Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Review: Tales of Symphonia Chronicles (PS3)

The original Tales of Symphonia was easily a "must own" on the stately GameCube for any RPG fan; while the follow up Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World on the Wii… well it was certainly available to be owned.

The original was a progenitor to some of the RPG elements that are common place today or used to a greater effect in other franchises later – live action combat rather than turn-based or the ATB-gauge style combat; setting up AI commands for your colleagues during combat (which the Final Fantasy franchise used extensively under the "Gambit System" for Final Fantasy IX).

Monday, 28 April 2014

Review: Warlords (XBLA)

Arkanoid and Breakout were the more famous brick-breaker videogames in the '80's, but in the same genre less famously was Atari's Warlords. In its second modern reboot, Warlords brings back brick-breaking – or in this case, castle-wall-bricks-breaking – with a visually appealing and colorful rendition, although the gameplay doesn't have the same level of impressiveness that the eye-candy graphics have.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Raving Rant - The Gender Games, Part I: The Last Girl Standing


There’s been a brouhaha over the last year or so about women and gaming.  On the one extreme, we’ve got the mouthbreathers spewing the usual sexist crap.  On the other extreme, we have Anita Sarkeesian and her highly disingenuous “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games,” which criticizes the tropes, but doesn’t offer any substantive evaluation beyond, “This is bad, mmm’kay.”

More recently, with the release of The Last of Us, we have Chris Suellentrop over at The New York Times bemoaning how the game just follows the conventions and declares, “This is another video game by men, for men and about men.”  Naughty Dog, naturally, took umbrage at this assertion, particularly in light of the story that they actually told their PR firm to get more women into the testing groups when it seems there was a dearth of them earlier.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (PC)

"Ready for round 2?”

In some respects, this is the question asked by expansion packs more often than sequels, these days. Sequels usually make changes, sometimes massive ones, that make them a distinctive entity despite being part of a series.  Expansion packs generally stay within the framework of the existing title, maybe making a few tweaks here and there to compensate for the original game's shortcomings.  Of course, some games need more than just a few tweaks when putting out an expansion. Diablo III was arguably one of those games.

Two years after its release, plenty of changes have been made incrementally, but Reaper of Souls puts everything in one nice neat package for those who abandoned the game long ago.  The end result is still not the game we could have gotten, but it goes a long way towards making it playable and even enjoyable in spots.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Editorial: And The Score Is...

For many gaming sites, being listed on or Metacritic is the be all, end all of writing about video games (or at least reviewing them). Being included on the Metacritic listings lends an air of authenticity and authority. It's an honour to be included among the websites that carries weight with review scores. It makes that site's opinion count for something. After all, bonuses for developers are often tied to attaining a certain Metacritic score. Suddenly that 5.5 / 10 review has some real world consequences.

But is it really an honour? Is it something a game site should hold as the end point for having "made it" even if the owner of said gaming site doesn't really know how it all works?

To be honest, I hadn't given it any thought until a few weeks ago when The Armchair Empire's review scores stopped having any influence. Any review after our review of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger have not been factored into Metacritic averages. (The 2,200+ previous reviews are still included.)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Review: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PC)

Ninjas and zombies seems like a natural fit but Yaibu: Ninja Gaiden Z squanders what could have been a choice opportunity to whirl together a rollicking zombie action game like 2012's Lollipop Chainsaw did.

Instead what's delivered is a rote action game (but really, really hard) with enough offensive imagery and characters to fill a spit bucket on a porn set, that is both woefully repetitive and uninteresting.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Review: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (Xbox One)

In 2009, a tower defense game came out that had plants defending their gardens from zombies, a ridiculous premise that worked surprisingly well. The overhead or side view works well in this kind of tower defence game, so there were those who were skeptical when PopCap Games announced that they would be releasing a third-person shooter game based on the franchise. Skeptics, relax.

While this isn't anywhere in the league of a Call of Duty or something similar in size, if you just want to have some sit-down fun this game is exactly what the botanist ordered. There are various modes and while the graphics won't blow the lid off of your Xbox One, they are quite decent and clearly charming at the same time.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Review: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

The Donkey Kong Country franchise has produced some of the best platforming titles in the Nintendo catalogue and the latest is no different. Compared to the venerable Mario games, Donkey Kong Country has always aimed to be more difficult and the designers have certainly done an excellent job of achieving that goal this time. Tropical Freeze will test your reflexes and muscle memory to a level approaching Super Meat Boy or even, wait for it, Battletoads.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Review: Bandfuse: Rock Legends (PS3)

Music, suffice it to say, has always been a big part of my life. Long time readers know that my gold standard for a game's soundtrack is one that I would want to throw into the CD player in my car and drive down the road with it. Back in junior high school, I took up the guitar, since I didn't necessarily want to be in band and I did want to learn at least some instrument. I've kept up with it off and on over the years, picked up a couple guitars along the way, and learned to pick out a few songs here and there. When the big rhythm game fever hit with Guitar Hero, I knew that it might have some small application with actual guitar work, but more along the lines of finger speed and timing.