Review: L.A. Noire (PS4)

L.A. Noire PS4Well, wow. Rockstar’s remastered crime noir drama/action game L.A. Noire comes to consoles in pretty fine form and yes, it’s worth a buy. Granted, if you’re a more jaded “gamer” who thinks even looking at an HD version of an older game will somehow make you lose your street cred (*snicker!*), you kind of need a new hobby and should skip the rest of this review. The game has not only gotten more polished looks, its gameplay has been tweaked to use the PS4’s touch pad as an option for object manipulation when poking around crime scenes. There are still a few pesky quirks left over from the PS3 version, but despite those, this is one of those games that’s great to have back and it’ll be a new experience for those who missed out on it the first time.

As Cole Phelps, you’ll rise through the ranks of the LAPD in the post-WWII era from beat cop to nattily-dressed detective using wits and fists with the occasional firearm in your case solving. For the Grand Theft Auto fans out there who are new to this one, although some gameplay elements are very similar, this isn’t a re-skin at all. You get real cars from the period, approximately 90% of the city’s streets mapped out from that era and plenty of references you may need to look up or hey, go ask an older person about. It’s certainly a great way to introduce a grandparent to gaming. And yes, you can indeed play the game in glorious black and white if you like.

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Kickstarters of Note: Some Wizards & Worriers Vying For Prime Pledges

Oh, the puns one thinks up for these sorts of pieces. Okay, it’s a pretty lousy one (yes, I know), but that’s not going to stop you from popping open your wallet and sliding a pledge to one or all of these interesting looking games, right?

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My Uncle Merlin: a Tale of Wizards in Space – Predrag Mladenovic’s and Pocket Mana’s upcoming adventure game with RPG elements has a nicely quirky art style and sense of humor to match the visual fun on display.  Oh, and there’s a flying tower with a dragon that needs to be fed its fuel (which may or may not be people you meet during your travels). There’s a free demo available for Windows that you should check out for yourself, as there’s a nifty Monkey Island meets Discworld vibe going on here that’s worth a look. There’s a solid sense of humor here and that Checky Pointy amulet is somewhat of a bacon saver, ladies and gents. Two weeks to go on this campaign means you’ll want to get in fast and tell a few friends, too.

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Review: Far From Noise (PS4)

far from noise posterShort yet very replayble and guaranteed to make you think a bit about life on a few levels, George Batchelor’s brilliant Far From Noise is a compact indie game well worth a buy. If you love your games way on the weird side, this meaningful meditation will capture your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. Given that in the game you’re trapped in a car perched precariously on the edge of a cliff and have nothing to do but wait as a bit of nature pops in for a visit, it’s one of those experiences where revealing too much spoils the fun.

Let’s just say this visually simple and mostly text-driven affair makes for a great bedtime tale where you encounter a talking deer that more or less helps you see things from a few perspectives. A bit of philosophy, some star gazing, a few guests and even the weather are your main companions as your character addresses his or her fears during a long night where it seems anything can happen. While seemingly simplistic, the visual style hides some nice effects and excellent use of controller vibration and the PS4’s color bar (which emulates the game’s day to night to day cycle as time passes).

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Review: 8-Bit Adventure Anthology – Volume 1 (PS4)

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Yep, this one’s a must-buy alright. I was actually a bit under the weather a few days back when code for this arrived and amusingly enough, a few hours spent dying and retrying in all three games in this set made me feel a whole lot better. That’s good old old school gaming for you, kids. Anyway, here’s the deal: three classic adventure games for a mere eight bucks is a no-brainer, especially if those three games happen to be Shadowgate, The Uninvited, and Deja Vu. Do yourselves a big, fat favor and stay away from walkthroughs, though. Trust me on this one – your brain probably needs the workout.

While fundamentally the same in terms of interface and straightforward pixel art visuals, each game has its certain charms and difficulty that make them quite enjoyable and yes, frustrating if you’re not into trial and error or frequent game saving. Shadowgate has elements of fantasy role-playing, The Uninvited is a straight-up horror/haunted house game, and Deja Vu is a thriller/crime drama. If you’re going in cold or haven’t played these since the Macintosh or NES days, expect your poor main character to die at the drop of a hat. A lot. Your characters in all three games are cursed with the weakest skulls, brittlest bones and other ailments that make them all too easy to fall victim to any hazard these games toss their way. Believe it or else, this is a good thing.

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L.A. Noire Switch Trailer: Portable Detective, About To Go On Patrol

 

With all the ruckus on some sites over Red Dead Redemption 2 being Rockstar’s next big thing, I’m truly hoping no one sleeps on the still (and now more so than ever) stunning crime saga that is L.A. Noire. The game is getting a full on remaster for PS4 and Xbox One that’s going to land in stores November 14th along with this newly created Switch version that has console-specific functionality and yes, some pretty stunning visuals. I don’t yet own a Switch, so I’ll be aiming to grab the PS4 version when it launches. That said, this one’s definitely going on the long want list of Switch titles thanks to developers continuing to do some truly amazing work with the hardware.

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This has definitely been a spectacular year for Nintendo’s new console and it’s clear that a lot of former naysayers are chomping on some fresh crow pie these days.

-GW

Review: Spintires: MudRunner

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Spintires_MudRunner_Pack2D_PS4Taking the wheel from original developer Oovee Game Studios, the talented team at Saber Interactive has brought an expanded and even better SPINTIRES experience to consoles and PC with an excellent, highly challenging, and quite rewarding driving game that’s going to baffle some gamers while it pleases a certain bunch of folks who love to play in the mud.

Interestingly enough, Spintires: MudRunner (or MudRunner: A Spintires Game) also works supremely well as a hybrid driving/puzzle game where the environment is your worst and sole enemy as you attempt to simply drive from Point A to Point B or just try to enjoy exploring the massive, gorgeously detailed maps. This isn’t a game about speed at all, folks. It’s more about control and the ensuing chaos when that control is lost.

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MudRunner adds a new (shorter) tutorial, a new sandbox map, a Challenge mode and ups the truck count from 6 to 19. While it has a “casual” mode, this clearly isn’t a game for those who want to hop in and get blazing down a dirt road taking corners with powerslides. Here, you’ll rarely get above 20mph, the paved roads aren’t the widest you’ll drive on, and that mud? It’s practically got a life of its own thanks to an amazing physics engine that’s been tweaked even more from the PC original.

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#TBT: Play A Little With The 8-Bit Adventure Anthology Website

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While you’re waiting for this game’s Halloween release date to roll around, why not spend a little time treating yourself to a few tricks here: http://www.8bitaa.com/ where you’ll find a few fun mini-games that unlock demo versions of all three games in this upcoming set of classic adventure games. Hey, you know you want to and yep, it’ll keep you indoors and out of trouble. Your neighbors do NOT need their house TP’d again, so put that ladder back, pal.

-GW

Review: ECHO (PS4)

ECHO_Keyart_Cube_LogoSneaking onto PC last month and out now on PS4, ECHO is one of the smartest games I’ve played this year. Developer Ultra Ultra has created an intentionally initially slow-burning hard sci-fi game that relies heavily on its innovative gameplay that’s bound to keep you on your toes. It’s also got spectacular visuals, brilliant sound design and a pair of excellent voice actors (Rose Leslie and Nick Boulton) bringing their characters to life in what’s basically one character talking to an AI interface as she tries to survive a gilded palace filled with replicas of herself trying to kill her. While it’s got its share of (primarily technical) flaws, it’s a worthy experience that shouldn’t be missed if you like your games to shake you up a bit early and often.

After a century in space asleep, a woman named En is awakened by her computer, London and informed that their ship has reached its destination. The pair has traveled all the way to a strange planet because En wants to bring back to life a friend whose remains are inside a cube-shaped device she wears on her back. The opening is a deliberately paced buildup as En lands on the planet and makes her way into The Palace, an endless ornately designed structure that’s the size of the entire planet. There’s a great deal of exposition during the game with much of of it establishing a backstory for En’s long journey as she explores her initially unlit surroundings. When she locates a spot to place that cube, The Palace reacts by coming to life and over time, producing many copies of En that eventually end up coming after her with murderous intent.

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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus: Less Is More Or Less Better For Overall Overkill

I’ve been pretty quiet on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus for a good reason. I’m ignoring the off-balance people with zero (or less) sense of actual history (not to mention actual videogame history) hating on Machine Games and publisher Bethesda Softworks (it’s all white noise to me, pun mostly intended) while also not poking around the internet for every bit of information because I like my games relatively unspoiled. One of the problems with modern game “journalism” is the need (that’s not needed) to ruin a game too early because some can’t not reveal spoilers or keep an embargo correctly.

Me, I want to go in ice cold with the windows open (brrrrr!) and be thrilled and surprised at what’s been cooked up. Nope, I’m not going to tell you that you should go out and grab yourself a copy of the game and a console or high-end PC to play this on (although you probably should if you have that disposable income and want to support the developer and publisher in this crazy year of too many solid games and not enough time to play them all). As always, it’s your move, folks.

-GW

Review: Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PS4)

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How great is UFO Interactive’s Raiden V: Director’s Cut? So great that I went and grabbed the previous installment on the PS3 (which just so happened to be part of this past weekend’s PSN Flash Sale and was $2.99 very well spent), slightly kicking myself (ow!) for missing it a few years back. I’d been cutting back on arcade shooters for a while, but something about this well-aged series has always drawn me to it. It’s probably because it brings back certain good memories, but it also helps that it’s been a consistently entertaining set of games despite some lesser console versions not being as fun.

This newest installment is more polished visually and aurally and thanks to its busy color palette and tons of explosions, it really looks and feels a hell of a lot busier to the eyes and reflexes. There’s so much going on that I found myself laughing out loud (to no one in particular, as usual). Skilled developer MOSS has reworked the traditional vertical arcade game screen so it’s packed with information to the point of distraction should your eyes float to the left or right of where the real action is. But you won’t let that happen, right?

Hey, the future of the planet is at stake, pal – eyes on the prize and all that.

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