Tag - Xbox 360 News

How to Survive – A Review (XBLA)

HowToSurviveReveal04

Zombies have become one of the gaming industries’ go-to villains these days. It seems like zombies have supplanted Nazis, aliens, and Communists as the number one thing to kill (again). Well, that brings us to EKO Studios and 505 Games new game on XBLA, How to Survive. With what boils down to be a game that is a mash up between Lost, Dead Island, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, How to Survive is entertaining enough for the few short hours that it lasts to recommend to fans of the zombie genre. With an isometric view of the action, decent crafting system, and “need” bars to represent your body’s requirements, How to Survive comes out as a average yet solid zombie game in the great mass of zombie games that are available to you.

Story

How to Survive begins with you selecting one of three characters, each falling into the three generic archetypes for these types of games; ranged expert, melee expert, and tank. You survive a plane crash and wake up on a strange island, surrounded by corpses. The player then meets the first survivor, who starts to fill the player in with what is loose on these island; zombies. You are then tasked with located the parts and other survivors in order to get off the island with your brains intact. The rest of the story for How to Survive is pretty much just you, running around an island with unlimited amounts of zombies, trying to either collect items or talk to people to move onto the next island, with the ultimate goal to escape.

How to Survive starts you off with very little story, then proceeds to not build on that for the rest of the game. Part of what makes zombie games or other media so enthralling is that the zombie story line gives the developers and writers the chance to build great personal narratives for their characters. These personal narratives come from the fact that the zombie apocalypse is more of a slow burn catastrophe rather than something that has an intelligence behind it that is hellbent on destroying the characters. How to Survive does not take this into account and never really develops the players’ characters much more then someone who is driven to get the hell out of the area.

The only person in the game with any type of personality is Kovac, the oldest survivor on the islands that has developed a self help book from which the game gets its title. Voiced as a hardened Russian, Kovac helps the character through a series of tutorials that are scripted like reading a Zombie Survival Guide for Dummies. These guides are done in a very similar vein to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, giving out information without really taking itself too seriously. I, personally, liked the sense of humor of this character and these guides, but they did not add anything to the overall story line nor really feel like they belonged in the game at all. It was a nice attempt by the developers to get some humor into the game, but it would only appear in these sections and never carried over to the rest of the game.

Game Play

How to Survive falls into the twin stick, isometric shooter genre with most of its game play elements. The player controls the movement with the left stick and the aiming of the character with the right stick. This allows you to move in one direction and fire off rounds into another. It took me a little while to get used to it, but once you do it feels pretty good. You also have a sprint button to use when things get out of hand. You can only sprint for a short period of time before the bar runs out, but it is enough to get you out of most jams. Items that you have found can be used from the main screen if they are hot keyed and ready to go. You better give yourself some room, though, before you use that healing pack since it does take time for it to work.

Items can be found all over the islands as you progress through the game. Most of these items are materials that can be used in How to Survive’s crafting system to make better items, while others make the job much more manageable. Crafting will require certain materials, blue prints and work tables to complete, but these are easily located throughout the games, and the islands are fairly small to begin with, so walking between points doesn’t take too long. The crafting system works well to a point, but becomes redundant once you have crafted a solid weapon to kill zombies with. There isn’t any reason to make the bigger and badder guns in the game, when a trusty rifle will take care of most things with one, satisfying shot.

screenlg1

Other materials that are found help you survive the island, like bottles, fruit, and safe houses. These come into play with the character’s three needs: thirst, hunger, and sleep. You will have three bars near your health that will progressively decrease over time. During your forays into the wild, you will have to keep an eye out for wells, collect and cook food, then take naps in safe houses to keep up your strength. Nice idea, but like the crafting system, with a few points in the skill trees these become insignificant and forgettable. Whenever you do need to take a nap or get a drink, the resources are never too far off.

How to Survive also has a diurnal game play element that players need to be aware of. As night falls on the island, the tougher monsters come out to try to eat your face. These monsters look more like feral zombies then the other zombies on the island, and are much tougher and faster creatures. The good news is that these creatures fear the light, and you have a flashlight. Keeping them at bay with the flashlight, then using a ranged weapon will take care of these monsters and allow you to continue to forage at night.

Aesthetic

How to Survive is set up with an isometric view, which can be troubling at times. You will loose your player behind certain landscape items, and if you are surrounded, it becomes a headache to see what you are doing or where to run to safety. The character and zombie designs are very generic, and the special zombies seem to be borrowed from other games. There are fat zombies that will blow up ala Left 4 Dead, and the special zombies that come out at night remind me of some creatures from the Resident Evil series.

The music and voice acting does the job without winning my heart, nor making me reach for the mute button. Kovac is voice acted a little over the top for my taste, but it fits in with the aesthetic that the developers were aiming for with the survival guide humor. When it comes to the sound design, this switch in atmosphere just doesn’t quite work out for me, and feels out of place with the rest of the tone. I think I would have preferred the developers to choose one path for their voice acting and story tone, then try to ride the line between humorous and serious.

Final Thoughts

How to Survive is a fun, decent game that will only be in your mind for a few, short hours then become forgettable once you finish it. With so many zombie games on the market, it just makes it hard to justify spending $15 on this game, unless you are an absolute fan of the genre and need a new zombie game. For $5 more, I would recommend buying State of Decay over How to Survive, both for the better story line and the refined game play elements. It’s not that How to Survive is a bad game, far from it, it’s that it is just not a great game. How to Survive falls into the mediocre pile for me, mostly for it’s lack of a compelling story line and it’s half-hearted attempt at humor. If you absolutely need a new zombie game and can’t wait until Dead Rising 3, then pick up How to Survive, it will entertain you for a few hours. How to Survive is available now on XBLA for $15.

[easyreview title=”Product Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]

Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Review (Xbox 360)

015651

Capcom has been digging in their vault of past titles, looking for games to be remade and re-released onto the Xbox LIVE Arcade. This week, Capcom released two of my favorite arcade beat-em-ups of all time in one absolutely near-perfect package with Chronicles of Mystara. Chronicles of Mystara is made up of Capcom’s 1993 release of Tower of Doom and 1996’s release Shadow Over Mystara. These games were released near the time that TSR was revamping the basic rules for their original Dungeons and Dragon’s game with their 1991 version of the “Rules Cyclopedia”. However, while trying to cash in on the surge of renewed interest in Dungeons and Dragons, these games were overshadowed in the arcade by other games from the same genre, such as Final FightThe Simpsons Arcade Game, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Story

Both games in the Chronicles of Mystara are set in the lands of Mystara, from the basic version of Dungeons and Dragons. The first game, Tower of Doom, has the party setting forth to rid the land of the archlich Deimos, who sits atop his tower and orders his minions to invade the nearby villages. The second game, Shadows Over Mystara has our party traveling to Glantri, when it is discovered that Deimos was only part of the grand scheme and that the true evil lies with Synn, a great magic-user bent on conquering both Glantri and the Republic of Darokin.

Capcom does a very good job of setting up a game that truly feels like it could be a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. The plot is uncovered as the party goes from level to level and is told through the use of non player characters requesting the party’s aid. The party even has choices throughout both games, as to what path they would rather take, leading them to face different threats and monsters. This helps change up the game and allows multiple play-throughs without facing the same monsters or seeing the same environments.

The only negative that I have with the story itself is that it gives the characters no chance for any type of development, nor does the game even give them any type of background. You are just classified as the person you choose; whether it be the dwarf, thief, or cleric. This was done mostly due to the limited processing power back in the 1990s, but unlike The Simpsons Arcade Game or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, these games did not have well known characters for the players to understand and enjoy. With Dungeons and Dragons being such a character-driven world where the players love to create well-rounded individuals, these characters feel just flat in terms of story.

Game Play

The game play changes slightly over the two games in Chronicles of Mystara, but the core mechanics remain the same. The overall game play falls into the category of the side-scrolling beat ’em up game for up to four players, like Final Fight (ed. note: I’m Haggar!!!). You choose a character, four in Tower of Doom and six in Shadows Over Mystara, and set off to rid the world of every creature you run across. You have your main weapon, which is determined by your class, and secondary weapons that you can find or purchase along the way. Capcom does a great job in implementing some of the core rules from the Dungeons and Dragons table top game into the arcade version, like restricting the cleric to using only blunt edge weapons. These restrictions makes the game feel more like playing the table top game to fans of the role playing game.

Certain characters have access to spells from the beginning, and these are found by bringing up your spell wheels during combat. Items can be found that contains spells in them, and scrolls can be found to teach the casters new spells. It will take a little while to get used to the spell effects and the spell wheel to find the right spell you want to cast, but once mastered the spells will fly naturally. If you don’t want to mess with the spell mechanics of the game, then just pick the dwarf, fighter or thief and stab creatures with sharp objects until your heart is content.

chronicles_of_mystara_screenshot_1

Capcom added in a great way to keep players returning to play Chronicles of Mystara by way of unlocks and “house rules”. As you play the game, you will earn points to open up unlocks, such as art. If you save enough of these points, though, you can start to unlock house rules. These house rules will change the way the game is played, making it a different experience, such as items you find will never break or gaining health with each attack. While it doesn’t change the game dramatically, it does make it interesting for a game night when you have some friends over to play.

Aesthetics

Visually, Capcom added some nice options for Chronicles of Mystara by giving us the choice of keeping the graphics original, sharp or smooth. Other than that choice, the graphics and aesthetics remain the same as it did for these games’ original releases. The aesthetics fits with the time period that these games were released in and for the graphic capabilities for the era. The looks of Chronicles of Mystara is very cartoon like, but with realistic proportions and design. Even though it was designed by Japanese artists, it has a very Western look and feel to the characters.

Sound wise, Chronicles of Mystara feels exactly like the original releases. It has the same type of music that the original release had and the same type of sound effects. Voice acting is very limited, just like the original. What voice acting there is in Chronicles of Mystara works well enough for a nineties brawler.

Final Thoughts

Chronicles of Mystara is a must-buy for anyone who grew up playing these types of games in the arcade. With solid four player co-op game play, forked pathways, spells and item drops, Chronicles of Mystara is arguably one of the deepest types of beat ’em up games that came out in the 1990s. Following the world of the basic version of Dungeons and Dragons closely, Chronicles of Mystara references popular settings such as Glantri and the Republic of Darokin, and limits the classes to the weapons that are usable in the table top game, such as the blunt edge restriction of the cleric class. If you are in the mood for a little four player co-op action with your Dungeons and Dragons buddies, then this is the game to get. Chronicles of Mystara is available now through XBLA.

[easyreview title=”Product Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ] [button target=”_blank” style=”” class=”btn_blue” link=”http://gamingshogun.com/gamingshogun-rating-system/”]Learn About Our Rating System[/button]

White Noise – A Review (Xbox 360)

screen1

Milkstone Studios has released their latest title through the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace, named White Noise.  The premise for White Noise is simple, you are stuck in a grave yard, collecting eight tape recorders while being hunted by a vile creature.  What you really get with White Noise is an almost exact copy of Slender, but for the Xbox 360.  Milkstone Studios just changed the pieces of paper to tape recorders, some of the structures that you wander through, and Slenderman to a fairly generic looking supernatural creature.  If you ever wanted to play Slender from Parsec Productions on your Xbox 360, White Noise is the only way to do so.  For the rest of this review, I will focus solely on how White Noise is as a game by itself, and not how it compares to Slender.  Just know, if you have played Slender before and what that experience on the Xbox 360, White Noise is your game.

Story:

White Noise has very little back story in the beginning of the game prior to game play.  You get a small little text page about how a colleague of yours is helping you complete some paranormal research is a grave yard nearby.  Your colleague went out during the day to place eight tape recorders throughout the grave yard, in hopes of capturing the voices of the dead through the white noise that the recorders pick up.  However, your colleague has yet to return and you need those tape recorders, so you set off for the grave yard to recover them, armed only with a flash light.  Once you arrive at the grave yard, you almost immediately become hunted by an eyeless creature that will just stay out of flashlight range, long enough for you to see it.

That is the extent of the story for White Noise, there is nothing more that adds to this narrative during game play.  None of the tape recorders will play, nor do you find any hint of your colleague or what is happening in the grave yard.  White Noise, in terms of story, has the bare minimum.  Milkstone Studios sets up the narrative and then just lets the players play the game and create their own narrative throughout actual game play.  Normally, this would almost completely ruin a game for me, because I have always felt that games truly need us to care for the characters and the story for it to become truly a great game.  White Noise is one of those exceptions, you don’t need to have any type of growing narrative, because the game play sucks you in immediately with its atmosphere that you no longer care why you are collecting these recorders, only that you need to get all eight before the creature kills you.

Game Play:

Since White Noise has the bare minimum of story, it must survive on game play alone.  Games with a great story line can hid game play issues behind characters that we care about or events that draws us into the game.  On the flip side of that, games without a great story must have game play mechanics that is fun and immersive enough for us to forget the lack of depth in the story.  White Noise falls completely into the second category, with solid game play that just makes you come back for more.

The controls for White Noise is incredibly simple, you have a button that controls the power to your flash light, a trigger that allows you to run for short distances, while the sticks control your movement and look capabilities.  The battery only has so much life to it, so turning it off when you don’t need it will allow the battery to last longer, and keep you alive.

Game play is centered around the collection of eight tape recorders, yes, tape recorders.  I guess using digital recorders would have made the models too small, but I found it funny that the developers decided to use old style tape recorders for White Noise.  As you collect these tape recorders, you discover that there is a creature hunting you.  The entire object of White Noise is to collect all eight recorders before being killed by this mysterious creature.  Keeping an eye on the creature with the flash light will keep it at bay, but the creature will circle around to cut you off from the other parts of the grave yard.  You are completely defenseless against the creature, with no offensive moves nor weapons.  You can only run, and that is what adds to the intensity of White Noise.  The creature will stalk you from afar, causing a slow burning panic through the game.  If you don’t keep a close eye on the creature, it will sneak up for an instant kill, giving you a close look at it before the world goes black.

Aesthetics:

This is where White Noise really gets creepy – its visuals.  The entire game is based on the environment and atmosphere that Milkstone Studios creates to draw you in for the scare.  The grave yard is suitably dark, especially if you have your television set correctly for the game, forcing you to rely on your flash light for guidance.  As you search the grave yard, you come across ghosts that are wandering through the headstones.  These ghosts don’t attack, nor do they have any bearing on game play, but add another level to the ambiance of the game.  More then once, I mistook a spirit for the creature that was hunting me, just by seeing a flash of a human form on the edge of my screen.

The sound of White Noise also adds greatly to the game’s atmosphere.  The silence of the grave yard, with only the sound of your footsteps echoing off of the mausoleums, the sudden scream when you see the creature, and the sound of static as the creature gets ever so near.  Interestingly enough, the use of static in White Noise makes more sense than it did in Slender, since you are collecting tape recorders that are trying to collect this static.  Well played, Milkstone, well played.

Final Thoughts:

White Noise, at the end of it all, is nothing more then a Slender port to the Xbox 360 with enough changed to keep the lawyers at bay.  It is, however, a damn good port of a damn good game.  The controls feels right as you move through the grave yard, and game play is unchanged essentially from the original Slender.  It is the aesthetics of White Noise that wins me over.  The game can be outright unnerving to play, with the slow burning tension that builds as you find more and more tape recorders.  While I wish there was more to the game then what there is, that isn’t a knock against Milkstone Studious, but more with the original game Slender.  Overall, if you are looking to play Slender on the Xbox 360, this is your only choice and it will do just fine.

[easyreview title=”White Noise Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]

Omerta: City Of Gangsters Preview (XBLA/PC/Steam)

Growing up I wasn’t a huge Cowboys and Indians kind of kid.  I was a fan of the gangster era, whether it be the crooks or the G-men who chased them I always wanted to be playing Cops and Robbers with every toy gun becoming a Tommy Chicago Typewriter and every bank job becoming a blood bath.  I grew up, and when it came time to put down children’s toys another man with the same passion did something from which I think I have never recovered from.  Brian De Palma made The Untouchables and I realized my love of the era wasn’t a childish thing but a fascination of many.  I took it a little far, traveling around with my friends in ties, fedoras and trench coats (pre-Trench Coat Mafia days) and we would hit the town dressed in the height of fashion – for Prohibition.  There was a style to the genre and as I reluctantly put my coat and fedora aside I remembered this feel as I added my own sound effects to games over the years. Sometimes ad libbing movie dialogue as I played and every time a game came along like Omerta: City Of Gangsters with a speakeasy door and words like “copper” or “payola” thrown around I got my hands on it and got transported back to the days of squirt gun Tommies and the palookas I called pals.

Storyline:

Taking the role of a fresh-from-the-boat immigrant, with dreams of the big life, the player will work his way up the criminal hierarchy of 1920’s Atlantic City.  Starting with small jobs, his character recruits a gang and expands his empire by taking territory from other gangsters. Eventually he establishes his own crime syndicate and becomes the de facto ruler of Atlantic City.
The storyline is fairly straight forward in this aspect but this really doesn’t do it justice as it also plays heavily on the injustices of the era and tries to have fun as well as accuracy with the missions and characters.  You get to fight the KKK at one point in the storyline, ‘nough said.

Features:

  • Historically accurate representation of Atlantic City and its landmarks
  • Strategic gameplay allows city overview, planning, expansion and gathering of intel
  • Turn-based tactical combat with a cover system and stealth action
  • 15 unique player controlled characters each with unique personalities and backgrounds
  • A RPG system for development of player characters and managing their equipment
  • Competitive and cooperative multiplayer mode with persistent gangs
  • 15+ hours of gameplay in a single play-through
  • 20 unique maps visualizing the various districts of Atlantic City

Gameplay (Hands On):

It is for the most part top down gameplay on the general map in a standard city simulation setup with close quarters mini maps at mission sites.  The games attempt at impressiveness is very apparent when you look at all the detail on the main city map, it is a historical looking map of the time period with little cars and people bustling around with density dependent on the areas population.  So in the warehouse district near the docks where most of the shadier, less reputable business’ operate there is very little pedestrian traffic and after dark the streets are almost deserted except for those up to no good.  Whereas the influential neighborhoods have people walking on the streets and regular police patrols, all visible from a God’s eye view.  The detail holds up when you zoom in tight on the maps to the point that if you send one of “your boys” on a mission you see them leave the safehouse, head over to the location of the job and do the work.  This is particularly fun and thrilling when you send someone for a driveby and you watch not knowing which is your car as one suddenly has muzzle flashes coming from the side of it and pedestrians start dropping.  You can zoom in close to see the detail of this or stay wide on the map watching the happenings all over town.

When you are choosing your gang you not only get a name with strengths and weaknesses but you get a mugshot that looks like it was taken right off an old police blotter and often a greeting that shows some of the personality you can expect from this member.  This personality isn’t just limited to the conversations either, their fighting styles and techniques are direct representatives of the character.  For example a favorite at the game demonstrations was a character named Doc, the persona of a Drunk Irishman out to not just commit crimes but to have fun in the process.  His character traits include “Dance for me laddy!” which involves him shooting at someone’s feet drunkenly to scare them causing a fear buff.  On the mini maps during missions his movements are more limited because he doesn’t walk anywhere he staggers.  And may “The Blessed Mother Mary and Joseph” be with any fellow gang member in front of him when he starts firing blindly with his two pistols, there is a percentage for them being hit as well.

This happens in close combat missions where you go to mini maps with each character having a certain number of action points to effect moves and attacks in with a turn-based gameplay.  Anyone who has ever played a Jagged Alliance game has a pretty good idea of how this system works and will find the gameplay intuitive.  If you haven’t had this kind of gameplay your map is broken up into squares or hexagons and each character depending on attributes can move a certain distance and perform a certain attack with each of these actions using up action points.  When the action points are out the turn is over for that character, when they are all used up on all your characters or you are done moving them your turn is over and it is your opponent’s turn, in the case of campaign that is the AI.  In these kind of games the intelligence of the AI can be a deal breaker: too good and they are almost impossible to beat, too easy and the game gets boring.  With Omerta I could tell they had already found an excellent balance between the two so it will simply be a matter of not shooting themselves in the foot to make it good for market.

The thing about committing crime is it eventually draws the attention of the coppers.  The boys in blue are a bit slower to pop you in the clink if you are just shooting up other thugs but when you start trouble in respectable, upstanding citizens’ neighborhoods, well then something needs to be done about it!  This is all measured much like the GTA series with five stars of heat, when you hit five stars the police launch an investigation against you which if you don’t nip in the bud will land you in the pokee permanently.  You can buy off the cops (which costs more each time you do that), give them a patsy (doesn’t make you any friends) or… well maybe there are more ways to keep the party goin’ as well as appearing to keep your nose clean in the first place.

The better you do the more experience you get which translates directly into leveling and new skills as well as cash for better weapons and vehicles.  There are different skill trees set up to cater to different play styles and part of the fun is putting a new talent to use.  In this way Omerta plays a lot like an RPG, because you choose how you get through situations and you are often given lots of options on how to do that and skills to suit your fancy.  It is in the depth and detail that Omerta really sets itself apart from other sims, it is part RPG, part action shooter and part city simulator all rolled into one.

Multiplayer:

Let’s face it when you played cops and robbers as a kid part of the fun was having your pals with you.  Besides the campaign play you can also play Omerta at the mini map mission level as Versus or Co-Op.  Versus is pretty straight forward, you are given a map and pick your teams and shoot it out with each other in different maps.  The Co-Op which was a personal favorite you and your friend pick your gang and try to complete an objective like rob a bank and get away fighting against the AI using the action point system.  This all takes place on Kalypso provided servers so you can play your friend across the room or across the country and with Steam in the works for this the players available should open up even more.

Last Call:

I have played a lot of mob games over the years in just about every form and I don’t think I have been as excited about one as I am about this one.  Don’t get me wrong, there has been some great gangster games lately but it has been a while since a great mobster city simulator has come along yet alone one with so much massive detail and style crossover.  Expected out in February of 2013 this is one to keep an eye out for and might make the difference between you feeling like a boss or a chump.

Trailer:

Gallery:

Dragon Ball Z For Kinect Review (XBox 360)

I want to love the Kinect.  I really, really do.  It’s red eye seems to beg for attention every time I fire up one of my XBox 360s, I have an old school one with an upgraded hard drive when Kinect was an addition and I have the beautiful Star Wars one, a white console with a white Kinect daring dust and grubby hands to touch it.  When I get on with my controller and start playing a game Kinect always gives me the opportunity to wave at it if I want and say hi, but most times if I do I find a game that will soon be relegated to a shelf until the day I either discover a place that gives me a good price for a near mint near-miss game or I have a garage sale and pass disappointment on to someone else’s household.  Don’t get me wrong there, have been a couple of decent ones out there, I really recommend the Yoostar series even if they never fixed the clipping issues (if you guys do I will be one happy ham handed pseudo movie star) because being clipped into a movie, tv show or music video badly is still a hell of a lot of fun, especially at a party.  But others leave me frustrated and cursing like old school comic strip characters with #@$% over my head, unable to get the Kinect to read the proper gestures causing me to give it inappropriate gestures (hence why I stopped playing the Kinect games at store displays in front of children).  So when I got a copy of Dragon Ball Z For Kinect I put it aside until I was in the mood to really mess with lighting, distance and probably frustration.  I try to go in objective, I really, really do, but hope has become a limited resource with Kinect for anything but chatting and Netflix.

 

Storyline:

This isn’t so much a storyline as the chance to fight famous foes complete with cutscenes then unlock them to use in a different mode.  It does tell a loose story and the special feature actually tells some great Dragon Ball Z lore but when it comes down to it it is really about fans of the series getting to fight the characters they love to hate.

 

Graphics and Sound:

This is pretty vital to a game of this type because the goal usually needs to be to make the graphics nothing like the cartoon series it is based after or identical to them, mixed equals muddled.  Luckily this is like playing episodes of the show from a first hand perspective with third person cutscenes with animation identical to the cartoons.  The voices are great (American style, not the original Asian voice style, deeper pitch) and match the sounds and music all fit nicely together to make a great experience for fans of all ages.

Gameplay:

This is where Kinect game reviews usually go awry and so I am happy to say this one is MUCH better than most.  Mapping positions and movements are usually awkward and clunky but it this case it does an excellent job responding and reading movements.  I’m 6’5″ tall with really broad shoulders so reading certain moves are just going to be insanely difficult with a one position view.  When it came to blocking enemy attacks I almost never got it to read, which caused some frustration though it’s completely understandable, with my arm build the meat of my biceps completely block out the location of my hands when I put them up for the blocking gesture.  A person with normal arm proportion would have no problem being read and I think any of the issues I had with the game would be resolved with a normal physique.  Giving this consideration I was extremely pleased with the body mapping and game response.  When I put my hands to one side in a holding-a-ball position I had the pleasure of watching a magic ball build there and when I thrust that movement forward the ball flies at the enemy with a very reasonable response time.

 

I think a lot of the success for this game lies in the tutorials and the move display options being on the screen.  The tutorials are broken up into each style of fighting, not clearing you and unlocking the next type of fighting until you mastered it.  This makes sure the moves are ingrained but also gives you an idea of what moves will be weaker for you to do.  I knew for the tutorial my blocking ability and ability to break an enemy’s block were going to be my weak points in fights because of my build so I worked around them, I also knew that my jabs and upper cuts responded real nicely and stacked combos fast.  Being so big I had to jump pretty high to get my jumps to register but my dodges registered with ease.  The tutorial decided a lot of my fighting style and skills so that I could use what I knew worked when I got into actual matches instead of flailing and hoping.

 

The move displays definitely need to get credit too.  Sure in theory they are like a kick boxing version of Dance Central for the most part with special moves and energy building ones displayed on the edges of the screen but it worked and reminded you that if you timed your energy building right you could unleash some seriously righteous fury down upon your enemies as well as jab and kick the snot out of them.  It shows energy building, how long you need to hold a position and how long you have to take the follow up position to complete the combination.  If you pull of some really good moves you are treated to a short cutscene to give you a quick breather and let you reset your position real quick before the next moves.  If the enemy is sending in a wicked attack at you the screen will show on each of it’s four sides different possible things you can do to dodge it such as lean left, right or back or duck.  This was where I had issues because blocking was sometimes the only option but I figured out a way around that I won’t spoil here.

I think something that really needs to be stated is how physical this game is.  You are basically kick boxing in time to a cartoon fight and it wasn’t long before I was sweating profusely and needing to get some fluids in me.  This will have kids of all ages worn out after a few rounds and even the games suggests after some of the longer battles to maybe rest your back a bit and take a break.  The Special Feature is a great way to do this and give you a rest before getting back to the cardio.  This is probably the only time I have every suggested this but I think it is important to supervise younger players of this game because it is possible to push yourself too far and either get dehydrated or physically injured.  As I said before this is basically kicking boxing with some mixed martial arts moves and stances thrown in and that can be extremely strenuous.

 

After completing a fight it gets unlocked in Score Attack mode which enables you to fight the same fight over again, using unlocked characters, to try to beat your own score as well as a preset one.  These literally can be used as a workout with the game being set on different level of difficulty for how hard you want the workout to be that day.

 

Special Features:

Normally I don’t address these too much but in this case I felt it really needed to be said that there is an actual subtitled episode of Dragon Ball Z called “Episode of Bardock” that shows a possible answer to a big question in DBZ lore that even a casual fan of the series may be wondering about, or a casual observer at recent conventions that saw people walking around with cardboard golden hair.

Last Call:

I’m exhausted but satisfied, something I have not said about a video game in a long time.  Normally my hands are sore and my wrists or arms ache but I am all over sore, sweat soaking through every inch of clothing and I feel proud of my video game accomplishments and my workout at the same time.  Parents should pick this up for their kids, adults with even a passing fancy in the cartoons or who think a kick boxing workout might be for them should totally grab this.  Just pay attention to the tutorial and note what works great for you and what doesn’t and this should be a good experience for you.  This game has also given me another satisfaction, the opportunity to recommend another Kinect game.

Trailer:

 

Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion Shipping

BURBANK, Calif. — (November 18, 2012) – Today Disney Interactive announces the availability of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, the sequel to the critically acclaimed and commercially successful “Disney Epic Mickey” video game. Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for Wii U™ is now available for digital download in the Nintendo eShop and for purchase at retailers nationwide for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and for the Wii™ and Wii U™ systems from Nintendo.  In addition “Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion,” the first Nintendo 3DS™ title for “Disney Epic Mickey”, is also available at retailers nationwide and for download in the Nintendo eShop.

In “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two,” gamers will play as Mickey Mouse and for the first time ever, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first cartoon star, in an all-new adventure of creativity and discovery.  Created by industry luminary Warren Spector and Disney Interactive’s Junction Point game development studio, “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two” returns Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to Wasteland, an alternate world filled with 80 years of forgotten Disney characters and theme park attractions.  But for the first time, Mickey and Oswald will join forces as true partners – Mickey with his magical paint brush that wields paint and thinner, and Oswald with his powerful remote control that allows him to command electricity.

“Mickey Mouse is one of the most beloved characters of all time,” said Warren Spector, vice president and creative director, Disney Interactive’s Junction Point.  “I feel incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to once again help craft his latest journey and at the same time bring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit back in such an amazing and innovative way, by allowing this once forgotten silent cartoon star to get a voice for the first time in history.”

The game’s new co-op play between Mickey and Oswald further enhances the idea that “PlayStyle Matters” – a unique approach to gameplay pioneered by Warren Spector.  Through “PlayStyle Matters,” players dynamically tackle different challenges in order to explore all possibilities and storylines, but with consequences for their chosen actions.

Co-written by award-winning comic book writer, Marv Wolfman, in collaboration with Junction Point, “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two” features a unique soundtrack created by Emmy award-winning composer, Jim Dooley and songwriter Mike Himelstein to deliver the first-ever video game musical.

“We continually strive to develop interactive content that resonates across Disney’s broad fan base,” said John Pleasants, co-president, Disney Interactive.  “Our goal was to capture the nostalgic feeling that makes the Disney experience so magical, and it is clear that we’ve accomplished that with ‘Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’ exceptionally well.”

In addition to the console titles, “Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion” for the Nintendo 3DS created by critically acclaimed DS developer DreamRift in collaboration with Disney Interactive’s Junction Point, offers a unique drawing and painting functionality that allows players to create rough versions of objects that magically transform into classic Disney-style 2D illustrations.  Utilizing the game’s unparalleled dual screen integration, players then move their creations to the top screen where they are further transformed into full-color, fully-rendered 3D visuals.

Paying tribute to the classic Sega Genesis title “Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse,” “Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion” focuses on the fabled Castle of Illusion, which has fallen into Wasteland along with the evil witch Mizrabel, villainess from the classic “Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.”  Now an unwilling inhabitant of Wasteland, Mizrabel unleashes a plot to escape using the Castle of Illusion to imprison and drain the cartoon essence from currently famous Toons.  Players will take on the role of Mickey Mouse as he utilizes his magical brush to wield paint and thinner to confront Mizrabel and save the Toons.

“Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two” is rated ‘E’ for Everyone by the ESRB, and is now available for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360 and Wii U for a suggested retail price of $59.99 and Wii for a suggested retail price of $49.99. “Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion” is also rated ‘E’ for Everyone by the ESRB and is now available on the Nintendo 3DS for a suggested retail price of $39.99.

For additional information about “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two” and “Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion,” please visit the official site at http://disney.go.com/mickey/disney-epic-mickey-2.html, join our “Disney Epic Mickey Video Game” page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at #savewasteland.

Black Ops 2 Over $500M in Sales First Day

Santa Monica, CA – November 16, 2012 –Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI), today announced that for the fourth consecutive year, the Call of Duty® franchise has delivered the biggest entertainment launch of the year. The highly-anticipated Call of Duty®: Black Ops II has achieved an estimated sell-through of more than $500 million worldwide in the first 24 hours of its release, according to Chart-Track, retail customer sell-through information and internal company estimates.

“With first day sales of over half a billion dollars worldwide, we believe Call of Duty is the biggest entertainment launch of the year for the fourth year in a row,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO, Activision Blizzard, Inc. “Life-to-date sales for the Call of Duty franchise have exceeded worldwide theatrical box office receipts for “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars,” the two most successful movie franchises of all time. Given the challenged macro-economic environment, we remain cautious about the balance of 2012 and 2013.”

On November 13, 2012, millions of fans attended more than 16,000 midnight openings at retail stores worldwide. Reflecting the wave of excitement that swept the globe, Call of Duty: Black Ops II drove social conversation in its first 24 hours as it was a top trending topic globally on Twitter in 23 cities worldwide. Additionally, there have been more than 30 million YouTube video views of the game’s live-action ‘Surprise’ launch trailer since its release on October 29, 2012.

“Call of Duty has become more than a product people buy, it’s become a brand people buy into.  And every November we do more than just launch a game, we kick off an annual, unofficial but worldwide phenomenon called Call of Duty season,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “I want to thank our incredible team at Treyarch for making an amazing game, everyone at Activision for making this brand a force of nature and our retail partners for their unprecedented support of this franchise. But most importantly I want to thank our millions of fans for their continued support and loyalty and for making us better every day.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is available at retail locations worldwide on the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, and Windows PC. The title is also expected to be released in North America for the new Wii U™ game system from Nintendo on November 18, 2012.

The game is rated “M” (Mature – Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs – content suitable for persons ages 18 and older) by the ESRB.

More information on Call of Duty: Black Ops II can be found athttp://www.callofduty.com/blackops2 or on www.facebook.com/codblackops. Fans can also follow @Treyarch on Twitter.