Archive for the ‘Videogames’ Category

New Blog: Gamer Quest

I finally did it!

I always wanted to have my own gaming blog but I always thought it’s a quite hassle to manage two blogs at the same time. But I finally got the urge and the guts to do it. You can say I was motivated by my fellow friend and blogger, Mohammed who has his own gaming blog, which I find it very interesting and nicely focused (not to mention his other game-related responsibilities). I know it’s going to be hard but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be exciting as well. Of course, I will not abandon Final Haven. I’m still going to update it as I always do, but if you crave for more gaming-centric posts, then Gamer Quest is your destination; although, I’ll still keep posting reviews about videogames in this blog as well. So, don’t worry, nothing will be changed in terms of format.

I hope you have a wonderful time there.

Advertisements

Review: Silent Hill: Homecoming

  • Genre: Survival Horror
  • Developer: Double Helix Games
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Platform: Xbox 360 (Version Tested) – Playstation 3
  • Rating: M (For Mature)

Visiting the foggy town of Silent Hill, despite being the epitome of a living Hell, has always been a gaming pilgrimage that survival horror enthusiasts adore to the heart. For them (me included), Silent Hill games aren’t just games that aim to scare the hell out of people; it’s more than that. Each installment explores the darkest abyss of human emotions such as guilt, redemption, and atonement. Thus, we can easily marvel the varied topics that Silent Hill fans tend to share and contribute in gaming forums about the different symbolism and manifestations within the game. With the new inexperienced, American-based developer Double Helix taking charge of the 5th console installment, it is expected to report that there’s fear among Silent Hill fans as they are expecting a different formula that might ruin the series for them. After finishing the game yesterday and unlocking all the endings, I can confirm that the atmosphere remains true to the world Silent Hill, but the gaming mechanics, unfortunately, are far from perfection.

Silent Hill: Homecoming follows Alex Shepherd, a war veteran returning home from an overseas tour of duty to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his younger brother, Joshua. His travels lead him through the small, insular community of Shepherd’s Glen and eventually through the hauntingly empty streets of Silent Hill. Building upon the series’ trademark foundations of atmosphere, adventure and storytelling, Silent Hill: Homecoming introduces players to a frightening new experience introducing new monsters and weapons with a returning favorite of Pyramid Head (dubbed as Bogyman in this installment).

The most significant change comes in the character movement and combat controls; playing as Alex Sheperd (a veteran solider) you’re given abilities far outshining those of previous SH protagonists. This may be a sticking point for fans of the series’ previous, more helpless heroes, but putting a more combat capable character at the forefront feels like a positive evolutionary step for the series. Unfortunately however, that doesn’t seem the case. The game suffers from an atrocious low frame rate and unpolished combat mechanics that might entirely put you off and never touch the game once again. Other than that, the so called revolutionary “combat mechanics” will get old very quick as you will only dodge, attack, defend, and attack until the end of the game; you will certainly grow tried quickly. Thankfully, the camera, now far more in the player’s control, doesn’t aggravate these situations.

Puzzle solving, fortunately, is well implemented but less challenging. Most of them will require you to do simple puzzle mini-games such as sliding panels and rearranging wires and so forth. There are some obstacles that require you to decipher some messages collected in your journal, but in all honestly, there were quite easy and uninspired. Later half of the game will see you navigating a series of symbols and it is up to you to understand their meaning; it is appealing but slightly feels outdated.

When it comes to story and characters development, the game falls into a mixed ground. The premise of the story feels like a Silent Hill game with a mind-melting tale that will leave you hanging in there through the murky moments. In fact, for the first time ever with a Silent Hill title, I completed the campaign with a full understanding of what just transpired in the cursed town. And that’s my main problem with the story: Silent Hill games are deep and usually don’t follow Hollywood’s presentation of horror and thriller movies; there’s always some aspect that lingers afterward, and it is up to the gamer’s imagination and understating to fill that void with creative solutions. The good news is that the game gradually uncovers the twists and turns with each progression of the game’s twelve chapters, which thankfully will leave you coming back for more even if it means struggling with the game’s horrendous mechanics. However, since you will probably come to a full understanding of the story before the end of the game, the endings (all five of them) feel less rewarding and somewhat silly.

The presentation and the atmosphere is present in full blossom, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel the HD Silent Hill we have been asking for, and the reason is that the previous offerings of Silent Hill are considered technical marvels that pushed the PSX and PS2 to the fullest. For example, the characters design in Silent Hill 2 and 3 are much polished and detailed than Homecoming, but thankfully, the monsters and bosses remain as horrifying as ever, with few memorable ones that are bound to chase you in your dreams. The audio and the soundtrack still one of the most pivotal aspects of the game, with Akira Yamaoka returns as the main composer. The themes are memorable and daunting, which compliments the fear-inducing sound effects. In short, the music is a manifestation of dark magic and horror, which should gain the thumb-ups of Silent Hill fans even if they were a little shaky regarding the overall experience.

If you can cope with the atrocious and the slightly broken game mechanics, Homecoming will certainly provide you the fearful tour of Silent Hill that you have been asking for the last three years or so. The story is polished but forgetful, the presentation is beautiful but incomplete, and the overall experience will always leave you wanting for more, for good or for worse. The new developer Double Helix has stayed true to the series’ foundation while also taking steps in a brave new direction, but unfortunately, they failed to implement their vision perfectly. Regardless, the game deserves at least a single playthrough for those who are craving for a High-Def survival horror, because the game doesn’t disappoint from that aspect.

Overall Score

8.0 out of 10

My Weekend Pick-Ups

Another weekend, another show-off.  Since my Eid sucked ass, I decided to indulge myself with some purchases (and the idea that I have a limitless credit card access), so I bought some stuff that are bound to elevate my heart from the Eid blues. I wouldn’t lie to you, that actually worked and I feel much better thank you very much. Of course, it really helped that your family didn’t forget about you and the fact they transfer some dough to your bank account as an Eid surprise, or an Eideyah if you prefer. So, here goes:

  • iPod Nano (8GB): Even though my iPod Touch serves me very well in the time of need, I always felt the need for a smaller MP3 player, and I thought the new iPod Nano would fill that void quite perfectly. Initially, I wanted to pick up a funkier color (i.e. orange, yellow, green) but the silver was the one that resonated with my senses strongly; it looked sleek, sexy, and cool. Plus, now that I have Nano, I can finally get the Nano + Nike Sport Kit.
  • Men’s Health Magazine: Now that’s Ramadan is over, I can finally quit slacking off and hit the gym once again. And in order to get motivated, a Men’s Health magazine would do just that, but with Gerard Butler‘s excessive manliness and chiseled body on the cover, it seems I got intimated than motivated.
  • Edge Magazine: Another great issue with great articles. The Heavy Rain article looks promising and appealing, and the special report of “How Nintendo fell out of love with the hardcore gamers” should provide an interesting read.
  • Silent Hill 5: Homecoming: I’ve always been a huge fan of Silent Hill games, and I still am. With the American based ‘s “Double Helix” taken charger of developing the game instead of the original Japanese team, I was tempted, and hopefully the new direction of the game won’t fail my expectations or ruin the series for me. Expect a review anytime soon.
  • Tomb Raider Legends (Used): I missed this game when it released on the PS2 two years ago, and now, I wanted to play it before I move to the much improved Anniversary, and gets my hype up for the new iteration of the series. The game cost me a measly $15. It should be good.
  • Xbox360 Play & Charge: Now, that’s a purchase I won’t regret investing my money in. For the last month, the Xbox360 controller has been draining my supply of batteries, and this device should put an end to that.
  • Post Office (Charles Bukowski): Fellow blogger Purg published an inviting review regarding this novel last summer and I’ve been keening on purchasing one for quite some time now, but I’ve always put if off for unapparent reason. With a new bargain price tag placed on the novel, I couldn’t resist and I had to buy one. I’ll probably read if after I’m done with City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.

Can You Feel The Poke Power?

I’ve been meaning in purchasing a new Nintendo DS Lite for quite some time now, and kinda ditch the old one I have that almost was running out of battery power, but I was waiting for the right “limited edition” bundle to pop up so I can grab one.

Not until today when I was strolling over at Gamestop where my “Poke-Instinct” detected the fearsome power of legendary species of time and space. I swiftly asked the lovely lady behind the counter on what kind of hidden legendary power they have in the storage room. She knew what I meant, because she shared my passion for “Poke-Love”. After a few seconds, she came back with Pokemon DSLite bundle that has both Dialga and Palkia beautifully engraved on the led cover. I resisted but I finally succumbed to this powerful “Poke-Pressure” that weakened my body and soul, and seemed to quickly regain all my powers (and some) when I purchased it. Of course, I had to buy Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen and Final Fantasy IV to properly compliment the impressive power I have in my hands.

And finally, this is where kids we get to recap on the new vocabulary that we learned today:

  • Poke-Power
  • Poke-Instinct
  • Poke-Love
  • Poke-Pressure

Achievement Unlocked: Buy More Xbox360 Games

So, it’s been like more than 3 weeks since I got me an Xbox360 and so far I’ve been playing it like a madman. Almost, every free time I have after finishing school and doing homework, I find myself turning on the system and just playing like no tomorrow.

I’ve already seen BioShock to completion; with an impressive amount of achievements unlocked I may add. I passed the 80hours mark with Tales of Vesperia and reached the third and final part of the game but there are lots of side-questing to do and to complete. Blue Dragon is on a short halt for now, which is fine since I didn’t even get passed the first boss.

Not until the other day when I visited an independent videogame store near to where I live and witnessed the amount of games that were being sold in bargains! So, the geeky gamer I am, I went there earlier today, along with bunch of awful games I bought by mistake and trade them for (hopefully) good ones. I did have to pay the price difference at the end but it was like $90 (approx: 25KD). Seriously, take a look at what I got. With that price, I think I had a fantastic deal and saved a lotta money.

Those games should keep me in a pretty good shape (gaming-wise) for the next couple of months but I know I’ll be buying more games even if I had some that I couldn’t finish. The October/November/December period (i.e. the 4th Quarter) is seeing a massive amount of games released, so things are going to be pretty wild. Man, if only there’s a room or a chamber where time stands still so I can just play more and more without wasting precious time. Oh well, gotta go and play me some Eternal Sonata and get lost in its bursting colors and bustling soundtrack.

P.S. No need to worry about school. I usually finish all my work on campus before I return back to my apartment, and that’s probably due to the fact that my apartment has plenty of distractions that would avert my eyes from doing school work.

Review: Braid

  • Platform: Xbox360 (via Xbox Live Arcade)
  • Genre: Puzzle / 2D-Advanture
  • Rating: Everyone (10+)

If you take it purely as entertainment, Braid is nearly flawless. Taken it as an artistic work, it’s like an ambitious film that just overreaches its limits, flawed in an interesting and compelling way. As a whole, it is gripping and original far beyond conventional videogames, and is the perfect antidote for the current sequel-driven industry. At first blush, Braid seems like an exceptionally beautiful Super Mario Brothers knock-off, but there are numerous twists that extend its definition far beyond that.

To put it simply, Braid is a 2D platform game stars a guy named Tim. In this game, you can almost run through Braid‘s levels without a problem, but the true objective is to search out the puzzle pieces in each level, which you can then assemble into still photos that connect thematically to that level, and in order to do that, you control time. Simply by pressing the X button, the time rewinds almost everything, Tim, the enemies, the environment and even the music. This is the pivot point of some of the game’s best puzzles, and it becomes the primary tool you will be using until you reach the game’s shattering conclusion. As you progress through the six or five worlds, you will notice that you will have to think about time manipulation, and especially how to manipulate time with objects that respond differently to it, as each world produces a specific theme or mechanic for time manipulation. This consistent underlying logic ensures that you hardly ever feel cheated by the design. Braid certainly feels like a game that spent a year or two being polished.

By virtue of the imagery alone, Braid presents a true special experience. From the first moment you boot up it up, as it bypasses a title screen in favor of beginning play immediately; you’ll be struck by the look. Braid is like a painting in motion, with lush swirling colors and expressive caricatures. What’s most impressive is how effectively the visuals convey the mood of every area. From light and breezy meadows to disturbingly lifeless parodies of levels you have completed before, there’s instant emotional impact every time you enter a new area. It works as the bridge that gives you to a sense that there’s more going on here than just some tricky puzzles. You’ll also appreciate the soundtrack. Like the visuals, they capture the desired mood, though with it switching between being played forward and backward at the whim of the player, it never quite hits a rhythm. Still, the music is an appropriate mix of mellowness, melancholy, and nostalgia. An absolute musical masterpiece!

It’s pretty important to say that the puzzles can be incredibly frustrating sometimes to the point you would think there is a flaw in the game’s mechanics, and there are moments where will you reaching for GameFAQs every so often. My advice: don’t do it. Braid isn’t about the puzzles and the jigsaw pieces; it’s about the collective, emotional experience you receive at the end. In the later levels, you will absolutely have to think outside the box and try to reflect creatively to solve each puzzle you encounter because the game demands you to be creative.

Even though I usually don’t state anything about the ending of the games, but I’d like you to pay attention at what happens during the end, and also go through the books that were presented at each chapter because the conclusion that you will derive eventually will shatter any thought you might have had of enjoying Braid only for its gameplay. I won’t spoil the end, but do you remember all those times when you spent a great deal of skill and brainpower to finish a game, and were rewarded with a pleasant, tidy ending. Well, Braid‘s ending is the precise opposite. And it is powerful in such a way that you will more likely than not want to start digging into the story a lot more than you did. If you start digging enough, you’ll find out about an alternate ending, which puts an even more interesting spin on things. Without spoiling anything, what you must do to get it affects your understanding of the ending itself.

Life is short. Time is precious yet we waste plenty of it. There’s plenty of money in the world, and fifteen dollars worth of Microsoft Points isn’t much. With beautifully crafted and wonderfully realized mechanics, Braid is a shining example of the intersection between art and technology, love and loss, desire and despondence. In other words, Braid is beautiful. Beautiful is Braid.

Overall Score

9.5 out of 10

The Hell Has Frozen: I Got An Xbox360

If you ever told me that I’m going to buy an Xbox360 a year ago, I’d have laughed at you while bitch slapping you silly, and even deleted you from my gaming circa for not realizing my tastes in videogames. Now calm down, I’m not saying the Xbox360 is a bad console, not at all. Arguably, it’s probably the best console for this generation. However, the reason that made me avoid it all these years, it’s because it’s a very “American-heavy” console; that is, it is catering to the typical American gamer mentality. I’m more like a Japanese gamer; I favor RPGs, Adventure, and 2D-fighting games over Shooters, Action, and 3d-fighting games. I also enjoy the narrative, collective aspect of a story than being the central subject of the game.

But things started to change. The Xbox360 is getting some nice exclusive RPG games as a pointed out in one of my previous posts, and I cannot sit idle while witnessing those games being released one after the other. Not until last week that I made up my mind and decided to go ahead and snag me one and so far it has been a great ride.

Tales of Vesperia is just plain awesome and tons of fun and I cannot stop from enjoying every aspect of it. The Orange Box is really great, and Portal is simply a work of genius. There are so many great games I’ve missed and I cannot wait to play them. Don’t worry, I’ll be buying some Shooter games as well (i.e. BioShock), which should add a little bit of versatility to my reviews. In the mean time, here’s my Gamertag. Feel free to add me if you want.



P.S. Excuse me for begin a total typical Kuwaiti gamer by adding the “Q8” at the end of my Gamertag. I tried my birthday and stuff but they were all taken, so I had to settle down with this one.