Review | 9/10/2011 at 9:31 AM

Beyond Co-Op Reviews - September 2011

We review the latest single player games like Deus Ex, Bastion and More!

Beyond Co-Op Reviews is a critical look at games that don't necessarily have a co-op mode.

The fall season is upon us, but the staff have just wrapped up the remanents of the summer months.  On the plate today is the Fall's first big release, Deus Ex: Human Revolution as well as a few other gems.  Take a gander and see if you missed any gems.

Bastion.................................................................................................. Page 2
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
..............................................................Page 3
Serious Sam: DD..................................................................................Page 4
Boulderdash XL....................................................................................Page 5
Shadows of the Damned....................................................................Page 6
Child of Eden..........................................................................................Page 7 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: WB
Developer: Super Giant Games
MSRP: $14.99
by: Jason "OrigamiPanther" Love

The Summer of Arcade has come and gone, but the titles still linger on. Amidst the co-op offerings, there lurked the single player Bastion, an action-RPG that offered a slightly different twist on the usual Diablo formula. Sure, you still hack your way through dungeons killing swathes of enemies along the way, but the point isn’t to find a better piece of loot or even to advance your character. This is a game where the point is to progress and be a part of the story.

The game opens with a smoky voice telling you that all stories should start from the beginning as the game’s protagonist, The Kid, slowly fades into view. From that point on, your whole world becomes one big story; narrated by the voice and determined by you. You slay a foe with ease and you’re complimented with how deftly and efficiently you’ve done so. You find yourself accidently falling off a platform and you become the subject of a joke.

So many games out there do their best to make you feel like you’re part of the story; like you’re there making the choices needed to save the world or damn it. Bastion achieves this by doing something that has been a part of our culture since we could speak: it tells you the story. It tells the story without any fancy CG movies or scrolling walls of text, it just tells it to you. What’s more, Bastion’s version of storytelling actually manages to make you feel like you are making the choices. Rather than pushing you forward into the next area or plot point, Bastion empowers the player to pull the story along at his or her own pace.

As if the story wasn’t enough, Bastion also has an amazing soundtrack that ties in with the whole thing, challenges that let you test your abilities with the game’s nine different weapons, and an interesting perks system for your character in the form of equipping bottles of liquor. The aforementioned weapons come in both short and long-range varieties, and you’re free to mix-and-match any two that you like, sometimes mid-level.

It’s a rather amazing thing to consider that in this day and age of modern video game storytelling where more and more games try to emulate movies, a game which takes a step back, in a way, is really taking a step forward. There’s nothing fancy to Bastion’s method, just a lone narrator reacting to and recounting your actions. Yet in that simplicity, one finds a more interactive and engaging experience than any Metal Gear Solid or Halo.


Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
MSRP: $59.99
by: Jason "OrigamiPanther" Love

At its core, the RPG genre is all about the choices a player makes. Whether it’s choosing how to level your character, or choosing to save the village or let it burn whilst in pursuit of the villain, the choice is yours. As time has gone on, much of this choice has slowly been taken away in favor of flashier animation or more outlandish abilities. While Deus Ex: Human Revolution certainly doesn’t return to the roots of the original D&D progenitor in a cyberpunk setting [Ed. Note: See Shadowrun], it does restore much of that choice to the player.

Deus Ex: HR is actually a prequel to the events of the original Deus Ex, despite being the third entry in the Deus Ex series and arriving eight years after the last one was made. Set in the not too distant year of 2027 in the city of Detroit, Deus Ex: HR centers on the latest technological development that has the world talking: augmentation, or the replacement of body parts with mechanical ones that provide enhanced ability. This augmentation is also the center of a much heated debate about whether or not it should even be used and into the midst of this debate comes the game’s protagonist, Adam Jensen. Due to what appears to be a terrorist attack on his company, Adam involuntarily finds himself on the receiving end of this augmentation technology. How he uses it, though, is up to you.

With his augmented abilities, Adam can run faster, leap higher, punch through walls, and even fire out a deadly barrage of bullets in a 360-degree arc. Alternatively, he could be a stealthy hacker that sees through walls and marks his attackers in order to avoid them (there’s an achievement for not killing anyone). The choice entirely comes down to how you want to play the game and there are enough abilities present that you are free to find the style that works for you. The choice even extends to how you decide to handle some of the missions and side missions you come across.

All that choice, though, comes to a grinding halt at the game’s four boss encounters. These fixed points are where all those choices become rather meaningless as you feel like there really are only a few good choices to make when it comes to the augmentations. Once you hammer your way through, though, that joy of choosing whether or not you silently take down a group of foes one at a time, go in guns blazing, or bypass them altogether returns. Fans of the series will also find plenty of nods as to what’s to come and some interesting backstory on some characters, and even a few references to other classic sci-fi/cyberpunk titles.

Fans of RPGs that are fed up with the ever-expansive, yet extremely restrictive (from a player choice point of view), jRPG, or the seemingly too vast Western RPG may find a good balance with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The game even has appeal to non-RPG fans as it works as a competent first-person shooter and brings with it an interesting story that raises some very intriguing questions about where the line between man and machine should be drawn. For fans of the series, we’ve waited 8 years and finally gotten the sequel we deserve.


Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Mommy's Best Games
MSRP: $9.99
by: Nick "bapenguin" Puleo

I’ve been a long time fan of the stuff Mommy’s Best Games puts together. The independant developer has put out solid titles on the Xbox Live Indie channel and it seems their work has gotten the attention of some bigger players in the industry. Enter Serious Sam DD, a creation from the studio in partnership with Croteam to help promote the upcoming Serious Sam 3: BFE. The side scrolling game is similar in style to Weapon of Choice, another of MBG’s titles, but has a serious Sam flair.

While most of the platforming elements will be familiar to players, what sets this game apart is the sheer amount of chaos that ensues on the screen not only from the amount of enemies spawning, just like a normal Sam game, but how you handle things. First up is your guns. The normal arsenal is all there - but instead of just switching between a single weapon you can “stack guns” by finding hidden pieces laying around the levels. That means you can have a gun stack with 2, 3, 4 or more guns firing at once. Sure it looks ridiculous, but let the Gnarr you just shot with two tommy guns, a chainsaw and a rocket launch tell you that to your face.

The second piece to the chaotic puzzle is the fact that enemy bodies stick around and become part of the level. A giant pile of corpses become a great thing to climb to reach hard to get to places. The final piece of this puzzle are the enemies themselves. While Sam’s normal foes are all present, MBG have created some really unique bad guys as well like vuvuzela pancakes, angry rocket monkeys with explosive bananas, and suicide bomber girls that are 10 feet tall.

If there’s one gripe, it’s that the game would be even more ridiculous in co-op.

Like any game from MBG, Serious Sam DD just oozes style. There’s easter eggs galore with references to everything from video games to movies (Inception one was great). All in all this is a solid title that even without the Sam license would be a must have action/platformer.


Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Five Star Software/Catnip Games
MSRP: $9.99
by: Nick "bapenguin" Puleo

Growing up with an Atari 300XL computer we had a lot of games on numerous floppy disks that my Dad somehow managed to acquire. Despite the dozens of games we had there were a few I kept coming back to - a game named Orc Attack, the Ghostbusters game, and a puzzle-ish game called Boulderdash. Finally in the age of arcade remakes the latter is seeing the light of day. Called Boulderdash XL, the same concept returns to the modern age.

The goal of Boulderdash is simple - dig through the dirt, push boulders out of the way, and collect gems. If you collect enough gems you’ll clear the level. Sounds easy enough - except gravity plays a part. Dig too close to some boulders and they’ll come crashing down on you killing you. Of course, there’s also strategy to it - you can use this to kill enemies that might be blocking your path.

Bolderdash XL doesn’t veer far from it’s roots, these same basic concept apply to the entirety of the game through the 150 or so levels. The difficulty in the game comes from the race against the clock, forcing you to act quickly. Boulderdash XL also offers two characters to play as - though this seems only for cosmetic effect.

One thing I really loved is the game offers a retro mode which will display the old school 8-bit style graphics of the original. While my Atari 300XL only had two colors (White and Purple) - and this one had a few more - I still was taken back to when I was 7 playing in our basement.

If you were a fan of the original, you’ll love Boulderdash XL. If you’ve never played the game, give it a try, you’ll find its simple yet challenging gameplay quite addictive.


Publisher: EA
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
MSRP: $59.99
by: Mike "pheriannath" Katsufrakis

There’s a moment early on in Shadows of the Damned where you meet the main villain and he monologues for a good couple minutes while constantly making penis jokes. It’s good that this comes so soon, because it serves simply as a taste for what’s to come. While crass, the writing somehow manages to remain entertaining throughout, and if your sense of humor allows for such language, you’re in for a treat.

Shadows of the Damned is a grindhouse/horror movie love-in masquerading as a crass third person shooter, and it’s one of my favorite single-player games of the year. You assume the role of Garcia (F-bombing) Hotspur and his wisecracking demon sidekick Johnson. Garcia’s girlfriend Paula has been kidnapped by Fleming, the lord of all demons (naturally), and you need to get her back.

The action is standard fare for a third-person shooter, and mostly revolves around you using Johnson, who (of course) can transform into any weapon you need to ventilate your foes. He also serves as your prime source of penis-related humor as a good number of the weapons he can become have names like “Hot Boner”. Dial up a phone-sex line later in the game and he’ll become the “Big Boner”. Awesome.

Some simple environmental puzzles punctuate the action, and usually involve cleansing an area of shadow to make enemies vulnerable. I had a few Alan Wake flashbacks, but your mileage may vary.

As the product of a sort of Japanese game development supergroup (Suda51, Shinji Mikami and Akira Yamaoka), it manages to capture the best essence from all three. From Suda, we have an absolutely insane plot, over-the-top characters and the old “punk’s not dead” attitude that serves as Grasshopper Manufacture’s motto. Mikami, famed for his work on the Resident Evil series, brings structure to the gameplay which is something a game Suda works on usually lacks. Yamaoka brings his vast musical talent along, and while it’s not his best work, the music serves the game well.

While Shadows of the Damned may not have had the best marketing budget (hey, zero is still a budget!) out there, it’s clear that the developers had a ton of fun making it. The localization is top-notch, and while the action is merely solid, it serves its purpose.

If you enjoy blue humor, this is an easy recommendation. I had a ton of fun in my playthrough, and this is definitely the sort of game that will live on as a cult classic.


Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Q Entertainment
MSRP: $39.99
by: Nick "bapenguin" Puleo

Child of Eden, when revealed, was supposed to be the game that sold the Kinect to the core audience.  Now after having played the Rez successor with the Kinect I can say...well I say just play it with a controller.

Sure the Kinect works just fine for the game - but it doesn't really add anything to the gameplay.  Perhaps the speed at which you do things is slightly faster, but they are also slightly more inaccurate. It's a trade off and one I'm not willing to make.

Gameplay wise there's nothing here that will surprise you - this game is a Rez successor through and through.  Graphically you won't be blown away, but Child of Eden does take some advantage of the hardware and certain levels do stand out above the others, just like the original.  The biggest difference in Eden is your need to constantly switch betwee two attack types depending on the enemy color attacking you.  The goal is still to build up the highest multiplier possible by locking on up to 8 enemies at a time without being hit, but beyond this anyone who has played Rez will be right at home.

Musically the game stands up with the rest, with your gameplay becoming the soundtrack itself at times.  You simply get lost in the series of beats and pulses.  

All is not well though, Eden is incredibly short.  Easily beaten in under 3 hours if not less.  Whether that's worth the $40 to you or not, well, that's up to you.  But there is replayability and bonuses to unlock for further play and scoring.  

Is Child of Eden better than Rez?  In a way, yes.  But it still doesn't capture that magic you had the first time playing Rez.