Review | 7/23/2010 at 10:04 AM

Beyond Co-Op Reviews - July 2010

The sweltering summer months make us want to stay indoors and get our game on.  Thankfully there's a few titles out there that help break that heat.  This month we look at five single player titles that you may have missed due to all the co-op gaming goodness going on.  

Singularity................................................................................................... Page 2
Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands
..........................................................Page 3
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge....................................................Page 4
Persona 3 Portable
......................................................................................Page 5
DarkStar One: Broken Alliance
.................................................................Page 6 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 - This one is probably a rental if it interests you.

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
MSRP: $59.99
by: Sam Tyler

Original ideas are light on the ground in game development and publishers often direct their staff to look at what has been successful before. So if you are going to pay homage to a game, at least pay homage to the best. This is arguably what Raven Software have done with their latest game Singularity, with a mix of Bioshock, Half Life and bit of itself.

You play as Captain Nate Renko, part of a team of American soldiers sent to investigate an island off the coast of Russia that is giving off high levels of radiation. Upon arriving at the island, things start off badly when the helicopter is downed and get worse when you are swept up in a world of dangerous experiments, mutations and time manipulation. Using your military knowledge and newly acquired time powers you must assure that history turns out the way its meant to or allow an evil Russian scientist to take over the world.

With so many First Person Shooters on the market it is hard to stand out and most developers try to add something unique to their game, which often comes across a gimmicky. In the case of Singularity this is the time manipulation powers that you discover early on. The Time Manipulation Device (TMD) allows you to age or renew both objects and people. It can be used as a weapon, but also as a way to solve the numerous physics problems in the game. The TMD has the same feel as the plasmids from Bioshock, but it certainly a step up from similar time skills seen in Timeshift.

The similarities to Bioshock continue with various audio tapes to play and important objects that glow. However, to just compare Singularity to other games is a disservice as there is a lot to recommend it in its own right. The mix of shooting and time powers work really well. The weaponry itself packs a real punch with an eclectic selection that is dished out throughout the game. The story is also intriguing as you jump back and forwards in time in a way that effects the present and, for a genre known for a lack of narrative, its good to see that Raven have at least attempted character and story development. Graphically the game also stands up with some atmospheric set design and intelligent level layouts, which often lead onto epic set pieces.

If viewed in a vacuum Singularity is a highly impressive FPS that combines shooting with interesting abilities. However, the likes of Bioshock and Half Life have been and gone, and some of the ideas in Singularity are too close to feel fresh and innovative; especially in terms of tone and use of physics problems. Overall, the game is a very solid shooter that entertains from start to finish and is likely to be one of the better FPSs of the year, if not the most original.


Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
MSRP: $59.99
by: Katrina Pawlowski

So, there’s this young Prince returning home to visit his older brother, Malik. Well at that exact moment the palace is under siege, and it’s not looking good for the home team. In order to reclaim his palace, Malik awakens the fabled Army of Solomon against the young Prince’s warning. Those of us who have ever seen a Hollywood movie know this spells disaster.

The young Prince (you) is blessed with the powers of the Djinn, while Malik is corrupted by the sheer power of the Army. Able to manipulate time and matter, it’s up to the young Prince to stop the Army of Solomon and knock some sense into Malik.

By defeating the sand-skeletons and other monstrosities that make up Solomons Army, you’ll gain “upgrade points” and be able to increase your djinn skills, health, power, etc.To begin with, the game is fairly true to the Prince of Persia series with a lot of running, jumping, climbing walls, and falling to your death - but with a recent film in theaters, the developers seemed to kick up the action, near death experiences, and explosions to the next Hollywood level.

This Hollywood aspect almost turned me away from the game, but the platforming gameplay is just oozing Prince of Persia at its finest. Sure, it’s a lot of copy-paste from some of the previous games, but why fix what isn’t broken? Added RPG elements and a few Djinn powers to use really give this game a bit more flare than expected. (Oh and to be clear, this game is not a “remake” of the original, nor does it have anything to do with the recent film except maybe the model of the Prince).

The additional powers give the usual 3D platforming a new angle. You’ll have to manipulate time, water, and even memories to get through the later stages of the game. It did take about half of the game for the gameplay to truly pick-up (about four hours), which is a shame - but the second half is just a phenomenal amount of fun.

Moving away from the amazing stylized visuals from the 2008 Prince of Persia really made the environments and characters feel so bland in comparison. Additionally, this game did not really flesh out the background on characters or lore on the land, which took away a lot of the depth for The Forgotten Sands that adhered me to the series to begin with. Overall it’s a world of platforming adventure fun with new elements to add to the flavor of the original Sands of Time trilogy, but some aspects just aren’t quite as well fleshed out for this title.


Publisher: Lucasarts
Developer: Lucasarts
MSRP: $9.99 / 800
by: Sam Tyler

Back in the early 90s my gaming was dominated by the PC, and in particular the point and click adventure genre. In this golden era of ‘annoying-item-combination’ gaming, one studio stood out; Lucasarts. They had countless classic games, but my favourite was always ‘Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’, one of only a handful of games that I have completed more than once. Therefore, after the recent success of the original ‘Monkey Island Special Edition’ I highly anticipated the inevitable updated sequel like a Pirate for his first pint of Grog of the day.

‘Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge’ is an updated version of the original game with new artwork and voice acting throughout from the usual cast. Guybrush Threepwood, the pirate stud responsible for the destruction of the Ghost Pirate LeChuck, returns in an adventure to find ‘Big Whoop’, a hidden treasure horde. The game is bigger in scale than the first game with several islands in which to explore.

In terms of the core gameplay ‘Monkey Island 2 Special Edition’ is essentially the same as the original, but prettier and with specific console based controls. Imagine it as the botoxed version of the old game, but in a nice looking way, rather than an expressionless Hollywood auto-bot look. The game takes the same artistic direction as the first game’s special edition, but has richer environments and better hair for Guybrush. The controls can be a little confusing as one joystick moves Guybrush, whilst the other moves the ‘mouse’ icon. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for an old fashioned, well tested, mouse and SCUMM engine.

The sense of humour and taxing puzzles that made playing the game in 1991 so great hold up as well today as they did back then. Many of the people playing this version of ‘Monkey Island 2’ will be familiar with a lot of the game already, but there is plenty of new things on offer to keep them happy. The price itself is a steal; you not only get the updated game, but an informative developers commentary with three of the original masterminds behind the game: Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. Throw in the ability to revert back to the old school graphics and you have a game that should cater for both old fans and new.

If you strip away the updated graphics, new audio and commentary, you still have one of the best adventure games of all time. What these new elements give the game is accessibility to a new audience as it now looks as good as it plays. If you are looking for a game that will make you laugh, but also test your intelligence then ‘Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge’ is a must buy, especially for such a reasonable price point.


Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
MSRP: $39.99
by: Mike Katsufrakis

I’ve often thought that the Shin Megami Tensei (MegaTen) series of late has a lot to owe to the success of Pokemon, what with all of the Demon/Persona collecting, combining them to form more powerful allies and all, but it occurs to me that if Pokemon allowed you to date underage high schoolers and summon monsters by shooting yourself repeatedly in the head, I’d probably like Pokemon a lot more. As is, I’ll have to stick with Persona 3 Portable, a fantastic PSP adaptation of my favorite JRPG since the heady days of the SNES.

P3P takes the base formula of the FES edition of Persona 3 and adds several new features, all of them great excuses to return to Gekkoukan High and its dark counterpart, Tartarus. The most significant addition is the ability to play as a female main character, which turns most of the social interactions with other students on their heads. Your rivals as the male main character might become viable love interests as the female, and so on. Despite the fact your interface turns pink, it’s an interesting take on the existing story. Playing as the female character also changes up a lot of the game’s soundtrack, though I’m too attached to the old tunes and find I miss them.

Additionally, the battle system has received a much-needed upgrade. In the original Persona 3 (and FES), your party members were controlled by the AI, which could often lead to a cheap death due to the AI making a bad choice. P3P instead gives you the option to directly control your party members (as in Persona 4), which lowers the difficulty quite a bit.

As you’ve probably heard me say repeatedly on the Co-Opticast, I can’t recommend Persona 3 (and 4) enough. This is a fantastic JRPG series, and it really stands out from the crowd of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest clones out there. If you haven’t played this yet, this is probably the best entry point for the series, and if you’ve already explored the crap out of Tartarus, the new character and battle changes should be enough to lure you back in.


Publisher: Kalypso
Developer: Ascaron
MSRP: $49.99
by: Nicholas Puleo

Lets face it, space flight sims are as hard to come by as the information those Bothan spies tried to steal from the Empire. Console space flight sims? You’ll have better luck finding a dropped engagement ring in the Sarlacc pit. So it kind of goes without saying that DarkStar One: Broken Alliance is the best space flight sim on the consoles right now, because it's basically the only one.

Based on the PC version released in 2006, DarkStar One: Broken Alliance has you in the role of Kayron Jarvis, whose father was killed in what appears to be a conspriacy. Kayron soon finds himself inheriting a ship designed by his father just for him - the DarkStar One - and before he realizes it, he’s all caught up in political drama.

At its core, DarkStar One is an open world game. You’re given a story based mission to accomplish, but to get their you’ll need to earn some credits and complete other tasks. The side missions themselves are a bit repetitive - guard this ship, steal this cargo, listen in on these guys - but thankfully it’s not the only way to earn credits in the game. Each star system in the game has wealth and standing associated with it, and docking at a trade station allows you to buy and sell goods. Buy low and sell high becomes your friend - and if you are brave enough - you can destroy some cargo ships in the vast of space and trade the goods acquired from their destruction.

All of this money is used to upgrade your ship with the latest and greatest features including lasers, missiles, turrets, and defensive upgrades like shields and afterburners. You can also find artifacts hidden throughout the huge galaxy to provide RPG like bonuses to your ship. These items will fuel the space combat of the game which is really what the game is all about.

While all of the above is fairly entertaining, the game has some issues. The graphics show their age a bit and despite that - there’s still some slowdown at times. There’s a weird loading bug when you warp where you see an icon of a disc spinning, and the voice acting - whoa the voice acting - things are a bit too forced. The controls work well enough, but some options seem to be buried too deep for their own good in radial menus that aren’t always as responsive as they should be.

DarkStar One: Broken Alliance is a refreshing game in a world of cookie cutter first person shooters and dime a dozen JRPGs. It’s not perfect by any means, but it satisfies the urge to explore the vast reaches of space on your own terms.