Given that I'm a huge fan of the Devil May Cry series, I was pretty skeptical of DmC. The combat is easier. A lot easier. I must admit, that is probably my biggest problem with the game, because it's just ridiculous how easy these fights are. They try to throw in some different enemies to make sure you make use of some sort of strategy, but all it really does is serve to annoy. The story is a major disappointment, but there are hilarious moments that almost redeem the stupidity in most of the rest of the game. Glitches happen surprisingly often, especially considering that it's so far past the release and there have been patches. I ran into noticeable lag inside and outside of combat, console freezes, and even ridiculously long loading screens. It's kind of sad; I actually do like a big part of what this game does, but unfortunately a good chunk of it is crap. If you feel like braving it, be my guest, but otherwise, stick to Devil May Cry 4, because Nero is the best, or the HD Collection.
Being a pretty big fan of sidescrolling beat ‘em ups, I expected to really like Final Exam, but I have to say I ended up being really disappointed. The art style seems like it's trying to emulate Borderlands, but it's sadly devoid of any of the charm present in either of the Borderlands games. The graphics barely matter, anyway, considering the camera is pulled out so far during co-op (the main draw of the game) that you can barely even make out any of the finer details of your character. To add to the list of terrible things this title has going for it, the combat is simply boring. No matter which choices you make when leveling up, the combat never becomes engaging enough to make you care about what you're doing, even after unlocking the special abilities for each of the characters. The dreadful combat wouldn't be as big of a problem if it wasn't for every level feeling like it should have ended about 20 minutes earlier. As is, this game isn't worth anyone's time.
The intensity of the first act had me hooked, but the second act, in which the game introduces a butt load of information via cartoonish and somewhat out-of-place survival guides, was a slog to get through. Once I'd finished the tutorial, though, I was set loose into the wild again to fend for myself, and it was glorious. I love how survival plays such a big role. You're not only killing zombies with makeshift weapons. You also have to worry about your hunger, thirst, and tiredness. I thought it would be a pain babysitting these needs, but it's really not and raises the stakes just a hair more. Fishing in the dark is super scary... I don't like how there are so few places where you're allowed to sleep, though. How to Survive should have gone all out by letting you make your own huts. Missed opportunity. The game comes up short in a few other areas, too. The controls are passable but not great. Seriously, why is the right bumper the attack button?! Inventory management could have used some TLC, as well. It's definitely a flawed game that doesn't take full advantage of its "survival" motif, but it still makes for a fun arcade experience.
The first level of Dwarf Madness was okay. Not terribly exciting, but it served its purpose in introducing the coin-collecting, twin-stick shooting gameplay. Once I'd found all of the coins for that level, though, the camera zoomed out, showing me the same level, and simply sprinkled in new coins in random locations for me to go find again. Yeah, there were more (and stronger) monsters now roaming about in Round 2, but I felt robbed of any sense of progression. You mean Dwarf Madness is just an arena shooter?! The presentation (which is great, by the way) begs to be part of a more Gauntlet-like experience, where each level/round is an actual journey or, at the very least, somewhat distinct. As is, I always got bored playing on the same stage, usually by the time I reached Round 5. Maybe doing away with the long pauses in between rounds (or having no rounds in general, and things just naturally escalated) would fix that. I can't say for sure. Something's missing, though. While the 4-player co-op support and purchasable weapons and upgrades do add replay value, it's not quite enough.
Dot Wars is a fun little local multiplayer, top-down shooter that pits you against your friends and family in all sorts of different game types. Pretty much all of the types that you would expect from the multiplayer in a game like Halo are present, which is great. Between that and the surprisingly large amount of maps, the game will likely keep you coming back for more. Matches also often play out really fast, and the different weapons do a good job of keeping the simple gameplay fresh. Best thing of all, even if you don't have enough players to fill out every game, there are AI enemies that are actually pretty smart. This is fantastic, because the lack of AI adversaries has long been one of my biggest complaints against indie games that focus on local multiplayer. If you're bored and have some friends nearby, Dot Wars is definitely a great way to spend a lazy afternoon or Friday night and is one of the best on the Xbox Live Indie Game market.
From the moment the first level started, I knew I was going to struggle with Save Them Sheeps' control scheme. My spaceship immediately did a front flip and landed upside down, marking the beginning of a long series of frustrating crash landings. The controls are just too strange. The left analog stick very sensitively tilts the ship in any direction while the left trigger applies thrust. It sounds simple and would have worked well in a 2D environment. In these 3D levels, however, I feel like an incompetent baby alien taking his parents' UFO out for a joyride. My ship is all over the place. If I'm not spiraling into the ground, I'm flying backwards when I want to go forwards or propelling myself so far up into the sky, it takes several seconds for me to fall back down to the action. When the game introduced enemy ships that would fight back, all progress stopped. They would camp near the respawn point and kill me as I carefully lifted off again. True, I didn't have to be careful. I could have shot the hell out of there. But then I'd never regain control of my ship. I guess I wasn't meant to enjoy this one...
Rayman Legends is amazing. I just played Rayman Origins earlier this summer, and I fell in love pretty much instantly. Rayman Legends takes that love I had for Origins and multiplies it at least 500 times. The animation is about a million times smoother, which is incredible given the amount of detail and fluidity of the animation present in Origins. The levels are pretty much the same as those in Origins (meaning they're collect-a-thons, races, and a few boss battles), but they also add a new element which allows you to take control of Murfy to swat at and change obstacles in the levels. This addition works incredibly well, but it's pretty clear from the way Murfy moves and the sorts of actions that he performs that he was designed specifically for use on the Wii U gamepad. The game also adds in a ton of new characters, costumes, and even spectacular musical-themed levels that are so good, I cannot find words to properly express just how good they are. If you are a fan of platformers at all, then you really must play this game.
The original Dirchie Kart was a solid indie kart racer. The sequel is even better. The improvements, however, are marginal, and the things I was hoping would change (the public domain music, the flat track design) didn't. At least the controls are tighter. Dirchie Kart 2 includes tracks from the first game, though, so it's easy to see that the new tracks really are more fun overall. My favorite addition is a pig "power-up" that's present in some of the tracks. If a racer picks it up, they become the target of several large, flying pigs but can pass this "bad luck" onto other players by crashing into them. Carried over from the first game, there's still the clever punishment of turning into a dinky motorbike if you lose all your life. You can also choose between a traditional setup where items are scattered around the track or the more rewarding option of using coins saved up through the grand prix to buy better loadouts. These are all great ideas and are certainly fun to see in action. Developer BrownBot clearly has the kart racer genre figured out. Now if only that talent could be brought into a much bigger kart racing experience...
If I had played this game 1-2 years ago, I think I would have really liked it. But with the beat 'em up genre seeing such a resurgence lately, Charlie Murder doesn't stand out as anything special. On the surface, it's like Castle Crashers on crack, which, let's be honest, sounds awesome. It's dark, violent, and very quick-paced, though those particular aspects wore on me after a while. The ridiculous amount of blood became somewhat obnoxious, and the fast gameplay made certain beat 'em up staples like throwing items and piledriving enemies not very satisfying. In addition to these issues, the platforming sections were frustrating, and the non-traditional levels (like skating downhill or playing "Guitar Hero") were rather boring. I did like the RPG elements, however, and there are plenty of loot drops to maintain your interest in that regard. Unfortunately, the skills you get for leveling up don't add much to the game. It's the magic abilities you unlock via tattoo parlors that are fun to use. They're just not enough to really propel Charlie Murder above other modern beat 'em ups.
Cloudberry Kingdom is the indie love child of Super Meat Boy and Spelunky. It's another one of these "cute on the outside but ruthless on the inside" 2D platformers that generates its levels on the fly, supposedly according to your skill level. But first, the negative. The controls aren't great. Jumping feels... odd. The presentation is also a little strange, mixing cheap-looking graphics with a surprisingly hardcore (but totally inappropriate) soundtrack. The gameplay, however, is sublime. I love it. It fixes everything I didn't like about Meat Boy thanks to the different abilities that are actually tailored to the levels, the "lifeline" power-ups, and the full-on co-op support. Playing alone can get very frustrating, obviously, but it is a riot when played with others. Extra players are like extra lives in this game, and you're gonna need all the help you can get. The levels are insane. They're short, though, and retrying is quick. Plus, once you know what to do, you'll find yourself slipping past hazards like some kind of wizard. It is so rewarding to catch that "wind," and you'll be hooked the first time it happens.
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