Monday, November 23, 2009

The Christmas Gaming Gift Guide 2009 Part 2: Worth a look

Here I am again as promised with part 2 of my Christmas Gaming Gift Guide. This time I'm featuring 10 games that interest me but I still have my doubts about. I would consider purchasing these if I see them in a sale or maybe after renting them first.

Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier - PSP - 27/11/09

I loved the original Jak trilogy on the PS2 with it's blend of classic 3D platforming, combat and racing, but I'm always a bit wary about sequels/spin offs that weren't developed by the original team. The game does look good though, but from what I've heard the controls aren't perfect and some of the mini games are repeated slightly too often. This time, Daxter is the one that gets Dark Eco infused super powers - transforming into a giant, damage dealing, lumbering beast.

BrĂ¼tal Legend - Xbox 360, PS3 - Out Now

Tim Schafer has worked on arguably some of the best and funniest games of all time (The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Psychonauts), so you'd think I would be jumping at the chance to play his latest. The reason for my hesitation? Jack Black. OK, he was funny the first time, but he basically just plays himself in everything he works on and that can start to get irritating after a while. I'm also not that into heavy metal, so most of the in jokes and references to the culture will get lost on me. Having said all that, this does look like a decent game, so I will definitely come back to it later.

Batman: Arkham Asylum - Xbox 360, PS3 - Out Now

Now I'm quite fond of old batters but not really keen on the whole Splinter Cell stealth scene, so I'm a bit wary of this game. However, it is my understanding that you don't have to use stealth if you don't want to and can let your fists do the talking instead. It does look like a really well made game though, boasting voice actors who have actually worked on the animated series, and some great graphics. Definitely one to add to the collection eventually (i.e. when it can be found cheap enough).

LittleBigPlanet - PSP - Out Now

Media Molecule have basically taken their critically acclaimed platformer/creation tool and shrunk it down to the PSP, but the included levels are all new and there are new themes to play with too. I never really got into creating my own levels with the original, but I did play plenty of other user created levels for the PS3 version, and some of the things that people have managed to do with the creation tool is amazing. Provided you can download the levels onto the memory stick and take them with you, and not have to be online in order to play them, this could be the perfect game to play on the go.

Risen - Xbox 360 - Out Now

I love a good RPG, I do, and this game could just fit the bill. It has been getting fairly average scores from professional magazines and web sites, yet above average scores and praise from actual gamers, which leads me to believe that it is indeed worth checking out. Risen is an action RPG, in much the same vein as Oblivion and the like, and I think it has something to do with the Gothic series on the PC (you can tell I don't really know much about this game, can't you?). I'm not prepared to spend £45 on it but when the price comes down I'll be sure to pick this one up.

Divinity 2: Ego Draconis - PC, Xbox 360 - Out Now

Yes, another RPG. I loved the original Divine Divinity on the PC a few years ago, but didn't think the sequel (Beyond Divinity) lived up to it. This is in fact the "true" sequel, and takes the series from an isometric Diablo style RPG to a full 3D explorathon. From what I can gather from the trailer, your character turns about to be a Dragon Knight whose powers have lain dormant for quite some time (turning into a dragon, I guess), but they are about to awaken. Looks like it could be good but until I get to read and watch some reviews I will remain undecided on whether to give it a go.

Gran Turismo - PSP - Out Now

As I mentioned in part one, I really think that the Gran Turismo series has been surpassed by the Forza Motorsport series, but I still plan on playing this game eventually. It has taken Polyphony Digital an awful long time to put this one together so there had better be some major improvements over Gran Turismo 4. I have heard that they have made some rather strange design decisions though, like only making certain cars available on certain days. Is the PSP up to the task? In theory it should be, but I'm not so sure.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles - Wii - 27/11/09

The Umbrella Chronicles was a pretty good light gun shooter a few years back but fans of the Resident Evil series bemoaned the fact that arguably the best game in the series (Resident Evil 2) wasn't included amongst the various settings. That's because Capcom was saving it for the sequel, which also includes levels based on Code Veronica and Resident Evil 4 (all the games with Leon in them, basically). Wesker is bound to be up to no good again, darn him!

Muramasa: The Demon Blade - Wii - 27/11/09

Muramasa is a kind of follow up to PS2 game Odin Sphere, and features the same blend of sumptuous hand drawn backgrounds and action packed er, action. It blends quick and fast hack and slash action with RPG elements (yay!). It could be a tad on the hardcore side for my tastes (Odin Sphere was rock hard) but I'd like to give it a try.

Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days - DS - Out Now

Since completing Kingdom Hearts 2 (review here), I've been looking forward to playing more games in the series. While there's still no sign of Kingdom Hearts 3, the DS and PSP are at least getting spin off games of their own. The downside to this is that the levels are mostly rehashed from previous games, and the games don't focus on main protagonist Sora but rather some of the minor characters from KH2 (Roxas and Axel). Another case of try before I buy for this one then!

OK, one more part to go next week - this time I will be looking at budget titles, and I will be incorporating both full retail boxed games and downloadable games for Xbox Live Arcade, PSN and WiiWare. I also hope to put together some awards this year like I did a few years back, and I'm currently giving some thought as to what should be my winner and runner up for each platform, as well as overall.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Christmas Gaming Gift Guide 2009 Part 1: Must Have titles

It has become tradition for me to write a little gaming gift guide around this time of year, so here I am again with what I consider my 10 "must have" titles for the 2009 festive season (funds permitting). The list may be a bit RPG heavy because that's by far my favourite genre, and they are perfect for this time of year with the long cold nights and time off from work. Some of these games are already out, and some are released soon. Watch out for part 2 soon which will feature another 10 games that I am interested in, but will likely only pick up if I see them cheap somewhere.

Dragon Age: Origins - Xbox 360, PC - Out Now - PS3 - 20/11/09

Bioware have once again crafted an RPG of truly epic proportions. Choose from one of six completely different origin stories and join the Grey Wardens as they battle to save the land of Ferelden from both the evil hordes of the Darkspawn and political machinations from within. The game should easily last you 50 hours (more if you decide to wander and complete side quests) and is extremely replayable due to the decisions that you have to make and the bearing that they have on the overall storyline. By the time you're done with this, it should be almost time for Mass Effect 2!

Borderlands - Xbox 360 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - Out Now

Borderlands is a RPG/FPS hybrid, and is incredibly addictive as a result. Choose from one of four classes - Soldier, Hunter, Siren and Beserker, each with their own unique abilities, and venture out into the wastelands of Pandora in attempt to find the legendary vault. If that sounds a bit like Fallout, it's no surprise as this game was inspired by that series. You can play the game on your own if you wish but it really comes alive in the 4 player cooperative mode, where the different classes complement each other (one class has bullets and grenades that actually heal rather than harm allies, for example). There are squillions of different guns to find, a huge world to explore and a dark sense of humour throughout. Where else can you find mobs that go by the name of Midget Psycho or Badass Corrosive Alpha Skag?

New Super Mario Bros. Wii - Wii - 20/11/09

From the videos that I've seen of this game so far, it looks like really good fun in four player mode but the likely source of a lot of arguments this Christmas, as the hectic nature of the game will inevitably lead to someone accidentally causing the death of someone else, which will probably spark a rebellion with all hell breaking loose. Those who fear that the single player mode will suffer as a result of the emphasis on multi player should relax - Nintendo have things well in hand. This could well end up being my game of the year, and I don't have long to wait now!

Forza Motorsport 3 - Xbox 360 - Out Now

In my opinion, the Forza series has been the leader of the "racing simulator" sub genre for some time now, offering quite a bit that the venerable Gran Turismo series doesn't, and it looks like Forza Motorsport 3 will easy outclass Gran Turismo 5. What you have here is an incredibly deep and complex game, yet Turn 10 have manages to streamline the interface and the game to coax in newcomers gradually, giving them as many driving aids as they require yet encouraging them to switch them off in return for bigger rewards at the end of the race. It also features a rewind button, which has become the feature du jour since GRID included it.

Torchlight - PC (download only) - Out Now

If you're one of the many people eagerly awaiting the release of Diablo 3, then you should probably take a look at Torchlight. Many of the developers have worked on the first two Diablo games as well as Fate. This game brings a few new things to the table, such as a pet that you can load up with loot and send back to town for you. You could also equip your moggy or doggy with some powerful spells, or do a spot of fishing and then feed whatever you've caught to them to transform them into a different creature temporarily. At $20 (about £13) this is quite the bargain.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PS3 - Out Now

I have only discovered how great the first Uncharted was fairly recently (check out my review), but the sequel promises to outdo it in every area. It features some of the most breathtaking scenes on any platform, and this time also includes a surprisingly good online multi player mode as well as a selection of cooperative missions. Quite possibly the best game available for the PS3 so far.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks - DS - 11/12/09

Like Uncharted, I only got around to playing Phantom Hourglass properly this year. Overall it was great, but the dungeon that you had to keep going back to time and time again was a bit of a pain, so hopefully Nintendo will tone this aspect down for Spirit Tracks. From what I've seen so far, Zelda (or rather Tetra) is killed early on in the adventure and then accompanies Link in spirit form, possessing Phantoms to assist him in solving puzzles. Will he be able to help her return to her corporeal form? I'm guessing yes, but it will be a fun adventure in the meantime. Also - trains!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii - Out Now

The first Ultimate Alliance (and the X-Men Legends games before it) were highly enjoyable action RPG's, featuring a ton of famous and not so famous faces from the back catalogue of Marvel Comics. I made the mistake of buying the Wii version of the last game which had horrible controls and no online mode to speak of, so this time I will definitely be going for the 360 or PS3 version. I have had a go at the demo and the graphics have leaped ahead in quality quite significantly, and there are cool new team up moves that you can carry out.

Need for Speed Shift - Xbox 360, PS3 - Out Now

The quality of recent releases in the Need for Speed series has been patchy at best, but this latest entry in the series will hopefully compare favourably do the similar Forza 3 and Gran Turismo 5, and not leave me thinking that perhaps they should have left the f out of the title! It incorporates a stars system for completing certain challenges during each race, such as staying in first place for a whole lap or beating a particular time, and these change depending on whether your play style falls under the category of "aggressive" or "precision".

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story - DS - Out Now

The Mario RPG's have always been incredibly funny, well written games with some really fun gameplay to back it all up, but the last one (Partners in Time) suffered a bit because of over complicated controls. This time Alphadream have simplified things a bit, and have also apparently been inspired by the classic movie Inner Space, as Mario & Luigi find themselves inhaled by Bowser. You then spend much of the game exploring Bowser's gut, or stomping around the Mushroom Kingdom as the Koopa King himself as he attempts to reclaim his castle from the evil (and hysterically funny) Fawful.

So that's it for part one - I have already bought copies of Dragon Age, Borderlands and Torchlight and will be reviewing each of them over the next month or so, and I'll be picking up New Super Mario Bros. Wii tomorrow! Next week I'll also be posting up part 2 of this guide, looking at 10 also-rans that may just be worth grabbing in the sales!