Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut is like the winner of an ugly pet competition: Its faults somehow make it adorable.
Access Games' open-world survival horror game obliterates the distinction between odd and broken with such regularity that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two. Even with the Director's Cut treatment, its cumbersome controls, dated presentation and sometimes excruciating pacing are as central to the experience as what it gets right. To be frank, Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut is kind of broken. It's also a riot.
The oddities in Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut — particularly its ragtag cast of oddball characters — combine to create a unique and fascinating cocktail that works despite its flaws.
Deadly Premonition: The...
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is more than a nostalgia trip.
Originally released on the Wii in 2010, Retro's game was a sequel/reboot of the mid-90s Donkey Kong Country series, recreating the feel of the older games' manic level designs and goofy themes. It was also considerably harder than the SNES games, and the faster pace led to far more insta-death scenarios.
The 3DS version is tighter, with the option to play with a new challenge setting and the ability to finally play the game with an analog pad. These tweaks may sound small, but they make for smoother control and a better game as a result.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D begins with a familiar scenario — Donkey Kong's banana horde has been stolen. The culprits are a gang of animated Tiki gods who hypnotize the local...
Pandora's Tower has two halves that never quite fit perfectly.
One half is an action-adventure game — the other a dating sim. The former leans on themed dungeons and majestic boss fights that the genre is known for. The latter pushes a blossoming relationship between the main character and the woman he loves. These goals don't need to compete, but they sit at odds anyway. Pandora's Tower's ideas should leave it poised for greatness, but instead it just ends up battling itself.
The chain mechanic's novelty wears thin quickly
A fairy tale-slash-love story with a dark twist, Pandora's Tower follows the tale of young lovers Aeron and Elena. Elena is struck with a curse that will transform her into a grotesque beast. The only cure? To rip the flesh from masters of the Thirteen...
In Metro 2033 (released in 2010), this eagerness was a liability leading to frustrating, obtuse scenarios about as often as it led to fresh, perfectly-paced levels. With Metro: Last Light, developer 4A Games has found a more successful (and more impressive) balance between what it wants and what it can actually achieve.
Metro: Last Light is an achingly ambitious game, which shows in the length and breadth of its journey — and as with Metro 2033, this is reflected in its technical problems as well. 4A doesn't seem to know when to quit piling more on its plate — but while the end result isn't always graceful, it's absolutely memorable.
There's more character and nuance in Metro: Last Light
Metro: Last Light expands the world of post-apocalyptic Moscow introduced in Metro 2033....
Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on The Move more than lives up to its pedigree.
It's a brilliant twist on the Mario vs. Donkey Kong line, a puzzle-platformer spinoff series that's marched steadily towards the former end of that spectrum since it started in 2004. Eschewing both the "vs." and the platformer elements of previous titles, Minis on the Move offers tighter action and a top-down perspective.
But Minis on the Move's real brilliance lies in its willingness to tweak its own formula. It keeps things interesting and challenging across more than 180 stages, with four main game types that all offer a fresh take on Mario vs. Donkey Kong's basic structure, building on those core mechanics.
Recent Mario vs. Donkey Kong games have centered on guiding the titular minis (tiny wind-up toy...
StarDrive is a ship without a mission.
Developer Zero Sum games has taken StarDrive from a successful 2011 Kickstarter campaign to a release on Steam. There's a real sense of ambition and scope on display in their first project, but that ambition seems to have gotten the best of them. There are a number of well-realized systems in place in StarDrive, and the customization and strategy options combine with the standard 4X formula to create something unique. But a host of technical problems and incomplete features align with StarDrive's minimal structure or direction, leaving a hole where the game should be.
StarDrive places you in the role of architect and engineer as well as ruler
StarDrive doesn't have a story, as such. Instead, Zero Sum has built a universe and its fiction. There...
Papo & Yo's PlayStation 3 debut was held back by underlying tech problems; the recent Windows PC port has refined many of those issues out of existence.
The PS3 version often stuttered. NPCs would walk into walls and a repeatable, game-ending bug sent the protagonist tumbling through the geometry. Those rough technical edges sometimes made Papo & Yo a chore to play. All of these issues were nowhere to be found in my time with the PC version.
Papo & Yo has also received a significant graphical upgrade in this new release, delivering a more engrossing fantasy world. The game is also much better at playing by its own rules. Not having to worry about wonky mechanics made my latest playthrough far more enjoyable.
Minority Media's new version feels definitive, like a Director's Cut....
Poker Night 2 is about personality.
Telltale's second shot at a comedy-driven poker game comes with a table full of characters from popular franchises, including Sam and Max, Portal, The Evil Dead, The Venture Brothers and Borderlands. But it takes more than a few pretty — or funny — faces to liven up core gameplay that's seen countless video game iterations.
Poker Night 2 features dialogue and animation true to the flavor of its characters, and an expansive set of collectibles that carry over into other games. But its vibrant personalities fail to offer much shelf life beyond a comparatively bare game of poker.
Much like the first Poker Night, you're at a high-stakes underground poker game with a bunch of goofy frenemies, all of whom happen to be characters from various...
Thomas Was Alone is one of the most life-affirming, humanist games I've ever played — despite a cast of characters composed of rogue computer programs.
Originally released on Mac and Windows PC in 2012 by independent developer Mike Bithell, Thomas Was Alone takes a simplistic world inhabited by two-dimensional geometric shapes and creates meaning out of it. What starts as a red rectangle jumping across small gaps is slowly built into a stirring metaphor for the human condition.
Oh, and it's also a good game. Thomas Was Alone's mechanics aren't complex, but they're enough to carry the experience — and the message.
Thomas Was Alone begins with a cheery British narrator (voiced by comedian Danny Wallace) speaking the title phrase. Thomas, in this case, is a rectangle, an...
It's hard to say what Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is.
Let's get this out of the way first. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is not downloadable content for last year's Far Cry 3 — it's available as a standalone product that doesn't require the original game. It's not a sequel in any way. But it's still got that "Far Cry 3" part in the title. In the greater scheme of consumer messaging and marketing, it's difficult to say what this crazy neon thing is supposed to be.
That aside, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon isn't totally inscrutable. With the loose, island-based open-world framework of its namesake, Ubisoft Montreal's bizarre experiment uses an amalgam of first-person shooting, stealth, and action-adventure as a lens to view '80s action movies and the '80s video games they inspired.
I had more fun in Soul Sacrifice's menus than in its battlefields.
Announced at first as a new game from Mega Man-creator Keiji Inafune's Comcept studio, Soul Sacrifice doesn't have a lot in common with any of the veteran creator's previous works. Soul Sacrifice is built on a foundation of saving and sacrificing enemies and allies.
It's a game where the rewards are found while experimenting with new powers, playing cooperatively and making top-level choices, but rarely in the moment-to-moment combat. Its mechanics seem opaque initially, but they manifest in fascinating ways — if you can survive the slog through its repetitive battles.
Weighing the risks and spoils of each sacrifice is rewarding
Players start Soul Sacrifice as the next-in-line victim of Magusar, a...
I still have high hopes that developer Trion Worlds can salvage the PC version of Defiance, but the future doesn't look as promising for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. There are a number of technical and infrastructure issues hampering the console ports of the title. Defiance has been lauded by its creators as a true, cross-platform online experience, but it's really a perfect showcase of just how much current-gen consoles have aged.
Defiance's console ports suffer the same problems their PC counterpart launched with, only magnified by several degrees. Pop-in and slow-loading character textures are worsened, making zooming down broken highways a chore due to obstructions which appear seconds after you've collided with them. Your character will get stuck in more objects. Your...
As we consider Star Trek: The Game (of the Movie based on the Show), as we hold it up to the light to try to find something, anything we can salvage, let us not forget Chris Pine.
Chris Pine is just a regular guy from L.A. who happens to be physically without fault and whose dad was on CHiPs. You probably know 100 guys just like him. He didn't know he'd be contributing to one of the worst games, technically and conceptually, I've played.
He just wanted to be Captain Kirk.
You just want to be Captain Kirk.
It is too late for Chris Pine. It is not too late for you. That's why I am going to devote around 950 words to preventing you from buying — nay, playing — Star Trek: The Game.
Is there a worse fit for Star Trek than a third-person, cover-based shooter?
Is there a worse fit...
Monaco: What's Yours is Mine captures the thrill of pulling off the perfect heist.
The game takes everything exciting about heist movies — the colorful roster of cons, the scheming and the tense near-misses with armed guards — and distills that into a tight, top-down stealth-action game.
Monaco also highlights the frustration of watching your best-laid plans go straight to hell. The game's multiplayer mode brilliantly hits both the highs and lows inherent to a high-stakes, high-risk scenario. But just as a proper heist can't be pulled off by a lone wolf, Monaco's single-player offering proves more frustrating than the loot is worth.
Forget that an armed guard or trap is in a given room, and it's lights out
You and up to three teammates pick a character from a lineup of...
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is too hardcore for its own good.
Dark Arisen contains the whole of 2012 release Dragon’s Dogma with a few welcome tweaks and a new high-level area and questline. It’s been marketed as an expansion, but it’s technically more along the lines of a director’s cut — the perfect version to buy for those who have never experienced the original, with some new stuff to draw in repeat buyers.
At best, Dark Arisen only accomplishes half of that mission statement. The handful of minor improvements to the core Dragon’s Dogma experience give it a slight edge over the original release, but the new content isn’t plentiful or good enough incentive for a return trip to Gransys.
(NOTE: This review is specifically focused on the new content added in Dark...