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

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Score Tissue Page 17: Scare Tissue part 2

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This comic really isn’t about video games or Halloween,
but it does document a truly dreadful moment in my life, so that will have to do.

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.]

Hi-Score helps Movember!

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For those not in the know Movember is a a charity driven version of November, where men get to grow EPIC moustaches for charity, namely prostate cancer. Prostate cancer affects 1 in 10 men and we at Hi-Score want to help out with Movember. To do this we have started a team on the Movember website and we want as may people as possible to either join or donate…preferably both.

You can find the team page HERE

Please pass this message around, even if you only raise a few quid it all goes to helping people with cancer. And you get to grow an EPIC Mo for a bit of fun………and if you email me pictures as you’re growing them, you might find yourself on Hi-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

Score Tissue page 16: Scare Tissue part 1

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Oh CEO of Activision Robert Kotick, will you ever stop being so evil? I do hope not, as you are a comedy goldmine.
…Although, charging almost a month’s rent for just two games that I might’ve bought otherwise, is pushing it a little.

Tune in next week for the final Halloween Score Tissue special.

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