borderline magical. The music creates an aura that the painting finishes and the mythical feeling of it all pervades us so completely.

Though the game presents itself as relatively unique, at its core it is a direct homage to the early days of JRPG's. The action in the game, when in combat, is semi turn based and semi real time. We are reminded of titles like 'Final Fantasy' and old school 'Grandia'. But that doesn't mean that 'Child of Light' is a JRPG, because it really isn't. If we had to describe the game we would call it a fairy tale come to life in classic European style. The world building is borderline mythical but at the same time completely immersive.

The game opens up with you playing as a young princess named Aurora in 1895 Austria. Aurora is the daughter of a Duke that lost his mysterious wife while his daughter was still young. The Duke remarried and this may have inadvertently caused great harm to Aurora. For after the marriage, Aurora went to sleep--right before Easter in 1895. Only she never woke up. Her skin turned pale and cold as ice and she was presumed dead by everyone around her. When Aurora 'wakes up' she is in the gorgeous and mysterious realm of Lemuria. it is here that Aurora first comes across the Lady of the Forest, who she sets free. The Lady of the Forest gives the player an introduction to the land and this naturally segues into a set of missions for Aurora to complete. The Lady summons a firefly, named Igniculus, and she gives him to Aurora. The Lady tells Aurora that she must go forth and recover all of the stolen light in the world from the Queen of Darkness, Umbra. This is how our adventure begins and this is where magic truly floods the screen.

As the game is a platformer there is a heavy emphasis on environmental awareness and problem solving. As we mentioned above, Aurora isn't alone. With trusty sprite Igniculus at her side she can get pretty much anything done. If you are playing 'Child of Light' while alone you can control Igniculus and use him to help accomplish certain tasks. He can open chests, collect items, and more. If you want to play cooperatively you can have a second player locally take control of the firefly.

Though the platforming genre is crowded in the independent market you don't have to worry about 'Child of Light' becoming a tired caricature of the genre. Looking past the beautiful aesthetics, we get to see Aurora gifted with a special ability early on in the game: flight. With flight on her side Aurora can travel both vertically and horizontally. This changes the depth of the platforming segments and creates an experience that is more than a prettier version of 'Limbo'.

While Aurora's adventure is fundamentally one of strategy and technique, there is plenty to keep action fans interested. As we stated above there is semi real time combat interspersed throughout the various hand painted segments. Once Aurora runs into a dark beast the game seamlessly transitions into a turn based battle. Instead of trading menu attacks back and forth, players are instead given a timing based battle system. It's a little complicated to explain, but very intuitive when you get thrust into the battle zone. To put it simply: battles possess a track that shows your avatar and your opponent on it. Your stats decide how quickly you move upon the track and whenever you hit 'cast areas' you are able to pick a move to attack your opponent. Your attacks don't take up 'mana' or 'magic', they instead take up time. A quick attack is only considered a 'short' action, whereas your magic attacks are considered 'large'. This means that you get fewer swings in on your opponent. This brings an element of real time strategy to play, with a heavy emphasis being on the time.

While we are discussing the battle system it is worth noting that elements play a role in battle. certain elemental attacks are more effective against certain types of creatures. It doesn't get as crazy as 'Pokemon' does with the advantage system, but it is definitely something to pay attention to as you move forward in the game. As the monsters get stronger you will want to make sure to take advantage of anything you can.

'Child of Light' on the PlayStation 4 is a beautiful game that brims and boils over with character and love of the craft. Aurora is a deeply moving protagonist and the land of Lemuria is one that we found to be full of magic. 'Child of Light' is perfectly worth a spot on your hard drive.


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