Tag Archives: Xbox One

Review: Unravel

unravel-cover-art
via Wikipedia

Unravel (2016)

PS4 / Rated E

Puzzle / Platformer

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Coldwood Interactive


When this little indie game from Coldwood Interactive named Unravel was first announced at EA’s 2015 E3 press conference, it immediately caught my attention.  A very nervous Martin Sahlin, the game’s creator, came out on stage and proceeded to introduce us to the game, and its adorable little star, Yarny. (Seen below)  I remember being instantly intrigued with its mechanics and instantly charmed by the games irresistibly cute visual style.  It later went on to release in early 2016, but it seemed to be a game that largely flew under people’s radars…including mine.  After about a year I finally dipped my toes into what Unravel is all about and I was met with a very charming experience with some unique platforming elements that make it standout from some of its peers.

As I mentioned before, the game stars a small red, cat-looking creature named Yarny, who is made entirely of yarn.  Yarny is constantly in awe and wonderment as he explores the objects and environments around him.  The game starts you in a small house that includes pictures of different locations that are important to the homeowner’s life.  Yarny explores these environments and collects memories along the way, slowly telling the emotional and nostalgic stories of the homeowner and their family throughout the years.

It is a very gripping story structure that drives you through the game.  There no cut scenes and a scant amount of characters, but the whole story is told through pictures and mirages in the environments that you explore.  Some of these stories were a little tough to understand, but the game does a fantastic job at capturing the various moments and emotions that families experience, whether it is the happy moments or the sad moments.  It is harrowing at times and will most likely relate to your life in some way.  Unravel, despite its simple concept, has a way of resonating with players, making it a special experience.

unravel-1
via Coldwood Interactive

The game is made up of twelve different levels spanning environments like forests, mountainous hilltops, and snowy valleys…to name a few.  These levels require you to use Yarny’s body made of yarn to get pasts its various obstacles and dangers.  Yarny can create rope to swing across gaps, make bridges, and maneuver objects.  If that was not enough, Yarny also unravels (insert title card) as you make your way through the level.  If you are overzealous with your yarn usage, you will eventually run out of yarn and Yarny will be stripped down to his basic frame.  To combat this, there are various “checkpoints” in the levels that allow you to re-spool, giving Yarny more yarn to work with.  I did not find myself running out of yarn too much, but it does add another layer of complexity to the levels and their thoughtful design.  In terms of overall difficulty, the game is not too challenging.  There are moments where the game will get you, but death is never really a burden given the generous checkpoint system.  You also can warp back to the latest checkpoint if you find yourself stuck.

One gripe I have with Unravel’s mechanics are the floaty controls that sometimes make tougher platforming sections a little frustrating.  There were some moments in the game were tighter controls would have been more helpful.  There is a trophy (on PS4) that requires you to go through each level without dying and I quickly found myself giving up because the controls were not as up-to-snuff as I would have liked them to be.  There is also the tiny issue of freshness when it comes to the game’s mechanics.  Unravel does a commendable job, for the most part, of giving you new challenges that change things up, but this evolution in gameplay starts to taper off when you get to the later levels.  Due to the game’s simplistic nature, it is tough to constantly give you new ways of using the mechanics at your disposal.

unravel-2
via Coldwood Interactive

But let us talk about the game’s main attraction: just how darn cute the whole thing is.  There is an enormous amount of detail that went into the game’s visual style from the environments to Yarny himself.  Everything has a tactile feel to it and Yarny looks super realistic.  Coldwood Interactive most likely drew some inspiration from Nintendo’s games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Wooly World.  The game’s score is also well done, meshing perfectly with the game’s heartwarming story of family and nostalgia.

Despite the few issues I had with the game’s mechanics Unravel still manages to invoke tons of feeling, something you do not see too much from puzzle-platformers.  The game’s eye-popping adorability is what pulls you in but it is the gripping and emotional story that convinces you to stay.  It is a relatively short, but powerful, experience that manages to do some cool things with its yarn-based mechanics.  Unravel is worth your time.  It is worth it alone just to see Yarny’s curiosity of the world around him.

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Review: DOOM

doom-cover
via Pinoy Tech Blog

DOOM (2016)

PC / Rated M

First-Person Shooter

Publisher: Bethesda, Zenimax Media

Developer: id Software, Certain Affinity, Escalation Studios


DOOM doesn’t waste any time before throwing you right into the action.  There’s a demonic invasion…and it’s your job to kill every single demon that falls in your path.  DOOM is a constant thrill ride from start to finish, turning the notch of intensity up with every level you play.  I’ve only played the game’s campaign, but that was all I needed out of this experience.  I just needed an excuse to kill a lot of demons…and DOOM delivered in every way.

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id Software has created a game with a hell of a lot of style.  (Pun certainly intended…yay for bad jokes!)  The game’s initial moments, which have you donning the iconic suit of the Doom Slayer, immediately set the mood and tone for the rest of the game.  As you make your way to an elevator, the main theme starts to play and we get the game’s title sequence.  Perhaps the best part of it all is the final beat of the song, which perfectly syncs up with your character cocking his gun, ready for the hell-bent mission awaiting him.  It’s the perfect introduction for the game, immediately putting you in the right mood.  It’s always important for a game to nail its initial moments, and DOOM’s first impression is outstanding and wild.

Understandably, the story tends to take the back seat for most of the game.  DOOM takes place on Mars where a UAC facility is being invaded by the evil and demonic forces of Hell.  You play a man who wakes up on an alter in the bowels of the UAC facility.  Upon freeing yourself from your chains, you quickly find your Praetor Suit, the suit that turns you into the Doom Slayer.  You then begin to realize that the facility’s demonic invasion has been enabled by Dr. Olivia Pierce, the game’s main antagonist.  With help from Dr. Samuel Hayden and the facilities’ VEGA system, your mission is to prepare yourself to stop Hell’s forces and end the demonic onslaught for good.  There’s nothing complex about the plot which mainly serves as an excuse for you to make your way through the Martian facility and eventually the pits of Hell.  It’s hard to knock the game because of its story since the game clearly knows what it is all about and why people are playing it.  You’re here to kill demons and DOOM clearly recognizes that, which is a good thing.

doom-2
via ONRPG

Besides the campaign’s objectives and waypoints, the other force that drives you through the game is the metal soundtrack that accompanies your every action.  Unlike most games where the soundtrack is mostly passive, DOOM’s soundtrack is an active soundtrack, one that really motivates you to kill the demons that step in your path.  The soundtrack, written and composed by Mick Gordon, is full of gritty and electronic metal.  It pairs with the game perfectly and does a great job at painting the game’s atmosphere.  There were many times where I was bobbing my head to the beat of the music while murdering hordes of demons onscreen.  It just felt right.  It made for some kick-ass moments.  It’s an example of a well-realized soundtrack that really jives with the game it’s accompanying.

When it comes to the actual act of demon slaying, this aspect of the game felt great as well.  The combat is extremely smooth and fast, which worked perfectly for this game’s style and feel.  The game runs nicely as well, which also enhanced the gameplay.  There’s a variety of guns that you unlock as you make your way through the game.  These guns all felt right and the upgrades that you acquire through skill points that you collect also make for more varied gunplay.  The shotgun and the heavy machine gun are your best friends, but weapons like the Gauss Cannon and the rocket launcher are a good way to go when battling tougher and beefier enemies.  I never felt like I was using the same weapon for too long.  I was constantly switching weapons to give myself the advantage when battling certain enemies, which is great from a game design standpoint.  There are also glory kills, which allow you to “finish off” enemies when they are low on health.  The advantage of performing a glory kill is that the enemy drops health when performed.  These kills were a novelty in the beginning, but they begin to grow old as you advance in the game.  The variety of these kills tapers off quickly and they become quite repetitive.  I never stopped performing these kills because of their benefits, but it’s a shame id Software didn’t do anything to change up the formula.

doom-3
via WCCF Tech

There’s no shortage of demons for you to kill in the game.  The game relentlessly throws demons your way left and right, which makes for a thrilling experience.  It’s non-stop action from start to finish with little bits of respite sprinkled throughout.  The enemy variety is great, starting you off with a couple of measly demons.  As you progress your way through the game, more enemy types are thrown into the mix, each with different strategies and move sets.  By the time the final level comes around, all the enemy types are joining forces to get a piece of you, making for some hectic late game firefights.  In addition, there are only a couple of boss fights in the game (three to be exact) which were a little underwhelming.  The three boss fights, including the final boss, were epic and grand in scale, and a lot of fun, but I would have liked to see a little more.  There were a good deal of open rooms with waves of demons coming your way.  It would have been nice if some of these rooms were actually boss fights, especially earlier on in the game.  This is only a minor complaint with the game however, as the action is still very relentless and a ton of fun.

I only played the campaign, so I can’t speak on the multiplayer modes or the Snapmap functionality, but the campaign alone is enough for me to recommend this game to anyone who hasn’t already taken the dive.  DOOM’s campaign is extremely polished and it has a ton of style which is established right from the get-go. The combat is great and only made better with the superb soundtrack that drives you through the experience.  At the end of the day, I came to DOOM because I wanted to kill endless scores of demons, and I can’t think of any other game that nails this experience better than DOOM.  Get ready to kill a lot of demons…Doom Slayer.

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Vault-Tec Needs You: Vault-Tec Workshop Impressions

Have you ever found yourself wandering through a vault in the Fallout universe and wondering what it would be like to build one of those vaults for yourself?  Have you wondered what it would be like to practice experiments on the vault dwellers within?  Now this dream is a reality in the Vault-Tec Workshop, the latest string of DLC add-ons for Bethesda’s Fallout 4.  It’s essentially a more fleshed out version of the studio’s mobile game Fallout Shelter, which is novel in concept. Vault-Tec Workshop doesn’t go without its faults though.

vault tec workshop 1
via WASD

The add-on starts you off with a quest calling you to investigate a mysterious cave, a new location added into the game.  Inside this cave you find what is seemingly an abandoned vault, although you hear a woman’s voice over the loudspeaker.  After defeating the enemies that are trying to break in through the vault door, you open the vault and come into contact with a new acquaintance, Valery Barstow, a ghoul who was meant to become the overseer of the uncompleted Vault 88, the vault in which you discovered.  After walking into the main area, you find a huge cave with loads of abandoned construction equipment and some feral ghouls who used to be a part of the crew.  After getting to know a little bit about Barstow and her ambitions for Vault 88, she sets you free with the task of finishing Vault 88 and the experiments that it was meant to run.  It might seem unethical at first, but that’s the question you will have to repeatedly struggle with as you continue to welcome in new settlers and complete different tasks for Barstow.  You can either murder Barstow in cold blood or complete her unethical, and sometimes devious, experiments on the settlers you welcome in.  It’s your choice, which is what I like about this add-on in particular.

The settlement space that the add-on gives you to build your vault is definitely the biggest space in the game by far.  You have a massive system of caves that you can explore and clear out to make room for your vault.  The game encourages players to reach level 20 before starting the DLC, because some of the enemies you will have to clear out are pretty tough.  Once you have explored and cleared the cave system, you have a massive cave at your disposal…which you pretty much can’t take advantage of due to the settlement size constraints.  You know that bar in the upper right corner in the workshop HUD that indicates “size”?  This size constraint unfortunately still applies to your vault, even though it gives you a massive space to work with.  If you’re on console (I have been playing on PS4) then you can pretty much forget creating a vault that spans the entire cave system.  If you want a vault that’s nice and furnished, then you’re pretty much going to have to stick to the main area for now, until mods come out that allow you to remove the size limitations.  It’s a pretty large oversight, but I understand that console limitations prevent you from creating vast vaults.  At the end of the day it’s a hardware constraint, but it’s still rather unfortunate, especially when your teased with such a massive building space to play around with.

vault tec workshop 2
via Video Games Zone

When you take into account all of Bethesda’s previous workshop add-ons for the game, Vault-Tec Workshop is probably the biggest and best addition to the constantly growing workshop feature set.  The add-on gives you a pretty hefty set of new workshop elements that give you the ability to create your very own Vault-Tec vault.  There’s a bunch of pre-sets that allow you to build hallways, atriums, dining spaces, living spaces, overseer offices and much more.  There’s also a host of new furniture options that relate specifically to what you typically find in vaults around the world.  Everything from Vault-Tec posters to diner benches have been included, allowing you to personalize your vault to your liking. Perhaps the most practical addition to the workshop is the Vault-Tec generators, that have the ability to produce 150 or 500 electricity.  These generators are powerhouses that will allow you to power up even the heftiest of vaults.  You can build all of these elements outside of the add-on’s underground area in any settlement of your choice, which can potentially lead to some unique creations as well.

For all you diabolical folks who want to conduct experiments on your vault’s dwellers, you get a pretty nice array of experiments to choose from.  In all, there are four objects that allow you to conduct three experiments each, which totals up to twelve experiments in all.  These objects range from elliptical bikes to soda machines to slot machines.  These experiments are not as crazy as some of the others that you have seen in other vaults, but they are enough to suffice.  You also can’t create your own, so your stuck with what the add-on gives you.  There’s a population management terminal that allows you to manage all of your vault dwellers, which provides a nice and easy way to get a glance at what everyone is doing.  You can also equip your dwellers with their very own Vault 88 jumpsuits and Pip-Boys, which is a nice touch in itself.  The add-on goes pretty far in letting you create what feels like an authentic vault.

vault tec workshop 3
via Film Games Etc

Despite the size limitations that inhibit you from creating expansive vault systems, the Vault-Tec Workshop is a nice addition to Fallout 4.  Sure, in the end it’s just a console version of Fallout Shelter, but the add-on provides enough items and features to make it worth taking a look at.  At the end of the day, I would have preferred a little more story add-ons like the previous Fallout games, but these workshop add-ons will suffice for now.  Nuka World, presumably Fallout 4’s final piece of DLC, is coming out next month, but Vault-Tec Workshop should be enough to hold over fans in the meantime.

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.

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

Fallout 4 Wasteland Workshop: Cool in Concept, Bummer in Reality

The notion of a perfectly tamed Deathclaw roaming around your settlement in Fallout 4 is rousing and perhaps a little concerning.  Why would you want Deathclaws and other ferocious beats of the wasteland making themselves at home in your settlement?  Well, there’s no reason at all.  You can have them fight your settlers and each other though!  This is the driving force behind Bethesda’s latest add-on for their acclaimed RPG Fallout 4.  The expansion, titled Wasteland Workshop, offers some new stuff for your settlements and the ability to house a battle arena…but that’s about it.

wasteland workshop 1
via VG247

Maybe the biggest draw this time around is the prospect of essentially starting up your own wasteland petting zoo.  The expansion adds a variety of cages into the workshop mode, the aspect of the game that allows you to customize and build your own settlements.  These cages range from small to large, depending on the type of creature you want to capture.  You can capture a good majority of the monsters that Fallout 4 has to offer, including Deathclaws, Yao Guais, Mutant Hounds, Brahmin, and more.  You can also house sentient beings like Raiders, Gunners, and Ghouls.  There’s even cats, although putting a cat cage in the same arena as a Deathclaw doesn’t bode well.  Trust me, I learn from experience.

When you initially capture these creatures, they’re hostile depending on their type.  This is where the Beta Wave Emitter comes in, a new workshop item that pacifies any and all creatures within its reach.  This is the item that allows deadly creatures like Deathclaws to roam around your settlement without the urge to rip your lungs out.  Unfortunately, you have to have certain perks like Wasteland Whisperer and Animal Friend to build this item, which is pretty much necessary if you want to have these creatures in your settlement.  I often found my creatures out of their cages either because of generator failure or you know, just because.  It happened enough that my settlement started to become a littered mess of monster corpses.  I would kill them, reset the bait, and then repeat.  It started to become tedious.  Having creatures locked up in your settlement is also a good way to bring unwanted attention to your settlement.  You’ll find your settlement getting attacked a lot more when you have creatures in the cages.  It was almost comical how much times I started to get attacked as I built more and more cages.  It started to get real annoying after a while and I later just abandoned the settlement…it started to become too much.

wasteland workshop 2
via VG247

Another big feature that Wasteland Workshop brings to the table is arena fights.  These fights can involve your settlement’s inhabitants or your creatures…or both.  New workshop items let you build your own battle arena in your settlements, which sounded pretty exciting at first.  Unfortunately, the battles are a little cumbersome to set up and they’re not that exciting to watch either.  There’s a little value to be found in the first couple of fights…but it started to become too much work to be enjoyable.  Your settlement’s moral goes down as well if settlers are killing each other so there is really no point in having your settlers duke it out, unless you’re a maniacal psychopath that loves to watch the world burn.  If that fits your bill, then this DLC might just be up your wheelhouse.  This add-on does a lot more to destroy your settlements then build them up.

Perhaps the best part about the add-on, and maybe the smallest new feature, is the addition of customizable neon signs that you can adorn on your settlement’s structures.  The workshop gives you the full alphabet, allowing you to basically light up whatever word or phrase that you want.  It’s only cosmetic, but there’s a lot of value.  I was littering my settlements with neon signs in no time.  You can make some pretty silly stuff with these neon signs, which is half the fun.

wasteland workshop 3
via Just Push Start

Unlike past Bethesda expansions, Wasteland Workshop is a barren wasteland in terms of content…or at least content that matters.  The monster cages and arena fights sound really cool on paper but the actual reality of these ideas doesn’t translate the same amount of excitement.  Besides the neon signs, there really isn’t that much else.  I was hoping that we would get a lot more workshop items but instead we only got a select few.  If you’re an owner of a season pass, like me, then none of this really matters anyway.  No harm no foul.  However, if you decided to play it safe by picking and choosing what add-ons you wanted to purchase, then there is really no reason you should pick this one up.  Just wait for their next expansion, Far Harbor.

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.

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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