Xbox 360

[last updated: 04-MAR-2012]

Afterburner Climax

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Oct 2010

Rockin' arcade fun.


[no review]

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Completion: Need to unlock all EX options.

Akane the Kunoichi

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Feb 2012

Not terribly inspiring.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Apple Jack

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Oct 2010

Very intriguing little game.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Astroman

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Jan 2011

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Oct 2010

Wonderfully creative and challenging game, although it tries its damndest to make an uneven first impression.


[no review]

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Completion: Need a single T.T. trophy.


Further reading: My first impressions.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

RATING: 3/4

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

Entertaining combat system and beautiful atmosphere. Bit of a slog towards the end, though.


A real adventure game. This isn't some level-based escapade like the PlayStation Spider-Man games, this is a more focused, integrated game akin to Zelda or even Metroid - you've got a huge map to explore, and you get new tools and plot revelations along the way to open up new locations and challenges. The game is constructed surprisingly well - just when you think you've run out of new places for the game to explore, somewhere new is discovered. The progression of the game is pretty linear, but exploration is really the heart and soul of the game; not just for finding where to go next, but also to solve the various mysteries the Riddler presents you throughout. You have a decent variety of toys and gadgets to help you on your way, and it totally exudes the awesome sensation of having your own utility belt - yes, one item is used only for unlocking doors and another has little combat versatility, but the rest are useful in such a variety of ways that it's a joy to experiment with them all. It's the only Batman game I've played where it really feels like you're playing the world's greatest detective. Not that I can speak from experience, since I've only ever played Gotham City Racer and... well, shit, I think that's it.

Combat is naturally a big element, especially when the storyline involves all of Arkham Asylum's inmates getting released. In theory it can be considered a 3D brawler, but it's a lot smoother than that, and more emphasis is placed on getting the timing and rythm of your attacks correct, because Batman basically moves himself so long as you just angle him towards thugs. Your functions are attack - a self-explanatory function that segues into different and more powerful attacks the bigger combo you rack up - counter - which stuns any foe in the midst of attacking should you time it right - and stun, where you whip your cape at someone, it's mostly used for guys with knifes so they don't block your punches. You can also use your batarangs and batclaw in the middle of a brawl to stun or knock down fools, and if you've got five seconds to spare in between people pounding your ass, you can whip out some explosive gel to blow them up. It's a system that's hard to accurately describe without it sounding ridiculous, but it's a very intriguing combat system that really adds to the Batman atmos. It can take a fair while to master and facing huge crowds of thugs never gets much easier, but it really is a vital element of why the game is so fun.

I've never read the comics, my following of the Animated Series was spotty, and I haven't even seen all of the films... but despite the fact I'm a near-total outsider, the game captures the Batman atmosphere really, really well. It's practically a love letter to the series - the obvious stables are present such as the dark and dank gothic architecture to the grim and gritty atmosphere, but then there's the Riddler challenges, which seem to exist solely to homage storylines, events and characters from the comic wherever possible (at least, that's what Wikipedia tells me!). Seeing Batman and Joker constantly at odds over the whole story, it just displays the traits that highlight why we like these characters, and thanks to the engaging gameplay, it really emphasises how much of a professional Batman really is.

If I've got any beef with the game, it's that it just becomes boring towards the end of the game. A short while after Poison Ivy starts taking over the island it just isn't quite as engaging as it used to be; Killer Croc's lair is a slog (it is better when played with an audience, though), having to retread the garden building just isn't fun (which is a shame as the first time around it's a blast), and Poison Ivy is easily the most boring boss in the game. I'd dare say she's worse than even Metroid Prime's bosses (and I was not at all fond of the bosses in Metroid Prime!). After that all you have left is a fight with two titan-goons and some thugs (which is a fun challenge) and then a fight with the Joker that's so anti-climatic and simple that it's not funny. I think the problem with the fighting system is that it only really works with a large crowd - if you only have a small group of thugs then there's no challenge, and waiting around for a boss to become vulnerable is just boring.

All in all, it's a very good game. I do hate harping on like this because everyone else has already done it, but it's a surprisingly high-quality game for a comic book licensed game. The campaign is engaging and challenging and there's a hell of a lot of extra stuff to do which really adds to the replay value. Admittedly since I don't really follow the Batman comics my appreciation for the game probably isn't as vivid as it could be, because it really looks like the game has done its homework. If you're a big ol' Batfan, then this is practically a love letter to the Batman mythos and why people like the dark knight so much.

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Completion: Finished on all difficulties. Need 100%.

Bionic Commando

RATING: 3/4

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Mar 2011

Heaps and heaps and heaps of fun! Pity about the deadline, though.


If there's one word to describe Bionic Commando, it's kickass. It's not a flawless game, there's an unfortunate sensation of it being unfinished, and there are a few things I feel it could have done better... but I can't deny that it's freakin' kickass, man.

I'm aware of the original Bionic Commando games, but I'm afraid I've zero experience actually playing them. All I know is that you swing around on a grappling hook and shoot dudes (and Hitler), and if you were to update a game with that premise for the modern market, I would say this is the perfect way to do it. Battling with the Bionic Arm is heaps and heaps of fun; the sheer freedom you get from just swinging around, grappling onto things and throwing huge objects into the air is unbelievable. It's practically like playing as a superhero - a combination of Spider-Man's webslinging and grabbing with The Thing and his partiality for clobbering dudes. It takes a while until Spencer "recalls" new abilities, but once you have them all battling with the arm is just a joy - tossing soldiers into the air and shooting them like clay pigeons, hurling them at each other, or even just zip-kicking them off cliffs, it's a truly mesmerising sense of power.

Mind you, the gunplay is probably the more important aspect, mainly because you aren't in the open getting shot to pieces. It's not bad, but nothing great - just functional. There's seven weapons at your disposal, all with their own uses and advantages, but my beef is that if you're got a Bionic Arm at your disposal, why would you want to use anything else? I was introduced to Spencer through Marvel vs. Capcom 3, whose moveset is all about grabbing dudes, punching dudes and zip-kicking dudes, so I foolishly leapt straight into the fray hoping to pull off the same manner of hyper combos. It only contributed further to my list of stupid deaths.
I have practically no complaints with the Bionic Arm - there's a couple of very minor nags, most notably the wonky vaulting physics, but for all the enjoyment it gives me, I can hardly whine. The only real time it was frustrating was during the penultimate boss fight - you have to get behind him and zip-kick him in the back, but all too often I would end up grabbing the floor instead, which would achieve nothing. I did find a trick that got me a near-guaranteed grab, but only after a lot of wasted time.

The levels are quite huge - something that's very easy to underestimate. They're large, they're detailed, and there's a lot of stuff to see, though they're strictly linear - there's quick-kill radiation walling off everywhere the developers don't want you to go. It does help streamline things in the larger city levels, but when you've got very linear stages such as the oil rig that has radiation walling off random patches, it just seems like they wanted to dick about with anyone who felt like exploring for good vantage points. The environments are a mixed bag - some locations feel generic and trod out, such as the post-apocolyptic city and sci-fi army base, but then there are the undergrounds, the botanic gardens and the jungle, which are almost surprisingly beautiful and lush. The level design is always great - there's always a decent supply of grappling points for Spencer to swing around, and sometimes it's surprising how they can make a grappling-friendly design out of an oil rig or a ruined highway. One of my personal beefs, though, is that the game often didn't give you enough direction. The interior areas are so large that you're encouraged to explore vertically a lot, but there are times the areas just don't flow very smoothly.

The story is a crock, though. Codiekitty's review spends a lot of time getting uppity about the story; obviously because she's played the other games and is more invested in the mythos, whereas I was introduced to the character through his need to mention his Bionic Arm in every sentence in Marvel vs. Capcom, but I just couldn't pay attention to the plot. Partially because it makes repeated references to the revised events of Rearmed (which I've yet to play and know little about), and partially because it's a broken, stupid mess that makes no attempt to integrate all the details in cleanly. Super Joe sends you dossiers and documents throughout the game with details on the backstory, and hacking into relays allows you to access reports on various subjects, but I just couldn't be bothered to read them - why would I want to stop and read reports when smashing dudes is so much fun?! Would it not have been better to include these things on, say, the loading screen, where you've nothing better to do and where most games often include gameplay hints or snippets of the world's mythos?

On that subject, I'm going to sound like a real chump dedicating a whole paragraph to loading screens, but my god, they deserve it. Although certainly a necessity when the areas of the game are so vast, they just break the flow of the game and spoil the atmosphere. I'm probably spoilt by the likes of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Metroid Prime which has no in-game loading screens; they would use tunnels and recurring groups of enemies as padding to slow you down, allowing the game to load the next area cleanly with no issue (Transformers: War For Cybertron uses similar tactics, though it's level-based so it would return to the menu after a level). Given the structure of Bionic Commando it is a little hard to judge if it would benefit from the same style or if it really has no choice but to throw loading screens at you, but even something as simple as a more appealing loading screen would have helped. Viewing the controls while the game loads is a nice benefit during the first part of the game... but the whole game?

There's also less incentive to pay attention to the plot when there's an unfortunate sense of the game being unfinished - characters show up out of nowhere only to achieve nothing; distinctive areas are visited and then breezed past with barely a notice, as if a boss fight were to take place there; and the major plot twist in the final act (ranted at extensively in Codie's review) just seems like the crew were looking for the best way to put the plot on auto-run for the game's climax. It doesn't help that the gameplay and the story feel strangely divorced from each other - the story is serious and grimdark with repeated references to how war is hell... and then the game is an adrenalin-driven macho-fest where Spencer hollers like a fratboy everytime he hits a guy with a car. The drama surrounding his wife seems to be trying hard to be engaging and emotional, but since there's only one instance of her and Spencer actually interacting (at the end of the game, no less!), it's impossible to give a damn. There are some very intriguing elements set up, and the game always has plenty of amazing setpieces to use across the game, but I can't help but feel it would've been better if they tried to tell the game's story in a comic book instead.

As much of a mess the story is, the game itself is still fantastic, and the visuals and audio well and truly aid it. The character designs are gritty and serious with a decent help of intriguing mech design, but where it really shines is in the environments. They're vast, they're detailed, and in some cases, they're beautifully lush. As mentioned earlier, the likes of ruined cities are a dime a dozen in games these days, but the sheer fact they were able to get decent level designs out of it is enough to impress me. However, the soundtrack definitely steals the show - a variety bag of electric guitar, military techno and adventurous orchestra, it does a fantastic job of setting the style for the game, really helping the superhero aspect I mentioned earlier. Admittedly many of the tracks aren't exactly memorable, but the booming orchestral remixes of Area 01 from the NES game are awesome beyond words.

All in all, as much as I enjoyed the game, I can't call it perfect - it's a lopsided experience. Things start to feel unfinished as you progress, and the ending is simultaneously satisfying and disappointing. However, the Bionic Arm is just a blast to play with and never gets old, and there's a serious heaping of fun times to be had throughout the campaign. The replay value isn't quite as robust as it could be, personally because you can't carry all your abilities over when starting afresh, but I can't deny that I'm glad I bought it. Some people might be unhappy that the game is so short (it can be run through in about six hours), but I thought it was the perfect length, and for only 10 I have no regrets at all.

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Completion: Finished on all three difficulties. Need 100% and all achievements.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Apr 2011

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Bomberman Act:ZERO

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Jun 2010

NOTES: Gift from Rage Quitter 87!

Oh lordy, what is there to say?


[no review]

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Completion: No.


Further reading: A two-part blog entry! First unwrapping the parcel, then actually playing the game. And, as always, check out the Totally Bombastic Bomberman Shrine Place!

Bomberman LIVE

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

It's Bomberman. We should know what to expect by now.


[no review]

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Completion: No ending.


Further reading: Check out the Totally Bombastic Bomberman Shrine Place!

Boom Boom Rocket

RATING: 0/4

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Jan 2010

NOTES: Part of the Xbox Live Arcade Compilation Disc

Oh boy, a rhythm game for my fingers! Just what I never needed!


A rhythm game wherein you attempt to press the respective button when the icon hits the middle of a line.

Yep, that's it. It doesn't even try and pretend that you're dancing or doing anything productive to hide the fact what you're playing is nothing more than an arrow mashing game.

Like a lot of genres I'm too crap to play, I have some degree of admiration and respect for them - Dance Dance Revolution is one of them. The gameplay is ludicrously simple in concept, but the simple fact it requires you to move your legs at crazy speeds to hit the arrows at the right time makes it stand out from all the controller-based games. Any game that gets you off your arse for good reason seems okay in my book. Boom Boom Rocket, meanwhile, hasn't such a gimmick going for it. Oh boy, you know what the game industry needs? A game that challenges your finger dexterity in a mind-numbingly banal manner! Because we haven't got enough of those already, have we? It doesn't help that the music is enough to put you to sleep, and looking at the game makes my eyes hurt. I couldn't even last two songs before asking myself, "what the hell am I playing?"

Someone may like it, but jeez, it certainly ain't me. I didn't even have the patience to get all the achievements.

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Completion: No.

Call of Duty: World at War

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: First game.

Relatively decent.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Castle Crashers

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Dec 2009

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: August 2010

Fantastic change of pace - why didn't they do this sooner?


[no review]

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Completion: How can I tell?


Further reading: E3 impressions and demo opinions.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

RATING: 4/4

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: First Arcade game.

Sweetness.


It's an incredibly in-depth game that basically change the whole scope of the series with all manner of awesome features. And it's also easy as piss. That's going to be hard to review!

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Completion: As Alucard.


Further reading: One of many games I played in 2009.

Dark Void

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: May 2011

A few minor quirks, but a really inspiring game so far!


[no review]

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Completion: On Normal. Need all extras.

Dead Rising

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

So much to do, so little time.


[no review]

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Completion: Ending A.


Further reading: One of many games I played in 2009

Devil May Cry 4

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Apr 2011

Great combat. The rest can be a bit of a slog, though.


[no review]

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Completion: On Human Difficulty.

Doritos Crash Course

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Dec 2010

For a free download, it ain't half bad.


[no review]

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Completion: All Gold.

Feeding Frenzy

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Jan 2010

NOTES: Part of the Xbox Live Arcade Compilation Disc

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Fight Night Round 3

RATING: 0/4

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: First game.

Bleh.


Although I'm not really a sports fan, I do respect them for the physical demands of playing them and how many people really put their whole heart and soul into winning it. I mean, I may not understand how chasing a ball of leather around and kicking it into a net is entertaining, or how those people are being paid crazy amounts of money, but I respect how athletic they are. I totally respect boxing and sumo wrestling because, dude, they're punching people in the face! From the very, very few boxing games I've played (Punch-Out!! and, uh, Game & Watch Gallery 4) they really simplify the mechanics of the sport, though given how simple gaming was at that time, it's no surprise. I have always thought a controller with two sticks would make good fodder for something using them individual to control separate sticks. And indeed, this is what Fight Night does!

Not very well, though. Boxing is about quick instincts, lightning-like agility and punching people really hard in the face. I couldn't help but find my brief playing of the game to be like making marionettes filled with sand try to raise their hands to each others' faces. Like Grand Theft Auto IV, I didn't feel like I was controlling an athletic man in a dangerous sport, but simply a situation that could be best narrated with "wobble, wobble, wobble!" Okay, yes, I could've read the manual, but I was looking for a quick review here, man. If I want boxing, I'll stick with Punch-Out!!. Nice graphics, though. Love the haircuts.

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Completion: No.

Grand Theft Auto IV

RATING: 0/4

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

Remarkably lacklustre.


Although I wouldn't consider them good games, I slightly enjoy the Grand Theft Auto franchise. It's brain-dead fun for anti-social teenagers and then you move onto more sophisticated games. They're easy to pick up and play, and you can either just go on a mindless rampage and faff around to your hearts' content, or you can follow the story and do the objectives and whatnot. A game for every mood!

Grand Theft Auto 3 was my personal favourite as it's easy to pick up and play, and the areas were all reasonably familiar and distinctive to me. The controls are precise and you never really feel like you're wasting time just moving from place to place. So say hello to Grand Theft Auto 4! Good riddance to quick introductions that are done and dusted in mere minutes, say hello to an hour long sequence of helping out your dead-end brother and going on a romantic date and very little in the way of actual action!

Even during the story in other games, you can always decide to simply hijack a car and occupy yourself with other things. One of the main beefs with this instalment is that driving a car is no longer fast-paced frantic fun, but instead like trying to ride a wild boar wearing roller skates on a patch of ice with miniature treadmills beneath each hoof. Or more succinctly, like driving a brick with dicks for wheels. Everything in the game felt like this, even just walking felt like it was wading through anti-gravity jelly with the characters' sense of gravity surgically removed. On a technical level I can say I'm impressed by how smooth and flowing the animations are, for the most part, but from a gameplay level it seemed wobbly and slowed-down and obtrusive. The Pie Man episode of The Simpsons, Simple Simpson, was pretty unremarkable, but it does give me a very accurate description of everything in the game: "Wobble, wobble, wobble!"

Heck, even simple things like fisticuffs are hideously awkward. It's no surprise it was changed from the previous games since in them it was horribly biased in your favour, you could knock the shit out of anyone without an ounce of effort, but now it greatly emphasises being tactical. In turn, it also emphasises not achieving a damn thing, and I won the only fist fight I entered by backing a car over him. I was scrapping for a good while before I resorted to that, mind you!

The Grand Theft Auto series is mostly about playing it for a while and slowly gaining better access to the realm; opening up new areas, getting your hands on better weaponry, becoming more capable... but the fact remains that if the game wants me to stick around for that long, it's actually got to be intriguing. Not this time, buddy.

Also yes I am very impatient, thank you for noticing.

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Completion: No.

Half-Life 2

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: Part of The Orange Box

Pretty rockin'.


[no review]

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Completion: Need 100% or whatever.

Half-Life 2: Episode One

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: Part of The Orange Box

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: Part of The Orange Box

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Halo 3

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Jan 2010

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Hydro Thunder: Hurricane

RATING: 3/4

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Nov 2010

It's F-Zero, but in the ocean!


Very fun racing game in the vein of F-Zero, except with futuristic racing boats with jet engines, which makes a nice change from the boring ol' cars you see in every game ever. Has anyone ever made a chariot racing game? You could throw Gauls onto the track and they'd be the equivalent of banana peels.

Much like F-Zero, despite its pseudo-sci-fi setting it chooses not to endorse weapons and foul play to aid your victory, it's all about good driving and intelligent usage of the boost fuel littered around the course. Since the entire game takes place on water, the controls aren't quite as rigid as a typical rally game, and such things as powerful waves can knock your vehicle around. Some boats control better on the water, while some have much better control in the air for when you go off ramps or jump.

The courses are all set in real (well, real-ish) locations... except after some kind of post-apocolyptic flood, or something that might be loosely implied in the help screen, I've no idea. Not only are they all beautiful to look at, but the developers have clearly wanted them to appear alive and interactive to a certain degree. Helicopters will swoop over the Italian waterways commentating on the race; rockets take off and cargo is shipped around the Area 51 base; and giant monsters emerge from beneath the water to terrorise you in the Monster Island stage. On levels with multiple laps, paths will often change or become blocked off along the way, and green icons on the course will change the scenery to some degree, usually by spawning a ramp nearby. As if that wasn't enough, each course has a number of "hidden packages", well, hidden in obtuse areas. It's a game that really inspires you to admire your surroundings.

There are four modes - race (self-explanatory), ring challenge (drive through hoops!), Gauntlet (an obstacle course of explosive mines!), and Championship (a compilation of consequecutive challenges). The modes are all fun, though obviously the Race is where the main challenge lies - it's a much better incentive to improve when you can see what you're up against rather than an omnipotent timer on the top of the screen. In addition, every single mode has three difficulty settings depending on the class of boat you use - Novice, Pro and Expert. The earlier ones are rather slippery and slow with a large margin for error, but once you reach Expert they're obscenely fast, surprisingly tight on the controls, but it has no patience for screw-ups.

It can take a while to get used to the controls, never mind getting into the actual game itself - you unlock more boats, courses and challenges with the more points you unlock (by completing challenges, natch), so at first you're quite limited in what you can choose, which is a bit of a turnoff. F-Zero GX had a similar system where you had to buy new cars, cups and story missions, but it helped that you could do it in any order you desired. Hydro Thunder has the same order every time, so if you'd like to see the Paris Sewers real quick, tough luck, you're going to need to sink quite a number of victories in before it's unlocked. Once you acquire a taste for the game, this system does become a real incentive to keep playing, but I won't deny at first the very limited nature was a turn-off.

I only picked it up because it was a cheap Deal of the Week - I generally don't pick up racing games willy-nilly (hence why those racing games on the PlayStation never got much mileage), but I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it, and there's still more to do. The totally skill-based nature kept me plugging away at it, and learning the tricks of all the courses keeps me busy.

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Completion: Need all Gold.

Ikaruga

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Dec 2009

Brutally difficult, but sincerely fun.


[no review]

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Completion: On Easy.


Further reading: I also have the game on the Dreamcast.

Inertia

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Nov 2010

Not bad, but rather minimal.


[no review]

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Completion: Completed.

Johnny Platform's Biscuit Romp

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Sep 2010

Crackin' puzzle platformer, and it's cheap as chips!


[no review]

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Completion: Totally finished.

Johnny Platform Saves Christmas

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Nov 2010

Just as crackin', if not moreso.


[no review]

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Completion: Need to finish Jenny Platform's mode.

Kameo: Elements of Power

RATING: 1/4

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: May 2011

A few good bits, but outweighed by the drudgery.


[NEW!] Kameo spent several years in development, jumping from two consoles before landing on the Xbox 360 as a launch title, and was clearly meant to showcase the grand technical splendour of the new console. That effect is a bit lost when I've been playing three years' worth of games before playing this!

You play as Kameo, a girl who is granted the ability to shapeshift into "elemental warriors," each with their own unique abilities. Her sister has teamed up with some nasty troll bloke who's trying to conquer the kingdom and has kidnapped her relatives, but for the majority of the game you're roaming around collecting the rest of your transformations. The game attempts to have a grand storyline going on, with cryptic quotations during the loading screens and lengthy conversations after rescuing your relatives, but frankly, it's difficult to care. Kameo's sister is behind most of the evil acts in the game, and the whole opening segment is about her taking part in a storm against the castle... but you never hear a word from her until the final battle.

The gameplay feels like a spiritual successor to Star Fox Adventures; you've got the similar exploration and puzzle solving, the similar brand of accented NPCs, similar lush environments... and same old problems. You get about twelve transformations throughout the game, and while a select few get their fair share of mileage, a sizeable number go totally ignored except for a token appearance. Since there's a better combat system this time around they're all useful in some way or another... but it still feels strange. By the time you've got them all, you've only one dungeon left to use them in.

There's a greater emphasis on combat this time around; enemies won't attack you one at a time anymore, and enemies will drop money or health when defeated to sweeten the deal. It's still a tedious chore, though. Each elemental warrior has a unique moveset, but very few behave like a typical hack-and-slash style you'd want. On one hand, this encourages you to be creative with how you defeat enemies... and on the other hand, it makes for very boring battles as you fight wave after wave of foes using the same attacks over and over.
That's a problem: There's too much combat. Although it can be satisfying to hurl trolls off cliffs, set them on fire or toss them into each other, every battle seems to go on for far too long. Just when you've had your fill of challenge and/or excitement, they throw in another three meaningless waves of foe just to pad out that running time. It's a strange "damned if you do..." scenario - Star Fox Adventures had no actual reward for fighting enemies, so you could happily acknowledge it was a complete waste of time. Kameo has all manner of stuff to emphasise that combat is totally neat, but... it still feels like a waste of time.

Even the puzzles feel unsatisfactory! Since you have over ten elemental warriors to play around with, you've got a lot of abilities to sort through before you find what's required for the puzzle. And when the puzzle is environmental, it's all too easy to completely overlook it because of how over-detailed the surroundings are. The game does offer a hint system that will eventually flat-out tell you the answer, which is appreciated... but it's so easy to fall back on it because you can't be bothered to thumb around with each monster or try to discern what part of the backdrop can be interacted with and what's just static.

Speaking of the backdrops, the graphics and music are fantastic - the music is an appropriately booming and epic fantasy score, and the graphics are lush, well-animated and characteristic, with the same airy, whimsical quality as Star Fox Adventures. For all their dodgy games, the look and sound of each game is bound to be good.
What is distracting is the graphical design, namely the character design. The elemental warriors and a majority of the enemies have a very "Rare" look to them, the quirky oddly-proportioned cartoon designs, while Kameo and her brethren are rather ugly stock fairies, the sort of thing you'd see from a Poundland colouring book - totally uninspiring. And then some of the NPCs are really creative and interesting hominid takes on strange wildlife. For a game that seemingly aims to be taken seriously, it just seems strange for all these cartoony critters to be roaming about. Star Fox Adventures at least had the benefit of everyone being snarky gits.

It's... not a bad game, but Kameo simply failed to impress. There's a few neat features here and there, but between the drudgery of combat and the constant fumbling around with transformations, there were few moments when I could honestly say I was enjoying the game. I enjoyed the graphics, I enjoyed the music, I enjoyed the character designs... but I struggled to enjoy the game.

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Completion: Finished.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Dec 2010

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

LaserCat

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Feb 2012

Simple yet charming retro romp.


[no review]

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Completion: Finished.

Left 4 Dead

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Mar 2010

Stupendously fun.


[no review]

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Completion: Need all achievements.

Left 4 Dead 2

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: May 2010

Quite a different vibe, but still as fun as ever.


[no review]

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Completion: Need all achievements.

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

RATING: 1/4

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Apr 2011

Intriguing but cumbersome, and totally overshadowed by its sequel.


A third-person shooter... made by Capcom! Has the 3D guns-ahoy genre caught on in Japan? Hard to say, but when the game includes heaps of humongous insectoid beasties, a plethora of giant mechs to command and destroy, and women wearing low-cut tops in frozen tundras, you can see they're doing their damndest to make it appealing to their native market.

The game takes place on a frozen wasteland of a planet where all the native monsters have "thermal energy" running through their bodies, which is then used by the humans to power machinery, namely giant mechs. The main character, Wayne, also has some sort of mysterious thermal energy life support that constantly refills your health metre (very slowly in normal circumstances, but it speeds up if you've just got hit with a rocket or something). T-ENG is also used to power machinery - driving mechs will drain the energy more quickly, and using energy-based weaponry will sap a set amount per shot. Destroying just about anything gets you more of the stuff. It's an intriguing system, and the fact it also doubles as a timer of sorts keeps the game moving - you can't dawdle when your universal power source drains with every second!

The main focus lies on the VS, or Vital Suits - big ol' mechs. You get bipedal walkers; spider-like crawlers; drill tanks; snowmobiles; humanoid mechas, and, of course, a flying suit for the final battle. The variety is great, and you can mix and match appropriate weaponry when you find it, from gattling guns to rocket launchers to homing lasers (or if you're on foot, you can pluck these guns off the mech and use them yourself). They're appropriately slow and slightly cumbersome to control, but it feels just right - they feel more natural to control than being on foot. Traipsing on foot almost feels like a boring intermission until I get some mechs with jetpacks to toy around with.

The controls and physics are a stark contrast to most third-person shooters - it aims for 'realism', in the sense of your character getting appropriately knocked around. In any other shooter, you might be blown back by an explosion, but you never need to see your character get blown off their feet and slowly regain their footing. Lost Planet has that. Anything, from a shockwave to a tremor to an explosion, will enact some sort of 'wobbling' animation, leaving you immobile for the duration.
I can understand that having your robot totally unflinching after being rammed by a creature five times its size would be unrealistic, but IT'S A VIDEO GAME >:V all too often these 'swept off your feet' animations become a 'corner-trap' situation where there's little you can do. You are invincible until you regain control, but it's a common occurance where Wayne is hit by a laser, is knocked back, gets up, and is immediately hit by another laser before it's possible to do anything.
And while I'm bitching, I might as well complain that quite frequently it becomes impossible to actually see anything during a lot of battles, because explosions, laser blasts and other debris will completely and utterly blot out your vision. Combined with the knock-down-combo (and your constantly-refilling health bar), it can result in some frustrating, drawn-out death sequences.

The concept of the game is pretty nifty, and hopping into a mech and mowing down baddies and beasties is very fun, but the game never really 'clicked' with me - I felt I wasn't having anywhere near as much fun as I could have. A lot of the levels just felt like royal chores, to be honest, particularly some of the needlessly prolonged boss battles.
I think it's partly because the sequel was a lot more action-packed and engaging, and partly because... well, let's face it, a game where you run around, toting big destructive weaponry and hopping into animated mechanical suits to blast monsters many times larger than you - it's almost got a Metal Slug vibe about it!
And at the end of the day, I think that's what I really wanted. Lost Planet is okay; the visual design and general concept are all great, and it might be worth checking out if you're into mech and monster design, but the execution just feels tepid. It's dirt cheap and isn't too hard to find, but the sequel just spruces it up to a more enjoyable degree. Still ain't Metal Slug, though.

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Completion: On Normal.


Further reading: Some quick blog opinions.

Lost Planet 2

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: May 2011

A big, multi-player style adventure with lots of firepower! ... pity there's no one to play it with.


[no review]

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Completion: No.


Further reading: Some quick blog opinions.

Luxor 2

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Jan 2010

NOTES: Part of the Xbox Live Arcade Compilation Disc

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Mega Man 10

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Mar 2010

Back to the "same old" nature of 4 through 6. That's not a bad thing, but not a good thing either.


[no review]

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Completion: On Normal as Mega Man and Proto Man.


Further reading: Impressions upon beating the game for the first time.

Metal Slug XX

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Jul 2010

Great by arcade shooter standards - fairly hum-drum by Metal Slug standards.


[no review]

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Completion: Finished on Normal. Need all achievements.

Miner Dig Deeper

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Oct 2010

Cute little time waster.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

The Orange Box

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: First game.

Worth it for Half-Life 2.


[no review]

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Completion: See individual games.


Further reading: See the entries for Half-Life 2, Episode One, Episode Two, Portal and Team Fortress 2.

OutRun Online Arcade

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Dec 2009

Arcade racing! Fun times!


[no review]

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Completion: Need all achievements.

PAC-MAN Championship Edition

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Jan 2010

NOTES: Part of the Xbox Live Arcade Compilation Disc

It's Pac-Man on acid!


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Perfect Dark

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Apr 2011

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Platformance: Castle Pain

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Oct 2010

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Portal

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: Part of The Orange Box

Meh. Not impressed so far.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2009

RATING: 0/4

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: First game

PES, more like POS, am i rite?


Well, it's football. It's not the kind where you can kill people or cause earthquakes or anything cool like that, it's just football. And the controls still baffle the hell out of me.

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Completion: No.

Protect Me Knight

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Jun 2010

A game that makes the tower defence genre actually fun.


[no review]

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Completion: On Easy.

Radiant Silvergun

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Dec 2011

Intriguing, if a bit overwhelming.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Nov 2010

Not as barmy as Resident Evil 4, but just as good, if not better.


[no review]

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Completion: On Amateur.

Sonic the Hedgehog

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Mar 2010

Um. It has good intentions, right?


[no review]

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Completion: Sonic's story is done.


Further reading: Trailer impressions (oh, the optimism!) and after playing the game a bit.

'Splosion Man

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Jan 2010

Quirky.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Super Street Fighter IV

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Feb 2012

Pretty solid fighter, though I'm hardly one to judge!


[no review]

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Completion: No.


Further reading: Rental impressions.

Team Fortress 2

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

NOTES: Part of The Orange Box

The atmosphere is what sells it.


[no review]

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Completion: n/a

Tobe's Vertical Adventure

RATING: 2/4

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Nov 2010

Fun concept, polished look, but glitchy execution.


A fun, simplistic platform game. Your goal is to descend to the bottom of the level via jumping across platforms, using ropes, ladders, balloons and bouncing off enemies, all the while collecting gems and rescuing animals. Upon opening the giant treasure chest at the bottom, the level begins collapsing, rearranging the landscape and forcing you to reach the top again before the timer expires - or in certain levels, before you're impaled on the giant rising spikes.

There are four worlds with four levels in each, and you can play the game either alone or with a friend in co-op. The game has a really neat presentation; the pixel graphics are very nice looking, and the music fits the retro vibe. There's some basic replay value in the form of beating the gem high scores or rescuing all the animals (the more animals you rescue, the more perks you receive such as more lives, more health, more tools, etc).

The big killer is just in how glitchy the game is. Tobe has a wide variety of moves at his disposal, but he's very finicky about when he wants to use them. He can wall-jump, he can run up walls if you get a running start, and he can also slide down walls ala Mega Man X. The problem is that you need to slide on the wall to wall-jump, and running on the wall means you fall away from it once you've lost your steam, it means if you're aiming for one or the other things get a bit pickly. Likewise, trying to grab onto ropes can be a nuisance, especially when there's a horizontal climbing bar nearby. Your balloons have a preset lifespan before they pop, but sometimes they like to pop at totally inopportune moments when they should have still held you. Running and rolling; grabbing onto ledges; even trying to scroll through the pause menu, the game has a problem with unresponsive controls at times with both the control stick and the D-Pad.

The co-op mode, in theory, works like a treat. There are unique abilities to take advantage of having a partner, such as jumping off their heads or hoisting them up onto ledges, and it's a lot of fun trying to help each other through these treacherous passages. However, the game already has enough bugs and quirks in the main game, the co-op mode seems to break the game wide open. The physics become unpredictable (you can bounce off of nothing when you least expect it!) and the game seems to have trouble keeping track of who's "in charge" - it often locks one player from interacting with treasure chests, and then suddenly reverses it or lets them both do it. Characters can die and then respawn off-screen, only to die again and again. Death glitches become particularly bad in levels with a rising threat, resulting in a lot of lost lives. When it works, the co-op is very fun, but it breaks so easily that it can be hard to keep the moods high.

It's a fun little retro romp, but the Xbox Live Indie edition comes across as a prototype. It's got great visual flair and the gameplay is simple yet engaging, but the game has since been updated and released on the PC; I haven't yet tried it, but I would recommend getting it rather than this version.

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Completion: All levels cleared.


Further reading: I reviewed the later PC release as well.

Tomb Raider Legend

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Apr 2011

Judging from the first twenty minutes: it's okay!


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Dec 2009

Not bad for a licensed game..


[no review]

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Completion: 100%. Missing multi-player and DLC achievements.

Treasure Treasure: Fortress Forage: Extra Edition

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Indie

WHEN: Oct 2010

It's like Goof Troop, except as a 2D platformer! Kind of! That's a big compliment, if you don't know.


[no review]

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Completion: Finished, both alone and with a friend.

Trials HD

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Nov 2010

Strangely alluring.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

UNO

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Jan 2010

NOTES: Part of the Xbox Live Arcade Compilation Disc

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: n/a

Worms 2: Armageddon

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Jan 2010

Not bad.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Xbox Live Arcade Compilation Disc

RATING: n/a

TYPE: Disc

WHEN: Jan 2010

Well, uh, it's value for money. It's not good, but it's a cheaper way of getting Pac-Man, right?


[no review]

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Completion: See individual games.


Further reading: See the entries for PAC-MAN Championship Edition, Luxor 2, Feeding Frenzy, Boom Boom Rocket and UNO.

X-Men

RATING: 1/4

TYPE: Arcade

WHEN: Apr 2011

An accomplishment in some degree, but otherwise unremarkable.


It seems if you want to be a cool retro kid on the internet, you have to wax poetic about the old Konami brawlers of the early 90s. Although The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles get most of the attention, X-Men gets its fair share of notice largely due to the dual-screen display cabinets that allowed for a whopping 6 players to participate at the same time. Folks have been yearning for a home release of these for a long, long time, but given how old the games are and how tricky it would be to get a hold of the license again, it seemed unlikely any of that would happen. And then out of nowhere, this appears! While Capcom holds the Marvel license, no less!

Brawlers get a lot of slack for being simplistic, brainless games with no challenge outside of how far you can progress through the game just using jump kicks. That is relatively accurate, sadly, and X-Men is probably one of the worst examples of that. The fighting system is extremely limited; so limited it barely even compares to the bare basics of Final Fight. You can't even grab enemies! The only unique elements are the ability to kick enemies while they're down (a staple of Konami brawlers) and the Mutant Powers, a crowd-clearing ability that works differently for each character and uses some of your life to activate (or a Mutant Power pellet). It's a frustratingly basic movelist, and the fact there are no weapons or items at all in the game really puts a damper on things.

As an arcade game meant to gobble coins and be relatively engaging enough to keep you playing to the end, I suppose it's not that bad. There are better games, and I'd probably say it's the weakest licensed brawler Konami produced, but it's not like there's high standards for arcade games. However, it hasn't made its home console debut very gracefully. You're given the option to play either the English or Japanese version (the latter has health pick-ups and mutant power pellets; the English one has no pick-ups whatsoever), as well as an option for the 6-player or 4-player ROM (the only other difference being the screen resolution). It's a nice little extra, but it can't hide the fact there's just not much to the game.

Playing online is a variable experience. Sometimes it runs silky smooth, other times it'll have some awkwardly delayed input, and then there are times when the game chugs and grinds like an uncomfortable Kaillera flashback. Playing with a full six players is relatively entertaining, but given how simple the movelist is, there's very little variety to the game. You're given infinite credits with no option to limit them, which means any sense of self-preservation goes straight out the window. Players will spam their mutant powers on bosses and then kill themselves, and repeat the process.
Given how limited the moveset is, this is actually the best tactics the game has to offer, but it's almost sickening to just see everyone just queuing up at the boss, waiting for one person to run out of Mutant Power. And while we're at it, only the game host can kick players, so if someone isn't moving when the game's trying to move you to the next screen, all you can do is hope the host notices and takes action. Or hope that the the person lagging behind isn't the host. That happens far too many times than it should do.

It is very cool to see an obtuse game like this finally get a home release, especially with luxuries such as online multi-player, a level select and the dipswitch options, but ultimately... it just feels like a novelty. Outside of the 6-player mode, the game is a very weak representation of the brawler genre, and unless you really can't get enough of crappy movesets and outstandingly bland levels, I can't imagine actively replaying this. 800MSP is a high price for a game this minimal, and even for 200MSP (during the April Fools sale) I don't think it was worth the cost. It's an achievement to get the game rereleased, but the game still sucks.

They should've just released Sunset Riders.

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Completion: Need all achievements.


Further reading: RQ87 commented on it in his blog.