The fall gaming rush is upon us, that means plenty of good cooperative titles - and plenty of good single player titles! Our first batch of reviews for the Fall 2010 gaming season are here - and its scary to think this is only the beginning!
Naughty Bear.................................................................................................. Page 2
King's Bounty: Crossworlds........................................................................Page 3
Dead Rising 2: Case 0...................................................................................Page 4
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions..........................................................Page 5
Mafia 2..............................................................................................................Page 6
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: 505 Games
Developer: Artificial Mind and Movement
by: Katrina Pawlowski
Naughty Bear is a just misunderstood bear. He tries to do nice things or mind his own business, but he can’t seem to catch a break. The solution? Punish the fiends that don’t invite him to parties, campaign for his demise, create zombies to attack him, etc.
Each level has a theme. One is a birthday party that Naughty Bear wasn’t invited to, so his optional objectives are to trash presents and punish the birthday boy/girl bear. The second has a teddy bear election where the candidate promises to kill off naughty bear, so your optional objective is to trash campaign ribbons.
Your ultimate goal in each area is to eradicate, sabotage, or terrorize the other bears to the best of your ability. Each act of violence warrants some bonus to Naughty Bear’s score - scaring other bears, sabotaging and stylish murders earn the most reward. Sometimes you’re asked to not harm a single bear in challenge mode - so you spend more time setting traps and sabotaging items to “get back at them” or risk failing the mission by punching someone. Other times, you just go for an all-out assault and take the bears out head on. There are also varying themes in the game; military, political, zombies, robots, etc. Kind of an intriguing way to justify bringing violence to cute cuddly little teddies.
With Naughty Bear the little-kid themes are endearing. The “blood” is just bear stuffing, and the language is mild - though the acts of vandalism and violence make this an adult game for sure. A bit of redundancy got a little old, but also made each level nice to play in between other games, or when you have those moments of “well what can I do for 20 minutes” when you don’t want to get involved in anything important.
After getting to the end of a level, you’re also given a scoreboard that shows off your friends top scores. This, as well as the medals to unlock later levels, gives the game a bit of a fun challenge. Beat out your friends scores, unlock the entire game, and rock the house. I have to admit I really started enjoying Naughty Bear after I stopped trying to plow through it.
Publisher: 1C Company
Developer: Katauri Interactive
by: Mike Katsufrakis
Last year’s King’s Bounty: Armored Princess was a great turn-based tactical RPG, similar to the more popular Heroes of Might & Magic series, and with good reason - HOMM was actually the followup to the original King’s Bounty. History lesson aside, how does this new expansion to an already large game stack up?
The story largely centers around Princess Amelie seeking out the help of her mentor, a knight named Bill Gilbert (tee hee), to save her kingdom from certain destruction by an army of demons. She must travel to distant lands, and with the help of soldiers recruited along the way and her adorable pet dragon, destroy everyone who crosses her path.
The first of two extra campaigns, Arena Champion, a hero named Arthur has been kidnapped or otherwise dragged against his will to a tournament where he must face large-scale enemies in gladiatorial combat. Rather than giving you a pet dragon as in Armored Princess, Arthur can recruit a number of companions, special troops that offer up their own command abilities and extra armor slots for you to tack bonuses to.
The second, Defender of the Crown, sees the return of Princess Amelie, who is thrust headlong into a series of large tactical battles, with an element of randomization thrown in for good measure. Though Amelie is back, you don’t get to transfer your level or abilities from a previous campaign. Both new campaigns start out at a higher difficulty level and assume some knowledge of the core game, so I’d recommend playing through Armored Princess first.
Rounding out the package is the new game editor, which lets you modify the game to your liking and create new scenarios. All in all, there’s a wealth of content here. If you’ve completed Armored Princess and need a bigger challenge or more campaigns to play, Crossworlds comes highly recommended.
by: Katrina Pawlowski
Dead Rising 2: Case 0 is the inexpensive prequel to the upcoming co-op game that is just a taste of what’s to come, but it also does a great job of introducing the building mechanic and story of the full game Dead Rising 2.
The story begins with protagonist Chuck and his daughter Katey traveling through Nevada. She’s been bitten, and needs the medication “Zombrex” to keep from dying and being reanimated. Only, she needs the dose every 12 hours, and Chuck’s truck has been stolen - along with the remaining supply of Zombrex.
It’s set 46 miles outside of Las Vegas/Fortune City. Home base for Chuck is an abandoned gas station, which acts as the control room from the first game - a safe place for survivors, gathering supplies, and advancing the story. In the convenience store attached to the gas station you’ll find a bunch of stuff to try out the new “combine” mechanic on.
Pick up items and bring them to a work bench. If they can be built into some powerful weapon, they’ll have the option to “combine” when you set them down. The first obvious upgraded weapon is a baseball bat with a bunch of nails in it. Pretty harsh? Yea, it works, too. There are several different weapons to make, and lots of enemies to try them out on in the small town outside of Vegas.
Each of these weapon combinations gives you a weapon card. You can hold on to that card to get information on how to recreate the weapon, and info on how to use it if there are specialty instructions. The cards you earn by building in Case Zero are supposed to carry over to the main game of Dead Rising 2. If that’s the case, you have a head start on weapons building.
The prestige points (like experience points used for leveling) work differently in Dead Rising 2 - you’ll earn over double your PP when you kill enemies with hand-built weapons, instead of taking really good pictures. This will help you level your character in Case Zero, which will also carry over to the main game. The level cap tops out at level 5, but that’s 5 levels higher than any other Chuck that doesn’t play Case Zero.
One vast improvement on the first game is the saving system, and is demonstrated very well in Case Zero. The game prompts you to save after each individual mission, and you can manually save at any restroom (same as before). Hopefully this will mean less do-overs for those of us that can’t find the restrooms in the giant casino. Those places are intimidating!
Case Zero acts as sort of a preliminary DLC - it’s a new chapter for the story to a game that hasn’t been released yet. Gaining interest and giving people something to enjoy before they get their pre-ordered copies of Dead Rising 2? Yes please.
by: Jim McLaughlin
Since four of the five most recent Spider-Man branded games have been “open world” experiences, it stood to reason to expect Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions to be as well. Yet Beenox decided to flip the series on its head and create a very linear game with an interesting twist.
In Shattered Dimensions you play as four different Spider-Men, each pulled from a comic series that sought to depart from the traditional Amazing Spider-Man storyline. While classic Spidey is one of the main contenders, you will put on the spandex of the titular character from the Noir, 2099, and Ultimate comics. Each controls roughly the same, but have their own respective combat moves and dynamic interactions with the environment.
Levels are straightforward and culminate in a boss fight. Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man (featuring the symbiotic Black Suit) have very similar platforming gameplay. Spider-Man 2099 throws you from the highest tower in New York, circa 2099, where you’ll experience freefall segments and aerial combat. These are good for a rush of energetic gameplay, although the visual style is extremely busy and eye-straining. In the Spider-Man Noir levels you’ll be tasked with a much more stealthy approach. These segments are unabashedly lifted straight from Batman: Arkham Asylum, and between the noir visual style, the stylistic bad guys, and the variety of contextual takedown moves, Noir is by far my favorite to play. During boss fights, the view will at times transition to a first-person boxing portion where the analog sticks serve as your fists; these are fun for an up-close beatdown on your opponent, and they close out the boss fights with major style.
Story progression is unlocked four levels at a time (one for each dimension), which you can tackle in your own preferred sequence. Unfortunately, immersion is a problem when the game changes environments so drastically, but here it’s even more so disjointing because each Spider-Man is voiced by separate actors with distinctively different voices. I find it hard to believe that each dimension shares one hero when his voice changes along with the art style.
Nonetheless, I’m having fun with the game and I recommend it for any Spider-Man fan. Without the open world style of the previous games (not including Friend or Foe, the sole co-op outing) there is very little replay value...but Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is what I’d call perfect fodder for leftover Christmas card cash.
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Czech
by: Nicholas Puleo
An open world game is one of those “genres” that really has no clear definition. Grand Theft Auto popularized open world with its do anything go anywhere nature of the game, giving players freedom to toy around in a city while still retaining a strong narrative story. Many games have come along since then which change this formula up - Crackdown, Infamous, and Saint’s Row come to mind. Mafia 2 is the latest in the “open world” style of games - though for some it may not be open enough.
Mafia 2 was created by Illusion Softworks - famous for the Hidden and Dangerous series, and are now known as 2K Czech. The game tells the story of Vito Scaletta and his rise through the ranks in the Mafia of the fictional 1940’s city of Empire Bay. The game starts out with you fighting in World War 2 on the Italian front and then brings you back to your home in NY. Soon you meet up with an old friend who introduces you to the family and it isn’t long before you’re stealing cars, roughing people up, and breaking into jewelry stores to earn money.
One thing is immediately apparent with Mafia 2 - it’s very story centric. The voice acting is superb and the animations and characters to support it fit the bill nicely. Sure there’s lots of stereotyping going on - and if there’s a Italian gangster movie you’ve seen - you can bet you’ll find some inspiration in Mafia 2, but it’s a charm and it’s not completely over done.
One of my biggest complaints with open world games is the ability to lose yourself in the world and forget why you are there. Mafia 2 does a great job of making sure you’re on the right path - with almost no side missions available. It sounds bad, but you aren’t restricted to some small area - you can still toil around the city - speeding and stealing cars to attract police attention - but for the most part the game is guiding you on a very distinct path to tell Vito’s story.
I like this - but I can see where many might not. The world in Mafia 2 is one of the characters of the game, it’s not a feature of the game itself.
There’s a nice balance in difficulty and the game does a great job of ramping it up along the way. The save system could use some work - having to restart an entire mission because you die at the end is a pain.
Mafia 2 is one of those games that many had high hopes for - given the popularity of its predecessor on PC. I think it follows nicely in its footsteps, creating a kind of open world/adventure game hybrid with plenty of gunplay. Think of this game more like an Uncharted and less like a GTA and you’ll be plenty satisfied.