Ridiculous Fishing Review

Title:  Ridiculous Fishing – A Tale of Redemption
Maker:  Vlambeer
System: iOS
Cost: $2.99

Duck, Weave, and Reverse

The "Ridiculous" part of the title
The “Ridiculous” part of the title

I’ve written a little about the clever reversal of objectives that Ridiculous Fishing employs.  This alone makes it a solid title.  Throw in some charming graphics, a progression system that works (i.e. doesn’t require you to grind – the blight of iOS), and what’s left is a genuine classic. For Vlambeer, it’s a bit like striking gold.  It succeeds despite everything against it, and has propelled the company to the mainstream success it deserves (see the term “Vlambeered” to learn a bit more about their difficulties).

It’s a thin game that’s only going to buy you a few hours.  But all of it is enjoyable, and non of it is padding, so what else could you want from your phone?

Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Memory:  The ending (there is one)

The Last of Us Review

Title:  The Last of Us
Maker:  Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
System: PS3
Cost: $59

Better than Cormac McCarthy

Last of Us Hotel Last of Us infected

It’s tough to begin talking about The Last of Us because you have to compare it to something, and the wasteland of humanity has been covered so many times in games.  So I’m not going to compare it against other games (that’s a post for another time), because The Last of Us draws it’s inspiration from other media, specifically, The Road for ambiance, and Children of Men for plot.  Both excellent in their own right, The Last of Us exceeds them.  It’s the best story I’ve ever read, watched, or experienced about the end of civilization.

So let’s jump into it.  The graphics are phenomenal and the combat tight.  In the ravaged world you run into two distinct enemies, the infected, and other survivors.  Both are challenging, and they require completely separate strategies, which helps to vary the combat.  But all of these positives pail in comparison to the writing.  It’s by miles the best dialogue I’ve ever encountered in a game.  You keep expecting some cliche movie (or worse, game) dialogue to slip out, but it never does.  It’s so far ahead of anything else, I can’t even think of what would be second.  On top of this the voice acting is superb, especially protagonists Joel and Ellie.

About the protagonists, have you ever played a game where you didn’t hate the character that you needed to protect?  Of course not, they’re a pain in the ass.  Except in this Ellie is phenomenal, and her personal growth drives you forward.  Joel is complicated yet simple (in his drive), and both come off as humans, neither good nor bad, in a way that games can almost never provide.  My biggest fear is that they churn out a sequel and destroy everything they’ve created here.

Minor things like a few annoying puzzles, and your companions near invisibility to enemies are not enough to break or ruin the experience.  This is a game that will be dissected and compared for years, a template for story-driven creations.

Review: 5 stars (out of 5)

Memory:  Too many to list

Punch Quest Review

Title:  Punch Quest
Maker: RocketCat Games
System: iOS
Cost: Free (and $3 for a must have upgrade if you like it)

The best five minutes of your lunch break

It’s been popular to rip on jet pack joyride for awhile now.  But pound for pound, it’s 99 cents provided my more fun than any other iPad game I’ve played.  It was arcade action, for someone who doesn’t typically like arcade games. But this isn’t about Jetpack, this is about Punch Quest.

I mention Jetpack, because a first instinct is that it plays very similar (if not unabashedly ripping it off).  And it’s true, on a base level of fast twitch reactions, there is a lot in common.  Yet for better or worse, Punch Quest is a deeper game with room left over for multiple play-styles.

Because it is free to play, the in-game currency holds much greater sway, as the in-game purchases actually have a tremendous effect on how the game plays.  This adds depth while sacrificing accessibility. And while it generally follows that the more expensive moves (there’s no going back once you get thunder punch) outmatch the earlier ones, this isn’t always the case.  In addition there are two distinct play styles that can be used:  one of run and gun (punch), and another of tactically moving forward with the use of block.

As great as the game is, it’s not without it’s problems.  Because of the way block is setup, it’s basically impossible to have a play style that combines fast gameplay with strategic blocking.  Either you choose a control scheme that makes it difficult to use (but preventing it’s accidental use), or one that is easy but will frustrate you by activating when you don’t want it.  Additionally, the art style is great, but it leaves you wanting more: more enemy types, more bonus levels, more variety of path types.

And finally the game currency is distorted.  Not fubar, but it does detract.  It’s a free game and need to make money, but even after buying the paid upgrade “punchos doubler” (a must if you like the game), it still takes a massive amount of time to buy even one “ultra” item, or unlock the Spartan Mode.

Punch Quest is the best iOS game I’ve played in the last six months.  It will undoubtedly (and unfairly) always remain in the shadow of Jet Pack Joyride, even though it’s a genuinely great game in it’s own right.

Review: 4 stars (our of 5)

Memory:  The first time you get to the laser raptor level.

Crimson Shroud Review

Title:  Crimson Shroud
Maker: Nexus
Publisher: Level-5
System: 3DS
Format: Nintendo eShop
Cost: $8

The best thing I ever read in middle school

Positives:  The writing.  Which means:  the story, the characters, and the scope.  It creates an entire world, but never has the need to leave the one area you explore in.  It doesn’t try to do too much, but as a result everything it does, it does well.  The battle and upgrade systems are simple but lend themselves well to tinkering.  The character art design is solid, if not as strong as other Yasumi Matsuno games. And as a personal plus, the main character eschews the normal jrpg bullshit of being a whiny teenager, and is instead set in his late 20s.

There’s not a lot of drawings, but they sink in

Negatives:  I rarely say this for the time sink-hole that is the rpg genre, but Crimson Shroud could be longer.  The table-top piece setup doesn’t harm the game at all, but it only gets away with the complete lack of animation because the writing is so strong.  In the end, you just want it to have a bit more of everything.

The engine that powers the game

Verdict:  There’s beauty in the simplicity, and it allowed Nexus and Level-5 to make a very good game. But it’s probably unrealistic to think it could be stretched into anything with enough substance to be great.  Still, it’s so easy to like while it lasts.

Review:  4 stars (out of 5)

Memory:  The use of the word “slurry”.  It’s poured down someone’s throat at the beginning.


Singularity Review

Title:  Singularity
Maker: Raven Soft
Publisher: Activision
System: PS3
Cost: $9 Used – Gamestop

Like a moped…

Rapid Aging – best power

Positives:  The game for the most part feels good.  There aren’t a lot of guns, but what they do have feels a hell of a lot better than anything in a game like Killzone.  And on top of that you get some superhero powers that aren’t really necessary, but add to the overall appeal.  It also does small thing right, like automatically putting you into a crouch when you walk into a vent.  Crouching in general is handled well in the game (I actually never realized how much I hate most crouching mechanisms until playing Singularity).

Negatives:  This is the small stuff, but it’s on the big stuff that Singularity gets absurd.  First, it can’t make up it’s mind if it’s scary or camp.  The first area has some legitimate ambiance and unease to it, but this is completely unsettled by the character models and the gung-ho gameplay that eventually replaces it.  In this change, the resource management that exists at the beginning is also thrown out (naturally, as run and gun gameplay doesn’t lend itself well to ammo conservation).

There are multiple endings to Singularity, and together they sum up all the problems of the game.  They run the gambit from darkly logical and intriguing to stupid and hole-ridden (oh, the main one is so bad).  It’s a two that I want to be a three, but it’s still a two.

Review: 2 stars (out of 5)

Memory: The Soviets speak to each other in English (with obligatory horrible Russian accents).

Adding Reviews

I haven’t posted anything for awhile (if you don’t count the post from five minutes ago, which I actually wrote months ago). But I have new motivation in the blog, and that’s to add a review section.

The goal:  To provide short reviews, that are (hopefully) not biased by any previously published scores or impressions.

The score system will be borrowed from what I consider the best video game magazine that was ever published, Next Generation.  It is a simple 5 star system, but because of the simplicity the entire scale will be used.  This is in contrast to a 1-10 scale, where most games place between 7-9, with anything below not being worth playing, and anything above being considered great (really what is the difference between 8.5 and 9, or even 8 and 9 for that matter?).  At that level, the real question is it a 4 star (God of War 3), or a 5 star game (Demon Souls)?