Author - Ripper71

Castle Torgeath: Descent Into Darkness Review

I’ve been playing video games almost as long as there have been video games and ever so often one comes along so loaded with nostalgic feel that it feels like it traveled through a time machine.  The beauty of Steam Greenlight is these beautiful old school RPGs like Castle Torgeath can still find a home in your heart after so many years of hardcore games.

At the beginning of Castle Torgeath: Descent into Darkness, you are presented with a few paragraphs of text explaining the game’s premise. You are a down on your luck adventurer who finds a listing on a job board. The listing advertises an expedition into the ancient, and supposedly-abandoned, Castle Torgeath. The ad promises fortune and glory for anyone who joins in, so you grab your sword and start after the expedition.

The game resembles those old school, first-person dungeon crawlers like early Elder Scrolls games – actually, it more than resembles them – it is one! Castle Torgeath captures that retro feeling so well that, if you played through those kind of games when they came out, it is like a time warp.

You have three meters in you lower corner, one for mana, one for health and one for hunger.  Healing and mana are refreshed through potions and fountains and hunger is helped through food.  You want to keep an eye on all three to survive.  Occasionally you will stumble on a lost adventurer who will sell you the goods he has found or a spell he knows for the treasures you have stumbled upon.  Be wary of making too many trades or you might be short of valuables when you need them most.

There are multiple levels with bosses at the end and the game progresses with starting enemies being weak like rats to bigger enemies like summoned demons and big ass bugs.  All the time you also have to look for hidden clues and passages while avoiding hidden traps and enemies. The graphics are even retro, and they are done well enough to not make you sick playing but still simple enough to still hearken back to the roots it’s based on. The game features no speech, but plenty of tried and true text to read and the developers have quite a bit of lore scrawled out for your enjoyment.

At one point in gaming history, first-person dungeon crawlers relied on angular or grid-based movement systems. Torgeath allows for free-roaming movement, which should help modern gamers from giving up. The older movement systems can be rather constricting.

Last Health Point:

Castle Torgeath: Descent Into Darkness is a very fun play based off a very old school game design which works on a nostalgic level as well as introduce modern players to gaming history.  Besides it less than $10 and when you consider inflation isn’t that much more than it would have cost back in the day.


Castle Torgeath: Descent Into Darkness Review Score

(4 out of 5 stars)


 

Advanced Evo X Wireless In-Ear Monitors Review

About 6 months ago I was 325 pounds and on multiple medications to control my Type 2 Diabetes. Even with my canes I could not stand for more than a few minutes at a time.  I was trying to get into weight loss surgery to help with both mental and physical results of my weight including worsening my degenerative bone disease complications.  Basically I was a medical wreck but my insurance like so many other people’s gave me the run around and denied me. So I got out my cane, strapped my phone to my hand, and started walking the court we live on in case I collapsed too badly and couldn’t walk home I could possible call for help or crawl home.  It was painful from the beginning and the only thing that helped was diving deep into my music.  I now have a weight flux between 255-265 pounds, less Diabetic meds and even though I still have to walk with a cane because I still have all my medical ailments I can walk longer before having to lay back down.  That means I am always testing headphones and this time I got the privilege of testing my first wireless ones with the Advanced Evo X Wireless In-Ear Monitors.

Locked In:

The Evo X Monitors have a feature I particularly needed in earphones and that is the “twist and lock” into your ears design.  They twist from the front, slide into your ear canal and have tubing that wraps around your ear.  Sometimes even the shortest of walks such as to the bathroom can have me overwhelmed in pain and staring at the ground or pulling off my hat to wipe away the sweat and these just stay on and stay in place when bumped.  They supply different size ear foam buds to make sure you have the one that fits your ears best and a travel case to keep them safe in and to keep the spare buds in a mesh holder.

All the comfort of headphones don’t matter if the sound doesn’t come through clearly.  Luckily they have wired clarity.  They connect to your phone via Bluetooth and have and surprisingly nice range.  I was listening to some music while preparing for one of my “death marches” and couldn’t find my phone in my pocket when I was about to go out the door.  Turned out I had left it on the bedpost upstairs at the other end of the house and yet I had no problem with reception.  So they have comfort and range, but what about how long does the battery last?  After my walk and laying down on the bed watching programs on my phone I found the battery worked about 4-5 hours which is probably a lot more than the average person needs and it takes about two hours to recharge, less if you use a speed charging battery.

The controls only take a little while to get used to and that is because they are so nicely low profile.  It wasn’t until reading the box that I found out it had a built in mic for taking calls, hence being called “monitors” instead of just “headsets”.  Everything is low profile even the cable between monitors could be hidden under a hat or knit cap.

Last Words:

The Advanced Evo X Wireless In-Ear Monitors are the most comfortable in-ear headphones I have ever used as well as being the most secure.  I wish I could say I will be using them but my wife who is getting weight loss surgery in a couple weeks has already laid claim to them so I only have them until surgery time.  I’ll have to look forward to Advanced’s other lines of products and hopefully I will be able to get a pair for myself!


Advanced Evo X Wireless In-Ear Monitors Review Score

(5 out of 5 Stars)


 

For Honor Review (PC)

For Honor has easily been one of the most highly anticipated games of the year – partly due to its smoothly rendered gameplay and beautifully decorating battlegrounds/environments.  Even more important, however, is that For Honor helps us settle one of the most pressing questions among armchair historians and gamers alike: Who would win in a fight between samurai, vikings, and medieval knights?

For Honor!

It should be noted early on in this review, that For Honor requires a pretty hefty footprint of hard drive space: 40 GBs!  Also, it isn’t a slouch in the performance requirements either, so be sure that your rig can handle it before you get the game.  Obviously, our console-playing brethren are all-set on this point because all they need is a decent internet connection – but, I digress.  The PC version, however, will allow you to boost up those beautiful graphics so much that you might just stop and watch all the flame and smoke, possibly at the expense of your own execution.

When it comes to battle there are two primary methods of melee combat, the first being a more tactical style of fighting.  In For Honor, this style of combat is toggled into with the left CTRL button and not unlocked from until the key is struck again or until one of you is dead.  In boss fights this proves to be particularly handy because boss strike and counter times can be very small so seeing it on the screen can really help.  It also helps you to time an execution mode on an enemy which adds points but more importantly looks bad ass.  This mode also helps you aim in battle which can be helpful so that you don’t miss an enemy and smack your weapon into a wall leaving your whole flank open.

The other style of fighting is more of a brawler or gorilla style where you are not locked onto the enemy and instead you just move in, try to make some strikes and move back out when you have taken too many blows or the style isn’t working and you need to go into tactical mode.  This kind of fighting is pretty handy when it comes to quick strikes and if one of your loaded skills is health regeneration this might give you a chance to get some distance and some healing in before another round.  This is also nice for keeping an eye on the enemy in case it suddenly becomes a two or three on one match, you might want to bug out.  It might be good to mention that among the different game difficulty settings, there is a “realistic” mode which means one death and that character is permanently gone.

There are the primary types of fighting styles but there are also individual upgrades that you can get depending on the group you fight for and the style of the fighter in question.  A lot of players out there just care about multiplayer gaming and that is totally fine – though if they do just that and not play the single player campaign, they will miss out on an interesting story of how three of the greatest fighting groups the world has ever known came to blows.

Multiplayer in interesting because it involves three fairly common types of gameplay modes, but the battles all serve a greater purpose.  First off you have a player versus player dueling mode which is pretty straightforward, or you can do player vs. AI duel which is nice since all the players can be allied.  On these environment is important to keep a quick eye, because a big burning cauldron for light can also “light up” a player and pushing someone towards a broken ledge railing might leave them a splat on the ground. While it is considered more honorable to let a player face just one other person instead of multiple players teaming up against another, honor can be hard to find and loose alliances will be formed, Hunger Games style.  There is a nice response to these alliances though: the revenge mode.  If two or more players are hitting you, it fills up a meter which, when full, can activate the revenge mode. This mode let’s you attack back viciously and may give you the chance to even the odds again!

Then there is Dominion multiplayer mode which is basically a control point game.  The captured control zones give you points much faster than slaughtering your enemy and when you capture a control point your army of pawns will move up onto it if it is the connected control point to the one they are already guarding.  Taking out their pawns also helps this process but fighting the other players and maintaining captured control points are key.  This was my favorite mode because if your teammate is down and not executed you can go and revive them.  It really feels like a mode that fosters good teamwork and if you aren’t the best at combat your team will still appreciate the best healer.  Obviously, you can’t heal a player with no head, so players that are executed cannot be healed.

One of the best things about the battles is that they aren’t just for the heck of it.  You can find armor, patterns, symbols, and tattoos to customize your character.  Most importantly though wins and losses go towards holding sections in a Risk type style game map.  At the end of the tournament time the one with the most lands and point is declared the winning faction.

Healing My Wounds:

For Honor is a beautiful game with amazing graphics and audio on the PC with well-balanced classes and carefully developed combat styles.  Players who just like to run and smash and bash may not find this to be the game for them. Players that like to mix a bit of strategy with their fighting game and are comfortable working their way slowly through levels will find For Honor a great play they keep going back to.


For Honor Review Score:

(4 out of 5 Stars)


 

Nyko Data Bank Plus For The PlayStation 4 – Review

I am constantly running into my console’s hard drive limitations. Doesn’t matter the system, I eventually have to go through and delete off a drive’s worth of games, some that I spent more hours with than I spent at my first job out of high school. I literally have a dozen drives around the house to backup or play off of if I think I will be coming back to that game long after review time.  Mad Max and I have been together for too many years to have the latest game of him wind up in the wind.  Heck just in photos from the 8 or 9 conventions days I attend a year has it’s own 3 TB HD and I will probably be expanding that. The only thing I found I couldn’t expand and caused me quite a bit of worry was my PlayStation 4.  Now though thanks to Nyko that is definitely a thing of the past.

The system is called the Nyko Data Bank Plus and it allows you to go from your original 2.5 inch hard drive to a 3.5 inch hard drive of your choosing be added into the system and in an aesthetic way.  Here’s how it works: you add a piggyback container with built in cable and button system that allows you to go from the 2.5 drive in you system to an installed 3.5 at the press of a button.

This took me a while to write because initially I was just going to put in a 3.5 I had sitting around that wasn’t even a full TB. For review purposes the size of the drive doesn’t matter but if I am going to try to expand the life of my PS4 in a meaningful manner, I was going to want a bigger one. The waiting was grueling because whenever something like this is placed to the back for now I fill I am under some unseen pressure to get it done, some massive due date or even worse I get a video game review that brings me to that point of decision again: what game will I keep on it.

Finally sales watching paid off and I was able to get an nice name brand 3TB hard drive that can be my new golden storage space. It was time to put the Nyko Data Bank Plus to work. First of all you need to figure out which PlayStation you have. The PlayStation Pro will have a different setup system that the original model for example. All the parts needed for a different setup are either already a part of your PlayStation or are neatly added to the Nyko kit. Before you open anything electrical up I cannot stress enough the importance of grounding yourself. In Las Vegas where I live walking across a non-carpeted regular old laminant floor is enough to send massive shocks through electrical systems. I have seen someone playing a game, get up to get a drink from the fridge, come back without grounding themselves and get The Blue Screen Of Death on their system.  If you don’t have anything to ground yourself make sure to make the investment, especially in dry or stormy weather.

First you back up your game information to a sizable USB fob for anything you don’t want to lose. Then shut off your PS4 and slide the smaller section of the top off.  You then unscrew one screw holding the old drive in place.  At this point in your setup consult your manual because there are a couple steps that are different depending on the model of PS4 you have. Take care of the steps that match your system (either way it is only a couple) then once the new hard drive is in position close the case.  Voila, you did some studly upgrading of your PS4!

It really is an extremely easy process. I felt silly I was a bit nervous about it while waiting for the drive to go on sale.  I had projects go bad on me before and it just seemed too easy, and that is just because they made the Nyko Data Bank Plus that easy to work with.


Nyko Data Bank Plus For The Playstation 4 Review Score

(4 out of 5 Stars)


 

Star Wars Rogue One Pinball Review

I was fortunate to see all the Star Wars movies in theaters, when they originally came out.  There was a close call during Return of the Jedi when my large soda fell off the banister onto the seats below me. Thankfully, my mom was there, told them it was an accident, and I got to finish the movie with the Ewoks dancing in the trees and the audience cussing below me.  When it comes to real life pinball, I have done an excellent job keeping that streak alive as well, whereas I feel shamed at how many virtual Star Wars tables I have yet to experience.  There are A LOT, and they are all for Zen Studios’ Pinball Fx 2 platform, which combines exceptional bumper, flipper, and ball physics while adding 3D animated elements. I have finally got to turn this around with Star Wars Rogue One which, though it is just one table of many, is a very nice spot to start!

First Plunger:

I feel this is a good place to start for a couple reasons, this is the most recent table to be released and this table is a binding point between the original trilogy’s A New Hope and everything that has been deemed to be canon before it. Players should have a sense of the original trilogy and its worlds while appreciating what came before, but was written afterwards. It makes more sense if you make a chart but I try not to subject readers to charts. Just games.

When Star Wars Rogue One’s trailer came out, the thing that really caught and excited fans was the return of the mighty AT-AT walkers from the Hoth battle in The Empire Strikes Back. They are a slightly different model, the AT-ACT (All Terrain Armored Cargo Transport) and, instead of trudging through desolate snowy tundra, they are seen stomping flat palm trees and blasting sandy beaches. This was the landscape that Star Wars Rogue One Pinball chose with craters and sand to the sides of the table and on the video screen you see AT-AT feet coming down on targets.  The table action , however, is more sky oriented with the main bumpers being TiE fighters next to a rebel U-Wing that is above the raised metal side track on one side.  The other side has a well known imperial leader locking your balls for multi-ball and down by the plunger is our heroine, Jyn Erso.  I’ll be honest I wish I could have seen an AT-AT standing out on the table but there is really only so much room so much of the story and characters and vehicles we wish to see are shown in mini games on the video board.  I won’t expose anymore about them than I have but I will say keep playing and playing, there is way more to this table than what is on the surface. Wait… what is that in the distance…

…nevermind.

The artwork is great, the sound is amazing and the animations both in the mini video board and 3D characters that make appearances are absolutely awesome. It is just as much fun to watch being it played, especially if you have a real pinball wizard in the house that can show you things you haven’t seen yet.  The table plays fast, like really fast, and has four flippers so speed shooting around the board leaving silver trails is not just likely but would be hard to avoid!

Last Match:

Well there is no match ball actually but Star Wars Rogue One Pinball is great and makes me want to play the other dozen or so really badly. The pinball machine feels as much a part of Star Wars canon as the movie it was based on and I could see it being put right up their with the cartoons, movies and books accepted for the prestigious role of canon. Now I have to go watch Star Wars Rogue One and A New Hope again, in a theater without balconies and soda mishaps.


Star Wars: Rogue One Pinball Review Score

 (5 out of 5 Imperial Logos)


 

Double Dragon IV Review

When I say Double Dragon IV the average gamer should furrow his eyebrows and the older one should then raise one. Double Dragon IV? Did they make a DDIV? It’s possible I guess but, man, talk about a stroll down memory lane! And that is exactly what it is as the original development team from the Double Dragon series has given us this retro gem to load up on Steam. Now we can show the youth what side scrollers were like back in the old school days.

Cue The Cheesy Disco:

Double Dragon IV picks up where Double Dragon II left off about 30 years ago. Since new wave was in full effect and grunge was getting ready to throw on the flannel, players were treated to disco MIDI music because it never dies (surprisingly the moment I heard the theme here again I was humming along immediately and stopped any other sounds in the room). After the amazing battles of the previous Double Dragon, our heroes Billy and Jimmy made dojos across the country to help people feel safe wherever they lived. I was on a hot trip across the desert to check on their West Coast dojos that a black car attacked them, running their vehicle off the road and generally pissing off two guys you didn’t want to mess with.  I mean had these guys never heard of the events of Double Dragon II? All the kicking and punching and elbows and kneeing.  And what about the jumps, those glorious jumps?

But every bad guy needs to be bad and usually follows a “boss”, so a new one had surfaced and he brought a lot of fellas along.  As a matter of fact a lot of the lower level baddies are ones you kicked the butt of before and because they think their boss is stronger so they have come back for another beating. Our boys even know the cronies by name and ask them why, why come back for more beatings? They just never seem to learn.

New ones come along and for each level you clear you unlock characters you can use on two player duel mode.  There is co-op fighting, duel and climbing the tower and in the end you fight the ultra secret boss that has pulled all the wrong doers together!

The game’s sound is clear and campy, sounding right out of the mid-1980s, as do the graphics. There are some pretty challenging levels but as long as you clear one, you can restart at the next level with your remaining lives.  Once you run out of lives you can restart at the level you lost you last one on.  So if you are on level 16 and had a hard time on an obstacle and you can’t get you lose all but you last life completing it and you move onto the next level if you are full dead you can continue at your highest level with all of your lives.  This isn’t really obvious at first partially from a bit of difficulty navigating the menu but once you figure out you can enjoy the game without raging on a trap that kills you.

Bowing Out For Now:

Double Dragon IV is such a brilliant taste of nostalgia you would think that it is actually being played on a bit cartridge on a first gen system. It is equal parts fun and challenge while delivering the feel to gamers who didn’t live through that time an idea what the games were like. I look forward to hearing that classic MIDI music again soon…


Double Dragon IV Review Score

(5 out of 5 Stars)


 

HUSK Review

I heard that HUSK was a dark suspenseful indie game coming down the line in the vein of Silent Hill, and that it was one of the games to watch for in 2017. Even the name sounded intriguing… HUSK. So, one dark and stormy night when the family was off to a mother/daughter dinner I put on the headset and killed the lights to give HUSK a try.

So first thing to know is that the game gives you two important warnings, one is that if you have problems with epileptic seizures from light then you may not want to play this game. If you do have a seizure, stop playing immediately and call a doctor. The other warning though is important and interesting, but might have been better used at the end of the game because it is an important message but sets the tone for the entire game and is maybe not a necessary tone. Because it warns the player that “If you are a witness or a victim of domestic abuse call…”, you automatically try to figure out how everything in the game is associated with domestic abuse rather than what the monsters are. In a way it “de-monsterizes” the creatures that are representing a monstrous subject.

If I were not trying to figure out what the monsters represented in a domestic abuse situation, I probably would have gone with Jewish folklore because they greatly resemble the description of a golem, featureless creatures made of clay following the commands of it’s creator. In one part earlier in the game there was an apartment full of giant broken dolls making you wonder if those are supposed to represent the player’s daughter or whether it is supposed to represent his own childhood that was destroyed and resulted in him hurting his family. Basically the whole game is seeded with thoughts of where each moment fits into interpretations of domestic abuse instead of horror or suspense that eventually you discover is the result of domestic abuse.

The way game creates borders of where you can go and where you can’t is done in a pretty cool way, everything you can’t touch or get too close to drips a black ichor that will kill you in seconds quickly teaching you that black stuff covering buildings or swallowing cars means bad.

The game is still definitely new and definitely in the works.  I had collision errors where I got stuck in rocks, I had fatal errors that completely crashed the game and I had to start back over at the last save point. A couple of times I went to shoot a creature and my hands kept playing clap with the gun instead of aiming and fireing.  This can also be a very exciting time in video game development though, a chance to experience a game when it is still pretty new and finding it’s voice, building it’s way up and creating it’s community.

HUSK is already fun, even though it is still a work in progress in many ways.  So far, it is having new patches released every couple days to fix bugs and fine tune sections so it isn’t really fair to give it a star grading.  If you like your game polished give it a while before jumping in, keep an eye on the game notes on Steam then join when you are ready. I think that by the end of this year, it will be named as one of the indie games you should have played in 2017.


HUSK Review Score

(3 out of 5 Stars)


 

Sure Shot HD Big Buck Hunter Pro Review

You might have seen the arcade version of Big Buck Hunter in a bar or mega arcade near you.  I know of at least three locations here in Las Vegas and sometimes I feel sorry for the person managing those games.  They are insanely popular but there seems to be a direct correlation between how much alcohol is consumed and how much abuse the gun controllers take. This last CES I got to see the game in home version form at a fairly tame event called Showstoppers where you can get one on one with well maintained gear and get a proper feel for how it is designed.  My first question was why is this relatively older but well known arcade game at a mostly indie company event filled with first time shows.  Then I realized it was because of the other reason that games and devices show up at Showstoppers: innovations.  Big Buck Hunter Pro home edition had gone Bluetooth.  This I had to see! Due to a line I took in the new information, dropped off my business card and just recently some big bucks started running through my humble abode.

First Shot:

We are currently remodeling our media room so our high quality HD television is still in the box on the first floor of the house.  That meant I was going to have to do the gaming test on one of our older non-smart televisions.  I thought this might cause a problem for it to read where I was shooting and that eventually after a few shots of flashing light a dog would come up on the screen giggling at me.  I remember the old days of Duck Hunt, and not too fondly I might add, and no matter how I wanted to remind myself going in that this wasn’t the light gun of yore I still kinda anticipated it.  It didn’t take long for that feeling to shift away because even though I was still pretty much as bad as I remembered at Big Buck Hunter Pro it acted just like the arcade.  It tracked on the screen beautifully, even when I missed I knew it was me and not the gun because it showed me where my shot when when it missed and where my shot landed when I hit.  I understood early I will need to change my name on the game to my reviewer name because my given account was looking pretty pathetic but I was improving, and I felt eventually I would hit a ranking I could be proud of.

The ranking system is very cool too, since you can get a local ranking but you also get a global ranking by connecting the system to your wifi.  This also allows you to buy upgrades and add-ons, which for Big Buck Hunter I already own.

This isn’t the coolest thing about the Sure Shot HD Big Buck Hunter system, as I love the fact that they realized that shooting at big game wasn’t the only thing this Bluetooth gun could do.  So they created a side-scroller game name Major Mayhem where you help a Rambo/Commando type figure fight his way through jungles filled with ninjas to help stop a maniac who stole your girlfriend! The game is cheesy and doesn’t take itself at all seriously, but you get to blast your way along as they pop up behind huts and rocks trying to shoot you or get you to shoot a periodic scientist being held captive. If you free the scientist you get a temporary weapon boost and some coins towards your score. At the end of a level you can take those coins and make improvements on your weapons or unlock new ones.  Be forewarned though that when you are shooting you are peeking out from behind cover so yes a pistol shoots slower but you spend more time in safety than with a machine gun.  I got so addicted to this game that I had to take a break before playing the third game until the next day, even holding the shotgun properly in the notch in my shoulder my arm just got tired from holding it so long.

The third game that I downloaded onto the system was Thug In Time which was about a time hopping commando type fighting vikings and such. This game was a top down looking game and where you moved your barrel off of center was the direction your thug went. This one took a long time to master the controls of and I might be giving my skills a bit too much credit to say I mastered them. I needed to stand the exact ideal distance from the television marker or my control went mushy and even when I could see where I needed to fire getting past obstacles at the same time proved very challenging.  I was on normal level, maybe I should drop it back to easy until I really get the hang of it but it might just be a slow game to learn because it isn’t the traditional kind of movement we make with a game gun.

I mentioned above that the game used bluetooth and the way it does almost borders on magical to me. You get a slim little box you set below or above your screen. One end plugs into the television HDMI to show what is going on in the game. Another plug goes down and plugs into the USB port on your television for power. Now since I was working on an older television I was concerned at first about powering then I realized you can just plug it into any phone recharging battery! So I just grabbed an old one that was charged and sitting around and plugged it into the game system’s USB and it fired up.  If you own a quality name battery like I own a few of you might be able to play for days using the same battery it drains so little life. So this makes the gaming unit a completely portable system that you just need to be able to plug into a television with HDMI to use.

The Sure Shot HD gun controller runs off AA batteries so no worries about charging it, just keep a couple of spares around or set yourself up with rechargeable ones.  You plug the game system onto the USB connection, press the button on the top of the shotgun and it will have you calibrate the corners of the screen for the television you are working off of they away you go playing just like that.  You can have different profiles for different players in the house so that if you have a favorite weapon setup it will be saved to your profile and ready to go the next time you log in.

Once you get the hang of it you can participate in online tournaments, have rival challenges and find your spot on the global leaderboard.

Last Shot For Now:

The Sure Shot HD Big Buck Hunter Pro is a great jump forward in bringing arcade play into the home then taking it on the road. It’s easy to power, easy to travel with and more games are already expected in the future so I’m sure we will be revisiting this system when they do.  Hopefully I will have a second controller around then for two player.  Meanwhile I have gun, will travel…


Sure Shot HD Big Buck Hunter Pro Review Score

(5 out of 5 Stars)


 

Stern Pinball Arcade Review on Xbox One

It may seem strange. but in this video game reviewer’s house, pinball is king.  To have our own pinball machines is something so awesome that if we were offered a sexy new car or a dozen of our favorite tables, one of our bedrooms would immediately be converted into an arcade (I think we may even have a design plan for it somewhere)…  Thankfully, The Pinball Hall Of Fame is located only a few minutes away so that when we get the urge to play, or a fellow ball addict comes to town, we can head into that dimly lit warehouse filled with the sounds of games dating from the early ’50s or so up to last week.  So though we can’t get the real thing in our house, we have watched the evolution of pinball video game physics evolve over the years until what they are today which could only be improved with VR.  One question always on our minds is when are we going to get a nice collection of Stern pinball machines for the next gen consoles that can do them justice? Wait no longer as the Stern Pinball Arcade has arrived.

Description:

Ten of the Greatest Pinball Tables from Stern Pinball Inc. 3D Arcade – Classic arcade setting with pinball tables, neon lighting, novelty props and original works of art created by “Dirty Donny”. ROM Emulation and code compiled from real tables – 100% accurate game play and graphics of real world pinball machines (AC/DC Premium, Star Trek Premium, Mustang Premium, High Roller Casino, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, Harley Davidson 3rd Edition, Last Action Hero, Phantom of the Opera and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). Included are detailed tutorials of each table to teach you how to become a Pinball Wizard!

Features:

  • DLC – Table Packs, Pro Upgrades, Bundles and new features released regularly
  • Leaderboards – Bragging rights over friends or all players world-wide for each table
  • Table Goals – accomplishments tied to learning and mastering each table.
  • Arcade Play – Single and multi-player games on any of the tables.
  • Stern Challenge – In this mode, users must hit a target score on each of the tables to earn Challenge points before moving on to the next table. Playing challenge mode from beginning to end is a full game experience in itself.

Plunge Away!:

When it came to this review this was one of the first ones where Mrs. Ripper gets to play the tables first. I’m pretty crazy about pinball but she is downright scary. Any of our friends who have come to town and gone with use to the Pinball Hall will attest to how hard it is to get her out of there. At home she has her own game addictions that eat up hours but when the Stern Pinball Arcade game came in playing a few minutes before bed became trying to get to sleep before the sun came up. I don’t put the game’s Description and Features in a review much anymore but Stern was very generous with how many games are in this set and we have played all but one or two at the Hall Of Fame so we just want to get right into the meat and potatoes of each table.

Starship Troopers:

The movie this table is created from of is based off a wonderful bit of satirical writing by Robert Heinlein and Stern has done a great job of melded both into the table.  It faithfully recreates the real table in arcades with maybe a couple of improvements. For instance, the bugs are on springs so they sometimes wiggle at odd times and this is so beautifully represented. This is probably one of my top five all time pinball machines and I have been playing pinball since I was about six! The sound is perfectly crisp with all the great and hilarious soundbytes from the movie. So much happens in this game that it is almost as fun to watch as it is to play and you will find yourself spouting quotes from the game and movie for days to come…  Because it is an ugly planet, a bug planet and the Roughnecks are here to clean it up.

Phantom of The Opera:

This games is one I am least familiar with, but I did recall its amazing artwork. It may have been one of the reasons “Dirty Donny” got his nickname, because the Phantom is portrayed with such care and detail as is the lingerie-clad Christine who looks off the table with a “come hither” gaze. It is a dark and creepy table which suits me just fine (did you know that the Phantom of The Opera is inspired in part by historical events?) and the music on the table which in this rare case is almost as important as the action terrifically rendered. The play is a nice medium paced so that you can take the action in nicely while at the same time enjoying the challenges. Mrs. Ripper and I played for a really long time on this table enjoying the ambiance as well as the action and reminding us a little of a trip to see Phantom in L.A. many songs ago.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!:

This table was a long play for me because I have always been a Ripley’s fan. I had the books growing up, watched the television show, lost tons of money on the casino machine and spent many hours on the real pinball table.  Mrs. Ripper was patient with me while I played a lot at the casino, at the pinball hall and when I was reviewing the video game. Every time the game announced we were flying to another part of the world for another bit of strange facts I found myself caring far less about my score than the trivia I was about to hear. It might be something as simple as “traveling to Australia! You just got a boomerang weapon score!” and show a little animation on the corner table screen but I found myself grinning every time.  The only complaint has nothing to do with the video game but rather the original design of the board which was have no ball save. We have become kind of dependent on those these days.

The Last Action Hero:

The fun thing about this table is they just got Arnold Schwarzenegger to just do a whole bunch of his lines from his different movies. I admit that it has been a while since I played the table or watched the movie but that might have actually made it better because I don’t know if they had used all of Arnold’s lines in the movie from all his other movies. I laughed the whole way through playing it and tried to remember when I quote would pop up to say it with the game. This table is definitely more for the heavy pinball player though because it is a hard table with no match at the end.  The ramps are nice but hard to run, you’ll feel you earned it when you get it and the ramp performs some extra action. When Arnold says “Hasta La Vista Baby” you’ll nod with pride or slink on to the next table in shame.

High Roller Casino:

Since The Pinball Hall Of Fame is located in Las Vegas there is definitely a lot of love for this machine and the Hall Of Fame makes sure it is always working at it’s best. So I have gotten a lot of time in on this classic table that really does feel like a full casino. There is a roulette wheel right off the plunger alley, poker hands to fill, slot machine simulations and even the video screen bonus is a high/low game where you push your luck or don’t in real Vegas gambling fashion. There are so many sounds going on the game that it actually feels like a casino when it isn’t your turn. When it is your turn you are going “Come On Black!”

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein:

More amazing artwork on the table by “Dirty Donny” as Frankenstein’s monster’s shadow towers over The Bride Of Frankenstein.  The beauty of the table is a bit overshadowed by a terrific rendition of the monster’s head at the middle-top of the machine which turns back and forth as the game progresses. This game gives you a neat and pretty rare opportunity to choose your own music between Edgar Winter’s version and the movie soundtrack. The Edgar Winter’s version is cool and goes great with the turning creepy monster head but “Dirty Donny” did such amazing work with the art that it really feels like the soundtrack fits the game better creating an immersive atmosphere. The table even pushes this further by saying the quote “all that I once loved lies in a shallow grave.”

Harley Davidson 3rd Edition:

This game is just a bunch of fun. The front of a motorcycle at the top that pops a wheelie to let out multi-balls, the table plays instrumental versions of Bad To The Bone and Born To Be Wild, all the while blasting sounds of semi trucks, screeching tires, and honking.  It sounds like you are flying around on a mad road trip on your hog and there are plenty of close calls. Then a four ball multi-ball comes at you and the noise and action on the table just kick it up one more notch. This is a fun table that gets your blood pumping with just the sound effects alone, add the table action plus a hilarious video mini game and you might need a rest afterwards.

Mustang Premium:

This is the surf city styling of pinball. A little Jan and Dean Drag City playing as you use your pinball to “upgrade” a mustang on a turning table to make it more drag worthy. The game has a chilling vibe to it as you race you pinball up plunger alley and around the table. You’ll find yourself humming old surf tunes in no time as this table really captures the era of Beach Blanket Bingo and the surf song.

Star Trek Premium:

For the trekkies out there, Star Trek Premium is a barrage of flashing lights, ships and asteroids, and lots of futuristic noise. It sounds awesome, it plays awesome, everything about it is awesome.  I had played a version of this in the arcade (not sure if it was “premium”) so the video version had a lot to live up to and it did.  They went through and put in all the deep details the table is loaded with (the design shows so much love it must have been done by a trekkie) so that though I am a huge fan of the monster tables I could see this one being the one I play the most. There is something constantly going on, usually multiple things and the game pack is probably worth it for this game alone.

If you are not as big of a fan of the reboot film as you were, say, next generation then when you get to that table arrow down instead of starting the game and there you go! An older Star Trek machine with plenty of bells, whistles and lights, just the older casts.

AC/DC Premium:

Finishing off this set of tables is a pretty straight forward one that lets you rock out with your flippers out. “Dirty Donnie” and the design team at Stern tried their best to simulate what it would be like to be at a hard rocking concert show with all the effects. The did a nice job bringing an experience that keeps you bopping your head and hitting the flippers to the beat. The fact is a lot of people like to listen to their rock while they play video games so why not make a video game about a rock and roll pinball table? This was an perfect choice and a fun play.

But how do the really help make the atmosphere? They have THREE tables showing AC/DC evolving over the years through the table versions! Donnie was obviously a huge fan of theirs to keep coming up with new tables but we are the one who get the reward.  When you get on the AC/DC table just press the down arrow on your controller to get to the other tables.

Resting My Flipper Fingers:

The game teases a Ghostbusters table coming out in the near future and I will be looking greatly forward to it.  Until then I will just have to dream about having our own pinball machine and play Stern Pinball Arcade for the next best thing.


Stern Pinball Arcade Review Score

(5 out of 5 Stars)


 

The Flame In The Flood Review (PlayStation 4)

My EIC asked if I would like to play a game called The Flame In The Flood so being a bit of a junkie for indie games he had me at hello.  Then I watched a trailer that was designed to introduce the graphics and the musician they had scoring the game.  I was gobsmacked – the colors are vibrant and artistic, the music rocks, and unlike most survival adventure games where you cruise along by yourself you get a cute little helper dog. This pooch looks like a pup I might adopt from the humane society in real life, since in game odds are the humane society got washed away with the storm.  The suddenly I got nervous and though I knew I have to play the game, take this beautiful trip I would have one thought in the back of my mind throughout the whole game: THEY HAD BETTER NOT KILL THE DOG.  They can get away with killing a lot of things in a game: brain altered teens, women who breath through their skin, whole planets even, but I had better not see any puppies or kitties die.  With this in mind I dove head first into the game (get it? Flood jokes!).

A Rapid Start:

Lucky for me, everything is neat looking so I was walking around looking at the environment and clicking on everything I saw and as a result I learned things before I even hit the river.  Aesop the dog actually was not mine (it is now, try to take it from me!) and there were a lot of supplies and crafting you can learn and start building up before you even leave the original base.  Water, even rain water might give you your own person mud floods so be sure to clean the water using the steps they tell you almost right away.  Also when Aesop barks it’s best if you listen because he is either telling you  where good things are or bad things.  These aren’t game spoilers because unless you go crazy gung ho and immediately jump on the raft and start ramming into rocks this is kind of presented like a tutorial.  So looking around pays in double ways, you learn things and you get to take in the stylized 3rd person almost top down view of your lonesome duo.  You want to collect all you can but inventory is very limited so craft what you can at try to keep space open.

When you start hitting the river there are only certain places that you can park your raft so practice hitting them all and taking the river as slow as you can.  Once it speeds up and the rapids get worse then you will either have to start over to get those skills you didn’t earn at the beginning or try to learn fast.  Catching food and avoiding enemies is the same way, learn early or just become another victim of the flood.  Or other things…

What kind of surprised me was how much crafting you can do what with the inventory space being sparse. I also loved the somewhat open world, allowing players to stop at any of the docks when you want and craft what you want. The only things real issues with that is you are a victim to the water flow and a small inventory – though who knows what and who you might encounter deeper on you journey (more space, more space!).

Going With The Flow:

The Flame In The Flood is one of the most beautiful games I have played in recent time and the folksy music goes perfectly along with the gorgeous desolation.  If you have patience and a knack for crafting you might find yourself putting a lot of time and enjoyment into this game and no, traveler, they do not kill the dog.


The Flame In The Flood Review Scored:

(5 out of 5 Stars)