Saturday, October 26, 2013

Evil Dead Regenaration

Around this time last year, I started off talking about the Evil Dead series and said that it was easily adaptable and has three standalone games. A quick correction on that: it turns out the game I reviewed, “A Fistful of Boomstick” was actually intended to be a direct sequel to the first game, Hail to the King. However, A Fistful of Boomstick doesn’t really mention Hail to the King all that much, so if you’re like me and you played it before Hail to the King, you’re still fine. Anyways, we’re continuing our look at the Evil Dead games with one I’m sure stands on its own: Evil Dead: Regeneration, available for the PlayStation 2, but I’ll be playing on the Microsoft xBox.
Talking about the canon of the games and then looking at this story made me realize why the Army of Darkness might has been so adaptable: there so many points and directions you can take to continue the story. This game chooses to continue off the second movie (probably the most famous one) with Ash is in an insane asylum. He’s been blamed for the death of everyone at the cabin since… well the story would be hard to believe. Quickly, it is established that he has been set up by the doctor in charge of Ash’s prison” who is using it, and the necronomicon, for his own diabolical purposes.
The story might not seem like much, but it’s actually a lot of fun throughout and mostly for one big reason: all the characters have SO much personality. Bruce Campbell’s performance as Ash is great as always and common Campbell co-star Ted Raimi’s performance as the comedy relief sidekick is perfect. Along with all that, everything I complained about last time that made the world feel fake is gone; nothing feels phoned in or half-assed. The game takes itself at least as seriously as the movies did.
On the surface the game play might seem very similar to a Fistful of Boomstick: figure out the levels and beat up ghoul hoards with a gun and chainsaw (what do you expect from a main character known for exactly that). However, they feel very differently. A Fistful of Boomstick focused mostly on finding objects to continue on. Regenerations has more of a platforming and beat ‘em up feel to it. You’ll walk about a level and find an area where a bunch of deadites start showing up and you need to beat them all before continuing, or you’ll be stopped by an obstacle that you need to use one of your skills on. There’s a lot of little things that add to the different feels too, like the fact that you don’t need ammo for your guns in this game and more unique variety in skills.
Speaking of new skills, there’s one group of them that I feel the need to talk about: the ones that use your sidekick Sam. For example, Ash is able to kick this half-deadite half-pint into bad guys to stun them or over into new areas he’s unable to reach. You’ll also eventually get a skill that lets you take over Sam’s body giving you the ability to adventure into new places. Yeah, I could have talk about other skills, like the Rage power up, but this is a bit more unique and ends up being used a lot! There’s a reason why Sam’s on the cover too, and it’s not just because he and Ash make a great comedic duo.
Evil Dead: Regeneration is so far the best Evil Dead video game I’ve played because it fills both rolls rather well: it’s a great video game and a great representation of the Evil Dead series. The story has a lot more personality in it and does a good job at matching the humorous tone set by the movies (it seems developers CrankyPants games might have better known what Evil Dead should be like over the previous ones, as THQ is still the publisher). Sure, it focuses more on a journey through areas and not just on Ash fighting the forces of the Necronomicon, but I understand why that might have been changed for a video game. I also can’t deny that the graphics have been pushed to reflect all of this, and the voice work is top notch (again, we got Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi, I can’t ask for any more). If you’re an Evil Dead fan, I don’t see how you could be disappointed with this game, and even if you’re just a gamer looking for an introduction to the series, I say go for it, especially around this time of year. I really can’t think of many flaws within this game. I give Evil Dead Regeneration 9 levels out of 10.
I’m Leo Melanson, and I got through October’s without anything weird happened!
*Approach of the Evil Dead camera.*
What is that- BWAAAA!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Level Up: Barnyard Blast

This is going to be a fun review that I just honestly want to get right into. I admit, I wouldn’t have played this game if not for the review from the Game Overthinker, and I’m really glad I did. It’s October, so I want to talk about Barnyard Blast: Swine of the Night for the Nintendo DS.
Barnyard Blast is either a loving tribute and parody of, or flat out rip of, Castlevania and Ghost n’ Goblins. You play as Robert Belmart (subtle reference), a pig out to save his son, captured by the forces of evil for… trying to tee-pee the ancient castle ruled by darkness. After grabbing all his weapons, Roberts sets out on a dangerous journey through lands such as “the Swamp Full of Disgusting Creepy-Crawlies” and “The Forrest in the Way”. Yeah, if you didn’t get the hint from the gun wielding pig on the cover, I think it’s pretty clear this is played for laughs and not really meant to be scary. And it’s pulled off in a very charming way. Like with Serious Sam, they obviously love the games that they’re referencing, enough to know what tropes make them noteworthy and how to poke fun at it. The first cutscene, for example, mentions how every small town seems to need an ancient evil castle nearby. They do a great job at juxtaposing any dark tone that could be established with something silly and it creates an atmosphere where you can just have fun. Even the joke not directly referencing horror games or movies are very well timed, and the references to other games (like Bad Dudes and Zelda) never feel forced. The game makers knew what kind of tone they wanted to set and committed to it whole heartedly.
The game play in Barnyard Blast is very similar to Castlevania and Ghost n’ Goblins, but unique enough that it warrants discussion. Like with both games, you’ll be moving slowly and defeating seemingly endless hoards of enemies, along with a boss and mid-boss in each level. However, unlike Ghosts n’ Goblins where you only had one weapon at a time, or Castlevania where you have a basic weapon and a side arm you found in game, Robert has 4 weapons available from the start. Your basic weapon is the pistol, the weakest of the bunch, but the fastest with the best range. His next weapon is the shotgun, a very strong attack, but you have to be ridiculously close to hit and it runs on randomly dropped ammo (I used this one the least). The only weapon that seems to be stronger than the shotgun is the dynamite, which although power, has to land before exploding, so you need to distance yourself well. It works well against stationary or slow moving bosses, so I’d save them for that. And finally, you have the whip, which runs on these blue hearts that acts like mana. The meter for it has two levels (light and dark blue) and if you’re in the dark blue, your whip is much stronger.
The whip isn’t the only thing that runs on the blue hearts though. As you’ll play, you’ll find special items. Some of these, like the HP Regen, do use the SP for their effect while others, like the Super Jump, do not. Making good use of these skills turned what was a challenging game to a much more manageable experience. And yes, I just said this game can be a challenge. Much like the games it’s based on, you’ll probably die a lot while playing this game (which is probably why it takes just 10 stars to get a new life), but once you know what to expect, how to deal with it and how to use all your abilities to your advantage, your next play through shouldn’t be too hard.
Barnyard Blast: Swine of the Night is a great game to play on Halloween cause I think it represents what the holiday really stands for: it’s about having fun with what SHOULD be scary. The same way vampires and zombies are played for joy around this time of year is the same way Barnyard Blast treats the tone of games like Castlevania. Beyond that, the game play is good, though a bit stiff and difficult at times, and the game is really short. The graphics and music are nothing to complain about, but admittedly very held back (the cut scenes, for example, have no animation). If this was ever priced like a Triple-A title, I would find that ridiculous, but since this is a budget title now going for less than 10$ (since publisher DSI Games has now been dissolved, though developer Sanuk Games still seems to be going) I recommend you pick it up. Yeah, it’s a throw-back based game that might have been for a niche audience when new, but at already 5 years old, playing this might be a throw back in and of itself. I give Barnyard Blast: Swine of the Night for the Nintendo DS 6.5 levels out of 10.