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    • Journey Review

      6 years ago


      In an age of gaming that’s flooded with big blockbuster shooters or intense action games, every so often we get a smaller developer who dares to innovate or cross through the threshold that separates games from being mindless entertainment and “art”. With highly praised games like FlOw and Flower, thatgamecompany has been taking up that artistic mantle for several years now. With Journey they continue to push even further into that territory that explores evoking emotions from the gamer and causes us to experience video games in ways we may have not even considered before.


      The premise of Journey is simple. You wake up in the middle of a desert and see a mountain with a glowing peak in the distance. Not having any other immediate landmarks in view, you set off to go towards the mountain while exploring the world around you along the way. You’ll quickly notice that you are very limited in your actions (part of this being due to your lack of arms and inability to jump) and so the game becomes primarily about getting from point A to point B. The maps are quite wide open with various nooks and crannies to explore, but this still remains a very linear game. At the end of each section you’ll be shown a series of imagery that makes up the narrative, but with no dialogue or text the meaning is left for you to decipher on your own. The story can vary by whoever experiences it as nothing is written in stone and it’s your own personal experience and imagination that you project onto to the game. That said, it would have been nice if you could skip the cut scenes altogether because if you’re doing multiple playthroughs or are choosing to ignore the imposed narrative altogether, they can get somewhat annoying.


      The controls in this game are very simple and it’s easy for anyone to just pick up and play. Throughout the game you only have two commands to worry about. The first and most obvious is the ability to jump and float. This ability becomes available to you at the beginning when you grab your first glowing symbol. The more glowing symbols you collect throughout your journey, the longer your scarf becomes and the farther you’ll be able to float. Collecting the symbols is more so a novelty than a requirement however as I can’t think of any instance in the game where you would NEED a certain number of symbols to proceed. Finding other symbols becomes easier if you have a longer scarf, but it’s never completely mandatory. If you choose to use the level select hub after clearing the game, your scarf always gets reset. Finding as many glowing symbols is still good for you to do though as floating will allow you to move through levels faster and make the platforming bits easier. It’s a satisfying secondary objective that makes the game more interesting than simply running to the end goal and gives you an excuse to really explore each area before moving on.


      The other command at your disposal is the ability to press the circle button and let out a soft musical note. This is the only way you can interact with the world and other players if you’re playing online. There is no voice chat, no in game lobby and no way to know who you’re playing with. The only way you can interact with other players is by making that musical note and running around them. At any given time you will only be able to play with one other random player and each time you play it’s a different experience. I’ve had players who would rush through levels and miss a lot of glowing symbols, causing me to miss them too as I was trying to keep up. I’ve had other players who would actually stop and wait for me to catch up and I would feel genuinely sad if they disconnected or left as a sort of unspoken bond was formed. During the snowy levels, if you huddled close to the other player you can warm up your character, getting rid of some of the frost slowing you down and charging up your scarf, however the person I was playing with didn’t seem to pick up on that and kept on running away from me which genuinely made me irritated. Not being able to directly talk with the other players was a brilliant move on thatgamecompanies behalf as I experience a wide range of different emotions just based on who I was playing with or if I played with anyone at all. They wouldn’t have been able to pull that off if I was able to just say “Hey, get over here and sit with me for 20 seconds so I can get a trophy”. Instead of seeing them as just a gamer playing a video game, I was able to profile their personality based on how they acted. This was perhaps the most unique and interesting coop experience I have ever played before.


      As the title suggests, the game is all about journeying to a mountain and exploring the world along the way. While most screen shots and trailers have placed the game in the desert, that actually only makes up the first half of the game. You actually get to explore a variety of locales including underwater caverns or snowy mountain paths. The visuals in this game are absolutely stunning. Despite being a $15 downloadable title, the graphics can hold their own against the best retail games, rivalling even the likes of Uncharted 3. A great deal of attention was put into the details; the way the sand swooshes around your feet or blows in waves with the wind, they way sun reflects off the sand and causes a watery mirage or even the way frost will slowly build up around your cloak when you are in the mountains. All the animations move fluidly and organically. As you trudge through the snow you’ll notice your character slow down and struggle to move as you slowly get colder and colder. The way the cloth waves in the wind looks and feels natural both on your character and the cloth creatures and objects you encounter. If the main object of the game is to explore, thatgamecompany did an amazing job making you want to see this entire beautiful world they have created.


      The game isn’t perfect however as it does have its share of flaws. Well...actually, just one flaw. The game can easily be finished in a single sitting and the entire game, start to finish, only lasts about an hour or two. Once you beat it, the first level acts as a hub with portals that lead to other areas and you can go back and find any glowing symbol you missed (collecting all of them unlocks a special prize for your character) or finding all the hidden murals. You can do more playthroughs, either online or offline for something different, but once you’ve seen everything, that’s pretty much it. And it doesn’t take very long to see everything. After the second day I had already finished 2 or 3 playthroughs, found all the collectibles and felt like I had seen everything the game had to offer. So you’re not getting a whole lot of bang for your buck. It’s a very short but sweet ride. At the end of it all, I felt like I was still wanting more, but I wasn’t exactly sure if that was in a good way or bad. Had they made this a full length game (even if it was 5-7 hours or so), I have no doubt this would be remembered as fondly as Ico or Shadow of the Colossus. But since it is so short, the incredible impression this game leaves wears off after a few days.


      If you had even the slightest interest in Journey, I’d strongly recommend picking this game up. It is an amazing game and a great addition to any collection. The short length may be disappointing, but I’m confident you’ll thoroughly enjoy the amount that you do get to play. However, if you were on the fence or worried that it just might not be your type of game, then perhaps wait for it to go on sale as the small amount of content might make you feel cheated at $15. I’d still recommend picking it up and trying it out though as creative games of this high caliber don’t come around very often.


      Score: 9/10


    • Screwattack: The Game Review

      7 years ago


      Coming hot off the heels of the surprise iOS hit, Texting of the Bread, Screwattack finally follows up with an unexpected PC exclusive – Screwattack: The Game. This browser based game seemingly came out of nowhere with the only advertisement being one developer diary exclusively shown on their own website. While this game includes all of the signature trademarks that Screwattack has become known for (sugary sweets, words and graphically mangled and crushed limbs) is it enough for this game to stand on its own? Or is it doomed to become another game lost in the onslaught of Q3 2011 blockbusters?


      The behind the scenes developer diary:



      First off, this game contains a lot of GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Following in the footsteps of games like Mortal Kombat or Splatterhouse, you should expect to see a lot of mangled bodies and video game accessories in a room. It doesn’t let up in the later stages either as that seems to be the central theme throughout the entire game. It is definitely not for the faint at heart. With such a concentrated focus on gore, the story definitely suffers from this. Most of the characters appear lifeless and dull. There isn’t even any spoken dialogue...or...any dialogue for that matter. Those looking for a rich and deep story will have to look elsewhere.


      While the excessive gore does become a nightmare for those with weak stomachs, it’s not without its advantages. A lot of the casual gamers were turned off from the lack of flying birds, leaving only the most dedicated and hardcore G1s to play online. This makes the multiplayer the one part where the game really shines, as each intense match becomes a close call between some of the most skilled (and attractive) gamers out there. It’s both challenging and very rewarding with some of the most detailed trash compactor maps I’ve ever seen.


      However, a major fault in this game is that it relies too heavily on outside influences and in the end it fails to stand out as its own title. They made no effort to hide their similarities and references to Pokemon as it is painfully obvious right from the get go. What ISN’T obvious is they managed to go from “a kid on an adventure with his animal friends” to “a trash compactor full of dead bodies”. It was probably this divergence from the formula that made the games development cycle take a turn for the worse.


      Overall, the game feels rushed and unpolished. It’s as if they slapped it together in a single weekend and just pushed it out the door. However, while it does have its faults, it is a free to play browser game, so you don’t really have anything to lose except your time. The uniqueness of the genre makes for a really niche audience, but as I said before, they’re quite dedicated and skilled. If you’re curious you may want to at least check it out, otherwise you’re best off just sticking with Uncharted 3 or Skyrim this fall season.


      Score: 4/10

    • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked Review

      7 years ago


      For those of you who have never played a Shin Megami Tensei game before, there are two things you should know. First, you should expect a deep, occult story about angels and demons and their never ending battle of chaos versus order. Second, unless you have a sharp strategic mind and the patience for a lot of grinding, this game WILL kick your ass. Devil Survivor Overclocked delivers on both those fronts, offering a satisfying and challenging gaming experience that gives you a good reason to blow that layer of dust off your 3DS.


      You have seven days to survive...


      The story starts off simple enough. You and your friends are meeting up with your cousin who winds up ditching you but makes up for it by giving you three altered “comps” that look strikingly similar to 3DSs. You soon learn that these homebrewed comps have special functions, such as the ability to email news about the future, summon demons to fight for you and even predict how long a person has left to live. While you’re trying to wrap your head around what is going on and why your cousin gave you these comps, demons begin to infest Tokyo and the government locks down everything within the Yamanote Circle. Cellphones, internet and all contact with the outside world gets jammed and people start to panic. With no power, limited supplies and vicious demons killing people left and right, a desperate struggle to survive begins. With the ability to see how long people have left to live, you notice that no one in the lockdown is going to live beyond seven days. That gives you a week to solve a web of conspiracies and supernatural mysteries before hell on earth quite literally becomes a reality.


      A fresh coat of bloody, demonic paint


      Devil Survivor Overclocked is essentially a remake of 2009’s Devil Survivor on the original DS. Naturally, two years doesn’t really give the need for improvement on what was already an excellent game. For all the features they added, it feels like there were that many more features that they could have added but didn’t. Most notably is the lack of 3D, despite it being a 3DS game. Aside from the intro video, title screen and demon fusion animation, the entire game is in 2D. I know it seems weird to complain about this as most people seem to dislike 3D, but the inclusion of 3D is the one thing that would have made this game stand out (no pun intended) from its two year old counterpart. Also missing are any street pass or spot pass functions as well as the ability to use any of your saved up 3DS coins. It would have been nice to have some kind of street pass mini demon battle or if you could use your coins to unlock certain demons in the compendium. There is pretty much no reason at all for this game to be on the 3DS as it doesn’t use any of the hardware’s features.


      That isn’t to say Devil Survivor Overclocked is just a straight port with nothing added. They did include some additions such as voiceovers for the entire script. Aside from one or two characters (coughMidoricough) as well as the inconsequential side characters, the voice acting is pretty top notch. Atlus did a great job as they normally do for voiceovers (it’s comparable to the Persona games or more recently, Catherine). Also added is an “8th Day”, a little bit of extended storyline you can play after you finish the game. Unfortunately I can’t really comment on that as you’re given the choice to save your clear file for the New Game + mode OR start the 8th day. I was dumb and saved over my save file with the Clear Data so I won’t get to play the 8th day until my next playthrough. Another nice little addition is the option of having 3 different save files. In the original you only got the one save file and in a game with branching storylines and multiple paths, the ability to have more than one save slot  is a godsend. Other than that though, you’re pretty much playing the exact  same game you played back in 2009.


      Heaven or Hell? The good and the bad


      In case you know absolutely nothing about the game, Devil Survivor Overclocked is a strategy RPG and a very competent one at that. Aside from the great story and interesting cast of characters, one of the main reasons this game is so addictive is the challenge. They seemed to have found that sweet spot where there will be some really tough battles but it won’t ever feel frustrating or “unfair”. You have to really plan out your skill sets and character build as well as what demons you’re using in order to make sure you exploit your enemies weaknesses and manage your limited MP supply for those longer battles. If you accidently attack their strengths or leave yourself open to crits the game punishes you brutally. However, if you choose to wuss out or just don’t care for the challenge, Overclocked also includes an easy mode so you can casually play through for the storyline while still getting acquainted with the games battle system.


      The other big part of Devil Survivor Overclocked is the demon summoning. The game is very well paced as you progress through the story. Your demons level up much slower than your characters, forcing you to update your team and try out different combinations. There is no shortage of possible demons you can get which you can buy from the auction house or fuse together in the Cathedral of Shadows. Each demon you summon comes with different skills and unique race abilities. Certain skills can be carried over when you fuse two demons together making it possible to customize higher level demons with whatever attacks and traits you want them to have, giving you a totally customizable experience.


      If you’re a fan of strategy RPGs/tactics games there’s really nothing to complain about. Great gameplay, great artwork, catchy soundtrack, interesting story...it’s the complete package. The only downside is that you may have already played it. We are currently half a year into the 3DSs life cycle and there are still hardly any serious, non-casual games for the system. Devil Survivor Overclocked is among the first and a great addition to your library if you missed the original. However, if you did already play the original Devil Survivor, you may want to reconsider. A $40 repurchase is for die-hard fans only, as you’re pretty much getting the exact same game without anything new.


      Score: 8/10


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