Category Archives: Video Game Reviews

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2: Pac Is Making Quite The Comeback

Everyone’s favorite chubby chomper has had quite the resurgence these past few years. Bandai Namco has plastered his unmistakable likeness to new downloadable games, made him an official member of the new Super Smash Bros. and given ol’ Pac his own TV show. Last year’s video game tie, Pac-Man and The Ghostly Adventures, was a solid, but not to0 memorable romp through the cartoon’s varied worlds. This year’s sequel expectedly arrives with a few new elements here and there, but it maintains the mediocre quality that its predecessor exhibited.

Once again, Pac and his best buds are set on a mission to stop Betrayus’ new evil schemes. The plot here is your typical Saturday morning, half-hour story fare so there’s nothing too interesting occurring this time around. You’ll take on the role of Pac-Man and run around various worlds that open up as you complete entire sets of one. Each world comes with a nice variety of platforming sections that pit Pac-Man against moving platforms, plenty of ghosts and tricky jumps. The abundance of power-ups and enemies to chomp on are your usual Pac-Man platforming fare. Each world and its fitting themes look good enough. The familiar sounds associated with old school and new school Pac-Man should put a smile on fans of all ages, too.

Pac Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2

From time to time, you’ll come into contact with certain items that change-up Pac-Man’s repertoire of moves. Pac’s bouncy form lets him smash crates and hop to higher ledges, while his Ice Form allows him to freeze water fountains and use them for extra platforms. These mechanics are fun to utilize, but the majority of them have been seen before. Most of the platforming sections and Pac-Man forms seen here harken back to the last game, making this sequel a retread that’s decent at best. Sure, eating hundreds of pellets and eating tons of ghost in succession is fun at first. But doing these activities over and over gets tiresome real fast…

Pac Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2

The only fresh and new play mechanics added here are the on-rails shooting stages that include Pac-Man’s friends, Cylindria and Spiral. There is some extra fun to be had as you shoot down airborne ghosts, blast through obstacles, collect pellets and nab the highest score and medal you can. Nabbing high scores and medals across the game’s many worlds are fun in short bursts. But the all-too familiar gameplay and not-so-new Pac-Man transformations may bore you before too long.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 is just more of the same. The game itself is a solid platformer that includes a few gimmicks that may keep younger games around long. As for the older crowd who may have taken a chance on the 1st game in the series, there isn’t much new and fresh to get attached to here. This sequel feels more like a inconsequential upgrade than an actual improvement to a somewhat decent prequel.


 Images: Bandai Namco Games

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The Evil Within Review: Survival Horror Gets A Satisfying New Game

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” FDR’s most poignant statement rings true here, but The Evil Within gives way more things to be afraid of. Shinji Mikami‘s one of gaming’s most prolific developers thanks to this work on the Resident Evil series. His newest survival horror adventure adopts the best elements of his former games and offers in a brand new package that’s equal parts terrifying and enjoyable.

The Evil Within’s plot is pretty hard to fit into one simple summary. From the start of the game, you take control of a veteran police detective by the name of Sebastian Castellanos.  Sebastian and his allies in the force respond to a distress call from an insane asylum. Upon their arrival, they come upon a gory scene and a mysterious individual with frightening abilities. Sebastian is forced to deal with all the puzzling horrors that populate his physical and mental being as he looks to discover this powerful villain. The story doesn’t become quite clear for a while, which can be annoying for some. Moving through each chapter means will get you closer and closer to the overall storyline, but getting there definitely takes some time.

The Evil Within

The game’s mechanics should be a breeze to anyone who’s played Resident Evil 4 and its long list of successors. Sebastian is controlled from a behind-the-back, 3rd-person viewpoint. As you should expect, the aiming/shooting controls are mapped comfortably to the shoulder buttons. Sebastian’s arsenal includes a pistol, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and a very special crossbow that goes by the moniker of “Agony.” Shooting down dozens of haunting creatures feels very satisfying and visceral, as you have the ability to aim at different body parts. Performing one hit melee kills also feels great (in a sick and twisted sort of way).

The Evil Within ditches the run and gun gameplay of Resident Evil’s post-survival horror status and adopts its more traditional survival horror antics. Ammo is scarce, there are rare moments of sunshine, plenty of violent goons are on your tail and mind-bending puzzles await you at various intervals. You’ll no doubt get sucked into the madness that takes over Sebastian at times. Moving into the plane where you upgrade and save is a harrowing but memorable experience all unto itself. The rest of the game’s jump scares and intense boss encounters guarantee you’ll be on edge but also be in the middle of having fun.

The Evil Within

The biggest issue with The Evil Within comes from its graphical hiccups from time to time. As cut scenes begin, it’s hard not to notice the texture pop-in and rough visuals. The dark interiors and heart wrenching environments fit the mood of the game, but they appear to be a bit rough and unfinished. The monster designs are nothing to scoff at though. Once you set your eyes on a certain deformed canine and relentless female creature, you won’t ever forget them. It’s just too bad that the graphics take a hit from time to time during the more involved scenes of the game. As for the sound, everything is just right in the audio department. Getting entrenched in this survival horror adventure feels even better with headphones on.

The Evil Within

The Evil Within is a quality horror adventure that revives the feeling of dread and unimaginable fear that was present during Resident Evil’s early beginnings. While the plot takes a bit long to start becoming clear and the visual hiccups are damaging, the overall experience here should be experienced. You’ll want to discover every creepy crawly and disturbed nightmare that lies within The Evil Within.


 Images: Tango Gameworks, Bethesda Games

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Review

You probably passed up on Sleeping Dogs upon its 1st launch back in 2012. This super underrated open-world action game set in Hong Kong surprised gamers who played it, due to its tightly written plot, immersive combat system and excellent world. Now that gamers have moved on to the next-generation of consoles, the game’s developer (United Front Games) have done a clean-up job with its much appreciated game.  In 2014, Sleeping Dogs has been given a new lease on life with this Definitive Edition.

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition

This remastered version of the game does a fine job of improving the visuals to an impressive level. The crowded markets, dark alleyways, rambunctious crowds and hot rod’s existing in this game’s version of Hong Kong looks even more detailed. The rough graphical patches of the past-gen version of the game are practically existent. Venturing out into this game’s crime-filled world is a better experience thanks to the 1080p graphical fidelity and much improved textures. The added details of extra traffic and pedestrians is a cool but non-impactful addition, though.

Sleeping Dogs gameplay is still as strong as its initial version. For those who don’t know, you take control of Wei Shen, an undercover police officer who’s looking to take down the most volatile Honk Kong Triads. As you venture throughout this game’s murky underworld, you’ll get involved in multi-man melees as you fight for turf control and drive away rival gangs. The good cop persona of Shen will task you with aiding the police during criminal skirmishes, undercover stings and high-speed chases. For those who love the gang part of Shen’s lifestyle, the abundance of ever-changing missions are ripe with fun and plenty of replayability. Both sides of the law provides equally engaging modes of play.

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition

Along with the excellent main story campaign, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition comes with a host of much-needed extras. The two additional side story campaigns are present here, thankfully. The fantasy filled story campaign and good cop duty fulfillment missions are both fun in their own right. The tight fist to fist gameplay makes these missions and the main story campaign a very entertaining experience. The gunplay doesn’t falter behind the melee combat and the driving aesthetics control much better than some of its open-world gaming peers.  The extra DLC costumes are all present here as well.

While this Definitive Edition is nice to have, it’s notable upgrades honestly doesn’t make this game a worthy second purchase for those who have already played it. The improved visuals and full suite of DLC is fine, but it’s mostly worth checking out for franchise newcomers. The game itself is still a joy. Returning to it with this new re-launch won’t be much of a priority, though.

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition does a great job of making the game’s gritty Hong Kong look even more amazing.  This game’s full package of DLC content is a worthy treat for first time investors, but it isn’t much of an important re-buy for those who have already taken down the Triads.


Images: United Front Games, Square Enix Games

Bayonetta 2 Review: Is This the Best Wii U Game Ever?

PlatinumGames are the go-to video game developers for the most over-the-top, mind-bending action games of the current era. Their first major contribution to the world of gaming came in the form of Bayonetta, an amazing Devil May Cry-esque action/adventure that was filled with personality. The Umbra Witch, we’re all embarrassed to admit we’re in love with, has gotten another go against her angelic rivals. Plus, she’s got a bone to pick with the demonic forces that give her some of her power. She’s back for more action in the Wii U exclusive, Bayonetta 2.

Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta and her hilarious band of allies spend a seemingly normal day together a few months after their first adventure. A quiet day filled with holiday shopping quickly erupts into an insane amount of ridiculous circumstances. We see Bayonetta fighting angles on top of super fast jets and moving trains, plus dealing with a disobedient demon on the side of a building. This mind-blowing sequence of events is merely the prologue, which should clue you in to just how much more insane this game becomes.

Each chapter of Bayonetta 2 revs up the intensity and never lets up. For fans of the first game’s mechanics, there is so much more to love here. Bayonetta’s arsenal gets amplified and her moveset potential becomes unlimited this time around. Her hand/foot handguns are back, along with the newest additions of double katanas, a massive hammer and even a set of fire/ice cannons. The intense combat sequences feature the familiar angelic enemies that game is known for, but a new batch of powerful angels offers fresher battles. The addition of demonic hordes also gives you a bunch of new faces to torture.

Bayonetta 2

Speaking of torture, Bayonetta still has the power to humiliate her enemies in satisfying ways. She can still dodge attacks the very last second and enter slow motion, plus she can still summon huge monsters to finish much larger foes. The brand new Umbran Climax ability makes the combat even more of a blast, as it makes Bayonetta unstoppable thanks to this mode’s more visibly powerful attacks. Each chapter introduces old and new enemies to exact your flashy combos upon.

The plot itself is easy to grasp. Bayonetta foe-turned-friend Jeanne gets her spirit trapped in Hell, which leads to Bayonetta going on a journey to retrieve her soul. Along the way, Bayonetta joins up with old friends and runs into a magical young boy and a dangerous warrior with powers that rival her’s. The cut scenes are worth sitting through thanks to the abundance of risque body maneuvers, comedic lines of dialogue and well-crafted action sequences. The story here is just as crazy as you expected it to be.

Bayonetta 2

On a single-player level, Bayonetta 2 is a tight adventure that can be completed in 10-20 hours of play depending on your playstyle. Once you’re done venturing into the Depths of Hell, you’ll definitely want to return (crazy, right?). The replay factor here is off the charts, thanks to additional difficulty modes and the need to test out more of Bayonetta’s big moves. The amazing cosplay outfits that adopt the characteristics of Nintendo characters are actually worth taking advantage of. The multiplayer Tag Climax mode offers a ton of more content value for players who want to smash angels and demons together. Plus, you have an HD version of the first Bayonetta to dab into. There’s so much to enjoy here.

Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta 2 is the Wii U’s first masterpiece. The best elements of this game’s predecessor return and get that much better with a new offering of weapons, moves, modes and costumes. The hilarious yet still serious story, great mix of characters and abundance of video game easter eggs will appeal to everyone. Bayonetta 2 is a must buy.


Image Credits: PlatinumGames, Nintendo, Sega

Halo 4 Review: You’ve Left an Impression of Sorts on Me

Once upon a time, or more like ten years ago, this female gamer decided to buy her very first Xbox because she played Halo at a friend’s house and fell in love.  Ever since then, a passionate love affair has existed between her and subsequent Halo games, so of course you could expect her to highly anticipate Halo 4.

But as with most love affairs, there are ups and downs, sacrifices to be made, and compromises to be had.  Halo 4 is like a compromise, but one that’s growing into a hopeful up.  After playing through the entire campaign, all of the Spartan Ops, as well as many hours of multiplayer, here are my initial thoughts and reactions to the game.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.  DO NOT READ IF YOU’RE A HALO 4 VIRGIN.*

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CAMPAIGN/SPARTAN OPS

Story – The plot surrounding Master Chief and Cortana’s survival and of course the continuing salvation of the human race has little issues and runs very fluidly from one level to the next (and oh, man, is Cortana’s rampancy excruciating to watch).  Many fans were wary of how the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana would play out considering the fact that neither is actually romantically tied to the other, but 343 Industries stayed true to that status, keeping the couple’s relationship based 100% on mutual trust, dedication, and shared experiences.  How this will play out in future games, though, will be interesting not only because of the apparent loss of Cortana, but also because Master Chief suddenly has to deal with the fact that he has emotions that she slowly pulled out of him, and that he is more human than he’d like to believe.

My only concern with the campaign was that outside of the immediate Chief/Cortana storyline, there are threads of stories that tie in to theirs that are never truly explained or satisfied.  For example, Halo 4 starts 4 years after Chief disappeared, and suddenly humans are fighting the Covenant again, a fact which is never explained.  The game also starts with an officer questioning Dr. Halsey about her involvement with Cortana and Master Chief; the only valuable information we get out of this is that the leaders-that-be consider Chief to be dead and they want to replace him.

However, after finishing the first five Spartan Ops, my husband and I watched the video that was released to us for completion, which clarified one of my concerns about the story.  I must say that if 343 Industries planned to leave these threads in the campaign unanswered simply to be filled in by the Spartan Ops videos and other supplementary material, all I can say is that they made a genius marketing decision.  I’ll want to make sure I can download every single video to get the entire story, and I’m sure many other players will be hooked on this method of storytelling, too.

Gameplay – A blast.  I only experienced one glitch total, and the rest of the time gameplay was tight, fast-paced, and purposeful (there never seemed to be a ridiculous  number of enemy waves or useless confrontations of any sort).  Many new weapons are introduced and though I could get into the benefits and drawbacks of all of them, I think in general that the Promethean/Forerunner weapons are not impressive and tend to be lesser versions of both human and Covenant alternatives (this is especially true in multiplayer).  Personally, though, I am glad to see the beam rifle back, which was my favorite sniper weapon for quite a while (yes, even above the human sniper) even though I’m not that good at sniping.  However, the binary rifle is quickly becoming my top favorite because of its smooth, quiet functioning.

The new Promethean enemies were fun to figure out considering they are purely digital constructs, a concept that may be hard to grasp at first for some Halo players because we’ve never fought enemies of this sort before.  Specifically, I love that the Knights are able to teleport closer to you and swipe their swords right across your face.  The experience was different from previous games, which made it a challenge and forced me to stay alert and interested in the game the first time through.

Music – I have to throw this in here because I simply fawn over all the previous Halo soundtracks, even ODST.  At the initial load screen of Halo 4, a haunting, single female voice starts chanting in the style of ancient Celts or even Egyptians, reminiscent of the original Halo theme of a monk-like, a capella chorus.  I was excited to hear the rest of the score as I continued play.

However, there were several instances throughout the campaign where I felt that something was amiss, and I finally pinpointed the issue ¾ of the way through the game: the composers brought in too many horns for my taste.  The horns overpower the strings on a fairly regular basis, which is frustrating because Halo music became famous because of its ability to combine what normally doesn’t get put together (strings, guitar riffs, drums, and chorus) in an epic, powerful wave of sound.

On the credits list, I couldn’t find either Martin O’Donnell or Michael Salvatori, composers for all previous Halo games, which would explain why the score for Halo 4 sounded different.  The new composers seemed to be going for the traditional heroic sound with triumphant horn crescendos, but I prefer the old-school Halo strings and monk singers any day.

MULTIPLAYER

Gameplay – In general, 343 Industries has some work to do on multiplayer.  Almost every game that I played (that loads properly) had some sort of glitch or situation where, even if I wasn’t doing that well, should have turned out a bit more in my favor.  Then again, I’m sure many players right now feel this way.

Multiplayer feels like a throwback to Halo 3, where reactions seem slightly lagging and less tight than what Halo: Reach achieved this last year.  I know many disagree with me, but this is what I have experienced thus far.  Melee has a split-second pause from when you pummel to when the enemy dies, or vice versa.  Sometimes the Spartan abilities don’t load at all, which makes sense then that you can’t always call in ordnance properly, either.  Grenades are pretty bouncy and may or may not go off where you’d like them to, and let’s not even get started on how unbalanced the weapons are.

Weapons/Vehicles – No, actually, let’s talk about that.  As I mentioned earlier in the Campaign section, I felt that the Forerunner weapons were crappy versions of human and Covenant weapons.  The bolt shot, for example, is a less powerful version of a human pistol, and the suppressor is good for what its name implies, but little else.

The only two Forerunner guns I prefer are the rail gun and binary rifle; otherwise, I avoid all else in favor of traditional Covenant and human weapons.  This could be because I am used to these, but I truly feel that the Forerunner weapons have good uses in the campaign, but are hard to work with in multiplayer.

In regards to vehicles, I think that the Mantis, though a great new addition as a vehicle, is overpowered and will probably have its damage infliction reduced in future updates.  It’s a bit much to have a Warthog, Mantis, AND Banshee coming at you in some of the maps, and nearly impossible for the team not in control of these machines to have a balanced and fair game.  Fortunately, though, the Banshee and Warthog have all remained in similar states to what they were in the past, and haven’t received any game-altering updates.

Maps – We need some diversity.  Right now, most maps are medium-sized spaces that really don’t allow for proper one-on-one combat nor long-range options.  There’s no such thing as a massive Sidewinder version nor lots of compact maps like Blood Gulch.

My other problem with the Halo 4 maps is that they involve lots of little environment details that unfortunately only hang you up as a player.  My husband and I have had several instances already where we get caught on a branch while we’re backing up, or where the Warthog wouldn’t drive over a rock.  That seems really inconsistent when you’re a freaking Spartan warrior and can supposedly flip over a Warthog all on your own; I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be able to crack a branch under your foot.

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So there you have it.  As a Halo fan since the original game, I am disappointed in the multiplayer experience this week, and yes, I do realize that 343 Industries is most likely receiving constant feedback and planning to implement patches on a regular basis.  However, since 343 kept their promise to stay mostly true to the Halo universe in regards to the Campaign and Spartan Ops missions, this is why I am calling Halo 4 a compromise in my love affair with the entire franchise, a compromise that will hopefully grow into a more positive experience over time.