Review | 3/2/2011 at 9:50 AM

Beyond Co-Op Reviews - March 2011

Beyond Co-Op Reviews look at the games that don't necessarily have co-op in them.

We're running a little late this time on our next batch of reviews, but fret not, we've got a ton of good ones for you to read about.  Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Dungeons, and Dead Space 2 are just the tip of the iceberg.  When did the late winter months become such a busy gaming season?

Dungeons................................................................................................... Page 2
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Lost in Shadow..........................................................................................Page 4
Marvel vs Capcom 3
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Dead Space 2.............................................................................................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: Kalypso Media
Developer: Realm Forge
MSRP: $39.99
by: Nick "bapenguin" Puleo

Its hard to talk about Dungeons and not talk about the classic Bullfrog game Dungeon Keeper. Both games share a similar concept - build out a dungeon to fill with heroes in a fairly light hearted manner. And while both games share this similarity, Dungeons does attempt a different approach at it by changing some gameplay mechanics.

In Dungeons you control an evil master who’s been cast out of his own dungeon by his ex-girlfriend - a hottie demon that back stabs you. Before you lies a series of quests that involve building new dungeons, taking over rival dungeons, and luring heroes from the world above into both. Your dungeon contains a dungeon heart which you must protect as well as an area of influence. Your influence expands as you build up prestige and soul energy as well as building pentagrams for monsters. See, while Dungeon Keeper was content to simply have you control your monsters and traps and kill whatever heroes wondered off the dirt road into your keep, Dungeons has you actually catering to heroes.

Heroes have needs, they want money - they want to kill - and some even like pain. You need to lure heroes in and temp them with gold, show them shiny objects on your wall, and let them kill swarms of bats to gain soul energy. Once they have this, you can kill them and put them in your torture chambers to get it out of them, expanding your dungeon. It’s an interesting mechanic, but at times its painfully slow as you wait for the goofy heroes to trot around finding things they like.

I do like that you have direct control of your dungeon master and that he can learn spells and abilities and fight directly. But your monsters themselves, even after spending soul energy to level them up, rarely are capable of dealing with heroes, making the game an effort in babysitting entrances.

While Dungeons stands on its own right, the pacing issues are my biggest gripe with the game. Whether is waiting for something to spawn, waiting for goblins to dig out walls, or waiting to gather enough prestige to move forward. In a way,it almost makes the game casual despite some really hardcore concepts here. If you’re looking for the next Dungeon Keeper, Dungeons sadly isn’t it. But if you want an interesting strategy game that’s different from anything out there now, Dungeons might be right up your alley.


Publisher: Atomic Games
Developer: Atomic Games
MSRP: $15
by: Nick "bapenguin" Puleo

Online shooters seems to be a dime a dozen lately, and unless the shooter can do something completely unique - like say Monday Night Combat - its probably going to get lost in the pack. There’s no doubt that Call of Duty conquers the online “military shooter” space, despite its arcade flair, but that hasn’t stopped numerous other developers from trying to tackle it from a cheaper, and downloadable, standpoint. Enter Breach from Atomic Games, a team based shooter that’ll set you back $15.

Every game needs its “thing” that sets it apart from the competition, in breach that’s destruction of cover and walls. Sadly, the Battlfield Bad Company series have beaten Breach to the punch making it a somewhat generic affair.

The game offers five maps across a handful of game modes. You’ve got your standard team deathmatch mode, Infiltration mode which is a bit like Battlfield multiplayer. There’s also a mode called Convoy, in this mode you’ll need to escort a vehicle or group of vehicles along a path while the other team tries to stop you. Retrieval is your capture the flag variant, though there’s multiple canisters to capture here. Finally Sole Survivor is your one life team deathmatch variant.

The other problem I had with Breach is that it just doesn’t look very good. I tried both the Xbox 360 and PC version of the game and neither stood out at me at any moment. The maps themselves felt uninspired, and despite huge distances between players and plenty of “stuff” to shoot through - I just never seemed to find a map I really enjoyed playing on.

As with any of these style of games, its a requirement to have experience and unlocks earned just from playing, and Breach follows this mantra as well. If you can stick with the game long enough and actually find enough folks playing, you may be rewarded with some cool customization for your weapons or perks for your character. Sadly, Breach couldn’t keep me around long enough to see it.


Publisher: Konami
Developer: Hudson
MSRP: $49.99
by: Tally "xelissa" Callahan

As Lost in Shadow opens, you witness a dramatic cut scene where a tied-up boy’s shadow is cut from his body on the top of a massive tower. His shadow is thrown off the tower where it falls all the way to the ground. Woken by a sprite called a spangle, the boy’s shadow starts the long trek back to the top of the tower. This is where his desperate adventure to figure out what happened and what’s going on begins.

Most levels in Lost in Shadow have the same basic format: you traverse 1-3 floors per level (the tower has over 50 floors) collecting “memories” (when you acquire them you get a brief sentence or two that reveals a little more about the state of things and also boosts your “weight” in the game which corresponds to health) and “monitor eyes.” There are three monitor eyes per level which feature them and you must collect them all in order to progress to the next level. Each level has you manipulating light and shadows in creative ways in order to progress (e.g. moving a light source via the spangle so the shadows are cast slightly differently, allowing you to get to places which were previously too far away). At its heart, Lost in Shadow is really a puzzle platformer, but it does feature some simple combat. There are a good amount of creatures scattered throughout the levels which can actually hurt you quite a bit. Defeating them is simply a matter of timing your strikes right and running back when they’re about to strike. These enemies drop health and xp orbs (level boosts the damage of your sword) making it worthwhile to defeat them, but not crucial if you just rather skip some of them.

Lost in Shadow has a lot of good things going for it. The game looks attractive on the Wii and the motion features are used appropriately without being overused. The light and shadow mechanics are utilized cleverly and the puzzles are never overly frustrating. It also has a suitably spooky atmosphere, which I appreciated.

There are a couple of mild complaints I have with the game, however. While there’s a good amount of mixing which mechanics are being used per level, sometimes I felt that I’d like to see new mechanics faster to keep the experience fresh. Also, when you die, none of your progress is saved and you have to start from scratch at the beginning of a level. Since much of the time you spend the first time through a level is figuring out where you’re supposed to go, a good chunk of time is cut off from any subsequent attempt you make at the level; however, it can still be pretty frustrating when you died right before the end of the level just because you missed a dodge from an enemy.

All in all, Lost in Shadow is an aesthetically-pleasing platformer with a good amount of content. While it has its own small flaws, these shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the game if you’re interested in a platformer where you can manipulate the environment in creative ways.


Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
MSRP: $59.99
by: Marc "DjinniMan" Allie

There’s a saying about pizza, and another common recreational activity that isn’t appropriate to discuss on a family friendly site: “even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good”. That sentiment could very easily be applied to Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. The game is an incredible, over-the-top, and exciting ride, whether you are a button mashing newbie, an accomplished veteran, or anywhere in between.

As a long time fan of fighting games, I’ve played my fair share of Street Fighter and it’s legion of clones. Most of that time was spent in arcades, but in recent years, the genre has come back to home consoles, with a vengeance. Soulcalibur, Mortal Kombat, and Tekken have made recent appearances, as has Capcom’s own Street Fighter series. Though these games are great, they have the most appeal to the hardcore fighting game fan, the one who masters one character enough to win often in online battles, and who might never play another character at all. For the casual fan like myself, who could throw a fireball or dragon punch but could never dream of twenty-hit combos, this new crop of fighting games was of limited appeal, to say nothing of my wife and kids.

But there’s something different about Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. The learning curve has been plowed down to a far more manageable level. The control scheme has been revamped to cut down on needless complication. There’s even a simple control scheme available, which trades the full variety of attacks for a simpler, one button method of using special attacks. This is perfect for kids or super-casual gamers who can still have access to most of the coolest moves. For veterans, the changes to controls tweak the experience enough to keep things interesting, yet still familiar enough for comfort.

The character selection, though not as astronomical as the second Marvel Vs. Capcom title, is still very high, clocking in at over three dozen fighters plucked from the Marvel and Capcom universes. New additions like Thor and Dante join returning stalwarts such as Iron Man and Chun Li. The game uses the same slick visual style as Street Fighter 4, albeit brighter and more dynamic, as befits a game featuring characters from comic books. It’s a visual feast that will make your eyes bleed from high-def carnage, but in a good way.

There are a few areas in which Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 could have been better. Probably the most apparent is the relative lack of unlockable content. There are only four “hidden” characters and we unlocked them in less than a day. Another weak area is the lack of compelling options outside arcade mode. Some might also argue that the game relies more on fanboy shout-outs than on a solid gameplay experience.

Really, though, we’re talking about a game in which super heroes beat up on martial artists, succubi, and demon hunters; it’s not kung-fu chess, and therein lies the appeal. Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 is a stellar entry into the series, and it worth a try for even the casual fighting game fan.


Publisher: Visceral
Developer: Electronic Arts
MSRP: $59.99
by: Sam "Samoza" Tyler

With computer games becoming increasingly expensive to produce, there is a widening gap emerging between those companies that pour lots of money in to a game’s development and those that pour a seemingly impossible amount. Dead Space 2 is a game that sits in the impossibly expensive category with more time and money lavished on it by developer Visceral Games, than an Actress on Oscar day. The graphics, music, sound, presentation and gameplay are all of an exceptionally high standard.

The story follows on three years after the original Dead Space and you return as Isaac Cane, no longer the silent engineer of the first game, but a man with a face and a voice. Isaac wakes up in a hospital/asylum on the giant space colony ‘The Sprawl’, whilst under the influence of narcotics powerful enough to knock out the hardiest of aging rock stars. The Necromorphs have arrived and are taking control, quickly forcing Isaac to get up and grab any weapon he can. As the mystery of the Necromorph’s arrival unravels, only he can uncover the story of ‘The Sprawl’, the Necromorphs and the ghosts of those he used to know.

In terms of gameplay, Dead Space 2 oozes quality. A third person action horror game, with survival horror elements, you work your way through the giant space colony via copious numbers of blood strewn corridors and epic set pieces. No corner feels safe as Visceral Games have managed to place you on edge at all times. One minute you could be walking into a typical gristle adorned room, the next you are sucked out into to space followed by a small army of screaming childlike Necromorphs, known collectively as a Pack. Praise must fall on the sound design as much as the level design. Even in relatively safe areas the light music and sinister sound effects make you sit at the edge of your seat. This is a game best played with the lights out and a pair of quality headphones.

Dead Space 2’s class continues in its replay value. Throughout your first playthrough you can collect new weapons and armour that you then go on to enhance. However, it will take at least another complete run through of the game before you can max out everything and become an all powerful Isaac. The new “game +” mode allows you to bring your inventory through to a harder difficulty level, that is unless you decide to tackle Hardcore mode. Here you must complete the game with a fresh Isaac, extremely powerful enemies and only 3 saves throughout the game. Difficult? Extreme hardcore players only need apply.

Throughout its relatively modest run time, around 5-8 hours, Dead Space 2 is scary, exciting, and at times, a truly awesome experience. This is not to say I have no misgivings at all. The game owes a lot to the sublime Bioshock, and cannot quite reach the heights of that game; the atmosphere, music and audio files all remind you of Rapture. Dead Space 2 is a game that acts as the scariest ghost ride you have ever been on (yes, even scarier than Disney’s Haunted Mansion). This means that the game is full of great moments, but at times you feel like you are on a rail track leading you along. Exploration is limited and makes you feel like you are missing the best parts of the game. However, the Call of Duty games show that linearity does not always make a game less fun; Dead Space 2 uses its single minded gameplay to great effect. The game also takes elements of Left 4 Dead 2 with its online multiplayer mode, a decent effort at team based versus, but it lacks the balance of the Left games.

2011 has started with a fantastic game. Dead Space 2 is likely to adorn many gamers’ best of lists and we are not even had the first flush of spring. The minor issues of linear levels and homage to other games can be justified as Visceral Games taking what has gone before and making it better. There is no doubt in my mind that any fan of action horror or survival horror will be scared, exhilarated and entertained in equal parts by this triple A game.