Tag Archives: Games

Mario Kart 8 Review

The latest installment in the world’s #1 karting series is finally here. After decades of great racing experiences, Mario Kart 8 aims to be the culmination and perfection of all that came before it, and it surpasses that goal with ease. The core gameplay of Mario Kart 8 is as brilliantly fun as ever, and this eighth entry feels like the crowning achievement of the series.

Continue reading Mario Kart 8 Review

How Nintendo (might have) Just Revolutionized In-App Purchases

Last week during a new Nintendo Direct live stream, Nintendo announced a bunch of new games as well as more info on previously-announced titles. Most people are talking about the biggest news, like the confirmed release date for Mario Kart 8 (May 30th woo!) or the latest addition to the Super Smash Bros. roster. But something completely different caught my eye. It’s something I never really saw coming, but it has real game-changing potential in the realm of IAPs (In-App Purchases).

Before we go any further, let’s talk about IAPs briefly. In case you’ve been living under a rock, IAP is a rather brilliant idea that Apple started (or at least made famous) with the App Store. It actually started as a good thing. You download an app and it’s yours, but you can spend additional money within the app to unlock more features. It was all well and good until people figured out a way to warp it, so now there are two “types” of IAPs:

Type A) You spend real money to buy a permanent component of the game that becomes yours forever (level packs, bonus items, upgrades, etc.)

Type B) You spend real money to get fake money, and when you have spent all that fake money in-game, you have to go back and buy more fake money using more real money. And down, down, down the spiral you go.

In case you were wondering, Type B is total garbage and a dirty way to get people to spend their cash. Logan covers this very well in his most recent article. I wanted to stop and make this clarification because I believe Nintendo will never stoop as low as “Type B” IAPs. What they have done is revolutionized “Type A,” which was already a perfectly fair method.

“To be fair, it actually looked kind of fun and seemed to be a quality game, but it was what followed the initial explanation that really caught my attention.”

So enough about IAPs. The 3DS game that was announced is called “Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball.” When I heard that title, I started tuning out at first. Most sports-based video games just don’t interest me in the slightest. In Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, you play as some kid who goes around playing baseball-themed minigames. Rustys-Real-Deal-Baseball-HittingEach minigame has a very simple premise (hence the name “minigame” I suppose). You can pitch, catch, bat, ump, play outfield, etc. To be fair, it actually looked kind of fun and seemed to be a quality game, but it was what followed the initial explanation that really caught my attention. When you aren’t playing these little games, you go to a shop run by a seasoned old baseball player named Rusty Slugger. He will give you tips and hints as well as training. But you can also buy additional game types from him with real-world money. Boom, IAPs. But what’s so different about IAPs in this game?

Bargaining.

“… Rusty will initially charge you $4.00. However, you then have the ability to haggle with him.”

Yup. Bargaining. In Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, when you try to buy a new minigame, Rusty will initially charge you $4.00. However, you then have the ability to haggle with him. You can basically tell him, “I’m not paying that much! Here, how would you like this [insert item] that I collected earlier in the game?” Rusty will then take that thing from you and lower the price. The actual, real-world price. There may be other ways to haggle with him that I don’t know about, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can negotiate at all. It’s a brilliant idea. It gives the player the feeling that they have power over how much money they spend, and at the same time, Nintendo probably only planned for that thing to cost $1-2 anyway. They just started it at $4.00 so you feel good about it once you fight it down to a lower price. It also adds a bit of fun to the fact that you are spending your hard-earned cash. It turns the process into a minigame of its own, rather than just having a cold popup that says, “Are you sure you want to spend all that hard-earned cash? Click OK to confirm!”

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I understand that this could just turn into nothing and we all forget about it in a month. But nevertheless, it is a fantastic idea. If nothing else, it’s a sign that Nintendo continues to aggressively think outside the box. Could you imagine this concept extrapolated out to other games? How about Call of Duty DLC? “This latest map pack cost $15.00… unless you can convince us to drop it to $10.00 by killing 100 zombies in 5 minutes.” Suddenly, the dreaded prospect of having to spend more money has been alleviated by turning it into a game of sorts. A game where I can win back some of my money.

I believe this method is simultaneously beneficial to developers and fair to gamers. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Outlast Review

Written by Logan Sharp

I am not the kind of guy who seeks out horror films. The only time I will actually sit down and watch one is when I’m with friends but even then, I scream like a small child when the scary stuff happens. Which is why it makes absolutely no sense why I’m drawn to a game like Outlast, the intense horror game by Red Barrels. A horror game that puts you in one of the scariest places on the planet: an insane asylum. Does it Outlast the scare tactics long enough to be a fun and entertaining game?

At the beginning of Outlast, you play as Miles Upshur, an investigative reporter who received a tip about strange happenings at Mount Massive Asylum. Doing what any non-rational person would do, you set out to investigate and get to the bottom of what is happening. While going through the tutorial (though it does not feel like one), you see how the lighting works in the game. As great as the game looks, this is also when you realize that the shadows are eerily dark. You’re equipped with a camera with a night-vision mode to allow for seeing in the dark.

Maybe seeing what’s in the dark isn’t such a good idea…

GAMEPLAY

In Outlast, there are only three options when confronting the criminally insane:

  1. Run
  2. Hide
  3. Die

This helps to build the suspense as you begin creeping slowly around every corner, never knowing what lies just ahead. With no weapons to use, you’re left completely helpless. It’s an interesting dynamic switch from games like Call of Duty, where you feel like Chuck Norris. In this game, you’re just an average Joe: no weapons, no karate moves, nothing.

The game uses this well, as you’ll find yourself tensed up as you venture through the asylum. There are platforming elements that are just means of setting up jump-scares but work surprisingly well. What little puzzles there are in-game go from easy to terrifyingly difficult at times. There’s one moment in the sewers where I have to restore power while being hunted by a beast of a man who is obsessed with calling me “little pig”. The gameplay, overall, is intense, terrifying and fun all at the same time.

“Little pig”? I suddenly don’t take you seri–NO STAY AWAY!

CONTROLS

Which leads me to the controls of the game: fantastic! As with any first-person game these days, leaning out from cover is becoming a heavy influence and is in this game. There were many times I heard someone (I played this game using a surround-sound headset) but could not see them. As I sheepishly pressed against the wall and peered around the corner, I sighed with relief to see nothing there or screamed, near throwing my controller, as someone was mere inches from my face.

Controls felt responsive in other situations and if I died, or slipped up, it was my own fault. What I thought would have added a nice touch was instead of pressing a button to bring up the camera, why not have the player hold that button down? This, I think, would build more tension, especially if my finger began to grow tired of pressing the trigger down to keep the camera up. Perhaps that was in the settings but I did not come across it.

STORY

The story in Outlast is surprisingly short and predictable at points. As stated before, you play as Miles Upshur, tracking down a tip you had received, thus leading you to the asylum. From there, you run into this “prophet” who keeps hinting at something he wants you to witness. Through documents and random video feeds, you learn there is more going on at the asylum than giving patients Jell-O. While playing, you learn of this mysterious power lurking beneath the asylum, which at first is led to believe they are ghosts. In an effort not to spoil anything, I will say the story reminded me a lot of the Mass Effect 2 mission where you track down a “rogue AI”. If you’ve played that, you pretty much know the story to Outlast.

Except the ending. The ending was insane, escalated quickly and left wanting the next game to be out.

FINAL BIT

Outlast is a terrifying game that should not be played alone, in the dark and should definitely not be played with a surround-sound headset. If you enjoy sleepless nights, then do the aforementioned. It’s a game that is entertaining and offers some great scares. However, the game gets very morbid and disgusting in parts. From landing on a pile of bloody, mutilated corpses to coming face-to-face with people who have had horrid mutations done to them, the game is not for the weak stomach, or the young Christian. Also, avoid the twin characters.

My major complaints with the game come from my conservative Christian background. I had a hard time stomaching the more morbid parts of the game and some of the very intense things that the inmates mumbled. It’s what you’d expect from a game set in a criminally insane asylum but it was a little too morbid for me.

Overall, Outlast is a fun thrill of a ride, if you’re into the horror genre. While I would certainly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a good scare,  but if you’re under 17, talk with your parents first before playing.

I give Outlast a 7.5 out of 10.

Outlast is available on PC and Playstation 4.

I Miss Flappy Bird

Oh, Flappy Bird. Your life was cut far too short. As much as I hated Flappy Bird due to it’s frustratingly difficult, yet surprisingly simplistic and challenging gameplay, I did enjoy it. I could download the game and play while waiting or during a study break. Flappy Bird helped break up the monotony that plagues the mobile gaming market.

To be honest, Flappy Bird was the first mobile game I have played in, what feels like, two years. The reason behind that is because I do not like mobile/iOS/Google Play games because they are, to be blunt, garbage, identical and repetitive. My first foray into the mobile game market, showcased in Clash of Clans and a few others, opened me up to a devilish thing called “In-App Purchases”. Sure, they sound good at first: if I need to get a power-up, I can spend a few dollars and get it instantly. If I need something to unlock another part of the game, $2 more. Need more gems to speed up the building a new research facility? $2 more. It was always “just spend a few more dollars.” The problem was, these purchases stack up. Before people know it, they’ve spent $50+ on a game that was free.

After realizing this corrupt scheme, I swore off mobile games if this was how they were going to function.

Recently, I decided to try and get back into mobile games. Maybe there were more games out there like Flappy Bird, that did not require in-app purchases and would let just play. After a day of trying other games, I realized the state of the mobile gaming market had grown worse. I downloaded four games that were, ironically, the same exact thing: build an army. Gain resources to build more buildings. Use gems to rush the completion of said buildings. Build resource mines to strengthen myself. By this time, I’ve run out of gems and am now forced to wait. And wait. And wait. Sometimes, I would have to wait 8+ hours for a building to finish or a minion to dig a block out (I’m looking at you, Dungeon Keeper, you evil toad). Sure, I could speed all of this along if I buy more gems. Until then, I’m either going to progress slowly or not at all. Suffice it to say, those apps no longer reside on my iPad.

Oh and do not get me started on Marvel Puzzle Quest! They took what I love about Puzzle Quest, one of my all time favorite games, combined it with the Marvel comics universe! Sounds like a splendid game! Clearly, their definition of splendid includes making me wait 2+ hours for a character to heal themselves after they get knocked out during a fight. Sure, I can use a health pack to revive them but how do I get more if I need them? Oh, right. In-app purchase.

Whatever happened to letting the player have full access to the game at the beginning? Whatever happened to allowing me to progress through challenges and completing missions, throwing me an unlocked item now and then? Why do I have to build things and wait 2+ hours for them to finish?! Why am I waiting for a character to revive, thus keeping me from retrying the challenge/mission?! Why am I doing LITERALLY THE SAME THING in every single game and waiting HOURS to progress?!

I now find myself at the same point I was at two years ago: frustrated, disappointed and fearful for the future of how these kinds of practices will influence console games. I had such high hopes for the possibilities of the mobile game market! I cried out “You were the chosen one, mobile/iOS game market”! You were to usher in a fantastic realm of games that would rival the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita. Unfortunately, what we have are games that are identical, desire to find ways to make you spend more money and leave you with nothing in the end but an empty wallet and an island full of Pokemon-ripoff animals.

Flappy Bird, I miss you. There wasn’t much to you but you were simple enough that I could play for a few minutes. Sure, I did get frustrated with you. You made me want to do homework after the 20th attempt. I want to take back my hateful comments about you. Baby, come back?

If you have a story about your experience with mobile/iOS games, a recommendation to redeem the platform, or anything else, let me know in the comments below!

(I’m off to buy an iPhone for $1,000 that still has Flappy Bird on it.)

Nintendo is Weird

Old_Nintendo_Logo

Written by Jonathan Steele

A few months ago, my wife invited a good friend of hers to visit for dinner. We shall call her Melissa for the sake of the story. Melissa lives out-of-state and was in our area for a few weeks, so my wife thought it would be great to see her. We had a good time eating and talking and just relaxing in general. Later into the evening as we were sitting in our living room, Melissa pointed to my shiny black Wii U GamePad that was sitting prominently on our coffee table and asked, “Is that one of those new video game thingies?” Feeling rather like a nerd, I nonchalantly replied, “Oh yeah that’s the latest Nintendo console. It’s pretty cool. I play it every now and then.” She nodded politely and told me she’d never really been into that stuff, but that it looked cool. The conversation moved on.

Fast forward about a week.

We have Melissa over for dinner again, along with a few other friends of ours that live in the area. After good food and conversation, one of my friends said, “Hey! That’s that new Wii thing isn’t it? Do you think we could give it a try? I’ve never really played one.”

I was a little timid because I knew full-well that the Wii U is most definitely NOT the cool-kid console of today. The Wii U is for the weirdos that don’t play “real” video games for some odd reason, and are “stuck in the past” playing Mario games. I just happen to be one of those weirdos, but I never really cared to make a big deal out of it.

A little nervous, I said, “Well… sure if you guys really want to! Uh… We have this game called ‘Nintendo Land.’ It’s pretty cool. It’s like a series of Nintendo-themed mini-games.”

Dang it. Why oh why did I just suggest that?? I had played Nintendo Land a little bit by myself when I first got the console, and I thought it was so terrible that I wanted to sell it back. The games seemed childish and simple to me, and not much fun at all. But as I expected, they agreed to give it a try. It’s not like they could say “no” at this point. I was beginning to get a little terrified.  These people are going to wonder why a grown man like me even has this stupid game.

“So how does it work?”

“Well… there’s this one game where you… well it’s basically like tag… the person with the GamePad is being chased by everyone else. And there’s another game that’s in a ghost mansion and the person with the GamePad is the ghost and has to scare all the other people while they try to burn him with a flashlight… There’s some other games too.”

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I was feeling pretty dumb at this point. Video games these days are supposed to have big explosions and cool graphics and intense story lines. I was offering virtual tag. My friends were very nice about it though, and said they wanted to play. I could just hear them in five minutes, “Uh that was pretty cool I guess… Do you have any board games?”

Never in a million years could I have predicted what happened next.

It was mass hysteria. There was jumping, screaming, finger-pointing, and tons of laughter. I was in shock. They LOVED it. And keep in mind that the age range here is 22-27. After multiple rounds, Melissa said, ” NOW I understand why my brothers play video games all the time! This is amazing! How much does this thing cost?? I want one!” She had gone from non-gamer to completely enthralled in less than an hour. My other friend told me that next time I visit him, I had better bring this thing with me so he could show his girlfriend. He told me he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had that much fun playing video games.

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Since that day, there have been many other similar stories. I gained confidence in my Wii U and started suggesting it to other groups of visiting friends. They all loved it. One good friend of mine who is an avid Xbox gamer told me that he is seriously considering getting a Wii U based on his Nintendo Land experience alone. Yet another hardcore gamer friend got a taste of Super Mario 3D World and insisted that he continue visiting once a week until we beat the campaign cooperatively. And so he did.

It was in those moments that I realized something about Nintendo: they don’t seem to fully grasp what is “cool” at times, they don’t have the latest graphics, and they don’t really seem to be keeping up with the other major players that well. Nintendo is a little weird. But there is one thing they get right every time: fun. Simple, clean fun. The kind of fun that brings out the kid in you again. This is especially evident in their games that feature local multiplayer. In the age of online gaming, people have all but forgotten what it feels like to sit in the same room with friends and battle it out in a video game. There is something about trash-talking back and forth with your buddy who is actually physically there, or jumping up for a high-five when your team has won. Nintendo Land (which is just one example of many great Wii U games) is as simple and silly as they come. But I double-dog-dare you to play it with your friends without having way more fun than your last Call of Duty match. And Nintendo hasn’t even released Mario Kart 8 yet.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix Review (PS3)

8Bit Heroes Reviews: Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix (PS3)

Written by: Derek Smith

October 21, 2013

Score: 8.5/10

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Growing up, I absolutely cherished the Kingdom Hearts franchise. When the production team behind Final Fantasy known as Square Enix (Formerly known as “Square”) collaborates with Disney Interactive Studios to bring you a crossover game that not only gives you nostalgia overload, but is also intertwined with deep storytelling from Tetsuya Nomura, Kingdom Hearts easily established itself into my top 5 favorite franchises of all time. Not only does this game allow you to dive into Disney-themed levels based on several of their classic cartoon movies, the game is also filled with many Final Fantasy cameos.

The first game of the series, Kingdom Hearts (or in this collaboration, Kingdom Hearts Final Mix) follows a young boy names Sora who is torn from his friends, Riku and Kairi, as well as his home when it is destroyed by shadowy creatures known as the Heartless. At the time of this attack, he is bestowed with a mysterious “Keyblade” which he learns has power against the darkness. After crashing on a new world, he must find his friends who have gone missing. In the process, he teams up with Donald Duck and Goofy, who are in search of their king, King Mickey. As they progress through different Disney-themed worlds, they find that this darkness is a much greater threat than they originally imagined.

Kingdom hearts HD 1.5 Remix is a digital remastery of the original game’s “Final Mix” which is basically an extended addition with extra hidden bosses and weapons, along with other content. Along with this game, you get another remastered edition of Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories, a bridge game taking place between KH 1&2 that was originally released for the Gameboy Advance in 2004, then released to Playstation 2 a few years later in 2008. Lastly, the package comes with nearly 3 hours of remastered cinematics from the Nintendo DS Game Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, a side story game about Roxas, one of the central characters in Kingdom Hearts 2.

KH HD 1.5 Remix was a smart release by Square Enix. With Kingdom Hearts 3 recently being announced for PS4, the issue was present that it had been since March of 2006 since Kingdom Hearts 2 (PS2) had been released. That makes over 6 years to date with still more time between sequels. Most sequels go usually 2-3 years while Kingdom Hearts has gone an entire console generation without a direct sequel. Since KH2, we’ve seen cross platform titles like Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep and Kingdom Hearts Coded, all which haven’t progressed the story until this past year when Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance was released for the Nintendo 3DS.

Now that KH HD 1.5 Remix has gotten a strong reception, there has already been a green light to go ahead and produce KH HD 2.5 Remix, which includes Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, and remastered cinematics of Kingdom Hearts RE: Coded. We can expect KH 2.5 sometime in the fall of 2014. In doing this, all Kingdom Hearts fans can catch up with the current storyline, while giving an opportunity for new fans to get familiar with the franchise.

In KH 1.5, this is the first time we’ve seen KH Final Mix in North America since it was originally released exclusively in Japan. The upgrades were immediately noticeable for me. The character designs were much sharper than its PS2 predecessor. What’s interesting is that Square Enix had lost most of the original assets used to make the original game, so they had to work some magic in recreating the game. Nomura was quoted by saying that they had to dig out a lot from the actual game to recreate everything for HD.

I also found that most of the soundtrack was completely redone with a live orchestra, really bringing the music to life in a completely new way. The sound quality from background music to action sounds was very well balanced and obviously revamped. I got to play KH on my PS2 before purchasing KH 1.5 and another thing I noticed is that the color is much shaper with the HD upgrade.

SCREENSHOT OF KH FINAL MIX

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On the downside of that, there were still a few things I noticed where I wish that they could’ve done better. I remember playing through the Tarzan level, and noticing that the forest area in the background still looked like cardboard. I don’t know if they simply forgot to upgrade this, or simply didn’t have the time to go through and recreate these portions of the game.

The controls are almost exactly the same as what you would remember playing the game. However, the only change that has been made is that the camera control has been moved from the R1/R2 buttons to the right analog stick. This makes movement much more natural with what many gamers are familiar with. Although, the camera control wasn’t as firm as what I would’ve liked it to be. I would let go, expecting the camera to stop immediately, and the camera would still turn just a little more before stopping. It wasn’t critical to gauging my enjoyment of the game, but hindered it at first until I got used to it.

Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories is probably the biggest gem in this game compilation. It shows the largest visual improvement with sharp gameplay. The cutscenes were a little rough at times but everything else was very well done. What I enjoyed about Chain of Memories is that combat is more strategic than any other KH title, being based in “combat cards” that is more restricted the longer you are in battle. The original Kingdom Hearts could seem like “button-mashing” in comparison to this game. It’s difficult at first, but when you get used to the flow of gameplay, it’s actually enjoyable, while being challenging. This game is not for the faint-of-heart gamer, because it can be frustrating if you let it. That’s one thing I admire about the Kingdom Hearts series, especially with Chain of Memories, is that it’s challenging. Many games nowadays aren’t as challenging as they used to be.

SCREENSHOT OF KH RE: CHAIN OF MEMORIES

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And lastly, the remastered cinematics of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days were truly enjoyable. At first, I was unsure if the cinematics were going to be anything special, but Square Enix did a great job of flowing everything together. Each cut scene was intermediated with a short summary of the events that took place in between where gameplay would have originally been. The summaries were short, but still informative. This helped fill in the blanks for me, as I had only played through the first portion of the original game. It is definitely worth the time for any KH fan, as it explains a lot of who Roxas is, and how it leads into KH2.

I truly admire the Kingdom Hearts franchise, not only for their storytelling, but sturdy gameplay that gives gamers a challenge. Being both a Final Fantasy fan while growing up on Disney movies, this franchise grew very dear to me in my later years in junior high. Despite a couple flaws, this game is a must-have for any fan of the franchise, as well as any gamer who enjoys great storytelling or a general fan of the Disney universe.

I give Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix an 8.5/10