Review | 6/26/2009 at 8:53 AM

Beyond Co-Op Reviews: June 2009


inFAMOUS................................................................Page 2 by Jason Love
Prototype.............................................. .................Page 3 by Loren Halek
Plants vs. Zombies.................................................Page 4 by Marc Allie
Knights in the Nightmare.......................................Page 5 by Mike Katsufrakis
Bionic Commando...................................................Page 6 by Loren Halek
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings.....................Page 7 by Jim McLaughlin Widgets

Explanation of Scores:

- Golden Billy - This is a must buy title. Truly excellent in almost everyway.

  - Silver Billy - A solid title with a few flaws.

- Bronze Billy - An ok title. You might not want to pay full price for this game


Jason "OrigamiPanther" Love
SuckerPunch- PlayStation 3

Best known for its Sly Cooper games, Sucker Punch has taken a step into the open world genre with its latest release, inFAMOUS. Changing game genres can be risky, but Sucker Punch manages to successfully dive into a new genre.

From Cole’s origin story to the moral choices he faces, inFAMOUS seems to be an homage to the classic era of comics, but at times it can be hard to tell if that’s intentional or just a trite story. Story aside, the game is one of the better open world games I’ve played in awhile. The best platforming elements of the Sly Cooper games are used to make moving around Empire City feel natural and easy. Leap towards a ledge, and Cole will stick the landing like a gymnast; miss the ledge and you can use Cole’s powers to float towards the nearest outcropping, which Cole automatically grabs.

Speaking of Cole’s powers, they can best be described as gun/grenade/rocket launcher-type powers mixed with The Force; and nothing is more fun than flinging a guy off a building before zapping him as he hurtles to the ground below. Deciding to play the hero or villain does affect the development of these powers, but the differences are minor, and unfortunately don’t make either choice feel unique. The greatest downside to inFAMOUS, by far, is its missions. Repetition is expected, but “unlocking” side missions that are based on one part of a frustrating main story mission isn’t the best choice.

In the genre of open world games, the sandbox is starting to get a little crowded. Amongst the GTA and Crackdown clones out there, inFAMOUS doesn’t begged to be cloned per se, but it does a good job of rising above the crowd and is well worth a play through or two.


Loren "AgtFox" Halek
Radical Entertainment- PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Prototype is a really good open world superhero (or anti-hero is probably the better term) game that would probably score better had I never played another game we’re reviewing this month: inFAMOUS.

Prototype tells the story of Alex Mercer, a man who has lost most of his memories and is neither alive nor dead. He wakes up in the morgue and finds that he can do things like consume people and shapeshift into them to avoid detection, jump high and has super strength. Along the way as he tries to fit in the pieces of exactly what happened to him, he develops other powers such as gliding, growing claws out of his hands and even making a huge blade out of his hand. Yes, something has certainly happened to Alex and he’s pissed off enough to leave a trail of blood and sliced up bodies in his wake.

The game is very gruesome and mature with a lot of f-bombs being flown about. Sometimes as I played through the game I felt Radical Entertainment was adding in the naughty words and over-the-top violence just to synthetically make the game stand out. The story throughout is rather good, although it takes a dip at the end when things start coming out of left field if you didn’t take the time to hunt out all the Web of Intrigue side missions that flesh out the overall story even more.

You will have fun with this game as you kill everything in sight and the bonus is that all the side missions are entirely optional to you. You can fly through just the story missions if you want, gaining experience and buying new upgrades to Alex’s powers. You can also do all the side missions and make Alex even more powerful because you’ll have even more experience points. Not as good as inFAMOUS, but if you don’t have a PS3 this is an easy buy. If you do have a PS3 I hope you have enough money for both because I think you’ll enjoy them.


CoG Review

Plants vs. Zombies
Marc "DjinniMan" Allie
PopCap Games- PC

Plants Vs. Zombies is a deceptive game. The cutesy characters and cartoony art style, plus the PopCap games pedigree, suggest the game is best suited for the casual gamer only. But after you get past the first few levels, the game's strategy and depth become apparent, and you'll be totally addicted.

As you might suspect, Plants Vs. Zombies features warfare between the undead and various flora. It seems everyone but you and a crazy neighbor has been turned into a zombie, and these poor departed folks are hungry for your brains! Being a good suburbanite, you have a nice lawn you can fill with plants to defend yourself. What follows is a bizarre spin on the tower defense genre.

There are dozens and dozens of plants eventually available, most unlocked by finding a seed packet at the end of a level. The currency in the game is sunlight, which falls naturally during the day and is also produced by sunflowers, naturally. The variety of plants available is mind boggling, ranging from gunlike peashooters to shielding walnuts to zombie eating venus flytraps. Each new plant adds to the strategic options available to you, often combining in very effective ways. Torchwoods turn peas into flaming bullets, and wallnuts and pumpkins hold off zombies while the rest of your army finishes them off. You'll find yourself playing "just one more level" to see what you unlock next.

It's a good thing there are plenty of plants, for sure, since the zombies aren't exactly boring themselves. Bungee jumping zombies, zombies with bucket and traffic cone helmets, zombies wielding ladders, screen doors, and even catapults are all anxious to eat your brain. My favorite is the dancing zombie, who pulls off moves straight out of "Thriller" and summons more undead. (As I write this, the news of Michael Jackson's death has just been released; no disrespect to the King of Pop is intended.) If the zombies make it through your lawn, you must restart the level.

Plants Vs. Zombies is a real treat to play. The game is oozing character, and there are all sorts of strategies that add to the game's replay value. Level design is fairly simple, but nice twists like pool levels with scuba zombies, roof levels with cabbage-pults, a zen garden, mini-games, puzzle mode keep it interesting. Plants Vs. Zombies is a fine game, and worthy of a look, even for the most hardcore gamer


Knights in the Nightmare
Mike "Pheriannath" Katsufrakis
Sting/Atlus - NintendoDS

Every now and then, a title comes across my desk that just defies explanation, and Knights in the Nightmare, the new strategy RPG from Sting and Atlus just happens to be one of them. Instead of directly controlling your party members, you actually play as (seriously) the cursor. Your units do not move around the map, with a few exceptions. Your units do not in fact exist.

You see, the conceit of Knights is that you recruit an army of recently deceased souls, but they only appear as a shadow of their former selves on the battlefield. You, the “wisp” (read: cursor) can interact with these lost souls and cause them to attack or use items. Since your army is ethereal in nature, the enemies you encounter actually attack the cursor. Controlling the cursor is fairly unique in a game like this- you hold the stylus against the bottom screen and use it like you would a mouse, with your movements reflected on the top screen. When enemies attack you, they actually spit out a pattern of bullets, pretty much exactly in the same manner as you would see in a bullet-hell shooter.

Another way this title breaks from the norm is how turns are handled. Instead of a set number of actions taken per side, the game gives you a timer. However, this timer does not simply count down; that wouldn’t break from the norm enough! To trigger an attack or ability from one of your units, you drag the cursor over their head and hold it to charge a power meter, determining the strength of the attack. Charging power drains seconds from the timer, and once your time is up, the turn ends. The action isn’t turn-based, though. Your enemies will constantly move through their patterns and fire off their colorful bullets at the cursor, so even the basic gameplay stays hectic.

I could spend the remainder of this review rattling off how incomprehensible the gameplay is when described, but as there is between 45-60 minutes worth of tutorial content, I will simply let you know that if this game is for you, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. It’s a gorgeous game, with some of the best pixel art I’ve seen on the DS thus far. Despite its confusing nature, it’s one of the faster-paced strategy games I’ve played in a long while, and the missions are just short enough to play on the go.


Bionic Commando
Loren "AgtFox" Halek
Grin - Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Bionic Commando is a game that will go largely unnoticed. This is backed up by the recent news that it only sold about 27k copies in May. That is in huge contrast to the remade NES original game that came out on XBLA, PSN and PC last year. Not sure what turned off people from this game outside of possibly the reviews out there.

The fact is this game is an example of one where the second half is far better than the first half. You will spend most of the first half getting the hang of the bionic arm and when to let go to propel yourself forward. You will also get frustrated by the sections where you have to swing from place to place, sometimes missing the next piece and having to start over from the beginning again. Once you get used to it and actually give the same some time, there’s a really good game underneath it all.

Nathan “R.A.D.” Spencer has been in jail since the events of the NES Bionic Commando. Bionic implants have been outlawed and Nathan is set to be executed for treason. A terrorist organization that is pro-bionic rises up and the military needs Nathan to stop them. Now, why Nathan would want to stop these guys who are for them I never understood, other than Nathan has the promise from the higher ups of finding out what happened to his wife Emily who left him.

The shooting and bionic arm mechanics are really well done and there are several set pieces in the game that really stand out. The game itself runs about 12 hours to beat, which is pretty long for an action game these days. The graphics are really nice and the music is an aural pleasure as you hear updated NES original songs as well as original music.

At least give this game a try. You may not like the ending much since it is kind of sick and betraying of the series as a whole (remember, this started out with the original Commando game).


CoG Review

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings
Jim "txshurricane" McClaughlin
LucasArts - PSP

While portable gaming hardware is powerful enough for ported versions of next-gen games, being portable is still its main draw. Simplicity holds a lot of water. Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings is simple.

The campaign is forever long, and consists mostly of dodging boulders and beating up Nazis. You're given your trusty whip and Webley revolver, the latter of which is a one-hit kill weapon. Presumably to keep the game challenging, you're only provided with six bullets per level; beyond that, you have a variety of interactive objects to use as weapons. And let's not rule out the fists...Indy's right hook is a thing of beauty in any medium. Brawling is performed by mashing a combination of the square, triangle, and X buttons; much like Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, getting into a fistfight is fun and satisfying. If you want to mix it up a bit, you can grab a nearby bottle, shovel, wrench, crowbar, shield, or even stage microphone stand as an instrument with which you can bludgeon enemies into submission.

Aside from the fighting, there is very little else to redeem from this title. The sound effects are accurate, the storyline is very forgettable (even for an Indiana Jones fanboy), and the levels -- while numerous -- are small in size and simplistic. The set pieces are pretty bland, with a few imaginative textures here and there. In each level, there are certain objectives that you can fulfill and not-so-well-hidden treasures: rewards from these can be used to unlock perks (like 125% health, unlimited ammo, etc) and extras (mostly concept art), respectively. The twist on the perks is that you can't use them until you've beaten the campaign, so the incentive wanes considerably.

After you beat the campaign, you're offered several instant action levels in the form of timed challenges and on-rails sequences. Since this is a portable title, instant action is always welcome, but without a decent incentive to complete them, they're too tempting to pass up for something more worthwhile. In comparison to the Wii version, Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings for PSP benefits from the classic button-mash configuration, but still falls short without any co-op or replay value. It's fun for one good romp, then into the yard sale it goes.