Visit us at AWESOMEoutof10!
Writer: Steven Hansen
PS3 (reviewed), Vita, 360, PC, Wii
Released: Nov 15, 20l1 (PS3/360/Wii), Feb 15, 2012 (Vita)
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
I never got too into the Rayman series over the years, but when Rayman Origins caught my attention, looking that pretty, I had to take a peek. I also had to check and make sure that I still loved 2D platformers and that it isn’t just nostalgia that gives the genre its glister. Turns out, I do in fact still love 2D platformers. And I love Rayman Origins.
In Rayman Origins, some things definitely happen. Rayman, his goofy pal Globox, and friends are all chillin’ out in the Snoring Tree when their chill beats disturb an old, scary lady from down below, causing her to unleash a pox upon the world that Rayman (and company) must stop by saving sexy nymphs and doing other things. It may in fact be an origin story (as the name might imply), set in the beginning of the Rayman universe. Or it may not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it warms my soul.
When I first took control of my unfamiliar, limbless protagonist, I felt an innate satisfaction in simply maneuvering him around the environment. It was just like all of the great platformers in how empowering it was simply to jump, but Rayman has some modern contrivances that help elevate it, as it builds on the fundamentals of its predecessors.
Released: Feb 15, 2012
Developer: Fun Bits Interactive
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Escape Plan is one of the first games I played on the Vita, months before its release, and it instantly became my most anticipated game for the system. The arresting art direction that utilized gorgeous saturation and stark, black and white contrast, coupled with a Looney Tunes-esque classical soundtrack and some hilarious moments – comedy always seems to be lacking in games – had me sold. While the game ultimately delivers on these points, the final product doesn’t come together entirely contiguously.
Escape Plan tasks the player with abetting the escape of Lil and Laarg, compatriots fleeing their captor, the menacing Bakuki. Lil, the smaller of the two, is incredibly frail and so much as tripping over a brick on the floor can result in a splattered death, while Laarg is the burly muscle, capable of breaking weakened doors and floors. The two work in concert on a large percentage of the levels, but frequently forge different paths more suited to their abilities, separating them.
PS3 (reviewed), X360
Released: Jan 31 2012
Developer: Rebellion Developments
There are many games out there which, while technically polished and exceedingly functional, fail to grab my attention. Whether it’s a military shooter obsessed with beating the terrorist Russians, a fantasy RPG cluttered with elves, or a thing where you jump on other things and maybe they die, it all gets a little predictable. Luckily, NeverDead is the opposite of that.
Fair warning, I’m about to tell you exactly why this is a terrible game. And why you should go and play it anyway.
Bryce Boltzmann is a demon hunter. He’s been one for a long time. 500 years ago he tried to stop the demon king from rising and destroying the Earth, but he was defeated. As some kind of elaborate prank, and after murdering Bryce’s partner, a demon cursed Bryce with immortality, that he may live forever with his failures. Present day Bryce is working for an agency specialising in demon extermination. He and his fragile human partner Arcadia keep the city safe from random scum, until the inevitable plot to do very bad things comes up.
Released: Oct 5 2010 US, Oct 8 2010 EU
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Namco Bandai
I let Enslaved: Odyssey to the West slip by when it first released. I hear tell it released smack dab in the middle of a busy fall brimming with big name titles, and that’s why it didn’t make much of a splash, but I knew what it was at the time and was pretty sure I wanted it. Alas, I can’t remember why I didn’t buy it then, but I’m glad that its fluctuating 10 to 20 dollar price tag spent months insisting that I didn’t have a good reason for not playing it, because it was right.
Enslaved has a wonderful main menu. Yes, the place where you click options to get you to things you’re more interested in. It’s a screen within your screen. In the foreground, there is part of the side of a girl’s face, looking at the screen, much like you are. Through the reflection of the screen, you can see her face fully. Her eyes occasionally dart to the side. Sometimes she blinks. When you select an option, her hand appears from off screen and familiarly brushes the touch screen, navigating to a different page. Coupled with the overlaid ambient track, the scene is arresting, pensive.
Released: Nov 1 2012 US, Nov 2 2012 EU
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
I’m uneasy. Uncharted 3 lies on my floor, bloodied and beaten. I scaled the side of an ancient home and exited at speed when it was set ablaze by evil dudes. I ran through market streets in pursuit of a man with seemingly magical powers. After being kidnapped, I escaped from a rotting shipyard festering with pirates. I killed a hundred thousand men, most of whom were probably bad guys. Probably. But I feel empty. Something is very wrong.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception once again follows the world’s most poorly tucked treasure hunter, Nathan Drake, on another quest to steal priceless artifacts from exotic locations. Sorry, find. Find artifacts. New big bad Katherine Marlowe is after Sir Francis Drake’s ring - conveniently kept around Nathan Drake’s neck - so that she can find a special thing that leads her to another thing for very important reasons. Drake and perpetual father figure Sully need to stop them because of other important reasons. Like money. Honestly, the plot is a huge mess of chase scenes and blatant plot holes that feels more like an excuse to make pretty levels and cool action sequences than ever.
Writer: Liam Fisher
Released: January 26 2012 US, February 03 2012 EU
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Let’s get this out of the way: I still play SoulCalibur II. I’ve tried other, later iterations of the series but they - or any other fighter for that matter - have never managed to capture my attention in the same way. With that in mind, it’s a bit surprising for me to admit that SoulCalibur V will soon be replacing its great-grandfather as my go-to fighter; it’s not, however, without flaws.
The Story Mode is easily the weakest aspect of the package. I wish I could say that the paltry two hours of content were at least expertly crafted, that story was surprisingly well done and engaging, but in the end it’s just not up to expectations. They’ve obviously taken cues from Mortal Kombat’s narrative focus, restricting you to specific characters to push their story forward, but it’s when SoulCalibur V is compared to Mortal Kombat that the Story Mode seems especially weak. That is something that I never, EVER thought I’d say.
Released: February 24, 2011
Developer: Joshua Nuernberger
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
An ex assassin turned cop; a blank slate of a man stuck in a prison turned sinister training facility; a tale of loss and identity; oh my, I’m in heaven.
Gemini Rue is the first adventure game from Joshua Nuernberger and is a rare example of future-noir in video games. As a fan of Westwood’s Blade Runner I found the adventure to be the perfect way to scratch an itch that’s had a long time to develop. It’s an ambitious story told through two men — Azriel Odin and Delta-Six — both who are searching for something very dear to them.
Delta-Six is a prisoner. His story starts with scientists erasing his memory after a recent escape attempt. Before you can learn anything about him, he becomes a man with no past. His routine is carefully monitored by the enigmatic and unnervingly friendly “Director”, who is heard, but never seen. His fellow Center 7 inmates are equally oblivious to their past, but that certainly doesn’t make them naive, or trustworthy. Between participating in tests for the Director, Delta-Six must make allies and escape the facility before the ominous “final exam”.