Tag Archive: arcade


Developer Housemarque has cultivated some of the best action-packed arcade-inspired experiences of this console generation. Fans of old-school bullet hells and chasing high scores have been exposed to treat after treat in this genre by the team, so when I found out at E3 that they were making a side-scrolling platform shooter called Matterfall, I was on board before I even tried it out. And—after actually dashing, jumping, and blasting my way through the game at this point—I can say that this is another solid experience dying for you to try reaching the top of its leaderboards.

In Matterfall, players assume control of Avalon Darrow, a soldier-for-hire type that is dropped into the worst situations mankind can cook up and asked to fix them for the right price. In this case, Avalon finds herself on a human colony on the outer reaches of space, where a sprawling megalopolis has cropped up around the red matter mines. Red matter is a highly volatile substance that has become a source of energy in this space sector, not to mention a key driving factor of the area’s economy. Once red matter starts being used to power war machines to protect the colony, however, things take a drastic turn. The machines powered by the substance begin to gain a semblance of sentience, and soon start trying to eradicate all of the humans living there. So, while the colony is in the midst of the largest evacuation in history, Avalon is running into the fray with her trusty hand cannon, looking for the source of the epic disaster so that she can put an end to it.

Like many of Housemarque’s games, Matterfall is simple enough on the surface: Run and gun with Avalon through the game’s 12 different stages, with an end boss waiting in every fourth stage. One of the negatives of Matterfall is 12 stages is definitely not a lot, and you can probably get through the entire experience on normal difficulty in less than five hours. How you get through those 12 stages will be entirely up to you, though, as Avalon will unlock a variety of weapons that change how you may approach a situation. Of course, your score will also be important, so along the way you’ll constantly be trying to keep your multiplier at max, gain bonuses based on how fast you complete a stage and whether you died or not, and find the three or four humans who have been trapped in every non-boss stage.

In that regard, Matterfall offers up a ton of replayability if you’re as fanatical about high scores as I am. With none of the stages really needing more than 20 minutes to complete, you can quickly jump in, customize your loadout beforehand, and really try to plot out the best run possible in order to maximize your score. Upping the difficulty also increases multiplyer potential, meaning mastering harder difficulties will be crucial to maintaining a top spot on the leaderboards. Everything might start to feel a bit repetitive due to the overall lack of stages and enemy types, but finding the best path is usually enough of a distraction to both keep you on your toes and take your mind off that 50th wave of missiles that have appeared overhead, raining down in an attempt to destroy your multiplyer.

Where Matterfall really tries to differentiate itself is in its gameplay. The controls are locked in to try to optimize moving and shooting at the same time; thus, shooting is done with the right stick, and jumping and dashing are done with the shoulder buttons. Admittedly, it took a little while to get used to not having to press “X” to jump on a PlayStation controller, but the risk paid off. The second stick allows you to keep firing Avalon’s hand cannon with pinpoint accuracy as you use the left stick and triggers to move through enemy-infested hallways, duck behind cover, dash over enemies, or even float around in the game’s unique zero-gravity sections. In those areas, you’ll drift around in a full 360-degree radius, giving the game brief moments of feeling like some of the space shooters Housemarque has done in the past while still serving that fast and frantic arcade feel that is critical in games like this.

Matterfall’s dashing mechanic is also vital to completing the game. Not only does it let you pass through certain walls, but you’ll also let off a shockwave upon completion that can stun nearby enemies with blue matter (in this world, blue matter beats red matter). Destroying stunned enemies leads to score bonuses, while the shockwave can negate bullets that are heading for Avalon—a lifesaver in the midst of firefights that you simply can’t shoot your way out of. Matterfall offers up a bevy of gameplay styles that appeal to both risk/reward players or those who play more cautiously that want to destroy every single enemy on screen (like yours truly) before moving on.

There’s also a cornucopia of secondary weapons and abilities for you to choose from in Matterfall. While you can unlock four secondary weapons and eight passive powers, you can only choose three from the entire list to be active at any given time. Grenade launchers and homing missiles can be great when dealing with singular foes with a lot of health, but a bigger health bar, faster weapon recharge rates, and more passive abilities could mean the difference between life and death in the long run.

Between the weapon choices and the dashing mechanic, Avalon gives off the sense of a homogenized Samus Aran (the hand cannon-wielding bounty hunter) crossed with Beck from Mighty No. 9 (the hero with a dash maneuver critical to defeating enemies big and small). It’s an interesting take on the genre, but it works. I only wish that we could get to know Avalon a lot more than what we get in the game’s opening and ending cutscenes (the only ones in the entire game), but we know that’s not necessarily Housemarque’s forte.

Matterfall’s action and gameplay is a throwback in many senses. It’s focus on speed and scoring will have you coming back to it again and again as you try to climb higher on the global leaderboards, yet I wish that the levels offered more variety (as well as there being more of them period). If you’re looking to see if your twitch reflexes are still up to snuff, or simply need a quick experience that doesn’t require a major time commitment, Matterfall is more than deserving of a look.

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment • Developer: Housemarque • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 08.15.17
8.0
Although a bit short and repetitive at times, the fast and frantic action of Matterfall is a delight if you prefer your gameplay more arcade-y and your goals to be focused on high scores and conquering leaderboards rather than saving the world.
The Good Fast-paced, side-scrolling shooter action that will test your reflexes and force you to break from gaming conventions (or die).
The Bad Not a lot of content, and levels outside of boss battles can feel repetitive.
The Ugly I’m sure there’s a message about natural resource wastefulness in here somewhere.
Matterfall is a PS4 exclusive. Review code was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.
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Worse than crossing the streams

I love Ghostbusters. I’ve spent probably an unhealthy amount of my life memorizing lines from the movies, collecting action figures, and watching the cartoons. And yes, before you even ask, I am a god. I even enjoyed the brand new reboot with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig—it’s not perfect, but it was surprisingly a lot of fun. So, it was nothing short of painful to have to apply our review process to Activision’s latest licensed dumpster fire based off the aforementioned reboot.

In the Ghostbusters game, the four ladies from the movie have taken their show on the road and are busting ghosts for the president in Washington D.C. However, they couldn’t just up and leave New York City defenseless incase there were any more paranormal problems. So, before they left, they recruited four brash afterlife aficionados like themselves onto the team to man the firehouse in their absence. And, wouldn’t you know it, as soon as the ladies leave, a handful of hauntings pop up.

Ghostbusters is an arcade action-shooter, done in an abstract art style reminiscent of cartoons like Extreme Ghostbusters. It works well enough, at least in terms of character design. The ghosts, ghouls, and even the ‘busters exaggerated looks and hard lines work to pop off the screen, even considering the high camera angle.

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Unfortunately, the rest of the game’s design is a disaster. The levels themselves are boring and bloated, lasting anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes, completely jettisoning the speed you’d expect from the genre—not to mention you have to traipse through the same generic graveyards, subways, and interiors the entire time. To make matters even worse, the gameplay itself is as repetitive as the level design. Each character carries three weapons: the classic proton pack, specialty guns, and grenades. This helps offer a little diversity between each character, as the shotgunner with the electric grenades has to play differently from the proton mini-gunner with the slime grenades. There are also dual proton pistols and a proton assault rifle, but once you get past the weapons, it all boils down to blasting away the same handful of enemy types after you turn every corner.

Sometimes you’ll come across a more powerful ghost who you’ll have to throw in a trap. From there, a ridiculous minigame starts, which requires you to pull in the reverse direction of the ghost and button mash for score multipliers—an idea that quickly becomes as dreary as everything else the game tasks you with. At the merciful conclusion to each stage, you tally scores and get awarded experience points that help boost the strength of your characters, but only human controlled characters can keep their points.

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When playing four-player couch co-op, this isn’t much of a problem—beyond the fact that you have four people bored out of their minds instead of one. (Misery loves company, but I’ll have to make it up to my fellow EGM crew members at some point for subjecting them to this torture.) Playing by yourself, the game is easy enough to get through, but the AI does absolutely nothing to help you out. In fact, they tend to get stuck on invisible walls more often than they do anything useful in regards to busting ghosts. From my solo and co-op play sessions, it feels like the game was balanced for one-player, since more human players speed up the push through each level (still not enough to make the experience tolerable). So, Ghostbusters doesn’t even scale difficulty for multiple players.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, it only gets worse with the story, which basically copies the movie’s plot nearly point for point. You have to catch all the ghosts the ladies let get away in the film, with only two original bosses added to flesh the game out. The boss battles are a nice change of pace, but considering it is literally hours between them, they can’t salvage what appears to have been a forcibly lengthened experience to try to quantify a ridiculous price tag.

Ghostbusters tries to channel the spirit of old-school, arcade action shooters of years past, but it fails to capture any of the fun those games are known for. Even the addition of four-player couch co-op can’t save this from being a boring mess of an experience. Ghostbusters comes off as nothing short of a lazy, hastily thrown together movie cash-in attempt that can’t satisfy even the most hardcore fans of this iconic franchise, and all copies should be locked safely away in a containment unit somewhere. Light is green, trap is clean.

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Developer: FireForge Games • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and older • Release Date: 07.12.16
2.0
Ghostbusters is a bloated, boring piece of trash that forcibly lengthened an already miserable experience to try to justify a ridiculous price tag. We can only hope to return it forthwith to its place of origin—or the nearest parallel dimension.
The Good I don’t have to play it anymore.
The Bad It is the worst kind of licensed video game. It is a cheaply thrown together, boring, repetitive mess that isn’t worth anyone’s time.
The Ugly I think I’m starting to develop PTSD from all the awful Activision licensed games I’ve had to review over the years.
Ghostbusters is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

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In Russia, Chronicles crush you!

Serving as the third and final game in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles, ACC: Russia has the unenviable task of bringing up the rear guard of this series of spin-offs. Although Russia fails in some regards to capture the spirit of the main series—much like its predecessors—it at least continues the maturation process we saw between China and India, and can stand proudly as the strongest of the three.

Set in 1918 during the height of the Russian Revolution, veteran Assassin Nikolai Orelov, protagonist of the Assassin’s Creed: The Chain and The Fall graphic novels, must take on one more mission for the Brotherhood before he escapes with his family to America. This mission is not an easy one, however. Nikolai has been tasked with infiltrating where the Templars are holding Czar Nicholos II and his family, and must retrieve Ezio Auditore’s infamous box—the primary narrative link between all three Chronicles titles. Along the way, Nikolai interferes with the execution of the family, leading to the youngest child, a teenaged Princess Anastasia, surviving and suddenly coming under Nikolai’s protection. With the secrets of the box revealed, Nikolai must escape the pursuit of both the Assassins and the Templars if he hopes to save Anastasia and get his family free of Russia.

Like its antecedents, ACC: Russia is a side-scrolling platformer that focuses more on the stealth aspects of Assassin’s Creed than anything else. Each level is broken down into subsections, where players are scored upon how effective they are as Nikolai. High scores lead to character boosts, and by continuously scoring gold in the Silencer (non-lethal takedowns), Assassin (lethal takedowns), or Shadow (no interaction with enemies whatsoever) disciplines, a score multiplier will come into effect.

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Where Russia shines compared to the two previous chapters of Chronicles is in the variety of objectives each level throws at you, and how you can accomplish them. While combat is still a detriment here—with Nikolai feeling relatively underpowered compared to his foes—there is a new array of items and tools at his disposal. Their inclusion will help you avoid combat more easily and better even the odds, making the stealth elements not nearly as punishing or predictable as in Russia’s precursors.

For instance, Nikolai has a grappling hook that he can send an electric charge through to disable light generators, electrify water (and the enemies standing in it), or even overload outlets—all undoubtedly benefits of the time period. There are also new distraction techniques like using telephones to alter enemy patrol routes, or firing Nikolai’s rifle to pick enemies off from afar or make noise to divert their attention when necessary.

The rifle also allows Russia to build on the sniper sections introduced in India. Here, however, they feel more natural, since Nikolai often has to pull his rifle out to cover Anastasia as she runs ahead. Speaking of Anastasia, there are even sections where you have to play with her and her far more limited talents, forcing you to push your stealth skills to the limits. This is a rare instance in this series where narrative actually led to more interesting gameplay.

The only downside to all these new tools was how everything was poorly spread out, as certain techniques—like being able to electrocute enemies—are introduced very late in the game, making them feel like an afterthought design-wise. As well, some of the level felt noticeably weaker in terms of design than others.

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A perfect example of this is in the chase levels. In ACC: China, when Shao Jun had to get through an area as quickly as possible while being pursued, it was one of the best elements of that game and it only seemed to continue on in India. The chase levels in Russia, however, are probably the weakest of the series, with old, plodding Nikolai being something of a chore to control in those moments. It makes sense for him to feel different than the other characters, but for those differences to make him feel inferior—at least as a parkouring assassin, because his gadgets definitely give him a leg up in other ways—might have made sense for the story, but definitely detracts from the experience.

One last disappointing element about Russia was the art style. India was the most vibrant and interesting world of the three games, and Russia may be the weakest. The Sin City-esque usage of grayscale with splotches of red do make sense for the setting, giving everything a downtrodden, depressing overtone. Unfortunately, they don’t work as well as intended, making many parts of the game somewhat painful to look at—especially when you get to the handful of indoor levels that are awash in color.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia is the best game this offshoot series has offered up thus far. Sadly, it still falls short in ways that have plagued the series from the get-go. However, if you’ve come this far with Chronicles, at least things end better than they began, with a compelling narrative, great gameplay variety, and ingenious uses of stealth that will reward those players who have stuck around.

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Developer: Climax Studios • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 02.09.16
7.5
Shortcomings that haunt the entire series remain here, but more gameplay choices and a compelling narrative make Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia the strongest of the three Chronicles titles.
The Good Largest variety of gameplay of the three Chronicles games, interesting story that ties well into greater AC universe.
The Bad Combat is still a chore, poor pacing.
The Ugly You can almost see the osteoporosis setting in on Nikolai as he sluggishly runs around.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia  is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Hell ain’t a bad place to be

The twin-stick shooter is one of gaming’s oldest game types—and one of the hardest to make stand out among its contemporaries, especially given the genre’s recent resurgence in the Indie scene. Helldivers unique metagame feature, though, helps separate what would otherwise be a rather generic game from the pack.

Helldivers puts players in control of a run-of-the-mill soldier fighting for the glory of the unified Super-Earth. Ruled under one “managed democracy”, the inhabitants of Super-Earth feel it’s their duty to expand and spread the message of this way of life to all they come across in the universe. Several races, however, wish to stand in the way of Super-Earth’s all-powerful government, so conflict erupts on an intergalactic scale.

It’s here where the metagame aspect takes place. Besieged on three fronts, the Helldivers branch of Super-Earth’s military must perform missions on a series of planets, pushing each enemy race back across several sectors of space, until finally reaching a homeworld in the hopes of conquering it.

Each respective planet in those sectors is procedurally generated, which means that you’ll never play the same mission on the same terrain twice. The game offers almost a dozen different random missions types no matter the planet, such as demolishing enemy fortifications or setting up and protecting oil pumps to help support the war effort. Combine this with the dozen different difficulty rankings among the planetsfrom Level 1’s “Dive in the Park” to Level 12’s “Helldive”and Helldivers features possibly the most variation you’ll find in a top-down, twin-stick shooter. Only when everyone pitches in to successfully complete missions can you make any real progress in the campaign.

The idea of working together to win goes well beyond just Helldivers’ metagame, though. With four-player local and online co-op, it’s easy for players to team up with friends or strangers to tackle the game’s objectives. Unfortunately, you’ll be forced to if you want to have any hope of completing the hardest difficulty levels. I found it impossible to beat anything beyond a Level 4 difficulty by myself, and we couldn’t beat anything past a Level 6 without a full four-player complement of Helldivers.

It was here where I found myself the most frustrated, as often, I couldn’t find enough players to successfully conquer the game’s hardest terrain and objectives. Sometimes, I couldn’t find enough players willing to take on the Level 12 worlds and was forced to muck about in the lower-level ones. Even though they’re procedurally generated, locations started to feel simple and repetitive as I quickly mastered the necessary techniques to use to finish my missions. The lack of an option to play with botsand allow me to play how I wanted to playmade the game feel way too reliant on co-op, and I found my progress severely restricted by who was or wasn’t online.

Of course, sometimes even when I found a full group of players, the mission would still be doomed from the start. Similar to Arrowhead Game Studios’ first project, Magicka, friendly fire is a constant threat and can’t be turned off. This does offer an extra nuance to the game’s substantial inherent difficulty when you find a competent team of people who want to work together, but someone with an itchy trigger finger who wasn’t the greatest team player would often ruin the mission for us. We could’ve booted them, but then we’d be back to being down a person in a game that doesn’t lend itself well to fewer than four players.

If you can get that right mix of players together, though, Helldivers provides a memorable twin-stick-shooter experience. Whether it’s the unusually fleshed-out universe for this type of game—including Super-Earth’s propaganda being pumped across the news feed in your home base and a full encyclopedia’s worth of baddie rundowns—or the responsive controls, Helldivers shows the potential of how great this ancient gaming genre can still be, even on modern consoles.

There’s also a strong strategic element that you don’t always see in shooters like this. Figuring out where to drop in pre-mission and which objectives to tackle first were often just as important as working well as a team. Sure, there were moments when one player would have to act as a decoy to expose the weak point on the rear of a tank enemy, and without that teamwork, the day would’ve been lost. But dropping in away from known enemy encampments, using the terrain to protect one side when defending a point, or just bringing the right gun to the fight were as critical as working well with other players.

And while Helldivers may be classified as a twin-stick shooter, there’s also more to the gameplay than just pointing and shooting at one of the three alien races. The game incorporates several RPG elements into the experience to help your individual character still feel unique enough among the thousands of other faceless soldiers.

Each Helldiver is mildly customizable, with a handful of different armor pieces given to you at the start, and more can be unlocked as you level up. The armor is purely cosmetic, though, and actually, so is the process of leveling up. The game doesn’t offer any stat boosts—not even for HP. All you can get is a new gun, cosmetic armor piece, or access to a harder set of worlds.

The real rewards for playing the game actually come from conquering planets, which allow you to earn new Stratagemsthe equivalent of special powers. Each Helldiver can carry four into battle, and these could be as simple as calling in an ammo drop or as game-changing as having a vehicle, turret, or mech-battle armor delivered in order to help turn the tide of a battle or beat a hasty retreat. The Stratagems add some real diversity to the gameplay, and being able to utilize them at opportune times often means the difference between defeat and victory.

And since the balance relies so much on four-player co-op, that means the best Stratagems are unlocked mostly behind the game’s hardest worlds. These are easily the most interesting part of customizing your character, but tying them to planets instead of levels makes the RPG elements feel somewhat worthless.

I found issue with how much of Helldivers’ accessibility and difficulty is balanced for the four-player co-op experiencewhen, realistically, it’s not the easiest thing for everyone to pull off. If you’re fortunate enough to have that tight-knit co-op crew you can always go to, Helldivers is one of the better top-down, twin-stick shooters I’ve seen in a while.

Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 03.03.15
7.0
Helldivers’ metagame campaign and variety of gameplay are more than enough to keep you entertained, but only players with a tight-knit group of co-op buddies will be able to get the most from the experience.
The Good The metagame aspect makes you feel more like an actual soldier in an army, working toward a greater goal.
The Bad Tacked-on RPG elements; lack of AI bot options.
The Ugly Getting ambushed by alien bugsbut you’re too distracted by twirling your cape around to fight back.
Helldivers is available on PS4, PS3, and PS Vita. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Sony for the benefit of this review.

Spelunking in the sand

When you have as much history as Tomb Raider, it’s always a big risk to deviate from the gameplay that’s defined the series and helped it last as long as it has. But four years ago, that’s just what Crystal Dynamics did when they decided to take Lara Croft out of the third-person action-adventure world and introduce her fans to some old-school, twin-stick-shooter gameplay.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light ended up being a huge success as an ancillary adventure, smoothly blending the puzzle-solving from the main series with top-down shooting and co-op. So, it’s no surprise that while we wait for Lara’s next big action-adventure, Crystal Dynamics decided to revisit their spin-off and give it a sequel.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris starts off with our titular heroine doing what she does best: discovering relics and ruins. Lara’s searching for the Temple of Osiris in Egypt—a long-lost pyramid dedicated to the Egyptian god of the dead. She’s not alone, however, as she’s racing against Carter Bell, a young upstart in the field of archeology. Edging out Lara, Bell grabs Osiris’ fabled staff upon entering the tomb, ignoring Lara’s pleas for caution, and unknowingly breaking the magical seals holding back Set, the Egyptian god of war who murdered Osiris. With the help of the seals’ guardians—Osiris’ wife Isis, and their son Horus—Lara and Carter must drive Set back and prevent darkness from consuming the world by piecing together the remains of Osiris—just like Isis did thousands of years ago, according to legend.

Temple of Osiris will immediately feel familiar to fans of Guardian of Light. Just like before, the camera is locked far overhead at a three-quarters angle, and in terms of gameplay, Lara solves puzzles with her grappling hook and shoots bad guys using her guns and grenades.

One immediate difference you’ll notice with Temple of Osiris, though, is how much larger and more detailed the world is. Exploration stems from a massive hub area, and Lara will be able to investigate a dozen tombs themed after key members of Osiris’s court, like his silversmith, architect, or ferryman, each holding a piece of the god’s form. The tombs are meticulously detailed, and the dynamic lighting effects are truly impressive, considering how far away the camera sits from the action.

Besides the story-related ruins, though, the game also includes five challenge tombs that will push your puzzle-solving skills and a half dozen massive bosses that include corrupted Egyptian gods that have thrown in with Set, like Khepri, god of the sunrise, and Sobek, god of the Nile.

There’s also a customization system this time around. In Guardian of Light, gems were merely present as a way to increase your high score. Now, these precious stones have another purpose beyond points, since they allow Lara to unlock scattered treasure chests that bestow her with rings and amulets, which can augment her abilities. The more gems you have to spend on a chest, the more likely you’ll receive an item that will give Lara multiple positive benefits.

The puzzles in Temple of Osiris are far more involved this time around as well. Some remain simple timing puzzles, while others require Lara to actually change the seasons and put into effect a day-night cycle in order to open up different paths in the world. The game also includes a variety of puzzles that require nimble platforming, and Lara will need to use the Staff of Osiris to move columns or reflect light around darkened rooms.

The most impressive thing about the puzzles, however, might be how they change in co-op. You’re more than able to beat Temple of Osiris by yourself, as Lara will take the Staff of Osiris and be outfitted with all the abilities needed to overcome the challenges of the tombs. But if you play co-op, only the Egyptian characters, Isis and Horus, can use the Staff, and only Lara or Carter Bell can use the grappling hook, changing the dynamic of many puzzles and requiring teamwork to advance through the story.

Speaking of co-op, one big change we see is that now with the introduction of all these characters, up to four players can come together locally or online, instead of only two as in Guardian of Light. I couldn’t find any co-op games in the wild due to the limited number of players with their hands on the game before launch, so I can’t speak to the matchmaking, but I was able to gather the EGM Crew together, and two of us were playing locally, joined by two others via online. The game ran smoothly from a technical standpoint, but I felt that four players didn’t really add more to the gameplay than two did. If anything, it only made things more hectic, since we kept getting in each other’s way. The only times we were able to come together was against bosses—which, disappointingly, don’t scale with the extra players. With four guns firing away, the combat sections of the game were vanilla at best and a breeze to overcome.

The minimal differences between Lara versus Carter and Isis versus Horus were also disappointing—it felt like there were two unique characters and two clones who not only felt unneeded in co-op, but also unneeded in the story. The entire experience would’ve been better off had just Lara and Isis teamed up, and the game would’ve flowed more smoothly both in terms of co-op and the loose story that ties this arcade-style endeavor together.

Temple of Osiris builds on the foundation of what Guardian of Light started, giving us more levels, more puzzles, and more detail in the world that Lara has to explore. Unfortunately, it also gives us more co-op, and the game would’ve been better balanced with just two-player co-op again. Despite this, Temple of Osiris is still a fun, worthwhile adventure that shows why Lara Croft is such a great character, no matter the camera angle.

Developer: Crystal Dynamics • Publisher: Square Enix • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 12.09.14
7.5
Another fun twin-stick-shooter romp for Lara Croft, Temple of Osiris finds a way to go bigger and better in most regards, but four-player co-op was just too much on my TV screen—this one would’ve been better off with only two main characters instead of four.
The Good Lots of interesting puzzles that dynamically change in co-op; solid twin-stick action.
The Bad Locked camera can be a nuisance. 4-player co-op is more of a detriment than a boon.
The Ugly Our news editor, Chris Holzworth, trolling the rest of the EGM Crew during 4-player co-op.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Square Enix for the benefit of this review.

Swing and a miss

Like many others who grew up with R.B.I. Baseball, I was thrilled when I found out it would be making a return on modern platforms after two decades of dormancy. As a pioneer of baseball on consoles, R.B.I. Baseball obtained the license from the MLB Players Association to be the first game to feature actual player names back in the 1980s. Now, 20 years after the last game to bear the name—with this new title developed by Major League Baseball itself—R.B.I Baseball looks to reignite a passion in arcade-style sports games that has been snuffed out by the barrage of simulation games over the past couple of decades.

Unfortunately, it seems that the inexperience Major League Baseball has in actually making videogames is an issue. R.B.I. Baseball 14 is one of the biggest wastes of time and money I’ve ever had the displeasure of putting on one of my home consoles.

R.B.I. Baseball 14 has only three modes: Exhibition to play a single game, Season to play a full 162-game schedule (with options for shorter seasons), and Playoffs to jump right to October with your favorite team. As a baseball junkie, I jumped into a full Season mode and felt I’d get enough of a sense of the game. After eight games as my beloved New York Yankees, I never want to pick my controller up for the sake of this game ever again.

Let’s start by looking at the presentation. Once you’re past the colorful opening screen and get into an actual game, you’ll quickly grow weary of looking at the same three player models over and over again. Each stadium at least has a bit more character to it, with familiar landmarks etched out behind outfield walls, but you only get brief glimpses of them on long flyballs or home runs. You’re then met with the same repetitive scoreboard between innings, no matter the stadium, and the most annoyingly wretched jingle outside of your local doctor office’s elevators.

Also, while I’m fully aware that this is an arcade-style game and that stats aren’t stressed here, I can’t stand the fact that when a player comes to bat, his 2013 stats are shown every time. If you’re going to make that big of a deal about old numbers, you should update them for how well I do in the game—or nix them altogether.

I could deal with some lackluster visuals, however, if the gameplay provided a worthwhile experience. It doesn’t. The worst aspect? The defense. Every flyball is an adventure, because the game offers no indication whatsoever of where the ball will land. Cans of corn turn into inside-the-park home runs, infield flies into doubles, and every foul ball into another opportunity for the batter to punish you for not being able to judge virtual depth from a bird’s-eye view of the field.

Pitching is the next shortcoming. While R.B.I. Baseball 14’s pitching mechanics are a throwback to those versions we played on the NES, with every pitcher having a screwball, a fastball, and a really hard fastball that you can move around while the ball is in motion, the idea of managing pitching is completely lost. Every starting pitcher can only go four to six innings before becoming too tired to continue effectively in most instances. But there’s only one actual relief pitcher in your bullpen, so you’re often just rotating starters for other starters because the invisible stamina meters for the pitchers are out of whack.

At least hitting and baserunning are fairly straightforward, relying mostly on timing and not having to worry about a power swing versus a normal swing or matching up overlays with both analog sticks or anything too insane. It’s such a simple mechanic that even R.B.I. Baseball 14 couldn’t find a way to mess it up.

This doesn’t mean things get better outside of the batters box and the bases, though. The computer AI is atrocious, and remember those tired pitchers I mentioned before? Sometimes the computer forgets to adjust to the slower velocity you have. I struck out the side in three of the last four innings I pitched with Masahiro Tanaka after he was “exhausted” throwing 62 mph “fastballs.” The computer kept swinging early as if I were still throwing 93 mph.

The AI also has as much difficulty fielding as you do, often just standing still as slow groundballs find their way to the outfield while the first baseman and second baseman stare blankly at each other. Sometimes the computer will make up for this, though, and magically teleport the ball into a fielder’s glove. They don’t even have to be on the same side of the field!

Really, the only good part of R.B.I. Baseball 14 is the mercy rule: If you’re ahead by more than 10 runs past the 5th inning, the game is over. I was able to institute that in a couple of my games, and I was grateful: The game mercifully, for me, came to an early end.

In all seriousness, Major League Baseball should be as embarrassed about R.B.I. Baseball 14 as they were about the 1994 strike and the steroid scandals. This game is an abomination, and it’s not a worthy representation of the sport. Don’t even look this game’s way—or you risk losing your baseball-loving soul.

Developer: MLB Advanced Media • Publisher: MLB.com • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 06.24.14
2.0
R.B.I. Baseball 14 features horrible presentation, broken AI, and lacks so many features that no one with any love for the sport of baseball will be able to stomach playing the game.
The Good Mercy rules added to the basic baseball parameters.
The Bad Computer AI; the presentation; the defensive aspects of the game.
The Ugly Every single stadium and player model.
R.B.I. Baseball 14 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, iOS, Android. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Sony for the benefit of this review.

No quarters necessary

For many gamers, arcades are a thing of the past. Aside from certain chain restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese’s or Dave & Buster’s, it’s damn near impossible to find a place with row upon row of arcade cabinets in America anymore.

But as soon as you start up Sixty Second Shooter Prime, you’ll feel like you’ve fallen through a vortex that puts you 30 years in the past. While bombastic colors wash over the background, the foreground is made up of a field that looks like it’s been plucked straight from Asteroids as it tries to channel everything that was great about that now-bygone era.

This follow-up to the Vita’s Sixty Second Shooter Deluxe sees players once again take control of a small spaceship (let’s be honest—it’s just a pyramid). Your lone objective? Pilot your way down through innumerable levels in “space,” all in the hopes of acquiring a higher score to move up the competitive leaderboards.

The big catch here is, as the title implies, that your life lasts only 60 fragile seconds. You can extend it by picking up special power-ups that slow down the world around you in the game’s standard mode or add seconds when playing “Infinite” mode—which, due to the time additions, means the game could theoretically last forever. You’re not guaranteed the full length of your fruit fly–esque existence, however, since enemies (most of them are just big cubes) try to prevent you from reaching each level’s goal by relentlessly pursuing and firing at you themselves. Much like how you can add or slow down time to fight the clock, though, you can also protect your little ship from your limitless enemies by picking up power-ups like missiles, bombs, invincibility shields, or gun upgrades that temporarily let you fire in eight directions at once—and you can laugh as your foes explode in a white-hot fireworks display worthy of next week’s Independence Day.

In the realm of twin-stick shooters, Sixty Second Shooter Prime is as easy to pick up and play as the best of them. You simply use the dual joysticks to move and shoot and press a button for your missiles. The issue that arises, however, is that it’s also an easy game to master. After only a few playthroughs, you’ll have unlocked all the possible power-ups, alternate game modes, different psychedelic background colors, and the ability to start from level 5 instead of the first level in the hopes of facing more enemies sooner and building up those combo multipliers for your score.

There’s also the issue where a glitch spawns you directly on top of an enemy, instantly killing you as soon as the game starts. It happened to me probably one in every 10 lives I had. If that happened in the arcade, you’d demand your quarters back. Here, it’s a little embarrassing to see that you didn’t survive more than a fraction of a second (which the game quickly points out), but at least you just have to press Start again, and you’re back to flying around in circles, blasting away at countless death cubes with only a few seconds wasted.

Here’s the major question you have to ask yourself when looking at Sixty Second Shooter Prime: How likely are you to become addicted to trying to constantly one-up your scores or your friends’ accomplishments? Thirty years ago, that would’ve been more than enough to turn this into a classic quarter-gobbler. Now, even in our ADD-addled world, 60 seconds isn’t long enough for players to really embrace a game, and I think many gamers will probably become tired of it after only an hour or two.

The good news, at least, is that it’s only $5 (20 quarters, in arcadespeak), so even if the game does last no more than two hours, you’ll probably still be getting your money’s worth if you have even the tiniest of old-school arcade itches that need scratching.

Developer: Happion Laboratories • Publisher: Happion Laboratories • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 06.18.14
7.0

Sixty Second Shooter Prime is a great throwback to the arcade machines of yesteryear, but it lacks the depth and difficulty needed for an old-school twin-stick shooter to appeal to most modern gamers.

The Good Easy to pick up and play…
The Bad …and even easier to master.
The Ugly The accidental psychedelic trance I put myself in after changing the background colors too many times.
Sixty Second Shooter Prime is an Xbox One exclusive. Microsoft provided a retail code for the benefit of this review.

Worst. Movie Game. EVER.

Most movie games are rushed projects that require developers to take an idea loosely based around the corresponding film, staple some play mechanics together, and hope it holds up enough to warrant even making the game at all. So, when I heard that a game based on The Expendables 2 was coming out just before the movie, I definitely didn’t think we’d be getting a masterpiece—but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a pile of slop this bad.

Understandably, the game took the twinstick-shooter route, since it’s easier to create a fully realized 3D world in a short amount of time in this genre (just look at all of the twinstick-shooter indie titles on XBLA). This also allows for 4-player drop-in, drop-out co-op, the one thing that actually works here. But on every other level, this game is a horrible waste of time. Oh, The Expendables 2 Videogame, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…

The first—and most obvious—offense to your eyes comes with the graphics. The models lack any sort of detail whatsoever once you enter a story chapter, and the game only utilizes two colors, it seems: brown and gray. Not only does this have the effect of blending everything together so you can barely tell who or what is shooting at you, but it also means that most levels blend together as well.

And while we’re on the aesthetics, let’s get to the second point of hatred: the putrid voiceover work. I appreciate Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews actually lending their voices to the game (not like they got a lot on their plate these days), but the Stallone impersonator is just awful, and the dialogue is horribly written. “What’s the plan, Barney?” “Same as always! Kill everything between us and the objective!” Are you kidding me?! I know elementary-school kids who have a better grasp of dialogue. At least the music’s somewhat enjoyable and gives the game an epic action-movie feel, even if nothing else about the game does.

And just think—I haven’t even gotten to my hatred of the actual gameplay yet! Twinstick shooters don’t usually allow for a lot of gameplay variety—you simply mow down the same two or three enemy types for however many levels the game entails—so I appreciate the fact that the game attempts to break up the monotony that can sometimes plague these titles with some on-rails shooter levels. But bizarrely, the one element the game insists on realism is the gun clips, which cause you to constantly reload and never let you get into any sort of pace when on foot, making you miss many targets during the on-rails levels.

Plus, making the player hold the right trigger in order to fire when on foot defeats the purpose of using both sticks for much of the combat. And since only the sniper character has a laser sight, unless you’re constantly firing—which you can’t, due to the clip sizes—you have no idea where your chosen character is aiming, making the combat feel choppy all around. Additionally, the glitchy hit mechanics mean that you don’t even get proper feedback half the time on whether or not your shot actually hit an enemy, leaving you guessing until they mercilessly fade away instantly after falling to the dirt.

Finally, I hate the story. The dialogue definitely doesn’t paint a vivid picture, but what’s worse is that the game offers no opening cinematic to explain anything and just throws you right to the wolves. This left me hating the experience even more, as your purpose is constantly and consistently murky.

And that sums up The Expendables 2 Videogame in a nutshell: This game has no purpose. It’s one of the worst wastes of time I’ve ever had to review. It has no direction, shoddy controls, an ugly look, and possibly the most absent plot in the modern console generation. It’s an embarrassment, even as movie games go. I implore you to steer clear of this title at all costs.

SUMMARY: Aside from the seamless drop-in, drop-out co-op, this is one of the worst videogames I’ve had the displeasure of playing in a long time. It looks awful, controls horribly, and the plot is nonexistent. 

  • THE GOOD: 4-player drop-in, drop-out co-op.
  • THE BAD: Everything else.
  • THE UGLY: The one-liners, the voice acting, the entire premise…

SCORE: 1.0

The Expendables 2 Videogame is available for XBLA, PSN, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on PSN. 

Gridiron Grit or Grime?

Arcade sports games have been part of the gaming landscape for generations now, but have often taken a back seat to their full-on simulation brethren. Then in the late 90s, an arcade sports game unlike any other smashed onto the scene and redefined arcade football for a generation. This game was NFL Blitz. Unfortunately, as later iterations of the game were released and the NFL sank their hands deeper and deeper into the franchise, it became a watered down shell of its former self before finally shedding the NFL license in the hopes of keeping the franchise afloat. It did for a short time, but once Midway filed for Chapter 11, this beloved franchise was thought lost to the limbo of the once great franchises of yesteryear.

Flash-forward to the present day though where EA Sports has decided to resurrect this once great franchise in the hopes of catching fans ready for a return to arcade greatness. But is this new downloadable NFL Blitz even worthy of being mentioned in the same breath to those original smash mouth games of the late 90’s?

In some ways, yes it does. In other ways though, EA Sports’s version of NFL Blitz is very much the same watered down game that forced Midway to abandon the NFL license in the first place. The most glaring omission while playing the game is the infamous late hits that were allowed in the original version of the game. Elbow drops, suplexs, and various other maneuvers performed more by professional wrestlers than football players have been taken out, allowing those cocky players who we used to make pay for dancing in our end zones now plenty of time to work on their cha-chas.

The most frustrating aspect of the game though comes in the form of something I wish did not return: the rubberband A.I. At first, I thought most of my frustration came from the controls in that passing required you to look at your intended receiver, often resulting in misfires and interceptions. Although still a bit more sluggish that I would like for an arcade game, after changing the controls to the more traditional icon based passing (which is under Settings instead of Controls for some weird reason), I found that where I had placed much of my frustration in the controls came instead with the rubberband A.I.

I played against four human opponents and four computer opponents with the icon based passing after playing more than a dozen games with the look based mechanism, and no matter how big a lead I had, or how big a hole I had fallen into, the game never ended by more than a touchdown meaning the game had almost nothing to do with skill, like I had originally surmised, but more about what player could weather the storm of adversity the computer would throw its way better. The first game I played in Blitz Battles saw me to a 21-0 lead halfway through the 2nd quarter. My next three possessions saw me throw two near impossible interceptions (one was a deep ball picked off by a defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage…what the heck?!) and then fumble the kickoff after it was 21-14. It didn’t matter if I was looking at the receiver or pressing the B, X, or Y buttons. I would end up losing that game by a touchdown because once we were all caught up, the other player had the ball last and would have me swearing up a storm. I think I may have caused at least a few trips to therapy for that poor 10-year-old who was sick home from school.

On the flipside, a game I was losing 28-14 at the half, would cause the player on the other headset to start swearing up a storm, much to my chagrin, as I would inexorably break five tackles, without stiff arming or being on fire, on the opening half kickoff and sack him four times in a row and get the ball deep in his territory on his next possession. I didn’t have another sack for the rest of the game, but still won that one, also by a touchdown. And similar outcomes happened against the computer in the Blitz Gauntlet and Play Now modes.

I will say though in terms of positives, NFL Blitz may have the deepest online modes of any sports game out there, including simulation titles. If you can overcome the sometimes sluggish QB throwing animations and cheap A.I., competing in the online Elite Leagues and Battle Boards in order to earn Blitz Bucks is a deep experience full of team customization aspects that could make this a very addictive experience for some more enthusiastic players. Of course, the idea of having to play online with people in order to unlock many of the better aspects of the game like cheats and cheerleader load screens via Blitz Bucks seems like a clear way to bait players into playing in these leagues. Ahhhh…paying for cheerleaders…has shades of my prom night written all over it.

Anyway, when all is said and done, EA Sports’ version of NFL Blitz is a well put together game in terms of look and sound (the announcer from NBA Jam does the play-by-play and is just as hysterical in Blitz), but it feels like the watered down versions of the game from the early 2000s that got too far away from what made the original NFL Blitz really great. Horrible rubberband A.I. and clear influence from the No Fun League removes a lot of the potential fun of the game and makes me long more for the steroid inducing mini-games and good ol’ crazy Lawrence Taylor from the Blitz: The League spin-offs than anything else, even with just a $15 (1200 MSP) price-tag.

SUMMARY: Strong online modes and a crisp look and sound for the game can’t hide the fact that this is a watered down version similar to what caused many fans to leave the series in the first place.

  • THE GOOD: More online depth than most sports sims, never mind an arcade game
  • THE BAD: NFL influence waters down arcade greatness of original
  • THE UGLY: Zombies in football pads

SCORE: 6.5


NFL Blitz is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA) and PS3 (PSN). Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.

THE BUZZ: XBLAFans.com, known for breaking the first news about Gotham City Impostors and Alan Wake: Night Springs is back for a downloadable trifecta as they have come across evidence that early 90s arcade classic beat ‘em up The Simpsons may be ported sooner rather than later to XBLA. This information comes after they found out that the Australian Ratings Board recently reviewed the game and are citing Backbone Entertainment as the developer.

The original arcade game, released in 1991, revolved around you playing as one of four Simpsons in a race to save Maggie who has been kidnapped by Mr. Burns and Smithers. The first video game ever revolving around the now pop culture icons had action very similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 arcade game, which was also a Konami product.

EGM’S TAKE: Konami just had a poll on their Facebook page where they asked fans which of their arcade classics they would like to see put on consoles and The Simpsons won by a staggering amount. Also, if Backbone has indeed been brought on as a developer to tweak the game possibly, they have a long history of producing quality downloadable titles and would be a perfect match to re-fit the arcade game for XBLA or even touch it up in the vein that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time was a couple of years ago with new graphics and dubbed Re-Shelled. On top of this, an iOS version of The Simpsons was made in 2009 and sold very well and Konami has been in the market of making XBLA ports of their classic arcade games recently including the X-Men arcade game and the aforementioned remake of TMNT: Turtles in Time, so it seems all evidence is pointing to this being a very strong possibility although nothing truly concrete has surfaced yet. I for one though would buy this day one if it is true and hope we can get something more solid in the coming days from Konami or Backbone to confirm this development.

What do you folks think? Would you drop $10 on a port of this classic arcade game? How do you feel about Konami bringing back these classic arcade games as downloads on consoles? Did you ever play the original The Simpsons arcade game? Let us know with comments below!