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I’ve been playing games for a very long time. I’ve seen many different types of games come and go, become popular and lose their popularity. I’ve seen genres die, and genres come alive. Currently, in this day and age of video games, the popular thing to do is make games as cinematic as possible; to try and mimic a movie. Game after game I play I notice that I’m watching more cut scene than I am playing and even when I’m playing, the developers make it seem like I’m still watching a movie by taking the gameplay and adding dynamic camera angles or cinematic quick time events; all of it working towards a more movie like experience. And to me, this couldn’t be farther off from what I expect from a video game.

Not to say that there is anything wrong with video games being cinematic. One of my favorite series of all time is the Metal Gear Solid series, and those games pride themselves in being incredibly cinematic, with hours after hours of movie like cut scenes. So no, there is nothing wrong with a video game trying to imitate older forms of media. But sometimes, I just want to play a game. And that’s when a game like Lollipop Chainsaw becomes my saving grace, because it’s the most video game like video game I’ve played in a long time.

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I hadn’t played a Mario game in nearly a year and a half. Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out in the summer of 2010, and that was the last I saw of the Italian plumber until this winter in 2011, with the arrival of Super Mario 3D Land. Yes, you read that right. Not Super Mario 3D. Nintendo decided to get a little more creative with their names this year, opting out of simply adding a 3D to the end of all their games, instead giving them a little more personality, and in the case of Super Mario 3D Land, the title describes the game perfectly. The 3DS iteration of classic Mario combines multiple games, from the amazing 2D platforming of Super Mario World on the SNES, to the more modern 3D worlds of Super Mario GalaxySuper Mario 3D Land has it all. And it was good timing too: Nintendo’s newest handheld console, the 3DS, hasn’t exactly had the brightest history so far. From delayed and canceled games, to a drastic price drop not three months after launch, nothing seemed to be looking good for the newborn handheld. But despite Nintendo pushing remake after remake into our faces, early adopters have been looking forward to the promise of a brand new Mario game since day one. And let me be not the first to say that Super Mario 3D Land was well worth the wait. The game gives life to the console and gives meaning to its existence. Without Super Mario 3D Land, my 3DS would still be sitting under a pile of clothes in the corner. The game is the first “must own” title for the 3DS.

Read the rest of the review here, on Guide2Games. 

So Portal 2…

UPDATED after spending more time with the console: 3/28/11 (Updated sections are marked with a red ***)

***Fighting a broken bike, freezing rain and a dark city, at 11:30pm on Saturday the 26th, I rode myself down to my local Walmart to pick myself up Nintendo’s newest console, the 3DS. I’ve had my eye on the console for quite a while now, and after hearing of the games coming soon for the little device, I knew I had to have it. And boy, am I glad I do have it.

WHAT I LIKED:

The. 3D. Works: No, seriously. This is not a gimmick. The Nintendo 3DS shows 3D nearly on par with a giant IMAX theater (if an IMAX theater only had a 2 inch screen). The main menu alone is proof enough that the 3D really does work; browsing through the apps that come pre-installed, you can see little Miis and pictures that seem to magically float in and out of space itself without the help of a giant pair of two hundred dollar glasses. When you get in game, it takes a little bit of adjusting to find exactly what works best for you (I had problems focusing when the 3D slider was all the way up), but once you do, it’s just magical. The depth is pretty cool, however, it’s when things get up in your face when minds really start to blow. Flying a plane in Pilot Wings and having the jet stream slap you in your face is just an experience unlike any other. This is real 3D without glasses. Believe it. *** I’ve also, now, had the chance to try out Street Fighter IV 3D on the 3DS. The 3D is hands down better than anything in Pilot Wings. Even on full 3D, my eyes never hurt and it was a perfect combination of background images, foreground images and everything in between. If you have to get a game with your 3DS, GET STREET FIGHTER.

The Look: When I pulled the 3DS out of its packaging, I was expecting a LOT more console. What I got was a very sleek, layered look that wasn’t too big or too small. The lights everywhere feel somewhat cool, even if a little unnecessary, and the addition of a dedicated Wi-Fi button is very welcome. The analog nub is worlds above what the PSP has; it actually feels like a controller worthy of a console game instead of a dumbed down handheld version. Over all, the 3DS looks and feels incredibly nice. (However, when you’re using the 3D, you notice EVERY SINGLE LITTLE PIECE OF DUST on the top screen).

The Built In Games: The 3DS comes preloaded with all sorts of goodies. The augmented reality cards are just completely mind blowing, and the Street Pass feature sounds like it could be interesting if it catches on. There are some nice features like taking 3D photos and the same music software that was on the DSi. Basically, even without a game, a person could survive for a good, long while on just preloaded apps.

The Promises: Nintendo has promised a lot with the 3DS; Ocarina of Time, a new Mario game, Game Boy virtual console games and 3D Netflix are just a few of the bigger announcements. A lot of these promises are not in sight yet, but just the fact that they’re there makes me feel a lot better about owning this console now.

The Dock: Plop; my 3DS is charging. No plugging anything in or reaching for cables that have fallen behind the desk ever again.

***Street Pass: Walking through Target today to pick up a new game (actually, my mother was inside and I had to go in to use the restroom), I flipped open my 3DS after a couple of minutes to find that the little green Street Pass light was blinking. Excitedly, I opened the 3DS up to see that I had encountered another 3DS owner! Her name was Gabby, and her little Mii popped up on screen and said “Hi there!” While it wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world, it was pretty cool to think that as I walked through this store with the 3DS closed and in my pocket, it picked up another 3DS closed, and in someone elses pocked and communicated with it. Creepy? Maybe a little. Fun at the same time? Completely.

***The Pedometer: As dumb as this might sound, it’s interesting to see all the steps you’ve taken tallied out onto graphs that you can compare to previous days. You can see specifically when I get up in the morning and when I switch classes during the day just how far I walked (in steps). Small feature, pretty fun.

***The Friends List: While completely lacking right now, Nintendo has created the frame work for an amazing friends list feature. You can add friends just like on the 360 which are listed in a nice flowing chart. The system gives their status (whether or not they’re online and what game they’re playing) along with their favorite game. You can even access all this without leaving game (just press the home button, sending your current game into a frozen state, then you can access your entire home screen). However, right now, besides the “now playing” part, there is no interaction between friends; no messaging of any kind (besides a 16 character limit “phrase). Nintendo is sure to fix this, and when they do, it’s going to be awesome. For now though, it’s completely underwhelming.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

Ouch: After playing for about four hours on and off again, my eyes are very soar. This may be because it’s not 8am and I haven’t slept yet, but my eyes never hurt this bad, even at this late an hour. Granted, I was playing with the 3D slider more than I would have had I not just picked the console up for the first time, but still, I don’t feel like I could play a game in 3D for very long before really feeling the pain. *** After playing with the 3D effects more and more, I’ve realized that because of how big of an area Pilot Wings has, and how much strain it caused on my eyes sliding the 3D slider back and forth, my eyes were obviously going to hurt. Playing two hours of Street Fighter didn’t hurt my eyes in the slightest, and I was playing in a moving van in the dark. I suppose it still depends on the game and on the users eyes, but so far, after that first initial eye strain, it’s not been NEARLY as bad.

The Games: Oh, the games. Quite frankly, this is one of the weaker console launches I’ve ever seen in my lifetime (No, the Gizmondo doesn’t count). No game in the entire line up is a “must have” game, period. You would think Nintendo would start off the life of this brilliant console with a Mario or Zelda or something. But no; we got Nintendogs + Cats. However, like I said, Nintendo is making promises like crazy. Fingers crossed? *** Get Super Street Fighter IV.

The Battery: I got the 3DS at midnight. It’s 8am. I’ve charged it twice already. NOT. COOL. *** However, I just spend the entire day out and about with the 3DS, playing games (both 3D and non), using Street Pass and showing people the augmented reality cards. When I sat down back at my desk this evening, it was just about dead. Think about it: how often are you going to be blasting 3D and wi-fi on your 3DS when you’re outside a place where a charger is handily available? Walking around, you’ll probably have wi-fi on, but the 3D off (it’s hard to walk and use the 3D at all), which adds hours to the battery life. The more I think about it, the more I’m realizing that the battery might not be all that bad after all.

The 3DS really has impressed me. The 3D effects are just effing amazing considering every human who’s ever seen 3D has had to wear those stupid glasses. And yet, right before our eyes, we’re seeing 3D… without looking like dorks. That, to me, is enough of a justification to own this console. Any game that takes advantage of that is just icing on the cake.

Game reviews coming in the future for both Super Street Fighter IV and Pilot Wings, so stay tuned!

***This review was written with little to no sleep at 8am. I am not responsible for weird typos or incomplete thoughts.

Every weekend, Steam, Valve’s digital distribution software, has some pretty good sales on games that range from epic to God awful. Last weekend, they featured the two Penny Arcade games, On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness. I had played the demo of the first episode back on the Xbox when it first came out and it never interested me. However, at 3$ for both of em, I decided to give them a try and I’m certainly glad I did.

I’ve been enjoying Penny Arcade for years now. Their humor is so witty and clever; they’ve become my favorite web comic of all time. This is why I loved these two games; not only was the gameplay superb, but the entire ten hour experience was filled to the brim with the humor that I’ve grown to love from Penny Arcade. It was like reading hundreds of comic strips in a row while playing a very fun and engaging game at the same time.

Both games are based very heavily on Dungeons and Dragons, because Jerry and Mike, the creators of Penny Arcade, play many variants of D&D. A lot of gameplay aspects are taken strait out of an traditional RPG, while others rely heavily on the point-and-click adventure games. Mind you, this is not your average “point-A to point-B” RPG game. The two episodes are more like the Sam and Max games; just insert real, turn based battles. It’s a mix that works incredibly well, and I am ravenous for more.

The first episode was finished in right under five hours, while the second put me at five and a half. However, I’m not finished with these games. Knowing that their won’t be any more episodes for some time, I am feeling the urge to go back and replay these two games on harder difficulties and finish all the missions that I missed on the first play through.

Alan Wake is a video game inspired by Stephen King, or at least, that’s how it feels (though I’ve been informed that King had nothing to do with the games story). The story plays out just like one of Mr. Kings novels: fast paced; created just to keep you on the edge of your seat. The game usually gave me the chills and there were times that got me a little jumpy. The most shocking part? The game is rated T for teen, proving that we don’t need blood, guts and sex to make a scary piece of media (not to say blood, guts and sex are scary, but usually gore tries to play itself off as “scary”, ala Saw which was more “ew” than “AHH”). All we really need to scare is good story telling and relatable characters.

Oh, and the sense of helplessness at all times goes a long way in the scariness factor.

Alan Wake uses light and dark as a large factor in its game play mechanic. It basically smears it all over the screen that “DAY TEH GOOD DARK TEH BAD!”. The enemies you fight are completely invulnerable to your guns and fists. How do  you kill them? Your trusty flashlight (Duracell: Smart Power *thumbs up*). After you blast the baddies with some serious lightage for a couple of seconds, they become human again instead of dark monsters, making them stoppable with your firearms. It’s a great gaming mechanic, one that really can send you into a panic when you have to change batteries on your flashlight and someone is already on top of you with an ax or if you’re running towards a light with bad guys behind you and Alan starts to get tired and slows down. The game does a very good job making you nervous.

The environments in the game are bloody brilliant, to put it bluntly. When running through the forest (which you do a lot) the trees swaying in the wind look gorgeous. The darkness power swirls around cars, buildings and trees, forming a sort of black smoke. It all looks very creepy. I found myself awed by most of the environment settings. This is certainly the best looking game I’ve seen in quite a while.

Unfortunately, as has been the case with a lot of recent games, the characters look like they just jumped off into the uncanny valley with an anvil tied to their leg. I’ve seen better face models in much older games. Some other recent games have been having the same problem with their character models; they look terrible but move the way that humans do.   Maybe this is a sign that we’re getting incredibly close to bridging the gap of the valley; we’re getting much worse right before we get perfect.

The voice acting was also taken very seriously in Alan Wake, as is the tradition in Remedy Entertainment’s games. The voice actors do a very good job creating real personalities for Alan, his wife, the dark creatures (which have some distortion on their voice to make them even creepier) and other various people that live in the town. Along side the voice actors is a very well scored soundtrack. The inclusion of some in-house rock added a small but brilliant touch to the game (when you get to that part in the game, you’ll see what I mean).

The only real problem I have with Alan Wake is that by the end of the game, I just wanted to know how the story ended. While I enjoyed the gameplay when it was new and fresh, at the end of eight hours, I had my fill and was ready for it to just be over. The story kept me playing though, because it was just so darn good. There are some collectibles to find, including pages from the book Alan is writing, but I found it easier to go online and look them up because I would always miss a single page or something stupid like that and I didn’t want to bother playing the entire level again to find one missing page.

Alan Wake is a brilliant looking game with a story that will stay with you for a long time, but it’s held back by semi-repetitive game play and some bad facial models. Regardless of it’s low replayability, it’s still worth your time and could possible be seen at the end of the year when voting starts for the “Game of the Year” awards.

This is my first actual review on ReflectionGamer, and it’s not even of a AAA game. Hysteria Project is a game that was originally released for the iPhone and iTouch about a year ago, but just recently re-released as a PSP/PS3 mini for just under 2$. It is one of the only games that is entirely real footage; it’s more of a movie with a little dab of special effects than it is a video game.

The premise is interesting, to say the least. You watch a live-action cut scene, you come to a decision that the character has to make. Then the video cuts out and you’re given two (sometimes three) options to choose from. The movie then continues in the way that you chose. We see the entire world in first person, which is a nice effect. All this works on paper, and very well could work in a game, while but Hysteria Project starts off strong, it crashes very fast.

Likes:

The Atmosphere. Even when the game slows down and gets less and less interesting, the creepy forest that the main characters is running through sets a hopeless and dreary mood to the entire game. The building you start off in has a very “psychotic murder” feel to it; right off the bat, you feel in danger, you get the feeling you’re going to die if you don’t do something to escape. When you run outside and down the first path you see, you can feel the danger behind you. Glancing backwards and seeing the ghostly figure with a knife pursuing, you can’t help but be at least a little scared.

The Concept. Have you ever been watching a movie and right as the main character is about to walk into a trap, you yell “No, don’t do that!!” to the screen? In theory, Hysteria Project lets you live that fantasy out; literally controlling a movie. The live action shots that have multiple outcomes is a very smart and creative idea.

It Tried. The game really tried to be scary. It tried to be something new and different. I’ve seen a very small handful of games use live action scenes, but not a single one use them as the main gameplay. Hysteria Project tried to be something completely different, and for that, props.

Dislikes:

The Death of Immersion: The beginning scene gets your nerves on edge almost instantly. Your heart starts to beat faster and you begin to become the character, to fall into the game. Then, the screen fades and the game presents you with two options: “Search around” or “Try and loosen the ropes”. While it’s understandable that in this sort of game, we have to make choices about what will happen next, the way that the developers decided to go about that kills the mood entirely. If I was watching a movie, and every time the character had to choose between two paths and a giant bubble popped up that said “The Character is thinking, please wait.”, I’d walk out of the movie. The developers could have figured out a more creative way to go about making choices in the game, one that doesn’t involve killing the mood entirely.

Repetitive: The beginning choices given to you are very branched. You proceed on different path depending on how you choose. But, a mere five minutes (only three or so choices) into the game, you notice that when you make a wrong choice, you either die or are set in a infinite loop. When you get stuck in one of several infinite loops, you are made to watch the same scene over and over again until you either figure the puzzle out or you are allowed to proceed due to luck. The deaths endings aren’t even anything creative. I was given a choice to walk forward or walk to the left. When I chose forward, the game just gave me a game over sign, no explanation farther than “you noticed something was wrong”. Very uncreative on the developers part. The game makes you play like they want you to play, which defeats the purpose of this sort of game in the first place.

Quality of the Scenes. For a video game that is entirly real life footage, you would think that they could have invested in a better camera. Even the iPhone, which isn’t too much of a gaming system, can play back better quality video than what Hysteria Project uses. The videos are grainy and blurry, sometimes so much so that it’s hard to tell what is going on. This problem kills mood and makes the game suffer. The worst thing is, it was a very easily fixed problem. Had this game been higher quality, in terms of video, it would have been a much more immersive game.

Sound Problems. Maybe it was just me, but after a few minutes, I noticed a popping in my sound, which became very annoying; I was wearing headphones. I’ve no way of knowing if this is a problem with the game or my PSP, but either way, it detracted from the game.

As much fun as Hysteria Project could have been and as creative as the concept actually is, the game fails to be scary or fun past the first five minutes of “gameplay”. The breaks in the mood, the low quality videos and no fun re-playability all add up to a very mediocre game that could have been very fun.

I first picked up Fallout 3 this past summer. Sam, my cousin, had it and insisted that I give it a try. Well, me and Sam, have pretty similar tastes in games, so I figured I’d trust him and I took Fallout 3 for a spin.

Let’s go ahead and get this right out in the open: my playing conditions for Fallout 3 were terrible. I was A) playing on a TV so bad, it made the thought of smashing rocks into your eye sockets sound like a good idea, B) I was playing with a constant glare in my TV due to the fact that the sun loves to annoy us all night throughout the summer in Alaska and C) I was also playing with incredible sleep deprivation due to B).

So yeah, I hated Fallout 3 when I first played it. I found it way too hard to get into. I put it away to never touch it again…

…that is, until I got my modded Xbox. A friend burned me a copy of Fallout 3, and told, nay, COMMANDED that I play it. I figured I should give it a fair chance since I was back home and on my huge TV under optimal gaming conditions.

Once again, the game started off incredibly slow and I found myself bored. TheAllGamer (Zachary Walton) told me to keep playing and threatened me with physical violence unless I played it (or maybe not… I’m sort of fuzzy after that random hit on the head when I stopped playing Fallout 3).

So I kept playing.

And it got better…

…and better…

…and now, at a measly seven hours into the game, I’m finding myself putting Darksiders aside and immersing myself into a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C.! It’s very addicting, and the VATS system (a system that basically freezes time, let’s you aim in on a certain body part and gives you detailed information on how much death you’re about to bring down upon your enemies) is a very intuitive idea, and it’s one of the main reasons I’m playing Fallout right now.

I’m worried that the main story line is going to get a little dry, because, even this early on, it’s already starting to get stale. But, with the purchase of Broken Steel, a downloadable add-on, I can play past the ending of the game and go back and do all my side missions! And, I got it for only 5$; thank your “Deal of the Week” on XBL. W00!

Alright, so basically, Fallout 3: One beast of a game and, while similar to Oblivion, I’m actually enjoying it.

*looks at Final Fantasy XIII*

Frik… I’m so stuck

*sobs*

I would be playing you right now, I really would.

*bashes head against wall*

*bleeds*

By the way, this marks a new Category for Reflection Gamer: Reviews. I’ll be marking all the  games I write substantial information about with this tag.

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