Archive for the ‘PS3’ Category

Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

Posted: August 25, 2013 in PC, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

My first review, My first full Splinter Cell game. Only played one other and never completed it. That one being Splinter Cell Conviction. Backstory, someone in the PI group kinda needed to review blacklist and I was the only one interested in the game though I only ever really played a portion of one Splinter Cell I still liked what I saw from Blacklist at E3. So there was really no other choice. I can say having played Blacklist now it is one of the toughest games I’ve played in my lifetime and I’ve actually said that about the last of us. I never played a Splinter Cell game really though so I don’t think that distinction ever held up. Now I know these games are hard if you want to be stealthy. At least they are for me. It’s not cause the stealth is bad more so I’m just bad at it in this game.

I’m not going to do what my colleagues did and call the game out on graphics or anything because that sort of thing in gaming isn’t a big deal to me. If the graphics are gorgeous great, but if they look fine then they look fine. I’m not picky when it comes to this sort of thing because certain colors don’t even come up to me. Kind of a warning for other reviews I do as this will be the only time I post it. Maybe as a disclaimer in others but no promises. So this review will mostly consist of what you truly care about. The gameplay, Is it good? The story, Is it entertaining? And does the game have lasting appeal? All of these questions will be answered sort of in this review. I am no expert at doing reviews but I’ll give it my best effort.

The Story

I’ll start with what is my least important aspect of the game that I listed. That’s the story. I’m not saying story isn’t important mind you, I’m just saying that a game with a great story and crappy gameplay is not as fun as a game with an ok story and fun gameplay. So, the story in Blacklist as always casts you as Sam Fisher. Resident hero of the Splinter Cell franchise. You are charged in the story with basically bringing down this terrorist organization, I wanna call it, called the blacklist. Hence the name blacklist I guess. And that’s really the just of it.

The game’s story isn’t really a highlight. It takes you to interesting locales and interesting things happen, but nothing that is really that mindblowing. And as a matter of fact, nothing that I haven’t really seen before already. For this reason, the story is ok. Nothing to special at all about it. The best part about the story to me was how it took you to interesting locales. Not just in other countries but in America itself. You go to Philadelphia, someplace in Louisiana, and at one point and this was my favorite part of the whole game, Chicago.

See, you being here means you likely listen to the podcast but if you don’t you should know this meant a lot to me because I’m from Chicago. It was the city I was born and raised in. And I absolutely love the city. So seeing it realized in any video game in video game form is truly jaw dropping for me. So when Sam Fisher first arrives in Chicago I instantly recognized where I was and that was Navy Pier. It was so cool for me to know, holy crap I’m visiting something in a video game that I’ve actually been too in real life. A bit surreal. It takes the cake for my current favorite moment in video games.

The story though kinda does something that pisses me off royally. It takes away some of the freedom that you get in the game in some of the missions. To use an example. In one area you are completely forced to not kill anyone until a certain point in the mission. You are also forced to not get detected by anyone. This is really hard to do considering the ridiculously inconsistent AI that the game has. This kind of thing is what side missions are used for. Side missions restrict what the character has to do. The main story should be used for player freedom and choice in a game that has it a lot.

These instances happen 5 times throughout the game. And every time it happens it gets frustrating. But it’s okay as the gameplay is still solid for the most part throughout. One other highlight in the story for me was an actual enjoyable “final boss” fight. It’s not necessarily a final boss fight but it has the vibe of one. You have to be sneaky in this fight or you die literally instantly. The thing about this was though that I wasn’t expecting a final boss fight here. Maybe that’s why it was so good for me. Also because it was different from every final boss I’ve ever fought. Not about shooting him a ridiculous amount of times till he finally dies. No you be sneaky and that’s it. That’s the fight. Simple.

I don’t know if this is really story related but it’s a highlight. Checking in with the crew of the paladin, those being Charlie, Briggs, grim, your daughter, Sarah, and an unnamed person I won’t spoil was also a highlight for me. Hearing the conversations they would have with Sam about the stuff happening in the story was pretty cool to me. My favorite dynamic was with his daughter. I had to go check on her every time I completed a mission to make sure everything was still good.

One final thing the game does with choice was giving you the option to kill or spare certain people in the story. I’m not sure if it changes anything up in the story because at the end it seemingly doesn’t matter either way. I will say though that some of the ways that people die in the kill option are pretty brutal. One in particular that I won’t spoil. That’s all for the story bit of the game. Solid, but not mindblowing to sum it up.

The Gameplay

So for me this is the most important aspect. And it will kind of tie in with the lasting appeal bit. There is a lot to do in Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Or at least for a game of its nature. Being a stealth oriented third person shooter, you like me would probably expect some linear story telling and as a result a lot of go here and kill this guy type of fights. If you are thinking that is what you’ll get in Blacklist, you’d be wrong. See the main appeal for me in blacklist has been I can play Sam Fisher the way I think Sam Fisher would act. As if I’m literally Sam Fisher. Not in the sense that there is player choice but in that you can go through the whole game much like my game of 2012, Dishonored, without killing a single person. How this is possible, don’t ask me because I don’t do that kind of thing. I do stealth all the way up until the shit hits the fan and then I go in guns a blazing. Then back to stealth. You can choose to do this, you can choose to go full stealth but killing people or you could choose to go the whole game guns a blazing like people do in a lot of games.

The way the game puts you into Sam Fisher’s shoes doesn’t just stop there though. Already good enough for me and it goes further. The entire game is accessed right from the start and every thing that you can do, be it co-op, single player, or multi player they are all accessed from the single player hub. You press the start button and you see it all and can access it all immediately. I think this is a great technique and more games should use it. It’s kind of innovative, never really seen it before. But from that main hub you can leave the screen and walk around on the paladin. Go and upgrade the ship, buy weapons, find other missions that the group gives you and such. This is also a really cool idea I just wish it could have got put to more use. I’d like some conversation options so I could learn a little more about my crew a la Mass Effect. No romance or anything just a little bit more knowledge about the team is fine.

Back to playing how you want to play. You can customize your Sam Fisher to be the best Sam Fisher YOU personally want him to be. Not a lot of options but it’s still a welcome addition. What I mean is you can choose the loadout you go onto the field with. The game never forces you to go into battle using this. It recommends items but it never forces you explicitly to do so. And you can customize Sam’s outfit. And no this isn’t a cosmetic thing either. The outfit customization actually adds added benefits to Sam’s abilities. Such as equipping him with a new pair of pants helps him be more stealthy. I don’t really think I need to understand why that makes sense. It’s a great addition.

So that’s basically all I got to say about letting you play how you want to play. Now I’m going to talk about the core gameplay. What you’ll be doing in blacklist a majority of the time is killing people. Not playing dress up, or customizing your guns. So is the killing of the people fun. And I have to say for me it varies a little. When the game becomes a gun fest it gets kind of boring. But when you are sneaking around trying to find the best way to either take out the enemy without being seen or kill the enemy entirely with as little noise as possible. The most effective way to do this is by melee. Luckily melee gives you your execute attack instantly. And execute is a good way to take out a group of enemies and is the coolest looking thing in the game. Unfortunately I thought the coolest looking thing in the game would be melee kills. All the melee kill animations are repetitive for the most part. Non-lethal takedowns consist of Sam taking the enemy down and either choking him out with his knee or arm, or knocking them out. Cool the first few times but it never really changes as you go on. It’s so on and so forth for the other things. Nothing impressive in that animation department. I’m not saying it’s a big deal though. Sure you will melee a lot in a stealth playthrough but whatever. Meleeing gives you those oh so satisfying execute moves.

So if you don’t know what executing is. I think it was a brand new thing brought in to Splinter Cell in conviction. The basic idea being that you mark a set amount of people and then press a button and it becomes a sort of cinematic moment where Sam kills said amount of people in rapid fashion, most of the time without missing. This is what I would like to call the easy button. If you are struggling to find a way out, kill this group of enemies. Well you can just execute them and move on. It’s never really that simple but still. Mark and Execute is an awesome thing to do. It feels so satisfying to do it and is dependable.

Now, the hard part about it is, I played through blacklist on normal as I do with most games. And struggled early on. Having never played a Splinter Cell game. Figuring it would be like most stealth games. You now be stealthy and if I get spotted well I’m strong enough to tank some bullets. Not here. If you are spotted you either run or die. That is if you are stealthy. Keep in mind that I didn’t build a “tanky” Sam Fisher. Every time I was seen and I didn’t get away. I was dead within two bullets and was back looking at the dreaded loading screen. Speaking of the loading screen it’s almost nonexistent unless you die a lot. So that’s good. Anyway, every enemy situation you encounter, it will never be just one-three enemies. Sorry never that easy. It will always be in a pretty open area giving you options and forcing you to think especially if you are stealthy.

All this stuff is extremely appreciated from someone like me. I like the challenge that comes from deciding what’s the best way to take everyone out without alerting everyone. But the enemy AI can be kind of bad…and when I say kind of bad I mean pretty bad. In some situations it was understandable but in a lot of them it was just sheer stupidity. For example there was a moment in a side mission where I was hanging off a dock and threw a guy off it right in front of his buddy. Then his buddy who saw it all happen. Walks over to check what happened. Of course you can guess what happened to that guy. Sure it’s good for a laugh but it’s still kind of disappointing that the enemy AI isn’t a little bit smarter.

And while I’m talking about problems with the game I’m going to bring up the numerous bugs that I encountered in the game. To highlight a few. My favorite being an enemy henchman stuck in place walking on top of a piece of cover and never attacking me. I stood up in front of him and he didn’t attack me. So he basically became broken. Every game has this kind of bug. It’s funny, you know it wasn’t meant to be there but you get a good laugh out of it. Then comes a weird graphical bug. One where you melee kill an enemy through a door. So I first encountered this in the same side mission I killed the two idiots by the dock. I lured a guy to a door and he opened it but because I was standing right where the door would open the door shut again right on his face. But I pressed the square button and I killed him. Problem being that we were both on opposite sides of the door. Sound funny? It was. And it happened numerous times to the point where I was practically abusing it. It’s not gamebreaking but it’s still kind of irritating to see. Couldn’t Ubisoft have tested this? Why is this a possible thing. And to further illustrate the stupid AI at times. In those same situations they would open the door and it would close on their face. And then they would open it again and it would close on their face. The process would be repeated until finally I killed them. Problem here is that there are a lot of doors that are double. So if it’s not opening on this side, for one that should probably be investigated, then you should probably go to the other side and check the problem. And one final bug just to illustrate my point. This happened near the end of the game so if you plan on picking it up don’t click the video. My friend recorded this and it was quite funny when it happened. The quality is a little bad but bear with it.

So yea that was just one of the many bugs that happened in game. Pretty funny but also pretty saddening that they didn’t test that kind of thing out.

But the thing that irks me most about this is that the AI is really inconsistent. To the point of frustration. The AI can be really smart in a lot of places. Again using my own example. In a sort of waves and waves mission I was spotted and ran to an area. The people who spotted me went to that area and then their teammates flanked me and killed me. Problem lying here is that you have a last known location indicator if you do get spotted in blacklist that basically tells the AI to keep shooting there because you may still be there. Yet sometimes the AI is somehow smart enough to know you won’t be there and flank you right in the area you are going to be.

On the sound and detail side of things. There are some subtle things that go along way for a gamer like me. You can open doors, windows, and such in blacklist. I know right, innovative thing there. And when you do open these doors and the AI comes back it questions how it got open or if he left it open or something along those lines. It’s really cool to me and goes a long way. Also if you don’t kill an enemy, just non-lethal take them down and an enemy finds them, that enemy will wake up the guy who’s unconscious and that’ll be another head you have to deal with. And banter will happen when this ensues so it’s all cool and kind of frustrating at the same time.

Small complaint that I have is with the controls. Not something I’m used to. Pushing the right thumbstick in to reload, X to run, climb, and everything. R2 marks people, and Triangle I think serves the purpose of just being used to execute. The shoulders being your ADS and shoot buttons. Square being your melee attack and I’m not exactly sure what O does. The meleeing and Shoulder button inputs are fine but everything else just seems weird. I don’t know, maybe I’m just use to using Square as the universal reload button and now that I think about it O not really being used for anything important. Jokes.

Lasting Appeal

Finally, the game has some nice replay value. It offers a co-op campaign, a competitive multiplayer and multiple singleplayer side missions. Not to mention you can go back and play that single player again on each of the different styles. Those being Ghost, Non-Lethal, Undetected. Panther, Lethal, Undetected and Assault which is basically just F.E.A.S(Fuck Everything And Shoot). Each completed thing has challenges and such that give money to unlock upgrades for Sam or the paladin. This is the stuff for true completionists, sure but it’s still there and it’s still appreciated.

There are also multiple collectibles hidden throughout the single-player and cooperative campaigns. Giving more replay value in going back and finding them. And as I said there are single-player or co-operative optional missions you can do. Never necessary but they are there. They offer a swerve on the normal gameplay though. You have to play the mission a certain way. For example in one you can’t be seen while you are placing a word that escapes me on certain equipment. Again never needed but fun anyway and adds a bit of replayability.

The true replayabilitiy comes in the form of the competitive multiplayer. Spies vs Mercs. Pitting as expected one team against the other with certain match objectives. Sure they say it does stuff for the campaign but I personally don’t know what. Maybe just give you some money to further upgrade the paladin and purchase new weapons and upgrades for Sam. That’s cool it’s welcome and thankfully in at least my time with it Spies vs Mercs was actually quite fun. And it needed to be otherwise the game probably would have lost a population pretty quickly.

Big negative for me and a pretty substantial reason for why the scores not going to be a 9.2 or whatever. The co-op campaign is a massive disappointment. It had a lot of potential to be good but it just wasn’t. For one you can’t play it with an AI which unless you have a friend to play the co-op with is the next best option. We’ve said it on PI. People are assholes over the internet. They don’t care about doing what you want just getting the mission done. So a lot of the time the “randoms” you’ll get paired up with be “rambos” which is to say people who run and gun. That’s fine and all but it doesn’t make the game fun. It might be fun if you have a partner. Emphasis on might. Because in all honesty the co-op bits felt a little like COD to me. You have a partner and he helps you kill and stuff and then you break through an area and move on to the next. Co-op bits felt extremely linear to me and didn’t feel executed on properly. Also at the end of the first mission you and your partner take control of a UAV and provide covering fire for your teammate just like COD has done in the past.

Another negative thing is with the side missions. Not that they are necessarily bad but more so just repetitive. You get side missions from the crew of the paladin. And each crew member has a specific gameplay style side mission. For grim, it was undetected, plant three things in certain areas. And when they say undetected, they really mean undetected. For Charlie you have to fend off waves and waves of enemies till you can extract and let me tell ya. In splinter cell, the waves and waves thing, it don’t work. For Briggs you have exclusive co-op only side missions that work kinda like the single player only with a partner. And then there is one more person that gives you side content but I’m not telling you about that. Point being any side content you could do just boils down to doing the same thing over and over and over to the tune that it gets boring.

So that’s my review of Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Or at least the parts of it you probably don’t care about. The true thing you care about is the score and to be honest I thought the game was great. Game of the year candidate, no, but a fun game nonetheless. Only if though you are into stealth games. I advise if you aren’t into stealth stay away from this one. So the score i’m giving it may not be a great score like other places have given it. I may just have a different opinion. Aren’t that what all reviews are though?

+ Fun but Challenging Stealth Gameplay

+ Tons of Replayability

+ Entertaining Competitive Multiplayer

– Very Poorly Done Co-op Campaign

– Extremely Inconsistent AI

-Repetitive Side Content

-Graphics Aren’t Really That Great

Splinter Cell Blacklist: 7.4/10

*I know I said I wasn’t going to say anything about the graphics and frankly I didn’t I just thought I’d point out at the end that the graphics in the game aren’t stunning. To be honest they don’t really look that good at all. They look like they came out of the early PS3 and Xbox 360. Most games look much better now. Maybe it’s just me but yea. Also I know this may be a little different from how Nooch and Kyle do their reviews but what are you going to do? I also realize it may not be at the quality that Nooch and Kyle do their reviews but hey. I tried. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

– Ryan

Saints Row IV Review

Posted: August 25, 2013 in PC, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

The Saints Row series is known for its craziness, and Saints Row IV is no different. Getting much more insane as the time passed, Saints Row 2 was crazy while being partially grounded in reality, Saints Row: The Third was set in a new, much more crazy city with dildo bats and tigers riding around in cars. Saints Row IV takes the insanity of Saints Row: The Third and multiplies it. It adds in a whole new element of gameplay, along with a hilarious well-written story, and, of course, an alien invasion. While not perfect, Saints Row IV takes the insanity and humor of Saints Row: The Third and combines it with many throwbacks to all kinds of movies, games, and TV shows. It is extremely fun to play and goes over-the-top in nearly every way possible.


The original idea for Saints Row IV was in the form of Enter the Dominatrix, a downloadable add-on for Saints Row: The Third. It was then combined with the Saints Row IV that had been in development, and the new game was born. This meant, however, that the game looks nearly identical to Saints Row: The Third. The city of Steelport is mostly the same, with a few alien towers added for verticality. The game is mostly set at night, though. It is almost always dark in the city, which can leave it feeling bland.


New Towers in the City of Steelport
New Towers in the City of Steelport


The game also comes packing another great soundtrack, which, while it feels lacking compared to the Saints Row: The Third soundtrack, has a few memorable songs and great cues throughout the game. The voice acting is also superb. Each of the seven custom voices for the Saints’ boss along with nearly all NPCs in the game have great acting with hilarious lines. The alien leader, Zinyak, will reference many historical pieces of American literature and movies. There are many returning characters from Saints Row: The Third, along with a few new ones, like Keith David, who steals the show. A few characters do seem ignored in the story, and act like a third wheel at points, but there are some great cameos from previous games in the series that will make up for this. Enemy types in the game, however, are repetitive. There are only a few types of aliens, all of which look generic. They don’t have the greatest AI either, doing whatever to try to kill you.

The game does have its share of glitches, though. More than once I fell through the world and had the game glitch on me. There are a few pop-ins and some clipping at random moments. It is also reported to crash during high-action parts of the game.


Saints Row IV’s story starts with the Saints’ leader becoming President of the United States after a series of events leads them there. After a few years, aliens invade Earth, and take the President to a simulated version of Steelport. The Saints then must try to stop the aliens by defeating the leader. The story is well-written and I always wanted to see what happens next. It encompasses both the simulation and the real world, on a ship very reminiscent of Mass Effect’s Normandy, going from place to place letting the hackers try to stop the simulation.


Going Back to the Real World
Going Back to the Real World


The best parts of the story are the rescue missions for the Saints’ homies. Taking the boss to the worst nightmare of the homie and rescuing them from that place. These missions will reference many different games, going back to places from previous games in the series, as well as some other fantastic places from the gaming spectrum. These missions allow for some of the most insane missions in the game as well as some of the most surprising and fun.

The side missions in the game also add some depth to the story. These give missions that give the player new powers, upgrades, weapons, or even super homies, giving the homie new abilities and new outfits. These are a nice addition to the main story and activites which keep the story going away from the main storyline.


The real star of Saints Row IV, as it is with any other Saints Row game, is the gameplay. The main addition to the gameplay, in the virtual world, is the superpowers. These superpowers make it extremely and fun to traverse the world of Steelport, making collecting the Data Clusters scattered everywhere in unique places fun and addicting. The game does become decidedly easier than previous games because of these superpowers, however. It seemed that, unless there was an extreme amount of enemies, it wasn’t too hard to wipe out a group of aliens, especially due to a single gun that killed enemies nearly instantly.


Super Powers!
Super Powers!


Along with the side missions, there are many activities scattered through the virtual simulation of Steelport. There are new forms of Mayhem, causing chaos throughout the world; Professor Genki’s return; and, of course, Insurance Fraud, which is enhanced with superpowers. These also award money and experience allowing for new upgrades and weapon customization, both of which are extremely deep and fun to test. There are also platforming puzzles and alien towers to climb up, adding the verticality that makes super jumping and sprinting a lot of fun and rewarding.

Co-op returns in Saints Row IV, and it is also a lot of fun. The story does become much easier, though, and there isn’t much to separate itself from the single player. However, it is hilarious to watch other people run around with super speed and super kick someone into the air.

The character customization is also extremely deep. There are many different pieces to customize, from the layout of the face, to the voice and pitch, to the hair and skin color, and so on. It allows for millions of outcomes and no two characters will look or sound alike. Nolan North is also one of the voice customization options, which, along with Troy Baker and Laura Bailey, is a nice touch.

The guns are also diverse and customizable. Everything from the Dubstep gun to the regular pistol can be upgraded and changed to fire in different ways, most forms referencing different movies and games. Plus, the Penetrator returns from Saints Row: The Third. However, most of the weapons are not necessary. I found myself using a select few guns and killing the rest of the enemies with super powers. They are fun to use, but it seems that it is easier to use super powers in place of those guns to kill enemies.


The Inflato-Ray!
The Inflato-Ray!

Car customization is also deep and there are so many things to upgrade about the cars. These seem inconsequential, though, as using cars is not recommended when you have super powers to get around the world faster than cars. The only time I ever actually used one was when I was forced to in a few missions; otherwise, there is really no point.

Finally, there are hundreds of collectibles around the world. From Data Clusters to Audio Logs, you will find yourself going out of your way to collect everything in sight; and with the Collectible Finder, there is no reason to not pick up every little thing on the map. Plus, there are text logs for Zinyak that tell his backstory as well, which are always fun to go through.

The Verdict

Saints Row IV is as crazy as crazy gets. Super powers, Matrix-like simulations, alien invasions, and Keith David make the Saints Row series what it is. It combines hilarious writing with great voice acting, a fun story, and fantastic gameplay to make the game some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It doesn’t take itself seriously and it embraces its insane roots, taking the game to the next level and making it stand out from the pack. Glitching and repetitive enemy types aside, this game is a great experience that is hilarious and a whole lot of fun.

+Hilarious Writing

+Great Voice Acting

+Fun Story

+Super Powers


-Repetitive Enemies

Saints Row IV: 8.5/10


So how was it? How did you like Saints Row IV? Let me know in the comments section below! As always, thanks for reading and PI!


I’m a big fan of RPG’s and I’ve played many over the years. But, I am a newbie when it comes to the action/beat-em-up RPG genre. I like fighting games, but I’ve never been good at them. Learning combos take time, practice and patience; three things I don’t have much of while playing video games. I’ve never a big fan of beat-em-up action games like God of War or Devil May Cry. But, I liked Dragon’s Crown. I liked it for one simple reason: it’s really fun.


Dragon’s Crown


Vanillaware developed Dragon’s Crown. If you’re familiar with this very talented development studio, you know that it isn’t surprising that Dragon’s Crown packs stunning hand-drawn visuals. If you’ve never heard of Vanillaware, well now you have. Dragon Crown’s color palette is something fit for a king. Very vibrant pastels are used on every inch of this gem. The over-stylized character models are right at home, even if over-sexualized. This is a Japanese-inspired RPG. No one should be shocked that the Sorceress looks the way she does. This game is gorgeously groomed from head to toe. I can’t even begin to fathom how many hours were put into painstakingly hand draw every little animation in the game. But, my eyes are ever grateful for Vanillaware’s patient talent. Words really can’t do the presentation of this game justice. Just go buy it!


Behold the beauty


It is in the gameplay department where Dragon’s Crown hits a homerun on it’s first pitch in it’s first at-bat. But, Dragon’s Crown unfortunately strikes out on it’s next time up to the plate. Not a baseball fan? Okay, let me go into full detail to explain.

First at-bat:

Dragon’s Crown has 6 unique character classes: Fighter, Wizard, Sorceress, Dwarf, Elf and Amazon. Choosing a character is a built-in difficulty level. Playing as the Sorceress is recommended for expert players, while playing as the Fighter is recommended for beginners. The character selection breaks down each character’s difficulty level. This is a very cool feature right off the top.


Pick your character

In true RPG form, leveling up and collecting loot are at the cornerstone of gameplay in Dragon’s Crown. Leveling up is straight forward: you get experience points based off of how successfully you defeat enemies and clear levels. But, there’s a deeper caveat. You don’t have to travel back to the hub town once you complete a level. You can earn a higher experience multiplier by moving through to the next level. Keep in mind, you and your teammates will not regain any health, items, or anything else you’ve lost. Yes, this includes loot. It’s one heck of a risk/reward system. A very clever gameplay design choice that undoubtedly adds depth. You will find chests full of loot that are graded from E to S. E being the lowest rarity grade and S being the highest rarity for loot. Your NPC companion, Rannie, will collect coins and open said loot chests for you throughout your journey. But, in true Dragon’s Crown form, there’s a catch. And this catch might be what makes the game for me. You don’t know what you received when it comes to your collected loot. All you know is the grade of it. So, when you venture back to the hub town you can get your stash of loot appraised but it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. So, do you appraise your loot to see what items you got or do you sell your loot blind, without even knowing if it is the rarest item in the game? The choice is yours.



Every time you level up, you earn a skill point. These can be used to upgrade your character. If you’ve ever played an RPG before, this should be straight forward. Think Borderlands here. Each character has a specific set of skills you can upgrade/unlock. Then there are common cards all characters can share when it comes to skill points. Those being stats like increased health, defense, etc.

Like Borderlands, you can play Dragon’s Crown online or locally with your friends. This game is meant to play with others. If your friend’s don’t own Dragon’s Crown or if you don’t have three extra controllers, don’t fret. You will stumble upon numerous NPC’s in the game. Use them! It’s how the game is supposed to be played; four characters on the screen at all times. In a beat-em-up RPG like this, playing with your friends means hours upon hours of addictively fun gameplay.

The combat is satisfying, especially when you shake it up. There aren’t combos, per say, but you will quickly learn what moves to use in succession in order to be successful. Dragon’s Crown is NOT an easy game. It’s this challenge, the uniqueness of its characters, and it’s immensely fun way to play with your friends that make it’s gameplay second to none. Dragon’s Crown is very satisfying. Dragon’s Crown is very polished, deep and refined. Dragon’s Crown is fun! Gameplay is king when it comes to video games. It’s no surprise that this Dragon’s Crown is made out of 24-karat gameplay.

Second at-bat:

The narrator really shines in telling an old medieval-like tale of knight and dragon proportions. Well, at least from the start. About five hours into the story, you quickly pick-up on the fact that the narrator is saying the exact same thing every single time you travel to a vista you’ve been to a million times before. Luckily, you can mute the narrator in the options. Yes, you travel to the same places a million times. This is a thing, too. There are only 9 unique worlds to play through. And then there is a hub town where you can do everything from outfitting your character to resurrecting fallen players. As I’ve stated above, there are too many enemy types to count; every one of them unique. This helps playing the same levels over and over again, a bit more doable. So does the fact that enemies scale to your level. But, for someone who hates doing the same thing twice, this game will get very repetitive, very quickly. Playing with friends is a blast! Again, the gameplay is really fun and rewarding, BUT too much of a good thing can be bad.



You spend the first several hours, essentially doing carrier missions, learning the intricacies of the game. This is fine, but this is all story-related. You will quickly realize that the story feels cumbersome a it takes away from the stellar and insanely fun Dragon’s Crown gameplay. This is a very peculiar situation that I have never really stumbled on in a game, before. It is so strange to say that Dragon’s Crown would be better off without it’s story. But it would. The story takes you out of what makes Dragon’s Crown so good…and way too often. Especially during the first half of the game. For what it’s worth, on harder difficulties you skip the monotonous beginnings of the game. So there’s that.

This is very much a nit-pick. But, I feel like I have to mention it anyway. Dragon’s Crown is a 2D side-scrolling game. But, the screen has depth to it. Think LittleBigPlanet, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of playing as a Sackthing. I played as the Elf on my main playthrough. What makes her unique is her bow. She can shoot arrows at enemies from across the screen. In fact, Elf players are rewarded (and most effective) staying far from the action. This is where screen depth on the 2D plane becomes incredibly frustrating. So many times you feel like you’ve got an enemy lined up from across the screen. You fire the arrow and miss because the enemy isn’t actually on the same line as you are. This happens with up close melee moves, as well. But, it is more pronounced while fighting from afar.

The Verdict

Many of my colleagues were trying to get me to tip my hat for what score I was going to give Dragon’s Crown, well before I finished the game. I wouldn’t budge. But, I told them one thing: it’s really fun. And really, what more do we want in a video game?

+Gorgeous Hand-drawn Art

+Incredibly Deep Gameplay

+Numerous Replayability Options

-Very Repetitive

-Story Gets In The Way

-Can The Narrator Shut Up Already?

Dragon’s Crown: 8.5/10


*Dragon’s Crown is a PS3/PS Vita exclusive. I only played the PS3 copy of the game. I recommend the bigger screen for playing this game. Battle scenes get very clustered and chaotic. Anyways, Dragon’s Crown is NOT a cross-buy or cross-play game, but it is cross-save. Meaning you have to buy both versions separately if you want both the PS3 and Vita versions. Also, Vita players cannot play online co-op with PS3 players, but you can carry your game saves back and forth between PS3 and Vita. So, as you can imagine, there is only one trophy list and hence only one platinum trophy. No double plats, sorry guys!



Guacamelee! is the best VIDEO GAME I’ve played so far this year. And yes, I’ve played The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite. Let me explain. I grew up with the Sega Genesis and SNES. Most games on these two systems were, almost exclusively, 2D platformers. You know, the Mario’s, Donkey Kong’s, Sonic’s, Castlevania’s and Metroid’s of the world. Not only does Guacamelee! harken back to Castlevania and Super Metroid explicitly, but it may do some things better than both of them. Guacamelee! is everything a video game was and should be.


GOTY 2013?


Guacamelee! is gorgeous. This game takes place in Mexico. The art-style and soundtrack certainly reflect this. From a vibrant color palette to mariachi-like music, the aesthetics in Guacamelee! are astounding. The game is littered with chickens, pinatas, coins, barrels, chupacabras, armadillos, chests and the living dead.


Come here big skeleton. Those green fists are so…


Guacamelee! is NOT about story. And this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, there is no voice acting in the game. But, I feel like voice acting wouldn’t be welcomed. Was there voice acting in Castlevania or Super Metroid? Nope! Guacamelee! is old school. You play as Juan, an everyday agave farmer. Less than five minutes into the game, the Lord of the Living Dead, Carlos Calaca, kidnaps your love interest. Juan’s love interest is El Presidente’s daughter. Hmmm, where have I seen the rich/famous girl falling for the working class guy… Anyways, Calaca kills Juan five minutes into Guacamelee!. Juan then inherits a mask that has special powers. Juan is reborn as a luchador and sets off to rescue El Presidente’s daughter. Guacamelee! doesn’t take itself seriously when it comes to story. If you’re looking hard enough, there are some hilarious text boxes while in conversation, and some amazing easter eggs. These include a boss saying “Trololololololol,” Grumpy Cat posters, and even the character from 2012’s GOTY, Journey, laying dead on the side of a mountain. Let’s face it: Guacamelee! hits it out of the park with gameplay, not story!

guacamelee journey

It’s a Journey, I suppose


Gameplay is king when it comes to video games. Plain and simple. Guacamelee! pays a lot of homage to the classics. It is indeed a Metroidvania game. “Metroidvania” is a genre that acknowledges how games like the original Castlevania and Metroid were played. Essentially, 2D platformers that existed in an open world (unlike Mario games). You learn skills and moves as you progress through the game, but to unlock all of the secrets and gather all of the collectibles you must double-back to unlock certain areas with new skills/abilities that you’ve learned. It’s an addictive and rewarding gameplay choice, that old school gamers will remember very well.


Platforms and PORTALS?!

Since you play as a luchador, hand-to-hand combat is at the crux of gameplay. This hand-to-hand combat is very deep and only gets deeper and richer as the game progresses and you learn new moves. Simply mashing the square-button will work for the first hour. After that, if you haven’t learned and experimented with more powerful combos, you will die and die often. Guacamelee! is a hard game. There’s no way around that. If you’re more of a “new school” gamer and grew up with first-person shooters, Guacamelee! is not the game for you. It’s not easy and it’s mostly up to you, the player, to figure out what works and what doesn’t, when beating up baddies. With that being said, there is a luchador dojo that you can enter and practice/learn combos in.

As you move through the game, you learn new special moves that are color-coded. For example, your uppercut punch is red and your body slam (the frog slam) is green. Why the colors? You will come across enemies with have, let’s say, red blobs surrounding them. This a shield that can’t be broken unless you hit them with the special move that corresponds to that color. Then you can relentlessly combo them into oblivion. You will come across areas that are blocked by colored blocks. Again, if the block is red, you have to uppercut it in order to break it. Now you know how secret areas are marked.


Soooo many enemies!

Now, special moves are not only for combat and unlocking secret areas. They are crucial in platforming, as well. The uppercut can get you into hard to reach places about you. The “Goat Fly” can get you across gaps that are far too wide for a double jump. It’s literally brilliant what Drinkbox Studios developed here. At times, Guacamelee! feels like a fighting game. There is a trophy for a 300 hit combo! At other times, it feels like a classic Mario game. Then it feels like a Metroid game, as you unlock secret areas with new abilities. It’s brilliant, brilliant fun.

Remember when I mentioned that your character, Juan, dies at the very beginning of the game? Well this means he’s dead. So he now exists in the world of the living dead. Not only does this netherworld fit into the whole Mexican theme, but it makes for completely original and stunning platforming. Some enemies and ledges/platforms only in exist in the real world or in the world of the living dead. Once you learn the ability to switch between the two worlds, at will, things get interesting. Near the end of the game, I experienced the most challenging yet rewarding platforming that I have ever played. I died time and time again. But, this level (and you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get to it) was so expertly designed and was really a stroke of genius, that I felt very accomplished when I finally completed it. Some reviews of Guacamelee! say that the flipping between both worlds wasn’t used enough. I’m not sure if these people played the same game I did. You do it all the time and it is married to both combat and platforming alike.



Unfortunately, Guacamelee! is far too short. It took me just over 5 hours to complete on my first playthrough. It is complete with boss battles, but there’s only four of them. Each one is unique, as is their level. There’s plenty of treasure chests and orbs to find after you beat the game. And then there’s hard mode. For what it’s worth, there’s local co-op available, too. So, replayability is not an issue. But, I could’ve played this game for 20+ hours. A five hour campaign moved too quickly for my taste. Keep in mind, at full price it’s $14.99 on the Playstation Store. I have PS+ so I got it for about $8. So, we’re not paying $60 for a five hour game…



The Verdict

Guacamelee! is a cross-buy and cross-play PS3/Vita exclusive (that’s coming to Steam). It’s also downloadable, only. I played it on Vita all the way through and then tried it out on PS3. Both are awesome. I preferred Vita, as platformers are perfect portable games. Even though you can exchange your save data back and forth between the two versions, there is only one trophy list.

Games like The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite push the gaming platform forward and challenge the groundwork of gaming, as they do. They are very unique and original experiences that shine in storytelling. Essentially, they blur the lines of what a video game is. They argue that games are now more like pieces of art. Guacamelee! is clearly a video game. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s an old school gamers’ game. It does everything right. Because of its charm and deeply rooted origins, we as gamers owe it to Indie developer, Drinkbox Studios, to bring up Guacamelee! in Game of The Year discussions later this year. I will say, Gucamelee! is easily the best downloadable title on PSN this year and is the best Indie game I’ve played this year, as well. Drinkbox Studios should be on everyone’s radar, if they weren’t already.

+Gorgeous Art-style

+Extraordinary Platforming

+Clever Humor

+Numerous Replayability Options

-What Story?

-Too Short In Length

Guacamelee!: 9.0/10



I went into Ni No Kuni having never played an old-school JRPG before. With this being said, I didn’t really know what to expect from the game. The only things I knew were that it was a long game with a great story. I wasn’t sure how the game would play, how the characters would be, or how the game would look. Therefore, I had a bit of an open mind going into the game. I didn’t have any sort of opinion going in and that was a good thing. This let my awe of the game be amplified. The game is obviously beautiful aesthetically; but the game is so much deeper in other aspects that I didn’t expect. I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of nearly everything about the game. There is so much to see, do, and hear; and, for the most part, it is all so amazingly done.


Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful games on the PlayStation 3. While it takes the anime approach, as is common with Studio Ghibli’s works, it is extremely polished with great animations in-game and during cutscenes. The cutscenes, while not as common as I would have liked until near the end of the game, are all fun to watch and very well done. The game has varied and interesting locations, each of which resembling a culture from the real world. They all are living worlds with people moving around the world and having something to do. Also, every person around the world has something unique to say. They all comment on something going on in the story or give you some side mission. The soundtrack, which takes over most of the game as there is little voice acting outside of the main story, is catchy and does not get old. Even after almost fifty hours of gameplay, the soundtrack was still interesting and fun to listen to.

Interesting Main Characters
Interesting Main Characters

The game has interesting characters, for the most part. The main characters of the story have great character arcs and dialogue. However, I wasn’t a fan of some of the main villains of the game. They seemed to be there just to be there, and didn’t serve a large purpose in the story. Nonetheless, the voice acting for all characters except for Oliver is great, having emotion and delivering lines masterfully. Oliver’s English voice actor, on the other hand, was not so well done. He is told as being from Motorville, USA, yet it seemed he could never figure out which accent he wanted to have. This wasn’t a huge problem, as the rest of the voice actors make up for it, but it does stand out compared to the rest of the actors.


The story of Ni No Kuni is also very well done. It starts out with a tragic event in Oliver’s world and, after an unforeseen turn of events, Oliver must go to a parallel world to fix the problem. The story goes through Oliver’s travels to fix his problems and help the other world as well. The game has a very clear message that is not hidden, although this is not a bad thing. It plays directly into the latter part of the story and ends up giving Oliver some inspiration. The story, as is common with JRPGs, is very long and goes through many twists and turns all for Oliver’s final goal. These plot points are mostly interesting and fun; although there are some odd plot points that stand out in the end.

An Unexpected Turn of Events.
An Unexpected Turn of Events.

However, there is one main plot point that seemed unnecessary to the story. The final main plot twist seemed to be there just to add more time to the story with more boss battles and plot points. The game goes on for another ten hours after this and the game didn’t really need it. The final part of the game did have some interesting plot points and a satisfying ending, but it seemed that it was not needed for the story and if the story would have ended before it all, I would have been satisfied. This isn’t common in the story, though, as most other plot points are engaging and I rarely got bored with the story.


Ni No Kuni’s gameplay combines elements of other JRPGs and refines it to have a stand-out gameplay system.  Its main elements are an open batte system and taming different enemies to become friendly creatures, called familiars. In gameplay, you can play as any of the main characters themselves, or you can put out any familiar you have tamed to fight for you. They all have their strengths and weaknesses to learn and use strategically. There are a seemingly endless amount of enemies in the world to tame, meaning that there is always another creature to tame and level up so he can fight for you as well. It is a very deep system that can be used many different ways, whether it be choosing to play as Oliver or any of his many familiars.

ni no kuni
Fighting with familiars is recommended.

The other main aspect of the gameplay of Ni No Kuni is the open battle system. The enemies in the world are roaming for you to see and will run toward you if you are of level to fight them. However, they will run away if you are overleveled. This system lets you choose which fights you want to engage in. You can run from any fight you want or stay and level grind for hours, it is all up to you. You can sneak up on enemies to gain the upper hand or vice versa, where the enemy has time to pull off an attack before you can defend or counter-attack. This means that running away from an attack is discouraged, even though it is possible.

Within the actual fights, there are also many possible options to take. While using any character, main or familiar, you can attack or defend, as well as using a special attack assuming you have enough MP. As you lose health or magicka, you can use spells or provisions to regain these. You can also wait for glims to drop on the ground. These glims give either MP or HP, or they can be a gold glim, the rarest of the glims that allow the character to perform a miracle move- a move that deals much damage to any or all of the enemies on the battlefield. The game encourages the player to level up Oliver and his friends so they don’t run out of MP or HP during battle.

During fights you can also command your teammates to either all attack or defend at once. This is where my only real problem with the gameplay generates. This command doesn’t always seem to do much. The friendly AI, especially Esther, rarely listens when telling them to defend and gets killed fairly easily. This can get frustrating late in the game when the enemies have very powerful attacks and you need to defend in order to survive. Plus, they always seem to use all of their MP at once, even against the weakest of enemies. This can also prove frustrating when you need them to perform a spell and they are out of MP due to a fight much earlier. The only way to offset this is either to level them up after the battle, which gets much more difficult later in the game, or use some provisions, which should be saved for absolutely necessary times like a boss battle. These are not game-breaking issues, but they can frustrate, especially late in the game.

Miracle Moves are the best attacks.
Miracle Moves are the best attacks.

The game also comes with a myriad of side missions and bounty hunts to complete. These come with merit awards that give Oliver merit cards which he can redeem for rewards, from the useless to the necessary. The side missions are, for the most part, varied, with the exception of a few that have the same objective for five or six separate missions. Nevertheless, many of the side quests are fun and easy to do, adding on an extra layer of story and gameplay along with the main story. Plus, some of the merit awards can end up giving you necessary abilities, like more XP during battle and extra MP and HP for Oliver. These give Oliver extra power against the most powerful enemies in the game and can turn a difficult boss battle into a trivial one.

There is a lot to do in Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The main story took me just under fifty hours to complete, with many side missions and other things in the world still incomplete. These side missions could take another thirty to forty hours to complete. The game itself gives dozens of hours of gameplay along with many more hours of gameplay just having fun battling enemies. There is so much content in the game, and it is almost all very well done.

The Verdict

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a beautiful game with a great story and deep gameplay. Although there are some minor complaints, they don’t lessen the overall quality of the game. Its beautiful soundtrack, surprisingly interesting story, and deeply strategic and unique gameplay stand out and make this game something that stands out in this huge year of gaming. As I was a newcomer to the JRPG genre coming in, this game definitely makes me want to go back and play more games in the genre. Ni No Kuni is truly unique and is something that outshines many other games this year. It is something that anyone should play if they like a good story, good gameplay, and dozens of hours of gameplay, even if they are new to the JRPG genre.

+Fantastic Soundtrack

+Amazing Graphics

+Interesting Story

+Unique Gameplay

+Dozens of Hours of Gameplay

-Final Plot Point

-Bad Friendly AI

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch: 9.2/10



The Last of Us is arguably the most anticipated game of the year. It is probably the final huge release for the PS3 and is the perfect way for the PS3 to go out strong. You see, The Last of Us isn’t a normal gaming experience. It is an experience that will surely be remembered as one of the best games for years to come. It brings together some of the greatest graphics ever seen with fantastic gameplay and an amazingly well-written and superbly acted story. It is the epitomy of great presentation fitted with extremely satisfying gameplay that work in tandem with each other to bring you what I consider to be the greatest gaming experience of all time.


The Last of Us, as I said, looks fantastic. It is, in fact, one of the best looking games ever made. There are little details everywhere that add to the dark and desolate setting of the post-apocalyptic United States. There are plants growing all over the world that make the empty world feel much emptier. The Clickers and Runners that roam the world are incredibly detailed and are terrifying. The clicking from the Clickers never fail to intensify the moment and make you much more afraid of your surroundings. The music in the game also adds a layer of fear and sadness to the game. The music always fits perfectly with the moment in the game, whether it be sad, terrifying, or funny. I found myself going back to listen to the game’s soundtrack over and over because of how much it adds to the story. The game also has fantastic voice acting. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson are the stars of the show as Joel and Ellie, to go along with an amazing supporting cast that each brings a unique personality to the story and never feels like a repetitive character. All of these characters are given a fantastic set of dialogue to work with that make you think about the real world and keep you thinking long after the game is over. Finally, the game runs virtually seamlessly. An occasional hitch in sound happens, but never removes you from the experience. The game always finds a new way to keep you in the experience in some way, whether it be a new character, a new setting, or a plot twist, there is always something there to keep the game fresh and exciting and it always makes you want to keep going.


If there is one thing to say about The Last of Us, it is that its story is one of the most dark, sad, and emotional tales in all of gaming and entertainment as a whole. The game takes place twenty years after the outbreak of the fungus Cordyceps infects humans. The game takes you on a cross-country journey to deliver Ellie to a group called the Fireflies. The game is an emotional roller coaster. It goes from sadness to anger to humor and back again. All of these are included in the game perfectly without any sudden changes in tone or pacing. It always manages to stay as one tone for the right amount of time without becoming overwhelming. The game is overall a very dark and tenebrous game, however there are the moments of joke telling that make the game a little bit brighter in the time of darkness. There are also plot twists all over the place. The game rarely goes in the path you expect it to go and has a few jaw-dropping moments that I couldn’t stop thinking about days afterwards. As I said, you meet new characters fairly often and they all have their own personality and their own unique dialogue that fits them. They all have the same goal – survival-, yet they all have a different way of achieving it. This makes the game interesting and unique. Travelling with these characters as Joel and Ellie get to know them is a good time. Finally, the ending, without spoiling anything, makes you think about decisions in life. They make you think about morality and what “good” and “evil” actually are. The end will make an impact on the way you think about things and will stick with you for a significant amount of time.


I wasn’t a huge fan of Naughty Dog’s previous multiplayer experiences. Uncharted 2 and 3’s multiplayers seemed to lack the main part of what makes the overall experience a great package- the story. The Last of Us’ multiplayer brings in a reason to keep playing by bringing a pseudo-story in to the multiplayer. It lets you pick between the Hunters and the Fireflies both with a 12-week journey for survival. As you play through your matches, you collect parts and rations for your clan that you run in order to try to gain survivors and keep people healthy. This makes you want to keep playing the multiplayer to keep increasing your clan size and healing the sick of your clan. There are also malicious attacks of diseases and from the other group that you try to fight off with certain challenges to keep the multiplayer fresh and interesting. The multiplayer also brings in many of the aspects of the single player experience as central gameplay elements. It encourages stealth and crafting, both of which are main aspects of the single player campaign. Its has two modes: Supply Raid and Survivors. Supply Raid is a Team Deathmatch-esque game type with each team having a limited amount of spawns. Survivors makes each player have only one spawn. Each game type encourages teamwork. Nevertheless, multiplayer is overall a very fun experience. It has an innovative story mode that keeps you wanting to come back for more every time. It uses the fun and satisfying gameplay of the campaign to its advantage and encourages teamwork and other key elements of the story for victory and for the continued increase in clan size. I wasn’t sure about the multiplayer at first, but it really surprised me and I will definitely go back for much more.


The gameplay is one aspect of the game that truly shines over Naughty Dog’s past games. The Uncharted series was not well known because of its gameplay and, in fact, the gameplay was the most criticized part of Uncharted. However, Naughty Dog has made extreme refinements to the system that makes the gameplay much more satisfying and fun than any of their previous games. The shooting, to start, is extremely intense and well-done. Trying to shoot a clicker while it is sprinting at you is terrifying and when that clicker finally goes down, it is very satisfying. The Infected are, as I said, terrifying, and take a much different approach than human enemies. The game emphasizes stealth for both enemies, but it is much more prevalent with the Infected. The stealth in the game is masterful. It is extremely satisfying to go through an area of enemies without them seeing you and adds replay value to try and find the perfect way to go through. Even though the game is technically linear, there are many ways to go through any specific area. However, the fear you get during an encounter with Clickers is unmatched in any recent game. Finally, the game encourages crafting as part of the main gameplay aspects. Joel scours areas looking for supplies to make a new shiv or med kit. As supplies are extremely limited, crafting is a strategic experience and careful thought is necessary before crafting any specific item. The crafting is also done real-time, adding a sense of urgency to the act that helps with the overall tone of the game. The gameplay in The Last of Us is easily my favorite in a Naughty Dog game in a long time. The satisfying combat and masterful stealth make up gameplay that is fun and interesting. It is a part of the game that shouldn’t be overlooked as it absolutely helps the game’s overall feel of terror and urgency.

The Verdict

The Last of Us is a true gaming masterpiece. Its story is extremely well-written and provides twists and turns throughout the story to keep you engaged throughout until the very meaningful ending that will keep you thinking long after the game is finished. The stellar performances by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson as Joel and Ellie provide a true sense of realism in the game as their relationship becomes closer between themselves and the people they meet throughout the story. The game looks fantastic with small details everywhere around the world. It has a beautiful soundtrack that engages you in the moment, whether it be sad or thrilling. The multiplayer is an innovative experience with a story that will keep you coming back for more. Finally, the gameplay is the best Naughty Dog has made so far. It is satisfying and thrilling. These all play into the game’s overall terrifying and urgent tone that is made clear everywhere. This game is one of the best games I have ever played. It lets the PS3 go out with a bang into the new generation of consoles. It is a near perfect experience that every gamer should play, no matter what.

+ Fantastic Story

+ Superb Voice Acting

+ Beautiful Graphics

+ Fun and Engaging Multiplayer

+ Fantastic Gameplay

The Last of Us: 10/10