Review
20 Comments
8.0

Luftrausers review: vintage bomber

You'd be forgiven for feeling a bit of retro-fatigue looking at developer Vlambeer's latest game, Luftrausers. With a color palette straight from the Game Boy Color and rumbly chipset sound effects, Luftrausers could be another game stuck in the past, content to mine your nostalgia rather than subvert your expectations. But Luftrausers isn't that — in fact, its genre-smashing design and tricky controls help keep it aloft even as it sputters in its efforts to be the next successor to 80s and 90s arcade shooters. Luftrausers is the latest game to pick a visual identity out of the past, sitting somewhere even earlier than the 8-bit era so many indie titles liberate their aesthetic from. On the surface, it looks like a game for the Atari or Spectrum, all blocky monochromatic planes...
Review
217 Comments
8.5

Infamous: Second Son review: drain you

Infamous: Second Son is a superhero game that purports to be about something deeper than blowing shit up. Surely you've heard that Stan Lee classic: "With great power comes great responsibility." That moral lesson has been focused on, deconstructed and returned to over and over in superhero comics since the 1960s. Meanwhile, superhero games have always leaned a little harder on just letting players have fun — all power, very little responsibility. The first two Infamous games tried with mixed success to introduce more ramifications to their virtual superhero stories, and if anything, Second Son has even nobler goals in mind. While this semi-reboot still plays with the origin story trope of a hero coming to terms with the impact of his new abilities, it also toys with darker...
Review
310 Comments
5.5

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes review: cold war

After years of waiting, Snake is back in Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes. Nevermind, he's gone again. If you're confused by the rollout of Metal Gear Solid 5, let me try to break it down for you: There's the real Metal Gear Solid 5, subtitled The Phantom Pain, scheduled for release sometime before the sun and the Earth collide. And then there's Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, a prequel to The Phantom Pain that is being sold as a stand-alone experience. But beyond offering a sampling of some of the enhanced gameplay systems being added to the series, Ground Zeroes is hardly worthy of the franchise moniker. Ground Zeroes' backstory occupies 11 pages of text Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes picks up after the events of the PSP title Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. If...
Review
55 Comments
7.5

Yoshi's New Island review: bringing up baby

Yoshi's New Island is adorable. Aggressively adorable. Its pastel-hued aesthetic suggests that a very talented crayon-wielding child drew the entire thing and animated it by hand. But beneath the twee exterior lies a well-designed platformer that takes advantage of its unique features, separating it from other Nintendo mascot platformers. It takes many of the sensibilities of the older games in the series — including an experimental streak and a focus on exploration — and updates them for Yoshi's 3DS debut. And it wisely trades on nostalgia for previous titles. The result is a game that's equal parts smart and sweet. As in three previous Yoshi's Island games, Mario's sidekick Yoshi is the star of the show here, carrying an infant version of Mario across a series of...
Review
171 Comments
9.0

Dark Souls 2 review: not the end

Dark Souls 2 is the most intimidating game I have ever played. This may not come as a surprise to fans of the notoriously challenging Dark Souls or its spiritual predecessor, Demon's Souls. But it's not just the difficulty that had me wincing in fear during my playthrough. Dark Souls 2 is unflinchingly ambitious in a way that few games are. Yes, the world is massive; yes, there are far more bosses than the last game; yes, I've spent dozens of hours playing, and I'm sure I still haven't seen close to everything. But where other open-world RPGs use that overwhelming size as an invitation to lose yourself in their world, with Dark Souls 2 it's a threat. From Software has embraced the challenge they're known for while simultaneously cutting away a lot of the fat — bits of...
Review
377 Comments
9.0

Titanfall review: my buddy

Titanfall has nine months of hype behind it, but it's got a stale genre's worth of expectations to live up to. After changing multiplayer gaming forever with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 2007, developer Infinity Ward partially imploded with bad blood enough to go around. The staff that left Infinity Ward in 2010 went on to form Respawn Entertainment. In the ensuing years, multiplayer shooters have become predictable exercises in minor updates and more graphical polish. With Titanfall, Respawn proposes a solution. Taking a page from the playbook it created with Modern Warfare, Respawn has taken elements of action games, the online battle arena genre and more, expertly threading them through a shooter base that stands toe-to-toe with the heaviest hitters around. (Note: This...
Review
93 Comments
9.5

TowerFall Ascension review: bowstring symphony

It's tricky to write about TowerFall Ascension without sounding like a child — mostly because it's a powerful distillery of childlike glee. I can say, without an ounce of hyperbole, that I have never shouted, cheered or laughed so much playing a game in my life. TowerFall Ascension is designed to evoke these reactions in every single match, and it always, always does. Regardless of how its settings and variables have been tinkered, or the relative skill levels of its players, the matchup is exciting and dynamic every single time. For those unfamiliar with the original version, which launched on Ouya last year, TowerFall is a multiplayer-centric 2D arena game. Players take on the role of archers, and attempt to dispatch one another using either their bow and arrow or a...
Review
37 Comments
2.0

Basement Crawl review: cutting room

The very first time I tried to load a match in Basement Crawl, the game crashed. I should've taken that as an omen. Basement Crawl is a broken game. It's not just unpolished, though it is filthy with technical glitches. Basement Crawl fails on a fundamental level, with flawed basic design and incredibly limited gameplay. On a surface level, it mimics the chaotic multiplayer games of the late 90s, but it barely functions. Basement Crawl is an action-puzzle multiplayer game with a dirty, horror-inspired aesthetic. You play as one of four deranged characters — an evil teddy bear, scary clown, amputee crash test dummy in a wheelchair and a killer woman — and run around in isometric battlefields, throwing bombs at one another across corridors and around obstacles. E...
Review
37 Comments
9.0

The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 2 review: bleak house

The Walking Dead Season 2 kicked off to a weak start last December, at least compared to the high standards the first season set. But any misgivings that I carried from that shaky beginning were discarded by the end of "A House Divided," the second episode of the season. If the last episode was an adrenaline-packed intro to Clementine's status quo in the new season, Episode 2 is the pause to catch our breath. And it's so much better off for that breathing room, providing space to develop new characters and call back to last season. At the outset of "A House Divided," Clementine is still recovering from a series of brutal events and hanging out with a new group of survivors facing their own troubles. Unlike last time, though, we actually spend a while getting to know this fresh...
Review
105 Comments
8.5

South Park: The Stick of Truth review: pen and paper

South Park: The Stick of Truth is a great South Park game. You'd be forgiven for thinking that's something of a backhanded compliment. The five previous games based on the cartoon have been met with abject scorn, save for South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! which was pleasant, if not exceptional. But that's part of what makes The Stick of Truth such an achievement. South Park, like all episodic comedies, is an engine built to generate laughs. And developer Obsidian has built a 10-12 hour game that is perfectly crafted to house that engine. South Park is an engine built to generate laughs You are The New Kid in the town of South Park. Moments after being forced out of the house by your parents to meet the neighborhood kids, you're swept up in their town-spanning,...
Review
64 Comments
5.0

Dustforce review: dirty deeds

Dustforce broke me. As a seasoned fan of platformers, I thought I would be okay in this goofy world of acrobatic janitors and masochistic obstacle courses. But I was wrong. Very wrong. A sleeper hit originally released on PC in 2012, Dustforce is a 2D platformer that trades pixel-perfect jumping for a momentum-based approach. The result is a maddeningly difficult game. It aims to turn players into dancers in a bizarre aerial ballet, but more often made me feel like the dirt I was tasked with cleaning. Dustforce has a certain rhythm to it that sets it apart from other 2D platformers. It's simultaneously stickier and looser; the level design requires you to run up walls and briefly cling to ceilings as you clear the gunk that covers each stage. You take control of a janitor of your...
Review
115 Comments
5.0

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 review: bad blood

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is supposed to deliver a payoff. The first Lords of Shadow was released to a skeptical Castlevania fanbase in 2010. Despite the problems some had with developer MercurySteam's handling of the beloved franchise, it found a following, thanks in part to several major late-game twists. This left players buzzing for a sequel, and after a brief handheld sidestory in last year's Mirror of Fate, the true follow-up is finally here. But this conclusion to MercurySteam's run on Castlevania is a far cry from the exciting potential suggested by the first game's cliffhanger ending. Lords of Shadow 2 fosters brief reminders of what made the first game special, but its novel premise is squandered on boring environments, terrible set piece moments and all-but-outright...
Review
99 Comments
8.5

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare review: turf war

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is an idea that on paper at least swings wildly between stupid and obvious. On the one hand, Plants vs. Zombies as a series has been a charming casual success, full of bright, fun character design and easy-to-grasp mechanics — none of which seems all that suited for a shooter powered by the same tech behind the Battlefield series. But Plants vs Zombies is also a game about militant plants that destroy zombies by blasting them apart, smashing them or otherwise ruining their day. So, here we are. The good news? The alternately great and weird idea of moving PVZ into the third-person shooter space works. Garden Warfare artfully starts with great shooter chops and uses PVZ to take bold risks with its design, with inspired twists on multiplayer...
Review
53 Comments
8.0

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc review: deadly combination

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc mixes murder and play perfectly. Equal parts social sim, murder mystery and courtroom thriller, Danganronpa kept me enthralled with concepts that felt fresh and familiar all at once. It pieces together a devilishly good story with characters that feel like individuals and mixed mechanics that play well together. Though built on violence, Danganronpa isn't strangled by its dark nature. Danganronpa stars Makoto Naegi, a high school student preparing for his first day at Hope's Peak Academy — a school that only takes the best and brightest. At least, that's what they think, right up until Makoto and company are trapped in the school and forced to participate in a killing game. In order to escape, one must murder a fellow student without being...
Review
158 Comments
6.0

Thief review: in the dark

Thief marks a long-awaited return for a series that influenced a generation of stealth titles. Original developer Looking Glass introduced Thief: The Dark Project in 1998 and followed it with Thief 2: The Metal Age in 2000. Developer Ion Storm brought the series to consoles for the first time with mixed reactions in 2004 with Thief: Deadly Shadows, and since then, the franchise has been dark. Now, new developer Eidos Montreal is bringing the seminal series back after an almost 10-year absence. Simply called Thief this time around, this new game acknowledges that gap in time, reflecting some of the evolutions in game design that have occurred over almost two console hardware generations. To be clear, main character Garrett still steals just about everything he can reach. But a new...
Review
38 Comments
7.5

Earth Defense Force 2025 review: kill 'em all

Timing is everything. Someone should have told the creators of Earth Defense Force 2025, the latest in a series of games about man's cataclysmic battle with giant space creatures. Earth Defense Force 2017, its predecessor, appeared seven years ago on Xbox 360, a console that had yet to hit critical mass. Last year, EDF experienced deja vu in the form of a polished update of 2017 available exclusively on the PlayStation Vita. Now we're here at the beginning of the a new generation of video game hardware and it seems, yet again, Earth Defense Force is set to walk on the stage of an empty house. I sincerely hope that's not the case, because boy does it put on one hell of a show. Earth Defense Force 2025, now available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 — and notably absent on...
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