Video Game Reviews

Here's where I keep track of video games I have played. I rate the games on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being "highly recommended" and 1 being "forget this game and go read a book or something."

Shadowgrounds on PC (6/10)

Shadowgrounds

I'm a sucker for these top-down shooter games. This is the type of game I imagined playing back when the cutting edge AAA title was Berzerk for the 2600. I have yet to find one that actually rises to my expectations. Shadowgrounds is okay, but there is a clunkiness to the whole package that keeps it from being a great game.

The Walking Dead: Michonne on PC (8/10)

Michonne Is Thinking

This three episode tangent does not appear to be connected with the other Walking Dead games. Maybe some of the characters will make their way into season three, but for the most part this is about Michonne coming to grips with the loss of her daughters while helping a family survive from the usual assortment of humanity free bad guys. I enjoyed the game, but Telltale needs to push their formula a little more and add a bit more consequence to your actions.

Game of Thrones on PC (8/10)

Game of Thrones Screenshot

This has been my least favorite of the Telltale Choose Your Own Adventure style adventures. I think my main problem with it was the multiple character story lines. Jumping from character to character may be in the spirit of the books, but I felt like it diminished the feeling that I was actually a part of the world. Also, as a fan of the books and show, it was a little strange to be playing out this non-canonical story. It was like playing a Transformers game as a Go-Bot.

Sniper Elite III on PC (9/10)

This is not going to end well.

The Sniper franchise is all about stealth, planning and quick moments of anatomically correct violence. The previous game in the series was good, but it didn't quite click with me the way three has. If my memory can be trusted, I feel like the biggest difference here is that there is now a much more open level design. The sneaking around feels like you are in control rather than being guided on rails. As before, the x-ray vision kill shots are an unnecessary but effective gimmick. There is a story about some sort of super weapon but, whatever. It's completely forgettable. The game's mechanics are real highlight here, and I now am excited to play IV when it comes out (just no more desert levels please... this ain't Serious Sam).

Shadow Warrior Classic on Ms-DOS (6/10)

Shadow Warror: Looks Like Salad

This is a classic FPS from the same people who brought us Duke Nukem 3D. In this outing, the politically incorrect humor is based around the protagonist's ridiculous Asian accent and culturally insensitive one-liners. It can be quite cringe-worthy at times, but inevitably it's harmless. Especially when compared to the over-the-top gore and violence. Ah, the 90's. If you can find your safe space, what remains is an exciting game that sticks to the usual run and gun formula of this era. There are a lot of crazy weapons, tough enemies and unique level designs (for the time). Modern gamers may scoff at the lack of narrative and primitive presentation, but I thought it was fast, offensive, silly fun.

Batman: Arkham Asylum on PC (9/10)

Batmen goin' all kicky!

I'm still waiting for that Wonder Twins game, but in the meantime this will do. After Arkham City this does seem less grand, but it still is more-or-less the same fantastic game. The fluid fighting system is just as good as I remembered it was in the sequel. Even the mindless Riddler trinket hunting works here. There is a wandering story about The Joker and super-henchmen that doesn't really amount to much. But who really cares. When the game mechanics work this well, I'm fine with a second rate plot.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood on PC (6/10)

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

I enjoyed the original Call of Juarez and its spin-off, Gunslinger, but this one didn't really grab me. It tries to mix things up by letting you play each level as one of two characters, Ray or Thomas. But, in the end, it's still just a very standard shooter with bland environments and no real weapon variety. I guess learning Ray's backstory (this is a prequel) was interesting and there was a real attempt to craft some genuine character development. Otherwise, it was just so-so to me.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel on PC (8/10)

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Okay, here's another Borderlands sequel. Actually, this is more of a large expansion pack to Borderlands 2—using the same engine and most of the same mechanics. The only new additions are the low-gravity environments and oxygen management. Admittedly, the ability to jump hundreds of feet into the air is pretty fun and opens up many of the levels, but, in the end, it's still the same old game: run towards the map marker and shoot anything that gets in your way.

Radiant Historia on Nintendo DS (8/10)

Radiant Historia Box ArtI bought Radiant Historia based on its reputation as one of, if not THE best RPG on the Nintendo DS. Well, it's a JRPG so take that praise with a grain of salt. In fact, when I first got it, I manged to clock about 20 hours but eventually got distracted by other games. It's easy to lose focus from this extremely text-heavy game. Once again, many clicks are wasted on redundant "..." dialogue boxes and the accompanying, un-skippable "..." word bubble animations. So, it took four years and a fun romp through Etrian Odyssey for me to muster the energy to attempt another play through. Rather than pick up where I left off, trying to remember the convoluted plot up to that point, I started anew. During this run I would try my darndest to differentiate between all the cutesy anime characters and not lose focus.

The main touted selling point of Radiant Historia usually is its complex time-travelling plot. At first, being able to redo past events to alter the current ones is an nice mechanism. However, once you are deep into the game and there are dozens of points to which you need to return again and again, it becomes a drag and a nuisance. For me it didn't help that there seemingly was no way to skip the endless cut-scenes (I discovered it's the "start" button about 30 hours in). Despite the grandiose concept, there isn't that much in terms of branching story lines that would, like a Telltale game, lead to a unique game for each player.

Etrian Odyssey on Nintendo DS (8/10)

Rat Battle in Etrian OdysseyEtrian Odyssey is an old-school RPG in the vein of Wizardy or The Bard's Tale. That is, you assemble a party of adventurers, go to a town hub to gather quests and equipment, then delve into an uncharted labyrinth killing monsters and mapping your progress. There isn't much of a story to follow here. Your goal is to find the "secret of the labyrinth" which, spoiler alert, has something to do with global warming (97% of scientists agree this is a dumb twist). Exploration and combat are the real core of the game, and the mapping of the maze is the primary gimmick. A task for which the DS is excellently suited. No need for graph paper. Just use the stylus and mark your map directly in the game. I can't tell you how frustrating it was playing Bard's Tale, carefully mapping away, only to have my time-consuming efforts foiled when the map ran off the edge of the graph paper. I'd then have to tape a second piece to the side or, worse, start over from scratch.

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