Tag Archive: sega

2022 was a year that started and ended strong, with a slew of massive triple-A titles and darling indies that kept gamers busy for hundreds of hours across dozens of genres, making deciding my games of the year a particularly tough task. The only thing I am truly sure of, though, was that it was an unforgettable year as I rode the waves of adventure, hashed out my best strategies, and saved the world a few dozen times over before finally whittling down the list of contenders into this top five. 

05Sonic Frontiers

I’ll admit, I had low expectations for Sonic Frontiers, and maybe that’s why I was blown away by the experience it was able to deliver in the end. A couple of issues with the camera couldn’t take away from the fact that Sonic in an open-world setting just plain works here. Every island he explored to save his friends from a digital purgatory was a fresh new adventure that also found various ways to call back to Sonic’s past. Both the islands themselves (pinball anyone?!) and a half-dozen “levels” contained within that you could teleport to paid homage to Sonic games of the past. By the end, the Blue Blur had never looked better, and I had a hankering for some chili dogs. 

04Marvel’s Midnight Suns

Developer Firaxis is likely best known for XCOM, an intense, punishing, turn-based strategy series, so them taking a crack at the practitioners of the dark arts in the Marvel Universe seemed like an interesting idea. The studio was able to deliver both a memorable strategy experience and a game far more accessible than its usual fare. Marvel’s Midnight Suns’ card-based system, the removal of XCOM staples like fog of war and permadeath, and an explorable hub world outside of battles that holds its own secrets come together to provide a special strategy experience that is enjoyable for newcomers and veterans alike. Even the grind outside of story missions in order to enhance the Abbey, your fully upgradable base, never got old. When you take all this and throw in the settings of the larger Marvel universe, it made it difficult for me to put this game down. 

03Nobody Saves the World

It was late January and I had nothing on my docket to play, so I went scrolling through Xbox Game Pass and noticed Nobody Saves the World. It had a catchy title and a cute art style, and I saw it was made by DrinkBox Studios, the folks behind the Guacamelee! games and Severed, some of my favorite handheld releases from recent years. So, I took a chance and was not disappointed. Imagine an overhead adventure game, but filtered through the lens of DrinkBox’s humor and art style. It was both something familiar and new at the same time as you play the titular Nobody who has the power to become anybody: Mermaids, warriors, ghosts, dragons, and more as every new persona opens more to explore and offers you greater power as you try to save the world. It was so brilliantly done that it stayed in my top five the entire year. 

02Pokémon Legends: Arceus

The formula for Pokémon has worked so well for 25 years that while the mainline games have tried adding some bells and whistles, the series has stayed relatively close to its roots. What makes Pokémon Legends: Arceus so special, then, is that it’s probably the biggest deviation from what makes a great mainline Pokémon game, but still has those tenets of exploration, capturing, and battling. Journeying through the ancient Hisui region, finding variations or new evolutions for classic fan favorite Pokémon, and having to strategize more about each catch with the player character doing much of the workwas such a breath of fresh air that it made my return to the mainline series later in the year with Scarlet and Violet almost disappointing. The only hope now is that we’ll get another legend sometime in the future. 

01Horizon Forbidden West

This was my only easy choice on my list this year. There was no other world I spent as much time in as I explored every nook and cranny, completed every quest, and got to know every character on the way to my lone PlayStation Platinum trophy. Aloy and her allies took part in the most captivating story I experienced this year, and when combined with an unbelievably gorgeous world to explore and gameplay that never got old, it was the singular, most complete package I experienced in 2022. Every main and side quest felt organic to the world, whether it was helping out all the strangers Aloy met, laying waste to every robot animal in her path, or clearing the land so that it might heal. It did all this while setting up the next heart-pounding adventure that I cannot wait for. 

SPThe “Best Reason to Dust Off Your PS VR Headset” Award
Moss Book II

With Sony focusing on the future with its next VR headset, it should come as no surprise that support has somewhat dried up for the headset that’s still currently on the market. But one of my most anticipated sequels did finally drop on the PS VR (and later PC) this year, and it was absolutely worth digging out my PS4 controllers for. Moss: Book II continues the tale of Quill, a field mouse turned unlikely hero. With a larger world to explore and more powers to wield, Moss: Book II brilliantly builds on the first game in every way imaginable, and provides a premiere experience as VR continues to slowly grow in the gaming market.

SPThe “Unsuspecting Addiction” Award
Vampire Survivors

Sometimes there’s a game that’s so simple on its surface but has so much depth to it that it takes the gaming world by storm. This year, that game was Vampire Survivors. All you have to do is move around and try to avoid the ever-encroaching horde of undead enemies. But as you find items, meet new bosses, unlock new arenas, and continue to try to stay alive for longer and longer periods of time, a quick pick-up and play experience soon becomes one of the biggest time sinks, and most pleasant surprises, of the year.

SPThe “Don’t Forget About Me Because I Released So Late” Award
High on Life

It’s easy for a game released in mid-late December to get lost in the awards shuffle and then slip from people’s minds the following year. So, I wanted to highlight a solid shooter that is one of the funniest games you’re likely to ever play. If you’re a fan of Rick and Morty, then High on Life will be right up your alley. It feels like you’re injecting a full season of the show directly into your eyeballs as you’re guided through alien worlds by a set of talking weapons whose lack of filter is only matched by their bloodlust. 

I imagine when the folks from Wargaming met with Creative Assembly it went something like this:

Wargaming: “I love strategy and war.”

Creative Assembly: “I love strategy and war, too!”

Wargaming: “Did we just become best friends?!”

And thus the partnership that’s led to Total War: Arena started. (Okay, not really.)

The Total War series isn’t known really for its multiplayer options. It’s single-player has always shined, of course, with players reliving the campaigns of history’s greatest conflicts against the computer. On the multiplayer front, though, all you had were two human players standing at the heads of their respective armies in a one-on-one setting, or more recent iterations maxed out with a four-on-four offering.

Total War: Arena changes this by offering a full, 10-on-10, free-to-play showdown, with each player allowed to select their own legendary general from the annals of history, like Rome’s Julius Caesar or the English barbarian queen Boudica. Players can then bring into battle three different unit squads appropriate to their general, like foot soldiers, cavalry, siege weapons, or even war dogs. Each general also features a bevy of passive buffs and abilities you can activate in order to better assist your army.

Those three units are all that is available to players, though. Your three units and general will need to coordinate with the units other players on your team is bringing into battle in order to hopefully rout your opponents, or capture their base and ensure victory. It can lead to glorious multi-front chaos only available in a large player setting like this, but still relies heavily on the classic tenants of real-time strategy games in terms of how your units move and attack. It even touts the classic Total War morale system, where if you break an opponent unit’s spirit, they may just start a hasty retreat and give you the victory.

With any free-to-play offering, the question always comes up about how a game will monetize itself. There are some limited customization options you can pick up for each of your generals, but Total War: Arena leans more heavily on the highly successful World of Tanks model. This allows players to spend real world money to expedite levels, which in turn unlocks new and more powerful units for each of your respective generals.

Even though you’re in control of a legendary general, you’re really just one piece of a much larger army in each match you play, and in that regard Total War: Arena looks to capitalize on the greatest strategic endeavor there is: working as a team. If players can successfully come together, not only will you have a variety of legendary generals working together for a common goal, but also the strategic possibilities are endless. From blitzkriegs to pincer maneuvers, the 10-on-10 scenario feels like it is bringing true war to Total War, and is shaping up to be an excellent alternative for people looking for competitive multiplayer without the need for twitch reflexes.

Total War: Arena is currently in closed alpha on PC and is moving to closed beta later this year.

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal are two of the worst selling Sonic games of all time, according to Sega’s parent company’s quarterly earnings report.

Combined with the underperformance of these two games, Sega’s arcade business, Sammy’s amusement business, and an organizational restructure lead Sega Sammy to predict a 13 billion yen ($109 million) loss for this year.

Some highlights for Sega, though, included Alien: Isolation, which sold 1.76 million copies from it’s October release to the end of December, as well as Football Manager 2015, which sold 640,000 units for PC and mobile devices. I hear walking around in a suit on a grass field and watching a bunch of guys kick a ball around is big in other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, the two Sonic Boom games sold a combined 490,000 copies, easily making them the worst console games ever for the blue hedgehog, but continue what has been a marked downward trend for Sonic for years now. Sonic Colors sold 1.85 million units in a similar timespan in 2010 and Sonic Generations sold 1.63 million in 2011. Sonic: Lost World only sold 640,000 units, though, in 2013.

While some believe Sonic needs a new image (which I thought was what Sonic Boom was trying to do in the first place), the rest of us simply think Sonic needs good games again to get back on his loop-de-loop laden track. Critics and fans alike notoriously panned Sonic Boom. In fact, it was so bad it found a way into our annual Tobias Bruckner awards for the year’s worst of the worst.

We don’t know what’s ahead for Sonic and the Gang, but clearly adding a fancy scarf and a steroid-injected Knuckles was not the way to go.

Et tu, Sega?

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these game tie-in book reviews. Quite honestly, it’s not easy to review a book like a game or movie, because there’s a lot less to go on. A book is based solely on its creative merits. There aren’t any graphics to critique, there’s no voice acting to lament, and there aren’t any controls to put through their paces. So, if I tried placing a book review on a similar scale to a game review, I’d fail miserably. It’s not like I can knock off points for things like font choice or the type of paper used at the printer! With that being said, I got my hands on Total War Rome: Destroy Carthage, the first of what’s supposed to be a brand-new series of tie-in novels to the Total War series from Thomas Dunne Books. This one highlights Total War: Rome II, which was just released last week.

Written by renowned archaeological/historical-fiction author David Gibbins (Atlantis, Crusader Gold, The Mask of Troy), Destroy Carthage follows the life of the fictional Fabius Petronius Secundus to see how Rome transitioned between the Second and Third Punic Wars, culminating in the fall of Carthage in 146 B.C. While Fabius may be the main character here, the story is actually about how the very real Scipio Aemilianus Africanus rose to power in Rome and led his army through Carthage. The narrative takes Fabius’ point of view as Scipio’s second-in-command; our protagonist conveniently rides his commanding officer’s coattails, which gives us an interesting look at what one of ancient Rome’s most famous generals would’ve gone through to carry out his lifelong mission of wiping Carthage from the map.

And while Fabius isn’t the only fictional character created to help demonstrate certain factual Roman political, social, and combat traditions, Scipio’s also far from the only real man to make an appearance in the novel. The feared Hasdrubal, leader of Carthage during its fall; Polybius, famed Greek historian and adviser to Scipio; and Roman praetor and censor Marcus Porcius Cato (better known as Cato the Elder) all play major roles in the novel, just as they did in history.

Perhaps the most impressive element of Destroy Carthage is that it finds such a large thread of history that’s so accurately able to parallel the action of the game. While a few sections get into the trenches in rather gruesome detail—including the Battle of Pydna during Scipio’s teenage years and the siege of Carthage itself—the book is, by and large, a political thriller. While we might think of that term describing the modern-day wheelings and dealings in Washington, D.C., politics absolutely played a role in societies from millennia ago; striking this balance of less action and more intrigue helps the book do justice to a game that requires meticulous planning. It also shows Gibbins’ attention to detail—he paints a vivid picture of what ancient Roman life would’ve been like circa the second century B.C.

Unfortunately, this attention to minutiae makes Destroy Carthage a slog at times. Though it’s not surprising given Gibbins’ scholarly background, he takes few historical liberties beyond the handful of fictional characters. Several Latin phrases are liberally thrown around, and with Roman naming traditions being so alien from our own, it’s a bit confusing early on understanding just who everyone is and their role in society. It all comes together eventually, but I found myself looking at the appendix a bit more often than I might like, which broke up the pacing on several occasions. A perfect example is that Scipio Aemilianus is the younger son of Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus and was adopted by Publius Cornelius Scipio, eldest son of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, changing Scipio’s official name to Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus. By the end of the book, Scipio is Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus.

Despite all that, I enjoyed Total War Rome: Destroy Carthage. The hardcover price tag of $25.99 is about what you’d expect for a book of this size (352 pages), but if you’re low on cash, a paperback version will likely come sooner or later. If you enjoy immersing yourself in a historical time period and learning a bit about long-extinct cultures—or find yourself obsessed with the corresponding game and need something else to help augment your experience—this is a solid read that’s definitely worth your time.

Author: David Gibbins • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books • Pages: 352 (hardcover) • Release Date: 09.03.2013
The hardcover price tag of $25.99 is about what you’d expect for a hardcover book of this size. If you enjoy immersing yourself in a historical time period and learning a bit about long-extinct cultures—or find yourself obsessed with the corresponding game and need something else to help augment your experience—this is a solid read that’s definitely worth your time.
The Good More political thriller than action, this book serves as a solid tie-in to Total War: Rome II.
The Bad Though it’s historically accurate from a linguistic standpoint, the liberal use of Latin throws off the pacing and reading comprehension.
The Ugly The Roman centurion on the cover has a face only a mother could love.

Harsh winter, harsher reality

In America, we often glorify our own involvement in World War II. But it’s easy to forget about our alliesespecially the Soviets, who we’d subsequently spend much of the rest of the 20th century villainizing after the war. If Stalin and his men hadn’t forced the Nazis into a prolonged war on three fronts that bled Hitler’s boys dry, though, we might be living in a very different world indeed.

It’s easy to look back on a conflict that saw the loss of so manyand went on for so long—as a mere collection of dates and names of battles. It’s safer to just look at statistics (like the estimated 60 to 80 million deaths worldwide) and detach yourself from the thought of so much human suffering.

And that’s a major reason why Company of Heroes 2 is so fascinating. Not only does it highlight the war fought along the Eastern Front from 1941-1945, but the single-player campaign tells this underappreciated tale through the eyes of (fictional) lieutenant Lev Abramovich Isakovichand how he copes, years later, with the questionable tactics the Reds often used for “the sake of the greater good” as he’s interrogated by a former superior officer.

The campaign weaves its way through the greatest battles along the Eastern Front, from the very beginning with Operation Barbarossa, through to the bloody Battle of Stalingrad,  continuing to where the Soviets started turning the tables with Operation Iskra (as well as plenty of events around and in between these key moments), and forward right up until the end of the war. Each battle offers a specific set of mission-completion parameters that push your own strategic merits to the limit—and show off what Relic’s new Essence Engine 3.0 can do from a visual perspective.

Some of these visuals effects include the all-important, brand-new weather system that simulates blizzard conditions. The idea of “General Winter” is one that’s protected the Russians for generations, and to see it in full force in Company of Heroes 2 is a new wrinkle that shouldn’t be taken lightly; soldiers who stray from shelter or the warmth of a campfire for too long will start to suffer from hypothermia. There’s no worse feeling in Company of Heroes 2 than watching your soldiers drop, one by one, as they march across the frozen Soviet wasteland, leaving dead bodies in their wake like breadcrumbs. You’re struggling to search for salvation before you’ve even fired your first bullet.

The flipside, of course, is that General Winter can also create new terrain by freezing lakes and rivers. This allows clever players to send an enemy tank that’s decided to take a shortcut over thin ice to a watery grave or cut off a combatant’s retreat or advance with some well-placed mortar fire that shatters the ice.

But aside from this added wintery nuance and a tweaked line-of-sight system that requires your forces to actually be able to see something directly in order to remove the fog of war, there’s very little new here for returning players. That’s not to say that fans will be disappointed—far from it—but if you’re looking for extreme innovation, you might be disappointed.

But as much as Company of Heroes pros might be able to jump right in and get a relatively quick grasp on the situation, newcomers might be as lost as a hapless German soldier trapped behind enemy lines in the Russian winter. The campaign tutorials do little to explore the full upgrade branches of many troops; they limit players to abilities that would fit the situation. This provides a sense of realism rarely seen in an RTS, but it also makes it difficult to learn just what your units can do when certain abilities are suddenly missing for reasons that aren’t adequately explained.

When you get to the multiplayer aspects of Company of Heroes 2, the game is like most any other RTS title. You set up your base, acquire resources, upgrade troops, and attempt to annihilate the enemy from the map or capture certain objectives. Here, RTS vets will find a polished experience that provides a plethora of options to keep the experience fresh; you can set a variety of in-game parameters, such as the all-important weather scenario or computer-controlled AI options. But those coming here from the campaign will be in for a shock; the multiplayer pacing is drastically faster, and the first few matches might give players a rude awakening.

Company of Heroes 2 serves as a shining example of what the best developers can achieve in the RTS genre. The compelling characters and situations seen in single-player and the bountiful array of multiplayer options combine for a winning combination—like borscht and vodka.

Developer: Relic Entertainment • Publisher: Sega • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 06.25.13

While there’s little new here to differentiate between titles besides the change of scenery to WWII’s Eastern Front, Relic once again delivers a premiere RTS experience.

The Good Expansive single-player campaign that does real-life events justice while featuring a bevy of multiplayer options.
The Bad Not for newcomers—and nothing new for veterans.
The Ugly General Winter’s icy grasp.
Company of Heroes 2 is a PC exclusive. 

A Tail of Two Games

He is one of gaming’s most beloved mascots, but in recent years, the spiky speedster that is Sonic the Hedgehog has had trouble even getting out of the starting gates due to a difficult transition into the 3D realm. But, with games like Sonic Generations and the first episode of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, we’ve come to realize that Sonic’s natural environment may just be that of a classic side-scrolling platformer. So, when SEGA announced they were finally releasing the second episode for Sonic 4, many fans, myself included, could not wait to see if Sonic could hit the trifecta.

Unfortunately, where Sonic succeeded in his previous two side-scrolling forays, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is held back by one key factor: Sonic’s ever-irritating sidekick, Tails. And it’s not that I mind Tails’ presence in the game, but more that SEGA felt the need to force Sonic to share the spotlight with his sidekick. In fact, the game almost feels more like a Tails game than it does a continuation of a Sonic adventure. Many of the puzzles, obstacles, and even boss battles require you to team-up with Tails in order to navigate the branching pathways of the four new acts presented to us. Whether grabbing Sonic and briefly flying with him to scale a particularly steep cliff or a special double-spin attack that lets you barrel over nearly everything in your path, the emphasis on Tails is ever-present and quite off-putting if you’re an old-school fan.

Another down point is that even though the controls have been tweaked and it is nice that Sonic feels a lot smoother than in Episode I, with the Tails team-up maneuvers, it feels like you’re fighting your joystick a lot of the time when flying or rolling in the double-spin. Just another aspect of the game that is taken down a notch due to Tails’ overbearing presence.

There are some positives to this game as well though. The audio/visual aspect of the game is absolutely top-notch. From racing down rickety roller coasters, to working your way through a Robotnik Oil Refinery, or sliding down snow-covered slopes, the level design is diverse and no two areas really look the same. The music, specially tailored to sound like the 16-bit tunes of old, are simple, but catchy, successfully reminding us of Sonic’s past exploits.

There are even some positives to Tails. Since they make you drag the fox around anyway, as he continues being flattened, forked, and flambéed as he gets left behind constantly when just being controlled by the computer, the least SEGA was able to do was insert both local and online 2-player co-op. Playing with a friend as Tails is still difficult depending on your communication skills, but at least it’s a lot more entertaining when you can yell at your friend for dropping you instead of the computer.

The game also offers a fair amount of replayability with the time trials feature where you can upload your times to an online leaderboard, and there are always those seven Chaos Emeralds to collect. As a nice additional bonus, if you purchased Sonic 4: Episode I, once you beat Episode II, you can unlock an additional act where you can play as Metal Sonic and learn just how it was that he came back as he traces a unique path through levels from the first few Sonic games. These levels were particularly fun as it gives fans a chance to revisit some classic locales as well as you don’t have to deal with an irritating sidekick most of the time.

All in all, this game does a decent job of finishing off the Sonic 4 story and does offer enough platforming and old-school elements that should please hardcore fans enough that they can look past many of the game’s shortcomings. It is efforts like this though that remind us why so many people consider Tails a nuisance as him hogging the spotlight for this game really forced a lot of the game play to take a step back from what fans expect and appreciate from an old-school Sonic adventure.

SUMMARY:  The controls took a surprising step back and there were too many puzzles that required Tails’ assistance for my liking. If you can get past these though, there is a solid Sonic adventure here at its core that’s worth taking a look at for long-time fans.

  • THE GOOD: Classic Sonic style action in bright and colorful new locales
  • THE BAD: Tails-centric obstacles and puzzles
  • THE UGLY: A.I. Tails still constantly getting killed just like in Sonic 2

SCORE: 6.5

Sonic 4: Episode II is available on XBLA (Xbox 360), PSN (PS3) and PC. Primary version reviewed was on XBLA (Xbox 360).  

This was a surprisingly tough Pullbox to put together this week as there just wasn’t a lot of titles that stood out to me as most issues, especially with all these re-launches going on from both Marvel and DC, are just building up to the bigger action with these issues serving more as a lot of plot development right now. Still, I was able to pull a few out that I think are worthy of your attention so without further ado, here is this week’s Pullbox!

1) DC – Red Lanterns #3: Atrocitus has picked Bleez as his lieutenant and restored her intelligence, but he may be learning that there is a reason that the red makes many of its followers blind with rage as Bleez immediately begins showing her lack of loyalty to the Red Lantern leader now that she is thinking for herself again. Great artwork obviously punctuated with a lot vibrant reds throughout this book, the story is a clear example of what I was talking about above. We get Bleez’s bio and why she was chosen to part of the red, as well as why she has skeletal wings in this issue. We also see what could become a lot of drama for the Red Lanterns later on as without a Lantern war going on to focus their rage, the infighting may begin sooner rather later and Red Lantern vs Red Lantern spells one thing: bloodbath. At least Atrocitus still has his kitty.

2) DC – Swamp Thing #3: I make it a point to try to give you some variety whenever I do the Pullbox each week, but one comic that has been consistently awesome and surprisingly so is Swamp Thing as I’ve featured all three issues now. Alec Holland realizes that he may not have a choice in becoming the defender of the green once again as he learns that while he may be the jolly green knight for the environment, that the rot, the blackness, has a champion as well and with the help of Abigail Arcane, Swamp Thing must prevent the two from merging or be thrust into an all out war for life on earth to continue! Again, a lot more story than anything setting up what can be an awesome confrontation, to see the champion of the black’s powers begin to emerge where he controls rotting and dead flesh and to see what he does in a cancer hospital…all I can say is wow. Gruesome, grotesque, and with more to come, Swamp Thing was one of my few easy choices this week.

3) Marvel – Avengers Academy #21: The original members of the Avengers Academy are forced to accept new members into the old West Coast Avengers mansion as tensions run high as they feel like they are being replaced and new enemies begin to reveal their plans against the Academy. The highlight of this issue is clearly when the lack of communication between Hank Pym and the students reaches a boiling point and erupts into a giant brawl between Luke Cage, Hawkeye, Captain America, and Hank Pym against the original Academy members (minus Veil who left last issue). This massive positive is what propelled this issue into the Pullbox this week because the reveal at the end of the comic where the Acadmey kids from the future have indeed turned evil reminds me too much of a Teen Titans story from a few years ago where the Titans had to take on their future selves. If this is the route this comic is going then as much as I’ve enjoyed this book for the past almost two years, it may be going into the territory of having itself removed if that is indeed the story Marvel is setting up.

4) Marvel – Uncanny X-Men #1: As we continue to see the fallout from Schism with the X-Men, we see just what lengths Scott Summers is willing to go in order to try to save what is left of mutantkind. Unfortunately, an old nemesis from the past, Mr. Sinister, has the same idea, but is going to about things in a very different way and the sleeping Celestial sticking out of San Francisco looks to be a key part of his plans. Although the issue is paced a bit too quickly for my liking, to see Marvel finally work the Celestial back into a story after several years of it just hanging in the background of battles taking place in San Francisco is great. Not to mention Sinister’s new hipster look makes everyone know right from the get-go that his intentions are…well…sinister. Lots of action including Colossus still struggling with the power of the Juggernaut, which I can’t wait for that fallout sooner or later, and this is a very solid re-launch to one of Marvel’s standbys from all the way back in the 1960s.

5) Archie – Sonic The Hedgehog #230: I admit that I was very tempted to pick Last of the Greats #2 as my indie pick, but when you stick a 20th anniversary label on something, I have to pick it up. Basically, Sonic, set in the cartoon universe of the early 90s where Eggman is still Robotnik and Sonic has a whole slew of friends called the freedom fighters have stopped Robotnik’s latest plan to robotize the planet Mobius. But it comes at a cost that Sonic might not be able to bear. Honestly, the fact that Sonic has had an ongoing comic for this long in and of itself is mind boggling, but if you’re like me and actually remember watching the short lived Saturday morning cartoon starring Jaleel White (yes, Steve Urkel did this voice of Sonic the Hedgehog), then you’ll probably enjoy reliving a small slice of childhood with this 20th anniversary issue commemorating the release of Sonic Generations celebrating Sonic’s grand run in gaming to date.

Originally Published: September 6, 2011, on EGMMAG.com

The Good: The first real “hardcore” game on the Kinect
The Bad: The lack of ever feeling in real danger, fatigue from playing too long
The Ugly: The macabre clockwork zombies you’ll face by the dozens

Rise of Nightmares is being touted as the first “hardcore” game for the Kinect as it focuses more on a single player narrative experience instead of the party or fitness games we’ve seen to date. You play as Josh, an American tourist on vacation in Romania, trying to put his marriage back together with his wife. While taking a train through the countryside, you and your wife get into another argument and she storms off towards the dining car. After some time, you pursue her, but when you finally catch up, the unimaginable is waiting for him. A Frankenstein like-monster has your wife in his arms and as you begin to give chase, the train derails and is flung into a river. When you come to, you and the other survivors come across a mansion in the woods and your instincts say that whatever that thing was, it took your wife here.

Rise of Nightmares may break ground as the first “hardcore” Kinect game, but I feel it is more limited by the technology than empowered by it. If you really want to set the mood and try to give yourself a scare by turning off the lights while playing, you can’t because then the Kinect can’t see you and you can’t progress so whether you like it or not, all the lights in the room have to stay on.

Then comes the combat. There are no guns in the game so you have to get up close and personal with nearly every foe you face. And while it does feel satisfying to punch a zombie out with brass knuckles, bash what’s left of their brains in with a lead pipe, or dismember them with a bloody chainsaw, because of all the movement that is involved with setting yourself up for the kill, the game’s A.I. is beyond simple to prevent frustration with the Kinect controls. In turn, this nullifies the fear factor because you never feel like your character is in any real danger most of the time when the zombies shuffle onto the screen. Many zombies will simply shamble right into the path of whatever weapon you are wielding and the larger challenge comes in keeping your real-life stamina up than in mowing down the constant stream of proverbial cannon fodder.

And this leads us to the fatigue factor. Although the movement and combat controls are simplified and picked up rather well for the most part once you get used to them, like shifting your shoulders to turn around, sticking one leg out to walk, and various quick time inspired events like ducking or climbing, you may become too tired to devote a long amount of time to the game per play session. I played for three hours the first time I put the disc in and didn’t realize till afterward that since movement is only controlled by one leg, that what became my pivot leg’s knee had locked up from putting my weight on it constantly for much of the game as I explored the castle grounds.

Despite what are really just minor annoyances though, the game is actually a solid experience overall. You could write off the “shambling” of the zombies to their uniquely written macabre clockwork origins, even if they aren’t that threatening, and the plot is engaging enough, with just enough cheesy B-horror movie voice acting, to make you want to push on with the story and find out the mysteries lurking in the castle. There are also some very satisfying moments sprinkled in like digging through a fresh cadaver or fishing through a blood filled toilet for items, or luring zombies into some of the mansion’s traps like giant rotating blades or electrified water. It’s just at the end of the day, although different from any other gaming experience I’ve ever had because of the Kinect controls, I can’t help but feel that I would have preferred having a traditional controller in my hand during a lot of it. Still, if you’re looking to get some more use out of your Kinect, this is a fine example of the potential for this device if developers turn themselves away from the cheesy party and exercise games and really focus on giving you a gaming experience.

Score: 7.0

Originally Published: July 19, 2011, on EGMNOW.com

Game Name: Captain America: Super Soldier

By: Ray Carsillo

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Next Level Games
Platforms: 3DS, DS, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360

The Good: Stellar shield mechanics makes you really feel like the Star-Spangled Avenger
The Bad: Uneven plot pacing leaves you feeling vaguely dissatisfied
The Ugly: Unnecessary acrobatic sequences too often break the flow of action

In an adventure worthy of the character’s long history, Captain America: Super Soldier takes some liberties in regards to the original comic story lines, but from the get go fans will know that Cap is in his classic element and I can’t imagine it feeling better than how this game portrays it. From working your way through WWII trenches and punching out HYDRA foot soldiers, to taking on some Arnim Zola inspired monstrosities in German warehouses, the action sequences are worthy of any comic book hero as Cap pursues his long time nemesis, the Red Skull, deep into Nazi controlled Europe.

The first thing anyone should want to try out is Cap’s iconic shield, which handles surprisingly well in both offensive and defensive situations and feels like a natural extension of Cap. Aside from deflecting punches or bullets, the shield’s offensive capabilities have it so you can get the drop on your enemies from afar or use it in its own combo as it bounces off three, four, or even five enemies at a time just like Cap does in the comics. And for more personal combat, the game takes a page out of the Batman: Arkham Asylum handbook. Cap will often find himself surrounded by various foes, but by stringing together punches, kicks, and properly using your shield to counterattack, you can pull off combos that will leave your enemies sprawled at your feet and you no worse for ware, even if it feels a bit more stiff than the inspiration from which the system seems to be taken.

Unfortunately, for as good as the fighting feels, there are also a lot of unnecessary points to the game play, specifically some acrobatic and platforming situations that seem more akin to Assassin’s Creed or Prince of Persia, but far too linear. Although meaning to show how Cap could use his superhuman abilities to get around, the sequences often came at the sacrifice of the flow of action and jarred you out of the world you found yourself in as you tried to needlessly time these forced maneuvers.

All things considered though, when you include cameos by some of Cap’s classic allies like Nick Fury, the Invaders, and Bucky Barnes while taking down iconic foes like Baron von Strucker, Madame Hydra, and the Red Skull himself in this comic worthy storyline and the positives clearly outweigh the negatives as any Cap fan will be thrilled by how well-portrayed the Star-Spangled Avenger is overall in this game.

Score: 7.5

Originally Published: June 28, 2011, on EGMNOW.COM


Binary Domain boils down to a futuristic sci-fi shooter against sentient robots, akin to something like Terminator, but there is so much more going on with this game that just grabs you by the balls and yells “PLAY ME!” The controls for one felt very natural for a shooter and the game itself had a very polished, cinematic look already going for it. “The team is really dedicated to the look and feel of the game. And that’s one of the things they really concentrated on graphics wise was to give it a different look and a different texture. Something different, but still giving it a shooter look and feel,” said Dan Gallardo, part of the Marketing team for SEGA.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the integration of the RPG-elements, like squad selection pre-mission and path selection once you move into the mission. This adds replay value to the game as each mission could be done multiple times and play out differently each time. For example, do you want a demolitions expert to blow a hole through a wall to get to your objective, or a sniper to provide cover fire while you try to sneak around back? When taking on the boss of the first level, a giant bi-pedal robot laden with turrets and missile launchers, I chose to use my heavy machine gunner to draw the big bot’s attention while I ran to the roof of a nearby apartment building and took fire at its barely exposed weak point on the top of its head. Lots of guns, lots of options, and a sci-fi feel all make me very excited for Binary Domain.