Telltale Tackles Game of Thrones

Telltale forays into TV adaptations bringing Game of Thrones to the video gaming world.  The first installment was released for the PlayStation 3 last week, and fans devoured it.

The six-episode sage follows House Forrester, a less prominent house which the game could really expand on, and how they move through the war ridden world.  The Foresters span the lands giving view points from Ironrath, Kings Landing, The Wall and Mereen as they interact with character prominent in the show. Happily, these characters are voiced by their respective actor.

Iron from Ice introduces player to the key family members in House Forrester. You begin as Gared Tuttle a family squire who delivers the House’s sword when the Lord of the house is killed. The children Ethan, Talia, and Ryon deal with taking over the house and the pressure of Ramsey Snow. Meanwhile, Mira is in King’s landing trying to get help from Margaery Tyrell.

Overall, it is a fantastic game. The controls are fantastic as Tell Tale has learned a lot since that first Walking Dead Episode.  The game is smoother integrating the right and left hand easily. Game-of-Thrones-Telltale-6

The atmosphere is typical of Tell Tale Games, and the opening sequence from the TV show is recreated in the game high lightening the major places on the episode. This is a great homage making the show seem more organic. The only downside to the atmosphere is that many of the background become blurry like hazy paint brush streaks and characters become blurred when walking past these areas.

The plot continues in the Game of Thrones tradition, so be prepared for betrayals and deaths galore. In fact, this episode packs a huge emotional punch reminiscent of the work of George R.R. Martin. Download Telltale Games A Game of Thrones and become immersed in Westeros.

Devastation is All That Remains

Fans have eagerly awaited Telltale Games Season Two of The Walking Dead. The first episode doesn’t disappoint. The game has actually improved from the first season with better control and ramped emotional impact.
“All That Remains” is one of the most emotional episodes to date. After losing Lee in Season 1, Clementine has caught up with Omid and Krista, and the trio travel through the zombie wasteland. But the reunion is short lived.  Within minutes, a beloved character is dead, and Clementine is on her own to face the zombie hordes. Creating this loose so soon in the beginning of the episode truly drives home what a devastating and lonely world it is. Not only do you lose humans, but an animal friend turns foe.  The level of violence in this turn of events is quite shocking. Truly, Clementine (and the players) can trust no one, human or animal.

This episode also contains one of the most cringe worthy scenes. Between the comics, the show and the games, zombies are common place and it takes much creativity to gross viewers out. Telltale goes a different route. Instead of goring up the zombies, Clementine has to sew a gash in her own arm. Players must do this stitch by stitch listening to Clementine pain and shrinking away as if it were their own arm. I haven’t cringed this much since Rick and Glenn put on zombie guts in the first season of the TV show.

Finally, the controls have been updated allowing players to use both hands to guide the action and attacks. Gamers also move Clementine in new ways, ducking under objects and side stepping walkers. This rounds out the game play and makes the game less clunky.

The Walking Dead Season 2 is set up for success. But the biggest question is this: can Telltale produce nonbuggy episodes on a timely basis. Time delays and buggy episodes will be it’s only down fall.The-Walking-Dead-Game-Season-2-game

400 Days Later

The Walking Dead: 400 Days

Platforms: PSN, PC, XBLA, iOS

Rated: M

The latest installment of Tell tale Games The Walking Dead acts as a bridge between Season 1 and Season 2. 400 Days connects past actions to the upcoming season. 400 days refers to time at which each story takes places. The stories culminate on Day 400 with Tavia.

The short download is six missives introducing six characters that will really shape the future of the next Season.  Playable in any order,  players get a look at how each character responds to the zombie crisis.  Players follow Bonnie and her two friends as they race through a corn field.  Vince is stuck on a prison bus when the outbreak strikes, while Wyatt is being chased by a psycho path while Russell comes across the same guy while hitchhiking.  The fifth story is of Shel and her younger sister and their road to safety.

The stories are brilliant delving  into the human psyche and how one  reacts to the impending apocalypse. More so than previous installments, your actions truly change the plot. For example, I had two people go with Tavia while my brother just had one. In Season 1, the changes were minimal never truly changing the plot.

The story does succeed at making some connections between the new group of survivors and Lee’s gang.  This is small though. Some of the actions take place at the same mile stones and players finally learn what happened to Vernon and the cancer survivors.

Fun and original, 400 Days leads the way into what is sure to be an amazing new season.

Want to play in chronological order?

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Follow this sequence:

Vince

Wyatt

Russell

Bonnie

Shel

Entering Columbia

Reveling in Bio Shock Infinite

SOILERS AFTER THE PHOTOS.

Entertainments franchises often suffer as sequels are produced. Video games are notorious of this as they try to develop new and innovative game play. Designers feel a need to give players an even better experience than previous installments. The companies complicate the game mechanics and deviate character back history with detrimental effect to the game.  But some developers know when great is good enough. The makers of BioShock knew what they had and that fans wanted that.  BioShock Infinite melds familiar game mechanics with a new and intriguing story.

Infinite takes players out of the water and flies them into the sky. Gamers play as Booker DeWitt, a man with a mysterious past but with a concrete mission. In order to erase a debt, Booker must travel to Columbia to rescue a girl named Elizabeth. He knows nothing about her or this floating city in the sky but he quickly learns that he is not favored by the Prophet Comstock. Comstock rules over the idealistic floating utopia and holds Elizabeth hostage. Booker must battle the townsfolk as well as a resistance group to save the girl. Things become complicated when Booker learns Elizabeth has unique powers that make her a danger to this world but a help to Booker.
Infinite is the spiritual sister of the first two installments. The core elements are here: take an Average Joe throw him in a world free from government regulation, science has run amok giving people the power to throw fire or possess others and a girl is at the heart of the matter. A girl who is innocent and played upon by the villain to do his own dastardly agenda.

These facets continue to work weaving the past elements in new worlds allowing fans to relieve the excitement and intrigue while personalizing Booker’s tale for this new adventure. Elizabeth’s talents are different from any Little Sister’s and adds a new dimension to the game play (pun intended). Because Elizabeth can open “tears”, portals to other demensions, allowing Booker to by pas obstacles, call in reinforcements, and relive certain events.

The first person game play is still the same. Magically elemental damage in one hand, gun fire on the other. This helps veteran players not become confused with new game play mechanics which can be a problem with sequels. Instead, gamers fall into that familiar pattern of melee, shoot, and destroy.  The developers added several unique elements to allow Booker’s journey to be his own. The new Skyline is thrilling though somewhat confusing for battle.  It allows the player to move quickly around areas and even lets them shoot from the line. I personally found the aiming difficult, but loved the skyline attack when you dismounted. Booker can also pick up gear that gives him special abilities as he tours Columbia including the ability to add elemental attributes to his melee attacks.

A welcome addition is Elizabeth herself. As an AI, she is quite intelligent. She is neither a target nor a fighter and gamers don’t have to worry about Eluizabeth’s safety. She stays out of the way, peroidaclly providing health and ammo when the fight seems over. She finds cash for  Booker cash which you no longer have a cap on.

The game would rate as high as the first BioShock except for the ending. Like a conspiracy episode of The X-Files, the game leaves you with more questions than answers. The conclusion is unsatisfying and promises of DLC make me wonder if the ideas will be explored more in additional content. But why should players have to pay for more content for a concrete resolution. (For a detailed Discussion of the ending, read below the pictures).

BioShcok Infinite is beautiful and bug free. It is intriguing and beguiling whipping gamers into the world of Columbia. It remains true to the original game play (unlike a certain zombie franchise I shall not name) and philsphies leaving players with an Andrew Ryan taste in their mouths. Too bad the conclusion didn’t deliver the punch of the first one.

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Taking Apart Infinite’s Confusing Ending

SPOILERS

The first BioShock installment contained one of the best twists in video game history. The twist made the conclusion almost another game entirely as you realize you have been fighting the wrong villain. Infinite attempts to do the same concluding with an ending that made you rethink the game.

Infinite leaves the twist until the final scenes and leaves little time to truly explain the confusing and metaphysical ending that had been created. Saying that Booker was Comstock was a twist that made little sense to the plot. It seems that both version of Booker to kill the other. But why? The player’s character was trying to save Elizabeth from the evil version of himself. But was Comstock holding Elizabeth and why would he create a tear to capture here? The game does not explain at all why the alternative Comstock/Booker is bringing the girl across. What tool was she being used for? There was some talk of a syphon, but there was not a successful resolution.

Infinite goes for the shock of your character dying. But that is no longer a shock. It was when Fallout 3 was released and a fitting end for the Mass Effect Trilogy. But instead of Booker’s demise wrapping up the story, it just cause more questions. How was there a version of Elizabeth left? Why did he regenerate in his office after the credits? What the hell is going on?

The final issue is that Infinite pulls out a useless, superficial dalliance with the world of Rapture. Elizabeth pulls them from the sky to land momentarily in rapture. You catch a glimpse of a Big Daddy and Little Sister, and then they are gone. It was a cheap connection to help fans identify this game with the previous. I was so excited because I though, we were going to end up with a great twist that would connect the stories. But it seems it was just a coincidence that Elizabeth’s name started with an “E” and was referred to as the Lamb.

Fans have been promised DLC and my hope is that it expands these ideas. But is this fair? To pay for the game as well as extra content just to get the full story? I am not saying this is the case, but if it is, it’s a new low. The only other thing more dastardly is the buggy release of Fallout New Vegas.

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Giant Sparrow’s Swan Song

The Unfinished Swan

PSN Exclusive

Games for download only are quickly becoming popular but haven’t been taken very seriously. Often these run as episodes that aren’t released on time or are filled with bugs. But every so often a downloadable game shows that they are capable of unique premises and quality gaming.

The Unfinished Swan takes a peculiar concept and invents a twisting puzzle game. A young boy’s mother dies and all he is left of her is her unfinished paintings. One day his favorite one, a swan, comes alive and goes missing. In his search for the swan he is taken in the blank canvas with only his mother’s paint brush to survive with. The boy must move through the painting’s worlds to find out the true story about his family.

This puzzle game arms players with a paint brush or garden hose depending on the chapter. At some points you must paint the scene to finish building it or make vines in the garden grow to find a new path. The outside of the box thinking is reminiscent of Portal. Players must manipulate their surroundings to get to their destination. More than just splattering paint, players must navigate dark areas and house building to reach the missing swan. These challenges flex the game play of a game that could potentially be boring.

The Playstation version is programmed for a regular control as well as the Move Controller. But the mechanics of the Move are sloppy, and it is hard for players to aim the camera in functional manner. Switching to the regular control makes the game easier and manageable. Unlike many downloadables, I didn’t run into constant bugs or issues with game play.

The game is rather short, and I blew through the five chapters easily. While there are balloon collectables, replay values is not high after a completion. Like Portal, a player has to give themselves enough time to forget the solution in order to get that puzzle solving high.

While not high on story, the unique game play and thought put into the game is a refreshing foray in a world of shooters and survivor horrors games. Giant Sparrow proves that the public loves a game that makes them think outside the box.

A Second Visit to Silent Hill Turns to Hell

Silent Hill Revelation 3D
Contains Spoilers

The genre of video game movies has always had a torrid past. Sometime decent films are made (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil), but the majority of them are just horrid. One of the best adaptations was the original Silent Hill. Created by people who played the video games either before or during the filming process, it was a labor of love that brought a video game world to life. While it took some liberties with the original game concept, the beauty of the landscape, the casting, and shot for shot sequences from the first game make it a true adventure in Silent Hill.

I had high hopes for the second movie installment Revelation 3D, but it was an ill-conceived mash-up of the games and poorly thought out new ideas. The movie is schizophrenic: it goes off on its own story but pays homage to so many ways to the games. Only gamers would get the significance of the one red shoe in the hotel or the fact that one of Heather’s other names was Mary. But the story goes off course convoluting the story of Silent Hill 3 and taking on a life of its own.

Silent Hill Revelation tells the story of Heather, the teenage version of the Sharon in the first movie. Her and her father now named Harry, live a gypsy life style moving often and changing their names. Heather thinks it’s because Harry killed a man; she has no idea she is on the run from a cult. This cult isn’t some Jim Jones group of wackos; their God is real and has trapped the members in Hell on Earth. This hell differs for each visitor shaped by their own sins and fears. When her father is kidnapped, Heather and one of her fellow high school students head back to Silent Hill to rescue him.

Robbie the Rabbit and Heather Mason

At its core the plot mirrors that of the third game. Heather is found by a private detective who was hired by Claudia to bring her back into the fold. She uses Harry to drag Heather back in. But the plot similarities end there. The private investigator Douglass is no longer her companion. The film writers have warped the Samael worshipper Vincent into Claudia’s son and pawn. Leonard is actually humanoid (with a wonderful performance by Malcolm McDowell). Harry doesn’t die. The list goes on and on. For a Silent Hill fan, this is a farce, turning beloved characters into something new and obscene (pyramid head being beat up by another creature? Please). Silent Hill Revelation is the bastard child of Hollywood and gaming.Let me take a moment to complain about Vincent. As my favorite character in the third game, I was dismayed to see how his character was warped. He was no longer the bookish scholar whose talk indirectly stated that people saw Silent Hill differently, but a high school student sent by Claudia into the real to retrieve Heather. While Kit Harrington did well with what he was working with, the character is a sham to any one who knows the character. Unlike Cybil (who the casting department took seriously and cast Laurie Holden perfectly), he is the most disappointing character adaptation in the series. I would have accepted three actors to play Vincent: Jackson Rathbone, Matthew Gray Gubler, or Cillian Murphy. At least Harrington has good hair.

There are some merits. Most of the casting is pretty spot on. Douglas’s voice is great, and Heather is perfect. (I wish I could tell you more about Carrie-Ann Moss as Claudia, but she was only in for about ten minutes.) The 3D is fun and adds to scares to the creature arracks. Robbie the Rabbit is insanely creepy. The music is either directly from the games or created by Akira Yamaoka himself. The town of Silent Hill is still beautiful and very much reminiscent of the game, and with the music, is haunting. But the movie doesn’t spend much time in Silent Hill itself. A valid complaint of many of the game, it is a fatal flaw of the movie.

The second fatal flaw is that this movie leaves behind everything that made the first movie good. The movie relies too often on heavy CG and many of the creatures lose the organic look of the first movie. While CG has to be used in a movie like this, part of the scariness in the games is how real everything looked. The first movie understood this perfectly. The current installment also focuses more on the bloodiness and shock value. Cooking people alive, cutting off arms and fingers, and the sexual assault of a mannequin are in your face and disturbing instead of psychologically disturbing. It seems odd to make that complaint about Silent Hill which has a history of disturbing images. But it’s never been about gore, and all physical reactions are from a sense of psychological dread. Revelation instead relies on cheap scares.

Is this a good movie on its own? I can’t tell you. As a devoted fan, I have yet to emotionally remove myself from this project. It will take another viewing to decide the merits of it as a stand alone film. Though I fear, even trying to watch Revelation as a separate entity, the movie will not fare much better.

But the end did leave me happy. SPOILERS: Harry goes to look for Rose ala Silent Hill 2, Travis Grady picks Heather up to take them out of town, and we see Murphy Pendelton’s prison bus head in. For the first time, I truly felt embedded in Silent Hill.  If the rest of the movie could have been this spot on, it could have been as good as the first.

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Hell Has Never Been This Much Fun

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

PSN, Xbox Live, PC

I am not big of films or TV shows with comic violence. I hated the fake blood sprays in Kill Bill and hate the gratuitous gore in horror movies. I can’t watch operation scenes on TV shows and can’t stand when someone guts a zombie. But I have a fascination with entertainment that contains these aspects: The Walking Dead, Nip/Tuck, and House M.D. The latest of these? Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit.

I am in love with this side scrolling platforming video game. SEGA takes hell, comic violence, and twisted humor and wraps it in a player friendly package. Its animated cartoon look keeps the violence from being gore and keeps it from being at all realistic.

Players take control of the ruler of Hell, a dead rabbit with a fondness for rubber duckies. When pictures leak on-line of him and his buddy, he must destroy the photos and the creature behind the leak before the Netherworld is no longer afraid of him. Players go through 10 levels with a variety of abilities including jet packs, missiles, and a variety of guns. Players can dress their rabbit in a variety of costumes and complete challenges to unlock new goodies.

As a gamer who not good at platformers, I was surprised how much I liked this game. The game play was easy to handle and each death taught me something new about each situation. There were not instances of death because I couldn’t make a certain jump on time, and the battles were more than that just bounce and wack. To kill bosses and mini-bosses, players must complete a mini-game that tests the player’s mental and physical dexterity. The mini-games are not random, allowing players to learn the certain mini-game and easily defeat the creatures.

The biggest draw is the absurdity of the plot, scenery, and violence. Red paint blood spurts and pieces of creatures that look like steak are insane and frivolous making it hard to confuse real violence with the pixilated carnage. The skeletal rabbit and octopus with a monocle are just examples of the fantasy world this game operates in. While not for every gamer, Hell Yeah! Is very entertaining for those of us with a twisted humor.

Arkedo Studios continues to show that small, downloadable games can sparkle with pizzazz and fun. Making a very kitsch game, the French developer gives the Japanese side scrollers a run for their money. Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is perfect for gamers with a sense of humor that is a little “off.”

The Walking Dead Episode 4: Around Every Corner

PSN, Xbox Live, PC

The newest episode of Tell Tale Games The Walking Dead comes with less bugs and a tuned up frightening system. In the penultimate installment, Lee and company finally make it to Savannah but find neither Clem’s parents nor a boat. Instead they find streets full of zombies, an underground group of cancer survivors and a mysterious sub-division free from zombies.

The group arrives in Savannah and the first order of business is to find a boat. But their plans are quickly waylaid by the town’s bell ringing brining in hordes of zombies. In the mad dash for shelter, they separated from Chuck, and the remaining survivors find a vacant, but fortified house. At the house they learn that animals don’t turn into zombies, and find a child zombie that really shakes Kenny up. His only concern is finding a boat and getting out. They run into another survivor named Molly (who had been ringing the bells so she could travel the town unperturbed) but get separated when geeks attack. While Lee is looking for safety he runs into Vernon, a doctor, and his cancer survivors support group. Vernon and support member Brie decided to help Lee break in Crawford so they can get medical supplies for Omen and the support group. The sub-division Crawford is zombie free but the survivors have radical ideals about surving. Children, elderly, and the sick are killed or kicked out of the compound. The group finds even more atrocities than they imagined when they break in for supplies.

The fourth installment has improved technically over the last two episodes. While some players have made complaints about saves not carrying over, I have had no issues. Some loading time are lengthy but with no disappearing Ducks or conversation cut offs, this is nothing. I was also excited to see that they made changes to the fighting system. My long complaint that you have to use the same finger to aim and shoot makes for difficult game play has been changed. For PS3 users the fire button is now R1 making the infrequent battles scenario much easier and less frustrating.

I do have one issue with the writing. When Lee finds Crawford full of zombies, an answer does seem fourth coming. But when they find a video of a pregnant woman killing the doctor forcing abortion, the group easily accepts this idea as the cause of the zombie outbreak. This issue with continuity bothers me because since this game is set before the events of the comics, how do they know that when you die you turn into a zombie and therefore an out break occurs? Are the makers assuming that viewers know this information and take for granted that the characters don’t? Or was this simply overlooked by the writers? Or do they know something we shouldn’t?

Overall Around Every Corner plays well and delivers emotional impact. As the characters brace for the final showdown, the conclusion becomes clear. Now if only the voice on the radio was just as clear.

The Walking Dead Episode Three: Long Road Ahead

PSN, X-Box Live, PC

Rated M

The latest installment of Telltale Game’s episodic video game based on The Walking Dead comic debuted to hungry fans with more deaths and more bugs. Once again, after downloading the add on, I was prompted to download a patch to correct some issues. But unfortunately this didn’t even fix all the bugs.

This is the latest string of games to release with known issues. Silent Hill HD collection was riff was with problems that have only been corrected for the PS3 version and any gamer knows the debacle with Fallout New Vegas. This is the second time this series has had an update on the first day. Episodic games, unlike TV shows and, now, movie franchises, are not created in a lump sum. This inevitability leads to release delays and apparently bug issues. The continued lateness of these games are a perpetual downfall for this series, and I don’t think the original goal of having all five episodes out before the TV version starts October 14 will not be met.

The second episode was action packed and kept you on your toes; now this episode slows down to really focus on the characters, their conflicts, and their choices. There is a lot of satisfaction for games to finally see our choices play out. The plot unfolds differently for players and their choices than it has in recent episodes making the player feel that their choices really do matter.

Lee must investigate the disappearance of supplies that Lily is not authorizing. Finding the culprit leads to a bandit raid, the troupe leaving the motel, and, ultimately, the death of a fan favorite. The issues between Lily and Kenny FINALLY come to a head, and Lee has to deal with the problem with only input from the player. The ensuing chaos leads the gang to an abandoned train and dealing with the side effects of one of their own being bit. There is plenty of zombie action, but the key to this episode is the character drama.

This has always been the biggest draw to TWD. TWD is a character driven comic, show, and game. It is our bonding with this character and the fear of loosing them that endures us to their plight in the zombie apocalypse. In this episode, we really see growth from the youngest of the crew. Ben must face complex feelings and deal with making adult choices. Clem herself matures though she has more growth to go before she’s really ready for this zombie world

The only drawback to this episode is the bugs. Early in the episode, when I made choices it cut off character conversations and there were times when Kat was holding an invisible Duck. But these were minor issues. I am still unhappy with the game play mechanism (aiming and attacking with the same hand) but I knew that wasn’t going to change. But these do not keep you from enjoying the well scripted game.

Emotionally moving and building up towards an explosive finally Long Road Ahead overcomes its bugs to provide a solid TWD tale.

Airtight Games Puts Players in a Frustrating Conundrum

 

Quantum Conundrum available on PC, PSN & XBLA

 

I absolutely love the Portal Series. I love using my brain to figure out the puzzles and enjoyed the wit of the villains. Quantum Conundrum tries to mimic this in its set up. QC has the same first person views, rooms modeled like test chambers, and a disembodied voice guiding you through the process. But most similarities end there. Swapping sci-fi for a fun cartoon look, QC delivers a good atmosphere that is destroyed by the game play.

QC is about a young boy who has been dropped off at his uncle’s mansion. His uncle is an eccentric scientist who narrates you through his immense estate granting you use of some of his experiments. Your goal is to restore power to the house and find your uncle with the aid of a dimension altering glove. You can make things fluffy and light or heavy, slow down time or invert gravity. But certain areas only allow you to use certain dimensions. Your task is to use the various dimensions, figure out puzzles, and platform your way to the house’s generators.

Giving the game the moniker of a puzzle game is actually misleading. While there are some elements of puzzle gaming, QC is more a platform game than a puzzle one. Players use the four dimensions to finds ways to throw, jump, and dodge obstacles to complete their task. The plat forming is grueling taking a precise timing and angles. The game play mechanics are too clunky to achieve these requirements and even veteran platforms spend their time doing the same obstacle over and over and over again.

A prime example of how a puzzle quickly descending into a plat forming nightmare: furniture stacking. In one area, players must figure out how to reach a platform to get to one of the game’s collectables. The solution is actually simple but stacking the furniture and jumping up them is clunky and due to the controls aren’t very precise and you’re left rearranging and jumping for a frustrating amount of time.

The games offer some replay values with challenges and collectables, but the game play deters from retrying levels. There are plans for two more sets of downloadable content, and unless the game play is some how made more user friendly, the frustration wouldn’t be worth the money spent.