Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Game Diary: PlayStation Notwork

Another week has gone by and most of my gaming time was once again taken up by GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City - this time on the Lost and Damned portion of the game. I actually took the time to finish all of the optional side quests and events and achieve 100% completion. This entails: winning 12 bike races, completing 25 gang wars, dealing with 5 pieces of “dirty laundry” for the corrupt politician, Stubbs, stealing 9 bikes, and killing 50 seagulls. All of this will take a considerable amount of time, but for the most part it is all entertaining. This is with the exception of the seagull killing, which is very tedious. Luckily other people have gone to the trouble of finding all the birds and making a map – there’s no way I would have had the patience to track them down myself.

My current GTA bug has spread to the PSP, and I have begun playing Chinatown Wars which I picked up around Christmas time. It’s very much a throwback to the very first GTA game, with its overhead viewpoint, but it is in full 3D. There’s a ton of stuff to do in this game as well, and I’ve barely scratched the surface yet – I did complete a quite addictive game that involves you branding your gang members with tattoos though. Plus my current enthusiasm for Rockstar games has me eagerly anticipating the release of L.A. Noire at the end of May - I expect the story telling and free roaming elements to be of their usual extremely high standards, but the game is also set to shake up the genre just as much if not more than Red Dead Redemption.

I also bought a copy of DC Universe Online last Saturday, but events that you may already be aware of have prevented me from playing it. First Sony were telling everyone that they were performing routine maintenance to the PlayStation Network, then a few days later they were admitting to being hacked. Now, almost a week after they first shut down PSN they have informed everyone that their personal details (name, address, email, credit card info) may have been stolen. Luckily the card I have on file isn’t my current one, but it is still quite a worry. I can only imagine what kind of damage this will have to Sony, both financially and from the amount of trust they will lose with their customers.

Finally I spent half an hour checking out the first level of Dead Space Extraction for the Wii – the on rails shooter that is the a prequel to the first game in the series. I was surprised just how good the game looked, and the controls have been very cleverly implemented too. I will play some more and possibly be back with a review soon. Episode 2 of my RMGB Radio podcast should hopefully be up this weekend, and I am hoping it will be a slightly more professional affair than last time, as I’m going for a semi scripted approach. You can expect recaps of all of this months written reviews, a new one for Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, and plenty more fantastic video game remixes. Make sure you tune in!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Game Diary: Return to Liberty City

I've managed to finish quite a few games and get a nice variety of reviews up on the site over the last few weeks, and I'm trying to keep this momentum going at the moment. Ghostbusters and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands were both rentals from Lovefilm and they both lend themselves to this quite nicely as they can both be finished within around ten hours. Usually if I hang onto a game from Lovefilm for too long then I start to feel that I'm wasting money, so it was good to turn these around within a week of receiving them and still feel like I had played them thoroughly enough to be able to critique them.

After finishing PoP, I felt like starting another new game, and turned to The Backloggery for help. If you haven't heard of this site, it is somewhere that you can enter your game collection and then log your progress in games, keeping tracking of what you've beaten and completed as well as how large your backlog is. I've managed to build up quite huge pile of unfinished games over the last few years, so the fortune cookie feature of the site is quite a useful tool. Basically you can use it to randomly suggest a game from your own collection for you to play. I tried this last week and it came up with Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City, which is a double pack of the two DLC packs that were released for GTA IV: The Lost and Damned, and The Ballad of Gay Tony.

I decided to try The Ballad of Gay Tony first, which sees you playing as Luis Lopez, business partner to Tony Prince, the owner of two Liberty City nightclubs. By borrowing money from some thugs with mafia connections, Tony has managed to get the both of you in a whole heap of trouble and the rest of the game is spent basically trying to dig you out of this mess. Suffice to say though, things don't go according to plan and things get a whole lot worse before they get better. Those who have played GTA IV will have noticed how much more restrained it was compared with the craziness of San Andreas, and The Ballad of Gay Tony brings back a lot of the outlandish missions and ridculous characters that populated the PS2 titles. You will be tasked with blowing up a ship with a military helicopter, stealing a railway car, and throwing a blogger from a helicopter before parachuting out and saving him before he hits the ground.

There's a decent amount of content here at around 10 hours for the main story missions and a whole lot more if you want to complete the required quota of drug wars side missions, manage the nightclub (and perform favours for spoiled celebrities), enter a cage fighting tournament, base jump from 15 locations around the city, and finally kill a whole lot of seagulls. Doing all this will easily double the amount of time spent on this game - I have only bothered to complete the drug wars side missions so far and that in itself took hours. Of course this is only half of what Episodes from Liberty City has to offer - I intend to begin the other half, The Lost and the Damned this evening. You don't need to own the full version of GTA IV by the way, Episodes runs from the disc as a standalone title.

I probably won't write a full review of this title as I think I've covered all the pertinent information here, but if I were to give it a score it would definitely get a solid 8. The shorter nature of these two DLC offerigns is quite appealing, as the main entries in the GTA series have never managed to sustain my interest long enough for me to complete one. I still have my Super Mario Galaxy review coming, and I will see what Lovefilm has in store for me next in a day or two. In the meantime, I'll be causing mayhem around Liberty City with Johnny Klebitz and The Lost biker gang.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands review

It's been a pretty good few weeks in terms of the number of games I've been playing through to completion, and here I am again with another review. This time it's for Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, a sequel to the Sands of Time trilogy that was released at around the same time as the the PoP movie starring Jake Gylkenhaal (though thankfully it is not related in any way).

Format: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3, Wii, PC, DS and PSP)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Expect to pay: £10 - £10

Graphics: 9 out of 10
Like many other pieces of media based around the Arabian Nights mythology (for example, the Tales of the Arabian Nights pinball table), Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands looks gorgeous. The game takes you through a succession of increasingly exotic locales from the battlements of a grand palace, through treasure vaults, royal baths, the throne room and beyond. Everything is extremely well detailed, the animation of the prince is nice a fluid (as you would hope from a game carrying the Prince of Persia name) and you will look forward to seeing where the game takes you next.

Throughout this adventure you will be given various special powers, including the familiar ability to rewind time that was first seen in the Sands of Time game. Not long after this you will be granted the power to temporarily freeze water, and from that point on you will be using it very often to turn waterfalls into walls, and spouts into columns and bars that can be clung to or swung from. It's a nifty new element to the formula which both looks nice and gives you a sense of satisfaction when you manage to successfully navigate your way to the top of a room after you were standing at the bottom mere moments before and wondering how on earth you were ever going to get there.

Unfortunately not everything is perfect, however. In some of the busier battles against the legions of King Solomon's Army, I did encounter some quite nasty slowdown. It was not just a dropped frame here and there, the game actually slowed to a crawl on more than one occasion. Until you get close to the conclusion of the game combat is not too frequent though, so the slowdown wasn't a huge detriment to my enjoyment of the game.

Sound and Music: 7 out of 10
From the little bit that I have played of the Sands of Time trilogy, I did recognise that the voice of the prince is the same (Yuri Lowenthal, who is a pretty prolific video game voice artist - chances are if a JRPG gets an English localisation, he will be playing at least one part). I thought that the voice of the prince didn't really match up with his physical appearance though, and sounded a little on the weedy side - but maybe that's just me. The musical score makes use of the sort of Arabian instrumentation that you would expect, and gets more upbeat and exciting when you are traversing your way through a trap filled room or fighting off a bunch of skeletal sand dudes. It adds to the sense of urgency and excitement nicely.

Game Mechanics: 8 ouf of 10
Now as I have said, I've only played a little bit of the previous Prince of Persia trilogy. Something about them never quite clicked with me, and I haven't felt the urge to continue with any of them, until now. It may be my imagination, but from what I recall of the older games it was not as obvious how to get through a particular room, whereas in this game as soon as I started climbing and swinging around it was quite clear to me what I was doing. It was more a test of my platforming expertise rather than puzzle solving, with the exception of one puzzle involving a giant gate and some cogs that I found really tedious.

To veterans, maybe the fact that the solution is more obvious that previous games is a bad thing, but I found it to be an improvement. I also enjoyed the steady introduction of more powers throughout the game. As well as the time rewind and water freezing that I've gone over already, you will also be able to use magical vultures to get from place to place, boost your way towards distant enemies (frequently used to cover gaps that you wouldn't otherwise be able to jump) and restore bits of the ruined environment that have crumbled away.

Besides these abilities that a doled out to you at key points in the story, your character also gains experience from slaying enemies and upon levelling up, you can choose from a range of other skills. This include increasing your health bar, the length of time you can keep water frozen for, the number of time rewinds you can have saved up, and a number of other abilities designed to aid you in combat. They are all elemental in nature so will get Trail of Fire and Whirlwind for example. I only really used these against bosses or on the odd occasion when I was overwhelmed by lesser minions, because most of the time I found I didn't need them.
The enemies that you fight throughout the game go from your common skeletal looking guys who are quite easy to dispatch, through slightly more armoured varieties, wizards that are able to summon endless hordes unless you dispatch them quickly, and huge sword wielding Titans. Your standard roster of fighting abilities include quick but weak sword strikes, a more powerful version that takes a few seconds to charge up, and a kick that can be useful in unbalancing shielded foes so that they are vulnerable to a quick stab through the gut. You can also jump on the shoulders of smaller enemies and then perform execution moves or throw your enemies of the edge of the environment to their doom (though being undead skeletal type geysers made from sand, I would say they're already quite doomed).

For most of the way through the game, the difficulty curve rises steadily so that you are getting better at roughly the same speed that the game is throwing new stuff at you. However, in the final hour the difficulty jumps up to potentially joypad throwing levels. I died time and time again during one particularly nasty section, but I persevered and got past it eventually. The end of game boss that followed was a pushover by comparison.

Innovation and Cleverness: 6 out of 10
I liked the new powers that were introduced in this time - in particular the water freezing mechanic. I also thought that the levels and environments were always cleverly designed throughout the game - awe inspiring at first glance, giving way to enjoyable platforming and adventuring.

Value and Replayability: 3 out of 10
The Forgotten Sands is by no means a long game, weighing it at around 10 hours or less, and in addition it is quite an addictive one so I found that I had reached the end mere days after I had started it. After getting to the end of the main game, there are a couple of challenge modes, but these don't last very long either - I mainly used them to that I could finish leveling up my character and purchase the remaining abilities so I could earn the Achievement that goes along with it. The game is definitely worth a rental though or picking up on the cheap (it can be found for as low as £10 nowadays).

Overall: 7 out of 10
This is the first of the modern Prince of Persia games that I have really got on with and it has inspired me to go back and revisit the older trilogy. Its fairly short length and lack of things to do outside of the main game do go against it somewhat, but if you just want a short, fun game to play through over one of the upcoming bank holiday weekends, I would recommend

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dragon Age II review

Although Bioware's sequel to Dragon Age: Origins was eagerly awaited by myself and many others who had enjoyed the original game, in actuality the sequel has been turned out by Bioware and EA quite quickly. Unfortunately this shows in a few key areas which I will get into shortly. Is the game an improvement on the first one in the series nevertheless? Time to investigate...

Format: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3 and PC)
Publisher: EA

Developer: Bioware
Expect to pay: £30 - £40

Graphics: 8 out of 10
The graphics in Dragon Age II are a noticeable improvement over the first game, with much more detail and higher resolution textures all round. There's also much more variety in the colour palette. The characters all have a slightly stylised look to them, and I like it. What I don't like however, is the rehashed environments - my main gripe with the game that I alluded to in my introductory paragraph. Every cave you venture into is basically the same one, likewise for warehouses, gang hideouts etc. Although the map layouts vary a little bit here and there, all Bioware have really done is block up doors and add invisible walls here and there. It just feels somewhat lazy and rushed, and I wish they'd taken the extra time and released the game later rather than put it out in the state it is now. It prevents a good game from becoming a great one.

Other than this, I did also notice some slowdown during some of the more frenetic battles, but this didn't happen too often. In terms of armour design, the stuff that you can pick up for your main character looks cool, but other than the odd upgrade for your party members that you can either find or earn by becoming their friend or rival, you can't really change their armour which is a shame. While on the one hand it helps to streamline the game and the interface (which needed some streamlining, it has to be said), it also makes it feel a bit dumbed down.

Sound and Music: 9 out of 10
The quality of the sound overall in Dragon Age II is on par with that of it's predecessor. There does seem to be an attempt to move away from celebrity voice actors this time around though, with the few exceptions being Eve Myles as the new elven mage character Merrill (she is Gwen in Torchwood) and Kate Mulgrew reprising her role as Flemeth. I also recognised the voice of Fenris straight away but it took me a while to place exactly where from. Eventually it came to me - Gideon Emery also played Balthier in Final Fantasy XII. Anders makes a welcome return from his stint in the Awakenings expansion pack (something that I hoped would happen in my review) and his original voice actor reprises the role. Music is once again strong with hints of some of themes from Origins intertwined with new compositions.

Game Mechanics: 8 out of 10
For those who choose to play Dragon Age II on a console, then I would say mechanically it is a definite improvement over that the of the first game. Now when you press an attack button you get an immediate one to one response, and everything moves around at much faster pace while also feeling far easier to control at the same time. At the Casual and Normal difficulty levels, the game plays like an action RPG most of the time with the occasional need to pause the game to administer healing potions or tell your mage to heal, but on Hard or Nightmare it is a much more tactical experience. I preferred to play on Normal, but those weaned on the semi turn based style of Baldur's Gate on a PC may prefer the higher settings, it's purely a personal choice.

For the most part, I applaud Bioware's decision to streamline the inventory screen and the rest of the interface. Now it is easy to see how good a piece of armour you've picked up is compared to your characters level just by glancing at how many stars out of five it has at a given time. It is also much more obvious when loot you pick up is important and when it is simply trash to be sold for money, and I found myself running out of inventory space far less often than I did in the first game (of course, it does help that you have a chest to stash excess items in at your uncles house, but I found I seldom needed to use it).

I didn't seem to connect with all of the recruitable characters as much as I did with those of Origins. For the most part I tended to stick with my favourite party of Varric (an excellently written character and the unreliable narrator of the tale), Avelline, and Anders. The others all got a look in when the story required in but Sebastien for example is nowhere near as interesting a character as Shale, who was the DLC character last time around. The fact that you have to pay to be able to get Sebastien this time instead of being an added bonus for early purchasers of the game only serves to make him that much more rubbish.

Finally, I have to mention the storyline a little bit while trying to avoid spoilers. It's a much more personal tale for the most part about the life and loves of one particular person, rather than the epic battle against the forces of evil that the first game was. I actually enjoyed this but I know that many of this games detractors cite this as one of its weaknesses. The way things played out for my character in the end were actually quite tragic based on the decisions I had made along the way, and this only served to make it better in my opinion. There are definite hints that another sequel is planned throughout the story and that much bigger things are happening in the world outside of Kirkwall, so it looks like those who didn't like the more focused events this time will be happier next time. Once again Bioware lets you import your save from the last game like they did with Mass Effect and it's sequel although the results are less pronounced this time. It mostly effects which side quests are available and minor pieces of dialogue rather than having a big impact on the story.

Yes, there is at least one dragon in Dragon Age II

Innovation and Cleverness: 4 out of 10
Not a huge score in this category in terms of innovation, but as usual Bioware have shown their flare for storytelling, dialogue and multiple ways to play through the game.

Value and Replayability: 8 out of 10
My first play through as a damage dealing warrior came in at 35 hours or thereabouts, and I definitely didn't do all there is to do. This isn't actually possible in a single play through as the range of quests you will be able take on is governed at least in part on whether you imported a Dragon Age: Origins save, what became of your hero, who ended up on the throne and whether certain characters survived through to the end of Origins. As an example of this, if you sided with the werewolves in the Nature of the Beast quest in the first game, you will be able to do an optional follow up quest in this one.

The balance of the character classes is much closer this time, with rogues being greatly improved. Then there are several different ways to play each class, for example a damage dealing warrior or a tank, a ranged rogue or a close up sneaky stabby one, and a healing or damage dealing mage, or indeed a balance of both. Most of the recruitable party members can be romanced this time around, with the exception of Varric (I think), and you can play your character in a variety of different ways, from the valiant hero who is keen to help everyone with little reward, the mean bastard, and those who are only in it for the money. All this means that you can quite easily play through the game at least twice and get quite a different outcome.

Overall: 8 out of 10
On balance, the things that Dragon Age II does better than Origins (the faster combat, the streamlined interface) are weighed out by the things it does worse (repetitive dungeon environments, shallower interaction with your party members, a denouement that is a bit weak compared to that of the first game), so I'm going to give it the same score. I definitely don't think it's anywhere near as bad a game as many people are making it out to be, and I look forward to future DLC and sequels.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ghostbusters: The Video Game review

It's been 22 years since Spengler, Stanz, Venkman and Zeddemore were last on our screens officially as the Ghostbusters. Since then there have been several cartoons, two fan made movies (Freddy vs Ghostbusters, and Return of the Ghostbusters), yet no sign of the original cast reprising their roles for another adventure. Until now. Atari and Terminal Reality have teamed up to deliver a game based on the franchise that is both written by Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd, and also stars them alongside fellow members of the original cast Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and William Atherton. Will bustin' make you feel good? Let's have a look...

Format: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3, Wii, PSP and DS)
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Terminal Reality
Expect to pay: £10 - £20

Graphics: 8 out of 10
Other than the usual problem of the characters looking like they're made out of wax, and poor lip syncing during the cut scenes, Ghostbusters is a very nice looking game. The proton stream looks and behaves as you would expect, ghosts are well designed and in keeping with the source material, and everything moves around at a frantic pace no matter how much chaos is on the screen. It may be a very small thing to mention but I really liked the fact that the developers had taken the time to put the light reflecting in Egon's glasses during cut scenes - it's little bits of attention to detail like this that show that they've put a lot of care into this project.

I do have one other minor niggle with the graphics, in that things can get a bit too dark even with the brightness setting turned all the way up. This is especially noticeable during a level set in Central Park, where the blackness of the environment combined with the games propensity to not give you much help as to where you should be going next can conspire to get you well and truly lost. Otherwise though, the 360 version of the game does a good job of delivering a realistic representation of the Ghostbusters universe. The Wii version however, looks very different, with cartoon style visuals, and although the stories are similar, it should really be considered a separate game.

Sound and Music: 9 out of 10
This is where the game truly shines, because as stated in my intro, many of the cast members of the original motion picture have returned to do the voice acting for their characters. Unfortunately this doesn't include Sigourney Weaver or Rick Moranis, but you can't have everything. It's a treat to hear the likes of Dan Akyroyd and Bill Murray both deliver classic lines and perform a whole new story for us. Because the dialogue has also been written by Ramis & Akroyd, it too is also of very high quality.

For extra layers of authenticity, you not only get genuine Ghostbusters music including both the theme tune by Ray Parker Jr and the rest of the soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein, but you also get sound effects taken directly from the films, including the proton pack, and the siren of the Ecto-1. It's enough to make you weep sweet tears of nostalgia just listening to it!

Game Mechanics: 7 out 10
Capturing a ghost in this game consists of several stages: first you have to weaken it by blasting it with one several different types of proton pack beam (more on this in a minute). Then, you have to wrangle it with you capture beam, and direct it into a trap. Either hold it over the trap for a few seconds, or (new to the game) slam dunk the ghost directly into the trap for an instant capture. As well as types of ghost that you have to capture, there are also minor types that you just have to destroy - these usual consist of possessed object such as candelabras that have come to life.

Initially you will just have access to the familiar proton stream as seen in the films but as the game progresses Egon will invent several new types of beam including ones that behave like shotgun blasts and a machine gun, as well as a slime stream. This particular stream can be used to remove caustic black slime from the environment, reveal hidden doorways, and in its alternative mode of fire, be used to tether two objects together. This is used in many of the games puzzles - for example in a sewer level you need to fire one end of your slime tether at a weight holding a sluice gate closed, then the other at the floor to pull the weight down.

I would say Ghostbusters is a very enjoyable game 80% of the time, but it does have a few minor problems holding it back from being an amazing game. Firstly, the game doesn't do a particularly great job in telling you what you need to be doing next in certain places, and sometimes it turned out I actually had done what I was supposed to do but hadn't walked over the hot spot to trigger the next event. At other times it's a case of going into your PKE meter view and scanning the environment until you find something ectoplasmic or otherworldly. My other problem with the game I have already mentioned - the overly dark graphics. However these minor issues don't prevent this game from being the best game licensed from a movie in years.

Before I move on, I would also like to mention the online multiplayer side of Ghostbusters, as it's great fun and adds a lot of life to an otherwise short game. You can team up with up to 3 other players and capture ghosts in one of four environments: New York Times Square, The Public Library, Central Park or the Sedgewick Hotel. There are various game types including Survival, which is this games version of the Gears of War Horde mode, Thief, where you have to protect 4 artifacts from being carried away by mischievous ghosts, and a Slam Dunk competition where you have to speedily slam more ghosts into traps than your opponents. It's great fun both working together and against real players online. As is the fashion these days, you earn cash from each ghost captured and can level up your character. When certain requirements are fulfilled, rare Most Wanted ghosts will appear - for example once you have won a round of every game type in Central Park, special ghosts will come out. Capture them all (no easy feat) and you will earn an Achievement.

Innovation and Cleverness: 5 out 10
The slime tether mechanics have been cleverly integrated into the game and are involved in the majority of the games puzzles, and the way the proton stream acts and feels like its movie counterpart is very smart. Terminal Reality deserve kudos for delivering a game that not only looks and sounds like the films, but plays like you would hope it would too.

Value and Replayability: 6 out of 10
The main single player campaign is pretty short at around 10 hours. There are things for completionists to find such as logging every ghost in Tobin's Spirit Guide, finding haunted artifacts throughout each of the levels, and context sensitive Achievements (for example, find an item that doesn't belong at a bar mitzvah in the Sedgewick Hotel level and destroy it to make it kosher). I would give extra points here for the highly enjoyable multiplayer mode but there's a bit of a problem here - not many people are playing it any more. If you have 3 other friends who own the game that you can bust ghosts with, then this will likely last you months, but if you can't find anyone online to team up with, you'll be pretty much stuck with the single player mode I'm afraid.

Overall: 8 out of 10
Ghostbusters fans will be overjoyed with this game as it delivers everything that they could ever want from a video game based on their beloved franchise. It is a fine, if brief, experience despite the few problems I had with it. I hear that now that interest in the series has been rekindled thanks to this game, a proper Ghostbusters III film is in pre production. I will await this with trepidation as other classic film series that have been revived recently have varied in quality between mediocre and abysmal. If the third movie falls though and doesn't get made, then fans can be happy in the knowledge that this game is a a true continuation of the Ghostbusters story, as it feels 100% authentic.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Game Diary: DQVI, Okamiden, Assassin's Creed II

Okay, firstly... that podcast, huh? I hope you've listened to it. If not, I would encourage you to go do that now. It's not the slickest production in the world seeing as it is my first stab at it and I don't have the most outgoing nature anyway, but I'm quite pleased with the way it's turned out. You can hear my thoughts on the 3DS and four of the launch games (full written reviews will arrive in time), as well as a ton of the best remixes of video game music thanks to OverClocked ReMix. I hope to have episode two up around the end of the month, and it will be a slightly more scripted affair this time so hopefully I won't stumble over my words quite so much.

In other news, I have completed my first playthrough of Dragon Age II, so a review is imminent. I will also have a review for Super Mario Galaxy up this week. Besides these two games, my recent gaming time has been taken up by Dragon Quest VI, Assassin's Creed II and a little bit of Okamiden. Dragon Quest VI will be very familiar to those who have played IV or V on the DS, as it runs on exactly the same engine. Where IV's shtick was giving each of the main characters their own chapters before they met up to save the world (here's my review), and V's was the fact that you played as three generations of the same family of adventurers, this game was the first in the series to include a job system. I have only just got to the point in the game where I can change class (after 10 hours of play), but this game differs from Dragon Quest IX in that any abilities learned carry over when you change class, so in theory you can become all powerful if you're prepared to put enough time into it. For some, this breaks the game, but I'm not especially bothered by it. Not yet anyway. Okamiden is a bit of a strange one, because while on the one hand Capcom have really captured the look and feel of the original Okami on the DS, the platform does struggle somewhat to deliver the sequel that fans were clamouring for. The d-pad controls are pretty terrible for starters (though drawing with the celestial brush is perfect for the system), and the pacing at the start of the game gets bogged down in far too much text. You just want to get stuck into the adventure, but the game just plods along at a snails pace. This was also a problem with the original game but it didn't seem quite so pronounced when everything felt new. Okamiden also has a tendency to retread old ground from the original game, and while it is kind of nostalgic to see the same village from the PS2/Wii game at first, after a while it just seems that Capcom were reusing old art assets to save money. It's also something of a shame that the game has been released just as Nintendo transitions from the old DS to the 3DS, as it will most likely be overlooked just like the first game was. Why Capcom didn't wait and make a much better game on the 3DS is beyond me. As for Assassin's Creed II, this one has been on my backlog pile for ages now and I really want to play through it so that I can pick up Brotherhood. I actually did play a fair amount of it before, but I have decided to start again from the beginning. It's such a great game, leaps and bounds above the first one, which was a good idea that suffered from far too much repetition and banal gameplay. The second time around, Ubisoft have crammed so much in there to find and do, and I find I actually want to explore the various cities and discover everything. I think I'll be playing this one for quite some time, and really enjoying myself while I do so. That's it for this week, keep your eyes peeled for those reviews!