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Review: The Walking Dead: Michonne

michonne cover
via PC Gaming Wiki

The Walking Dead: Michonne (2016)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games


The Walking Dead games are what put Telltale Games on the map.  Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true but they have definitely given the company the most success.  Both season one and season two of their episodic adventure games based on the comic books were critically acclaimed and set the company on the right direction.  With Telltale’s latest installment in the franchise, The Walking Dead: Michonne, they decided to take a different direction in more ways than one, but some of these directions don’t pay off in the end.

michonne 1
via YouTube

Unlike the previous two adventures, The Walking Dead: Michonne hones in on the story of Michonne, a protagonist from the comics.  She’s a stoic figure who doesn’t really talk much unless she needs to.  She’s also dealing with some psychological demons involving her two dead daughters, which is the aspect of her character that the story focuses the most on.  For those wondering, the story takes place between the comic’s issues 126 and 139.  (I haven’t read the comics myself, or seen the show for that matter, so I wouldn’t know.)

Another thing that Telltale does differently with Michonne is its three-episode format, unlike the normal five-six-episode format that most are used to.  There’s nothing wrong with going down the short-form adventure route, but it makes developing a meaningful and impactful story pretty difficult.  It can be done, but it’s tough to do.  Unfortunately, Michonne falls short of giving us an impactful story, which is due in part to the short time we have with the characters.  I grew attached to Michonne, as she was the main protagonist, but all of the other side characters and antagonists meant nothing to me really.  They had their moments, sure, but I wanted to spend more time with them in the end.  Just like the previous games, there will be deaths and tough decisions to make, but they ultimately didn’t matter to me in the end.  It also doesn’t help that the episodes were short in comparison.  I just didn’t feel that attached to what was going on onscreen.

michonne 3
via Rocket Chainsaw

Speaking of decisions, the game plays just as you’d expect.  Telltale hasn’t reinvented the wheel with Michonne, giving you an all-too-familiar gameplay experience.  You will participate in quick time events.  You will pick dialogue choices.  You will walk around small little environments.  You will make some pivotal decisions.  These decisions don’t really have consequence however.  The decisions also weren’t that hard to make either.  It almost felt like Telltale was just laboring through the motions, pumping out a paint-by-the-numbers experience similar to their other games without really putting any thought into what they were doing.

This is all a shame because The Walking Dead: Michonne has a gripping drama in its hands.  Michonne has a tough and quiet exterior, but on the inside there is a bevy of bottled up guilt and sadness that literally haunt her as she moves along.  During her travels she comes across a friendly crew of sailors as well as a small band of vicious and deadly survivors.  How she deals with these new people, as well as the situations she is thrust into, are by far the most enticing aspect the game has to offer.  Telltale has an interesting story to tell, it’s just too bad its brought down by some of the more technical facets of the game.

michonne 2
via Game Over

If you were a fan of the previous Walking Dead installments by Telltale (which most probably are) then this might warrant a look.  There’s some cool stuff the game brings to the table, but just know what you’re getting into.  Wane your expectations.  If your new to the series, then it’s hard to justify a play through of The Walking Dead: Michonne.  I would recommend the previous two installments, but that’s about it.

The Walking Dead: Michonne_20160405165941

Also available on PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iPhone, iPad, and Android.

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Review: LEGO Marvel’s Avengers

lego avengers cover
via Superhero Hype Forums

LEGO Marvel’s Avengers (2016)

PS4 / Rated E

Action / Adventure

Publisher: WB Games

Developer: TT Games


At this point, I will pretty much play any LEGO game that you put in front of me.  LEGO and Traveller’s Tales have been putting these games out for years, largely without change in the classic LEGO game formula.  Sure, there have been changes along the way like open world gameplay and voice acting, but the actual backbone that these games run on has stayed tried and true, for better or worse.  This has turned a lot of people away from these games, but I find myself coming back over and over again thanks to the franchises that the games tackle.

lego avengers 1
via Gameinformer

This time around, Marvel’s highly popular Avengers franchise gets the spotlight.  This isn’t the first time that Marvel’s superheroes have gotten the LEGO treatment.  This games predecessor was aptly titled LEGO Marvel Superheroes.  With Marvel’s Avengers, the first two Avengers movies, along with some of the other Marvel movies that have come out around them, are the primary focus with the main cast of characters being everybody’s favorite band of superheroes.  Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision make up the main selection of superheroes that you will be able to take control of, along with a surplus of other lesser known characters.

Anybody that has seen the first two Avengers movies (seemingly everybody at this point) should instantly be familiar with the story’s main happenings.  There’s nothing new or original here.  In fact, the voice acting is all cut from different parts of the movies.  Some people find this pleasing, but I find the audio kind of jarring.  The audio is never edited to fit the situation happening on screen so you might get Captain America yelling with wind blowing in the background while the game has him just talking normally in a wind-less room.  Jarring moments like this always make me question the choice to pull audio from the movies, but I guess there really isn’t an appealing alternative.  The generic voice acting has been okay in the past but it’s really nothing to write home about.

lego avengers 2
via Game Side Story

The aspect that gives these games their trademark charm is the slapstick humor and hilarious retellings of popular movie scenes.  All of that humor is present and still strong as ever.  I have to give the writing team a little credit here, because they manage to make me laugh over and over again over the stupidest things that happen on screen.  They don’t have too much liberty to tell their own story since they are closely mimicking existing storylines, but they manage to put a spin on classic scenes while staying true to the source material…in classic LEGO fashion.

Maybe the game’s weaker aspect is the unoriginality of its gameplay formula.  There’s fifteen levels for you to play through spanning the events of the two movies.  Within these levels there are things to collect and characters to unlock.  You won’t be able to get everything on your first run through, so Free Play mode allow you to go back through the levels with all of your unlocked characters to pick up anything you have missed.  Sound familiar?  Outside of the levels are the open world areas that offer up side missions and well, more collectibles.  The city of Manhattan is the main open world arena, but you also get to visit smaller and more condensed locales such as Washington D.C., Sokovia, the Avenger’s ranch, and Asgard.  There’s a lot of things for you to do in these areas, but you’re going to be doing a lot of the same stuff.  Side missions are aplenty, but a majority of these missions are either fetch quests or beat-em ups.  They start to get tedious after a while, turning things into a grind when you are going after 100% completion.

LEGO® MARVEL's Avengers_20160203115411

Collecting and unlocking characters are one of these games’ strong suits and that is no different for LEGO Avengers.  In fact, there is a wide range of characters spanning from extremely popular to wildly obscure.  Like I mentioned before, heroes like Captain America and Iron Man are present but there are also lesser known heroes like Squirrel Girl and Bengal.  There’s a lot of deep cuts on the rich roster that will please any hardcore Marvel fanboy.  I didn’t have a clue who have the characters were, but that’s a cool thing.  It made me go and dig out some info on some of the characters I was unlocking.  Needless to say, you’re going to find someone new on the roster.

There’s good things and frustrating things that make up LEGO Marvel’s Avengers but hey, that’s pretty much LEGO games for you these days.  TT Games hasn’t really done anything to change the aging LEGO game formula and that’s frustrating.  There’s a lot to like however in this iteration, like the deep cast of characters, fan service, and humor.  Basically, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is another solid LEGO game that will satisfy comic fans and younger kids alike.

lego avengers score

Also available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PSVita, Wii U, 3DS, and PC

Review: The Walking Dead Season Two

the walking dead s2 cover
via watz-up.fr

The Walking Dead Season Two (2013)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games


Clementine was probably one of the greatest video game characters to come out of 2012.  When Telltale Games released season one of their adaptation of the Walking Dead series, it was met with rave reviews and massive critical appeal.  The game was close to a masterpiece, introducing you to main characters Lee Everett and Clementine while forcing you to make some gut-wrenching decisions along the way.  It was this game that propelled Telltale to where they are today.

the walking dead s2 1
via Softpedia News

One year later, Telltale released The Walking Dead Season Two, putting you in the shoes of Clementine.  Some time has passed and the young and naïve Clementine has grown up and matured.  However, she is still on the road, fighting to survive the dangerously harsh world of the zombie apocalypse.  Some things just don’t change.

The Walking Dead Season Two introduces players to a whole new set of characters, along with a couple of surprises here and there.  As with the previous season’s cast of characters, season two’s characters have their own set of problems.  At first, these new people that Clementine comes across rubbed me the wrong way, but after time they start to open up and reveal the kinds of demons and struggles they are dealing with.  They all have good intentions, but some of these issues cause them to get snappy with each other, putting the group on edge multiple times throughout the story.  Clementine always seems to act as the beacon of reason, calming the group down and helping them work through their problems.  It’s a cool dynamic that really goes to show how much Clementine has changed since the first season.

the walking dead s2 2
via IGN

Another big theme that season two tackles is Clementine’s personality.  In season one, she is young and scared, often looking to Lee for help and guidance.  Lee was her mentor and her best friend, helping her endure and adapt to the harsh world that they live in.  After a year has passed, she isn’t the scared child that you remembered from before.  This time around she is killing zombies left and right and doing some things that, for a lack of a better term, “make grown men cry.”  The reality of this new life has changed her, and these types of moments are scattered throughout the season.  It’s cool to see this zombie-ridden world through the perspective of a young kid.

My biggest complaint about this entry in the series is the plot’s predictability.  I was seldom surprised at the events that took place on screen.  Now I am not going to lie, there was some points in the story where I was legitimately surprised, but these moments were few and far between.  I always felt that the story made it a little too clear at what kinds of things were going to happen next.  For example, a character would say something like, “Hey Clem, I don’t think I can trust this person.  What do you think?”  Well, when you put it that way, I guess I shouldn’t trust said character should I?  An episode would pass and surprise, that character would do something to betray the group.  This is just a specific example but I felt these kinds of situations made it super easy to see where the story was going.

the walking dead s2 3
via Video Gamer

Although the season had some plot issues, as well as some classic Telltale Games technical issues, I still had a great time with The Walking Dead Season Two.  Although it does not stack up against its predecessor, it is still one of the best Telltale games I have played to date.  Story wise, the game wraps up in a way that opens up the possibility of future games.  (There has already been rumors of a season three) If you are not a big fan of what Telltale has to offer, I at least encourage you to give their Walking Dead games a try.  You don’t have to be a big Walking Dead fan to appreciate the stories that they have to tell.

the walking dead s2 score

Also available on Mac, PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PSVita, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Ouya

Review: Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5

via PS4 France
via PS4 France

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5 (Vault of the Traveler) (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Telltale Games, Gearbox Software


The Borderlands games never made it to my list of games I have played.  They were interesting in concept but over the years I have watched them come and go without a second thought.  This is why it’s surprising that I liked Tales from the Borderlands so much.  The story did not seem like the key piece that kept players coming back to the Borderlands games, but it turns out I’m wrong in saying that.  Telltale Games has given us a fantastic first season in Pandora and the series’ finale, Vault of the Traveler, wraps everything up in a tight package.

via Vandal
via Vandal

Tales from the Borderlands has been on its A-game ever since episode one.  The humor and writing has been superb and the acting has been phenomenal as well.  This game featured one of the most charming and most hilarious stories I have played in a while.  In fact, it was probably my favorite series that Telltale has put out.  Tales might not have had the seriousness and emotion of some of the studio’s other choice-driven games, but it established its own footing as a much different breed of animal.

The series’ final episode wraps everything up pretty nicely.  The story of Rhys and Fiona is brought to an end and the conclusion is pretty satisfying.  Loose ends are tied up and everything plays out the way you would expect it to.  There was no major plot twists or groundbreaking moments, but it didn’t really need any of that.  Rhys, Fiona, and friends eventually make it to the vault and everything is happily ever after, just as you would expect.  There is a moment involving one character hovering on the brink of death, only to be brought back to life in the most random way.  It was the only part of the episode that rubbed me the wrong way.  The story would have had a bigger impact if they stuck with their decision to kill off the character, but instead they decided to settle with the easy route.  Its fine the way they have it, but I would have liked the story more if they decided to go with their original decision.

via Vandal
via Vandal

Another thing that the episode did well was the numerous callbacks to previous seasons.  Some of your favorite characters from previous episodes, as well as some of the ones you probably forgot about, all happen to make their way into the finale in a variety of different ways.  Part of the episode involves the building of a team for the final fight with the Vault of the Traveler.  Depending on the choices you made in previous episodes, some characters from previous episodes might not be able to join your team.  It was satisfying to see the full picture of your choices and how they affected the different people you have met during your adventure in a larger scale.

The episode’s climatic moments were some of the greatest parts of the series.  The final fight was tantalizing, providing non-stop action that would fit right at home in a Transformers movie.  Although it was just a series of involved quick time events, it was still fun to power through the fight.  The final fight felt pretty good and it really seemed like the entire series was building up to these final moments.  Nothing was better than finally taking out the final enemy with the teamwork from the team that you assembled.  It made for some great moments.

via IGN
via IGN

Tales from the Borderlands might make me consider playing some of the more core Borderlands games.  Telltale proved that the series has a good number of stories to tell, interesting stories full of crazy humorous stories.  Based off word of mouth and critical reception, I would not be surprised if we were to get another adventure in the universe of Pandora, which makes me super excited.  The story of Rhys and Fiona came to a fantastic close in season one, but I would love to see another story open up with a whole new cast off zany characters.

tales from borderlands e5 score

Also available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android

Review: Life is Strange Episode 5

via Game Soul
via Game Soul

Life is Strange Episode 5 (Polarized) (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Square Enix

Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment


The greatest part about choice-based storytelling games is watching the effects of your hard decisions transpire into multi-dimensional stories.  Telltale Games have made a majority of these games to this day but a small studio named DONTNOD Entertainment, a Square-Enix studio, released Life is Strange’s first episode all the way back in January of this year.  The game, in similar vein to the Telltale games, gave us a game full of player choice framed within a unique story about time travel and the consequences of such a power.  Over the previous four episodes, a lot of choices had to be made and the consequences were very real…but none of this matters at the end of the series’ finale, Polarized, which is a real bummer.

via PS4 Home
via PS4 Home

Polarized takes place right after the bothersome events of the fourth episode, which provided us with probably one of the biggest plot twists of the season.  It was a twist that you couldn’t possibly see coming, no matter how hard you think about it.  Anyway, series protagonist Max Caulfield starts to realize the true nature of her powers and how messed up she has made things.  A lot of events have taken place since the first pivotal moment in Blackwell Academy’s bathroom with Chloe and Nathan, and things have only gotten worse.  Max starts to ponder if all of this is her fault.  Are her powers, which seemed good at the time, actually hurting people more than helping them?  That is the question that is thrown around constantly during the duration of the finale.

It makes way for a satisfying and very reflective finale.  The consequences of her decisions make her ponder if she is making the right choices.  Exploring these situations leads her to travel between different realities, desperately trying to find the right choice that makes everything right, the choice that makes everything normal again.  Obviously, traveling between a number of different realities in time leads to some adverse mental and physically effects on Max, causing her to break down after a while.

via VG24/7
via VG24/7

Finally, all of the time and reality travelling catches up to Max, putting her in a nightmare like sequence that pretty much takes us to the end of the episode.  Although these psychological and often times pretty dark sequences make for some great moments (At one point Max is sitting in a snow globe on the mantle in Chloe’s house staring at herself as a young child.  Pretty powerful stuff.), a lot of the gameplay during these moments was pretty frustrating.  There’s a weird portion of the nightmare where you have to sneak your way through a series of hallways, locker rooms, and outdoor areas on the way to the distant lighthouse.  Characters like Mr. Jefferson, Nathan, and the principal (among others), are trying to look for you with flashlights.  Avoiding the lights was pretty frustrating and I just found myself spamming the time rewind button in order to make it the end goal.  It stopped being fun after a while and turned into an actual nightmare.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the episode was the final decision at the end.  I DON’T WANT TO SPOIL ANYTHING SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED, STOP READING THIS PARAGRAPH.  The final choice that you have to make revolves around either sacrificing Chloe to her fate of getting shot in the bathroom to save Arcadia Bay or saving Chloe for good, letting Arcadia Bay get eaten up by the apocalyptic storm.  It’s a touch choice to make but it’s binary in nature, making the choice pretty cheap.  If you choose to save Arcadia Bay, then all of your choices you have made in previous episodes don’t matter anymore because everything is back to normal and everybody is okay.  If you choose to save Chloe, then Arcadia Bay is totally destroyed by the storm…once again almost negating the choices that you made previously.  It’s kind of a crappy way to end a choice-driven story.  A good choice-driven story should wrap up in a variety of different ways depending on the consequences of your choices.  Life is Strange throws all of this into the water, giving us either ending A or ending B, and not much else.  It’s pretty frustrating, especially since the story had a ton of potential.

via MMGM
via MMGM

It’s sad to see such a great new series come to an end in such a bad way.  I had an awesome time with the game and its refreshing and original story.  It was intriguing and often thought-provoking and the decisions that you had to make were pretty meaningful for the most part.  It’s a shame that all of these choices are written away during the game’s final moments. In the end, I have to applaud DONTNOD and Square-Enix for their Life is Strange, but it could have been so much better.  It had the potential to be so much more.

life is strange e5 score

Also available on PC, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360

Review: Tales from the Borderlands Episode 4

tales from borderlands ep1 coverTales from the Borderlands Episode 4 (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Telltale Games, Gearbox Software


I’m going to go ahead here and make a bold claim: Tales from the Borderlands might be one of the best Telltale games series to date.  Not only has the episodic tale given us a breath of fresh air by turning to comedy instead of seriousness, it has also given us consistent quality among all of its episodes.  Telltale keeps the streak going by giving us a stellar fourth episode with Escape Plan Bravo that contains a treasure chest of awesome, funny, and sentimental moments.

via High Def Digest
via High Def Digest

The episode is hot on the heels of the third episode, picking up right after the main villain (or so we can assume) Vallory steps in and puts a stop to Rhys and Fiona’s journey.  She commandeers their plans and tasks them with working for her.  The mission?  Getting the last component for Gortys, the lovable robot that was the start of the third episode.  The only problem is, the last piece seems to be cradled up in Helios, the Hyperion space station where everything started.  It’s up to the crew to put on their thinking caps to develop a plan to sneak into the highly guarded space station.

Escape Plan Bravo utilizes a bunch of familiar movie tropes during the remaining course of the episode.  Although these tropes have been used time and time again, Tales sidesteps the tired route that they could have took and put its own spin on these classic movies themes.  The whole plan is laid out in the form of an Oceans Eleven-esque heist sequence where Rhys lays out the plans in a pre-heist explanation montage that is hilarious in its own right.  We then get a shot of the entire crew leaving to head for their new spaceship to the tune of Twin Shadow’s “To the Top.”  The whole sequence is amazing and it embraces the campiness of it all.  I couldn’t stop laughing.

via Vandal
via Vandal

Over-the-top moments are all over the place as Rhys, Fiona, Sasha, and Gortys carry out their fool-proof plan on the space station Helios.  As you would assume, things don’t go according to plan which is where the episode starts to break down into silliness and awesomeness.  I’m not going to spoil any of the greater moments that unfold during the course of the episode, but let’s just say there is a huge gunfight…involving finger guns.  Yep, you have to use your trusty finger gun to take down an army of enemies blocking your way.  It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

The performances from the characters were top notch across the board.  Rhys’s relationship with his hidden sidekick Handsome Jack (voiced by Dameon Clarke) evolves into one of the most interesting and intriguing relationships from the series.  Jack’s power hungry and he tries to rub off on Rhys in weird, but tantalizing, interactions in his head.  Scooter, the mechanic from episode 2, also gets a little more time to shine in this episode, including a truly emotional scene with Fiona.  The series has been a non-stop laugh fest, but Telltale knew its boundaries, giving us a dose of sentimentality.  Gortys, voiced by Ashely Johnson, also continues to be one of the funniest characters in the mix, giving us a whole bunch of hilarious moments.  Claptrap is nowhere to be seen in Tales, but Gortys shows us that she might be the funniest robot the Borderlands universe has to offer.

via Destructoid
via Destructoid

The only problem with having such a strong episode as Escape Plan Bravo is that it sets up the final episode to go down in two ways.  It will either be a disappointment, crumbling beneath the hype and anticipation, or it will deliver on its promises and give us one final one-two punch to send the series off.  Going along with my prediction in the first paragraph, I think it’s safe to say that the final episode is going to be the final culmination of a fantastic episodic story from Telltale.  I have been waiting for the series to trip up for a while now and the episodes kept on getting better and better, so why would the final episode be any different?

tales from borderlands ep4 score

Also playable on PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360

Review: Life Is Strange Episode 3

via Playstation Lifestyle
via Playstation Lifestyle

Life Is Strange Episode 3 (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Square Enix

Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment


If you have been paying playing Square Enix and DONTNOD’s Life Is Strange, you already know that a lot of stuff went down in the episodic game’s second chapter.  Your choices that you make and your powers that you have a profound impact on what takes place.  As a byproduct of this kind of episode, we get an aftermath episode that deals with some of the fallout of the previous.

Life Is Strange’s third episode, entitled Chaos Theory, does a lot of cool things with the story, but it was relatively boring in its entirety.  I went into the episode in that negative mindset already because when you have to follow up an episode like the second one, it’s hard to deliver that same kind of one-two punch.  There were some good bits and pieces scattered throughout the episode that make up for some of the boring parts, but this just seems to follow the path of an “in-between” kind of episode.  The eye of the storm, if you will.

via XGN
via XGN

Story wise, like I mentioned before, our character Max Caulfield is dealing with the aftermath of the happenings of the second episode.  Depending on the outcome that you reach in the previous chapter, the overall tone of Chaos Theory differs.  Some players will treat Max like a hometown hero worthy of praise and thanks.  If things went south, then there will be a sad and dreary overtone present throughout.  The fact that you could have two different episodes depending on what happened in the second is pretty refreshing.

Some of the problems from past episodes carry over, like the game’s cringe-worthy dialog.  I overlooked it a bit in the first episode, but it has continued to get a little worse.  It’s not awful, but it just does not seem natural.  The way the characters talk really rubs me the wrong way and gets me to dislike them.  Things like the overzealous use of the world “hella” and other similar slang can get pretty annoying after a while.  No one speaks like that, at least not the people I talk to.  The game also seems to straddle the line between a thoughtful and intelligent story and the story you would find within the confines of a young-adult beach read.  I could picture the story, aside from some of its darker elements, right at home in the pages of a book in the teen section of a library.

via Blogocio
via Blogocio

The mechanics still manage to stay relevant, which is a bit surprising.  DONTNOD continues to make good use of the time rewind elements in pretty cool ways.  This was the episode where it seemed like they knew what they were doing with the mechanics and everything seemed to work pretty well.  Aside from a couple fun sections, the episode relegates itself to a lot of fetch quests, which did not provide a lot in the fun department.  I hope that these portions do not spill over into future episodes, because I want them to do more with the mechanics that they leave for you.

What makes this episode shine amid some of its problems however is the fantastic and unexpected ending.  I am not exaggerating at all when I said it hit me like a cannon coming out of left field. By the time the credits started to roll, it becomes apparent that the story that you once thought you knew gets flopped on its backside.  They seem to be going in an exciting new direction for what seems to be the rest of the season.  Perhaps this does not sound as mind-blowing in words, but I do not want to spoil anything.  Just take my word for it when I describe its unexpected nature.

life is strange e3 3

I am excited for where the story is going in the future.  I was beginning to worry towards the middle of the episode that things were starting to run dry.  The story had its interesting plotlines, but they started to become a little stale and predictable.  The curveball that gets thrown at Max at the end of the episode secures Chaos Theory as one of the pivotal episodes in Life Is Strange.  It may not seem like it at first, but you will know what I mean when you experience what happens for yourself.

life is strange e3 score

Also available on PC, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.

Review: The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season

via Fone Arena
via Fone Arena

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (2012)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games


Thanks to recent success, Telltale Games has become a household name among gaming fans.  They are now a well-oiled machine that is putting out their now famous brand of adventure games, with a focus on storytelling, at breakneck speeds.  Contrary to what you might assume, most of these games are actually pretty good.  The game that put Telltale on the map and started their second wind was their episodic adaptation of The Walking Dead.  It was a game that was highly regarded among critics and fans alike, garnering a massive following.

What made this game special for people was two things.  First, the two main characters that you follow through the story were extremely well done.  Lee Everett is a good man that has another side to him.  We first see him being hauled away to the slammer due to a mishap in his relationship.  On the way to prison, the police car runs into a zombie on the road and they are propelled into the nearby grass.  The action begins.  Lee manages to escape the site, only to stumble upon a house that seems to have another soul in hiding.  Cue the introduction of Clementine, a rather young and shy little girl that has been hiding away in her house for a while now.  Her parents are gone and she would not have survived if Lee did not stumble upon her house.

via Games N More
via Games N More

Telltale does an amazing job from the get go of making you really care about the two characters.  Lee is faced with a big challenge in helping Clementine with finding her parents, as well as survival.  Clementine should not be painted as a deadweight, but instead as a lightbulb for Lee.  Lee has some trouble coming to grips with the morality of some of the decisions that he has made in his life, and Clementine acts as a moral compass from that point forward.  The two grow quickly attached to each other just as fast as the player gets attached to them.  The scenes involving the two lead characters were by far some of the best scenes from the whole series.

The other thing that really makes the game special is Telltale’s style of adventure game that they instituted with this release.  When the game came out, gone was the format of the traditional adventure game and in with Telltale’s new format of quick time events and heavy decision making.  There is a greater emphasis on story this time around and every dialogue option that you choose in the game has an effect on how things play out, whether big or small.  They do not give you a whole lot of time to make these decisions either.  I often found myself making impulse choices and saying things I did not mean to say.  That might be frustrating to some, but it only makes complete sense.  With the world in shambles due to the zombie outbreak and its people facing immense danger every day, there are going to be a lot of impulse decisions being made.

via Pure Xbox
via Pure Xbox

Each episode of the five episode season has a set of tough decisions that you have to make, and boy do these decisions live up to their name.  Some hit you right in the face in terms of toughness, but others do not seem like they make a big difference at the time, but they end up influencing the story in ways you could not imagine.  There is a moment towards the halfway mark on the season that was tough to swallow for a lot of reasons.  I am not going to spoil anything, but anybody who has played the game should already know what I’m talking about.  What happened was out of my realm of control, and it made me feel helpless.  The game gives you a chance to react, and I acted impulsively, and maybe a little irrationally, when faced with the decision of dealing with a character.  I have never felt that kind of feeling before in a game, and it was great and infuriating at the same time.

via What Culture
via What Culture

The supporting cast of characters that you tag along with during Lee’s journey with Clementine all bring a lot to the table in terms of greatness.  The game was almost flawless in getting me to somewhat care about all the characters that it gave me.  The last two episodes of the season after things are shaken up in the middle leave players with, in my opinion, some of the weaker links when it comes to characters, which made the decisions I had to make a little easier to stomach.

Once again, I am not going to spoil anything in terms of story, but the finale takes what’s left of your heart strings and rips them out with ferocity.  The game twists and turns and plays with your emotions, leaving you tired by the end.  The final moments of the game, where it’s just Lee and Clementine together, make for some tear-worthy moments.  I am not one to cry during any form of entertainment, but I have talked to people who have.  It’s a rough portion to play through, and it wraps everything up in a hard but satisfying way.

via Giant Bomb
via Giant Bomb

The complete edition comes with the DLC that was released with the game called 400 Days.  It tells the story of a wide variety of other people in the form of short playable chapters.  I thought it was a nice little break from the main story, but given how quickly the game runs through the stories, I found it hard to get attached to these characters like I did in the main offering.  The decisions that they gave you in these chapters did not have the same effect as a result.  The special episode ended in head-scratch worthy fashion, with a confrontation that I was not expecting.  Overall, 400 Days gives players a fun little experience in the world of The Walking Dead, but it is not necessary.

The Walking Dead does a ton of great things that were sometimes tainted by some technical problems.  There was a lot of hitching and sometimes the game chugged along in terms of performance.  These are minor quibbles on a masterpiece of a game, but it’s a game that is not going to win any awards in the technical categories.  This might not be your traditional adventure game, but it was a milestone for Telltale, setting a foundation for their future in the game industry.  The Walking Dead was a game that tried a lot of new things, telling an amazing story.  If you were ever on the fence, make time to play through this gem of a game.

the walking dead s1 score

Also available on PC, Mac, PS3, PSVita, Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone

Revealed – 6/2/14

Hey everybody, Revealed is a new daily series that I am going to start that goes over all of the big reveals of the day in the video game, movie, music, and TV world.  Obviously if a day doesn’t have any noteworthy announcements.  Hopefully in the future I can evolve the series to make it even better.

Mortal Kombat X (2015)

Mortal Kombat X Logo
Image via NeoSeeker

Today, Warner Bros. Interactive released a trailer for the hotly anticipated new Mortal Kombat game which plans to release on the Xbox One, Playstation 4, PS3, and Xbox 360.  Ed Boon,  Creative Director at NeatherRealm Studios, was teasing the game via Twitter with various photos and other things of the sort.  It was clearly apparent that the game was coming out.

Image via GotGame.com
Image via GotGame.com

In the trailer, we see an intense cinematic fight between two fighters.  The game looks pretty nice but it’s tough to say whether the game will fully utilize the next generation hardware if they are also focusing on previous gen systems.  Time will tell whether this is the case when the game is expected to release in 2015.

Forza Horizon 2 (Fall 2014)

The music focused racing game is back again for lap number two.  Forza Horizon 2, the sequel to the popular Forza Horizon was announced for the Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3.  The game, which seems to take place in Southern Europe, will have the music festival as the primary focus of the game, just like it’s predecessor.

Forza Horizon 2 box art

It was announced that there are tons of new features and improvements in store for the game, which is slated for release this Fall.  The game’s Xbox One and PS4 version are being handled by Playground Games while the previous gen games will be developed by Sumo Digital.

Homefront: The Revolution (2015)

homefront revolution box art
Image via WCCF Tech

The follow up to the mildly successful Homefront was announced today as Homefront: The Revolution, a game that will be released on next gen consoles and PC.  The game, which will take place in Philadelphia is being published by both Crytek and Deep Silver. The city has been transformed into a police state and the citizens are being heavily occupied by North Korean forces.  Players will presumably have to “start a revolution” against these forces and take them out.

Image via Digital Spy
Image via Digital Spy

A trailer was released today showing off some of the game.  A full playable demo will be present at E3 this year.  The game does look nice and I am sure that the Crytek Engine will make the game look really pretty and sharp.

A New Game by Naughty Dog

According to an GameInformer interview with Evan Wells, the co-president of Naughty Dog, a new game is in the works.  “We definitely have another project on the scale of Uncharted in very early pre-production stages”, he said.  The studio has been recently split into two teams with one team working on the next Uncharted game and the other team is most likely working on this new game.

Image via godgames-world.blogspot.com
Image via godgames-world.blogspot.com

Now it is hard to tell which game they are actually working on.  It could be a new The Last of Us, but it could be another existing IP.  It could also be a whole new IP.  Maybe it will be announced at E3?  This might be a little doubtful though considering they will probably be spending most of their stage presence talking about Uncharted 4.