Forza Horizon is a fantastic game with an identity crisis. To racing enthusiasts who love the traditional Forza titles, this game may seem far too casual. Likewise, those who prefer arcade racing experiences may be scared off by the Forza title on the box. However, the triumph of Forza Horizon is that it successfully manages to blur the line between simulation and arcade, making for an experience that just about anyone will enjoy. Continue reading
Kingdom Hearts fans are an enthusiastic bunch – up to speed with story and lore spanning more than 7 games across 5 different consoles. There have been 5 different Kingdom Hearts titles to release on portable systems since Kingdom Hearts 2 on the PS2, and many casual fans feel as if the series is spiraling out of control, and Kingdom Hearts 3 is no where in sight. I’ve not played every single Kingdom Hearts game, but I did love the original titles on the PS2, those games captured an amazing sense of adventure and exploration, which is exactly what lured me into Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.
Back in the Saddle
The past few Kingdom Hearts games have starred a protagonist other than Sora, (KH’s main character, if you will). However, Kingdom Hearts 3D finally picks up where Kingdom Hearts 2 ended, placing players back in control of Sora as he explores new Disney themed worlds. For this reason alone KH:3D feels like more of a true sequel than any of the other portable titles.
I think the issue that annoyed players most in the last few Kingdom Hearts titles was the recycling of levels and characters from previous titles – at certain points there were complete boss fights lifted from previous games. It felt stale, it felt cheap, and thankfully, it’s long gone. Kingdom Hearts 3D features plenty of all new worlds to explore, with a few old favorites thrown in, featuring new layouts and characters. (I almost died when arriving in Traverse Town, only to find it had been greatly expanded upon.)
Dream Drop What?
Like previous entries in the Kingdom Hearts series, Kingdom Hearts 3DS features a rather lengthy and convoluted title; “Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance”. The title refers to one of the new elements found within the game known as the Drop System. In Kingdom Hearts 3D, you actually get play as Sora and his life long friend, Riku. Without spoiling too much, the Drop System controls when you play as each character. For example, you’ll get 10 minutes of Sora, then when the timer hits zero, you’ll Dream Drop, and take over as Riku. It sounds a bit strange, but once you get in the swing of things it gets rather awesome. Its almost like playing the same game twice, but from two different perspectives. It was a bold choice for the designers, and was a necessary move for a series that was beginning to feel less than fresh.
Play This Now
Kingdom Hearts 3D is finally, at long last, a Kindom Hearts title that will win over more than just the die hard fans. The game takes the series back to what made it great on the PS2, and adds to the formula. (Did I mention that your team is composed of monsters that you train a la Pokemon?) If you’re on the fence, I recommend taking the plunge, popping in some nice headphones, and watching that gorgeous opening cinematic, and let the goosebumps take over.
Thanks to titles like Little Big Planet, and Mod Nation Racers, it seems as if Sony has cornered the market on creative gaming. Thankfully, Trials Evolution is here, giving Xbox owners an incredible community of creative minded players, all building experiences that make Trials Evolution a game with no finish line.
Trials Evolution is the sequel to Red Lynx’s popular XBLA title, Trials HD. The first game in the series set the stage for Evolution, as both titles feature an amazing physics system, and implement a basic control scheme – easy to pick up, impossible to put down. The Trials games are platformers disguised as motor-sports titles. Each level tasks players with navigating a series of treacherous obstacles that grow increasingly difficult as the game goes on. In the case of Trials Evolution, the moment the single player campaign is over, the real fun begins.
Trials Evolution contains a very powerful level editor, on par with games like Little Big Planet. You can tweak just about every aspect of the game, from the camera, to the physics, to the bike, and it makes for some truly awesome community made levels. There are plenty of traditional “Trials” levels, you’ll race through tributes to movies and other games, (there’s a really well done tribute to Portal 2, and I highly recommend it.) However, there are also plenty of levels that have absolutely nothing to do with motorcycles. Players have taken the camera off the rails, and made full 3D games, such as flight simulators and first person shooters.
Interestingly, the horror genre has sort of blossomed in Trials Evolution, players have created fully functional tributes to Amnesia, as well as their own frightening creations.
I’ve played both Little Big Planet and Trials Evolution extensively, and while LBP may seem like the king of creative, I tend to disagree. Both titles have powerful level editors that allow players to create entirely new experiences, both are essentially platforming games, and both have communities filled with dedicated players. Why does Trials have the edge? Its all in the physics. Little Big Planet has always had issues with physics, something about the way Sackboy handles, its far from being broken, its just not perfect. Trials on the other hand feels incredible to control, even poorly designed levels can be fun thanks to the level of feel and control you have over the bike.
Trials Evolution is one of the best experiences on Xbox Live Arcade – but be warned, the soundtrack is not the best, specifically the intro songs, are a bit rough on the ears. This is my only fault with an otherwise perfect title.
When was the last time you bought a game you didn’t plan on purchasing? For me, that game was the original Darksiders. It wasn’t a long awaited sequel, it wasn’t a production 10 years in the making, it was simply a new game. There’s something alluring about all new IP – it’s like a fresh start, a clean slate, a game that carries no “sequel baggage”. However, part of what drew me into Darksiders are the elements it borrows from other titles. When it launched, many claimed the game was The Legend of Zelda meets God of War, and I can thankfully agree. Darksiders brings together tried and true game components, while managing to create a compelling universe of its own.
Its been more than two years since Darksiders launched, and THQ has called the game a success, at least successful enough to warrant a sequel, which is set to launch in August in North America. The game launched at full price, only to gradually reduce as sales failed to materialize. This turned out to be a winning strategy, once the game hit $20.00 USD, players seemed to take notice, and the title has now sold millions of copies. Clearly, Vigil games has a winning formula on their hands.
At its core, Darksiders is an Action/Adventure title that also manages to blend several RPG elements – the end result is a game that is rewarding to play, even if it doesn’t get everything quite perfect. For example, Darksiders features huge dungeons to explore, yet it isn’t always perfectly clear where your next objective is. Additionally, combat is over the top and satisfying, but executing certain attacks requires button memorization, which can lead to frustration. However, these grievances are few and far between, as I played through the vast majority of this title without any issues.
One of the high points of Darksiders is its fantastic art direction. The game takes place in a city that somewhat resembles New York, several hundred years after an apocalyptic event. The buildings have become ruins, the streets over run with demonic life, and whole areas of the city have become wild deserts or forrests. Put simply, the game has a great sense of atmosphere, and more than makes up for the lack of graphical polish. To be fair, Darksiders came out in early 2010, and the textures certainly show their age, but the this doesn’t hurt the overall experience, as I came away impressed with the world that surrounded me.
When Darksiders is at its best, you’ll be exploring fantastic dungeons that will give seasoned Legend of Zelda fans an experience not felt since the N64, at its worst, you’ll find yourself wandering about, wondering where the room with the next key is. Despite its flaws, Darksiders is an easy recommendation, there’s something to be said about all new game that manages to impress enough people to get a sequel from a publisher on the brink of bankruptcy.
The original Darksiders was an unplanned purchase, and I’ve had such a good time with it, ill be there on launch day for the sequel.