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Friday, July 5, 2013

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed - A PC Game Review



1998 - Four friends are huddled around a 20 inch television, watching four separate tiny screens projected on the CRT TV, with the strange, three-pronged controllers clutched in sweaty, teenaged hands. It's Rainbow Road. One wrong turn and they'll go flying off into oblivion. Tires squeal on the little karts, as Mario and Bowser fight for 2nd place. Yoshi is far out in the lead, and Donkey Kong is trailing, having very nearly lost the track earlier. The finish line nears, the player controlling Yoshi gripping his controller in anticipation, when Kong cackles. The feeling of dread grips Yoshi as a winged blue shell leaves Kong's kart in a lazy arc, levels off, then careens directly at Yoshi. It impacts with Yoshi's cart, sending it careening off into the stars. Mario pulls ahead of Bowser and crosses the finish line in 1st as a friendship is forever ruined by a blue shell.

That was the last time I owned a console. There have been five Mario Kart games since, and one more on the way. There have been the occasional Kart racer since then, but nothing that's really measured up.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was released in November of 2012, with the PC version (unsurprisingly) released a few months later in January 2012, and has been overall very well received. Transformed is, essentially, Sega's Mario Kart, having many famous Sega characters from franchises like Sonic, Jet Set Radio, Super Monkey Ball, and Space Channel 5. It may not have the star power of Mario Kart, but all of the characters have their own distinct personalities and visuals. The PC version also, as a pleasant surprise, includes a car with Pyro/Heavy/Spy from Team Fortress 2 and Football Manager. My initial impression, being a typical Steam user, was "Hmm.. interesting. Wonder if it'll be on sale any time soon."

As of the time of this writing, we're mere days away from the awakening of the great Summer Seal. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is currently available at 75% off with a free weekend. I installed, intending to play a few minutes to get a good view of it. I ended up playing 16 races in the career mode (enough to unlock Danica Patrick of NASCAR) and play a bit of the multiplayer. The game has what appears to be at first glance a cosmetic gimmick of vehicles that transform from road cars to aeroplanes to boats. After playing a few races, you start to realize that when the vehicles change, the handling changes dramatically.

I have to confess, I'm not a huge Sonic fan. I've bought a few Sonic games, and they tend to get an hour or two's worth of play out of them, and then just sit neglected in my games collection. This one, however, I'm seriously planning on picking up when funds allow (possibly during the great Summer Seal) and sinking some more time into it.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed can be found at the Steam storefront for a regular price of $29.99, with a current sale price of $7.49.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

First off-site review has been published.

My review for Tomb Raider is up and you can read it at Geek-O-Rama.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tomb Raider review (preview)

I'll be reviewing games soon for Geek-o-Rama, and this is a preview of the review I'll be submitting for the recent release, Tomb Raider.

She presses herself against the rock wall, breathing shallow and
listening intently. Two men, a crackling campfire, conversation hushed, but
casual. One of them bitching at the other about a book he'd found on the
last freighter that washed ashore. She's outmatched, but she's got no
choice. There's no way around them, only through. She waits for her moment.
She may be smaller, weaker, but she's smart.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book of Words

Magic, in a very literal since, is something that can't possibly be real. It just can't. There are scientific laws that govern our world, that state very clearly all things happen for a reason, but only in the context of cause followed by effect. People want to believe, though, in something greater than themselves.

Sadly, catching things on fire from a distance without the use of technology or conjuring a rabbit from a hat are things that just don't happen in the real world. Magic, though, that's another story. Magic is people. People, and their interactions in the world around them.

I've found that by pushing a little here, dropping a hint there, an encouragement or a look, you can affect a change in the world around you, and what else is magic but change?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Blades Of Time: I'm very confused.


     During the recent Summer Sale on Steam, I happened to pick up a title that looked odd, but interesting. I remember hearing about a game called X-Blades, that was pretty well panned critically, and didn't make too many waves among players either. I also remember of X-Blades, that it was none too popular amongst people with an eye for gender representation issues, either. This came as no surprise, considering it's lead character, a blonde girl with pigtails named Ayumi, wore little more than a thong, a bikini top, and a pair of big stompy boots. As far as strong female charactarization, this is not Faith from Mirror's Edge or Chell from Portal.

Ayumi, pictured actually wearing proper clothes.


     All that said, I have not played X-Blades. What I have now played is a game called Blades of Time, which Wikipedia tells me is a "Spiritual Successor" to X-Blades.

     I'm not sure if I'm just terrible at following storylines, or someone needs to rethink the use of the words "spiritual successor." Bioshock is a spiritual successor to System Shock. Assassin's Creed is the spiritual successor to Prince of Persia (even though that series just won't die). Blades of Time has the same main character, a similar art style (accounting for improved graphics), and a similar storyline and character motivations. This is, ladies and gentlemen, as far as I can tell a sequel.

     The opening of the game does nothing to deny this, either. You're dropped straight into a cutscene of Ayumi (thankfully now wearing about as much clothing as Lara Croft as opposed to just her underpants) and a gentleman whom I can only describe as Mickey Rourke with a mohawk and the sword from Darksiders attacking a monastary, only to be transported to 'Dragonland,' where they are separated, and Ayumi is now a conduit for magical attack powers and there are human pirates and some woman with tight pants named Michelle and a talking fire-woman who looks and sounds like Ayumia nd oh god I've gone cross-eyed.

     I was sure, up until the credits rolled, that the game was written by a Japanese developer, as it makes about as much sense as your average Devil May Cry game, so imagine my suprise when a long string of Russian names scrolled across the screen as I beat down the final boss and got an ending cutscene that was roughly long enough for me to say "what the fu" before it ended. I had to go look this up, too, because the developer is called Gaijin Studios. GAIJIN STUDIOS. You couldn't make your studio sound more Japanese to western audiences than if you named it Tokyo Game Attack Squad GO!. With the exclamation mark.

     The combat's not bad though, once you overcome your hesitance to take such a glass cannon as Ayumi into close combat. There's even a section near the end where you pretty much get to turn into a deity, finding that you're some kind of "dragonkind." The game is awfully pretty, though. Levels are blindingly colourful, which is a welcome change from your average brown and grey levels in most games in the last few years.

Dragonkind, you say?


     Overall, I'm very confused. I feel as if I walked into a film a third of the way in, and I missed all of the exposition from the beginning. As we reach that point in every game review, it's time to ask the question: Did I get my money's worth? I paid $10 for it. It was amusing, it lasted roughly 10 hours, and had a lot of pretty scenery. I'd say so, but I certainly wouldn't recommend this at full price unless you are REALLY jonesing for some God of War or Devil May Cry action.