Don’t Starve, But Feel Free to Go Mad

Lovecraftian survival horror? Sign me right up, please. I had been debating purchasing Don’t Starve in the Steam store for a while now, and I finally broke down and bought it. This crafting-based hardcore survival beast will not be slain very easily. As it says on the tin, there are no instructions, save for the name of the game and the little quip the fine-dressed man offers you when you start the game. Fear the darkness, and Don’t Starve.

The first thing to know is that the world wants to kill you. It’s gloomy, depressing, cruel, and if you don’t starve or get eaten by hounds, you’ll go insane and be mercilessly slaughtered by your own twisted imagination. Yes indeed, you not only have to worry about starving, you have to worry about your brain box cracking open and a horde of twisted demons spewing out. Challenge your awareness!

There are two modes to play in, Sandbox and Adventure. Adventure Mode isn’t recommended for novice players, as it tends to murder you before you can tell which way is up, by trap or snow or hungry spiders. Best to start off with a brief guide for Sandbox Mode. Nothing too detailed, because I wouldn’t want to ruin your experience, eh?

Don't Starve

Right when you’re dumped off into the world, you’re going to want to gather everything you can. Ignore the bunnies and birds, as they’re far too fast to catch with your bare hands. Berry bushes and carrots will be your initial food source. Large trees are your best option for campfire fuel, and boulders will give you the rocks, flint, and gold nuggets needed to advance your crafting pool. You may not want to set up a permanent camp until you discover a Pig village or a Beefalo herd, however. The poop they give you is invaluable for setting up your own food sources. Also, don’t pick fights until you have log armor and a spear. Just because you’re not allowed to starve doesn’t mean you’re allowed to die by other means.

Right, so that’s all the walkthrough you’ll get from me. Now, the characters. Surviving a single day means 20 experience, which accumulates as you prolong your pitiful life and put off your inevitable death. When you die, however, you receive your collected experience, which may unlock new characters! Yay! Each character has a different perk that makes them unique. Wilson grows a beard, Willow lights fires when it’s pitch black and is immune to all fire damage, Wendy has a chance of being visited by her dead twin Abigail, etc. You’ll find your favorite eventually. Just remember that not having a W at the start of your name means you’re probably going to die. Faster than usual, anyway.

Don't Starve

Oh dear, almost forgot to explain why you should fear the darkness. The Grue is waiting for your light to fade. 100 damage and 20 sanity points tanked per swipe from the foul beastie. Yikes.

Adventure Mode is accessed by locating Maxwell’s Door in Sandbox Mode. Passing through freezes your Sandbox progress and restores that exact point if/when you fail. Adventure Mode itself is basically an increasingly difficult survival gauntlet. You’ll face things like eternal freezing Winter, permanent darkness, and many, MANY angry creatures that would like very much to eat you please. If you win, you can play as Maxwell. He’s actually really quite good, which is all the incentive you’ll need to unlock him. He doesn’t have a W at the start of his name, though, so he may suffer from several bouts of particularly foul fortune.

Don’t Starve can be quite discouraging if you’re looking for a surplus of resources or a means to generate infinite, readily accessible food. Food rots, too, so no hoarding for you. You’ll face madness, famine, slaughter; the anxiety of lingering on the border of insanity and death before coming upon a single carrot or berry bush that just delays your ever-encroaching demise. Layman’s terms, it’s tough as nails. Don’t lose hope, though. Practice makes perfect.

Don't Starve

Alec Meer of RockPaperShotgun has done a smashing and vivid review of this little number. He touches on the scratchy-inky art style, the overall sense of hopelessness, and touches heavily on the inapplicability of gamer instinct. I myself didn’t notice this, but you may very well have a tough time balancing survival and the need to advance. How will you use your resources? Will you build better weapons to battle the increasing threat of later days, or will you build farms, traps, and gather as much as you can? Balance the aspects of your mortality and you may not have to face it. Too soon. You should read this: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/26/dont-starve-review/#more-151017

BioShock Infinite Take Two, Complaints and Combat

Forewarning: This isn’t so much a review as it is a mish-mash of thoughts, combat overview doodads, and partially relevant hints. Hopefully you’ll learn something useful.

I’ve read a lot of heavy criticism regarding the high level of violence in BioShock Infinite. Some believe that it distracts from the game’s complex and meaningful story. The quickest debunk I can offer is that BioShock is a shooter. It’s been violent, it is violent, and it’s up to the player to keep from being distracted by violence. So that was pretty easy.

I’ve also read that some people are dissatisfied by the linearity of the plot. This complaint is actually valid. It would have been nice to have multiple endings like in the previous installments, but BioShock Infinite is a parallel universe game set in a parallel universe. Some things are different. If you want to enjoy the game, look for things you like, not for things to nit-pick. I’m not saying you have no reason to be unhappy with the plot, I’m just saying there are worse things that could’ve happened to the series. Like EA.

Finally, the baptism issue. People have actually been getting riled up about the baptism scene, so much so that they’ve demanded and actually received refunds from Steam. Excuse this next expletive, but what in the ever-loving fuck? The religion and racism in BioShock Infinite are satirical, meant to be taken with a grain of salt. When the preacher nearly drowns you, it isn’t because the dev team wants to publicly denounce any faith, it’s to tell a story. Let me repeat that just so you know how offended I am by this asshattery. To tell a story.

Bioshock Infinite

Anyway, this second review was actually meant to overview the combat and Vigors aspect of BioShock Infinite, so let’s go ahead and get to that. To start off, a list of Vigors and related protips:

  • Possession: Fun but impractical. Usefulness trails off quickly.
  • Devil’s Kiss: Very good for mob combat with Overkill or Storm.
  • Murder of Crows: Fan favorite. Best used against Handymen.
  • Bucking Bronco: Good for small groups. Use with Tunnel Vision.
  • Shock Jockey: Best with Vigor combos; Undertow, Possession.
  • Undertow: Air combat is all the fun. Save ammo, toss ‘em off!
  • Return to Sender: Always a good choice, particularly the traps.
  • Charge: Super fun. Mixes well with most equipment.

It’s always a good idea to explore an area as much as possible, because Elizabeth will undoubtedly find you some sexy new articles to wear. The more gear you collect, the more versatile you are when fighting, after all, and some Vigors become absolutely overpowered with one hat or another.

Bioshock Infinite

Guns are, obviously, a major factor in this game’s combat system. You can only carry two on your person at a time, but that’s more than enough. With your dakka in one hand and your zip-zap magic in the other, you’re going to want to find a nice mix of range and damage. Shotguns are a must, in my honest opinion, as they get whatever job that needs doing done with speed and efficiency. Burstguns, carbines, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, hand cannons, or even a simple pistol; these are all awaiting your itchy trigger finger. How you play is how you pew. Ammo is unique per weapon, so if you run dry whilst fighting, you’ll have to rely on Elizabeth to rearm you, or you’ll have to drop your lovely upgraded weapon in exchange for something else.

Enemies are many but their varieties are few. Standard footsoldiers and armored rocket jockeys appear in large numbers, and Vigor-specialized foes (Murder of Crows, Devil’s Kiss) will occasionally make appearances, harboring a fair chunk of health and a mean chunk of damage. Motorized Patriots and Handymen, both big, mechanical, and thus immune to a select few vigors, show up every once in a while early on. I wouldn’t describe their late game numbers as teeming, but they are… many. You’re going to want to upgrade your shield a lot.

Bioshock Infinite

On a closing note, the airship core defense is probably the most frustrating firefight you’ll face in BioShock Infinite. Whether you’ve not played the game, not reached that point while playing the game, or beaten it the hard way, this next tip is for you. Use Return to Sender to lay down three anti-bullet traps in front of the glowy blue core, and try to focus on using your “recent acquisition” to remove artillery ships from the premises.

And yes, we all wish Elizabeth could fight.

Orcs Must Die! 2, the Self-Explanatory Title

Orcs Must Die! 2 is an impure tower defense, meaning in this context that player characters can actively take part in the slaying of orcs alongside their defenses. Third person murder! It doesn’t deviate terribly from the TD forumula; spawn points lead to end points, orcs getting to end points cost Rift Points, zero Rift Points means dead. The true quality of Orcs Must Die! 2 comes from its customization and protagonists.

The customization goes a long way. Using skulls earned from beating levels and reaching various milestones, players can purchase new weapons, towers, and upgrades from their spellbook. There are a whole crap-ton of murderous goodies you can acquire, ranging from grinder walls to spike traps to acid sprayers. Weapons? Can do. Dwarven missile launchers, rings of thunder, staves of domination, and other things that slash and explode and go pew pew pew!

There are several modes to choose from. War Mage mode is standard play, meaning limited waves with several occasional breaks, and a fair amount of time to set up your traps and steel yourself. Endless is obvious, but has less breaks and insane difficulty scaling. You only get the max five skull rating if you survive 40 waves, and by then you’ll be facing nothing but elite enemies. Nightmare mode is for truly hardcore (or masochistic) players. There are no breaks, and you can only sell traps when on breaks. Get it? If there are more game modes than that, I haven’t touched them.

Orcs Must Die! 2

The characters add much appreciated spunk into the game. The War Mage is a violent and enthusiastic retard while the Sorceress is literally Hitler. You get to know them when they intro each level and make quips about the traps they’re putting down. A few of my favorite Sorceress quotes, both when placing Acid Spray walls:

  • “Step into my sprinkler, little orcs.”
  • “Bath time, children.”

Bah, I forget the rest, but you get the point. She’s supposed to play the sexy sadist, but let’s be honest; both of their characters are far from original. Entertaining, but unoriginal.

Orcs Must Die! 2

I suppose that extends to the game itself. It has a few saving graces, but it isn’t anything truly new to the gaming world. It’s pretty damned amazing if you have a gaming buddy with which to engage in two-player jolly cooperation. Multiplayer is preferable to solo play, because it cuts the need to farm skulls in half. You really need a lot of different traps to protect your Rift in higher levels, and if you don’t want to grind for skulls, it’s best to partner up. Sorry solo players. The trend continues.

Luke Plunkett of Kotaku would like to inform players that Orcs Must Die! 2 came out nine months after the first, and is actually more of an expansion than a brand new game. Despite this, I’d still consider it pretty damned good, considering it’s cheap. $15 isn’t that bad considering the content. DLC’ll take it over 25, but that’s up to you. Check out this review to gauge its worth for yourself: http://kotaku.com/5929990/orcs-must-die-2-the-kotaku-review

Bioshock Infinite Redefines Reality

Yes. This game redefines reality. After you play it, everything in the universe changes and yet you aren’t aware of it because you too are altered. Deep, huh?

There’s a certain ironic nuance between Bioshock Infinite and its two precursors. Where the first two are linked directly and bound to the same in-game universe, Bioshock Infinite expands its borders and steps into a different perspective. You can tell it’s the same type of game, even if most everything is completely different. That raises the single most profound point that can be made about any sequel: Is it good? A simple “yes” would barely suffice, so I’ll prove it to you, point by point, zero spoilers.

Booker DeWitt is a gruff private investigator type looking to do a single deed to clear his gambling debt. Initial backstory is stark in the DeWitt department, so players make due with his stoic characterization. All you know is, you’ve got to find a girl in order to put your life back in order. You reluctantly travel to the flying city of Columbia to begin your search, where you are first immersed in the world of Bioshock Infinite.

Bioshock Infinite

Imagine a steampunk magic hybrid era in which Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington are revered as Gods, and racism makes up the predominant tone. The racism is satirical from the player’s perspective, thus worth a good laugh. Of course, if you’re actually racist and wind up throwing the baseball at the interracial couple, you should probably either say sorry or go die somewhere. Anyway, the Columbian society deems the man with AD branded on the back of his right hand as the False Shepard, which just so happens to be Booker DeWitt.

You’re already implicated in the grand web of plot. You run, slash, and gun your way to an enormous tower where your target is located, and discover an odd but alluring woman named Elizabeth who can open portals in reality itself, called Tears. Once you “abduct” her, the plot truly begins.

As I mentioned previously, there are no spoilers here. I will say, however, that you should pay very close attention to recurring characters and various interactions between Booker and Elizabeth. This game is not built on a fundamental “good guy bad guy” plot. Comstock is not an absolute antagonist. DeWitt is not an absolute protagonist. Keep an open mind when playing, that way the ending won’t completely liquefy your brain and heart.

Bioshock Infinite

The Elizabeth A.I. deserves special mention, because she is the standing testament to why not all escort missions are terrible. I’ll provide you with a list of reasons why she’s the best video game buddy ever. The last two are more personal taste:

  • Randomly gives you ammo, magic recharges, heals, and money.
  • Points out items, locks, and points of interest for you.
  • Interacts with her environment without falling behind.
  • Warns you of elite enemies and pinpoints them on your HUD.
  • Is cute as ever-loving hell.
  • Will blow your mind out of your ears and make you play again.

Bioshock Infinite

Overselling it? Psh. Anything less than 10/10 would be an understatement of BioShock Infinite’s delivery. Existentialism in gaming? Gaming that makes you recall the events of the game after you’ve emerged victorious in order to understand it, perhaps even spur you to play it again to fully grasp the nature of the plot? Yes. Very yes. All you people on the fence, shell out yaz money. It may not have Big Daddies (heh) or Little Sisters (heh heh), but it brings in an extremely thought out web of plot to the table that will, as I previously stated, melt your brain.

Ah hell. I completely forgot to mention combat. Tell you what, take this article by Erik Kain of Forbes and give it a good read. It better describes the combat and even talks about Vigors and the Skyhook and the guns. I’ll probably do a second review covering the combat and enemies, but for now, make due with this: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2013/04/05/bioshock-infinite-and-the-problem-with-video-game-violence/

Evochron Mercenary, Fun in the Great Outdoors

By outdoors I mean IN SPACE. Less trees and wildlife, more gravity hazards.

For the longest time, I’ve been looking for a free-roam spaceship-type game. The second I finished Evochron Mercenary’s thorough, well-done (slightly wordy) tutorial, I promptly activated my fulcrum jump drives and rammed myself right into an asteroid. I was quite dead. That’s not a ploy to turn you against the game, oh no. The point to be made from that little incident is that the learning curve is rather high due to the multitude of game mechanics and plentiful controls. I’ll do my best to give you the short version, but…

First order of business, I might as well tell you what activities are up and available to you from the get-go. Evochron Mercenary is a game with no end; plot is defined by player-set goals, most of which will be some means of making money. You can take up contracts with trading station, trade goods to anyone with credits on them, mine asteroids or planets, explore nebulae, engage pirates or enemies in space dogfights, or die terribly. I absolutely recommend avoiding the last one.

Contracts consist of gathering goods, finding items, delivering goods to warships, cleaning solar arrays, taking part in space races, and destroying asteroids. As far as I know, these are all civilian contracts. I’m not very far into the game, so the military contracts have yet to appear. I assume those are all about protecting convoys and blowing up enemy ships, and that they all pay much more.

Evochron Mercenary

Equipment comes next. Your initial Talon frame ship begins with three equipment slots and three cargo slots. Most ships have room for a beam weapon and a particle cannon, and loads of room for secondary weapons. I’ve only seen missiles for secondary weapons thus far, but there may be more.

Standard equipment slots begin with a slow shield generator, a short-range warp drive, and a tractor/mining beam. They can be replaced with hull auto-repair mechanisms, cargo scanners, weapon charge boosters, and other assorted goodies, so be thorough when checking the shops. You’d never want to miss a discounted upgrade.

Since that’s all I’ve really been up to, as this game is a long-term commitment, I’ll give you some tips on stuff I’ve come across.

Tip one: Don’t be afraid of bumping into solar panels or asteroids if you’re already close to them. Your shields will prevent you hull from taking damage. Even so, I wouldn’t approach an asteroid with set velocity anywhere over 200.

Tip two: When flying planetary, go as fast as you want until your ship notifies you of the gravity field. At that point, drop your set velocity to 1100 or under, and then 800 or under if you want to fly around inside the atmosphere.

Evochron Mercenary

Tip three: Buy upgraded cargo bays as quickly as possible. Do this by entering a trading station, selecting the option to leave your ship, selecting the option to modify your ship, then hit the cargo button and upgrade it from there. Should be relatively cheap, but bring at least 50,000 credits with you in case you want to upgrade something else.

Tip four: Travel extensively. You’ll run into lots of fun stuff.

Nathaniel Velliquette of TruePCGaming slaps a big old “mediocre but fun” on Evochron Mercenary, and lack the free-roam space game expertise to recant or concur that label. I can agree that it’s rather slow paced and mellow, thus not a perfect choice for absolutely everyone. Personally, I adore it because of how relaxing and aesthetic its environments are. Don’t tell anyone, but I love hiding out in nebulae and watching the ion storms. Here’s the review link: http://truepcgaming.com/2012/06/01/evochron-mercenary-review/

Lollipop Chainsaw, Sparkle Hunting Fabulous

Lollipop Chainsaw is the first Suda51 game I’ve played, and it’s probably not going to be the last. It invokes a series of adjectives that I would typically not use when describing a video game: Spunky, satirical, immature yet hilarious, and absolutely fun. It’s got a great soundtrack, a grody-sparkly-faaabulous visual theme, and lovely gameplay. It’s got tolerable completionist elements too, so I’m on board. The only issue I have with this piece is that it’s rather short. Kinda makes me wish there were more zombies to kill. Ah well, on with the review.

Juliet Starling is a cheerleader who attends San Romero High School. As in George A. Romero, the godfather of zombies (10 points). It is the day of her 18th birthday, and her boyfriend Nick is waiting for her at school with a present. Only, OH NOOO, zombies are attacking the school and crashing cars everywhere and eating Juilet’s classmates. She has to save Nick before he gets bitten and infected!

Enter the tutorial level. Square to attack with pom-poms, which are good for quick attacks and setups. Triangle to use her bright pink decked out chainsaw that leaves rainbow trails behind (5 points), and X button to swing it low. O to jump/evade. The camera’s a little tough to control, but if you’re not a total stickler, it won’t ruin your experience. You unlock more abilities and combos as you progress through the levels and collect gold and platinum zombie medals, so it’s typical to feel rather bland early on.

Lollipop Chainsaw

After that, it’s all plot, and I’m not spoiling this one. Juliet’s zombie-hunting master reveals a sinister plot to unleash the corruption of the Rotten World onto Earth and spread the zombie plague everywhere. It’s up to Juliet and the recently transformed Nick to destroy the summoner Swan and the five rock and roll zombie guardians, the Dark Purveyors.

That’s the gist of it, anyway. You’ll encounter memorable quotes such as “I’ll rip out your taint!” and “Ten hut ten butt fuck!” You’ll face off against charming enemies that breathe fire on your face, tackle you into a wall, or even shoot you in the face. A loose sense of humor is recommended, along with a high tolerance for being knocked on your ass.

Speaking of ass, I’ll give you a free achievement right now. You know how the game constantly orders you not to look up Juliet’s skirt? I’m glad we understand each other.

Lollipop Chainsaw

There are a lot of collectibles. Cosplay outfits for Juliet to wear, lollipop wrappers, zombie bios, phone calls, combos, Nick Roulette upgrades, health-damage-recovery upgrades, and other goodies that you’ll run into inevitably. The good news is, it’s a short game, so you won’t need to dedicate your life to the 100% to achieve it. Probably just a few extra hours, which isn’t so bad.

Jim Sterling of Destructoid fell in love with Lollipop Chainsaw, which is just what I needed in order to admit that I have as well. Suda51 is said to make “different” games, and I’m inclined to agree. With arcade score attack roots and contemporary charm, Lollipop Chainsaw is one for the history books. Yes, there should be a history book with a Japanese zombie video games in it. Read the alternate review, damnit: http://www.destructoid.com/review-lollipop-chainsaw-229321.phtml

Dead or Alive 5 Not Quite T&A

This isn’t going to be a very big review. It’d be more accurate to think of it as a “first impression” sort of thing. Of the series in entirety, Dead or Alive 5 is the only game I’ve played, thus I’m not going to unleash any in-depth criticism until I’ve played it a lot more. That isn’t looking very likely, though. From what I’ve seen, Dead or Alive 5, like the previous installments, is trying to sell you a rock-paper-scissors fighter with foxy chicks thrown in for extra “oomph.”

The very first thing I found myself disliking was the combat system. With only kick, punch, throw, and manual block buttons, I couldn’t help but feel deprived of intriguing complexity. Then I looked at the move lists. Ugh. Since there aren’t many attack buttons to use for combos, the diversity of the move list is defined primarily by direction button input. For example, Punch Up Punch Left Punch Punch Right Punch. Not quite tip top.

I come from a long line of fighters like Soul Calibur, Tekken (sorta), BlazBlue, and Guilty Gear, where mixing things up means hitting a bunch of different attack buttons in myriad sequences. As a fan of said fighters, I can say with relative certainty that there is nothing more annoying than throw-spamming. They’re cinematic, they deal good damage, and they can floor you to allow the “bonk bonk you’re not allowed to stand up” game. The wakeup game, for fighter fans. Dead or Alive 5 embraces throws as a primary form of attack, which may very well be a core part of their fighter, but it just seems to demolish the flow of action. You’re beating the hell out of someone, they’re beating the hell out of you, you’re both low on HP, then they throw you three times and you die. Yuck.

Dead or Alive 5

The visual gimmick aspect of the Dead or Alive 5 isn’t that bad, but I’m not one to be sold by flash and… er, flashing. The more you get knocked down and beaten up, the more dirt your character is going to accrue. If the battle takes a while, your character might start to sweat and get a nice reflective sheen to them. It’s all very realistic.

Additionally, most if not all of the stages are interactive. Electrified boxing rings, oil factories that go up in flame, stage hazards here and there, that sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong, it can be pretty fun to throw Ryu Hayabusa into an exploding tankard, but I need a variety of fun crap to happen for me to enjoy myself. By variety I mean combat that isn’t rock-paper-scissors. Nothing personal.

Dead or Alive 5

The last thing I have to say about Dead or Alive 5 is basically the game-breaker. In order to unlock the “secret outfits” which in this context means a bunch of strings that could very possibly be a bikini, you need to beat the game on the absolute hardest difficulty in every way possible. The bots predict you while playing the rock-paper-scissors game, so don’t actually expect to get these skimpy suits without bleeding from the gums in frustration. So think of it as a bad porno game. You work real hard for a naked lady, and you get NOTHING. YOU LOSE. Even if you win. GOOD DAY SIR.

Nachiket Mhatre knows a lot more about Dead or Alive than I do, so let this expansive and detailed review fill your mind with sweet, sweet, breast physics skimpy outfits fanservice otaku clarity. Full review versus first impression; read it: http://tech2.in.com/reviews/playstation-3/dead-or-alive-5-review/610182

Dead Space 3, Deader is Better

After having played Dead Space 3 all the way through, tested all the gun parts, died on nearly all the action input sequences, and grappled with every necromorph with the gall to hump me with bladed arms. Final take? Yes and yes please. The gradual shift to action horror was flawless, the end result was glorious. I do have some nitpicking to do, however, but that’ll come somewhere within the general praise.

To avoid spoilers, I’ll give you a vague shorty about the final boss. It’s an epic fight, on the easy side, with a sequel-hinting post-credits conclusion. You can’t skip the long as hell credits sequence, so don’t hurt yourself searching for the “thanks but no thanks button.” First and foremost, Dead Space 2’s boss was tip-fricken-top. Challenging, horrifying, and generally unpleasant. Evil Nicole is evil, what with her screaming magical shining light into your face and making you shoot yourself with a javelin gun.

I’m a little concerned with Hardcore Mode, though. Since there’s still a fair bit of work to be done with the instant-kill hazards, particularly the cliff-climbing sequence. I mean, I shot my stasis at that sheet of ice six times, and it still blew me in half when I touched it. Have you ever been blown in half by an inert chunk of ice? Because I have. It hurts my feelings more than it hurts my tattered body, I can tell you that much. I also spontaneously exploded while fighting the Hydra for the last time. He was harpooned, I was winding him up, and SPLAT. Hardcore Mode is going to be impossible until some things are patched. Even so, I eagerly await the day I grow the balls to shoot for Retro Mode.

Dead Space 3

Overall, the introduction of optional missions and quasi-nonlinear areas really did the justice. They’re not really optional, because the rewards they yield are damn spiffy, and most everyone wants damn spiffy goodies. Magnesium Afterburner? Telemetry spike shotgun? Why yes, I would enjoy that. I’m sure you would too. Do the side missions.

In the end, there really weren’t a lot of new necromorphs to murder. You will see new versions of golden oldies, considering the prime of the necros this time around have had 200 years to decay. Good news is, the encounters are varied. You’ll get to see all your good friends from the first and second Dead Space! Twitchers? Yup! Stalkers? Oh yeah! Exploding babies? Sorta. They’re not babies so much as they are giant raspberries. There is one new necro that is particularly terrifying, however… The alien race that once populated the Marker homeworld was brilliant, powerful, and huge. They’re big. Imagine being chased by a steamroller made out of chainsaws. Spooky shit.

The plot focuses a bit too heavily around the Ellie-Norton-Isaac love triangle. I mean, Norton is a complete asshole, Ellie pays more attention to Isaac’s jealousy than the creepy boogies trying to eat her damn face off, and Isaac is such a cynical badass. He’s a character you can’t really help but to like. He also has one of the manliest pain shouts you’ll ever hear in a video game. You almost want him to die so you can hear it. That’s a bit off-topic, though. Plot-wise, it was great but not perfect.

Dead Space 3

Dead Space 3 deserves extra-special credit for doing their big-reveal-explain-absolutely-everything moment flawlessly. Once you discovered just what was happening, what “make us whole” means, your mind is blown. It’s exceptionally done, forethought and clarity apparent. Many would rate Dead Space 3 a poor game simply because it isn’t survival horror, but if they read my first review they’d shut the fuck up about that rot and give a fair opinion for once. Sequels done right.

Analysis: Yes. Very yes. If you enjoy the series and have the flexibility to endure/enjoy a change of pace, this will be the game with the most yes. I do recommend playing the three in order, or at the very least playing the second before the third. If you play the first then the third, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Counting is a good thing. One two three, not heep jeep four six one zero brap.

Nick Dinicola of PopMatters makes several good points about Dead Space 3, along with several poor points. But as we like making friend with our alternate reviewers, we encourage you to forget the latter portion of that initial remark. The praise given to Visceral for pacing the change of their game and maintaining quality throughout is deserved. Combat is much more action-packed and volatile, which should serve to keep you on your toes. That is, unless you’ve found out how to make a full-auto telemetry spike railgun. Er, anyway, review link. Read up, eh? http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/168585-dead-space-3/

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, ALL the Familiars

If you like Hayao Miyazaki movies and video games, I’m about to BLOW YOUR FREAKIN’ MIND. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is the new Studio Ghibi piece that most everyone is going to want to get. It’s a nostalgic adventure RPG with a familiar collection system reminiscent of Pokemon. The plot is to be taken with a grain of fairy-tale salt, though despite the apparent linear contortions necessary to make a good RPG, Ni no Kuni is still very much a/the Studio Ghibli game.

Oliver is a young boy living with his single mother in the old-fashioned town of Motorville. He and his good friend sneak out one night to try out their new itty bitty custom made car, when the player witnesses a strange figure and her pet talking about killing the protagonist lad, calling him the Pure-Hearted One. Oliver’s car crashes into the river due to the figure’s meddling, but his mother manages to save him before he drowns. She suffers a heart attack and dies as a result of her exertion.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

That’s when Oliver meets Mr. Drippy, the Lord High lord of Fairies, who tells him that he must come into the other world in order to save his mother’s soul mate, which may just save her in the real world. In order to save her soul mate, however, he must defeat the dark mage Shadar, and the evil White Witch. While the fairy tale standard may convince you that this is a trivially easy game meant for children, I regret to inform you that this game is one tough son of a bitch. Time for mechanics.

Combat is a creative take on turn-based playing. When choosing an action to perform, you perform that action until its timer runs out and it goes on cooldown. You can cancel the action beforehand, but that doesn’t shrink the cooldown at all.  Fight with the main characters, or with their familiars; HP is shared (though not between human characters), so it’s probably a good idea to be rid of that “low HP, swap to a different familiar” reflex. Because it’ll kill you. Certainly killed me. Items, tactics, spells; the game teaches you everything you need to know, and keeps a tutorial compendium if you ever need to brush up.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

There’s a difficulty scaling mechanism implemented that makes it particularly difficult to over-level yourself, even with braindead levels of grinding. You will probably grind a fair bit if you want to capture one of every familiar, especially considering each one has two final forms, each with different benefits and drawbacks. And that there are “shiny” versions that appear during the post-game sequence. So that means you’ll need to capture four of each familiar. I’m going to do it, so you can too!

As the story moves along, you’ll witness Miyazaki animations befitting a feature length film, along with fully voiced dialogue and a plethora of puns. In this game, there are MANY puns. There are puns and references, which will either cause you to bleed from the ears or giggle from the mouth. It’s all good fun. Anyways, the game’s easy to follow, challenging to play, the puzzles sometimes get difficult, but you can always expect to feel that Ni no Kuni is trying to engage you. It’s the first official Studio Ghibli game, to my knowledge, and thus far I haven’t experienced a single thing that outright irks me. That’s fairly abnormal. So get this game and play it and try to sleep regularly, because it’s that fun. Oh yes indeed.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Jason Wilson offers a balanced leaning towards positive, legitimate review of Ni no Kuni. According to him, the combat system (particularly the action timer aspect) and allied AI are the weak points of the game. This may prove true if you’re expecting a greater level of flexibility in combat, though in my eyes these factors simply encourage the player to interpret, adapt, and improve. But that’s all very subjective. The final word is: BUY. It’s a fantastic example of a classic-yet-modern RPG. Here’s the review link: http://venturebeat.com/2013/02/04/ni-no-kuni-wrath-of-the-white-witch-review/

Proteus is Your Brain on Musical Pixels

Video games can do many things. They can train children to be competitive little assholes, provide relaxation after a long week, fry your brain and deprive you of sleep, or give you a pleasant and surreal world to escape to when things are rough. Proteus is one of those. Which one? Do some detective work and ask again later. By detective work I mean read all the stuff I wrote below with my typey-fingers.

As far as aesthetics go, imagine Doom but with an Elysian paradise where existence is a song and every action is an instrument, as opposed to bloody pixellated hell. The description informs you that you interact not by action but by presence, and that’s the true ingenious aspect of Proteus. You are not a character, but a presence, and your sole purpose is to explore and experience.

The world of Proteus is randomly generated with consistent components, meaning the great tree in one generation may be in a different place relative to the prior generation. There is a slight magical tinge to the theme, as you’ll quickly discover. Old artifacts like mountain totems and a circle of stones can cause visual curiosities, like shifting stars, weather changes, or even seasonal changes. I won’t get too in-depth, because the game IS about discovery.

Proteus

And immersion. Though most shapes are little more than masses of pixels and  polygons, the design is complete and satisfying. There aren’t too many elements that make you feel involved, yet a willing mind will take you right where Proteus wants you to be.

A fast session can be shorter than ten minutes, but won’t be very satisfying. A long session can last an hour or more, but may veer to the dull side. The best thing to do is take it at your own pace once you’ve learned the ropes. It does have an interesting conclusion, and that on its own can make a longer game worth the time. But hey, that’s just what I think.

Proteus

$10 is a reasonable price, though I will admit that Proteus is somewhat lacking in replay value. It’s a well done “every once in a while” art game that offers an experience pleasing to the eyes and ears, but the lack of direction and definable goals makes it difficult to cling to. I personally think that Proteus is a game worth getting, that’s ultimately up to you to decide. Art games aren’t for everyone.

Tim Martin of Telegraph was sucked right in, and justly so. Proteus is a game, yet not quite a game, testing boundaries and piquing curiosities. I’d rather not post a negative review, considering most of the negative reviews of Proteus are written by idiots. Either you like it or you’re indifferent. Who would hate a game like this? Anyway, here’s the review link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/video-game-reviews/9866972/Proteus-review.html