I realize some games intentionally have bad controls, and that's what makes them fun and hilarious to play with friends. Starwhal tries to be such a game, but it is absolutely maddening. Your character is top-heavy and has a tendency to dive forward, so you must constantly adjust your direction. At the same time, the controls are very sensitive, and every attempt to correct a nose dive more often results in you spinning around in circles. It's pretty annoying when you're trying to battle with friends, but everyone's stuck in their own corner, flailing about like fish out of water. Yeah, I get it. That's kind of the point. But the controls are so spectacularly difficult that dealing with them gives me a stomachache. While the single-player challenges are a nice way to try to acclimate yourself with the game's touchiness, the level design grows too tricky long before you feel like you're getting the hang of it. Granted, if you and your friends like to get intoxicated when you play games, then Starwhal will end up being the funniest thing ever. But if you're sober, you'll probably hate it.
I put off reviewing this one for a while, because it seemed like Player 2 needed to point the Wii remote at the screen to play (which is always a turn-off). And, yeah, that is an option, but you can also use the touchscreen on the gamepad for the same result. That just wasn't immediately obvious to me. So I do like that there are multiple ways to play the game, and I'll admit that the "catch the celebrity" idea is clever, but this two-player competition is pretty lackluster overall. The game favors the celebrity player way too much. Not only can the celebrity hide behind obstacles and dash to escape the paparazzi's camera, but he/she can touch fans to regain points. In fact, Player 1 can just let his/her character get dragged against the side of the screen, where the paparazzi can't reach them. Now that's just broken gameplay right there. But even if both players agree not to rely on cheap tactics, there's simply not enough substance or content to get excited about. As a mini-game in a much bigger game, this would have worked great, despite its flaws. As a standalone, however, you'll play it for maybe 15 minutes and then never touch it again.
I'm a pretty big sci-fi buff, so of course I enjoy the Alien series. Unfortunately, I haven't liked the games related to the series too much aside from the general awesomeness of Aliens vs. Predator, so imagine my excitement whenever I saw Alien Isolation! Imagining it? Yeah, keep imagining. Alien Isolation is an odd game. It is incredibly high quality and the work put into the presentation and atmosphere of the game work, but the problem is that the Alien isn't used in the best way that it could be. See, I had always envisioned tense standoffs while hiding from the Alien on a ship in the depths of space and while that is certainly something you do, the game has a fair amount of jank. By jank, I mean that almost every single time the Xenomorph spawns into the environment you're almost instantly warned by the game's frame rate dropping which happens in a way that you pretty much always have time to get to safety. This isn't to say you won't die, but it is to say that the Alien ends up feeling more like a slight nuisance. None of this is to say the game is bad as the gameplay is fun, the atmosphere is engaging, and the voice acting and story are enticing. The problem is really just an unimpressive villain. This is definitely something you should play if you're wanting a survival horror game, just don't expect something like the Hunter chase from Dead Space 1.
Whenever the vanilla edition of Dead or Alive 5 came out, I liked it, but was unimpressed by most of the content presented. It was still a good game, but it was really feeling like it was lacking something. Thankfully, that odd thing that I felt like it was missing has returned for DOA5: Last Round! This game has it all! Better voice acting, tons of rebalancing, new characters, great netcode, and (best of all to me) tons of costumes! The story mode is more of the same from the vanilla version, but the better balancing makes the game such a greater joy to play. By far, the best thing about this release is the netcode, though. If you play this, you owe it to yourself to try the online at least once as it is infinitely better than the online in any other DOA game that has come out and is even better than the netcode in any of Capcom's recent (non GGPO) fighters. I picked this game up mostly betting that it would give me something to play around with until Mortal Kombat X releases, but I was surprised to find that I will likely be playing this still long after MKX has come out. I've been a fan of the Dead or Alive series for over a decade now and it feels weird to say this, but DOA5: Last Round is the best game in the series yet. If you enjoy 3D fighting games in the least bit, then I highly recommend giving either the retail or free to play downloadable version of this a play.
After the many complaints about the first game, I expected The Amazing Spider-man 2 to be spectacular. Beenox had put a ton of work into Spider-Man games and TASM1 was nearly perfect aside from its heavily borrowing elements from the Batman: Arkham series, so you have to wonder where they went wrong in development. The character models and story are horrible. Not only is the story bad, but it doesn't make much sense due to the fact that they gave the first game's story a soft reset due to focusing more on TASM2's movie story and doesn't bother to reintroduce characters from the first game at all. A terrible story isn't necessarily death though, as good gameplay can save a game. Unfortunately, that is not the case with TASM2 as the gameplay is glitch ridden and stale. The one change made to the web swinging (your web must attach to buildings now) feels like a major hindrance and the fact that Spidey continually comments on the fact that his web needs something to stick to is all the more maddening. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 could have been a great game and the fact that another Spider-Man game probably won't be made for quite some time takes this game from being a flop to being a tragedy.
At first glance Paparazzi doesn't make much sense. You pick a random celebrity and run around the game world while a camera bounces around the screen snapping pictures of you. When it happens to land on you, it causes you to lose dignity and the Paparazzo to gain cash. As someone that always thought the purpose of being a celebrity was that you didn't have any dignity, the objective of the game was confusing to me, but as I began to understand that your goal is actually to keep your dignity by dodging the camera it became a lot more fun. Littered across the game's maps are crowds of people, houses, cars, trees, all sorts of great stuff to hide behind and the simple sort of top down view by which you play makes it incredibly fun to hide and strategize where your next hiding spot will be. Hiding spots may not seem like a big deal, but on the higher difficulties they are a godsend. You will also run into loving fans that boost your dignity and grab crazy power ups that turn you invisible or send out copies to throw off the Paparazzi. This may sound crazy considering it's so simple, but Paparazzi is the best stealth game I've played in recent memory. If you're at all in the mood to play something that's fun and simple (or lets you play a circus Bear), then this is the game for you.
Do you like top down brawlers and lots of class build variances? If so, you will love Grand Class Melee 2! GCM2 starts out asking you to pick one of four classes after which you face off against the three classes you did not pick and as you battle throughout numerous rounds you slowly rank up and tweak your character's build. This may sound like it could get tedious, but the rounds are all so short and hectic that they don't get old very easily, add to that constantly editing your class and you have a game that continually has a super fresh feeling to it. Now, overall design of the arenas that you battle in is rather lacking as it is merely a simple topdown view of your pixel art characters fighting in various cliché fantasy settings, but given that the game is still in beta I would expect that to be made better by the time the game launches. The only real problem I have with the game is that sometimes the AI will randomly become totally murderous and track you down to take you out of the game and when that happens there is very little you can do to stop it other than shaking your fist at the sky and avenging yourself in the next ten second round. If you want to try a fun and different indie game then Grand Class Melee 2 is definitely a game that you should check out.
I haven't been playing as many indie games over the last year, so I haven't been paying as much attention to what's coming out and I'm thankful because it leads to amazing surprises like Apotheon. Apotheon is a sidescrolling adventure game that has you saving your city as it burns and then proceeding to save the Greek Gods that have deserted your people. Sure, it sounds very God of War-esque, but the Greek pottery art style and wonderful combat sets this so far apart from anything else I've played. The combat is surprisingly intricate. What begins as a simple slasher quickly evolves into a careful strategy as the game drip feeds you more and more complex ideas on how to handle more powerful and dangerous enemies. The best part is that the game teaches you all of this while you're starting out experimenting with the best way to use weapons and shields and it never once gets in the way of what you're doing. It's actually quite amazing, the game never becomes intrusive while conveying information and keeps a beautifully simplistic and clean look through everything. The combat and art style isn't all to be impressed with either, as the platforming and random looting is also really good. If you're looking for fun and maybe something different, Apotheon is definitely worth a shot.
Do you remember those cheap shovelware third person shooters that were all the rage around twelve years ago on the PS2? They sucked, right? Well, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is exactly that. The story makes almost no sense and throws you in at the climax of the most recent movie with no backstory or introduction and instead just plays Monkey in the Middle by tossing you back and forth between the Autobots and Decepticons just over the head of the story. This honestly wouldn't be so terrible if it wasn't for the awful gameplay, though. Shooting is the exact same as the shooting was in the last two Transformers games (no surprise), but traversing the game's environments is mind numbing. Your character is so slow that the game feels like it drags and not even changing into your vehicle form makes you move faster. Neither of those things would be terrible if the environments looked nice, but all textures frequently disappear and even when they don't the game presents such a drab, generic look that there might as well be nothing on the screen at all. On top of that, the game is filled with audio bugs and numerous glitches that end with you falling through the world constantly. Unless you are a diehard Transformers fan, steer clear because this game is in no way worth your time.
Putting Rayman in an auto-runner felt a little blasphemous at first, since this guy's been in some great platformers in the past. Why relegate him to cheap mobile gimmicks? Fiesta Run lays the in-app purchases on pretty thick, too, but the game can still be played and enjoyed without plunking down real dollars. You can buy power-ups by collecting lums the normal (long) way, or forgo power-ups completely and beat the levels like a man! The levels are actually pretty fun and creative, given the limitations inherent to auto-runners. All of the wall-jumping sections and hidden lums help the game stay fresh. This honestly feels like a miniature version of Rayman Legends, and it is equally gorgeous. Just be aware that lower-end devices are gonna struggle at times to keep up with the graphics. If your device can handle it, though, the action is beautiful. And if you're able to collect all of the lums on a level, then a harder, alternate version of said level opens up. That's where the real challenge is at. Taking these harder levels into consideration, Fiesta Run has a solid amount of content that will keep you busy for days. It may take a few levels to warm up to Rayman's new "controls," but stick with it, and you'll be glad you did.
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