Review: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse (Nintendo Switch)

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No it’s not Last Embrace: The Game, but a worthy adventure finally hitting the Switch.

Switch owning adventure game fans, take note: George Stobbard and Nico Collard are back in action for the first time on that console in Revolution’s excellent Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse. In terms of performance, the games looks and plays like the PC and other console versions and the added behind the scenes features split up into extra content are nice additions to an overall solid package that makes for a fine purchase. What starts as a murder in an art gallery switches into George and Nico getting involved in a bit of globe-hopping world-saving thanks to… oh, you’ll see. The game’s got a corker of a plot that takes time to kick in, but it’s got enough twists and turns to keep you playing until the wee hours.

Sticking to the familiar point and click style with inventory-based puzzles and snappy, often humorous dialog, this is a game to savor as it teases the brain with its ever expanding mysteries.Both leads are really great at figuring out (well, with assistance from you) how to cope with everything from trapping a cockroach in a matchbook to having to deal with a few near-death experiences where it seems almost unlikely they’d make it out alive. While somewhat lighthearted in tone throughout, things do get much serious as the threat evolves from what seems like a simple art theft gone wrong to all figurative (or is it literal?) hell breaking loose.

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Tales of Zestiria Launches: Your Royal Time-Killer Hath Arrived


 

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No, I haven’t even started Tales of Zestiria yet. But that’s only because my review copy hasn’t arrived. This is actually a good thing because once I start the game (yes, I’m going to be playing the PS3 version just to keep my ancient launch day console happy), I’m not coming up for air any time soon. I’m already buried under backlog stuff from all sides, but a Tales game demands to be played in huge chunks of time so that players become fully immersed in the story and world Tales Studio has so carefully crafted.

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That said, based on my hands-on time a little while ago, it’s safe to say that PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Steam/PC users are the very lucky recipients of one of the best games in the long-running franchise to date. I know that some Steam users are already reporting some mild performance issues (which is what happens when you port a game to be played on consoles to machines with millions of different user and factory configurations), but no one is screaming for their money back.

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If you’re thinking of grabbing the game for yourself or as a gift, listen up. Bandai Namco is giving away a free DLC pack for the first 30 days after the release of the game. Players will be able to download the epilogue chapter “Alisha’s Conviction” free of charge on the PlayStation Network store (for PS3 and PS4) or through Steam if they own the PC version. According to the press release:

the epilogue follows Alisha and Rose with hours of additional story elements and gameplay taking place after the events of Tales of Zestiria. The “Alisha’s Conviction” downloadable content will be priced at $9.99 after the 30 day promotion ends.

Tales of Zestiria is rated T for TEEN by the ESRB and is available for purchase at video game retailers today in North America and Latin America for the PlayStation 4 (MSRP $59.99) and PS3 system (MSRP $39.99). The PC version (available now on Steam) is $49.99.

Bard’s Gold Review: No School Like The Old School

bards-gold-logoPlatform: PC
Developer/Publisher: Pixel Lantern Games
MSRP: $7.99
# of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Site
Score: A- (95%)
 

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In this not so new age of retro-gaming you’ll find plenty of developers claiming to have made the “hardest game ever” or something else that gets the eyebrow raised among those who crave that sort of challenge. “Hard” is in fact a relative term. Gamers with skill and a lot more patience can easily detect hit boxes, decipher enemy patterns and more or less make speed run mincemeat of some of these games within the space of a few hours or days. Bard’s Gold, created in Gamemaker by Erdem and Jennifer Sem, doesn’t care if and when you figure that stuff out, though. The game is designed to bump off your little pixel adventurer as often as possible as it teaches you all of its old school tricks.


 

The game is indeed quite difficult, but not at all unbeatable once you’ve put some time into it. In fact, the game greatly rewards players for figuring out early how to make the best of whatever it throws their way. Death comes quickly and often at first. And second, third and fiftieth plus. But as you discover how things work and the game becomes less frustrating and more challenging, its true beauty shines forth as an exercise in solid game design.
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PAC-MAN Comes to Android Wear – Your Watch Now Has Retro Classiness!

Android Wear PAC-MAN Watch Face 

Got an Android Wear Watch? Good. Like Pac-Man? Even better! Bandai Namco Games has just released a cool PAC-MAN Watch Face now available to download to Android Wear smartwatches for $0.99 via the Google Play store. Yes, you should buy it, as it’s an instant attention getter and even better, the safest way to enjoy the classic character on a device while walking down the street.

As it’s not a game, but a fun watch face that has Pac munching away the minutes as he makes his way ’round the dial, you don’t need to worry about anything but looking stylish as you strut your stuff. Of course, if you get stopped by someone wanting to check out that buck you’ve spent, just let them know that it’s not an interactive addition to your wrist. That and poor Pac would probably go kooky if he was doing nothing but looping in a tiny circle or rectangle all day eating dots without a single ghost to munch. Hey, everyone needs a hobby, right?

Throwback Thursdays: I’ll Trade Almost Any Other Thursday For This One…

kitchen nightmare 

Hee-ho! So, I find out that the now asbestos-free kitchen here won’t get that new wall and ceiling until DECEMBER. Over the course of four or five non-consecutive days, at that. Yaaaah. So much for the idea of even thinking of having anyone over for Thanksgiving. Who do I need to send a herd of elephants to run over to get a break here? Anyway, some good news comes in the form a a diversion this evening downtown thanks to La Maison du Chocolat inviting me to sample some of their Holiday Collection. hey, chocolate is good for you when you’re stressed! Okay, I’ll make sure to think of all of you while I’m at the event. I may end up oversampling because I’m thinking of all of you out there, so it’s your fault if I end up in a chocolate haze in some alley near La Maison’s NYC shops selling my coat and shoes for a fix.

Hmmm. I feel a song coming on… fortunately I’m NOT doing the singing:


(Thanks, DetroitLives313!) 

Back tomorrow or perhaps later tonight if I’m not in a cocoa coma. I’m sitting on a ton of drafts and almost done stuff. I just need to get enough time to get away from the madness here to finish stuff up.

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes: “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”, Indeed…

 
Well, it HAD to happen, but I’m not exactly happy it has. Anyway, I bet Activision is royally ticked off because this would have been excellent as a T-rated Marvel Ultimate Alliance sequel or reboot with a more serious story and more “realistic” action figures that they could have also done as a more family-friendly jaunt in the Skylanders vein. Granted, dividing the universe up like that may have been a bad idea because one BIG game that will sell well is better at the end of the day that two that use wallet-draining collectibles as a core element, but who knows? I could see the older collectors sticking to the heroes they like and spending money and those with kids (and more money) springing for both sets, but that’s my brain over-thinking things (again).

Anyway, the license is now Disney’s to play with for ages (forever, it seems), so this is what’s coming, and soon, at that. Hmmm… Iron Man, Thor and The Black Widow in that starter pack? Okay, but I bet Cap will sell out in America and yes, like you, I thought Spider-Man (who’ll fly off store shelves as well) wasn’t going to be here thanks to Sony Pictures currently owning the rights to the character. Yes, Disney Infinity 2.0 and these figures will indeed sell out everywhere this holiday season, but I’d love to see something mature pop up out of the Marvel Universe again before it goes all cookies and milk and yearly “spend your holiday money on THIS!” on us grumpy old timers. That, and how do you make Deadpool cute? Or the Man-Thing? Or some of the other oddball characters you probably won’t see here thanks to some hefty editing out of anything deemed too much by Disney? Eh, we’ll see… I’ve been proven wrong many times in the past.

Review: The Wolf Among Us (Episode One – Faith)

A Wolf Among UsPlatform: PC/Mac

Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

# of Players: 1

ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

Official Site

Score: A

Since my comics reading has dropped of considerably over the past decade plus, I’d not even heard of Vertigo’s Fables series (so shoot me, but not until I finish this review) until a few people in my circles started buzzing about this game and now that I’ve finally reached and competed the first chapter in my stupidly long backlog (it’s stretching into 2015 at this point, no thanks to irresistable Steam, Desura, gog.com and assorted cheap indie bundle sales), I want to go read everything I’ve missed out on. Well, that or get this time travel stuff sorted out so I can play at my leisure and post reviews before games even come out.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah . Once again, Telltale Games swings for the fences and knocks it out of the park with an adventure game fans will be more than pleased with and those new to the experience will groove on for its great, funny and mature plot, excellent visuals and gameplay that combines text-based and quick time sequences almost seamlessly. Even if you don’t like comics for any reason, The Wolf Among Us and its blend of film noir styling in a fantasy New York City populated by humans and fairytale characters is a hard pull to ignore…
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Review: BandFuse: Rock Legends

Bandfuse_360_PackPlatform: Xbox 360 (also on PlayStation 3)

Developer: Realta Entertainment

Publisher: Mastiff Games

# of Players: 1-4

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: A- (90%)

So, this took a while to get done, but that’s because BandFuse: Rock Legends isn’t a “game” in that traditional yearly franchise some of you were probably expecting. While there are indeed game-like elements to both this and Ubisoft’s solid Rocksmith (which has more game-y bits and pieces to it), I have to tip my cap to Realta Entertainment for coming out of the gate strong with a product that excels so well at delivering exactly what it promises in its first iteration that any future versions will most likely be in the form of add on DLC or disc updates as opposed to an entirely new product. Featuring what’s basically an entire guitar school in a box and thanks to some great yet simple tech, amazing lag free play, BandFuse is a must-buy for anyone looking to learn to rock out with the best of them.

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Unconventional Games of the Year Choice #3 – 6: The Vita Is Full of Life After All.

Some people think the PlayStation Vita is dead in the water. I’m not one of those people for a few darn good reasons, number one being I actually OWN one and aren’t some overpaid analyst or internet troll with a grudge. Although the few titles listed below are only a tiny slice of what I played during this year, they’re all highly recommended because they managed to pack a load of fun into that system while being completely different game experiences.

 
Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable was the first “big” game of 2013 for me and Japanese developer Sandlot didn’t disappoint in bringing an enhanced “port” of their former Xbox 360 exclusive to Sony’s handheld in fine form indeed. You’re not buying an EDF game for the best visuals nor a deep and engaging story at all, folks. But if you’re a fan of 1950’s giant insect and Japanese sci-fi flicks, the mash-up here is relentless and supremely entertaining. That and the game can take weeks or months to complete if you decide to go it solo like a true EDF maniac and play through all the different difficulty levels while trying to get every single weapon and trophy you can. Toss in Pale Wing from EDF2 (she changes the gameplay up drastically and is a blast to play around with) and the ability to play with like-minded EDF mates in co-op (which makes the tougher difficulty levels much more bearable if you’re fighting for all the Trophies) and you get a fun little evergreen that’s addictive and makes you want more. Thankfully, Sandlot’s newest EDF game is headed to the PS3 and Xbox 360 in February here in North America and it’s packed full of all-new content and even tougher enemies to defeat.

 
If you like things grimmer yet still action-heavy, Soul Sacrifice is not only right up your alley, it’s calling out to you and drifting onto your Vita before you even realize it. Given that Sony very wisely released a lengthy demo that allows your save file to be transferred into the full version, this ends up as one of those games where you’ll try before buying and end up happier because of it. Between the dark, disturbing storyline and the combat-packed gameplay where dispatching or saving enemy souls changes up the game considerably, there’s a solid sense of progress felt as you clear each chapter and gain some formidable powers. While you can (and should) clear the game solo, a solid co-op mode insures this one will be played about as much or more with a few friends. There’s already a sequel coming to Japan and it’s bound to land here as well (most likely sometime in 2014), but it would be even better to have this as a PS4 (and PS3) game for those of us who like our games on larger screens…

 
Tearaway caught me way off guard because I hadn’t been following it at all until I saw screens and a fantastic gamplay movie sometime after E3. Media Molecule’s quirky art style gets a flat paper makeover and as a Vita exclusive, the use of both touch screens is superb and yes, better implemented than anything on the 3DS as far as input goes (Although you DO need to watch your fingers when that bottom screen poking action is in play). The game is part adventure, part platformer, and all extremely wonderful to sit down with for a spell. Watching someone watch someone play this game is also great, as non-gamers tend to be more amazed at what we take for granted and yep, they’ll want to try this one out after about a minute or two of watching you getting tap-happy. Between the main game and the incredible chunk of freedom you have in customization, this in one of those titles you’ll probably go back to many times after you’ve completed it…

 
I really wanted to play Ruin ever since I saw the demo at a Sony press event waaaaay back before the Vita launched, but it seems that the cross-platform PS3/Vita action RPG is either dead in the water or still in development hell. It’s too bad about that game, but Doki Doki Universe, while not a substitute at all, manages to be the first Vita/PS3/PS4 cross platform experience available and it’s a non-stop charmingly goofy one at that. You’re a robot that was abandoned on a tiny asteroid with a red balloon and after being picked up by a UFO, it’s up to you to explore a bunch of different worlds in order to discover what humanity means as you help a bunch of folks with assorted problems. It’s basically Toe Jam & Earl as a side-scroller (one of the guys who created that Sega Genesis classic worked on this new one), a ton of stuff to collect and optional facebook mail integration that’s great for those of you social butterflies that LOVE to share all sorts of stuff. The whimsical art style recalls a child’s drawings come to life and won’t make you think of the power of any system running it at all. Nevertheless, the game hooks you in from the beginning and keeps you playing perhaps a bit longer than you thought you would (which is always a good thing)…

Honorable Mentions (and then some!): Killzone: Mercenary, Ys: Memories of Celceta, Valhalla Knights 3, Terraria, The Pinball Arcade.

PlayStation Plus Actually Pays For Itself In January Alone. Wow. (But…)

That said, I think even Sony realizes the insanity of forcing PS4 owners to pay for the “privilege” of multiplayer gaming on their new console. Stick around until the end of this trailer and note how that stupid little thing about paying to play online is shoved in quickly at the end. Granted, they just hit you on the head HARD with the free games mallet and you’re already so dizzy you didn’t even realize you’d whipped out that credit card and signed up. The free games are MORE than worth that $50 and yes, Sony’s not kidding about that “instant game library” thing. The drawback to this is STORAGE space, as even though you get free cloud saves and a nicely sized HDD this time out (which is still small when you consider the size of some new games), you can’t access them should PSN go down for the count for a few days or even a few hours for simple maintenance.

Thankfully, the PS4 will play disc games and anything you have stored locally offline if the game has offline play. Anyway, I think they need to DUMP the requirement to pay to play MP games, as it’s NOT a privilege at all. If a game is made to be played online, any fee should be part of the price of the game, period. Asking people to pony up as part of a package is lame, even if they do get what amounts to a few thousand bucks a year in free content. Granted, having thee time to PLAY all those freebies AND buy and play NEW games requires either quitting one’s day job, renting out a TARDIS so you can go back in time to fire up a game, complete it and go back to start a new one and some other time magic. But hey, who can pass up FREE when the buffet is so tantalizing?