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All reviews - Games (22)

Evoland II review

Posted : 1 year, 2 months ago on 19 May 2017 06:51 (A review of Evoland II)

Real-time RPG, turn-based RPG, tactical RPG, hack and slash, bullet hell, beat-'em-up, rhythm, side-scrolling shooter, fighter, puzzler, platformer, Metroidvania, and more: Evoland 2 takes basically every classic genre and combines it into one coherent package with the visual stylings of today and the past.

Like colors of the rainbow, these genres shine brighter when standing on their own, but that doesn't mean you should pass on Evoland 2, especially if you're a classic RPG fan.
Serving as a spiritual sequel, Evoland 2 doesn't require knowledge of the original game, which is a good thing for me as I've never played it. Judging by our review of the original, it sounded like a fairly short and linear experience, which the sequel is anything but -- for better and for worse.

The story took around 16 hours to complete and even then there were a few optional collectibles that I didn't bother getting to 100% the game. They felt like filler. A majority of my time was spent in conversations with characters that often seemed to drag on as they talked about nothing in particular or kept a joke going for far too long. Between scenes, there are often transitions that almost feel tailor made to extend the playtime. For example, when climbing onto a boat, instead of just showing the main character get onto the boat, your party splits up and walks on one at a time.

The story of Evoland 2 is pretty par for the course as far as RPGs go: hero of time meets party members with their own conflicts, and travels through time collecting parts of an item to stop a terrible event from happening. You won't find anything too impressive, but there are at least a couple of twists to add a bit of flavor to a story we all know.

Once the dialogue ends is where the real fun begins. A majority of the game plays much like top-down Zelda games from the past meaning you'll be hacking and slashing enemies and solving puzzles in dungeons. Other times, you'll be playing levels based on many genres of old with tongue-in-cheek references to the games that popularized them including Cave shooters, Double Dragon, Puzzle Quest, and even Dance Dance Revolution. These levels work in your party's abilities seamlessly, which is impressive since there are so many different genres.

While these levels are parodies or homage to the games of old, I couldn't help but feel I'd rather be playing most of those games than the levels in Evoland 2. The beat-'em-up level's mechanics were pretty generic, and the tactical RPG level was tedious, while the Metroidvania and shooter levels were decent, especially the final level that combines the two in an experience unlike any other I've played. You'll be zipping around in the skies with the option of dropping to the ground when needed; the level was so great I couldn't help but wonder what an entire game in that style would be like. An optional collectible card game side quest that has you playing what feels like baby's first Hearthstone is entertaining, but as I'm a Hearthstone addict I wasn't tempted to finish it when I could just play the real thing instead.

Throughout the entire experience, you'll be swapping between in-game times which have their own graphical styles that match up with Game Boy, 8-bit, 16-bit, and more modern-day 3D graphics. There isn't a lot of guidance or hand holding, and you're free to come and go as you please with the ability to do dungeons in any order starting around the middle of the story. Graphically, Evoland 2 nails the games and systems it is based on, from sleek pixel art to more modern 3D graphics.
Unfortunately, my playthrough was not a bug-free experience for me, as I experienced stuttering, graphical glitches, getting stuck on the overworld map, and a red error that wouldn't leave the screen after the graphics failed to load. There have already been various updates fixing some of these issues, but leaving the game in the oven for a couple of more weeks probably would have been beneficial. That being said, a simple restart fixed all these issues making them minor but noticeable inconveniences.

Overall, Evoland 2 is a pretty good Zelda-style game with mediocre pieces and parts of other games mixed in; it doesn't reinvent the wheel but pays homage to the wheels that came before it. If you're thirst for an RPG and just can't decide what genre of RPG to play, or are just looking for your Zelda fix, this is the game for you. Otherwise you might just find yourself wishing you've played the games it is inspired by.

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Nightmare House 2 mod for Half-Life 2 review

Posted : 4 years, 4 months ago on 23 February 2014 07:54 (A review of Nightmare House 2 mod for Half-Life 2)

Nightmare House 2 is a horror themed modification for Half Life 2 (Episode 2).

The mod started as a small map pack for Half-Life 2 in 2005. Nightmare House 2 is to continue the bizarre story of the stranger who had the misfortune to crash his car outside an old house with a horrific past.


Hen Mazolski - Mod leader, Mod designer, Ideas, Mapper, Writer

Harry "eXeC" Jeffery - Coder

Christopher "Guessmyname" Jones - Modeling, Texture artist

Pedro "TigerboyPT" Calvo - Faceposer animator, Texture artist, Video editing

David Kingery - Voice-actor, Writer

Danielle McRae - Voice-actress

Yoav "Koolfox" Landau - Music, Sound editing

Aidin Ashoori - Music

Ido Tal - Design consultant, Web publishing

The community - More stuff

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Nihilumbra review

Posted : 4 years, 7 months ago on 5 December 2013 12:15 (A review of Nihilumbra)

Nihilumbra is a puzzle platformer video game developed by Spanish video game developer BeautiFun Games.[1] The game was first released for iOS in June 2012. Nihilumbra has been translated to seven languages.

Nihilumbra follows the story of Born, who was created from the Void, the nothingness. When he abandons it and appears in the world, he sets up on a long journey where he will learn how to use the colours around him, granting him powerful abilities. The Void from which Born escaped reclaims him, and it will never stop chasing him, devouring everything in its path. As Born runs for his life, he condemns the beautiful places he visits, as the Void makes them vanish forever.

Nihilumbra is played as a standard platform game, by controlling Born as he walks and jumps across the game's levels. There are multiple enemies that the player needs to avoid since, at first, there is no way to defeat them. The game is divided into the five worlds that Born explores. In each of them, the player is granted a new colour, with which the player can paint on the terrain (by touching the screen) to modify the behaviour of the environment.
In the Frozen Cliffs Born receives the blue colour, that makes surfaces slippery.
In the Living Forest the green colour is obtained, from which objects bounce off.
In the Ash Desert the brown colour is obtained, whose ability is to make surfaces sticky and slower to walk on.
In the Volcano, the player is given red, that can make objects and monsters burn.
In The City, Born receives yellow, the last colour in the game, that is able to conduct electricity to a variety of devices.

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Psychotoxic review

Posted : 4 years, 9 months ago on 5 October 2013 09:02 (A review of Psychotoxic)

It's hard to dislike a game that isn't afraid to include a mission goal that calls for you to "Climb into the deepest depths of your soul." However, this one then doesn't make that mission goal some kind of purgative final encounter or, at the very least, the final task of that particular level. So it's hard to dislike but not impossible to dislike Psychotoxic, a long-in-development shooter from Germany that--despite occasional bursts of endearing "deepest depths of your soul" wackiness--is ruined by sloppy design, bugs, and a desperate need for some editing.

The cartoon bunny world.

It's 2022, and the Apocalypse is either about to start or has started. The state of Armageddon isn't entirely clear. Regardless, you play Angela Prophet, who, according to one of the game's many misspelled dialogue captions, is the "Choosen One." Because you're half angel, you've been "choosen" to stop both the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse and the self-proclaimed reincarnation of Aleister Crowley, a guy called Aaron who wears a giant cowboy hat and runs a death cult committed to worldwide chaos.

In keeping with the biblical theme, Psychotoxic's bugs--much like the demons living inside the possessed man in Mark 5--are legion. Expect these bugs to corrupt save games on a regular basis. And when the game's good and tuckered out from that, expect it to faint directly to the desktop. Sometimes your weapons will refuse to reload until you cycle through them a couple of times. Other times, Psychotoxic will grind to a two or three frame-per-second halting stutter for the remainder of a level. In one mission, you're wearing a big diving helmet, except when it sporadically disappears. When it's in place, however, your gun is alarmingly inside the helmet with you. So it's kind of a relief when the helmet goes missing. At one point, you're supposed to locate a contact in Central Park. There's a good chance you'll scour the park for hours before accidentally stumbling across the empty bench that triggers the meeting...and the end of the level. Is the missing character model a bug or a design problem? In a game rife with both, that's a real toughie.

On the positive side, when they're working, the quicksave and quickload are truly pretty quick. And for once, a marketing blurb actually understates some of a game's features. When the back of the box claims there are 29 levels, it's being modest. We counted 30. But who's counting? Well, us...and anyone else forced to trudge through the seemingly endless parade of endless levels. In a time when 10-hour, 11- or 12-level shooters have become the standard, Psychotoxic features 30 long missions and maybe 20 hours of gameplay (more depending on how unlucky you get with the game's inherent instability).

Psychotoxic proves that longer is not necessarily better. The design philosophy seems to have been: If climbing two sets of stairs with an enemy on each landing is fun, 10 sets of stairs must be a hundred times better! Most levels consist of cramped, twisty corridors inhabited by enemies standing around waiting for you to shoot them. Enemy artificial intelligence is primitive, and your movement is way too loose, the combination of which makes the combat simultaneously boring and aggravating.

Environments are spread between Washington, DC, New York City, and about 10 dream levels that take place inside people's heads. Some of these dream levels have an interesting look. One takes place in a garish, stylized cartoon world filled with exploding bunnies, and another is set in a gothic village that uses a cinematic monochrome color scheme, complete with squiggly film scratches. They all, however, still suffer from the game's many problems.

In the several places where the designers decided to break format from the twisty corridor crawl, the game tends to get worse. For instance, the first dream level includes lots of platform-jumping and sliding-log avoidance (all while being shot at) that would be frustrating in a first-person shooter with solid controls, much less one with Psychotoxic's "Armageddon on Ice" style of movement. Another mission abruptly introduces an unforgiving stealth requirement that ends up being mostly an annoying matter of luck, since there's no stealth mechanic accompanying it other than a too-brief invisibility power-up.

Fighting a cow during WWII. The game isn't as good as this makes it sound.

The environments do occasionally open up, such as in the aforementioned Central Park level, but the frame rate often takes a massive hit because of it. The visuals are powered by a custom rendering engine, and the results are erratic. The frame rate, even on a machine that exceeds the recommended specs, fluctuates wildly...and unpredictably, too, since it sometimes takes a mysterious nosedive even in cramped areas. The character models are basic, and their animation is awful. Characters frequently move by gliding, and they animate in fitful pops and starts, like spooks in Asian ghost movies.

The back of the box claims there are 90 "unique and different" enemies. If that's true, the developer is counting some very subtle variations on a spider, a cop, and a zombie, which comprise about 98 percent of the largely indistinguishable enemies you'll face. One thing's for sure: There aren't 90 voice samples for the monsters. Catchphrases are repeated (including the same one back-to-back-to-back without a break) to the point that they go beyond annoying and wrap around to become sort of funny. That is, until hour 15 sets in, and there are still 10 levels to go...and your save game just got corrupted. Then it reverts to being aggravating, just like the rest of Psychotoxic. Oh, and there's no multiplayer mode, just in case you thought there would be a surprise ending where that part turned out to be good.

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Arsenal 2 Extended Power review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 23 March 2013 12:23 (A review of Arsenal 2 Extended Power)

A.R.S.E.N.A.L "Extended Power" is a real time strategy game based on 2nd World War units.
40 different units are featured over GROUND, AIR and SEA: 15 ground units, 10 navy units, 10 aircraft and 5 fixed defense units.

. 4 video modes : 640x480 - 800x600 - 1024x768 - 1280x1024
. "Edges Free" maps up to 65536 cells surface in various landscapes
. Network multiplayer game up to 32 players in team mode
. Outstanding gameplay, unit ranking, fuel management and formation move
. Negociation interface and diplomatic advisor
. Competitives I.A. characters synthetised with personality features.

. Fire Engines and Fireboats will automatically enter in action as fires break out after a bombing raid. An extended use of these units will repair damaged buildings.
. A new range of ground units from the Very Light Tank FT17 to the Heavy Mobile Artillery SU100.
. More aircraft : A very useful scouting airplane : the Storch, the powerful Medium Range P38 Fighter and the Medium Navy B25 Bomber, plus the Long Range B29 Bomber available for all alignment as conventional bomber.

. 3in gun upgrade for light tanks giving this unit a new carreer.
. Aft torpedoes for submarines will give a chance to escape from chasing destroyers.
. Fire bombs for tac-bombers, setting fire on buildings.
. Rocket for fighters, ground units have to fear a new threat coming from the air.
. Rocket for cruiser, this upgrade will make them the best vessels at sea.

. A Super Heavy Tank T28 like fitted with a 5in artillery gun plus a 3in gun turret for Psychos.
. Schyzos and their devastating Half Track Rocket Launcher, lightly armoured but very mobile.
. A Super Long Range 24in Gun Battery mounted on rotonde. No place to hide from Parano weapon.
. A suicide PT boat loaded with tons of explosives, awesome damages to be feared from Fanato empire.
. Normoes have now their secret weapons : an hovercraft transport untouchable by submarines and a dreadful jet fighter fitted with AIR-GROUND and AIR-AIR rockets.


As he comes in, the new player first meets our pneumatic "Enigma Machine" that will attend him in the creation of a new identity allowing a great deal of combinations. Beside the choice of a name the new player will have to pick a face and an alignment. Each head brings a special bonus on a unit category among GROUND, AIR, SEA and DEFENSE. As for alignments, which are associated with a specific secret weapon (check NEW SECRET WEAPON section), they to be chosen among NORMO, PARANO, SCHYZO, PSYCHO et FANATO.

The new player has his own identity papers on which will be reported his military service records along his career : his ranking, his reputation, his decorations and also some remarks regarding his player attitude. Ranking is a permanent goal for the player who'll have to climb 17 ranks from Private to ultimate Field Marshal. With his ranks player keep units from a game to an other and then constitutes his own army at each rank more powerfull. To keep his rank is never guaranteed, if player commit blamable action soiling his reputation, he might receive punishments as blame, degradation or even prison.


A.R.S.E.N.A.L "Extended Power" supports multiplayer game for modem and local network. Each scenarios are available for multiplayer games and also possible to play with with A.I. characters featured in the scenario. 8 players can meet in a classical multiplayer mode and up to 32 players in team mode. The team mode is one of the specific feature of A.R.S.E.N.A.L "Extended Power".

The team mode introduce a utterly new spirit of multiplayer game. Players team are composed of up to 4 players, they play under the same flag and same color, therefore team players can share the different task of army management and then develop a much more strategic game, with coordinated actions or whatever kind of play. In team mode players have to behave like generals of armies. This is really more thrill in multiplayer game. You wont never be alone anymore.


One of the feature that makes A.R.S.E.N.A.L a unique strategy game of its kind is we have maps "with no edges" also called "torus maps". With A.R.S.E.N.A.L Extended Power we multiplied the size of these maps by 4 to reach 65536 cells surface. On such battle grounds, an average of 10 hours is necessary to conquere the whole map. Distant camps may fight for hours before the player even notice empires are rising beyond his own frontieres.

A.R.S.E.N.A.L "Extended Power" features a fully new A.I. with negociation capacities. We gave A.I. characters personality features affecting their decisions.

Diplomatic commucation can be established between players and A.I. via a negociation interface providing a full diplomacy tool kit: alliance offers, concerted attack proposals, ultimatum, war declarations and ceasefires... It also allows to exchange resources with allies.

A.I. also use the player attitude revealed along the game as a factor. Then sympathies or antagonisms can arise between human players and A.I. characters. We synthetised A.I. characters with 3 personality features EGO, LOYALTY and WISDOM.

We beared attention to make a game that encourage a fair spitit of playing and reprove the "KILL and DESTROY" attitude. Each player actions are accounted and come out when it's time for the bill: the scoring chart. A magnanimous player who played the game with FAIR PLAY is awarded with a positive score, while unit and building losses are punished by negative points, as for the use of mass destruction weapon, betrayal of an allied or unmotivated aggression.

The final score affects player reputation, better it becomes with a positive score and becomes bad with negative scores. A.I. characters have also their reputation and use player reputation as a factor that affects how they behave towards him. A.R.S.E.N.A.L "Extended Power" motto can be resumed with theses words from Pierre Corneille:

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Soldat review

Posted : 6 years ago on 23 June 2012 05:01 (A review of Soldat)

I've been playing this game for quite some time, and I have to say that Soldat is one of the best free games I've ever seen. I've spent countless hours playing this little shooter, and it only seemed like a few minutes.

This freeware game has a simple concept: shoot everything that moves. Your role is a little shooter, in an enclosed map (either one that is default, or a custom one you made and/or downloaded), equipped with two weapons. You can carry a primary firing weapon, and a secondary weapon. The primaries range from dual Desert Eagles and MP5's to miniguns and .50 sniper rifles. There are 4 secondary weapons that you can choose from, which are a USSOCOM pistol, a throwable/stab-able knife, a chainsaw (hellooo one-hit, brutal kills), and the meanest gun in the game: an anti-tank rocket launcher that requires you to crouch just to use it! You can't forget grenades, either. These little babies can save your virtual-life sometimes, if thrown at the right times, or kill the person that just took you down with a desperation-grenade.

The gameplay is very profound. There are 7 game modes, which are: Deathmatch, Pointmatch, Teammatch, Rambomatch, Capture the Flag, Infiltration, and Hold the Flag. Deathmatch is the standard shoot-everything-that-moves style. Pointmatch is similar to DM, but you go for a certain amount of points instead of kills. Teammatch is a simple team-DM style of gameplay. Infiltraion is a variation of CTF, except you must either defend your base from the enemy team, or run into the opposing team's base, steal their flag, and retreat back to your base. Rambomatch has you against other players, but you must find and weild a bow that shoots either super-powered arrows, or flaming/explosive arrows in order to receive points for kills. There is also a Realistic option, that allows you to have realistic effects in the game. These effects range from being hurt when landing from a high fall, to lower health and more weapon 'bink.'

Sound is very well done, also. The three soundtracks that come with the game are heavy-metal, which suits the game's style. The gun sounds are very realistic, and nothing sounds as if it was done by an ameteur.

There is a multiplayer, as well as a singleplayer gamemodes in this game, and best of all: the online multiplayer is free! There's always a multitude of servers available for play, and almost always have people in them. There's available filters, so you can find just non-password protected games, or even just Deathmatch games. Online play is very hectic, so the text chat that you are able to use, is rarely even used, or you'll be quickly shot down by your opponents. There are, however, pre-programmed taunts that you can do, as well as little 'emotes'. By setting up your keyboard, you can have your character say "Prepare to be terminated!" with a press of a few keys. And to do little emotes, you simply press '/' and then an emote command, which can be found in the manual, as well as other command lines. A very funny 'emote' is where you can hear your soldier unzipping his pants, and then seeing him 'relieve' himself... But I'll let you figure out how to do THAT one on your own ;). Even though online multiplayer can be hectice, I rarely have any lag whatsoever, and I'm using dial-up. So this game is very dial-up friendly.

The options available for customization are almost infinite. You are able to customize the colors of your character's clothes, helmet, and hair. You can even choose whether you want dogtags or a gold chain (which you can actually see)! There's an option to register the game (which is a $9 fee), which allows you to have Registered interfaces, a custom MP3 playlist, as well as more options. Now, the reason that the customizable options seem infinite are because there are custom mods (yes, they're legal mods) that are made by players, that change the entire look of the game graphically. You can mix-and-match mods, if you wish, by extracting only single graphics, or changing the entire game visually. You can also make your own maps with a mapmaker. The default mapmaker isn't as good as the most popular 3rd party mapmaker (which is called Polyworks). As well as making your own maps, you can also make your own bots, which allows you to create some interesting AI characters. One other interesting way to mod the game, is to change the weapon's specifications by modifying the game's Weapons.ini file (which is perfectly fine, because it will show up with (WM) in the server list, standing for Weapon Mods). In this file, it shows a legend with what all the values stand for and such. You can make a pistol shoot like a .50 cal sniper rifle, or even make the already-deadly MP5, into an unstoppable rocket-firing automatic weapon. Not many people do this, however, since it takes away from the fun.

You're able to download this game at the main website, which is located at: [Link removed - login to see] The file is 11MB, so it shouldn't take too long to download it, even on a dial-up connection. Now that you've read my review, I hope you'll feel the urge to get out and download it, and shoot up the other little soldiers!

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Tony Hawk's pro skater 4 review

Posted : 6 years ago on 23 June 2012 05:01 (A review of Tony Hawk's pro skater 4)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is easily the best game in the series, and a bigger leap over its predecessor than any of the previous games were. Hawk 2 introduced the manual and substantially expanded level design, but Hawk 4 features a complete revision of the series' goal and progression system, a huge spike in the longevity of the single-player game, and online play for the masses on top of a host of smaller changes.

The day has finally come when this franchise is not completely unchallenged in its genre. We would have never predicted such an occurrence, say, a year ago, when it seemed like nobody could produce anything near as good as what the developers had done. Today, though, Tony Hawk has genuine critical competition. The console market is flooded with excellent alternatives, and even the PC has Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2. Nevertheless, Hawk has a special place in all of our hearts.

Tony Hawk 4 discards the concept of timed level runs that was previously integral to the genre. This isn't a bad idea, since the traditional two-minutes-and-out pacing of other career-mode challenges was getting a little stale. Recognizing that players want to explore the levels as much as they want to clear goals, the designers of this new career mode decided to let them do both at once.

Career Mode in Hawk 4 now defaults to a free-skate mode, where you wander around and pick up goals at your leisure. Each is tied to a particular inhabitant of the level -- talking to them triggers the goal, and only then does a time limit appear. Complete a goal if you like, wander off to find another one, or just skate around until the urge to complete a task returns. The pace of the career mode is much more relaxed in comparison to earlier games, where there was always the pressure to finish as much as possible within the two minutes provided.

That slower pace helps stretch out what is also a much larger array of challenges. Each of the nine levels has 16 goals, and the difficulty curve ramps up far beyond what was presented in Hawk 3. After one or two trips through the career to learn the levels, a decent player could finish that game in a single sitting -- not so in the case of its successor. The familiar score and combo goals are harder, and new goals incorporating racing and platforming challenges are plenty tough as well. There aren't any new skaters outside the unlockable ranks, but clearing the single-player game will still take much, much longer than before.

And never mind how easy it is to get sidetracked in this game. Tony Hawk 4's levels stretch farther than before along every axis -- length, breadth, and height. The first couple of levels don't have a substantial vertical element, but once you get to Alcatraz, the lines suddenly stretch up and down the hills and sides of buildings. It's similar to the multi-layered design in Hawk 3's Tokyo level, but larger and less confined. That's also the same level where the game introduces its warp portals, which let you jump across to another part of the stage and continue a line in an entirely different area.

So much praise has been heaped on this series' level design in the past that one wonders whether it's even worth mentioning anymore. The lines are many and varied, the architecture is complex, the gaps and hidden areas offer all kinds of challenges for completists. This is Hawk. You know the drill, don't you? The new goal system also does an excellent job of showing off different aspects of the level design -- different goals are designed to take advantage of specific areas and features.

There are no changes to the basic control mechanics on the level of the manual or revert, but the new spine transfer maneuver makes for a small twist in certain situations, and the repertoire of flatland tricks continues to expand. The selection of tools required to stretch a combo forever is about as complete as it needs to be at this point, and the addition of a skitching, holding on to a moving vehicle, control makes it a little easier to get around the larger levels.

Online multiplayer has never been the main draw of the series, but Hawk 4 gives you plenty of options. Online competition takes place over GameSpy Arcade and there are several different modes. All of Hawk 3's are accounted for, as well as some new trick and combo selections. The maximum number of players gets a boost to eight and there is now a team mode. As appealing as online competition is, the greatest value is really in the outstanding single player game.

While the new career mode in Tony Hawk 4 has many fine qualities going for it, the most encouraging to see is the ramped-up difficulty. Hawk 3 was a great game, certainly, but in retrospect it could have been a bit harder, offering more and tougher challenges. Hawk 4 removes any possible complaints anyone could have in that regard. Its goals get very tough towards the later stages, but their progression is designed to gradually teach the new skills players need to complete future tasks. The tasks are far more imaginative than what we've seen before, too. They're creative and fun, rather than simple variations on "score so much" or "collect five of these." Some could still use some clearer explanation, but those are relatively few in number, and the level progression is designed such that it's easy to go find something else to do and come back to a difficult sticking point later.

This is, then, the best single-player Tony Hawk yet, and with the online mode finally come into its own it's certainly the best for multiplayer gaming as well. The arrival of genuine competition has obviously been good for this series, and hopefully we'll continue to see it grow and develop at this same pace in future years.

You could take a screenshot of Hawk 4, place it next to one from Hawk 3, and think that the game hadn't changed much visually. For the most part you'd be right. The character models are a little more refined the textures are a bit improved overall, but there are no major differences. The only real problem graphically is keeping a solid frame rate. We reviewed the game on a 3.2GHz machine with a 5900 Ultra and it still stuttered frequently. Turning off the anti-aliasing and enabling environment fog got things moving more smoothly, but it still slowed down during several scenes - at 1024 x 768 no less. During action in an especially large environment, e.g. the roof of a building on the College level, the frame rates suffered noticeably. This is simply unacceptable. Incidentally, several of the challenges are very difficult with the fog turned on. For example, you will have a hard time finding the "A" in S-K-A-T-E if it's obscured by mist.

Where Hawk 3 presented comparatively small, confined levels, Hawk 4 has absolutely huge areas. Kona skatepark dwarfs the Skater Island competition level in the last game. The level designs are also impressively true to life in many instances. Speaking as a resident of the bay area, the San Francisco and Alcatraz levels replicate the layout and feel of their inspiration along with the famous landmarks.

The skaters themselves have seen slight improvement in terms of texture and model detail, but as usual, the animation library continues to grow. The selection of basic and special tricks is bigger, with some wonderfully ridiculous additions in the latter category, and there are better transition animations for combinations and those unavoidable bails. Some of the levels still have the odd glitchy spot, where cause doesn't seem to match up with effect when it comes to selecting a bail animation, but that's an aspect of the series that will probably never quite go away.

We've mentioned before that this is the best licensed soundtrack ever compiled for a videogame, but it bears repeating -- this is the best licensed soundtrack ever compiled for a videogame. The music here is just that good.

Like Hawk 3, it's an eclectic mix of old and new across several genres, but the list is far larger now, with 35 tracks altogether. AC/DC sits next to Aesop Rock, while De La Soul rubs elbows with Iron Maiden.

Along with the killer music comes strong sound design, on top of an already effective base established in Hawk 3. The surround effects are easier to appreciate in this sequel, because there are more pedestrians and other bits of interactive noise in each level. The background noise includes a substantial variety of quips and comments, as well as engine noises, squawking seagulls, the odd seal barking -- you get the idea, yes? Online games are even more interesting, with all the activity surrounding you. Paying attention to the directional sound can even yield a bit of an advantage in a capture-the-flag game, if you're very good.

Closing Comments
THPS4 is easily the best in the series and an incredibly enjoyable port. Veterans of the series will appreciate the spaced out levels and new pace, as well as the serious increase in difficulty late in the game. Newcomers will appreciate the whole package because it takes all the concepts of the earlier versions and refines them.

If you have played the first three games, then you might think you're a bit burned out. However, I would think twice before dismissing the game as more of the same. The combination of solid presentation, outstanding play, and exemplary level design make it worth the investment of time and money. See you online.

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Tony Hawk Underground review

Posted : 6 years ago on 23 June 2012 04:59 (A review of Tony Hawk Underground)

Activision's definitive skateboarding game returns on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance and PC with Tony Hawk's Underground. In a departure from former games in the series, Underground gives players the chance to take an ambitious non-pro skater from an unknown, to superstar status. For the first time in the series, players will be able to get off their board and explore the expansive levels on foot, or in a vehicle. Customize the look of your skater, your skater's tricks, and even create custom skateparks. Tony Hawk's Underground features nine sprawling courses, as well as a level of freedom and customization that is unprecedented in the popular series.

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Little Fighter review

Posted : 6 years ago on 23 June 2012 04:57 (A review of Little Fighter)

For fast play in a Street Fighter-style environment, Little Fighter seems to have punched and kicked its way to the top. Fitting in with its retro feel, you play a small character with a big head--reminiscent of the Japanese "chibi" designs--and fight against the computer or a friend, one-on-one or in a melee.

The control keys are simple and customizable to your preferences, but it's not a hard game to learn. You can move up, down, left and right; you can attack, defend and jump. That's it. No more, no less, and yet some users claim that Little Fighter can suck them in for hours at time. You also can have up to four people playing off the same keyboard simultaneously--a charmingly quaint touch.

The English translation of the game leaves more than a little to be desired, so it will take some messing around to understand how it works. We found the Web site to be unhelpful, but reprogramming the keys to ones we were comfortable with made everything easier. The game is also slow to load at times, but we can see how Little Fighter can get addictive in a big way.

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Guilty Gear Isuka review

Posted : 6 years ago on 23 June 2012 04:57 (A review of Guilty Gear Isuka)

Nearly two years ago, Sammy Studios released Guilty Gear X2 for the PlayStation 2, and it quickly became one of the system's defining 2D fighting games. The memorable anime-style character designs, completely off-the-wall special moves, and surprisingly deep gameplay made Guilty Gear X2 great, and proved that a company other than Capcom or SNK could make a solid 2D fighter. Now the series is back with Guilty Gear Isuka, a game that features its predecessor's familiar characters and play mechanics, but focuses on four-player simultaneous battles instead of conventional one-on-one fights. The game runs well even with four colorful characters going at it at once, but the new free-for-all style of Guilty Gear is, at best, different--not better. Meanwhile, Guilty Gear Isuka overlooks the genre's recent forays into online play, which reduces its appeal only to those living in close proximity to several other hardcore Guilty Gear fans.

Guilty Gear's signature characters and gameplay turn even more chaotic than ever before in Guilty Gear Isuka.

Although Guilty Gear Isuka supports up to four players simultaneously (you'll need a multitap to take advantage of this feature), like most any other fighting game, it allows you to play solo or with just one another player. In fact, it's possible to pit from two to four characters in any combination; one-on-one, two-on-one, three-on-one, two-on-two, and free-for-all matches for three or four players are all possible. You can also substitute in computer-controlled players as you see fit. Two-on-one and three-on-one matches aren't as unbalanced as you might expect, since the solo player gets more health to work with to offset the other team's greater numbers. What's more, players on the same side may accidentally hit one another while trying to attack their opponents, though they can also coordinate to get on opposite sides of one of their victims and bash him or her back and forth like a tennis ball.

The multicharacter dynamic of Guilty Gear Isuka certainly changes the feel of the game, making Guilty Gear X2's already fast-paced and hectic action even more so...practically to a breaking point. In multicharacter matches, the action can certainly be pretty fun in the way that playing just about any fast-paced game with a group of friends can be fun, but it also moves at such a breakneck speed and happens so spontaneously that it winds up feeling ultimately hollower than its one-on-one predecessor.

Guilty Gear Isuka's multicharacter fighting system is not the first of its kind. SNK's very first Fatal Fury game from 1991 let two characters pound on an opponent, and Capcom later put in a better implementation of such a system in its Street Fighter Alpha games' "dramatic battle" mode. The difference is in these past games, the multicharacter gameplay was an extra feature, rather than the focus. In Guilty Gear Isuka, you can play a conventional one-on-one fight, but even these matches will be governed by the peculiar rules of the multicharacter battles that are emphasized here.

It's pretty awkward to have to manually turn your character around and to move from foreground to background.

The strangest thing about how Guilty Gear Isuka plays in comparison to other 2D fighting games is that your character won't automatically turn around--so if the opponent gets behind you, you'll need to press R1 (by default) to turn to face him. This is completely disconcerting at first and remains uncomfortable for a little while, but eventually you'll get used to it. As you might expect, it becomes central to the gameplay one way or another--faster characters can now viably try to attack their opponents from behind.

In another nod to Fatal Fury, Guilty Gear Isuka's action takes place on two different planes--a foreground level and a background level. Characters can jump to the opposite plane and perform certain attacks that can hit opponents on opposite planes, but for the most part, your moves will only hit characters on the same plane that you are on. This theoretically makes multicharacter matches a bit more manageable, but in practice, it contributes to the chaos. It can be difficult to tell when a character is in the foreground or in the background, and the action gets especially messy when you've got four different characters and their crazy moves are all overlapping with one another. A long-standing issue with the Guilty Gear series has been that its graphical style, while great looking, isn't terribly clear. Rather than address this point, the game makes it harder than ever to tell just what the heck is going on. Unless you're an expert at this series and are highly familiar with all the moves and characters, you'll be bewildered by what goes on in a typical match here.

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