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Tales of Monkey Island: Rise of a Pirate God Review

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After five long arduous months the struggles and troubles of Guybrush Threepwood (Mighty Pirate) come to an end with Episode Five – Rise of a Pirate God. The previous Tales have seen Guybrush battling pox pirates and partying inside a giant manatee, but this tale has the grandest backdrop yet, the pirate afterlife.

The pirate afterlife is a really compelling setting, from the off you’re greeted with some great gags; the grog vending machine that sells cherry grog, diet grog, grog XD and of course…grog; turnstiles, because even in death, life never loses it’s inconveniences. Telltale’s little details really help you become immersed in your surroundings, with the added humour of Threepwood of course. You find yourself at the crossroads of the pirate afterlife which leads to three separate areas – swordfight, thieves den and treasure hunt –  each one with its own situations and characters.

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The task set in front of you is to somehow get back into your body, stop LeChuck, save Elaine and possibly the whole world. Should be easy enough then. The first thing you have to do is find a way out of the afterlife, thankfully LeChuck has already proved this possible, so retracing his footsteps is the key. Through a means that I will not mention, you gain access to the world and get to meet up with some well-known places and faces from the previous tales. It’s nice to see the old familiar characters again and is a good way to tie the whole story together.

New characters also have their chance to shine and two really stand out – Caleb and the “friend” in the thieves den. Caleb, if that is his real name, is a strange little man who is there to give you advice and confuse you in equal measures. The nameless “friend” is someone I want to see more of, a sort-of-rasta pirate thief who loves to show off his impressive skills of thievery. Both these characters contain some great lines of dialogue and add some key refreshment to the gathering of returning characters. You also get a dog, although not as funny as the afore-mentioned characters, he is very handy in solving some cheeky puzzles.

Solving some of the problems in the later half of the game was great fun, switching between situations and combining items are something that TellTale and Monkey Island do very well. I wish I could tell you all the hilarious details but it would ruin it for you. Safe to say, I chuckled, you’ll chuckle, we’ll all chuckle. Especially with the…no, I can’t tell you. Only one puzzle had me really stumped to the point of asking for help.  There is nothing more frustrating than knowing what you have to do but not knowing how to do it. Sadly, point and click games are filled with moments like these and Tales has had its fair share. Maybe I’m just impatient, I’m sure a lot of people would have no trouble with the challenges.

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Frustrating puzzles aside, the story really does thunder along nicely, bringing out compelling twists and real heart warming situations. All the threads that have been laid have been sewn together in the last two Tales and completed in this last story. Few things really bothered me with Rise of a Pirate God – besides some frustrating puzzles – the only thing that really hindered my experience was the game crashing at one point and losing a chunk of progress. From this error I learned to save the game a lot more as the auto save is somewhat lacking. Nothing worse than having to rush through, what was enjoyable game play, just to get back to where you were.

So, Rise of a Pirate God wraps up what has been a brilliant series of games and a resurgence of a classic franchise. Tales not only pleased old school fans, but should have easily brought in legions of new fans with its pick up and play natire and expertly funny story. To quote the Treasure Hunter – “What’s wrong with a little colourful narrative?” – nothing at all, and I want more.

Hi-Score – Great End to the Story, Very Funny, Great Characters, Well…It’s Monkey Island!

Lo-Score – Lack of Autosaves, Some Puzzling Puzzles

Score – 8/10

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Tales of Monkey Island : The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood Review

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It’s that time of the month people, another Monkey Island game has washed up on our briny shores thanks to Telltale games. The series so far has been steadily improving with the last two outings being the best yet. Can Episode 4, The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, continue this trend?

For the first half of the game, it does. The story picks up from Lair of the Leviathan with Guybrush Threepwood getting led back onto Flotsam Island by the back-stabbing pirate hunter, Morgan Le Flay. Threepwood is supposed to be handed across to the evil Marquis De Singe. Luckily however, Guybrush ends up getting arrested for his previous deeds and gets thrown into the, once closed, Flotsam Courthouse.

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The courthouse is not the only area you gain access to in chapter 4 as Club 41 is now fully open for you to explore, and hopefully not destroy this time. It’s nice to have a new setting to explore after having been on Flotsam Island for three games. The bar is full of character: amusing paintings, skull candles (Murray?), crocodile dartboard and of course, grog. At the head of this bar is Judge Grindstump, a great name and a great new character. Although he is a heartwarming, cheery barkeeper, he is an intimidating pox spewing judge.

Grindstump is holding four charges against you: ranging from literally scaring a cat stiff to burning a ladies leg with some hot nacho sauce. Proving your innocence leads you into some great situations. Some needing you to wander back and forth to find the correct selection of items, while others need a bit of good old lateral thinking. Solving these puzzles gives you a sense of satisfaction to go with your big grin, something that – in my opinion – Monkey Island has done, and continues to do, better than any other point-and-click game out there.

Sadly the enjoyment did begin to disappear in the second half of the game as the wander-around-aimlessly-with-indechipherable-map puzzle reared its ugly head again. Maybe it is just me, but I really struggle with these puzzles. After a few attempts to wander around in the correct way greet failure I end up looking up a guide in frustration. This one has been the worst yet as I had no idea where to start, I was literally ‘Grind’stumped.

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Besides the puzzles, the story also took a weird turn throwing up some strange turns that just did not sit well with me. It felt like TellTale rushed the story arc a little; I would have loved to have had an extra hour of gameplay to ease it in. Even thought the story felt a little forced, the dialogue was still excellent. The return of the ever arm flailing entrepeneur Stan was a nice surprise. Other returning characters, beside the residents of Flotsam, include a welcome return of Hardtack, now Bailiff Hardtack of the Flotsam Courthouse, one of my favourite characters from The Siege of Spinner Cay.

Bringing characters back from the previous Tales really helps to combine the separate chapters into one complete story. As funny as the previous Tales have been I have to say that this is possibly the best. Getting yourself out of the dock and proving your innocence had me chuckling throughout. Having done so many things right makes it even more annoying that The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood lacked the consistency of some of the other Tales. Even with these possible errors it is still a very good game that has set up a tantalising finale to the story.

Hi-Score – Brilliantly Funny, Great Characters, Clever Puzzles

Lo-Score – Weaker 2nd Half, Utterly frustrating Puzzle

Score – 8/10

Risen (PC) Review

Two things that are key to my enjoyment of an RPG are an immersive world and a character that I care about. With Risen, Piranha Bytes almost had me. Almost.

When you first wash up on the island it seems like your standard RPG fair. But that is where you’re wrong, Risen is a very peculiar beast. In some areas it excels but in other important areas, it has faults. Your struck by Risen’s odd yet well executed tendencies very early on. You have to find food for your damsel in distress, to do so you have to take the meat off a slain monster. When you have the raw meat you have to find an open fire and a frying pan.

This is one of the things I like about Risen – besides the slow, boring cooking animation – the attention to detail. I loved the fact that as your hunting skill develops you can de-tusk boars and clip birds wings. I can easily lose myself doing these non-story based tasks, even collecting herbs for potions, making scrolls and even finding ingredients to make recipes. It’s just really good fun. But doing these little personal errands means braving the outside world and in Risen and it’s not a pretty place.

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It is pretty in a visual sense, with lots of scenic views and lush forests, but the characters sadly don’t fare as well. You will see the same face over and over, although not so bad at first you eventually lose any connection with the NPC’s. You can talk to one really interesting, compelling character, then turn the corner and there he is again, but it’s just his face (it’s like some twisted island of clones). At least your character looks different, maybe he will be interesting and charismatic, but then he speaks. Dull, charmless, badly acted voice over can ruin a game but gladly in Risen it does not as the dialogue in the entire game is pretty much the same. A few characters are well narrated but these are few and far between. I found myself reading the subtitles and skipping the audio of the conversations which is criminal in an RPG but I had to do it.

There is a good story hidden away under the clunky dialogue. The island is littered with monsters, spewed forth from strange temples that have burst from the land. White Robes of the Inquisition guard these temples and if you don’t want to join them then trust me when I say it’s best to stay far, far away from them. The only other option is joining Don Esteban and his bandits. By joining a faction you get to pursue that side of the story and gain their respect. You don’t have to join a faction right away, instead you can pick and choose your way through the quests, playing each side against each other and getting the best out of each situation.

A lot of the quests are relatively open-ended as you can use whatever skill set is at your disposal to work it out. Are you a pesky little thief? Then pickpocket the items and sell them to the highest bidder. Are you a crafty business man? Then buy the items and make a profit. Or do you just like to beat people up? Then beat it out of them. You dont have to kill people in Risen, you just whack them around a bit then they fall over and eventually get up. It’s a good touch as you can really be a ruffian and not a murderer.

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I tried to stay away from the fighting option as I prefered the more subtle approach of paying people off and then robbing them. Although I love this option it was not one of choice, but more of necessity, as I found myself getting beat up a little too much. The combat in Risen is quite a simple affair – left click to swing your weapon, right to block, dodge by double tapping the movement key –  but somehow I just could not grasp it. Even at the later levels I still ended up spamming the attack button and hoping my health would last out. I’m usually fine against one enemy but against multiple opponents I often find it a bit clunky. They swing around behind you and you have to quite heavily flick through the slight auto aim to target the character you want to block. A few of my key fights I won by managing to glitch the enemy up against a wall then beating them to death.

Monsters are even worse as they are (although impressive creations) really tough to kill. As a low-level character I could not even take down a couple of giant spinerats.  I found myself running through open areas of country with a tail of wolves and giant moths just hoping I’d either run into some help, or they would get bored and leave me be. The one good thing is that the enemies don’t re-spawn, so over time you can empty an area. Normally no re-spawning is a bad thing but there’s so many monsters in Risen that it’s a saving grace. If they re-spawned then I doubt I would have made it past the first few levels. It’s such an unforgiving game to new players, but I kind of like it. It’s nice to struggle at times but at others it made me just turn it off.

Maybe using magic would be easier but I’ve not had time to start a mage yet. One thing that amused me about being a mage is that they’re alcoholics. Seriously. Drinking alcoholic beverages increases your mana bar and, unlike other games, does not have any negative effects. Sounds like the perfect world for drunks. Even if you’re not a wasted wizard you can still use magic scrolls and boy does Risen have some crackers – telekinesiss, healing, levitation and snail metamorphosis. Yes, in Risen you can transform into a snail. It’s actually a very handy spell as you can sneak past guards and through small doorways. Using the spells are key to accessing secret areas and bypassing traps.

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Levelling up makes combat a lot easier and once again, Risen does it in its own strange way. You gain experience the standard way by killing enemies, completing quests and eating the occasional plant. When you’ve levelled up you can seek out a trainer to train you in your ability of choice. You also need to have a fair amount of gold coins to cover the training expenses. I like the fact that you can choose the skills you want but it has its faults. You have to buy the sneak skill which is basically paying for the ability to crouch. This seems a little senseless but maybe I’m just a fan of the Oblivion style of levelling; the more you use a weapon or trait then the more it upgrades. The upgrades are good but I found myself not having enough gold, or not knowing what to spend it on; I want to learn the parry skill yet I also want to be able to lock pick. I ended up with a character who was a jack of all trades but a master of none. It may have been my fault but it feels like you have to go down this route as you can’t get by without a foundation in all the skill sets. Maybe on my next play through I’ll concentrate on one ability and see if I can have more of a stress free time.

As you can tell, my thoughts on Risen are quite varied; there are things I loved yet things I disliked. It was a journey of frustration filled with pockets of fun. As frustrating as it was, it created a refreshing environment, making the world feel real. The creatures were tough from the off set and unlike most RPG’s you really felt out of your depth. The main character, although boring, did feel like an untrained foreigner washed up in a strange land with no one to connect with, no one to befriend. The game successfully conveyed the feeling of unease and isolation which is probably the most impressive thing Piranha Bytes have managed to do.

So, If you’re a fan of RPG’s then go out and give this game a shot. I cant promise you will love it – I’m still not 100% sure if I did – but it’s an interesting game that really deserves to be played. The faults are out weighed by an impressive world, interesting depth and a refreshing take on the fantasy RPG genre.

Hi-Score – Captavating World, Impressive Range of Skills, Unique Creatures, Realistic Enviroment

Lo-Score – Voice Acting, High Difficulty, Poor Characters, Random Bugs

Score – 7/10

Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter Review

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When I was a child I was desperate to be able to draw well. While a friend of mine could concoct fantastic creations, I was stuck with stick men. I tried for years upon years to improve my artistic talent, and it just never really happened. Eventually I took the sensible route and left my ridiculously talented friend to his drawings, while I focused on writing the stories to go alongside the artwork. So when I realised that Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter involved a fair bit of drawing, I could feel the childhood horrors returning. Luckily for those of you who, like me, can’t draw anything more impressive than a stick insect, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter doesn’t rely on drawing as much as perhaps it would have liked.

Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter has already drawn (no pun intended) some parallels to Little Big Planet and I can see why in a way. Unfortunately it’s a much weaker interpretation of Little Big Planet and for the most part it’s an insult to the LBP name to suggest such a link. Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter really doesn’t have the imagination for it.

Playing the game is very simple with a series of platforming levels to be traversed in a very linear fashion. Movement is conducted via the nunchuk with a simple tap of A to jump. That’s pretty much it as ‘killing’ any enemies simply involves bouncing on their head: all very generic platformerish I know.

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The real twist is where drawing comes into things. At first this is quite fun. Upon clicking on a nearby sign with the Wiimote, the screen changes to a basic drawing screen with a palette of different colours and options. For the lazier gamer (or those who truly can’t draw), there are a few template options to choose from to have a predefined image come up. As I’ve already mentioned, I really can’t draw but I do know how to draw a straight line or basic shapes. However this was much easier said than done with the Wiimote! It was so easy to misalign something simply because of the sensitivity of the Wiimote. At times I found myself trying to rest my arm against the armrest of my sofa simply to keep my arm steady for long enough! Wondering in case it was just me, I tested out the drawing component on my young cousins (9 and 7, both avid Wii and DS gamers). It wasn’t long before tantrums broke out and I decided to separate them from the Wiimote for fear of a terrible accident. One of them mentioned having played the first game on the DS and preferring it because it was easier to draw things with a stylus. She’ll be a reviewer at that rate I reckon, because she’s certainly right! The Wiimote just felt too sensitive to be able to draw anything very accurately, which brought me back to drawing stick things or sticking to the ready made templates.

Drawing is also used to form temporary platforms. Some of these are just solid lines to help you get higher up while others are a little more complex. Red lines react to gravity and gradually float downwards as well as do a few odd things. Green lines form bouncy trampolines which make them useful for jumping on to get to much higher areas. There are a variety of puzzles that use each line type which work quite well but are ultimately as average as the rest of the platforming adventure.

Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter did have some moments of greatness. At the end of the first thematic area, there is a sort of boss fight against a huge monkey. Everything about it reminded me of a much simpler Donkey Kong. It was a nice homage though. The problem is the greatness seems to be too few and too far between.

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Simply put, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter is completely average. It does nothing particularly badly but nor does it do anything particularly well either. It’s a great concept but it’s just not used well enough. The drawing elements feel tacked on and pointless a lot of the time, and with even children getting frustrated by the drawing mechanisms, it’s disappointing. With the likes of Max and the Magic Marker coming soon for Wiiware, if you are desperate for physics based drawing title, it may well be worth waiting to see how that turns out first. For a cheap family platforming fix, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter is worth a look but at full price there are so many better family platformers out there, such as Super Mario Galaxy or Lego Star Wars.

Hi-Score – Cool concept.
Lo-Score – Really very, very average.
Final Score – 5 out of 10

Uncharted 2 Review

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I honestly really didn’t expect it to be so good. I guess it was my natural cynicism that made me suspicious of the hype bandwagon when it came to Uncharted 2. That’s not to say that I wasn’t intrigued. I loved Uncharted 1, it was one of the reasons why I bought a Playstation 3. But I guess I just couldn’t see why its sequel would be quite as good as it actually is. You see Uncharted 2 is unquestionably the best game I’ve played this year and will almost certainly remain in this position despite the likes of Modern Warfare 2 arriving soon.

From the moment the game starts there are goose bumps aplenty. A proclamation from Marco Polo appears on screen: ‘I did not tell half of what I saw for I knew I would not be believed’ and immediately I was hooked. That one sentence immediately suggests that things are going to be rather unbelievable. Not in the silly sense I hasten to add, more in the sense that you’ll be lucky to predict what’s going to happen next. This is amplified perfectly when you’re thrown into turmoil in the first chapter. Our ever indestructible hero Nathan Drake is badly injured and hanging onto the bottom of a train which is hanging perilously dangerously over a cliff edge. Drake’s obviously not having a good day at all. This first chapter actually cleverly conceals the game’s tutorial, a great way of ensuring the player knows exactly what to do while not feeling as if they are being treated like an idiot by the game. It also sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the game, plenty of adventuring but also a great sense of urgency to it.

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You see as clichéd as it may sound, many stages of Uncharted 2 really do get your adrenaline pumping. It’s an absolutely horrible cliché which I hate to be resigned to using but, well, it is true in this case! Some of the most memorable moments are the sort of things that really do make you hold your breath until you’ve survived. I’m trying to avoid spoiling too much but with certain chapters centred around surviving against a tank or taking down a helicopter while escaping a collapsing building, this really is high octane action at times (noooo not more clichés!)

The best part for me about such action sequences is that Nathan Drake really isn’t as indestructible as he’d like to be, which is so refreshing to see. Sure he does seem to survive some pretty impressive things but it’s a little like watching John McClane in Die Hard. He wins, but boy does it look hard to do! You’ll grimace when Drake goes smack into the side of a building because a zipline has collapsed, and you’ll wince as he’s punched in the stomach by a cruel enemy. Drake manages to get by but not really in the cool collected manner that the likes of Marcus Fenix would achieve, Drake survives through a bit of luck and mostly his quick wit. He is the type of guy who, upon seeing a tank coming towards him, will exclaim ‘Oh crap’. There’s no hint of arrogance, Drake knows this thing can wipe him out very quickly. It’s great to see a more human character, one that knows his weaknesses. He reminded me of George Stobbart from the Broken Sword games, an extremely likeable character as well as a believable one. One that is flawed and sometimes vulnerable but ultimately this is what makes both Stobbart and Drake such great characters. You can identify with them and their plight so much more than an Arnie style muscle head.

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In between the memorable action set pieces there are also many moments where Drake gets to relax a little more and explore his surroundings a bit. One particularly stunning scene, both graphically and emotionally, was exploring a Tibetan village. Simply being able to take the sights in while wandering around was great and truly showed off the graphical prowess of the game. There were a number of other moments like this where it was simply nice to stand on a cliff top and take in the view. There really is no game quite as beautiful as the likes of Uncharted 2 and I struggled to see any graphical glitches. The various puzzles scattered throughout also tend to require a fair amount of thought. They don’t require MENSA type intelligence but they do take a little bit of thinking about and it’s nice to see them break up the action so well.

I’m tempted to go for the hat trick of clichés and say that Uncharted 2 is like a blockbuster movie, it’s very tempting in fact. Certainly when playing it in the same room as my mother (a fairly decent gamer herself) she mentioned on a number of occasions that not only did the music sound very cinematic and mood appropriate, but that she enjoyed just sitting and watching what I was doing. But it’s not really like a movie because in movies, Harrison Ford doesn’t try to make a jump, miss and die then return to a previous checkpoint. Which is a very good thing as the film would quickly become boring. However that’s not to say that Uncharted 2 isn’t very close to being like a film. I felt as emotionally connected to the likes of Drake and Chloe (and some unnamed people for fear of spoiling) as I would some ‘real’ actors in a film, but it would be wrong to say that the game is just like a film. The best way of describing it really is that Uncharted 2 is an extremely entertaining linear experience. Again this sounds like a disservice but that’s down to most people’s interpretation of linear. Linearity in games really isn’t a bad thing at all sometimes. It means, in the case of Uncharted 2, that it can tell a compelling story and focus on its storytelling rather than offering the player a range of options and moral decisions which inevitably dilutes the story in many games. It’s a true credit to the game’s storytelling that when the ending sequence finally finished and the trophy notification popped up to indicate the game was complete, I actually felt like the notification had detracted from the experience of simply sitting there and taking in what had occurred!

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Besides the single player mode which must be described with so many superlatives there is a multiplayer segment to Uncharted 2. Something that wasn’t seen before in Uncharted 1 and which I can’t help but feel doesn’t really add a huge deal to the package. I guess it can extend longevity to a certain extent but I found it rather uninspiring and the sort of multiplayer that I might play frequently now, but within a month won’t go near ever again. The nearest comparison to it is Gears of War, albeit sometimes more stealthy providing you’re playing with the right group of people. I have to admit I wasn’t too enamoured and preferred sticking to the single player story. It was nice to see a co-operative mode available however and this is sure to encourage replayability as well as the many unlockables that can be acquired and of course good old trophy hunting. With 100 treasures to collect this will also appeal to those who want to search every nook and cranny, although I would recommend this on a second playthrough so as not to distract from the storyline in the first attempt.

Perhaps strangely considering how much I loved my time with Uncharted 2, I wouldn’t call it revolutionary or the ‘most important game EVAR’ because it’s not. Nor is it the great messiah of video games. It won’t convert non-gamers to the hobby or change anyone’s views on the action adventure genre. I’m certainly not complaining because Uncharted 2 is brilliant but original? Well no frankly. A game made up of strong storytelling and great action sequences have been done before, quite a lot (not that I’m complaining). Uncharted 2 does heavily borrow from some of the greats. The fight scenes are very reminiscent of Gears of War (although less gung ho), the stealth scenes have been done before many times, and the platforming has Tomb Raider written all over it. The thing is Uncharted 2 has taken parts of some of the best games of recent years and combined it into a truly fantastic experience. It may have its minor flaws and niggles but to point them out is simply nitpicking and serves no purpose.

Nothing is perfect in this world but that doesn’t stop games such as Uncharted 2 being brilliant. Currently it really is the best game of the year, bar none.

Hi-Score: Once you start playing, you will be hooked. Fantastic plot and perfectly balanced gameplay.

Lo-Score: Multiplayer feels tacked on

Score – 9.5 out of 10

[Note from Editor – Usually we wouldn’t use .5 on Hi-Score. However in this instance after reading Jennifer’s review, it seems justified to use it. With Uncharted 2 pulling in such huge scores, it’s almost expected to get a 9 or 10. So Jennifer has been as critical as she can to bring you, the reader, an honest and factual review. In this instance Uncharted 2 is so close to “perfection” that it hurts. I myself decided on a different score elsewhere, but I think that using a .5 has given Jenn a freedom in saying that there are still things she would change in order to get that perfect score.]

Sam and Max Beyond Time and Space Review

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the point and click adventure was king of the game genres. They revolutionised the way in which interactive stories could be told at a time when graphical and processing capabilities were limited by modern day standards. Rather than focusing on physical challenges, the point and click adventure focused on exploration and puzzle solving tasks. While games such as Myst and the Zork series were distinctly sombre affairs, other games like the Monkey Island series and Sam and Max Hit the Road were much more humorous. Sam and Max was my particular favourite, what’s not to love about a detective duo made up of a sensible, stoic dog and a hyperactive, psychotic rabbit? Fans hoped for more from the duo but for various reasons, this wasn’t to be until Telltale Games picked up the license and ran with it ably demonstrated by Sam and Max Season One and now Season Two: Beyond Time and Space.

As the season term suggests, rather than simply being one big adventure, Beyond Time and Space comprises of five episodic segments. With each episode taking a few hours to complete, it’s a nice way of making the game feel like value for money. It also makes the Season feel like a more rounded product than if the games had been sold separately as some episodes are better than others. The stories range from Sam and Max saving Christmas in Ice Station Santa to rescuing Bosco the shopkeeper’s soul in What’s New Beelzebub. Each story is fairly self contained albeit with the odd overlap and many settings and characters being re-used.

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Telltale Games have done a great job with each of the episodes being very enjoyable experiences. My particular favourite storyline was Ice Station Santa’s where Santa becomes possessed and it’s down to Sam and Max to save Christmas. Any game where you have to collect up action figures based on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has to be given some credit. Throughout the episodes, Sam and Max’s one liners continually made me crack a smile and the barrage of pop culture references were extremely welcome. Max may be a completely insane rabbit who would kill everyone just for the hell of it, but he manages to still be immensely likeable. The same can be said of the ever deadpan but darkly sarcastic Sam. The supporting cast also provides some laughs, such as Sybil the, ever desperate for love, office worker and my favourite: the garage computers. These computers comprise of an abandoned arcade machine, some form of 1980s home computer and a punch hole machine, all with their own, unique (and odd personalities).

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The only real let down for the stories was the third instalment Night of the Raving Dead. The story felt much weaker than others and less enjoyable. Some of the puzzles also felt quite illogical at times which was a tad disappointing. Despite these shortcomings the other episodes were very enjoyable with the majority of puzzles making plenty of sense. Be warned though: some puzzles do provoke a feeling of ‘Doh!’ when you finally figure out just how simple it really is after spending 30 minutes or more pondering what to do next!

Besides the puzzles and typical point and click action, a few minigames make an appearance to break things up a bit. I have to admit that I did find some of them a little gimmicky. Brief games that involve driving over bagpipes or shooting zombies just felt a little bit like they were padding out the length of the game. That’s not to say that they weren’t quite fun for a few minutes but they did feel a little pointless when more puzzles could have been added in their place. Purists of the point and click genre may be particularly peeved by their inclusion.

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It’s great to see a much loved franchise such as Sam and Max succeed so well on a different system, and a new audience. A lot of gaming feels so serious and glum that to play a game which genuinely made me laugh out loud was a great surprise. At 1600 points it may seem like a slightly expensive choice to make on the Xbox Live Marketplace, especially when bearing in mind it is single player only. However I’d say it’s worth every penny if you enjoy witty dialogue and using the old grey matter from time to time. Personally I’m crossing my fingers tightly for a Season Three!

Hi-Score – Consistently funny dialogue and storylines, Sam and Max exude charm

Lo-Score – Minigames can begin to grate after a while, no replayability

Score – 8 out of 10

Warriors: Street Brawl Review

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Warriors, where are you? A question that I sadly had to ask myself multiple times while playing this game.

The Warriors is a cult classic from 1979, a film that was passed down to me by my father, that I now pass down to the younger generations. My experience with this game has left a stain on one of my favourite films, a stain thats going to take some time and possibly therapy to remove.

The side scrolling beat ’em up is one of the oldest genres in the book, made famous by such classics as Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, both of which ate up a hell of a lot of gaming time in my youth. The fundamentals are simple, move your character from left to right smashing up any and every thing in your way but somewhere down the line Warriors Street Brawl got it wrong. The controls are very simple, one button to kick, punch, throw, block, run and jump; combing these will result in different combos and specialist tricks. Using any of these moves will dispatch a foe with relative ease but when your attacked by multiple enemies the cracks begin to show.

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You hold block, waiting for your chance to swing back but it never comes. It’s almost like the enemies have planned their attack pattern; just as the first enemy finishes his 3 hit combo you release block and start your swing then BAM, the enemy behind you starts his attack. I spent more time hiding behind my fists than throwing them. The one sure fire way to get out of this is to use your special attack which sends your enemies spinning away to the floor. Even this has its drawbacks as it depletes your health which is not usually a bad thing but I struggled to find any in this game. You smash-up bins and lamp posts to find roast chickens and the likes (seriously) but more often than not I found money, diamonds or rage.

Rage is something you’re going to need in this game even though it does not work. You build up your meter by stacking up chains of attacks or finding the afore mentioned rage boosters that take the form of a glowing skull. When you activate your rage you glow red and inflict more damage, which is great but you can still be hit and knocked over with ease. So if you find yourself surrounded (again) then it’s not going to help you out. I know I’m complaining about being surrounded a lot but it really does happen that much. At certain crux points of the levels you have a small selection of enemies to defeat in an alloted time. If you dont defeat them then reinforcements come, if you dont defeat the reinforced foes then another wave come. Why? In theory it may be a good idea but in practice it makes you want to quit out and go play a real game like Streets of Rage.

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The one thing the game does right is the graphics, the levels and enemies look splendid in their shiny HD glory. It certainly brought a smile to my face seeing the locations and characters from the film brought to life so well. The one problem that occurred was finding the objects to smash. Everything looked so smooth and sharp unlike the really obvious out-of-place trash can in the old Megadrive games. It’s a strange complaint, I know, but it is valid (honestly!). The cut-scenes look equally nice as an animated comic book. I have no idea why the sexy red lipped DJ was not featured in the game, what a missed opportunity.

Sadly the sound was not up to the scratch of the graphics. Music from the film was kind of there but not really. The game would have benefited from some of the original music just to keep us fan boys happy. My biggest gripe with the sound was the awful noises the enemies made, not just their noises but their animations as well. After slapping you around they shake their fist in the air and make a noise which is akin to Inspector Cyril ‘Blakey’ Blake from On The Buses. I mean come on, this is supposed to be a seedy gangland, I’m supposed to be fearing for my life.

I sadly never got to test the multiplayer aspect out as no one I know had the game or wanted to play it. It does boast 4 player online and offline co-op which may address some of the game play issues but should the single player suffer? I think not.

“Can You Dig it?” Sadly, I cant. A very well presented game spoiled by frustrating gameplay that will leave you with a hoarse throat and a bruised knee.

Hi-Score – Impressive Graphics, Nostalgia, Multiplayer Options, eh…thats about it

Lo-Score – Horribly Frustrating Gameplay, High difficulty, Bad sound

Score – 4 out of 10