Monday, 30 September 2013

Arma Tactics Quick Impressions (PC)

Usually when people think of Arma, people think of really in-depth tactical shooters.  Now the series has a turn-based strategy offshoot, and it's a surprisingly casual affair.  Jeff gives some brief thoughts on the game after futzing around in it for a bit.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Valdis Story: Abyssal City Quick Impressions (PC)

Today Jeff takes a look at Valdis Story, a 2D action adventure game in the spirit of classics like Castlevania and Metroid.  The game also recently got approved on Steam's Greenlight service, and will show up in the store some time in the future.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Underrail Early Access Impressions (PC)

Isometric RPGs were a big thing back in the day with games like Fallout, Icewind Dale, and Baldur's Gate leading the charge.  Recently Underrail appeared on Steam's Early Access service, and it looks to be trying to recapture some of the magic from those titles, especially Fallout.  Jeff's spent a bit of time fiddling around in the game and gives some early thoughts on what he's come across so far.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Feature: Time Capsule - Sept./Oct. 2003

Soul Calibur II
If there's one thing the Internet is extremely bad about it's being able to just flip through random articles from months or years ago. An article sits on top of a page for a bit then seemingly vanishes, lost to the ravages of Time, which in some cases is hours after it's posted.

For those of us that hang on to magazines, I'm sure you can relate to sitting down on a rainy Sunday with a magazine four or five years old and re-reading articles or reading some of them for the first time. The Internet offers no such thing -- if you don't read something now, like, right now! then you'll probably never see it.

To combat this, we'll be running articles like this one to highlight content we've done in the past. Without further ado, here are a few links to content from The Armchair Empire that's a decade old. Maybe you won't cozy up with a coffee and donut, but maybe you'll remember briefly a time when things were a simpler and McFarlane Toys was pumping out action figures like Old Faithful.

Review: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (360)

From the very moment the game begins, to the very last second, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons on Xbox Live Arcade has one of the most unforgettable, emotionally draining and melancholy game narratives ever in a game. Coupled with good puzzle-action gameplay and a superior visual style that will invoke memories of classic titles Ico and LIMBO, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a great game that will haunt the heartstrings of anybody that plays it.

From the opening scene, we see loss in the lives of the brothers – in this case, Little Brother – who lives with the guilt of seeing his mother drown. Too small, too tiny, too frail to do anything but watch her sink into the depths of her watery grave; it is an important moment, because is establishes his fear of the water that will appear whenever water obstacles must be traversed. And then there's his Big Brother, faced with looking after his guilt-ridden little brother while facing a new family dilemma: Father is sick and injured, and only a special medicine can heal him, which will require a long and dangerous journey that the brothers must make to save his life.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Steam OS Announced

Valve is getting into operating systems with its Linux-based Steam OS.  Interesting times ahead!

Feature Preview: Skylanders Swap Force (Part III)

Last week, Sidd was in Albany, New York to take a tour of developer Vicarious Visions studio. During the trip he got a chance to talk to the developers and get some hands on time with the game. In our first two feature articles (Part I, Part II, we took a behind the scenes look at the game talking about everything from the character creation to how the story was crafted. In this third and final article gives us some hands-on impressions of Swap Force for the Xbox 360.

The Skylanders series has garnered a cult-like following over the past couple of years and has sold millions of copies worldwide, which is to say nothing of the number of toy sales that has generated.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Feature Preview: Skylanders - Swap Force (Part II)

Check Part I of Sidd's Skylanders: Swap Force.

Part 4: The Audio Behind Swap Force
We met with one of the sound designers who took us inside his studio where the walls are covered with soundproofing foam and a really cool audio board, full of computers and dials.

The designer revealed that the sound offered a challenge when you add the "swapability" elements to the characters, since the two characters might have different personalities. As a rule of thumb the developers would play up the more aggressive side of a character, but they would also have to strike a fine balance between something that is cool and not scary to kids.

One of the characters we were shown was Wash Buckler who features tentacles. The audio team wasn't really sure how to make an octopus sound when walking on land. The team came up with an idea like using a bath tub, bath mat and laundry detergent to create Wash Buckler's sound. It seems like inspiration can come from the strangest places.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Foul Play Quick Impressions (PC, Xbox 360)

Like beat 'em ups?  How about Victorian England?  If so, Foul Play may be of interest to you.  In it you play as 19th century British adventurer Baron Dashworth, as he recounts his exploits in a play before a live audience.  It's a very stylish brawler with some interesting ideas.  Jeff gives some brief impressions of what he's experienced so far in the game in the video below.

Feature Preview: Skylanders - Swap Force (Part I)

On September 17th, Sidd was in Albany, New York visiting Vicarious Visions Studio where he was given a tour of the studio, spoke with members of the development team and got some more hands on time with the game. In the next few days we will be featuring some articles taking a behind the scenes look at the next game in the series and have some more hands on impressions. This article will cover how the concept of Swap Force came about, the game's technology, and the process of how the writers create an engaging story.

Part 1: How The New (Swapping) Feature Comes About
Skylanders Swap Force still supports all the old Skylander figures/characters, but introduces sixteen new characters. These new characters have top and bottom halves that can be separated from each other and recombined with the halves from other characters. This allows for 256 total combinations.

The top half controls how you fight, while the bottom half controls how you move. This was an idea that was presented early on to Activision CEO of Publishing Eric Hirschberg. Immediately he latched on to the idea and loved what it could mean for the third iteration of the game. As the developers described it, it was their "Aha!" moment.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Review: Castlevania - Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition (PC)

A fixed camera in a game with levels that'll let the player fall to his death in one instance and not in another. A dead-sounding protagonist. Overwrought cutscenes aiming for an emotional high point that usually elicit embarrassment. Enemies attacking off-screen thanks to the fixed camera. Glowing points of interaction, like ledges and grapple points. There are a litany of video game "crimes" that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow commits but like that one friend you have that's a goofy screw-up it comes off as likeable.

Strata Quick Impressions (PC)

In search of a puzzle game that isn't a Tetris clone, match three, et cetera?  Maybe Strata would be something to look into.  Jeff takes a look at this puzzler where you have to match colored ribbons with squares below.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Feature: The Armchair Empire's Ethics Policy

Our Review Ethics Policy was developed in 2000 when we realized that we owed a duty of care to our loyal readers, which amounted to about 7 people at the time. We decided to keep the policy secret as we didn't want our readers to think we were trying to hide something by being upfront about having a policy because, as we all know, nothing sows doubt faster in the mind of the reader than explicitly telling them the standards to which we adhere.

After 13 years it's high time The Armchair Empire reveal its Review Ethics Policy, which includes the calculations that determine review scores.

The Armchair Empire's Ethical Treatment
of Our Loyal Subjects

The Armchair Empire will not tolerate most wrongdoing or impropriety at any time. The Armchair Empire may take appropriate measures in correcting the issue if the ethical code is broken.  Unless there's a very good reason, any infractions of this code of ethics will not be tolerated.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Legend of Dungeon Quick Impressions (PC)

Have a hankering for a new roguelike to run around in, bonking baddies over the head?  Considering Legend of Dungeon?  After spending some time with the game, Jeff gives some early impressions of what he saw.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Review: Mario & Luigi - Dream Team (3DS)

Thoughout Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Luigi's characterization as a lazy, bumbling, incoherent moron that's merely worthy of being a sidekick (barely) to his brother Mario, a glory hog if ever there was one, is insulting if not an outright character assassination.

Even in games that ostensibly star Luigi, like Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, he's a scared and reluctant hero, with only as much bravery as his insecurity will allow to make something of himself in comparison to his fearless brother. In that respect, Luigi's a sad sack of a character, which explains why in his dream state Luigi's the exact opposite.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Review: Madden 25 (360)

A quarter of a century. Hard to believe it's already been that long since the first Madden football videogame first appeared, revolutionizing sports videogaming entirely. One of Madden 25's cool features is during loading screens, as gamers wait, screenshot flashes of Madden games from the past appear, with a little interesting fact about that particular edition. Seeing some of those early games, it's amazing to see how far Madden and gaming in general have advanced visually and technologically.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Review: NHL 14 (360)

With the NHL hockey games, the question that EA Canada has to answer every year is: If a player holds up the latest NHL game and compares it to the previous year's release, will they be able to tell the difference?

This year, the answer, at least my answer, is, No, except for the inclusion of an "homage" mode to NHL '94.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Review: LEGO Legends of Chima - Laval's Journey (3DS)

I'm pretty sure I've made this observation with another LEGO game or maybe I read it in someone else's review, but the never-slowing flow of LEGO games can only be explained by the existence of a LEGO Algorithm that developers are using to change a few variables, spin and dial, drop in some different textures and ka-ching! A new LEGO game!

Maybe such a theory is cynical at best and "just being a jerk" at worst, but I have no other explanation for the way it feels like Science was somehow employed in being able to produce a spate of games that so successfully reuses the same tried and tested formula.

Review: Kickbeat (PS Vita)

Music rhythm games are one of those vices amongst some gamers – find an addictive enough game and you'll end up losing track of whole hours, if not days, at a time.

Most games in the genre use flying colors to keep you visually stimulated while you bang out the buttons on your controller or plastic instruments. Kickbeat has you wailing on hordes of enemies to the tune playing in the background. Mistakes normally would have an audio queue – either a screech in the music playback or a gap; instead mistakes are more tangible – your character gets hurt and takes damage. Too much damage and the game is over.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Review: Company of Heroes 2 (PC)

Company of Heroes 2 had a huge hurdle to clear: the original Company of Heroes.

Developer Relic Entertainment would have to leap out of the long shadow cast by the critically acclaimed original released back in 2006. As far as problems go, it's actually a good one to have. Players of the original (and the expansions) that have been playing the title since its release were geared up for the sequel. That's good! The other side of the coin, of course, is the danger of wiping out that enthusiasm and anticipation and replacing it with regret and bitterness because there's an expectation that the game will rock the core of the series with a dramatic overhaul of unit and resource management and wrap the whole package in a shiny wrapper.

Monday, 9 September 2013

PS Vita TV Announced

Sony has announced a new, screen-less iteration of the Vita that will act as a set top box connected to the TV.  Jeff briefly discusses the news in the video below.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Paranautical Activity Preview (PC)

Like randomly generated environments?  Like old school FPSes?  Then you may want to keep an eye on Paranautical Activity for the PC, as it has a bit of both going on.  Jeff gives his thoughts on the current build of the game below.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

MirrorMoon EP Quick Impressions (PC)

Tackling space exploration and puzzle solving while going for a rather unique aesthetic, MirrorMoon EP quietly made it's way to Steam the other day.  Jeff has spent some time with the game, and gives some early impressions of it.

Review: Naruto Powerful Shippuden (3DS)

Every once in a while a game comes along that takes every opportunity to slap the player in the face. In a nutshell, that's Naruto Powerful Shippuden, a game that constantly hits below the belt with utterly arbitrary challenges that encourage hair-pulling frustration and grinding levels to earn experience points (XP) to upgrade skills and unlock more skills.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Review: The Sims 3 Island Paradise (PC)

Crystal-clear waters, beautiful beaches and warm and super sandy beaches. Just another day living in a tropical paradise. But this isn't a typical day for Sims 3 gamers, as The Sims 3 Island Paradise introduces a whole new boatload of gameplay features that makes this more than just the usual Sims 3 expansion. From running a resort, to decking out a houseboat and sailing around isles-a-plenty, to exploring the mysteries under the sea, Island Paradise has more gameplay possibilities than the normal expansion pack.

And what an amazing setting for the new gameplay. Escape the Sims suburbia and cityscapes for the sunny and sandy realm of Isla Paradiso, where every day is a vacation. Unlike the regular Joe working stiff, however, Sims 3 gamers can stay for as long as they want, and gamers will definitely want to, with so many things to enjoy.

Contra Retro Review (NES)

Konami put out a lot of amazing games in the 1980s.  Arguably one of the best of them was Contra on the NES.  Today Jeff takes a look back at the game.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Forced Alpha Preview (PC)

With it recently appearing on Steam's Early Access, Jeff takes an early look at Forced, an action arena game with some puzzle elements tossed in.