Author - Kate_Clayton

Star Wars Pinball Review (PS3)

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Zen Studios is at it again, releasing yet another set of beautifully designed pinball tables.This time around, in a galaxy not so far away after all, we have Star Wars Pinball. There are 3 wonderfully designed tables, full of scenes from the series, as well as animated characters, sound effects, and nods to the George Lucas’ beloved universe. If you’re a fan of pinball or simply a Star Wars lover like myself, this is a must have.

When you begin, you’re given a choice between the Light or the Dark side, although it doesn’t have much effect on gameplay, but rather what your points will “unlock”, such as various clips to certain scenes from the films and animated series. Everything is impeccably detailed, down to the shine in Vader’s helmet and Boba Fett’s jetpack thrusters, and the voice acting is taken directly from the films. As far as controls go, they couldn’t of been any simplier. The bumpers are assigned to L1 and L2 and the Sixaxis is used to tilt. You’re also offered the option to toggle between different views of the table. My only complaint is that there were times when I found the tables to be too busy to the point where I couldn’t figure out where the ball was. But, after a couple of plays on each table, I began to adjust to the placement of ramps and kickers.

Though I’ve never been the best pinball player, I definitely had no problem investing my time into these 3 boards. They kept me fully entertained as a major Star Wars fan, and had me coming back for more with the unlockable level objectives, incredible ball physics, and attention to detail. Definitely a recommend to someone invested in pinball, as Zen does it best, or someone who simply can’t get enough Star Wars!

Star Wars Pinball Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
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Capcom Arcade Cabinet Pack #1 Review (PS3)

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There’s a certain feeling that comes along with digging out an old console and sifting through the games of yesteryear. And walking into an arcade, well, even the air smells of nostalgia.  But in this day and digital age, it’s almost impossible to find time to wander over to your, say, nearest laundromat to play your classic favorites. If you grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s, chances are you remember a time when these machines were everywhere – clustered together and surrounded by your peers, teeming with excitement. It was a sanctuary- a home away from home. A place to lose yourself without the worry of criticism and a place to socialize with friends. Well, if you’re anything like me, daydream no more. After 30 years of brilliant games that shaped and molded a majority of our childhoods, Capcom has released their Capcom Arcade Cabinet Pack #1.

In total, there will be fifteen games available, released in bundles of three at a special price, or, sold by themselves for $3.99. Titles include classics such as Avenger, Ghosts N’ Goblins, Commando, and many more. The game files are small and accessible after launching the cabinet itself, which is free to download. Also available is an 8-bit arcade chip-tune music player, allowing the customization of playlists to be listened to during game sessions, as well as a replay upload system that links directly to YouTube.

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Graphically speaking, these games still aren’t quite much to look at, although they have been up-scaled to hi-resolution. Colors seem to pop and the 8-bit tunes have never sounded crisper  As for controls, they have been mapped to the console controller perfectly. Jumping feels tighter and I found using the analog sticks, rather than the D-pad, to be comfortable and more economical.

In all, whether you’ve had your hands on these titles before and are looking to take a stroll down memory lane, or if you’re blooming into a gamer and exploring video gaming’s past, Capcom Arcade Cabinet and the bundles of games are for you. They play just like you remember, while still keeping with current times. Easy to download and even easier to play on your ever-so familiar controller of choice, there’s no reason why anyone would refrain from downloading the cabinet and checking out the titles available. They make for a great entertainment between hi-profile releases and provide hours of challenging fun and nostalgia at a low price.

Capcom Arcade Cabinet Pack #1 Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
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The Cave Review (PS3)

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“The Cave” is a classical modern adventure game from Ron Gilbert, the mind behind titles such as Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, and Double Fine Productions, the studio responsible for Psychonauts and Costume Quest. Gameplay is heavy on puzzles and platforming, which not only give this title a fresh feel and takes you away from the typical point-and-click, but manages to break the genre and present something incredibly different than anything currently on the market.

As the game begins, you’re introduced to the mysterious, dark and witty narrator, who happens to be the Cave himself. You’re then presented with an unlikely group of 7 characters to choose from- the Knight, the Hillbilly, the Adventurer, the Twins, the Time Traveler, the Scientist, and the Monk. As you move from each, a small piece of story is given and you’re left with the decision of creating your team of 3. Each has a special move (or power), and while the combination does not matter, I found that there are those that were more enjoyable and useful than others. For example, the Twins have the ability to duplicate themselves into “ghost form”, which simplifies pulling a third switch when you’ve left another character off-screen. On top of that, each of the 7 also have levels that are specific to them and twisted back-stories that evolve as the game progresses. Not everyone is quite who they seem to be- each is looking for something they deeply desire, and as things progress, you begin to see the lengths at which the 3 you chose will go to get it. This keeps the player guessing and wanting to continue their journey, as well as giving this title replay value.

Being puzzle-centric, “the Cave” does not disappoint. Each is well thought out, interesting, and takes time to solve – especially, if you haven’t been quite observant when traversing the levels. Items are needed and must be carried and sometimes swapped out with others through each level to complete a mechanism or something of the like, which proves to be an annoyance when you’ve got your team scattered about. They’re fun and rewarding, and while they aren’t incredibly complicated, I did find myself scratching my head more than once at the lack of direction and vaguely placed items (which conveniently display their name as you walk past them). The biggest frustration here, however, is the constant backtracking. You’ll find yourself cycling through your 3, retracing your steps countless times to pull levers that you’ve pulled before, grab items you thought you had no use for any longer, and platforming your way back to meet up with the group when it’s time to complete an area. Despite this being typical to a game in the adventure genre, I would have been a lot happier with a “call team” function.

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Graphically speaking, this game is beautiful. Level and character design are reminiscent of a dark and dreary Pixar film, and while the narrative is light, it definitely fits the atmosphere. Animation is wonderful and the subtly of it breathes life into this title. Each of the six basic areas that you encounter have a personality of their own, from the typical cave-esque scenery full of dripping stalactites, lovely bright and glowing moss on the walls, waterfalls and cliffs to jump from to proceed to the next area,  to things buried under the ground such as UFOs and nuclear bombs. When you get to your first character-specific stage, you’ll know which it belongs to right off the proverbial bat. The Adventurer’s golden sand-swept pyramid, the Monk’s peaceful Zen temple- you’re placed into their previous lives and their story progresses from there. I did, however, have a few frame rate issues when all of my characters were on the screen at the same time, and usually when around a body of water, but nothing that lasted more than a few seconds or took me out of gameplay. I found the controls to be mediocre and clunky, at best, but there is little punishment for mistakes made. No one dies in the Cave- one wrong move and you’re poofed back on screen in a cloud of white smoke. Jumping felt quite floaty, which proves to be an annoyance during the levels which are heavier on platforming  and I found myself over-shooting jumps, grabbing onto ledges that I hadn’t intended to and pulling myself up. While frustrating, it wasn’t enough to really deter me and after a couple of hours, I began to grow used to the mechanics.

In all, I can’t seem to find many negative thoughts about my time with “the Cave”. I thought it was well written and executed, and despite the tedious backtracking, I found it to be absolutely charming, sweet, and exciting. In the 5 hours that it took me to traverse the depths, there wasn’t a moment that I was anything less than engaged in gameplay and story. Whether you’re looking for something that provides a bit of a mental challenge and strokes your ego as you finish each puzzle, something simply stunning to look at, or something that leaves you wanting to come back for yet another adventure, this title is for you. I couldn’t recommend it more!

The Cave Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
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Black Knight Sword Review (PS3)

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Black Knight Sword is an M-rated, 2D side-scrolling platformer that conjures up not only feelings of nostalgia, but also a welcome sense of refreshment. While it may be your typical hack n’ slash title that follows an age-old, linear formula, this Grasshopper/Digital Reality title is far from average. It’s… odd, to say the least. Very odd – with Goichi Suda being a main collaborator on the project. From riding a giant, egg-shooting chicken to slicing up a gas mask-wearing spider, Black Knight Sword takes a shot at the dark, macabre, and downright silly. The result: A thoroughly charming and ridiculously-entertaining experience.

From the moment the deep red stage curtains open at the start of the game, you find yourself mesmerized by the abstract Medieval European puppet show art style. There are 5 levels of gameplay, each having a distinct nightmare-like theme, all while maintaining a level of vibrancy that resonates well with the witty and somber Poe-esque narrative. Each of these 25-35 minute stages are foreshadowed by a short introduction, reminiscent of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and, as you hack your way through the onslaught of increasingly bizarre creatures, the background is constantly changing, giving Black Knight Sword an even greater sense of movement. The levels look very much alive, keeping what could have been a boring adventure absolutely engaging. Enemies are animated well and whimsically-diverse, despite the larger of the lot being predictably “attack and dodge”. Once down, each explodes into a satisfying bloody mess, making each kill well worth the effort. That, coupled with Akira Yamaoka’s haunting and erratic score, makes for a tastefully-gloomy, good time.

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While the controls are simple enough, the first level being an in-depth walk-through of sorts, I found them to be unresponsive. They work, but it’s easy to find yourself stuck in an attack animation, swinging your sword at the air and getting pelted by the enemy, rather than striking. You’ll find yourself mashing the “square” button more often than not, despite having a ranged attack, hoping that your advance has been angled in the direction of your current foe. As the game progresses, you’re awarded with a powerful magical attack, as well as a few other moves for your sword that only proved to be useful in a handful of situations. Upgrades, such as armor and health slots, can also be purchased at mid-level points from a giant eyeball, using hearts dropped by each enemy you’ve slaughtered along the way. These become irreplaceable, especially when you’re going to encounter a boss, as health is sparse, to say the least.

In all, if you were ever a fan of classic titles such as Ghosts N’ Goblins or Castlevania, then this is the game for you. It maintains the retro feel of classic hack n’ slash titles while bringing something entirely new to the proverbial table. Black Knight Sword is dark, bloody, and morbidly fun. Despite its moments of unforgiving, platforming Hell and dreaded level restarts at a cursed “Game Over”, it was a joy to play through and definitely recommended as a weekend standalone title or a small-dose adventure!

Guardians Of Middle-earth Review (PS3)

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The Lord of the Rings has been a fan favorite since long before any of us can remember and, over the years with the advances in media, it has become an even bigger phenomena. Since 1982, we’ve ventured to Middle-earth at the hands of various publishers, including Sierra, Electronic Arts, and more recently, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. With the upcoming release of The Hobbit in theaters, we’re seeing an increase in LOTR-inspired titles, including WB’s successful LEGO: The Lord of the Rings and the newest addition to their catalog: Guardians of Middle-Earth, a MOBA title. For those of you unfamiliar with MOBA games, they are an exclusively multiplayer marriage of real-time strategy and action.

Guardians of Middle-earth is your very typical MOBA game, sans learning curve. Your team and your opponents spawn on opposite sides of either a 1 or 3-laned map and march into heated battle. The player chooses one character (out of an impressive roster of 20) to control and there’s heavy emphasis on cooperative team play. Solo, John McClane style defense and offense is almost impossible to accurately execute without spending a hefty chunk of time at your base, waiting to re-spawn  Many creatures appear along the battlefield, although the choice to fight them is yours to make. They don’t attack unless provoked, but make for massive XP when taken out. And, when you strip this title down to its bare bones, you begin to realize that it’s the collective level of XP each of your teammates has that gives you the needed advantage to win a match.

…an exclusively multiplayer marriage of real-time strategy and action.

As you engage in combat, your character quickly levels up, earning you a skill point to put towards three basic abilities. These usually include a special attack useful against an opposing player-character, a ranged magical attack, and a shield or a ranged healing spell depending on your character’s class type. There’s also a powerful special move, dubbed a ‘Command’, that is unlocked and upgradeable after a certain level is achieved and becomes most useful when pitted against groups of various enemies. The objective of the game is to defend your towers that lie scattered around your base, while strategically moving up into enemy territory and destroying theirs. These towers become upgradeable as well, but still seem to go down rather easy when pitted against seasoned attackers. You’re also followed into combat by a handful of foot soldiers, which seem to be more or less decoys, rather than aggressors, as enemy AI and each tower’s defense mechanisms will attack these before your team’s Guardians. These, too, can be upgraded after a short period of time but still seem to be lacking in strength, as per usual MOBA game style.

From a graphical standpoint, I found the few maps that this title offered to be mediocre. While being  very reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings franchise, the landscape seemed to be somewhat dull and lacking in variety, something which the detailed and impressive character models and animations could have made up for if it wasn’t for the irritating and relentless screen tearing. Texture pop-in was also a big issue, especially during heavy battles, to the point where I’d find myself retreating to escape the visual pain. These were the least of my complaints, though as there were times when the lag was completely unbearable. The frame rate hiccups interrupt the flow and rhythm of gameplay, not to mention completely distorting the battle at hand. While this seems to be something very patchable in the future, getting booted 3 out 5 matches in the now makes it a chore to enjoy the better aspects of the overall experience.

With all of the negative said, it would be a shame to ignore the endearing qualities of what this game could be. From the moment the intro ends, the player is engulfed in a very intuitive world. A gameplay tutorial is recommended, though not necessary, as combat has been made uncomplicated while still upholding a level of tactical depth that you’d expect from a MOBA game. There are 5 character classes: Striker, Defender, Enchanter, Tactician, and Warrior – each having a similar yet very diverse set of abilities that are well-animated and fun to use. Each character manages to feel different on the battlefield, and you quickly fall into choosing favorites. After a certain amount of leveling, you’re also rewarded with gold that can be used to buy potions, guardian belts, commands, relics, and gems, which increase things such as health and ability damage. It’s these rewards that keep the player interested in progressing. Combat, while having its aforementioned issues, still manages to uphold a level of fun. There are four modes of gameplay: Skirmish (5 player match versus AI-controlled Guardians), Battlegrounds (5 versus 5 competitive match with a 20 minute time limit), Elite Battlegrounds (5 versus 5 match with no AI and no time limit), and custom match. While I favored the elite mode, I found the lobby wait to find an additional 9 players to be a waste of time, when the AI is only slightly predictable and far from sloppy.

It feels like it’s in beta, and one that’s been rushed to meet a certain movie deadline…

Overall, as much as I enjoyed the moments of clear and crisp gameplay I was able to milk from Guardians of Middle-Earth, I find it very hard to recommend because they were very few and far between. Combat was simple, strategic, entertaining, and very rewarding, but fell short when confronted by the severe lag and server issues. It feels like it’s in beta, and one that’s been rushed to meet a certain movie deadline, which is very disappointing on many levels. This is a title with a lot of potential, for both Lord of the Rings fans and those new to the series alike, and I hope to see it receive a patch to fix the relentless bugs that keep it from reaching that potential.