Category Archives: Video Game Reviews

Life is Strange – Episode 1: An Engrossing Start to a Supernatural Mystery

Episodic adventure games are in the middle of a well deserved renaissance period. Telltale Games’ popular titles have breathed new life into the genre, which is why other game developers are now following suit. Dontnod Studios has put together a supremely interesting plot line that follows the supernatural mysteries and high school drama of a female teenage named Max.

Welcome to the first episode of Life is Strange – Chrysalis.

Life is Strange Game

Your main character, Max Caulfield, is an aspiring photographer who’s recently made a big move. After leaving her quaint hometown for the big city, she finds herself returning to that quiet town to attend a prestigious private school. Max exhibits the expected qualities of a teenager who considers themselves an outsider, which makes her instantly relatable for some. Her love of photography has driven her to attend such a respected institution. Max’s school mates fill the gamut of the personalities that exist within high school cliques – mean rich girls, varsity jacket wearing jocks, mysterious loners, skate punks and more. There’s a wide host of interesting characters to interact with who come with their own events for Max to intervene in. Getting the chance to play out these events is one of the highlights of this game.

The most important element behind Life is Strange is Max’s newfound power – she has the ability to rewind time at will. Max’s time rewinding skills come into play as you solve simple puzzles and help deal with situations involving your closest friends. The first episode starts off simple enough, as you sit inside a classroom and discover how to make good use of your new time sensitive skills. The story quickly intensifies though, as you’re forced to utilize your rewinding skills to save the life of a close friend. The rest of this episode is filled with even more events that test your moral compass. You’ll be driven to find each and every instance of character interaction.

Life is Strange Episode 1

Life is Strange’s supporting cast is fun to follow. The voice acting here is great, as is the simple yet clean visual makeup of the quaint environment you inhabit. A slew of personalities await at every turn and the conversations you engage in with them are hard to pass up. The trials and tribulations of early adulthood permeates through this first bit of the game. Important decisions seem to occur regularly. Should you tell the school’s principal about a potential threat? Should you intervene when a school security guard bothers a young student? Should you aid a close friend when her stepfather gets out of hand? There are several decisions to make here and the game’s solid story will drive you to strongly consider every possibility.

The time rewinding mechanic of Life is Strange is a cool, no doubt. But this power kind of diminishes the impact of your decisions. Having the chance to quickly change your decisions after making them feels like a cop-out, which may be great for some players who feel a sense of regret and guilt after an important event. This ability is great for navigating environmental puzzles and changing minor events, but it makes important decision making feel unimportant since you can change your mind at the drop of a dime. It’s best if you were left with your hard choices instead of having the power to change them to your liking so quickly.

Life is Strange

Life is Strange’s first episode ends on a high note and will most certainly have you anticipating the next chapter in this strange tale. Max is an interesting young soul surrounded by suspicious characters who present several mysteries to solve. All of these stories, combined with the time rewinding powers, missing young girl and the threat of an impending storm has us ready for another helping of the game.

Images: Square Enix, Dotnod


Dying Light Review: A Fun Parkour Infused Romp Through the Zombie Apocalypse

Gamers have come to notice the types of trends that withstand the passage of time. Badass ninjas, gun-toting commandos and women with irregular chest sizes are just a few of the elements that still play a part in the games we play today. We can also add zombies to that list. While the influence of the undead seems to have grown a bit stale over the last few years, Techland has done a great job of making them prevalent again. Their work on Dead Island has now been carried over to a new-gen adventure packed with even more ways to dodge the undead – Dying Light.

Dying Light

Your main character starts off his journey through the zombie apocalypse as he parachutes into the city of Harran. Your main mission entails the retrieval of a secret file from a local warlord, but you’ll have to go undercover while you do it. Playing both sides of the primary factions while still reporting back to your superiors presents moments of moral decisions that fall into the grey area of doing acts for the greater good or doing them simply to obtain more goods. This game is a lengthy trek through an incredibly vast city. It’s just a tad bit unfortunate that you won’t care too much for the people that inhabit it. The voice acting falters and the character animations are a tad stiff. These knocks on the game’s supporting cast is Dying Light’s biggest issue.

Dying Light

As for the better parts of Dying Light, they’re strongest when it comes to the parkour infused movement. Your main onscreen avatar runs, hops buildings, dodges zombies, baseball slides and dropkicks anything in his way from a first-person viewpoint. The sense of immersion derived from moving so smoothly starts off good enough, but your mobility options get even better as you move around. It feels great as you naturally improve your stats and earn new abilities just by performing movement feats and fending off your enemies. The amazing sense of discovery, wide variety of melee variety and wealth of items that exist around every corner all make this game click on all cylinders.

The majority of the main missions in Dying Light will command you to retrieve some sort of item or perform some daring task for either of the two factions you work for. The mission structure here is decent at best. Being sent out into the dangerous city as a glorified errand boy gets old, but the strong gameplay will push you to keep going. The missions tend to improve at the later stages of the main campaign, plus the fun factor certainly improves thanks to the presence of co-op play. Most of the fun of this parkour inspired romp comes from running around freely, accessing new safe houses and lock picking every chest in your wa. Things really pick up during the evening hours, as more dangerous foes prowl the streets and provide you with a greater challenge that nets you extra experience. There’s so much to see and do when you aren’t in the mood to progress the ho-hum plot.

Dying Light

Dying Light is a surprisingly great game. It has its issues that hamper its overall quality, which makes it an open world adventure that’s rough around the edges. The visuals shine during the day and are appropriately dark during the night hours, the parkour movement feels great and the overall progression/weapons systems is awesome. Even though the game’s many characters and plot won’t grab you, you’ll derive a good bit of fun from running through the contaminated streets of Harran.

Images: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Techland

Resident Evil HD Remaster Review: A Respectable Touch Up of a Classic

It’s pretty safe to say that Capcom’s survival horror series has taken a dive in quality in the past few years. The survival horror elements of past Resident Evil games have seemingly been pushed aside in favor of explosive, action packed set piece moments. For 2015 though, it looks as if the zombified ship is getting ready to steer its course back to its glory days. The first example of this return to greatness is the console wide digital release of Resident Evil HD Remaster.

Resident Evil HD Remaster

Longtime fans who experienced the original Resident Evil back on Playstation, or the update on Gamecube, will fall in love with it all over again. The most noticeable part of this refined version of such a revered game are the overhauled visuals. The backgrounds, lighting and character models all have received a cleaner sheen, which makes the game’s horrifying events all the more impactful. The addition of a 16:9 viewpoint widens out the scope of the camera, which is a much needed option next to the original 4:3 viewpoint. Having the option to take Chris and Jill into the Spencer Mansion with their Resident Evil 5 costumes is also a nice bonus. However, the constant environmental clipping issues and untouched textures of some rooms sticks out like a sore thumb.

Resident Evil HD Remaster

Resident Evil HD Remaster sticks to the traditional tank controls. While they may be fun to utilize just for nostalgia’s sake, they’re really obsolete when compared to the new modern analog control scheme. Getting the chance to just push your character in the direction you want without having to set them in position is a godsend. With these new modern controls comes a minor complaint though. The modern controls present an issue in conjunction with the fixed camera angles. You’ll always have to take a second to properly adjust yourself every time you enter a new camera view. It takes a while to get used to, but the game doesn’t suffer too much because of it. It certainly feels good to juke around all those monsters in the mansion thanks to your newfound agility, though.

Resident Evil HD Remaster

Besides the aforementioned modern controls and fixed camera problem, Resident Evil HD Remaster is still the same excellent game fans have enjoyed before. Venturing through the darkened corridors of the Spencer Mansion and fending off a huge variety of creepy monsters still holds up today. Newcomers and longtime fans should experience the early origins of Capcom’s survival horror franchise.

Images: Capcom

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Review: More of The Same Co-Op Raiding

Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics gave longtime Tomb Raider fans a fun sidequest to enjoy with friends back in 2010, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light . Introducing Lara Croft to the world of top-down, twin-stick gunplay and co-op puzzle solving, this winning formula breathed some life into the stagnant Tomb Raider series that was one so highly regarded by gamers. In 2014, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have once again decided to adopt this formula for Ms. Croft and her accompanying adventurers. 4 players now have the ability to battle an evil Egyptian God in Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

The Lara Croft that ’90s followers have become accustomed to returns here, and this time she has three other allies in tow. All four heroes must deal with the wrath of an angry Egyptian God named Set, which means they are tasked with retrieving the idols of a kinder God and putting an end to Set’s plans. The increased player count makes this missions a lot more fun to engage in and introduces new powers for each player to utilize. Lara and her friendly rival Carter get around using a grappling hook that gets them to higher ledges and allows other players to climb up to them. The two magic-powered characters, Isis and Horus, can lift up specially marked platforms and create shields through the use of their magic staffs. Watching how all four characters and their associated powers work together is one of the better elements of this fun adventure.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

The bulk of this sequel features the same great gameplay seen in its predecessor – action-packed shooting sequences, intricate puzzle solving sequences and plenty of opportunities to collect gems and score more points than your allies. One of the newer wrinkles for this release is the addition of stat-boosting rings and amulets. While the introduction of these items is a nice change of pace, they don’t do too much to drastically alter the gameplay. While these equipped items offer nice bonuses such as increased weapon damage, your chosen character won’t be impacted as much by them. Later sections of the gameplay don’t get too difficult or include moments where your items are dire, so these rings and amulets won’t make much of a difference.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is fun, no doubt. The online co-op, and ‘short but sweet’ campaign provide a nice bit of fun. Solving intricate puzzles and besting the huge bosses you encounter with your buddies is always entertaining. Fans of the past game will certainly enjoy their time here, while others looking for something newer and a lot more improved will be disappointed here. The visuals, audio and gameplay elements of The Guardian of Light are clearly evident here, yet the only real change is the addition of two extra characters. This newest installment in the Tomb Raider series may be enjoyable for some, but its repeated gameplay elements bring this game’s replay value down just a tad.

Images: Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics

Guilty Gear Xrd Review: The Finest of Heavy Metal Fisticuffs

We’re pretty surprised it took this long to get a proper sequel to the Guilty Gear series. For years after the release of Guilty Gear XX, several iterations and spinoff titles have surfaced for this popular anime fighter. Arc System Works went back to the drawing lab (literally) in order to offer its fans the finest dosage of Guilty Gear to date. PS3 and PS4 owners have finally been provided with the hyperactive and wholly intense fighting game they have craved for a while now in the form of Guilty Gear Xrd.

Guilty Gear Xrd

Right off the bat, this must be said – Guilty Gear Xrd simply looks stunning. The redrawn sprites sport a new coat of paint that makes their once harder to spot details more evident. Sol-Badguy’s bulging muscles, Ky Kiske’s flowing locks and I-No’s alluring battle gear all look incredible in motion. The Unreal 3 Engine does a great job of giving you the feeling of watching and playing a full-fledged anime. The many backdrops sported on each arena doesn’t falter in the graphics department. You’ll likely get distracted as you battle on a grand airship, apocalyptic landscape and a lush green forest. The visuals sported in this fighter are most definitely its strongest suit. The heavy metal soundtrack heard here does a great job of increasing the intensity of each encounter as well.

Guilty Gear Xrd

A game that looks this good must have a strong gameplay component to back it up. Luckily, Guilty Gear Xrd’s expert fighting game mechanics are as stronger as ever here. Longtime series staples, such as Psych Bursts and Force Roman Cancels make their welcome return to the fast and fluid fights. The coolest mechanic this 5th sequel adopts is the visual overhaul for Dust air launchers. Successfully hitting your opponent with this attack brings the camera in close for an intense moments that culminates in an airborne combo string. The zoomed-in camera pops up during several climactic moments, such as super moves and Instant Kill maneuvers. This newly added aspect of the game makes each fight more intense and enjoyable than the last.

The roster includes a nice mix of the returning cast and a few new combatants. Series vets such as Sol, Ky, Millia and Slayer make their return against newcomers Bedman, Ramletherl and Sin. The new fighters are fun yet expectedly difficult to truly master. Ramletherl’s use of dual blades tasks players with setting up their attacks well in advance, Sin must be fed on occasion to keep his attacks going and Bedman’s robotic counterpart is a powerhouse that’s full of offensive surprises. The one letdown for the roster is the lack of some past beloved characters. The omission of fighters such as Baiken, Bridget, Jam, Johnny etc. will surely sadden longtime fans.

Guilty Gear Xrd

Another glaring issue for Guilty Gear Xrd is its lack of a truly immersive story mode. The Arcade Mode play through for each character features some short and sweet movie sequences that are mixed in with a deep character moment or two. The obvious translation issues are easy to spot during those text heavy sequences. The battles are straightforward and eventually lead up to a final encounter with Ramletherl. A Story Mode option exists, but its nothing more than an hours long watchable sequence. Sitting through the equivalent of anime episodes without the option to play them is a huge problem for such a grand game. You’ll no doubt feel let down and have no desire to watch the Story Mode all the way through. The M.O.M. Mode and online options manage to maximize the game’s fun though.

Guilty Gear Xrd

Guilty Gear Xrd shines in the visuals, audio and gameplay departments. The varied roster may lack a few series favorites and the true Story Mode offering is a massive disappointment, of course. Yet you’ll still feel compelled to enter this game’s heavy metal arena and deal some damage to your rivals. This stylish fighter is one of those games you surely don’t want to pass up.

Images: Arc System Works, Aksys Games