Features Archive

1

Exclusive Go! Go! Kokopolo 3D Boss Reveal

Meet the Kamaloon.

Go! Go! Kokopolo: Harmonious Forest Revenge is perhaps DSiWare’s finest game. Its creative and memorable bosses were a highlight and Tanukii Studios plans to outdo itself with the sequel Go! Go! Kokopolo 3D: Space Recipe for Disaster on the 3DS eShop.

Tanukii’s Keith Webb has given TV and Lust the exclusive reveal of boss Kamaloon, with the following description of the lizard:

The color changing KAMALOON nests high above the SKY HIGHWAY, watching the endless stream of traffic below, as everybody goes about their daily business. If someone tries to disturb the peaceful flow, however, KAMALOON always steps in to sort them out.

Various other sites have been given the other bosses to reveal, which have been cataloged on the Tanukii Studios Twitter feed.

With eighty new stages and 10 new bosses, Space Recipe for Disaster can’t come soon enough.

3

The Nintendo Wii U and Video Game Social Interaction

In elementary school, video game tips, secrets and codes were traded like currency on the playground. It was my earliest experience with gaming as a social experience. A social experience removed from actually playing together, that is. Multiplayer is video games as a social outlet at its most blunt, but gaming, like most hobbies and interests, has a culture all its own. The social nature of gaming extends further than just the obvious multiplayer sessions. Today, the conversation not only permeates schools, but workplaces and throughout the Internet.

However, surprisingly, the one area where gaming is socially stunted is on the consoles themselves. We have the obligatory multiplayer component and basic messaging features, but beyond this, the conversation stalls on the very machines we play these games on. I can watch Netflix, stream music and download digital costumes for my digital characters, but I can’t actually talk about any of this stuff.

There’s been some progress in the console social arena, but it’s been one sided for the most part. The first thing I do when I sign in on my Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or 3DS is check my online friends and see what they’re playing or doing. It’s maybe a little voyeuristic, but it’s like those conversations on the playground. I want to know what everyone’s up to! What they like! I love it. I can even check my friends’ Achievements or Trophies to compare progress. My friends can do this to me too, but there’s no connective tissue between us. There’s no actual dialog.

Sony’s PlayStation Vita has taken baby steps forward. Each game’s LiveArea screen displays a dedicated crawl of activity and accomplishments between you and your friends, with the option to “like” each bit of news. A virtual pat on the back is a bit more communicative (and less stalkerish) than the current standard, but it’s still just little more than a tin can on a string in today’s tightly connected world.

Despite their stumbles and confusion in the general online arena, it’s actually Nintendo that has best tried to understand this online social component recently (though not necessarily an online multiplayer component, to separate the two). With StreePass and Swapnote on the 3DS, Nintendo has opened up ways for 3DS owners to interact outside of the context of just playing games together. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of two strangers with the handheld in their pockets crossing paths. It’s good, but still not quite enough.

Just before E3 2012, Nintendo revealed some details about the social aspects of its upcoming console, the Wii U. A major function of the Wii U will be the Miiverse, a social hub that dominates the TV screen upon turning on the console. In fact, the Wii U’s menu system appears on the Wii U’s GamePad controller screen and not the TV when the system is booted. Miiverse is clearly important to the Wii U.

Miiverse serves a variety of functions, but at its core, it displays a number of game icons on your screen with Mii avatars from friends and strangers alike congregating around them, displaying the thoughts of these players about the games. A Twitter-like feed can also be pulled up to read more messages from other players and Miiverse functionality can even be integrated into individual games. Nintendo has yet to delve into more details about the Miiverse or any other social/online capabilities of the Wii U, but as it stands, it’s a solid step forward for a console. Nintendo even intends on making some aspects of the Miiverse available on the 3DS, PC and mobile devices.

The Miiverse takes what gamers already do on Facebook and Twitter and puts that kind of discussion right into the console itself, effectively removing the middleman. It’s a such an obvious move that it’s surprising that no one has done it already. Observe or participate, or just shut the whole thing off; the choice is yours, but the point is, the choice is now there. Social interaction on a video game console is no longer a stilted game of asymmetrical peekaboo. It’s bringing back the enthusiasm of an elementary school playground.

10

TV&L Anticipated Games for Q2 2012

A little thin, but still looking good.

Here are the games we’re anticipating most for the second quarter of 2012. While not an exhaustive release forecast, it encompasses the stuff we really want to play. Feel free to chime in with what you are looking forward to!

All release dates are for North America, and while we strive for accuracy, release dates often change on short notice.

April 2012


Colors! 3D / Jens Andersson / eShop / Apr 5
Xenoblade Chronicles / Nintendo / Wii / Apr 6
Fez / Microsoft / XBLA / Apr 13
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir / Nintendo / 3DS / Apr 13
The House of the Dead 4 / Sega / PSN / Apr 17
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings / Warner Bros / 360 / Apr 17
Trials Evolution / Microsoft / XBLA / Apr 18

May 2012


Awesomenauts / Ronimo / XBLA, PSN / May 1, 2
Mortal Kombat / Warner Bros / Vita / May 1
Fable Heroes / Microsoft / XBLA / May 2
Starhawk / Sony / PS3 / May 8
Diablo III / Blizzard / PC, OSX / May 15
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II / Sega / XBLA, PSN, PC, iOS, Android / May 16
Mario Tennis Open / Nintendo / 3DS / May 20
Dragon’s Dogma / Capcom / 360, PS3 / May 22
Risen 2: Dark Waters / Deep Silver / 360, PS3, PC / May 22
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D / Atari / 3DS / May 22
Sorcery / Sony / PS3 / May 22
Retro City Rampage / Vblank Entertainment / WiiWare, XBLA, Vita / May

June 2012


Gravity Rush / Sony / Vita / Jun 12
Lollipop Chainsaw / Warner Bros / 360, PS3 / Jun 12
The Last Story / XSEED / Wii / Jun 16
Heroes of Ruin / Square Enix / 3DS / Jun 26

TBA Q2 2012


Akai Katana / Rising Star / 360 / TBA
Skullgirls / Autumn Games, Konami / XBLA, PS3, PC / TBA

Seth Says:


I dub thee “niche quarter.” Seriously, outside a few big (and potentially big) games like Diablo III, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Dragon’s Dogma, there’s not much releasing at first glance. But dig a little deeper and there are actually several smaller titles I’m looking forward to. Despite Phil Fish’s less than spectacular comments regarding certain video games, I’m still very much looking forward to his game Fez. Good or bad, the AR-focused Spirit Camera is sure to be a unique experience and Sega is finally releasing a home version of HotD4! (They are still doing that after that 7 billion yen loss, right?) I think I’ll buy and then be disappointed in Sonic 4 Ep. II just to keep tradition going, but June is the month I really can’t wait for. Gravity Rush and Lollipop Chainsaw on the same day!? Can’t get better than that.

Craig Says:


This might be the slimmest quarter in terms of volume since we started doing these. But you know what? I’m cool with this. There’s still some great games on the horizon, I’m sure new games will be announced in the interim (particularly downloadable games; they sometimes show up out of nowhere) and the breathing room will be nice. But none of that is to say that aren’t great games being released! The quarter kicks off right with Xenoblade Chronicles [finally] releasing here in North America! That would be enough for me, but May is also looking pretty dense. I’m on the fence with Diablo III (I’ll snatch it if I can find a limited edition) and Starhawk, but count me in for Mario Tennis Open and Retro City Rampage for sure. I’m also interested in seeing how Capcom pulls off an open world western-style RPG with Dragon’s Dogma. June may have the fewest games that I’m looking forward to (right now), but damn. Gravity Rush and Lollipop Chainsaw? I don’t need anything else!

Banner art by Seth Gastelum.

8

The Nintendo 3DS: One Year Later

Our outlook of the 3DS on its anniversary.


Craig’s Take

It’s pretty clear that Nintendo really thought they could coast largely on the support of the DS with the 3DS. An unpopular $250 price tag, a lukewarm launch library and a growing public skepticism of 3D home entertainment was not helped by the goodwill generated by its predecessor. The 3DS faced an uphill battle.

I still maintain that it was unfairly slammed for things that were not uncommon; most portable devices these days have a short battery life and ho-hum launch libraries are not unheard of. But what wonders a price drop and a fantastic Mario game can do for sales and public perception! The 3DS has come around big time, and it’s nice to see it getting its due.

From the beginning, I never really felt disappointed by the 3DS myself. I thought there was room for improvement, though, and Nintendo and third parties have come through. From the surprisingly refreshing offerings on the eShop and the delightful Swapnote messaging application, to the varied and increasingly robust retail games, the 3DS is constantly giving me more and more reasons to make it my go-to pick up and play system.

The first year was solid, and as the 3DS moves into its second year, I’m already interested in a number of games such as Luigi’s Mansion 2, Heroes of Ruin, Theatrhytm Final Fantasy and Paper Mario. I’d like to see a few more Virtual Console releases on the eShop each week, but by and large, I’m more than satisfied with the 3DS.

Favorite Games: Super Mario 3D Land, Dead or Alive Dimensions, Mario Kart 7, Resident Evil: Revelations, Ridge Racer 3D


Seth’s Take

One year ago I drove to the nearest Walmart to wait in what I thought would be a crowded video game section in order to purchase myself a brand new Nintendo 3DS. When I arrived at the store and found myself as one of only three people buying the system, I realized right then and there that the momentum from the original DS was not carrying over to its successor. But that didn’t bother me, I was excited for new hardware and I knew what I was getting into with my purchase. Which is to say very few games interested me at launch, but I knew more exciting software was coming… I just didn’t know how long that wait would be.

After playing the games I bought at launch, as well as messing around with the built-in software (which was a great way to show off the system’s abilities), I didn’t touch the 3DS for several months. I know Craig up there was fine dicking around with a lot of smaller titles but nothing was catching my interest at all. I had one stop-gap purchase in Ocarina of Time 3D up until November when Mario 3D Land launched, which I feel was the beginning of the first leaks forming in a dam.

While I don’t feel that dam has broken yet (it’s somewhere just above a trickle at this point), the cracks are spreading. The software on the horizon is looking more and more exciting with fewer gaps between releases and there’s no doubt in my mind that by this time next year we’ll be completely flooded with awesome software for the handheld.

The graphics are a nice upgrade over the DS, the 3D effect can be cool and immersive, and the online functionality is a good step above Nintendo’s previous efforts, but I think a system is only as good as its software and this first year has been a little slow for me. Still, I’m looking forward to when that dam bursts.

Favorite Games: Mario Kart 7, Resident Evil: Revelations, Super Mario 3D Land, Mighty Switch Force, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

27

TV&L’s Favorite Games of 2011

Great games all year long.

Years come and go, and with them, a slew of great games. 2011 saw the release of numerous fantastic titles across all platforms. No matter your taste, you were covered.

In order to best present our favorite games, we are forgoing the traditional Top X Games of 2011. This is restrictive and divisive and doesn’t allow us to spotlight all the games we like, all in effort to create an artificial hierarchy. Instead, alphabetically, here are all the games we enjoyed from 2011.

We hope you find some your favorites, discover games you missed out on, and of course, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


Alice: Madness Returns / EA / 360, PS3
Read our review!
Listen. I have no illusion Madness Returns is a great game. At best, it’s just inoffensively decent. But what can I say? I still enjoyed it. -Craig

Antipole / Saturnine / DSiWare, XBL IG

Seemingly from nowhere, this gravity defying platformer stars Johnny Hurricane as he takes take evil robots at the behest of the government. Inane and unapologetically old school, Antipole may look simple, but it’s a real blast. -Craig

ATV Wild Ride / Destineer / DS
Read our review!
I don’t know jack about ATVs, but I do know a great arcade racer when I play one. Renegade Kid’s ATV Wild Ride sounds a little generic, but the speed, the big air and the fun soundtrack are anything but. -Craig

Bastion / Warner Bros / XBLA, PC
Read our review!
The Kid fought back against the wilds of Caelondia to restore the once-radiant world. Against the backdrop of painterly scenery, The Kid traversed Skybridges and took with him various weapons and brews. His adventure was powerful and memorable. -Craig

Batman: Arkham City / Warner Bros / 360, PS3, PC
Read our review!
With Arkham City, Rocksteady refined the best parts of Arkham Asylum and dropped them into an open world with a ton of side missions and easter eggs, creating the definitive superhero experience. -Chris

Bulletstorm / EA / 360, PS3, PC
Read our review!
More than just a portrait of dick jokes, absurd machismo and creative cussing, Bulletstorm’s Skillshot system is the breath of fresh air I felt the “run to the next cut scene” FPS genre needed. The arcade-style Echoes mode just adds to the fun. -Craig

Catherine / Atlus/ 360, PS3

Atlus could have released a (not so) simple block puzzle game and called it a day. But instead they wrapped the entire thing in a full-on story mode about relationships and responsibility and turning into a sheep. -Seth

Cave Story 3D / NIS America / 3DS

This is the fourth time I’ve purchased Cave Story. THE FOURTH. If that doesn’t tell you that I feel it’s a fantastic game, I don’t feel much well. The characters, the level design, the weapon progression, everything is impeccably well done. The visuals are quite different, so Cave Story 3D isn’t exactly the same game as its downloadable cousins, but it is the only physical version. That’s certainly worth something. -Craig

Deus Ex: Human Revolution / Square Enix / 360, PS3, PC
Read our review!
A game about robot Batman with elbow swords. Of course it’s awesome. -Craig

DoDonPachi Resurrection / Rising Star / 360

Yes, this released in 2010 on iOS and yes, it was on our list then too. But tough. DoDonPachi Resurrection is a brilliant shooter with gorgeous bullet patterns. It deserves to be any list every year, whether it came out then or not! -Craig

Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2 / Nintendo / DS

The Monsters spin-off of the Dragon Quest series borrows heavily from Pokemon (or maybe Megami Tensei, but that’s a different argument), but it operates on its own principles. Monsters are disposable things to breed, store and discard. Use them to your advantage, but do not build an attachment. It’s cold and functional, but hey, you’re dealing with monsters for crying out loud. They’re not pets. -Craig

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation / Nintendo / DS
Read our review!
While not my favorite Dragon Quest title, I still enjoyed my playthrough of VI. The job system alone is enough to keep the RPG OCD busy for hours on end. -Seth

Dream Trigger 3D / D3 Publisher / 3DS
Read our review!
A glorious mess of colors and shapes. Dream Trigger breaks you before it molds you, and then it becomes a wonderfully addicting experience. -Craig

Fishing Resort / XSEED / Wii

Fishing Resort is not a game I thought much of admittedly. The childish looking characters and the overall premise of fishing did not appeal to me initially, but the truth is, Fishing Resort is fun. A nice relaxing game of exploring appealing locations and plundering them of their aquatic life. -Craig

Gears of War 3 / Microsoft / 360

I’ve always been a fan of the Gears series. Something about its ridiculous caricatures of the male form and its thick and heavy combat struck a chord with me. Gears 3 beefs up the multiplayer component and provides a startlingly satisfying conclusion to this great action series. -Craig

Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars / Ubisoft / 3DS

I’ve never played an X-COM game, but even I know what it means to release a new strategy game under the creative direction of X-COM’s creator. Sadly, few other people knew. Shadow Wars is an engaging turn based strategy game, not too dissimilar from Advance Wars or Fire Emblem, with a level of quality uncommon to launch titles. -Craig

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective / Capcom / DS
Read our review!
Similar to Shu Takumi’s Ace Attorney games, Ghost Trick features a twisting story and wacky characters. However, it also marries these with unique, compelling gameplay and gorgeous rotoscoped animation, and the result is one of the best DS games to date. -Chris

Go! Go! Kokopolo: Harmonious Forest Revenge / Room 4 Games / DSiWare
Read our review!
The silly concept of a prickish cat’s antagonistic antics masks a really clever maze game. Kokopolo is impeccably crafted; a game that comes together in an uncommonly excellent way. -Craig

Groove Coaster / Taito / iOS
Read our review!
Rhythm games are not my bag. Not because I don’t like them, I actually love them! It’s because I have no rhythm. But that doesn’t get in between me and my enjoyment of Taito’s Groove Coaster, a stylish “one button” game with varying levels of rhythmic requirements based on the difficulty level. Super fun music, and a blast to play when you have a free moment. -Craig

Hard Corps: Uprising / Konami / XBLA, PSN

This game answers the age-old question, “What would Contra play like if the characters were ninjas?” Alright, nobody ever asked that, but combining the run-and-gun gameplay of classic Contra with heightened agility and maneuverability was such a genius idea, it’s a wonder nobody ever thought of it before. -Seth

Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns / Natsume / DS, 3DS

Buried under the crushing weight of monotony and saccharine cuteness is a rewarding game filled with accomplishment and turnips. Two Towns may hold your hand considerably more than past iterations, but the fun and challenge of juggling farm life priorities is perhaps at a high point the series has not met in some years. -Craig

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection / Sony Computer Entertainment / PS3

Two of the best games of the last generation have been made even better. Niggling framerate issues from the PS2 versions are out, HD visuals are in for these two artistic masterpieces. -Chris

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony / Final Form Games / PC, OS X, Linux

I’m going to be honest, the main reason I like this game so much is simply due to the world in which it plays out. It’s an alternate take on the historical Jamestown and Roanoke colonies; only the colonies the English are trying to settle are on Mars. And the Spanish team up with Martians. Yeah, that’s pretty awesome. Decently fun, very difficult shoot-’em-up outside of all that. -Seth

The King of Fighters XIII / Atlus / 360, PS3

Looks great, plays great, and feels right. There aren’t any “magic series” combos or tide-turning comeback mechanics. Normals are just as important as special moves and combo execution can be tough to master, but what this makes for is pure, honest fighting. -Seth

Kirby Mass Attack / Nintendo / DS

What do you get when you combine Pikmin and Kirby? Lots of Kirbys! Extremely fun, surprisingly easy to control platformer. Every time you think the game has run out of ideas, it throws something completely fresh into the mix. -Seth

The Kore Gang: Outvasion From Inner Earth / Atari / Wii

The Kore Gang is a 3D platformer ripped right from last generation, very literally. This comes with its caveats (a cranky camera system), but it also makes for a goofy and enjoyable romp. -Craig

The Last Story / Nintendo / Wii

An action RPG that plays heavily on the action. Although a rather linear and straight forward adventure, The Last Story’s battle system is fast and compelling. Each fight is a brutal tapestry of flipping over opponents, directing allies, taking cover and plucking off headshots, drawing attention off your friends and with some bosses, even solving puzzles. Fantastically fun. -Craig

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D / Nintendo / 3DS

I don’t know if it’s the upgraded graphics, the stereoscopic 3D, or just solid game design, but OoT on the 3DS managed to impress me as many times as when I first played the game over a decade ago. -Seth

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword / Nintendo / Wii
Read our review!
While Skyward Sword isn’t without its flaws, when it does things well it does them really well. With improved combat, dungeon-esque field areas, and some of the best characterization in the series, Skyward Sword is a breath of fresh air for The Legend of Zelda. -Chris

Mario Kart 7 / Nintendo / 3DS

Solid track design (including new point A to B segmented tracks) and cool new online features make for another great addition to the Mario Kart series. Now if Nintendo could just ease up on those blue shells… -Seth

Mighty Switch Force / WayForward / eShop

This gorgeous 2D puzzle-platformer is a bit short on content, but it makes great use of the system’s 3D effect and time trials add quite a bit of challenge. -Chris

Monster Tale / Majesco / DS
Read our review!
With their follow-up to Henry Hatsworth, DreamRift have once again blended two genres — this time, Metroidvania and Tamogatchi. And the result is wonderful. -Chris

Nano Assault / Majesco / 3DS

Nano Assault is a twin stick shooter released for machine with only one stick. But it works! With rail shooter segments and gorgeous visuals, Nano Assault is a terrific arcade style treat on the 3DS. -Craig

Okamiden / Capcom / DS
Read our review!
This was on our list last year, but such are the perils of import gaming. Okamiden hit North America in 2011 and although it played very close to its predecessor’s tried-and-true roots, it still offered a beautiful and grand adventure on the aging DS. The Celestial Brush translated perfectly to the touch screen and Chibiterasu is a cute and fitting protagonist. -Craig

Outland / Ubisoft / XBLA, PSN

Combining action, platforming, exploration and even Ikaruga-esque bullet dodging, Outland is game of many flavors. The fact that it pulls them all off so well is the remarkable part. -Craig

Pilotwings Resort / Nintendo / 3DS
Read our review!
Pilotwings Resort’s missions are great, but the real joy of the game is simply relaxing as you drift around Wuhu Island. It’s a joy to play as you explore, finding the game’s many collectibles. -Chris

Portal 2 / Valve / 360, PS3, PC

While many games tack a co-operative mode onto their main, solo campaign, Portal 2 features two separate campaigns, and each one feels like a full game unto itself. Both feature some great puzzles, but the co-operative stages in particular are incredibly satisfying and are designed specifically for two players — to the point where they’d be unplayable without two people. -Chris

Professor Layton and the Last Spector / Nintendo / DS

Professor Layton’s latest outing not only continues to meet the series’ high watermark, but also includes a completely separate bonus game in London Life. As a result, there’s plenty of content to keep players interested. -Chris

Pushmo / Nintendo / eShop

The eShop’s first real must-have, Pushmo takes a concept as simple as pulling blocks and makes an engrossing experience that’s near impossible to put down. -Chris

Radiant Historia / Atlus / DS

Whoever says the JRPG is dead clearly isn’t paying attention to the DS. Radiant Historia proves the genre still has chops; an excellent (though perhaps confusing) time traveling gimmick and a gratifying battle system make this one worth tracking down if you haven’t already. -Craig

Rayman Origins / Ubisoft/ Wii, 360, PS3

Impossibly beautiful, deftly fluid, incredibly fun, and undeservedly under-bought. -Seth

Ridge Racer 3D / Namco / 3DS
Read our review!
Ridge Racer is common title during new system launches, but Ridge Racer 3D is well worth the second look. With an immersive use of stereoscopic 3D and addictive arcade racing, this is one you may regret not checking out. -Craig

Saints Row: The Third / THQ / 360, PS3

Want to sky dive out of a hover jet, suplex a pedestrian, and then jump through the windshield of a car and drive off all in the span of thirty seconds? While naked? And wearing a rabbit mask? Then I know the game for you. -Seth

Shadows of the Damned / EA / 360, PS3

A decent third-person shooter played out by characters, and taking place in a world, that only Grasshopper Manufacture can deliver. -Seth

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure / Activision / 360, PS3, PC, Wii, 3DS
Read our review!
Upon first hearing about a concept like Skylanders, you have to wonder if Activision is ridiculously stupid or insane geniuses. Turns out, it’s the latter. Skylanders is not only a fun game (both on consoles and on the 3DS), but the idea of transplanting real, physical toys into your game almost makes spending even more money on the game fun. -Craig

Solatorobo: Red the Hunter / XSEED / DS

It’s hard to describe how good a game is when you play as a hired hand who takes on quests that involve stacking crates and picking up trash, but it all builds an unlikely hero dragged into a major conflict threatening a beautiful and lively world. A must-play. -Craig

Sonic Generations / Sega / 360, PS3, PC, 3DS

On the tails of Sonic Rush and Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations is further proof that Sega is slowly beginning to understand what actually makes its flagship mascot tick. Even with nostalgia aside, Sonic Generations is fun ride with great music and pretty visuals. -Craig

Star Fox 64 3D / Nintendo / 3DS

“We need your help, Star Fox! Andross has declared war! He’s invaded the Lylat System” *inexplicable pause* “and is trying to take over Corneria!” I was worried about the newly recorded voices but this line single-handedly assuaged my fears. The game itself is Star Fox 64 with a beautiful new coat of paint and stereoscopic 3D. Nothing else needs to be said. -Seth

Super Mario 3D Land / Nintendo / 3DS
Read our review!
For the first time Nintendo has seamlessly blended the best elements of 2D and 3D Mario, and the result is my favorite 3D Mario game to date. -Chris

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP / Capybara / iOS

Anyone who feels that mobile games are inferior needs to play Sword & Sworcery. It’s an incredibly unique experience you cannot find anywhere else. -Chris

Terraria / Re-Logic / PC

It’s sort of like a 2D version of Minecraft. Only with rocket boots. And giant flaming swords. And screen-filling bosses. -Seth

Tiny Wings / Andreas Illiger / iOS
Read our review!
A simple, one button game about the freedom and joy of flight. A beautiful game, both in visual style and in concept. -Craig

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception / Sony Computer Entertainment / PS3

Uncharted 3 takes everything Uncharted 2 did right and amps it up. It’s gorgeous, it’s got fantastic set pieces, and the characterization is unparalleled. -Chris

VVVVVV / Nicalis / eShop
Read our review!
A retro-styled platformer with no jump button, and a tough one at that. VVVVVV may be a short game, but it’s one that’s a complete blast from start to finish (and then some). -Chris

Yakuza 4 / Sega / PS3

A year without Yakuza is a year I do not wish to live in. -Craig

4

SOPA and PIPA: Fight Smarter

As a YouTube Partner providing content with a modicum of recognition, I sometimes get solicitations on my channel and videos. Sometimes it’s spam, most of the time it’s people asking...

As a YouTube Partner providing content with a modicum of recognition, I sometimes get solicitations on my channel and videos. Sometimes it’s spam, most of the time it’s people asking me and others to watch their videos. Lately, though, I’ve been receiving comments that read something like this:

“Hello Craig I have been a big fan for years and I am asking you on behalf of the gaming community and screwattack to help stop SOPA. By boycotting E3 the company that runs It(the ESA) is considered the representative of gaming to the government …and they strongly support SOPA. You can help by not going or covering E3 at all until they pull support. Thanks for reading.”

It’s polite, I’ll give it that, and it’s enthusiastic and good natured, but it’s also myopic.

I won’t be schooling you on the intricacies of the bills SOPA and PIPA, I’m sure most of you understand the gist by now and if you don’t, you’re sitting on the biggest repository of human knowledge ever and it is, at least at the time of this writing, still fairly open. The Entertainment Software Association, though, might need some introduction. The ESA is a trade organization that represents most big name video game publishers (and many not-so-big publishers too). The ESA is the presenter of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, every year. And the ESA does indeed support SOPA.

Now, the problem with this boycott is that it’s like finding the bad guy’s hideout, but a kennel of kittens, groups of small children and Scarlett Johansson all live under this roof too. And you decide to bomb it anyway. The ESA is not the only benefactor of or party affected by E3. E3 may be the house that the ESA built, but there are way more citizens living there than just the ESA. It’s a messy solution. It’s scattershot and it’s poorly conceived.

But we’re just viewing this boycott under a microscope pointed at E3. If you really want to stick it to the ESA and follow through with this line of thinking, you should probably boycott every game released by an ESA publisher too. So no Nintendo games. No Sony games. No Microsoft either. Nothing from EA, Ubisoft, XSEED, Capcom, Konami, Sega, THQ, Square Enix and a slew of others.

I hear Activision is safe though.

Really, you should be boycotting any entity with a stake in SOPA and PIPA, including the MPAA. So don’t bother watching any films rated by the organization either. It’s a boycott that would deprive you of a great many things, hurt a number of people and entities that happen to fall under the same umbrella (but have little stake), and is not guaranteed to have the desired effect. I hope you’re beginning to understand how unrealistic and unreasonable it would be. The worst part is, it doesn’t even really target the problem. It’s thrusting your knife in a dark cave, hoping you stab the bear before the bear eats you. Fight smarter.

Spreading the word and educating your family and friends are super important. Help them understand the possible implications of bills like these. Secondly, contact your elected officials. Write them or call them with something simple; remind them that the Internet is a bastion of creativity and innovation and it should not be stifled. Urge people you know you to do this too. SOPA and PIPA are absurd intrusions into the freedom of the Internet and should be stopped, but let’s not let passion trump critical thinking. Let’s not run blindly into battle blasting buckshot into every direction hoping we hit something.

[1] Update 1.20.2012: As the original text being spread around says, this boycott originated with gaming content brand ScrewAttack. ScrewAttack is owned by GameTrailers, which is in turn owned by Viacom. Viacom has been a staunch supporter of anti-piracy legislation, including SOPA.

So let’s boycott ScrewAttack.

No, I’m just kidding. It’s ridiculous to pin the sins of a parent company onto a brand it owns way down the chain. But that also applies to the multitude of publishers, journalists and other individuals and entities that would be affected by an ESA boycott.

[2] Update 1.20.2012: And now, the ESA have dropped their support for SOPA (via Kotaku).

[3] Update 1.20.2012: As ScrewAttack’s Craig Skistimas pointed out to me, ScrewAttack is not owned by GameTrailers. This was an inaccurate assessment on my part. ScrewAttack is, however, featured on GameTrailers, which is in turn owned by Viacom. The point is that Skistimas is not far removed from an entity that also supports SOPA.

4

Why I Am Not Enamored With Mobile Gaming

A platform being hailed as the portable king has a ways to go.

I purchased an iPhone shortly after its release; just after the first price drop but just before it was truly subsidized by the carrier. I was happy with my purchase. I still am. I’ve owned nothing but iPhones since and despite being a nerd, I have little interest in owning anything else.

There was a brief time after purchasing my expensive new phone (nearly a year actually) that I couldn’t do very much with it. It’s hard to imagine that now, but Apple’s juggernaut App Store was not available at the iPhone’s launch. After Apple rolled out the App Store in 2008, the games trickled out slowly at first. Most were not very good initially and if asked back then if I thought iOS would be a major gaming platform three years later, I would have scoffed. That changed with the launch of Gamevil’s Zenonia, which played a lot like an SNES-era action RPG, complete with a virtual d-pad and buttons. I was blown away: Seven bucks and now I have a nice little console-ish RPG on my phone? Awesome!

And over time, the luster wore off.

I don’t mean to make the implication that this is a fad, and I’ve never been one to dispute iOS’s legitimacy as a gaming platform (as entrenched enthusiasts are wont to do when something new and unwelcome invades their turf). It’s a gaming platform. I even have no issue with admitting the platform has some great titles, and I will attach no qualifier like “for a phone” on that statement.

Quite frankly though, while I appreciate mobile gaming’s contribution, I’m simply not enamored with it. I am not interested in welcoming our new portable gaming overlord. I feel like, while there a number of fun, creative and worthwhile games, the concept as a whole, as it stands now, is more for people who are more interested in paying $.99 so that they don’t have to twiddle their thumbs. They’re not necessarily interested in a new and compelling experience, they just don’t want to be bored. And the hardware and the App Store tend to cater to this mindset.

My qualms:

Mobile battery life is not very good.
As pundits champion mobile gaming out of one corner of their mouths, they tend to deride the battery life of the 3DS and the Vita out of the other, oblivious to the fact that while playing games many mobile devices tend to get similar battery life. I find this to be more of a problem on mobile devices because running my battery down means I’m not out just a game player, I’m also out a communication device or a portable media player. I lose a lot just because I wanted to put in extra rounds of Angry Birds. That’s not cool, and it’s a reason why Certain Kinds of Games* thrive better on mobile platforms.

Most mobile devices are just slabs of glass.
This is something that hammered over and over again, but buttons and other tactile controls are super important to most gaming experiences we have today. Not all. Certain Kinds of Games* work very well on a touch screen, and something like UFO on Tape is proof that developers can think outside the box and create some wonderfully innovative experiences not possible on other traditional machines at the time. However, a large percentage of mobile games utilize virtual buttons that require the player to obscure their play view by directly placing their thumbs on the screen. And while some virtual buttons are functional, they’re far from ideal. I value my games. I don’t simply look at games as interactive things I use to piss time away. I want the best experience, and that often necessitates buttons, and yes, it also often involves paying more. I’m willing to pay more for a better experience, all other things equal. Blotting out my view by sliding my thumbs over a tiny pane of glass in a bland console-ified mobile game is not the experience I am looking for. I would argue it is an experience no one should be looking for, but different strokes.

Hardware releases at a breakneck pace.
While traditional handheld gamers and pundits sometimes decry the lateral hardware revisions common in the industry, they seem to forget that mobile device manufacturers do they same exact thing, only at a more terrifying pace. A new iPhone releases every year, and I think I read that a new Android device releases every six seconds [not really]. Many of these new devices are not just prettier with a better camera, they also contain more powerful guts. What this means is that your device is definitely outdated in two years, and within three years, there’s a good chance that many of the newest games won’t run well on your device –or run at all. No one is forcing the user to upgrade, and if the user is the sort of person who upgrades their phone every two years anyway, this is probably less of an issue. But these mobile devices are expensive. It sort of makes the money saved on the $.99 games a moot point if the user wants to keep up with those cheap, cheap games.

Mobile gaming is best suited for Certain Kinds of Games.
Between the limited battery life and the limited control functionality, mobile gaming really shines with certain kinds of games. Simple games. Games that require basic interaction. This is actually not a slight! My favorite iOS games are usually of this ilk, and I really enjoy them. But two of my favorite iOS games from 2011, Groove Coaster and Tiny Wings, ask little more of you than to tap anywhere on the screen when prompted. Great in short doses on the go, but not exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for when other options are available. Puzzlers and sim/strategy games also work well, although the typical App Store customer who demands lower and lower prices also drives down the scope of the games available. There is, fairly, only so much a developer can do when their game needs to be priced at $.99 to compete, and has no guarantee it won’t get lost in the massive shuffle of the App Store. There’s actually nothing wrong with any of this, but when traditional handheld game platforms are capable of all this, and infinitely more, I don’t feel like I have much reason to use my iPhone to play games outside of a long grocery line (although, when the right game comes along, I do).

As I hear and read more often that mobile gaming is making traditional handheld gaming obsolete, I sigh. Not because I don’t think it can’t happen. Oh, it can. The claim is just engineered to sound bold, but it’s really a soft prediction. It supposes most people don’t already understand that when presented with the opportunity, most general audiences will gravitate towards the cheapest and easiest entertainment. I know this. You probably know this. The claim suddenly doesn’t sound so bold anymore. I’m tired of hearing it.

I tried to select my words carefully here myself. I don’t aim to be flippant or contrary or one of those people who clings to past conventions, fighting the future tooth and nail. I say that I’m not enamored because I’m not, but this does not mean I dislike mobile gaming. I’m glad it exists overall. I feel it has its place, but I do not believe that place must occupy the same space as traditional handheld gaming, especially when the inherent limitations currently presented by mobile gaming hardware, software and audience means I generally don’t have anywhere close to the same experience. I will come to bat for mobile gaming when it is being derided, but in a way someone comes to the aid of a wimpy kid being bullied. The wimpy kid might be a pretty alright dude and doesn’t deserve being hassled, but we’re not good friends or anything. We just hang out when I have a few minutes to kill.

5

TV&L Anticipated Games for Q1 2012

The launch of the Vita, more 3DS goodness and a number of console intrigues.

Here are the games we’re anticipating most for the first quarter of 2012. While not an exhaustive release forecast, it encompasses the stuff we really want to play. Feel free to chime in with what you are looking forward to!

All release dates are for North America, and while we strive for accuracy, release dates often change on short notice.

January 2012

CRUSH3D / SEGA / 3DS / Jan 10
Silent Hill HD Collection / Konami / 360, PS3 / Jan 24
Final Fantasy XIII-2 / Square Enix / 360, PS3 / Jan 31
NeverDead / Konami / 360, PS3 / Jan 31
Soul Calibur V / Namco Bandai / 360, PS3 / Jan 31
Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword / Nintendo / eShop / Jan

February 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning / EA / 360, PS3 / Feb 7
Resident Evil: Revelations / Capcom / 3DS / Feb 7
Rhythm Heaven Fever / Nintendo / Wii / Feb 13
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND / Aksys / 360, PS3 / Feb 14
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 / Atlus / DS / Feb 14
Tales of the Abyss / Namco Bandai / 3DS / Feb 14
Tekken 3D: Prime Edition / Namco Bandai / 3DS / Feb 14
Asura’s Wrath / Capcom / 360, PS3 / Feb 21
Grand Knights History / XSEED / PSP / Feb 21
Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D / Konami / 3DS / Feb 21
Escape Plan / Sony Computer Entertainment / Vita / Feb 22
Little Deviants / Sony Computer Entertainment / Vita / Feb 22
Super StarDust Delta / Sony Computer Entertainment / Vita / Feb 22
Touch My Katamari / Namco Bandai / Vita / Feb 22
Uncharted: Golden Abyss / Sony Computer Entertainment / Vita / Feb 22
WipEouT 2048 / Sony Computer Entertainment / Vita / Feb 22
Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure / Sega / 3DS / Feb 28
SSX / EA / 360, PS3 / Feb 28
Jak and Daxter Collection / Sony Computer Entertainment / PS3 / Feb 29
Gotham City Imposters / Warner Bros. Interactive / XBLA, PSN, PC / Feb

March 2012

Mass Effect 3 / EA / 360, PS3, PC / Mar 6
Max Payne 3 / Rockstar / 360, PS3, PC / Mar 6
Tales of Graces F / Namco Bandai / PS3 / Mar 13
Ninja Gaiden 3 / Tecmo / 360, PS3 / Mar 20
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City / Capcom / 360, PS3 / Mar 20
Kid Icarus: Uprising / Nintendo / 3DS / Mar 23
Dragon’s Dogma / Capcom / 360, PS3 / Mar 27
Yakuza: Dead Souls / Sega / PS3 / Mar 27
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D / Atari / 3DS / Mar 30
Silent Hill: Downpour / Konami / 360, PS3 / Mar 30

TBA Q1 2012

Mutant Mudds / Renegade Kid / eShop / TBA
Dillon’s Rolling Western / Nintendo / eShop / TBA
Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater / Konami / 3DS / TBA
La-Mulana / Nicalis / WiiWare / TBA
Gravity Rush / Sony Computer Entertainment / Vita / TBA
Skullgirls / Autumn Games / XBLA, PSN / TBA
NightSky / Nicalis / eShop / TBA
I Am Alive / Ubisoft / XBLA, PSN / TBA

Chris says:

For me, the first quarter of the new year will be quite a bit lighter than the past few months, and I’m thankful for it. On the other hand, my wallet is thankful that some of my most anticipated games this quarter are actually downloadable releases like Mutant Mudds, Dillon’s Rolling Western, and Gotham City Imposters (and La-Mulana, but I don’t actually expect that to release in Q1). While there are some big-name retail releases like Max Payne 3, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Resident Evil: Revelations that I’m looking forward to, I’m more interested in the lesser-known stuff like Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure. And of course the Vita launch is impending, and while I won’t be picking one up right away, I’ll be keeping an eye on Escape Plan and Little Deviants, among others. Even without picking up a Vita, there should still be plenty of new games to keep me busy (not to mention catching up from the holidays).

Seth says:

Woo! A new year and some new games to waste my money on! Let’s see, I’m hesitantly looking forward to NeverDead; seems like its titular game mechanic could either make for an incredibly fun game or an incredibly dull one. (Fingers crossed for the former outcome of course.) Asura’s Wrath falls on my “hesitantly optimistic” list as well; the trailers feature the most over-the-top action I’ve ever seen in anything ever but I’m afraid it may turn out to be one giant QTE-fest. I recently got the itch for a new snowboarding game so I’m super excited to apply that SSX ointment to soothe the burning. Of the itch. The snowboarding game itc… never mind. Rhythm Thief, RE: Revelations, Sakura Samurai, Kid Icarus… yeah, definitely not a bad way to start 2012. As for the Vita, I’m not entirely sure if I’ll jump on it right away but both Escape Plan and Gravity Rush are making it look awfully tempting. As an aside, what’s with all the awesome downloadable titles without solid release dates? Hey publishers, things like release dates are kind of important to people looking forward to your games. Come on!

Steph says:

It’s 2012! Thankfully the world hasn’t come to an end so I’m going to continue my tradition of spending money on video games. Most of my attention will be focused on the Playstation Vita this quarter. I’m interested in seeing what direction this handheld will take portable gaming. Gravity Rush (which looks amazing), Little Deviants, Wipeout 2048 and Uncharted: Golden Abyss are the launch titles I’ll be picking up. Not only do they graphically look outstanding but the different gameplay mechanics have intrigued me. On top of devoting the majority of my time to Sony’s new handheld I’ll be holding it down in space with as Shepard in Mass Effect 3. I’m expecting to get lost in the narrative while sinking hours into upgrading my character and enjoying the RPG/shooter gameplay elements. I’m also looking forward to spending time with Tales of Grace f. The Tales series always wins me over with the action packed, real-time battles and gorgeous visuals. I couldn’t be more happier to know that it’s finally making its way stateside after being released two years ago in Japan. The Jak & Daxter HD Collection, Resident Evil Revelations and Renegade Kid’s Mutant Mudds all have me psyched. All of these games are surely enough to keep me satisfied for the entire year but this is only the first quarter. 2012 is going to be a hell of a year!

Craig says:

I have been anticipating a month like February for a long time. New handheld hardware and all the handheld games I can play! The Vita looks terrific, and Uncharted, Wipeout, Little Deviants and Super StarDust all at launch is enough to send me into a tizzy. An expensive tizzy, because the shortest month of the year also has Resident Evil Revelations and Tales of the Abyss for the 3DS, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 on the DS and Grand Knights History on the PSP. Now, while it seems like I’m forsaking my TV, there’s still some great console stuff on the horizon too! I’m a huge Yakuza fan, so of course Dead Souls is a must-own for me (its terrible localized name not withstanding), and Kingdoms of Amalur looks like it might be up my alley. Capcom’s Asura’s Wrath and Dragon’s Dogma look like a lot of fun; a straight forward action game and an eastern developed open world game just might make a good pair. Kid Icarus and a steady stream of eShop titles will surely keep my 3DS warm, and my bank account cold.

Banner art by Seth Gastelum.

20

Falling Out of Love With Console Games

As handhelds grow, my interest in consoles wanes.

I grew up with an unreasonable mother, one who took delight in exercising her ability to tell me “no” for no good reason. As a kid, I occasionally lashed out, but I got good grades and never burned the house down, so constantly being told “no” was frustrating. In fact, being told no arbitrarily was probably the biggest reason why I occasionally “lashed out” in the first place.

Our consoles were hooked up to the living room TV. I had to ask permission to play them. You might see where this is going (ProTip: I was often arbitrarily told I could not play them). When I received the Game Boy as a Christmas present one year, it was a relief. I could finally play games without having to ask (and be denied), and this likely started my love for handheld gaming. Today, I own an enormous collection of handheld systems and the single system for which I own the most games is the Nintendo DS. As the years go on, I find myself playing more of these portable titles, and less of their console cousins. I’m ok with this.

The concept of playing games at a fixed location, perhaps negotiating rights to the TV with whomever may be using it at the time (sometimes, this person may even be myself), is quickly becoming a drag for me. I feel tied down. But the biggest factor in my growing disinterest in console games is the time investment. Simply put, console games value my time less than handheld games do.

The biggest offender is the PlayStation 3. I own quite a few games for the machine and it does a number of things right, but it has the uncanny ability to monopolize my game time without letting me ever play a game. Firmware updates, title updates, patches, Trophy installs, mandatory game installs, etc. When I purchased Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the system, I sat through 45 minutes of this nonsense before I even got to play the game. That’s absurd! And while the PS3 is the most egregious offender in this regard, it’s not the only one. All current consoles require groan-inducing things like this, and for someone with a busy life who just wants to crack a few heads during a bit of downtime, they’re a real hassle. Without these things, the player is without important bug fixes, locked out of vital features, or prevented from playing the game all together.

Even when you get into your game, it still conspires against you. Logos of the various developers and publishers and middleware tech and lunch caterers dully slink across your screen. Then you can press start. Then the game might connect to servers, or check for downloadable content. Then it loads and it’ll probably do that a lot. And the cut-scenes. Holy smokes, the cut-scenes. Many video games, particularly the big blockbusters, try way too hard to emulate Hollywood and fail miserably with childish dialog and lukewarm directing. Instead of playing a fun game, I’m forced to watch a really crappy movie.

It’s frustrating to sit down to play a game and spend a significant portion of your time not playing the game, and more and more, that’s exactly what is happening with console games. On the other side of the coin, handhelds are always there, waiting for you like a puppy. Once powered on, they can idle in sleep mode. They offer great games downloaded quickly for under $10. Load times are often minimal, if they exist at all. And as handheld technology progresses, these machines and their games offer comparable graphics, features and gameplay to their console counterparts. They do all this, and you’re not tied to a particular room or even a building of any kind.

Although the march of progress may inevitably render handheld games too similar to console games, with all the positives and negatives that entails, handheld games currently toe the line well. There are quick and immediate games, the kind that still exist on consoles but fail to flourish, but there are also more complex games that give console games a run for their money. Many games wisely and successfully combine aspects of both. And the ability to pick up and put down these games at will is invaluable, and something a console can never replicate.

This isn’t an anti-console tirade. I love my consoles, and I still buy games for them. But as console games continue to eat away my free time with things that are not gameplay, I find myself turning to handhelds and their increasingly robust and interesting games more often. Maybe, given my history with handhelds, I’m just predisposed to this shift and it was predestined. Either way, as I look at releases for the first few months of 2012, the vast majority of games to which I’m looking forward are 3DS and Vita games. Some are even DS and PSP games. There may even come a day when I’m not interested at all in console games.

6

On Reviewing Games Based on Pricing

Populist, but not always smart.

I’ve been playing games almost my entire life and I’ve been reviewing them for about 10 years. Sometimes I’ve been compensated for my work, but usually it’s something I do in my spare time so maybe my opinion isn’t worth much, but I’ve always taken the idea of critiquing a game and presenting that critique to an audience as seriously as I can.

I’ve come to the intersection of “Reviewed Games For A Decade” and “Played Roughly 2,000 Games in My Life,” and I find that my views have shifted on a number of things. I’m not the biggest fan of many open world games, I don’t care much for cinematics, I prefer games that are quick and intuitive, and I don’t really take pricing into account when I review games.

Sift through some of my past reviews and I’m sure you’ll find that I may have in the past and I may likely reference a game’s price in the future. It happens. It’s natural to look at something you’ve exchanged money for, and can either please or displease you, as a cold, hard product. There’s nothing wrong with this necessarily and it’s not only a reasonable way to write a review, it’s also a reasonable thing to ask of a review. But I find it to be less than ideal.

The first issue I have with this is what is generally weighed against the money that has been exchanged. It’s stuff. Things. Bullet points. It’s not all together whether the experience is great or how it comes together as a defined creative endeavor, but rather how many modes and hours are there. A game can offer a fun competitive multiplayer component, an original co-operative mode and a solid campaign that lasts five hours and all too often, that latter aspect is going to be disproportionately harped on.

Conversely, 30+ hour games are rarely chided for bloat (and they often contain bloat). The idea of a long game and a good game are not mutually exclusive, but too often the length and the amount of junk listed on the back of the box are the determining factors in this situation. It’s a concept that doesn’t even make much sense when evidence suggests most players don’t even finish the content that they use as this determining factor. How can I possibly critique a game based on an arbitrary amount of content when most people reading my critique aren’t going to experience it anyway? It’s a wasted concern.

My primary issue with this populist approach is the fluidity of prices. When reviewing a game, should I take into account what I personally paid? Sometimes, I actually don’t pay anything. If it’s based on MSRP, it alienates anyone who isn’t paying MSRP, including people who have gift cards, used purchasers, someone taking advantage of a sale and anyone buying the game a year or more down the road. And that’s the pitfall of using price as a crutch in a review: Too many factors are conspiring against your crutch until, boom, down you fall. IGN’s Audrey Drake reviewed Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D earlier this year, and although she leveled a handful of concerns against the game, her primary grievance was the game’s content in contrast to its $40 MSRP. As I said previously, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Drake is free to review games in anyway she deems fit and this is not to pick on her personally, but how helpful was this review less than two months after the game’s release when major retailer Best Buy had it on sale for $20, half its MSRP, for a week? How helpful is this review right now as major retailer Amazon sells it for $30? It’s only potentially helpful to a particular audience looking to buy the game on the first day with nothing to mitigate the cost, but for everyone else, it’s not very meaningful. Drake’s own review said The Mercenaries 3D is “a ton of fun,” “a very addictive experience” and she said she “couldn’t put it down.” Shouldn’t that be enough?

It’s becoming my experience that, yes, it should be. I’m critiquing a game. An experience. Possibly, a piece of art (but maybe the jury is still out on that one). I can’t account for factors external to the game in my critique. I might as well add in how awesome the box art is, the brevity of the two page manual and a gripe about how bad traffic was on my way to the store to pick it up. I don’t care much about writing Consumer Reports-esque reviews, and I don’t care for reading them anymore either. I don’t find this to be an interesting approach. That’s clearly a personal preference and not a universally applied trait, but I like to think that we all think of our favorite games as something more than the sum of their parts. When we speak of those games, we recall the feelings they invoked. The thrill, the fun. We don’t think much of the cost 10 years down the line, just that joyful impression left on us. Why should a critique be any different?