Monday, February 22, 2010

Heavy Rain review: Choose Your Own Adventure

Heavy Rain by Quantic Dream is not your typical game; there are no powerups, no extra lives, no high score. Nothing there to reassure you that you're doing something good, nothing there to stop you when you're doing something bad. You don't play Heavy Rain - Heavy Rain plays you. The sooner you realize this, the better you will savor this experience.

I'm sure you've already read reviews describing the storyline and the game, so I'll just tell you this - be prepared for a wild ride. Never in my life have I ever gripped the PS3 controller tighter than when I played Heavy Rain scene after scene.

Know how tense you get when you really get into the action sequences or dramatic moments in movies, sitting at the edge of your seat, clenching your fists and grinding your teeth until the moment's past? You're gonna get that sensation with a thriller like Heavy Rain - except you're smack in the middle of it, and the story won't stop.

Don't get the gameplay mixed with the QTE (quick-time events) of other games - Heavy Rain won't, for the most part, wait for you to enter the right input. All your actions bear consequences, whether immediate or not. And while the beginning of the game puts you in training wheels to get the hang of things, later events will require fast reflexes and quick thinking that won't stop until the scene is done.

The graphics and voice acting themselves serve adequately as a good delivery mechanism for the thriller's gritty atmosphere. The gray undertones are enough to convert the happiest man into a full-fledged emo, and the facial features are convincing enough to invest all your emotions into each scene. The voice acting, at times, can feel a bit off and out of place, but overall sets the mood just right - whether someone's angry at someone, or another person is tearfully crying about a memory.

Even though you're (for the most part) in complete control of your actions and choices, Heavy Rain doesn't give you all the time in the world to make them count. The events that occur in the game are happening on their own timeline, and you really don't have time to play the "what if" game to see all your options. This becomes very real in certain scenes when the dramatic tension demands all your focus on what's happening right before your eyes.

Sure, there is a pause button, and sure, you can replay certain scenes again and satisfy all your "what ifs." But doing so will break up the continuity of your current storyline, and who wants to ruin an already-playing movie anyways?

Besides, you're likely to blow through the game quickly once over, take a break, and start it all over again, just to see what other choices you can make that can alter the story.

Heavy Rain is probably the start of interactive games/movies done right, giving you multiple movies in one package and sitting you in the director's chair controlling all the action. Whatever fate you decide for the 4 playable characters in the game is up to you, and the story that you will create is yours alone to enjoy. In my book, that is the ultimate game customization.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Zero Punctuation review: Mass Effect 2

I give props to Mass Effect 2 for taking a save game file from the first game and taking its choice-driven story elements as markers for the new game's story-telling elements. It's pleasant and satisfying to see consistency, especially when it's of your own.

Unfortunately, the rest of the game doesn't meet up to Yahtzee's razor wit. The NSFW cutting is below, enjoy!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Zero Punctuation review: Borderlands

Seems like everyone's been nagging to Yahtzee to review Borderlands. Be careful what you wish for...

NSFW, as always. Enjoy!

Ghostbusters: The Video Game...ghostbusted! I mean, finished!

This is actually some late news, since I finished Ghostbusters: The Video Game earlier this year. Is is a game I recommend to everybody? No. Is it a game for fans? Yes. Will it fulfill the fantasies of controlling your own proton pack? Definitely.

In a way, I enjoyed how Harold Ramis continued the Gozer arc in the story, in addition to "returning to the watering hole" with a visit to the librarian ghost back from the first film. And all the voice acting from the original cast plus a few extra people was certainly a bonus. The collection of items in game after you finish it is sorta painful, considering that certain weapons become suddenly missing if you return to earlier points in the game and it forces you to repurchase your upgrades. But other than that, it was worth the ghostbusting trip back down memory lane.

Plus, it's another game I can put to rest.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Half-Minute Hero arrives, OCD kicks in

After a quick deal, I bit on a copy of Half-Minute Hero for the PSP. Luckily when I called my local GameStop, they had one more copy left. So I quickly went there, bought it, and left the store. As I left the store, I noticed the familiar vacuum-plastic-wrap around the box and should have realized it was their store copy.

A little peeved, I went back to confirm that it was, in fact, the display copy that sat on the shelves, constantly man-handled by many anonymous people before it was shrink-wrapped and in my hands. But he reassured me that the game was absolutely brand-new, so I couldn't really complain.

Sure enough, the pricing sticker had already left its mark, and the box felt a bit grimy and sticky after tearing through the shrink wrap. So, I swapped the box with one I wouldn't care about - DJ Max Fever - and now happily enjoy my "new" copy of Half-Minute Hero.

I just hate, though, how GameStop dupes people when they say the game is brand-new. There wasn't any lies told - the game was unplayed, therefore brand-new. As for the packaging, well...let's just say next time I'll be doing my 20-questions the next time someone tells me it's their last "new" copy left.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Zero Punctuation review: Dark Void

If there was ever an invention that's passed its time to shine, it's the jet pack. What's the last time anyone remember one? Rocketeer? Well, Capcom remembers those fond times in their latest game and Yahtzee's latest target, Dark Void. A game where you get to fly around in a jet pack. I guess a jet pack would be second to my first "pack" love - a proton pack.

But anyways, away to Yahtzee's chopping block it goes! NSFW, so enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

DLC binge: Braid and Bit Trip Beat

This year, the goal is to be more frugal with my wallet, and, being a gamer, saving money is not so easy. Thankfully, there are games like Braid and Bit Trip Beat that deliver quality gameplay at cheap, if not reasonable prices - something I've advocated in the past.

If you like a soothing soundtrack and gorgeous artwork, Braid is a game that you need to try out. With its tranquil atmosphere, the game almost doesn't feel like a game as you use time-altering techniques to pass the unique blend of puzzles. Add to that a lot of subtle references to popular game franchises, and you have a great package.

Bit Trip Beat's main focus, on the other hand, is to keep both graphics and music as simplistic as possible, driving purely on easy-to-grasp-but-hard-to-master gamplay. And as a reward for your persistance, you're treated to plenty of eye-candy in the form of updated graphics as your score improves. Do poorly during gameplay, and your interface gets downgraded graphically and musically to as low as a simple black-and-white pong-inspired setting. Think of it like a retro-bit version of Rez.

Both games together only cost me only $13.50 in the end, and both games are great to play and gorgeous to look at in their own right. So if you're a true gamer at heart, then you shouldn't mind paying only $6-$7 for something that you'd expect to pay full price on.