Saturday, October 31, 2009

Correction on "Level Up: Dead Rising"

In my Dead Rising review I meantion that "Zombies in a mall" was also the plot of the movie "Night of the Living Dead". It wasn't the plot of that movie, it was the plot of the movie "Dawn of the Dead". I don't know why I made that mistake, I saw that one...

Level Up: Thrill Kill

(Picture of offical game art you get when you Download certain versions of the game)

Hey everyone, hope you’re all having a happy Halloween. To celebrate, I’m going to talk about Thrill Kill, the most violent game you have never played. What do I mean by that? Well...

Thrill Kill was going to be a game based solely on killing your opponent. Not tactically avoiding him to save your health: this was rushing in to cause damage. More on that later. Because of this, there were lots of concerns of it simply being released. None the less, it was still planned on coming out in October 1999. That is until its publishers, Virgin Interactive, were bought out by another company. I’m not going to say which one, not to bad mouth them, but their initials are EA...

Erin Ashley *opens door to the prod studio*: Are you talking about me?

Oh, no, not you...

Erin: Alright *closes door*

With about a week to go before its intended release, EA cancelled the game. They also refused to sell it to any other publisher that might want it since they didn’t want such a “needlessly violent game to get out.” Of course, the designers and such that worked on it were pretty furious about this, however they had a solution. Someone on the team actually released several versions of the game on the internet. That means that you can play this game with a modded Playstation or an emulator of it.

*Voice whispers, page gets passed rustled* Oh *clears throat, music changes* Level Up and all people affiliated with it do not encourage the ROMing, Emulating, Burning or modding of any games or systems, or any illegal distribution of video games. That good? *voice sounds pleased, music returns* Moving on.

Second only to the amount of gore, the main attraction to this game was its unique battle system. As mentioned before, it encouraged an offensive battling technique instead of a defensive one. Here’s how: in most games you have health and if you lose all your health by getting hit too many times, you lose. In this game you start with an empty “kill meter” and each time you hit your opponent, you add a little to it. The first person to fill their kill meter gets to perform a thrill kill (ladies and gentlemen, we have a title); a gruesome attack that kills one person permanently taking them out of the round.

The characters are also an intriguing bunch. Playing as them, you got your clich├ęd fighters: the strong but slow one, the small but quick one, the nimble one, the average one, the one whose better with basic moves, the one who has awesome special moves, etc... But it’s their actual character that’s intriguing about them. Currently their fighting in hell for the right to be reincarnated and seem to be physical manifestations of their tortured mind and sins from their past life. For example, one of the most popular characters is Belladonna, a former house wife and part-time librarian who snapped one day when she found out her husband was cheating on her with her sister. She became a lethal dominatrix favouring the cattle prod and that’s what she’s like in the game. There’s also the Imp, a little person suffering from a napoleon complex who died after amputating his legs and trying to attach experimental false legs to be taller. He fights in hell at his normal height, but with stilts grafted to his ankles. My personal favourite character is Doctor Faustus, a plastic surgeon with a modified bear trap for a mouth (he died due to an infection he got while grafting it on). In his former life, he actually tried to graft it onto some of his patients. Seriously, isn’t this a disturbing thought: a psychotic doctor who tried to unknowingly give people bear trap mouths while they were under the knife? There are 8 characters in total with equally interesting back stories and 3 others who are just... there. All fun to play and learn about.

It’s a shame that this game was never released. It has a very unique fighting system, fascinating character and the whole atmosphere of it is great too. It’s really cool that someone took it upon themselves to let it free, and it sucks that we really can’t legally play this game. I’m not a big fan of fighting games, but this one is something special. If can handle gore and violence and are looking for something unlike anything else, I suggest giving Thrill Kill a try.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Level Up: Dead Rising: Chop til you Drop

What could be more fun than being locked a mall and being able to use anything you get your hands on? How about being locked in a Zombie filled mall and having to use anything you can get your hands on to kill them! Enter the simple yet awesome concept of Dead Rising.

Dead Rising: Chop til you Drop is a Wii port of the original X-Box title. There are differences between the two titles, but most are only noticeable if you are quite familiar with the original. The most noticeable one is the lack of the 3 day time limit. But, we aren’t here to compare, so let’s move on.

The story of Dead Rising goes that you are Frank West, a gung-ho photo journalist hell bent on finding out what is going on at the small town of Willamette, Colorado. He hires a helicopter pilot to bring him to the mall, where most of the ruckus is happening, and tells him to pick him up in 3 days. There he finds out the disturbing truth: the town has been turned into Zombies! But this isn’t enough for Frank, he has to find out what has happened and why. Between Zombie killing fun, you’ll dive deeper and deeper into this mystery.

“Zombies in a mall” has been done before in Night of the Living Dead. In that movie it was used as a sociological statement about consumerism. This game seems keeps that statement, but it also adds its own into the mix, modernizing it a bit. You clue onto it rather easily (they say a good part of it at one point), but I don’t want to give it away (I got to get you to play the game, one way or another).

The gameplay is pretty basic: you either grab something and hit the zombies with it, or grab a gun and shoot the zombies with it. The way you finish them off depends on the item your holding: you can knock their heads off with a bat, use a sword to slice em in half or grab a lawnmower and... (blood splatters effect) Yeah... You can keep things easy and stick with one awesome weapon, but with the amount of killing you’ll have to do, this might make the gameplay as mindless as the zombies you’re smashing.

Now let’s talk about using your guns. As you’d expect, you use your wii-mote to point and shoot who you want. I just have one problem with this: you can’t shoot while moving. You press and hold B, Frank stands still, then you aim and shoot with A. Why not make it so you can point and shoot at any point just using B as the trigger?

The missions in the game are pretty basic too: find blank person in the blank store and bring him back safely. Exceptions for missions that are important to the story. There are also boss battles that can offer a pretty good challenge, you can level up Frank by destroying the undead and completing mission and upgrade your weapons by finding some cash. These things keep the game from getting monotonous.

The story is classic zombie mayhem with classic zombie symbolism. The game is fun for random carnage, but just can get boring if you don’t mix it up yourself. All and all, it’s pretty a pretty cool game. My advice is not to take this game too seriously and just take it for what it is: an excuse for zombie killing!

Oh! One more thing I can’t forget to tell you, and this makes the game a lot easier is- *Zombies bust through the door* Whoa! Gotta use the mic here! *Mic thumping, blood splatter, fades out*

Notes: Sorry for being a day late with this post. This might effect posting up the Things I Like for this week too, but I don't know yet, we'll see how the rest of this day goes. Also, I'm working on getting the Mp3 version of this review for you guys, but Julie and I haven't quite set up my account yet, so just hang tight.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Level Up: Ghostbusters the Video Game

I have a tradition each October: at some point during the month, I watch both Ghostbusters movies. This year, I might have to make a new addition to the tradition: make a purpose to play Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

Coming out last June, this game was a must have for any Ghostbusters fan who is also a gamer. Sure, there have been games released based on the series before, but this one is special for one big reason: it stars the original cast! Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray reprise their roles as Egon Spangler, Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore and Peter Venkman respectively. We also got Annie Potts doing Janine Melnitz again. However, Signourney Weaver and Rick Moranis (who played Dana and Louis) didn’t want to be in the movie, so instead we have Alyssa Milano playing a new character, Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn. Beyond just starring in the movie, Aykroyd and Ramis also wrote a good part of the game, as they did with the movie, so for most fans, this wasn’t just a video game: this had the potential of being the third movie we never got!

The game starts in 1991 (two years after Ghostbusters 2). In the opening scene, we learn that the Ghostbusters have lived pretty hassle free and have been living well, with the mayor supporting them all the way. With their new success, they decide to hire you as an Experimental Equipment Technician to test out new equipment (Voice clip from the game: “That could potentially blow you into New Jersey). Soon after showing up for your first shift, they city seems to get hit with a burst of PKE energy. This leads to a sharp increase of ghosts originating from mysterious sources. And... That’s all I want to say: I really don’t want to give too much away, you really have to play it and experience the story for the first time.

The best thing about the story and the cut scenes is defiantly the fact that you are a Ghostbuster and all the famous characters are actually talking to you. It feels amazing, I mean, just listen to your introduction to the team. (Voice clip: Introductory scene). Even while you’re playing, the others will be talking about something around you. You could go on and ignore it, but its fun to stay and listen to the clever dialog. It’s just excellent fan service. On the subject of fan service, the first few ghosts in the game are some familiar faces: Slimer, Stay Puft (or Gozer) and the Gray Lady (a.k.a. the librarian ghost). This was probably made to make any fan of the series happy that they appeared in a game written by the original writers of the game, but quickly goes to its original content and it feels just as natural.

There are technically three versions of this game that came out: one for the PS3, X-Box 360 and Windows, one for the Wii, PS2 and PSP and a third for the DS. Naturally, the game play changes during each version. I have the Wii copy, so I’ll be talking about that one. I honestly have to suggest this version because of the Wii-mote action. When you’re blasting a ghost, because you actually have to point at him and shoot, it partially feels like you’re actually blasting a ghost like a real Ghostbuster! You’ll also have to solve puzzles and fight bosses, giving the over all game a Legend of Zelda crossed with first person shooters feel.

This game is just fun on so many levels: its fun to play, its fun to watch, its fun to figure out. It honestly captures the true feeling of being a Ghostbuster. People who say that it’s the third movie aren’t exaggerating: it has the same cast, was written by the same people and is just as enjoyable, if not more. If you are a Ghostbusters fan, this game is a must have. Even if you’re not, this is still a great game, and I strongly recommend you play it: you might turn into a fan afterwards.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Level Up: Luigi's Mansion

By the way, you may notice the rest of the October games seem to have a theme...

When the Nintendo GameCube came out, it needed some good games to start off on the right foot. Luigi’s Mansion did just that. Coming out as a launch title for the system, it sold over 2.5 Million copies, became the first game to be rereleased as a player’s choice title and was the 5th best selling GameCube game in the United States. It was a truly fun game that really made its mark on the system...

“Kanye West”: *Interrupting* Sorry Leo, I really did like Luigi’s Mansion, and Imma let you finish, but Super Smash Brothers Melee was the best GameCube game of all time!

Riiiiiight... Anyways, the game plot was classic Mario style, in the sense that someone was captured and you have to save them. The big difference is that its Mario captured this time! This made Luigi have to be the hero for the first time (unless you count Mario is Missing as a game, which I DON’T!). The game actually starts with Luigi arriving at his Mansion which he won in a contest he never actually entered (sounds like junk mail to me). He enters it to see it’s not the dream mansion he expected; it’s run down and ghost infested! Professor Elvin Gadd (E. Gadd for short) then appears on scene to teach Luigi how to capture ghost using a flashlight and a vacuum the professor calls the Poltergust 3000. E Gadd also informs Luigi that he saw Mario go in, but didn’t see him come out or inside the mansion.

I think this is what makes the game so good: our unlikely hero and the games atmosphere. Luigi has never really been much of an adventurer on his own, and only ever gets coaxed into it when either dragged along by his brother (Mario & Luigi series) or when Mario is unavailable. While in the house, he’s always looking around and whistling to himself and he always jumps a bit when something pops up. But he has good reason to be scared since he’s in a huge ghost filled mansion with most rooms only being lighted by his flashlight. I know most of you will be like “oh, it’s not all that scary”, but once you start putting yourself in the shoes of the character, the place starts getting to you.

Onto the game play. The biggest aspect is capturing ghosts. To capture a ghost, you shine a light on them, and then suck them up with the Poltergust 3000 when their hit points show up. I was surprised at how easy this was to master. In most rooms (except for maybe 5) there are also portrait Ghosts, called that since they originate and will be returned into painting. They have 100 hit points and are never as simple as the others. You’ll need to use your surroundings and what you know of the ghosts to expose their weak points and suck them up. One of my favorites is Mr.Luggs, a glutton who ate himself to death and continues to eat. You have to suck up his food from the table and stop the butler ghosts from serving him more to expose his week point. As you can see, the puzzles are rarely hard and should be no problem for the veteran adventure gamer.

There’s quite a bit of optional things in the mansion too. First off, some of the ghosts are optional; you don’t even need to see and others you can just pass by. Another optional aspect are the boos. These are ghosts that hide in a room after you turn the light on (which you do by getting rid of all the other ghosts). When you do find them, you can try to capture them, put they can go through walls, unlike other ghosts, so they can be a little tricky and annoying. Finally, there’s also money in this game. You find money everywhere: in vases, behind pictures, ghosts drop some... Everywhere! At the end of the game, how much money you collect determines your grade (A being the best grade possible, going all the way down to H). Getting the A grade means having to pretty much go through every nook and cranny through the house: defeating all the ghosts, finding secret rooms and catching all the boos. This adds that extra little touch to the game that really makes you want to search the mansion high and low.

Luigi’s Mansion is a fun game with great puzzles and so many secrets and can be a great light scare if you let it. If you have a GameCube and have not played this game, you are missing out.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Level Up: Earthworm Jim

Note: This is the way I wrote the script for me to read when recording, so that's why there are notes for when sound effects are supposed to come in. I'm also working on making it so you can download the audio verson of my reviews.

Earthworm Jim is probably the most unlikely hero EVER. Why? Because he’s probably the lowliest creature ever: an Earthworm. At the height of the popularity animal game mascots, like Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong, developers Shiny Entertainment decided to release this wonderful guy: a worm with a super suit to make him stronger than anyone and an awesome ray-gun. In truth, with this concept, it was more of a parody of the current fad, but it still worked!

The plot line behind this game was simple, yet wacky, proven by the names I’m about to say. The evil Psy-Crow had one day taken the "Ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit" built by professor Monkey-for-a-Head, but had dropped it in battle over earth where it landed on the Earthworm we know as Jim. After that, Jim overhears Psy-Crow talking to (stop the music, I want to get this right) Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt (called Queen Slug-for-a-Butt for short)and their plans for the kidnapping of the Queen’s sister, Princess What’s-her-name. After that, Jim sets off to the princess by going from planet to planet defeating enemies like Evil the Cat, Bob the evil Goldfish and Major Mucus.

By the way, just from their name you can pretty much attain who everyone is: Psy-Crow is indeed a psychotic crow, Professor Monkey-for-a-Head has a monkey grafted to his head and Queen Slug-for-a-butt does have a giant slug for her butt. Once again, I think this was a parody of the obviously named Sonic the Hedgehog.

Once you start playing, you get pure platforming joy. You’ll play as Jim as you shoot enemies with your ray gun or whip them using your own HEAD! Seriously, how cool is that? The levels are each unique and probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen. For example, the first level is New Junk City, a garbage dump level, where you’ll have to bounce on tires, climb up conveyer belts and fight a robot made of garbage. You also launch a cow into space using a fridge in this level. That cow actually follows you throughout the game (pay attention to the background), but I don’t want to give to much away.

The game mixes it up quite a bit, not just with randomness of some of the settings but also the game play. There are levels where you’ll have to race against time under water, bungee using snot and clear the path for the adorable Peter Puppy (seriously, do NOT let him get hurt, he looks cute at first, but he mess you up!).

Earthworm Jim was originally released for the Genesis, but after his success, he was ported onto other consoles: Super Nintendo, Sega Mega-CD, Sega Game Gear, Game Boy... Personally, I own a Windows 95 CD release which I found for 2$, which was awesome (crowd cheers) but there is a scratch on the CD causing the sound FX not to work, which is not awesome. It really does suck, cause I’m missing out on things like this: (play a few sound effects at random). It’s also available for the Virtual Consol, X-box live arcade and the Playstation Network, so there is no excuse for you not to play this game. If you like platforming, you’ll love this brilliantly funny game.