Tag - review

Postal Redux Review

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Lately I have been playing a lot of strategic games, sharpening my mind while my body is resting.  I start playing figuring I might go for an hour – then three hours later I’m still playing, my eyes have become blurry and I need something to take my mind off of sharpening my mind.  TV can be nice for that but it is passive participation and sometimes you really just need some silly hands-on carnage to release the stress of the day.  It doesn’t get much more active crazy carnage than a classic killer brought up to date with gorgeous gore like Postal Redux on Steam.

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Hands On Guns:

Ah 1997, the Nintendo 64 was hot, Final Fantasy VII reased in Japan, human cloning is banned… ah heck who cares about that crap?  If you are reading this you want to know about Postal which made a bloody splash on the market back in that year.  In human years 19 isn’t that big of a deal, in video game years that is an exceptionally long time ago!  As a result Postal was a little unrefined looking but nobody really cared it was all about the mass unadulterated slaughter of everything in sight.  It earned it’s claim to fame in video game history and those who lived through the days talked about it fondly.

Now fast forward to these days and those who talk about it fondly decided to do something about it and bring it back, cleaned up graphics with a couple more goodies to main and kill with, another mode and some new areas to kill in because let’s face it everyone wants to go kill happy in a Carnival.

Just like in the old days the cops show up at your house and boy is that a mistake.  So as to not give away plot points (there are a couple) you use up to 10 weapons including mines, heat seeking missiles, flame throwers, of course machine guns and now the Commanding Revolver to tear your way through 17 levels.  Tear through a junkyard with your trusty boomstick (they call it a shotgun but I will always call them boomsticks) which is also great for the all important double tap, head through the ghetto with a Molotov cocktail (I’m sure they won’t mind) and lay mines for extra fireworks on the midway at the Carnival.  Just remember above all save some flamethrower for the marching squad, that is epic!

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The improved graphics really make the game the fun that it is, the old one which is still available and around is okay but look at a comparison and you can see the huge difference.  I absolutely love the Carnival level in case you haven’t gotten the hint, the colors and richness of the graphics show the how much the developers cared about the game’s updating.

The addition of Rampage Mode also will keep you coming back for more since it is a constant wave mode that rewards kill streaks, creative kills and speed.  It’s a great way to play then challenge a buddy to beat your score and go back and forth.

Last Blast:

Postal Redux on Steam took a classic game that players looked back on with nostalgia and gave it a caring update that makes it even more fun than it was in the old days with graphics that it well deserved.  So the next time you head it pounding from a hard day or you just want to unwind or heck you simply want to napalm angry ostriches have Postal Redux updated and thrill in the mayhem.

Postal Redux Review Score
Overall Nostalgic Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
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Corpse Party – A Review (PC)

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Independent games have always been hit or miss with me.  For everyone that I find just beautiful and fun to play, there are twenty that I could not ever see myself playing another minute and that is only thinking about what is released in the United States.  Japan’s independent game scene is a little bit different then ours, many dojin software creators make the games more for fun then profit.  The industry isn’t driven by profit or exposure, but more about making a fun game that the developer wanted to play.  Dojin software games, therefore, have a tendency to be more polished and more fun to play, since they are not rushed out to make a profit.  Developer Team GrisGris and publisher Marvelous USA have released one such product in Corpse Party, a Japanese role playing game that was originally released in 1996.  Corpse Party went on to be a big success for Team GrisGris, spawning six games in the series, multiple manga series, anime, and a live action film.  This version of Corpse Party is, follow me on this, is a re-release of the re-make of the original game.

Story

The story for Corpse Party begins in a high school in Japan, where Mayu Suzumoto is preparing to transfer to a new high school, away from a sizable group of friends.  On the eve of her last day, the group of friends are helping clean up after class, when Ayumi suggests performing a ritual called “Sachiko Ever After” to bind all of the friends together to keep them from growing apart.  Any fan of the horror genre already will know that this ritual does not go as planned, and the group of students finds themselves transported to the decrepit remains of the Heavenly Host Elementary school, a school that once stood where the high school is today.  Heavenly Host Elementary played host to a series of ghastly murders years earlier, before being demolished.  The only way for the students to survive is to uncover the details surrounding these murders and to help free the ghosts that still wander the halls of Heavenly Host Elementary, before the students themselves met an ugly end.

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The story for Corpse Party is, by far, the best thing about this game.  The story is gripping, intriguing, and makes you want to uncover what had happened years before to these poor students.  Corpse Party drips with atmosphere, which helps keep the story and the player on the edge of their seat.  The story is also broken up into five chapters, each with multiple endings and detailing different sections of the overall story.  Corpse Party also adds in four bonus chapters, including a retelling of “Tooth” from Corpse Party:  Book of Shadows.  I felt that the game did a great job in pacing the tension and balancing the overall feeling of the story, but that dialogue….

Japanese games have had a lot of issues in the past with translation over into English.  No one will forget just how popular “All your base are belong to us” became from Zero Wing.  Well, I think Corpse Party gives that one a run with “I’m gonna butter up my pooper with it real good!”.  No, seriously, that is a line from Chapter 1.  While lines like this do remove me from the tension that the game was building so expertly, I have to forgive it because I understand the tricks and traps of translating between the two languages.  However, yeah, I have to knock a few points off just for that line.

Game Play

Corpse Party plays like a very traditional Japanese role playing game, for the most part.  You begin the game with two students that travel around the elementary school in a line.  As you explore the Heavenly Host Elementary School, you will discover dead ends, hard to reach paths, and corpses, lots of corpses.  Your quest is to collect the information that is littered around the school to discover who these corpses were and what exactly had happened here decades before.

What isn’t so traditional about Corpse Party is that there is no combat, no stats, and no inventory per se.  Sure, you collect names tags and pieces of lumber to help you explore, but no inventory in the sense we are used to for a jrpg.  Since there isn’t any combat, death will usually come as a surprise to you, and usually because you did something out of order, or turned down the wrong hall, or explored a dead end that you were not supposed to explore.  This will lead to a lot of reloading of a previous save.  As a friend of mine put it, “the story is fantastic, but the game is a total dick”.

Your actions and choices will help determine what story ending you get.  There are multiple ways and paths to explore the Heavenly Host Elementary School, so you never feel railroaded into a particular path, but unless you are a veteran at this type of game, it can feel a wee bit overwhelming.  Corpse Party will not hold your hand through the story, nor does it really particularly like you.  If you can live with this uncertainty and dislike, you are in for a treat.

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Aesthetics

Corpse Party is rendered in a retro 2D graphic style that helps recreate the original game from 1996.  From an aesthetic point of view, this is a fantastic design decision, however, I did have a hard time in telling what items were.  It took my almost a half an hour just to discover a plank of wood that I could use to get over a whole in the floor to get out of the first classroom.  Many items you will never guess what they are until you interact with them and get a description from the game.  I am always for retro gaming aesthetics, but with the technology we have today, designers should at least make the items look like they are supposed to.  Still, I felt that the overall visual aesthetic worked real well for Corpse Party.

The original Japanese voice cast is used for Corpse Party.  With over 5,000 lines of spoken dialogue in the original Japanese, Corpse Party delivers the original gaming experience that was released in 1996.  Since the acting is in Japanese, it is impossible for me to tell how well the dialogue is performed.  I mean, it sounds good and all, but I can’t tell if they are over-acting, under-acting, or just giving us a shopping list.

Final Thoughts

Corpse Party is a great retro-style Japanese role playing game story that is almost completely ruined by the game play.  I love the story, the atmosphere, and the tension that Corpse Party delivers to the player, but the game play is one that almost borders on frustrating due to the absolute lack of any direction.  In some cases, I love this freedom, but for some reason it was a negative for me in Corpse Party.  By no means negative enough for me not to recommend Corpse Party, but one that I feel I need to mention.  Corpse Party is a great game, and a great example of what the Japanese independent game industry is capable of.  If you are a fan of creepy Japanese rpgs, then Corpse Party is an absolute must for you.  For everyone else, this is a solid game to pick up and play for about ten hours.  Corpse Party is available now on Steam.

Corpse Party Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Steel Series Siberia 200 Gaming Headset

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As a full time gamer, I can say that the problems with dealing with wearing headsets during long gaming sessions is very real.  There are environmental considerations, aesthetics, weight, mic design, where controls are located, and overall head comfort to consider when purchasing a new one.  You can buy multiple pairs for multiple uses (I have) but it is always nice to find one that you can use in multiple locations without it looking silly or paying for a celebrity’s name.  With all this in mind I am reviewing the Steel Series Siberia 200 Gaming Headset, a descendant of one of the first headsets I ever reviewed for GamingShogun.com.

Instead of list a bunch of feature gobbledygook, I will mention a few where they seem most important.  First off a very important feature is that the SteelSeries Siberia 200 has a microphone that slides up into the left cup area and becomes barely visible.  This is great when you are playing games that don’t require team communications or if you slide them up far enough they might not be noticeable if you take a walk somewhere in them.  Another feature to this effect would be the in-line mic and sound controls so that if you need to shut off your mic to talk to someone or one of your teammates start throwing a massive meltdown you can easily turn down the volume until they have eased up.  It is also handy if you are just wearing them walking around the house listening to music, you can leave your device in your pocket and adjust the levels in-line.  The nice thing about the mic system is you retract it into the headset cup and it is safely tucked away from harm. I have used some very nice headsets with some very sexy looks and a name you know but after a couple days of heavy use the mic which is a jack plug into cup system has worn out at the jack and hangs limply or worse just randomly falls out.  Let me tell you when you are in front of an audience and up against a professional gamer that was flown in for the event you don’t want to be constantly losing communication with your rookie teammate.  That being said when you are kicking it at home and decompressing and it happens that just jacks up you tension rather than releases it.

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While the SteelSeries Siberia 200’s microphone design and performance is important – let’s face it, generally it is the second most important aspect behind the actual speaker design.  The Siberia 200 Gaming Headset uses 50mm drivers in a system they call “audio shaped” so you pick up key sound frequencies and their locations.  So the idea is no one will be able to sneak up on you because you will be able to hear where their footsteps are coming from or tell where the bombs will fall to get the heck out of their way.

These drivers are encased in heavy duty plastic and nice thick cup cushions so that hopefully it will survive gamer rage or just the occasional accidental standing up with them still on.  the solid cup and cushioning does a terrific  job of blocking out sound, I found myself using them around the house to block out an argument of playing white noise to help fall asleep on those rough to sleep nights that I have from time to time.  The cups aren’t perfectly comfortable when laying down but they aren’t designed to be either.

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The headsets are designed for long term gaming use so we know the sound in it is good and it handles a block-rocking beat, can be quickly turned down when some kid rages in game’s com and you can flick a switch to turn off your mic when someone decides to have a conversation with you by yelling from another room.  All of that is important and nice but if you can’t keep them on your head for long periods of time none of that matters.

First off all the above mentioned hardware and casing is extremely lightweight which really means the bridge section of the headset just needs to maintain the weight and comfort as much as possible.  To maintain the shape and tightness without increasing the weight they did a dual bridge system, one is ridged and two pipes and goes up above the head.  The next is a lower section which is directly on the head and has a lightly padded flattened section held to each cup by double cable wrapped in rubber.  At first this looks like it would be too fragile to hold up but on closer inspection the wrapped metal cables inside the plastic look like one of the most durable parts of the headset which is important for how often it will be rubbing against your head.  Attaching this piece to the cables maintains a strength in the bridge without adding much weight (it actually then spreads it out to the upper bar a bit and into the cups).

The Steel Series 200 is compatible with mobile devices, PC, and consoles (adapters may be required).  One last thing if you are wondering the difference between the Siberia 200 and Siberia 2V, the 200 features an upgraded headband, a longer cable, and a mobile adapter.

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Still Listening:

Steel Series is a reliable name that makes reliable products and the Siberia 200 Gaming Headset is an excellent example of that.  I expect these headsets to be in my main usage for years to come, the only decision will be where to use it.  If you want a quality, comfortable product with a reliable name rather than a trendy one give the Siberia 200 a place in your house.

Steel Series Siberia 200 Gaming Headset Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
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Dark Souls 3 – A Review (Xbox One)

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There are some video games out there that just finishing the game is a huge accomplishment.  These games go down in history of being the hardest games to complete, and to finish one was a badge of honor.  Being of the older generation of gamers (not saying how old mind you), my earliest accomplishments of beating NES classics such as Mega Man, Contra, Battletoads, and Ninja Gaiden still fill me with pride.  However, we lost some of this pride as games progressed.  Developers started putting in multiple lives, save points, or just made the games easier to beat in order to reach a wider audience.  That was, until From Software and Namco Bandai released their version of pain and suffering in the form of Demon Souls.  Demon Souls, and the Dark Souls games that followed, turned up the heat on gamers everywhere.  I have friends that either love or are absolutely afraid of these games, there isn’t an in-between.  When I beat Dark Souls, I felt the same pride at that accomplishment that I felt as a kid beating those super hard NES games, and that just made me want more.

So, here we are with the release of Dark Souls 3, what very well could be the last in the line from From Software.  While I feel that the game is still harder then most of the games on the market today, I also feel that this game is the easiest on the new player to the series, the most accessible to the average gamer.  Now, I know that “accessible” is a bad word to many gamers, just look at the Starfox controversy lately if you want to see that in action, however there is still plenty of challenge in Dark Souls 3 for the veteran player to work through.  Is Dark Souls 3 the ending that the series so richly deserves, or does it fall flat by trying to reach out to a wider audience?  Let’s take a deeper look.

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Story

Unfortunately, the overall Dark Souls plot is still a little muddled for me.  I catch glimpses of clarity when I understand where the games fit in sequence and the overall story that wraps the games together, but that usually gets tied up at the end of each game, not while I am playing it.  I will stay away from spoilers here, and just give you the overall story of the game.  If you are a veteran of the Dark Souls franchise, you will know that the story goes much deeper then what I have here, but part of the fun of playing the game is discovery.

Dark Souls 3 story begins during an Age of Ash, where the First Flame is just about to go out.  No one has tried to link the First Flame, to rekindle the fire and prevent the coming darkness.  As the world succumbs to the darkness, a bell rings out from Firelink Shrine.  This bell awakens the Lords of Cinder and you, the player, as the last hope to link the First Flame and push back the darkness.  You begin the game as one of the Unkindled, an undead that is unfit to even become a Hollow.  This difference in terminology has different game play effects, which I will talk about later, but in terms of story it means you are the lowest of the low.  You are not even fit to become a cinder in this world, but you are the last hope to rekindle the First Flame.  You set out, seeking the four Lords of Cinder, then must decide on whether to fulfill your purpose and link the flame, or let the world finally plunge into darkness.

The tone of Dark Souls 3’s story is similar to the other games of the series.  There is always the present feeling of desperation as the world decays around you.  But with Dark Souls 3, you get a different feeling to your character, based on how the game deals with your death.  Since you do not Hollow like in previous games, there isn’t such a feeling of desperation when you die.  You never quite feel like you are climbing up a steeper hill with each death, like you do in Dark Souls 2.  This does affect the overall tone of Dark Souls 3, especially in comparison to the previous two games in the series.  This isn’t a bad thing, not at all, but it does change how you play the game.  I’ll expand more on this in the next section.

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Game Play

In Dark Souls 2, your death meant you were cut off from your humanity.  Every time you died you lost a little bit more of your maximum health, until your humanity was restored.  With being Unkindled in Dark Souls 3, this mechanic was removed.  While Embered, you will have your maximum health raised quite a bit, then will lose that when you die.  You can restore this health by using an Ember, which replaced Humanity in Dark Souls 3.  For me, this changed how I played the game versus how I played it in Dark Souls 2.  I was much more willing to run into an unknown place to grab items, or tackle a new boss without reading a guide online, because I no longer truly feared death.  Sure, you could still loose your souls, but all you loose really is the bonus health, and some of the bosses just didn’t require that much to begin with to beat.

The other biggest change in the franchise is the addition of Focus Points.  You now have a blue bar that sits underneath you health bar, that will affect your fighting arts and magic use.  Magic is no longer limited by a certain number, now you are limited by the amount of Focus you have, and that can be restored by using your Ashen Estus Flask.  You can even talk to the blacksmith in Firelink Shrine to alter how much of which Estus you carry.  If you are not using much Focus, you can carry more Health Estus, and vice versa.  Focus Points are not limited to magic, but also affect how much you can use a fighting art.  Fighting arts are determined by the type of weapon you are using, some will allow you to shout for an area of effect attack, others will let you flip through the are or sharpen your blade to give yourself life drain.  Weapons are no longer chosen by their stats, but also the move sets you get with your fighting art.

The rest of the game play is very much old Dark Souls.  You will still progress through the world, searching for souls, bonfires, and bosses.  There are plenty of NPCs to interact with, many being recurring characters from older Dark Souls games.  The controls and mechanics, aside from the Focus Point system, feels like the older Dark Souls games.  The enemies range from tough, to maddening and that can happen in just a few steps from each other.  The boss fights feel all over the place though in terms of difficulty.  For instance, I was able to one shot High Lord Wolnir but was crushed on a consistent basis by the demon that was guarding the path to the Smoldering Lake.

Online play and interaction still works the same as previous games, as well.  While Embered, you run the risk of being invaded by another player.  You can also summon players to your world to help you conquer an area’s boss, or summon an NPC to also help you and to further that character’s story line.  Factions return again in Dark Souls 3, and many work well with the online play.  You have factions that focus on killing other players, while others focus on protecting the helpless players in the world from those that will hunt them down.

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Aesthetic

Dark Souls 3 is beautiful, from an aesthetic point of view.  The world is old, and looks to be entering it’s last days.  The environments also look to have a thin film of ash on everything, which works well in terms of the story.  The design of the world is well done, and it an absolute joy to explore, if you didn’t have hundreds of enemies looking to have your guts for garters.  Boss fights are visually stunning as well, and I found myself on more then one occasion focusing on some aspect of aesthetic instead of what was killing me.  Dark Souls 3 is easily the best looking game in the series.

The biggest issue with Dark Souls 3 in terms of aesthetic, comes in performance.  On the Xbox One, Dark Souls 3 will experience nasty frame rate drops, especially during some of the boss battles.  This is incredibly frustrating, especially when dodging and speed are so vital to your ability to survive encounters.  I have seen Dark Souls 3 played on PC, and this frame rate does not occur there.  I have no idea how the PlayStation 4 fares, but the Xbox One does suffer from this frame rate drop, so be warned.

Final Thoughts

Dark Souls 3 is, thus far, my 2016 game of the year.  It isn’t just a great game for fans of the series, but also the best game to play if you have never experienced a Dark Souls game before.  Dark Souls 3 is the most accessible game of the franchise, and that isn’t a bad thing.  The challenge is still there for the veteran player, but newer players will find it easier to get used to the game, but it is in no sense of the word, easy!  This game will still kick you in the shin, steal your pudding, and strut away laughing at your pain and sorrow if you underestimate it.  If this is truly From Software’s last Dark Souls game, then the series ends on a very high note.

Product Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

 

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset – A Review (Xbox One)

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Turtle Beach, one of the premier video game headset manufacturers, has just released a new wireless headset for the Xbox One, the Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset (shortened to the 420X for the rest of this review).  The 420X might just be one of the best headsets I have ever owned, and most definitely the best one I’ve had for a console.  The headset fits quite nicely, never pinching nor feeling to small for my head, and is incredibly comfortable to wear for hours of gaming.

Features

The 420X is completely wireless while in use, the only cord that comes in the package is used to connect the headset to the Xbox One for charging.  Using a USB wireless connector, the 420X stays connected for up to 30ft, which is perfect for me to grab a soda from the garage and still be able to talk between online games.  All the controls for the 420X are on the headset, including game and voice volume, bass boost, mute, and a button for presets.  The power button is on the right ear cup, dead center so you can easily feel for it and turn it on or off while the headset is being worn.  The 420X also features a removable omni-directional boom mic, so you can use your headset for music or mobile gaming.

I love the fit of the 420X on my head.  Comfort for me is pretty high on my must have list for gaming headsets, if the headset hurts after a few hours of gaming, then it just isn’t a good quality headset.  The 420x has synthetic leather ear cups that fit over the ear, keeping outside noise to a minimum while keeping your ears from sweating.  I also love how the ear cups swivel to match the shape of your head.

Aesthetic

The 420X is a very clean looking headset, which is pretty typical of Turtle Beach.  Most of the headset is set in a matte black color, with some green highlights around the ear cups.  The Turtle Beach logos are also green, and glow green when the headset is on.  This is just your clean looking, basic design for a gaming headset, which I love.

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Performance

I was able to use the 420X extensively over my testing period, focusing on a few different types of games.  Games like Dark Souls 2, The Division, Black Ops 3, Far Cry Primal, and Borderlands 2 sounded fantastic through the headset.  During multiplayer, I was able to hear footstep directions to give me a better indication of where my opponents were.  With single player games like Dark Souls 2, the music and sound effects really came through nicely and added to my immersion into the game.  Voice communication was clear with no issues at all, though finding the mute button was somewhat difficult at times.  I guess my only complaint with the 420X really is that it was hard to find the controls while the headset was on.  Feeling for the mute button was difficult, and I had a hard time remembering which volume control wheel controlled which volume.

Specifications

  • Digital Signal Processor: Digital Signal Processor for independently controlled chat, game and mic signals
  • Audio mute: Audio mutes automatically when carrier signal is lost
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer
  • Shut down: Automatic shut down after approx 10 minutes of carrier loss or silence to conserve battery power
  • Weight: 8.6oz
  • Speaker Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Battery life: >15 Hours
  • Speakers: 50mm with Neodymium Magnets
  • Digital Wireless RF wireless carrier reception.: 2.4GHz
  • Speaker Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Microphone Design: Removable Omni-Directional Microphone
  • Earcup Design: Around-Ear (Closed)
  • Headband/Earpad Material: Perforated Synthetic Leather (Black) with Foam Cushioning

Final Thoughts

The Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset by Turtle Beach is the best headset I have ever used for the Xbox One or Xbox 360.  The wireless connectivity is a must with my current living room set up, the voice communication was clear, and the headset was incredibly comfortable to wear over long periods of time.  I do wish the controls on the ear cups were a little easier to use or the buttons and wheels separated over both ears, but that is a fairly minor issue unless you are adjusting these items constantly during game play.  The price is set to be around $150 MSRP, which could be considered a little steep, but worth it if you are looking for a quality wireless headset.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 420X Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Sheltered – A Review (Xbox One)

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Ah, how it’s good to be back in the saddle again.  With my life becoming a little more stable, I get to celebrate with a game review.  So, here is my review of Sheltered for the Xbox One by Unicube and Team 17 Software.  Sheltered began life as a Kickstarter game, gathering over 3,300 backers and making just over $42,000.  Originally only slated for a PC release, Sheltered hit the stretch goals, allowing the game to be ported over to the PS4 and the Xbox One.  Let’s delve deeper into this game to see if it’s worth your time, or just another bad Kickstarter game.

Story

Your family of four has survived the nightmare of a nuclear holocaust, and now must face the future together in a underground bomb shelter.  Each day, you will have to make many decisions that could either lead your family to live another day, or perish within an instant.  As stories go, Sheltered does lean to the “bare bones” side of writing styles.  You begin the game with four individuals and a family pet, living inside the bomb shelter.  You are then told to survive as long as you can, and that’s it.  The story is made to be inherent, as the game progresses you are telling your own story by how you react to adversity or how you set up your shelter.  There will be events that occur, but nothing that truly defines a story line as such.

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Now, this way of story telling isn’t all bad, don’t get me wrong.  Some of the best games just don’t have any stories built into them and it is up to you to define what your story is.  Sheltered takes the same path as The Sims, you are in charge of the family, and what you do defines your story.  While I personally love to have a driving narrative with much more of a goal then to just survive, this method works in Sheltered.  I wouldn’t know how to incorporate a driving narrative in this style of game, so I believe this was the right choice by Unicube.

Game Play

Unicube allows you to design the four people and pet you begin the game with.  You can create any combination of four people to make up your family.  This includes sex, clothing styles, hair, facial features, and skin color.  This level of customization really allows you to invest into your starting family.

From there, you have to keep them alive.  There is a brief tutorial that shows you how things work, but other than that the game play is very much trial and error.  As your characters live their lives, they will require certain things.  Food, water, sleep, and air are just some of the things you will need to be concerned with.  Sanity and fun are also important to handle as well.  You will also have to maintain the items in your shelter, and create new ones to better help your family live better lives.  Your children are not just idle passengers in this game either, send them topside to fix the water filtration unit, get them to work making sleeping bags, or have them maintain the generator.  Child labor is alive and well in Sheltered!

As the game progresses, if you are maintaining your family’s health, they will get better at what they do.  Members can become faster, stronger, and heartier if they live a good, clean life.  This will help out as you send your members topside to explore and gather resources.  You can’t send them out without weapons, though.  Sheltered offers up a strong crafting system that allows you to create various weapons to keep your members alive, as well as create items that will make their lives nicer.  Eventually, you may be able to create a vehicle to really explore the world above.

Through game play, your family will eventually meet other survivors.  These survivors may be friendly to your family, or might just see you as easy targets.  Combat is turn based in Sheltered, which works out quite well.  You can also recruit some of the friendlier folk you meet, and have them join your bunker.  This will help maintain your bunker, but may also put some strain on your resources.  Another mouth to feed will do that.  Well, you could just wait until someone dies and cook that person.  Sure it will cost you a little sanity, but it’s better with a full belly.

I liked the game play mechanics and feel that Sheltered does a great job in handling these items all at once.  My issues with Sheltered steam from the aesthetics that affect game play (more on that later) and the utter lack of any clue as to what I am doing at first.  This style of game play does make it feel like you really are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, but it may frustrate some gamers out there.

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Aesthetics

This is where the game takes a big hit form me, the aesthetics department.  Unicube went the route of using bit style graphics, so everything looks blocky and it is more then hard to tell certain items from each other.  I could not find my dog’s dish for the life of me during my first run through.  Sure, Sheltered was developed on a budget and, sure, graphics don’t make the game but I do wish things were much clearer then they are.  I have never been a proponent of making everything look realistic and shiny, but I do wish developers would stop going back to really blocky bit graphics just to save some money.  Other than that, the aesthetics works fine, and it really comes down to your own personal feeling about developers using retro graphics these days.

Final Thoughts

Sheltered is a solid, post-apocalyptic survival game for the Xbox One that does a great job in making you feel like you are trapped in a shelter and that your life could end at any moment.  This game will really speak to the micro manager in you, and especially if you ever enjoyed any of The Sims games.  The crafting system is solid and deep, the game is full of atmosphere and the amount of customization will allow you to create the family of your dreams.  I did have trouble with the aesthetics of the game, mainly in just telling items apart from each other.  Sheltered will also not hold your hand at all, you are expected to handle stuff on your own, right away.  If you are looking for a post-apocalyptic human management game, I really think Sheltered is the best of the bunch for the Xbox One and would recommend giving it a shot.  Sheltered is available now for the Xbox One.

Sheltered Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Better Late Than Dead Review

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I often just jump into games and start playing them without knowing all the much about them.  I feel if I get too much warning about a particular game, I might figure out the story too much, master the mechanics quicker than the average player and have general surprises spoiled for me.  If I know I am going to be reviewing a game I usually don’t even check out the trailer until afterwards to see if it adequately represented the game.

Better Late Than Dead however had been bouncing around since early alpha as a chat topic among players and reviewers and at first it was thought to be just an interesting take on a survival… maybe survival horror with the key for survival being more defensive than offensive.  Then along came the chance to play it and I went right at it, running around doing things maybe a bit faster than the average player from so many survival games on my shelf when suddenly I was literally getting bit in the rear-end by an alligator.  A few bites and I was Gator Chow and going for the last save point… which was grayed out… after hours of work.  Wait, Permadeath?  It’s got… ok that’s fine. I remember where just about everything was located so I will just head back and…  random drop rate and location?  So in a feature I don’t often use much these days here are the game’s features which will help you stay Better Late Than Dead.

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Features:

  •  Craft items using a combination of objects and methods like tying and cutting
  •  Build a shelter to protect you from rain and dangerous animals
  •  Online Multiplayer
  •  Lose blood, break bones, become poisoned and stave off hunger and thirst
  •  Varying weather conditions that affect gameplay
  •  Procedurally generated items that the player must find to leave the island
  •  Dangerous animals including wolves, spiders and bears
  •  Capture animals using traps
  •  Permadeath – Will you be able to escape the island or will you succumb to its menace?

Hands On:

Accept you will probably succumb to its menace a few times.  This is a simple act that will help you maintain your Zen while playing this survival which has it’s own set of rules that might not fit the normal world.  Things sitting around that look sharp and pointy will not be usable for it’s sharpness or pointy unless it shows up as such in the menu or after crafting.  So the first important thing to do in the game is run and find what you need for the different crafting recipes while watching for anything that moves or for the music to turn ominous.  Scary music like in a movie means even if you can’t see the danger it is nearby.

It’s really easy to start feel comfortable like you have a good idea what is around, these are really the times you need to be cautious.  Permadeath.  To be hours into the game and have permadeath hit you again… the save points are only for when you quit the game alive, they are no safety net whatsoever.  It is a great game to play when you have as few distractions as possible, no television in the background, no one else in the house telling you they just stocked something on *this* shelf of the fridge.  Think of it more as a jigsaw puzzle on a rickety TV tray that anyone else might bump over so you tuck it safely in the corner when others are around.

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Now that the whole permadeath thing has been drilled into your head this is what you imagined Robinson Crusoe was like probably as a kid.  Only with body bags.  And cryptic notes about madness.  And instead of a shipwreck you bust out of a crate that was supposed to be your watery coffin.  Otherwise you need to find items and figure out how to craft them together.  Your inventory is limited but if you concentrate on dropped items such as a key or a knife first and only work on growing stuff like shaking trees for coconuts and mangos as needed then you are less likely to have a full inventory and find yourself dropping excess coconuts in weird places all over the islands.

This is a review and I have been mostly loading it with tips because this a fun game with a lot of mystery involved and permadeath can be a very cool aspect of a title if used properly which Better Late Than Dead does.  It is still being tooled a bit, go in feeling for a beta at this point and you will be more than happy with the results.  I haven’t had a second player join me for multiplayer yet which was introduced very recently so hasn’t fully caught on as the game probably will through word of mouth.  The game has good quality, a good concept and so far pretty good devlivery, just make sure that permadeath survival is your thing and you’ll be just fine.

Last Breath:

Better Late Than Dead is a fairly rare entry into the survival series with it’s permadeath and the interesting ways it tries to cause them which I don’t want to spoil here.  It still feels like it needs a bit of tooling and I think it is still getting it at press time but even without another coat of polish it is a fun and addictive game.

Better Late Than Dead Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Samurai Warriors 4 Empires PS4 Review

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When I took the review for Samurai Warriors 4 Empires I thought, from just the initial images that I had seen, that it was an anime slasher with a few combo moves to remember – which I was more than in the mood for as my week of gaming was beginning.  What I was pleasantly surprised by was that was just the beginning of this game’s adventure and I would be spending a lot of hours finding out just how deep it went.

Hands On:

The game started pretty much like I expected it to with a notice on the screen that our clan was in trouble and we needed to fight from certain destruction.  I started swinging my sword, learning the minor power blows and being greeted by plenty of enemies flying through the air and and disappearing as they were wiped out.  After a nice solid defense that had me prepared for more slash and dash suddenly the game entered Politics Mode.  What?

Turns out is has a what at first sight is a light political section which actually winds up playing a fairly deep strategy section of the game which has as much say on what happens and the swords if not more.  Actually it is through the strategy that weapons and troops upgrade for the hack and slash.  The way I would describe it most simply is it is a strategy game that you then fight the battles through once it comes time to fight another clan/territory.  You have advisers and generals who you must consider both their advice and battle prowess because after you use one aspect you use the next.

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You also after capturing territories get new possible additions to your castle but they cost resources which then takes from battle… you quickly realize it is all a balancing act as you use a recuperating pool to bring back 200 of your men, but that leaves you with less resources in other places and then you still have to upgrade your castles as you capture them AND if you blow it in the hack and slash section which is timed it is all for nothing! Whew!

Luckily I love both strategy and hack and slash so I was adding up trophies on the PS4 like crazy and managing to mostly hold and maintain territories.  It is definitely worth checking out the manual because though there are plenty of save times they are kind of hard to find most of the time and getting back to them means exiting out.  I learned a lot of things through trial and error, the first time I lost a battle I didn’t understand how since I had dominated the map but I hadn’t defeated the last boss on the map before the countdown.

An interesting thing about the graphics are that they are a bit traditional strategy, looking like a Risk map then you go into battle and it is distinctly gaming anime with the big swords, dramatic ornate costumes and kind of hokey dialogue.  I could see someone who isn’t really into both kinds of games being a little turned off by this but I personally enjoyed it, feeling that the mix worked and was a well rounded experience that went really, really deep.

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Last Slice:

Samurai Warriors 4 Empires is an interesting game with a great mix of strategy and hack and slash gameplay – which winds up challenging your muscle memory as well as your muscle memory.  You can easily expect hours and days of play with lots of replay on the campaign section alone and you can also do custom gaming and expect downloads in the future.  So work on trying to plan strategically ahead in a game as well as being fast with your fingers, your life might thank you sometime in the future.

Samurai Warriors 4 Empires Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Accessory Power GOgroove AirBand Wireless Bluetooth Headset Review

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When I was a young man I used to wear my headphones everywhere constantly listening to my favorite tape of the time.  If you are thinking of the average headphones of today your imagination might be a bit off, these were little plastic arms with circular ear pods.  The full ear coverage of the 70s had been replaced with the little portable pods and the concern for bleed out was replaced with with a minor concert for bleed in, very minor concern taking a big back seat to portable.  It was all about that Walk Man on your hip and durability and lightweight of the headphones.  New eras which were mostly cycles of the eras before would come back with some technological edge and so has the ear pods with a terrific example to be found in the GOgroove AirBand Wireless Bluetooth Headset.

  • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP
  • Adjustable headband design
  • Onboard playback controls
  • Integrated Microphone
  • 30ft wireless range
  • Rechargeable battery with 8 hours of audio playback
  • AC adapter included

Hands On:

There are a lot of benefits to this style of headset such as that it drowns out exterior noise. If you have are sensitive to in-ear designs, that should not a concern with these, as they tend to be able to be knocked around and still maintain playable position. The open cup design means less ear sweat and people trying to talk to you can hear bleed out so they know you can’t hear them.  These were all the reasons why this particular design was slow to drift from the marketplace back in the 80s and 90s.  The full ear cups tended to be weighty as well and so the ear pods were a nice lightweight replacement and the following design that when into the ear like an IFB were often uncomfortable in people’s ear canals.

So with all this in mind I thought of some of the few drawbacks of the old ear pods and the biggest were more designs of the Walk Man itself, all the controls were on the Walk Man and the cable to the headset was constantly getting in the way.  I made my own case for my Walk Man in Leather Working class in high school so I could try not to knock it off my waste every time I changed tracks or rewound my favorite song.  My design looked great, got an A, but still didn’t solve the problem.

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So here we are now decades later and the fashion cycle has come around again.  We are still using big old headsets like we had in the 60s and 70s but we are incorporating new technology such as wireless play and play/calls from our cellphone.  Still they are bulky.  In an attempt to bypass the bulky we are into the ear IFB style and people are still plenty uncomfortable if not moreso these days with things being jammed in their ear.  They do it for the purpose of fitness and stability which makes sense but doesn’t make it any more comfortable.

Enter The Gogroove AirBand Wireless Bluetooth Headset.  I cannot say strongly enough how much I wish this headset had been around when I was strength and cardio training in my teens.  The ear pods are actually more comfortable than they were back in day while at the same time having  better ear stability.  One of the major tests that companies like to do with ear buds is to have an athlete put them in then run in place or do high jumps.  This doesn’t really simulate running cross country or obstacle course jumping but the AirBand would hand such exertions easily.  When using wireless electronics then playback time definitely is important but whether you are working out or just at work 9 hours of playback (my test results) with a few hours of recharge should get you through it.

Trying to think of any problems or concerns the only one I really came up with is there is some minor bleed out.  This really won’t matter unless you are in a work or other sensitive environment where lyrics may want to be taken into consideration (ie. dropping f-bombs on a preschool class).

Last Play:

The GOgroove AirBand Wireless Bluetooth Headset is the headset I have been waiting to come back into style for walks and hikes, I just wish I had had them when I was most vigorously in my body training.  I will put it to good use now though with my physical therapy which when I find a product that can help I consider a blessing.

Accessory Power GG AirBand Wireless Bluetooth Headset Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Plex Media System (Tech)

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Hearing of Plex at various electronic trade shows, I was curious how it might work for me, especially as a video game reviewer and a disabled individual.  Being able to start playing personal media or sharing photos with fellow GamingShogun staff from bed when my body had finally failed out on me was something I was really hoping to find a way to simplify.  Plex seems like it just might be the answer to those problems.

Features:

  • Enjoy your videos, movies, TV shows, music and photos anytime, anywhere. – Run Plex Media Server on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer and stream to your iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Windows device. Have multiple TVs in your house? No problem, Plex also works on Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Xbox, PlayStation®, NVIDIA® SHIELD™, and many late-model smart TVs. Plex is even available on most network-attached storage devices.
  • Make your media beautiful – Plex gives you one simple interface to organize all of your media: your movie and TV collection, your music library, and all of your photos and home videos. Plex enriches your media library by adding descriptions, plot summaries, posters, and album covers. Enjoy your media on every TV in the house or on any mobile device on the go.
  • Plex keeps track of your media – Recently added content is presented front and center so you can instantly see what’s new. Plex also knows which movies and shows you’re watching, so you can easily pick up where you left off or play the next episode.
  • Manage what’s being watched on Plex – Control the media that your friends and family can access, both in and out of the home. Plex Home allows you to create customized, managed accounts, and restrict content those users can access. Restrict based on content ratings, or share specific items. Buy one Plex Pass for your home and share benefits like free apps.
  • High quality SSL certificates for all media servers – We’ve teamed up with DigiCert to provide high quality SSL certificates for your media servers, at no cost to you. Your media server will be able to securely communicate with your devices with top-grade encryption, it’s like having your own secret service escort protecting your data end-to-end, preventing hacks, attacks, and snooping.
  • Your music’s new homeMusic on Plex is accessible everywhere and beautifully presented. With support for nearly all audio formats, all of your music gets airtime. Once setup, you can hear (and even watch!) your music anywhere, on anything, and even share access to your music libraries with your friends. Recent improvements include Vevo music videos and Gracenote functionality that improves the metadata of your music library.
  • Playlists, for endless entertainment – Create customized music or video playlists to fit any occasion, based on mood, genre, collection, and more. You can even import existing iTunes playlists, ratings, track counts, and other details! Playlists are currently available on most platforms, but we’re working hard to bring them to all as quickly as possible.
  • Automatically upload your photos – Now, photos from your phone or tablet can be wirelessly synced to Plex automatically thanks to Camera Upload. It’s a new Plex Pass feature that makes sharing special snaps with family and friends easy, lets you stream photos to different screens, and allows you to free up space on your mobile device.
  • Your big screen’s best friend – Plex liberates you from single-screen viewing. With Plex Companion, you can fling great content from your phone to your TV. Keep watching that movie on your tablet when you head to bed. Pause an episode when the phone rings, skip a track you’ve heard too many times or just find out more about what you’re watching with the world’s best remote control.
  • Movie trailers, interviews, and other extras – Automatically get access to high quality online trailers and extras for the movies you have in your Plex library. Also, our new Cinema Trailers feature lets you start off your movie with a few trailers for movies from your library or from new and upcoming releases. Don’t worry, if you already have extras in your library, Plex will make those look great as well.
  • Share your media with friends and family – Effortlessly share media among friends, so you can all discover and enjoy even more content together. Exchange precious memories with distant family members by sharing your vacation photos and home videos. Now, you can also see what your friends are streaming from your collection as everyone gets their own view into your library.
  • Your media is reachable, even when you’re not – Cruising at 30,000 feet, sailing across the Atlantic, or just taking the subway to work – even when you’re offline, Mobile Sync has you covered. Simply tell Plex what you want to take with you on your phone or tablet and we’ll take care of the rest, keeping your content up to date and presenting it with the same beautiful interface. Mobile Sync is available exclusively to our Plex Pass subscribers.
  • Stream directly from the cloud – Cloud Sync automatically optimizes the media you choose and uploads it to places like Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa and Box. It’s like having a media server that’s always on. Cloud Sync is available exclusively to our Plex Pass subscribers.
  • Access your favorite online content – Plex Channels provide access to numerous sources of online content, like TED Talks, Vimeo, Revision 3, and more. No matter what your interests are, you’ll be able to find something great to watch or recommend to your friends, all presented in Plex’s gorgeous interface.
  • Save it now, watch it later – Easily save online videos from your favorite sites to watch later, even on the big screen. Or share the experience by recommending videos to a friend.
  • World class DLNA support built right in – Plex makes your media beautiful on thousands of DLNA certified devices like the PS3, Xbox 360, and WDTV Live devices without the need to install dedicated apps. Harness the power of the most sophisticated DLNA server available to effortlessly stream nearly any format to your device, right out of the box.

Hands On:
I wanted to cut down the list of features above but each thing I read seemed like something else that our readers might want to know.  The Plex service has definitely have been designed to cover many possible aspects of user needs that each one I looked at had to be mentioned.

Let’s start with professional usage.  I can have my Editor-in-Chief on my friends list and upload pictures and video from various events quickly and smoothly so that he can start choosing, editing, and watermarking them while I am still collecting them in the field.  If I stumble on some news I want to pass along to him I can just send a quick upload while in the Plex app and he can see the press release that caught my eye or video I thought would make a story.  There are other ways to do this but the real way to think of Plex is as a complex of media, pulling multiple applications and other media sources and putting them in one neat customizable interface.  Time really can be of the essence in news and the faster it can be past along the better.

This also is important when I am doing my own writing.  If I have found a bunch of media while running around with my phone and it comes time to write and all I have to do is log into Plex and all my different available galleries are right there at my fingertips and well as interviews for quotes I can cook through a story far faster than if I have to take the separate time to download or upload to the storage cloud the media I want to use.  There has been more than a few times I have done a search for just the right trailer while on a monorail or something on my way home to write, found exactly what I wanted and when I got home had to open up a program and repeat the search.  With Plex on my mobile devices I can have it all set up and ready to lay down in the article when I hit the computer.

During certain times of the year I also do quite a bit of traveling, part of it is flying, other times it is just through cell dead zones.  With the most minor bit of planning through Plex I can make sure I have access to the media I want while off the grid.  Trust me in rural parts of Nevada you really wish there was a cell tower hidden in the tumbleweeds, luckily Plex can help with music and videos so you won’t have to just listen to the sound of the engine and your own breathing.

The last part was a crossover of business and personal use that leads nicely into how I can use Plex when I am not on the road or even able to get out of bed or off the couch.  Being disabled can be disheartening to say the least, not just because of feeling unproductive but sometimes the simplest things going to the living room to watch television is too much.  On those days I often would just watch my phone because of the ease of interfacing.  At the foot of my bed though is a television with an Xbox One and a PS4 hooked up to it.  So if I wake up and can’t lift my head enough to watch television I can start by first watching a program or video on my phone then fire up one of my consoles and pick up on the same program on the TV even if the video was just on my phone such as a digital copy.  Normally I would have to track down the the DVD, put it in the console or hope that it was on one of the streaming services we subscribe to and find the location.  I can literally use the Plex app and fling video from my phone up onto the TV and go back to watching.

A much lighter use of the system is apparent in that one moment when you find a funny video on your phone and the whole family decides to circle around the device’s tiny screen and watch.  Once again, with a smart TV and the Plex app, you can fling the video right onto the TV and let everyone watch it on a nice big format.  Plex even adjusts the quality so it doesn’t look grainy.

Last Call For Now:
Plex is the perfect way to centralize all your media into one complex for business and personal use and ease.  Whether it is watching videos and listening to personal music or sharing files with friends and coworkers Plex puts in all into one place with it’s own driving system.  I have no doubt I will find new ways to put Plex to use every time I open the application.

Plex Media System Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com