Battle of the low-budget undead games

I reviewed two games in the past month that were put together on shoestring budgets, and while it’s a little unfair to pit them against one another like this, it’s a useful reminder about how meaningless the downloadable vs. on disk comparison has become in recent years.

Dark is a boxed retail game with a MSRP of $50 on Xbox 360. It’s also total crap, as my review attests. Avoid it at all costs.

State of Decay Screenshot

Meanwhile, State of Decay is an Xbox Live Arcade with an asking price of $20. It was also put together by a small team, and there are plenty of rough edges, but the game provides so many hours of entertainment that you’ll forgive (almost) every one of them. Read my review if you need any more convincing on why you should support this developer.

Posted in Videogames | 1 Comment Podcast Episode 01: An Interview with Ed Boon

A while ago I noticed that the interviews I was recording on my iPad for my reference were turning out with pretty okay sound, despite the less than ideal conditions, so I decided that it could be worth sharing in an audio podcast.

Back in April I had a short interview with Ed Boon in April that was fun, and doesn’t sound horrible, so I’ve included it here for your enjoyment. I’m honestly not sure who I’m trying to appeal to here – I think aspiring journalists might find it useful to listen to this recording, then see what I pulled out of it for the piece in Comics & Gaming Magazine (issue 27 is available on the Zinio store)

I’m not sharing this because I think it makes me look good – quite the opposite – the conversation doesn’t naturally flow as the questions jump us between topics, which is partly a result of me trying to get my info before I get the hook by PR, but it’s an interview with an industry legend – that’s not bad for Episode 1!

Me calling this Episode 01 is a lark  – I’ve no idea when this will get a sequel. Let me know what you think! I know it’s a bit dry, but I didn’t want to faff around with theme tunes or anything just yet.

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In which I review a game with few redeeming qualities

When I put my name forward to review Double Dragon II on XBLA, I did it expecting a bad game [I know that’s not the right frame of mind to approach a review, but I trust myself to review objectively regardless of preconceived notions, and many games have pleasantly surprised me when I’m not expecting too much].

This is about as close to an objectively bad game as I’ve encountered, and reviewing it was about as enjoyable as passing a kidney stone. You can read all all about it here:

Double Dragon 2

There’s a magic in the best videogames that’s easy to overlook. Modern games are crafted by dozens, possibly hundreds of artists, slaving away on myriad components that are then woven together into the rich tapestry of interactive entertainment that we take for granted. The best games have such harmony between the graphics and sound and music and game-play mechanics that the player cares little about the individual elements, but rather that holistic, transcendent experience.

A hallmark of games that are merely good is that players will happily overlook the rough elements to focus on on the overall feeling, carried through rough spots by the goodwill built up through earlier proficiency. Games are more than the sum of their parts, and when gamers reflect on the time they invested, are unlikely to fixate on the elements that could have been better. So that’s what makes Gravity’s Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons such a daunting prospect to review. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that there’s not a single element that this game gets right, and I would submit that it ought to become the new watermark for what constitutes a “bad” game.

Read the Full Review at Toronto Thumbs

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Meeting Cool People, and some AAA Reviews

The past year of freelancing has afforded me the opportunity to meet some incredible people, who have let me poke and probe them in ways that typically hopefully leads to an interesting read.

On IGN last month, I talked with Warren Spector about making games that matter.

For Toronto Sun online, I talked with Dean Hall about watching players suffer.

I have more interviews in the pipeline that I’ll share soon.

I’ve also finally started accepting AAA game reviews. Highlights include Far Cry 3 [TorontoThumbs] and XCOM: Enemy Unknown [Toronto Sun], which rank among my games of the year. I also reviewed Hitman: Absolution and Dead or Alive 5 [both for Comics and Gaming Magazine] – both enjoyable games, but the process of reviewing and critiquing them definitely felt like work.

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Deep Black Review

Over on TorontoThumbs, I’ve published a review of Deep Black – a downloadable PSN game. It was a wretched turd of a game – read my overly reticent review to find out why.

Deep Black is a fine example of what can often go wrong with game design. Allow me to sum up what the 505 Games design document must look like: “Let’s take the protagonist from Dead Space, the enemies from Killzone, and the game-play mechanics from Gears of War, and splice it with the opening cut-scene from Metal Gear Solid. Boom.”

Make no mistake, this is not a recipe for success. Deep Black is one of the most wretched third-person cover-based shooters I have ever played – possibly ever devised.

Read More on TorontoThumbs! >>>

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PAX Prime 2012 Coverage

Hey, I did some PAX Prime Coverage for my friends at C&G Monthly (and my other usual sites). Here’s a smattering:

Oculus Rift VR Headset Hands On

An amazing peripheral that looks set to deliver my boyhood fantasies of true VR gaming.

Wikipad a coup d’état of handheld gaming?

Hands on with a pretty cool Android tablet that ticked a lot of the right boxes for this tinkering tech-fan

PAX Prime Day 1 Diary

I was asked to sum up my impressions of Day 1 on the showfloor, so I did.

The PAX Giant Round-Up Wrap Up

Same as above, but this one comes in the form of a gish gallop of previews and observations from Days 2 and 3 of the show.

There’ll be a lot more coming over the next few days, so be sure to check back if links to other websites are your cup of tea.

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Torchlight II Preview

The night before PAX East 2012, I got an e-mail from the guys at IGN asking me to check out Torchlight II on the showfloor. My first ever preview, and it’s for IGN? Neat!

Torchlight II Preview Featured Article on IGN PC

Torchlight II – A Quick Fix With a New Addiction – IGN

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The Evolution of Xbox Live Arcade

I’ve been reading IGN for over half my lifetime now (which I find a crazy thing to consider), and I’ve dreamed about writing for them for years. It’s weird to see that dream come true so soon after I started writing about videogames, but here’s a piece I wrote charting the evolution of Xbox Live Arcade, and the factors that influenced these processes:

Evolution of Xbox Live arcadeThe Evolution of Xbox Live Arcade – IGN

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Nexuiz Review

The third of my XBLA House Party reviews: my mostly-positive review of Nexuiz.

Nexuiz Screenshot

Crusty gamers who have stuck around for more generations than they’d care to admit can get a little curmudgeonly when they think back to the “glory days” of whatever genre is being discussed. The time that I have invested in Call of Duty’s various multi-player modes since 2006 surely eclipses the hours I whiled away playing the likes of Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament; but my reverence for these ‘pure’ shooters is unflappable. Nexuiz openly mimics the game-play of these arena-based shooters, which should excite any of the gamers who still talk in hushed tones about their awesome rail-gun exploits or elaborate lag-compensation techniques from days of yore.

Go read the full thing on Toronto Thumbs!

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Alan Wake’s American Nightmare Review

Presenting review number two of my XBLA House Party Review, and thankfully, it’s another quality game! [It’s worth noting, after finishing my review, I poked around the major sites to see how it was received elsewhere. I noticed that Susan Arendt of The Escapist used the same ‘cover-art comparison’ opener, reminding me that it’s difficult to have something new to say about a game.

Alan Wake's American Boxart

It’s important to address at the outset that Alan Wake’s American Nightmare has not been designed to give fans of the original title more of the same. One needs only a cursory glance at the box art motifs to see the changes in tone: the original portrays the protagonist standing in a dark and foggy forest, his flashlight cutting a cold beam through the oppressive blackness. Stamped above the title, the words: ‘A Psychological Action Thriller’. In comparison, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare could be about a rural handyman who hasn’t got around to reading the instruction manual on his nail-gun yet.

Read the full review on Toronto Thumbs!

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