September 21, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – What a game.

It’s difficult for me to write a review of Human Revolution without calling back to the original Deus Ex and its sequel. Deus Ex is still widely regarded as nothing short of a masterpiece for its execution of a groundbreaking mix of various game play and storytelling elements. In fact, 11 years later, I have a hard time thinking of many games that have matched Deus Ex in that particular regard. It isn’t easy to make a sequel to a game of such outstanding pedigree as the luke warm reception to Invisible War will show you. What Eidos Montreal has pulled off with Human Revolution is a pretty rare feat in this industry. They’ve not only paid homage to an incredible game, but they have eclipsed the original title in many ways.

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September 20, 2011

Play More Games: In Defense of Gears

blatant cross-promotion

Gun-toting soldiers kill aliens on a far-off planet. These words could be used to describe nearly every triple-A best-seller on the Xbox 360 in the last 6 years.

Gears of War 3 is my great gaming guilty pleasure. I’m well aware of how easy it is to dismiss Gears for lacking in creativity and for catering to the least-intellectual portion of the gaming public. I believe that Gears is a genre in itself, though. The third-person, cover-based shooter? Gears pretty much invented that. Co-op campaigns? Gears has had ‘em all along and continues to do it better than just about any competitor. The now-obligatory Horde Mode? Gears did it first. If you take any of the staples of modern shooters and trace them back to their origins, it’s easy to see that the folks at Epic have either outright created them or taken them and made them better.

With Gears of War 3, out today, it appears that Epic is now updating their own conventions in the interest of making them….well, a lot less conventional. Gears 3 includes no less than six different multiplayer modes, including a new version of Horde that incorporates tower defense elements and a new Beast Mode that allows you to play as some of the series’ more eccentric enemy types. Co-op now allows 4 players and includes diverging objectives across a massive 12-hour campaign.

Sure, Gears isn’t exactly Shakespeare…but how many games are, really? Early reviews of Gears of War 3 seem to indicate that Epic is raising the bar here, as well, citing the game’s convincing character development and moments of surprising emotional depth. Who knew Marcus Fenix was such a softy underneath all of that armor?


And now, D.J. weighs in on the rest of this week’s games:

Resident Evil 4 HD (XBLA, PSN) – Coincidentally, the game that practically invented the modern third-person shooter gets an HD facelift this week. Although the graphics are definitely showing their age, RE4 is still one of the finest games ever made and is worth trying if you somehow haven’t played any of its numerous iterations over the last five years. I already own two versions of it and I have to admit that I’m considering making this the third.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 (DS) – It’s like Dragon Quest, except you command a team of the series’s iconic monsters to do the battling for you. Expect to lose a few hundred more hours as you train your monsters and watch them evolve into new species that are both terrifying and adorable. Ooh, and you can battle your friends online this time, too.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 – Innocent Sin (PSP) – In case you’re wondering why there was so much fan excitement when Atlus announced this for the U.S., it’s because this is the first time this chapter of the Persona saga has been officially released in English. (Some potentially controversial content prevented the game from being localized on the original PlayStion.) Either gaming is growing up or Atlus couldn’t bear the thought of another decade of angry fan letters and online petitions.

Kirby Mass Attack (DS) – Control up to 10 Kirbys at once in this fully stylus-controlled game. Kirby: Canvas Curse, another stylus-only Kirby game, was the first DS game that really demonstrated the handheld’s potential to me, so I can’t wait to try out this spiritual sequel. It looks like there’s even some 2D shooting mixed in.

Burnout Crash! (PSN, XBLA) – In a strange reversal of the direction they took with Burnout Paradise, Criterion Games has taken its cataclysmic racing series and thrown out the actual racing in favor of focusing on just Crash mode, which now plays out from a top-down perspective. It’s an interesting move since I know Crash mode had quite a niche of followers who were disappointed by its absence in Paradise, but I can’t thinking it loses a lot of its appeal when you aren’t witnessing the ensuing chaos down at the street level in gritty photorealism.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Rezurrection (PSN, PC) – Hey, PlayStation and PC owners: You can finally grab this final Nazi zombie map pack, including one that takes place on the moon. Of course!

Cubixx HD (PSN) – I didn’t hear about this until recently, but it’s essentially a reworking of the classic Qix, except this time the playing field is wrapped around a 3D cube, and there’s… multiplayer deathmatch? I’m a fan of the original, so they’ve got my attention. Watch the trailer here.

Altered Beast (PSN) – WISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE. POWERRR UP! You know what this is.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, check out Tech-Gaming or Amazon.com.


Correction: Child of Eden isn’t out on PS3 until next week.

September 16, 2011

BGM Mode: Round One… FIGHT!

muh huh huh

Between fruitlessly trying to teach myself how to play Street Fighter III and following the Soulcalibur V and Street Fighter X Tekken news coming out of TGS, I’ve had fighting games on the brain lately. And, somewhat inspired by Capcom’s surprise announcement that they’ll be releasing past Street Fighter soundtracks to use in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online, I thought it would be a good time to serve up a selection of my favorite fighting game themes. Following Paul’s lead from our last installment, let’s kick it off with one of the great classics:

“Ryu Stage” – Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter II)

At the height of their popularity in the 90s, fighting game characters would each have their own unique stage, and along with it, their own theme song that represented their background and personality. If you’re an arcade veteran, hearing any of those themes is sure to drum up powerful emotions on both ends of the spectrum—whether it’s because you spent hours perfecting moves with your first “main,” or because you had to hear the song endlessly since it belonged to that one rival that always shut you down. No matter which way you think of him, Street Fighter’s Ryu has one of the most memorable themes of any fighter, from the adrenaline-pumping bassline to the synth melody that’s always sounded strangely wistful to me—perfect for Ryu’s melodramatic, neverending search for new battles.

“São Paulo” – Hideki Okugawa/Yuki Iwai (Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact)

All the arcades I’ve been to seemed to only have either Street Fighter III: New Generation or 3rd Strike, so I’ve never actually played 2nd Impact, the middle game in the trilogy. But, that hasn’t stopped me from logging some serious hours with the soundtrack, which originally got my attention because it was so weird—a blend of jazz, drum and bass, and even some Brazilian samba. It’s definitely not your typical fighting game music. This track comes from Sean’s stage in Brazil, and a variation of it plays during the bonus stage when he helps you practice parrying.

“Stormy Saxophone 2″ – SNK Sound Team (The King of Fighters ’96)

The King of Fighters '96 – Arashi no Saxophone #2 (Iori Yagami Team)

SNK was dropping jazz influence into its King of Fighters soundtracks long before Street Fighter III got the idea. This is probably the most memorable song to me out of the series’s nearly 20-year run. It’s Iori’s theme, and I always like to imagine it’s actually him playing the saxophone. It seems like kind of an antiheroic thing to do on his days off.

“Vanity Paradise” – Takayuki Iwai (Vampire Savior)

Vampire Savior/Darkstalkers 3 Music: Vanity Paradise (Hsien-Ko/Lei-Lei Stage)

This one’s just silly, but I still love it. The third entry in the Darkstalkers/Vampire series went full-on dance/electronica for most of its soundtrack, so it’s just natural that Hsien-ko, the Chinese ghost, would have this Asianized dance track playing in her idyllic garden stage.


“Keep Yourself Alive II” – Daisuke Ishiwatari (Guilty Gear XX)

Gratuitous Queen reference! From the inimitable Daisuke Ishiwatari, who basically made Guilty Gear all by himself.

“Wings of Despair” – Keiki Kobayashi (Soulcalibur III)

Wings of Despair- Soul Calibur III OST

“Twilight Dwellers” – Keiki Kobayashi (Soulcalibur IV)

SCIV Twilight Dwellers 14

It’s always fun to hear a different take on a favorite song—it might be a cover that casts it in a completely different light, or it could just do enough things differently to give you new appreciation of the original. In this case, Keiki Kobayashi took one of Soulcalibur III‘s songs—a solid track, although admittedly not one of my favorites at the time—and reworked it for the sequel. The result comes off as more majestic and less frantic, with a deliberate, dramatic opening that gives way to an anthemic rendition of the original. It’s an excellent accompaniment to the stage itself, which has you dueling on a raft traveling down a castle’s moonlit moat.

“M. Bison Stage” – Yuzo Koshiro (Street Fighter Tribute Album)

And speaking of alternate versions, I’ll wrap up with one of the best. This is Balrog’s (M. Bison in Japan) stage, remixed by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro for this album made to celebrate Street Fighter’s 15 anniversary. To me, Yuzo Koshiro is synonymous with ActRaiser‘s orchestral soundtrack, so it always puts a huge grin on my face knowing that he’s capable of something like this.

What’s your song of choice to have playing as you land that sneaky surprise attack at the start of the round? Let us know in the comments!

September 15, 2011

VGH #22: Destroy Him, My Robots!

VGH #22: Destroy Him, My Robots!
The recent PSN update of Elevator Action prompts the VGH crew to discuss rules and regulations for remaking classic games. We’ve also got sexy poutine, Deus Ex memes, the obligatory Monster Hunter segment and some amazing new music by DJ FINISH HIM!

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September 15, 2011

Contest: Win Universe Sandbox!

Universe Sandbox

In the mood to play something besides the shooter-of-the-week? Universe Sandbox, the offbeat game-slash-astronomer’s-playground is just what you need. Listen to our impressions in Episode 22 and then hurry back because we’re giving away a copy of the complete version on Steam!

All you have to do to enter is follow us on Twitter and retweet this message:

RT and follow @vghangover for a chance to win Universe Sandbox on Steam! http://j.mp/oRjtUA #vghangover

The contest will run until Monday, September 19th at 3 PM Eastern, and we’ll randomly choose a winner around 5 PM. Make sure you’re following us and include the #vghangover tag in your tweet so we can find your contest entry!

Many thanks to creator Dan Dixon for sharing the game with us and making this possible!

Good luck to all who enter!

September 14, 2011

Play More Games: Addendum

September 13, 2011

Play More Games: WAR TEAM

Renegade Ops

Believe it or not, this is the slowest week in September for new releases. What are we looking forward to amongst this agonizingly bleak crop of games?

Despite the painfully generic name, my most anticipated game of the week is Renegade Ops (PSN, XBLA). This is a top-down, vehicular combat game by Avalanche, the studio who brought us last year’s amazing Just Cause 2. (#2 in my top games of last year!) If you’ve played Just Cause 2, you know what to expect: crazy stunts, perilous chases, and explosions everywhere. Rico and his magic grappling hook are sitting this one out, but in exchange, there’s online co-op for up to four people. Since co-op was something each of us at VGH would have loved to see in Just Cause 2, I’m eager to see how well Avalanche pulls it off.

Next is Hard Reset, which has created some early buzz, not for being a first-person shooter, but for being PC-exclusive and single-player only. Developer Flying Wild Hog promises Hard Reset will be more of a throwback to classic PC shooters like Doom, which tried less to capture the action of Hollywood blockbusters a la Call of Duty and instead featured larger, more intricate levels that encouraged more exploration. Also giving me a huge nostalgia rush back to my days of playing Doom, Heretic and Dark Forces: the crazy weapons on display. Did someone say “arc welder“?

Also out this week:

Bit.Trip Saga – Finally, a collection of all six of Gaijin Games’ quirky Bit.Trip games, now for the 3DS! This is actually one of the first 3DS games I’ve really been interested in, although I’m still holding out for Super Mario 3D Land. If you haven’t got a 3DS, you can pick up the Wii version of the collection, Bit.Trip Complete. Watch the game in action here.

White Knight Chronicles II – I really, really wanted to like the first WKC, but its battle system and generally slow pacing just didn’t agree with me. Developer Level-5 says they’ve tweaked the battles in the sequel with new mechanics and a larger party. Should I take another look or just continue playing Monster Hunter?

The Gunstringer – An undead, old West shooter (Come on, another one?) where your you control your zombified outlaw by tugging on his marionette strings. You have to give credit to developer Twisted Pixel for taking one of the complaints about Kinect (the somewhat laggy and floaty motion control) and spinning it into a feature. (And it comes with free Fruit Ninja Kinect!)

God of War: Origins – If you missed out on Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta because you don’t have a PSP, now you can play them on the big screen thanks to this PS3 HD collection.

From Dust – Eric Chahi’s world-building/destroying game has completed its tour on XBLA and is now headed straight to PSN! It’s also been out on the PC for a few weeks, if you prefer.

Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness – Capcom rereleases one of its classic 2D figters as a PSOne Classic this week. Watch robots fight it out in the game that introduced characters like Jin Saotome and Devilot, who went on to future fame in games like Marvel VS Capcom and Puzzle Fighter. BLODIA!

NHL 12 – I think this one’s about hockey.

Are you grabbing anything this week, or are you still holding out for when all the big guns open fire next month? Speaking of big guns, will I see you online in Renegade Ops?? (On PS3, of course.) Let us know in the comments!

For a full list of this week’s new releases, check out Tech-Gaming or Amazon.com.

September 8, 2011

VGH #21: Can’t Stop Putting It Down

VGH #21: Can't Stop Putting It Down
In this week’s show, Deus Ex star Adam Jensen infiltrates VGH Industries! D.J. revisits the original Legend of Zelda and Randy muses about de Blob 2. The Crew also discuss some long running series that they feel need to be given The Old Yeller treatment.

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September 7, 2011

Play More Games: BloodRayne, Seriously

BloodRayne: Betrayal

It may still be unseasonally warm out, but you only need one glance at this month’s release lineup to see that Fall is officially here. As we talked about in Episode 18, the next few months are packed with tons of new games and we’re scrambling to even talk about all of them, let alone play them! With that in mind, here’s the first of several Lightning Round editions of Play More Games where I’ll spotlight a game or two we think are significant and then do a quick run through of the rest so you can hurry up and get back to your couch.

This week’s featured game, astonishingly enough, is not just download-only, it’s also a BloodRayne title. Yes, you read that right. BloodRayne: Betrayal is a dramatic departure for the vampire actioner whose two previous-generation outings were met with general apathy. (And let’s not mention the Uwe Boll film.) Abandoning its 3D roots, Betrayal is a 2D action platformer in the style of Castlevania or Strider. As the half-human, half-vampire Rayne, you unleash all kinds of bloody violence upon your enemies in a combat system that I was surprised to discover requires more attention and technique than I was expecting. It all made sense when I saw the game was developed by WayForward, creators of the excellent–albeit somewhat sadistic–Contra 4. While BloodRayne is much more forgiving (especially with its blood-sucking mechanic), don’t expect to just waltz through it Bela Lugosi-style. It’s also got some stylish, 2D sprite graphics and a soundtrack that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Castlevania game. If you’re still not intrigued, check out the demo on PSN or Xbox Live Arcade, or watch the trailer that originally shocked us that we were suddenly looking forward to a BloodRayne game.

Other games out this week:

Resistance 3 – The latest installment of Insomniac’s alt-history World War II FPS is getting a surprising amount of early praise, but is it special enough to weather the imminent shooter storm of Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3, and Modern Warfare 3? At the very least, Olly Moss’s incredible box art will look fantastic on your shelf.

Dead Island – The buzz around this open world, zombie survival game seems to have been steadily declining as people discovered the actual game doesn’t quite live up to the poignancy of its much-discussed debut trailer. Also, early reports are saying that–in addition to all the zombies–the game’s tropical island setting is infested with glitches and questionable game mechanics.

Starfox 64 3D – Following the success of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendo’s counting on another N64 revival with this 3D space dogfighter. Admittedly, I never played much of the N64 original so I’m looking forward to spending time with this, although the lack of online multiplayer means I’m not exactly rushing out to get it.

The Impossible Game – The silly iOS/Android diversion comes to your PSP this week! It’s actually a lot of fun if you’re into games that are equal parts twitchy reflexes, level memorization, and constant dying. No, really. I enjoyed it.

Uncharted 1 & 2 Dual Pack – Still haven’t played either of the Uncharted games? Better pick up this compilation before Randy shows up at your door to have a word with you. There’s still plenty of time to get caught up with Nathan Drake before Uncharted 3 hits in November!

And that’s it for week one of the Fall onslaught! Are you picking up any of these (or maybe a game we didn’t even cover?) or are you saving up for the next few months? Let us know in the comments!

For a full list of this week’s releases, check out Tech-Gaming or Amazon.com.

September 2, 2011

BGM Mode: Overworld Themes

Zelda~

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of RPGs. Right now I’ve been playing a metric ass ton of Xenoblade Chronicles and the absolutely gorgeous soundtrack got me thinking of some of my favourite Overworld themes from games of yesteryear. Near the end of Episode #20 of VGH Randy asked me what an Overworld theme was, and of course I didn’t answer him because I’m a jerk! But seriously, an Overworld theme is just the music plays while your adventurers (usually in an rpg) traverse the world (map)!

(Note for Randy, the song that plays in DQ9 when you’re running around between cities would fit this criteria)

Xenoblade doesn’t really have a traditional rpg “Overworld” per se but the music is simply incredible and inspired this weeks BGM Mode. So it may or may not get two slots this week. Plus it doesn’t hurt that the game currently has my soul in its grasp.

But lets kick things off with what I consider to be the greatest/quintessential Overworld theme of all time, and it doesn’t even come from a traditional RPG!

The Legend of Zelda – Overworld Theme – Koji Kondo

You may have heard this song before. Over 20 years later and Koji Kondo’s masterpiece still resonates with gamers. Nothing more needs to be said.

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September 1, 2011

VGH #20: I Want Your PAX

VGH #20: I Want Your PAX

D.J. has returned from PAX Prime in Seattle with a cornucopia of new and exciting games to share (as well as a virulent new strain of the PAX pox). We also discuss Deus Ex, Xenoblade Chronicles, fine Canadian comedy and football games that nobody buys.

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August 30, 2011

Play More Games: The More Things Change, The More they Stay the Same

Ye$! Madden 2012 is finally here! I love thi$ game $o much! It i$ ab$olutely incredible ju$t how much the Madden $erie$ evolve$ from iteration to iteration! Madden football is amazing!!!* P.S. Money!

*None of the preceding text is true. In fact just apply “opposite day” rules to it.

It’s a pretty quiet week in terms of releases we’ll actually play here at VGH Industries. Obviously Madden 12 will end up selling about a trillion copies and that’s cool, it just isn’t our cup of tea. Early reviews have been pegging Madden 12 as a step back from previous versions, so I have no idea how EA’s monopoly on sports games is going to turn out for fans of their games in the future. Personally, I stopped playing the only sports series (EA’s NHL games) I’ve ever cared about years ago. Since the death of 2K’s sports games I wonder if EA has just gotten a little complacent in terms of pushing their sports franchises forward. Rather than turn this into a commentary on my thoughts on the current business practices of EA, let us move forward!

Tropico 4, sequel to Tropico 3, which was a sequel to Tropico 2 which was a sequel to Tropico 1, is out! As someone that absolutely adores city/world builder games I finally gave the Tropico series a try a few months ago when I picked up Tropico 3 on a Steam sale. It was stunningly gorgeous but the game play didn’t get its hooks into me like other games in this genre have in the past. Case in point (not really) I’ve spent like 300 hours with Civ 5, and apparently Civ 5 sucks! Also it is pretty much nothing like Tropico! I may just have to back and give er’ another go though, because the over the top humour in Tropico 3 was actually pretty great and I think I didn’t really grasp much of the game play which is what probably hindered my enjoyment a bit. Next time… I will complete the tutorials instead of just jumping into the main game!!! Rawr!

Releases for the Week of August 29th

Madden NFL 12 (360, PS3, Psp, Wii, Ps2)
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad (PC)
Tropico 4 (360, PC)
ClaDun X2 (Psp)
Duke Nukem Forever (Osx)

 

August 25, 2011

VGH #19: The Line Piece Is for Noobs

VGH #19: The Line Piece Is for Noobs

Crossovers! The VGH crew stitch together elements from some of their favorite video games into a twisted new batch of franken-games. Developers: are you listening? Plus: D.J. gets bionic, Paul finds a sneaker sleeper, and Randy looks for the fun button.

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August 24, 2011

Play More Games: Sneak, Shoot, or Shoryuken

Clearly Deus Ex 2 needed more shades.

 

This week marks the release of two games that I want RIGHT NOW. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is finally out, and early word has is that the game returns the Deus Ex series back to its glorious roots. This is great news for fans of the original game that felt the sequel Invisible War was a bit of a misstep. The original Deus Ex is still considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time for its (back then) original take on the typical first person shooter. Actually, now that I think about it, there really aren’t a whole lot of fps games coming to mind that tackle character progression like Deus Ex does. Hmm…

I think it is kind of interesting that most of the complaints surrounding Human Revolution are regarding the “poorly” implemented boss battles. As you may or may not recall, we tackled the very topic of Boss Battles, way, way back on VGH #17: A Giant Bottle. Apparently in Human Revolution, you cannot sneak up behind a giant bottle and slit its neck and instead have to punch it in the bottle face. That just goes to show you, a developer can hit a home run in every way, but if they screw up the boss battles… there will be hell to pay!  Grr!

Also being released this week is the fully revamped Street Fighter III: Third Strike! Complete with online modes for your Boxes of X and Stations of Play! Unfortunately for me, when Third Strike first came out I was losing interest in the fighting game genre and never really spent a lot of time with it so I am really looking forward to giving the game some proper care. By all accounts this is a definitive, re-balanced version of the game so I am definitely excited to see the property being treated with such love. Capcom has been doing an incredible job with their support of older fighting titles and really all they need to do at this point is release an HD version of Capcom vs SNK 2 and that could be the last game they ever release as far as I care.*

More importantly though; there is a new map pack being released for Call of Duty: Black Ops this week. Clearly, that is where your dollars should go.

So what are you interested in? You gonna sneak around and kill some dudes? You gonna throw some fireballs and shoryuken someone in the face? Or will you just shoot people in the face in CoD? (Play some other games d00d!) Let us know in the comments section!

Releases for this week

8 /21
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition (PSN, XBLA)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC, PS3, 360)
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Rezurrection (XBLA)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked (3Ds)

August 19, 2011

BGM Mode: Blizzard Tunes

Stay a while and listen!

Welcome to the first installment of VGH’s new music themed blog posts!  Here at VGH we love game music, that was made pretty obvious way way back in VGH #8: Blips and Bloops. So we’re going to continue our unabashed adoration for all things Bloopy (and some Blippy stuff too) on a regular basis now. In this first installment of BGM Mode, two of our hosts will be showcasing a few of their favourite music from various Blizzard  games. Blizzard always seems to have such incredible production values for their games and I think it is safe to say that their sound tracks are among the best in the industry in terms of quality from start to finish.


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August 18, 2011

VGH #18: Attack on Your Wallet!!

VGH #18: Attack on Your Wallet!!

Get hype! As the Summer drought comes to an end, the VGH crew looks into the back half of 2011 for that one game (or two, or three) that seems most worthy of our hard-earned burrito money.

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August 17, 2011

Play More Games: “Blasphemy”

We apologize for this image.

I don’t know what a Metatron is, but I think I want one.

It’s been a good Summer for people who like pretty games. Recent retail titles like Catherine, Shadows of the Damned and Alice: Madness Returns as well as downloadables like Outland, Bastion and From Dust have all boasted uniquely inspired art direction and high levels of visual polish. None of these hold a candle, however, to the insane amount of “pretty” on display is this week’s big new release, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.

Developed in Japan by Takeyasu Sawaki, one of the character designers on Devil May Cray and Okami, and released Stateside by Ignition Entertainment, the game attempts to do for Christian mythology (“El Shaddai” means “God Almighty” in Hebrew) what the God of War games did for Greek mythology. El Shaddai is adapted from the Book of Enoch in the Dead Sea Scrolls, apocryphal texts dating back to 150 B.C. that were omitted from the Old Testament.

On the surface, the story of Enoch (a living man permitted to reside in Heaven), sounds like classic quest-style gameplay: Enoch is charged by God to head to Earth and round up a group of seven fallen angels who have been inbreeding with the local wildlife (a.k.a. “the humans”). Your liaison with God while you’re on Earth is Lucifer, way before he had his little fallout out with upper management.

Instead of getting bogged down in the theology, the game instead focuses on a “simple to learn, hard to master” style of combat that includes single-button attacks, counters, blocks and parries. Early previews suggested that fans of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta-style games would be right at home. Beyond all of this, though, the visual appeal of the game is what drew me in: saturated colors, glowing Tron-like lines, and pencil sketch backgrounds with cell-shaded elements. Simply put, there isn’t a single other game out there that looks like El Shaddai. Reviews have been highly favorable, calling the game “visually inventive”, “a delight to play”, and “an absolute masterwork”.

I was initially concerned that this would be another case of style over substance (I’m looking at you, Alice) or, God forbid, a sly propaganda piece for the Republican Party, but the demo and reviews have eased my worries.  I’m dying to get my hands on it.

A few other releases on the VGH radar this week:

- Grasshopper Manufacture’s 2007 Wii release, No More Heroes, gets an HD up-rez and PlayStation Move support (in addition to other changes) in No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise for the PS3.

- Two of our recent XBLA crushes, From Dust and Bastion, will be available for download on the PC this week.

- Breath of Fire IV, the classic J-RPG from the PSOne days, is available in the PlayStation Store this week.


And now, a note on Space Pirates and Zombies from D.J.:

Back in the mid-nineties, I played the absolute crap out of a Mac game by Ambrosia Software called Escape Velocity. It was essentially an RPG that started you off as a spaceship pilot, warping commodities and VIPs around the galaxy and occasionally tangling with space pirates as you upgraded into progressively swankier ships. Eventually, you could buy huge battleships to fight aliens and put down (or lead) a rebel uprising against Earth. As Randy would say, it was freakin’ excellent.

Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a successor to Escape Velocity, and I think Space Pirates and Zombies, or SPAZ, could be a contender. It’s got the whole space pirate and mercenary thing going, except instead of just your solitary ship, you can custom-build an entire fleet and swap between each ship in real time. There’s a massive galaxy to explore and conquer, weapons and technologies to research, and, as you might have inferred, zombies get involved at some point. Will it recapture the the innovation and magic of Escape Velocity? I’ll let you know.

Of course, you can always try it yourself. SPAZ is out on Steam this week, and there’s a very thorough demo available if you’re curious. It was developed over the last two years by Minmax Games, a team of two mere mortals, who I’m sure would love it if you played their game. If you see the appeal in the life of a space pirate, or you just want to support a cool indie developer, clear your schedule and give SPAZ a try.

August 11, 2011

VGH #17: A Giant Bottle

VGH #17: A Giant Bottle

A huge enemy is approaching fast! This week, the VGH crew takes on boss battles: Do they still have a place in modern gaming or are they relics of an almost-forgotten age? We’ve also got groovy coasters, bordered lands, and secondhand shooters. I hit it with my axe!

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August 9, 2011

Play More Games: “KSHING!”

Fruit Ninja Kinect

There’s only one notable release this week, but oh, is it a big one: Halfbrick‘s runaway mobile success, Fruit Ninja, is finally out for Xbox 360 and Kinect. No longer confined to your phone or tablet’s tiny screen, Fruit Ninja is now super-sized and ready for your living room.

It sounds like a pretty straightforward port of the mobile game, which is interesting since most of the original gameplay modes last about a minute or two on average. I don’t think my longest Fruit Ninja session could have lasted more than 10–and that was at the height of my addiction, and on a platform that didn’t require me to flail my arms around wildly.

I did get to try the multiplayer mode for the first time recently, and it was a surprisingly tense affair. After hearing that Fruit Ninja Kinect supports two players on the same screen, my reactions were, in order: That is awesome, and almost immediately after, Just how many injuries per minute can you expect when you have two people standing side-by-side and swiping their arms at anything that moves? I might pick this up just to watch people play it… from a safe distance, of course.

That’s if I had a Kinect, obviously. I have to admit that this is among the accessory’s most compelling offerings, alongside Child of Eden, but I’m still waiting to truly be convinced.

Have you got a Kinect and are taking the 800 Microsoft point plunge this week to chop some virtual fruit? Let us know in the comments!

If you dare brave the rest of this week’s new releases, check out Tech-Gaming or Amazon.com.

August 4, 2011

VGH #16: A Hard Road to Hoe

VGH #16: A Hard Road to Hoe

With only 10 minutes on the clock, the VGH team will weigh in on two recent gaming headlines: The demise of the Red Faction series and the big Nintendo 3DS price drop. We’ve also got Viewer Mail, the Hangover, Last Call, and lightsabers. Time’s up!

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