Archive for the ‘ PC ’ Category

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

Wholly brilliant, Batman!

First, let me say that I am not a comic book fan. I have not read the great entries into the literary canon of works about the caped crusader. To my chagrin, I have not even read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. But I still know about Batman – he’s everywhere. Adam West, Tim Burton, Christian Bale – these are all reasons why everyone knows the Bat.

But none of that matters. Why? Batman is a cracking good game. That’s why.

Forget what you know or don’t know – this game does all the hard work for you. One of the many masterstrokes is in creating a series of collectibles in the form of a challenge laid down by The Riddler. Exploring the crevices, crevasses, crenellations and craggy peaks of Arkham Island will reveal a well-organised mixture of puzzles to be solved. I don’t normally care too much for collectibles in games, but here they add another layer to an already fantastic game. Firstly, solving them earns you experience, which goes towards getting Waynetech upgrades for your batsuit and gadgets. Secondly, it is a mechanic to unlock information about both the game you’re playing, and about the Batman world in general. Imagine knocking on a stranger’s front door and staring in amazement as a kindly old man invites you in for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, and imparts his incredible life story – it’s the same with the collectibles in Batman. You didn’t know you wanted to know, until you knew. So now you know.

Okay, so how does it play? “Well,” is the short answer.

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I have read reviews comparing this game to Bioshock. Yes, it’s that good. Now, I’m not saying it’s like Bioshock – The Dark Knight and Big Daddies are completely separate beasts. However, what does resonate from that comparison is the sense of atmosphere. Both worlds are completely immersive, drawing you in like… well… a decent simile, which this is not. In the same way as Rapture did almost exactly two years ago, Arkham Island has a sense of authenticity, of weight, and of reality. Sure, they’re both comic book realities, but that’s the point – you’re Batman, and this is his world. Welcome to the shadows.

That segues not-so-nicely into my next point: graphics. They’re stunning. Gothic, sweeping, majestic and claustrophobic all at the same time, this is more Tim Burton’s Batman than Christopher Nolan’s, and the better for it. This perhaps demonstrates yet again why it feels so much like Bruce Wayne’s world made flesh – the story is engaging, but almost secondary to the visual impact the game has. Which is a bit like a comic. The plot is intriguing – why is The Joker loose in the asylum, and what does he want? – But it’s never the main attraction. There are some fantastic set-pieces and cut-scenes, too, but I won’t ruin the surprise for anyone uninitiated.

I am hardly the first to mention this, but the voice-work is sublime, too. I certainly can’t think of a game with any better. Kevin Conroy is suitably gravel-throated as Batman himself, and there are some other superb efforts from the likes of Arleen Sorkin. The highest plaudits, however, must go to Mark Hamill as The Joker, who is just perfectly pitched as the hyperactive, murderous, maniacal clown.

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So what else does Batman offer?

Exploration is near-faultless. Areas are limited in a similar fashion to the much-vaunted Shadow Complex (and its direct predecessors, Castlevania and Metroid), so Arkham Island has the feel of an open-world game without allowing you to ignore or overlook your main journey. It beckons you down the correct path like an alluring siren, rather than holding your hand like a patronising child-minder.

Batman also has gadgets. Lots of gadgets. A quick tap of a button will fire your grappling hook upwards, allowing you to swoop around rooftops or glide between gargoyles and fight crime from the shadows. Not only does this make you feel suitably bat-like, it also supports a key function of the combat: planning your attacks. The Joker is not a mug, unlike the authorities of Gotham City, who have seen fit to transfer his legions of henchmen to Arkham Asylum to get in your way. Some of The Joker’s henchmen have guns. Unlike his DC counterpart, Superman, Batman is nimble and a bit mental, rather than in possession of superpowers – bullets hurt. So you need to stay out of their way. Hiding in grates in the floor, using explosive gel to blow up walls, throwing special batarangs, dangling henchmen from gargoyles – these are all options in your arsenal when trying to take down a room full of bad guys without being detected. And watching them become ever more frantic as “detective mode” shows their escalating heart rates and rising panic levels is schadenfreude of the best kind. Taking out an entire room of henchmen without them ever knowing where you are is one of the most satisfying gaming experiences I’ve had in quite a while.

There are also more run-of-the-mill henchmen, who haven’t graduated from Henchman University yet, and so are only trusted with pipes, bats, knives, stun batons and, for the exceptionally retarded, fists. You can tackle these hapless victims in a more direct fashion, using hand-to-hand combat. If you use what I call the “House of Pain” tactic and jump around a lot while furiously mashing buttons, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty beating down the swarms of part-time henchmen. However, that does the combat a huge disservice, and once you’ve unlocked a couple of special moves through the Waynetech upgrades, you can really get down to business in the combat challenges.

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Combat challenges, like the predator challenges, are unlocked by collecting special Riddler trophies. These can then be accessed from the main menu before you jump in to continue your story. The challenges are actually great practice for refining your skills at either combat or stealth attacks – it’s a shame I didn’t unlock more of them before finishing the game, as it was here (rather than in the course of the campaign) that I really got to grips with the mechanics of beating people up and nabbing goons from the shadows. Seeing as they’re also tied in to both World and Friend leaderboards, they’re also highly addictive, and I would say that I’ve almost certainly spent as much time playing the challenges as I have playing through the story. And I’m yet to beat them all.

Sadly, the story does end. Eventually, you will best all Jokers’ minions, thwart his plans, and cross swords with other nefarious inmates put into Arkham Asylum by Batman. But although it is sad that such a brilliant adventure must draw to a close, it is fitting that it plays out as merely another battle won in the endless war against crime, waged by one man and his quest for justice. Just stay tuned after the end credits for the near-inevitable sequel set-up. Roll on Batman: Gotham City.

Hi-Score – Forget Spartacus; I’m Batman. On Arkham Island. Battling the Joker. Come get some.

Lo-Score – some uninspired boss fights. The game ends.

Final Score – 9 out of 10

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Tales of Monkey island, The Siege of Spinner Cay

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Telltale games have struck gold again with the second installment in the Tales of Monkey Island series, The Siege of Spinner Cay. I did not play the first game but I picked up the story quickly. In the first title, The Screaming Narwhal, you had to rescue your wife, Elaine, from the hand of the dread pirate LeChuck. From what I can gather you got rid of LeChuck’s voodoo curse which in result infected all the other pirates with the voodoo pox. The pox not only makes the pirates look rather mouldy but also more bloodthirsty and unreasonable like LeChuck was.

Guybrush’s left hand has a little pox filled life of its own but that does not last for long as its lopped off by the aptly named Morgan LeFlay, pirate hunter. After dispatching her and finding a handy hook replacement you find yourself on the Jerkbait islands where most of the game takes place. The islands are the home to the Mer people, also known as the Vaycalian’s. This is where you find the other plot line in the game. Your wife Elaine if here along with the pox filled pirate McGillicutty. You have to find 3 golden artifacts that are hidden around the islands. These artifacts will help find the Esponja Grande, which is a big sponge to soak up the voodoo curse, genius. The only problem is McGillicutty who already has one of the artifacts and wants the rest. With the help of the post pox pirate LeChuck you have to work out a way to find the rest.

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The challenges are some of the best I have played in any game. Only one had me stumped but the solution was right in front of me. I think if I was playing this without a review deadline I would have completed it with ease. Most of them could be solved with some typical Threepwood logic. I think it’s best to leave your landlubber logic on the side and think like a mighty pirate…ARRR! It’s a good feeling when you solve a puzzle as you get a new witty line and a cutscene to laugh at. This is as rewarding as hearing the bleep bloop of a Xbox achievement. When you are stuck, Guybrush will shout out hints like “I need to find more things to plunder” which fitted seamlessly with the gameplay.

To get your hands on the artifacts you have to explore and search for items. With these items you will solve puzzles much like any other point and click adventure game. But monkey island always brings its own touch to the game with a brilliant script and excellent voice actors. I had a constant smile on my face playing this game and laughed out loud at more than one point. This is key in a game that has you talking to a lot of different characters and some more than once. Every character you come across in the game is genuinely funny and interesting. My personal favorites were two of Mcgillicutty’s pirates, Trenchfoot and hardtack. You have to outwit them to get one of the artifacts and some of the dialogue that ensues is hilarious. My favorite being “Look, a distraction!”

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Looks wise its as charming and colourful as any other monkey island game. All the characters have great facial animations especially Guybrush. The raised eyebrow and cocky smirk just oozes sarcasm. This is what attracts me to the monkey island games. Their wit and charm is the best I have come across in any game. I already want to play the game over and over just to meet the characters again.

The only problem I have with this game is having to wait for the next episode. Like Defmash mentioned in his review of Launch of The Screaming Narwhal the ending can make you feel a bit gutted. Cliffhangers are great but this game is so addictive that you just want to keep playing it. I think I’m going to go visit Steam and spend far too much money on Monkey Island games. I want to meet Murray again!

Hi-Score – Hilarious Script, Loveable Characters, Challenging Puzzles

Lo-Score – Short length, cliffhanger ending leaves you wanting more

Score – 9 out of 10

Just Cause 2

Ok, I’m going back on my word from earlier – but only slightly, I thought I’d bring you some game news. I hated the original Just Cause, I don’t know why, it just never clicked. It all felt a bit stale and rushed, trying to capitalise on the fact that there was no GTA at that time. However this sequel has me intrigued and also, a little excited.

The island this time around looks more detailed, buildings and environments look like they have character. The graphics still look slightly stilted tech wise but otherwise it’s a lovely looking game. But what REALLY intrigues me is the destruction. For all of it’s issues I really enjoyed Mercenaries 2, it was great to just run around blowing everything you saw to pieces. There’s a moment in this trailer where Rico attaches a jeep to the bottom of a helicopter and drops it into a petrol station blowing it to kingdom come. This opens a lot of possibilities and if it can all be pulled off, then this could be a winner.

Wallace and Gromit – The Bogey Man

If you had not heard of Telltale games before then you definitely will have now. They have been flooding the market with a plethora of great adventure games. This is the forth episode in Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures and the first I have played in the series. I thought jumping straight in at the finale might hinder me but I picked up the story and controls with ease.

The game features a tutorial mode which has you running about and clicking away in no time at all. You take control of Wallace thanks to his handy new invention, the Interact-o-Vision. You have to help find Gromit a replacement for his broken chess piece. This gives you an opportunity to learn the controls by using the arrow keys to walk around the room and the mouse to investigate and pick up items. You hold shift and browse your inventory or use the scroll wheel on your mouse which I found a lot more user friendly.

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Once you have the controls sorted you can venture into the game. I was a bit taken aback when I found out I, or more so Wallace, was accidently engaged to his prudish next door neighbour Miss Flit. In the first segment you take control of Gromit who is expertly animated, I took too much pleasure watching him waddle around the living room. You have to use Wallace’s inventions while he talks to the amusing old Mr Crum. I wont spoil anything but you should definitely shoot the porridge gun when he’s in the room.

You head outside to the garden to see Miss Flit speaking to her aptly named Aunt Prudence. Using the Eavesdropper gadget you listen in to their conversation and find out that their hatred of the Prickly Thicket country club. From here you can head into the town centre and speak to a variety of characters including the shop owner Mr Paneer and the pesky Constable Dibbings. You quickly work out that the only way to get Wallace out of his pressing engagement is to get him into the Prickly Thicket country club.

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To get into the club you have to work your way around a variety of tricky situations and puzzles. Some of these are relatively easy, I even found some out by complete accident. But then there are some which had me absolutely stumped. So stuck that I had to break the great gaming code and ask someone for help. I’m not proud of this but if I had not done it I fear I would have ate my mouse. I felt that you could have been steered towards the solutions at these points as I must have tried every possible point and click option but the one I was supposed to do. I like to be challenged but I don’t like to be stuck, some of the items you had to click were buried away in the corners. I did have a lot of fun on some of the challenges, particularly the last one.

In the process of solving one of the puzzles I must have spoke to Mr Paneer about 20 times just hoping he would say something I had missed. The dialogue stood up well to this task as each character had a few different responses to each question. Some voices did grate after a while in particular Duncan McBiscuit the walking talking Scottish stereotype. It was not so much his voice but his irritating laugh. The funniest character in the game was the one with no lines, Gromit. His facial expressions are so well animated and are always timed to perfection. One little shake of the head or eye roll is funnier than any witty line in the game. I actually got quite bored on the Wallace chapters and just wanted to breeze through them until I could waddle around on all fours again.

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I finished the game in around five hours, a lot of that was spent wandering around confused so if you’re a lot smarter than me you might get through it quicker. I came out the game with a smile on my face but sadly no desire to go back thought it. The campaign is short and linear with no mini games or the likes to draw you back, this inevitably affects the replay value. Fans of Wallace and Gromit will really enjoy this game. Fans of other Telltale games will enjoy this too but don’t expect the hilarity that comes with their other titles.

Hi-Score – Impressive animations, Quirky fun, Simple controls

Lo-Score – Frustrating puzzles, some annoying characters, short with no replay value

Final Score – 6 out of 10

Bookworm Adventures 2

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it- a common saying that is used everyday. This saying also feels as if it’s repeated in almost every meeting at PopCap. This is by no means a bad thing, each and every one of PopCaps games tends to spawn a sequel and usually they have only minor improvements over the originals. This can also be applied to Bookworm Adventures 2.

A relatively simple premise really, Lex the bookworm starts his day with a training session – a tutorial in how to play the game – he then follows that up with breakfast. While eating, a few famous fairytale characters dart past him and leap into a nearby book. Wanting to know what’s happening Lex follows into the fairytale world which is the first book that you will play through. The game is played over three books, Fractured Fairytales, The Monkey King and Astounding Planets. Each book has ten chapters and you need to beat grunts and bosses through each book.

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PopCap are known for simple and playable games and Bookworm Adventures 2 is just that. You control the actions of Lex, each punch he throws or attack he makes is a result of your spelling of words. Using a 16 tile grid of random letters you must make up words, the bigger they are, the more damage they will cause to your enemy. If you make a long and damaging word you will be rewarded with one of your letters being given a power up. Each of the different colours is a power up, you can heal yourself with green, burn your foe with red and many more. You will also pick up health, strength and ailment curing potions which can be used however you need to. As you play through the adventures Lex will level up after gaining experience points from his battles, with each level you will be granted anything from an extra health heart to stronger defence.

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Now even though Bookworm Adventures 2 is a simple game in concept and a simple game to play, it’s a very difficult game in practice. Even if you are a clever beast and are able to spell many words, luck is a big factor here as the letters in the grid fill up. You aren’t always given the best letters, so on some rounds you may hit nine letter words but in the next round you may only get a four. This is where the scramble button comes in handy which gives you 16 new letters to try, press it as often as you like, but your enemy will hit you each time you press it. There are a certain amount of tactics to be used, when to use your potions and when to use that big word that you can see.

All of these features will be familiar to players of the first game but there are some new things to look out for. New power downs are thrown at you by the enemies, useful letters are turned into Z’s or Qu’s, potions are stolen from you as they hit you and damage can be reflected back as you launch attacks at them. Another major feature is the sidekicks that accompany you throughout the game. In between chapters you can choose equipment that will help you on your journey, items that nullify stun attacks, add damage to your hits or even boost the power up tiles. But, now you can take creatures with you to help, Mother Goose will lay a health potion for you every four turns and the Chesire Cat will nullify and ailments again, every four turns.

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All of these new features can be added to the new mini games, achievement system and the infinite replay mode. So this is no small step in between games. Bookworm Adventures 2 is a great game to tax your mind but also offer traditional gameplay features similar to an RPG. This game, like the first, is perfect for anyone who is a fan of word games or playing around with letters. It may be punishing at times but with each eight or nine letter word that you spell, you will feel pride. This game offers so much for so little, costing just £14.95 this game will last you forever. With enjoyable gameplay and tremendous humour everyone can enjoy Bookworm Adventures 2. PopCap just keep knocking out great games, can you spell W-I-N-N-E-R?

Hi-Score – Great game mechanic, superb RPG elements, Addictive

Lo-Score – Can be very hard

Final Score – 9 out of 10

When in Rome…what do the Romans do?

I was going to do a large introductory post detailing my history in gaming and my past times as a 24 year old but I thought that would be a bit, well…boring. Safe to say I’ve lived the life of any other kid who grew up with an Amstrad in their bedroom. I’m hooked. At the moment all I have to fulfill my gaming needs is my trusty Xbox 360, which I love.

My gaming journey took me through Nintendo, up to the SNES and N64, “next gen” awaited with the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 then a brief stint on the Xbox before I splashed out on a 360. Through all these amazing consoles and the great games I played there was still one thing missing, PC gaming. I have always had a PC in my life but never one good enough to keep up with the ever improving games. I remember playing PGA Tour back in the mid 90’s and playing games on my friends PC’s through the years. Many an hour was spent at my cousins playing Age of Empires and Civilization 3. I even managed to busy myself playing Rome and Battlefield on my mates laptop in college.

I upgraded my PC last week and now it has the power to play some of the games I have missed out on. My first stop is to revisit the great days I had in Rome Total War. In the past I have only played skirmish battles so had no idea how amazing the campaign mode is. It combines what I love about Civilization games with the epic battles of Rome. Safe to say this game will be whittling away my free time over the next few weeks.

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How can you not love that?

Now I need your help, I need to know what other games I should play. I’m planning on picking up Civilization 4 if my PC runs it and maybe the old Battlefield game I used to play in college. I have no idea what else I should get and would love to hear your suggestions.

Heres my PC specs,

2.70 GHz
2.00 GB RAM
ATI Radeon HD 4670 Graphics Card

So, with that in mind I’m off to browse the Internet and see what else I can find to play.

Aliens vs Predator

I don’t normally get ridiculously excited about future games, I tend to hold myself back from going GAGA over the latest videos and screenshots. However I’ve just received the latest video from Aliens vs Predator, the marine reveal and it looks superb. Everything from the aliens crawling along the ceilings to the lighting effects. Each prospecting scenario makes me feel claustrophobic and on edge, it truly looks like a superb shooter and now I’m getting excited to ridiculous proportions. Everything about AvP holds limitless potential in the campaign modes and the multiplayer, can’t….wait!