Tag Archive: xbox live

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
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.

Stack This!

Originally Published: February 27, 2011, on my StrongProtector account on GiantBomb.com

They had us save a world of metal and then showed us that there is still a little magic left in Halloween. So what would the folks at Double Fine Productions have for us next? Well, they felt we needed a little bit of a break and could play with some dolls. Specifically, Russian matryoshka, or babushka, dolls.

In Stacking, you are in a world similar to ours during the industrial revolution near the turn of the 20th century, but the entire population is made up of babushka dolls of varying sizes and you play as the smallest one of them all, Charlie Blackmore Charlie and his family have fallen on hard times when an industrialist named The Baron hires Charlie’s father to be his chimney sweep. But then days turn into weeks and then into months and Charlie’s father is nowhere to be found. In order to pay the rising debt the family owes, the Blackmore children are all then forced into slave labor by The Baron and his men. All that is except Charlie, who is deemed too small to be of any worth in the labor force.

Determined to save his siblings and put a stop to The Baron and his child labor schemes once and for all, Charlie sets out ready to show that it isn’t the size of the doll in the fight, but the size of the fight in the doll, or doll within a doll within a doll.

Being the smallest member of his community, Charlie has a unique talent that most others around him would be shocked to know. He can control other dolls. Well, he can stack into them anyway and then use their own unique talents around the world Charlie finds himself in while on his quest to free his family. Whether needing to take over a mechanic in order to access ventilation ducts, a fire chief in order to put out a fire, or a boxer to smash some heads with a proper uppercut, the puzzles laid before you are all rather straightforward and will require a minimum of effort for you to figure you out. The only hard part you’ll find is making sure you have the right size doll in your control to stack into the next size up.

This simple gameplay mechanic is really the entire premise of the game as you’ll work your way through some beautifully designed levels inspired by the time period like train stations, cruise ships, and zeppelins. Also fitting of the time period, and since babushka dolls don’t talk, the cut scenes are done in the silent film style where you cut to a grainy full screen of text before continuing the scene. Add in the player piano themes and although there is no voice acting whatsoever, the audio is still good, if not great.

The biggest downside of Stacking though is that the game is too short. Sure, there are plenty of collectibles and alternate ways to complete mission objectives if you’re looking to pad your achievements or trophies, but if you’re just looking for a varied gameplay experience and deep plot, then this is not the game for you, especially considering the $14.99 PSN and 1200 Microsoft point price tag that comes with Stacking. The only reason why the game doesn’t start to feel tedious is because it should only take you two or three hours to beat the entire story.

Although with just as much humor and polish as previous Double Fine titles, Stacking just doesn’t have enough content to warrant such a large price tag for this downloadable game. Without a glitch to be found and with a premise that was as inventive as this one, I wish I could just sing the praises about Stacking, but at the end of the day the game is too short, simple, and just not as fun or as addictive as it could be. Since it is technically very sound, if you’re still curious about Stacking, I would recommend waiting for it to go on sale or be included as some sort of downloadable game deal before making this a part of your collection.

Ratings based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 10.0: Although the character designs are as simple as can be, the world of Stacking comes off without a glitch and the perspective change as you move into larger and smaller dolls is seamless. I can’t think of how Double Fine could have made this world they crafted come to life any better.

Audio: 8.0: It may have been inventive to use the silent movie style for the cut scenes, but I really would have preferred voice actors. Aside from this, the classic piano themes and “click-clack” SFX as you enter and exit various dolls work perfectly.

Plot/Plot Develoment: 7.0: A very basic and predictable plot that does the job, but is really nothing more than a vehicle for the concept of Stacking.

Gameplay: 6.0: Innovative and unique, the core gameplay of Stacking, although glitchless, does become very repetitive over the short time you’ll be playing this game. Combine this with simple puzzles and you have an interesting experience that just fails to impress beyond the initial few moments.

Replay Value: 6.0: There may be several ways to complete each puzzle and a variety of collectibles to find on each level, but most are so simple to solve that even if you come back to finish the game, it shouldn’t take you more than five hours to get to 100% and there isn’t enough here to make you play through the game again.

Overall (not an average): 6.5: Stacking is a very polished downloadable game, but considering the lack of content you get for the $15 price tag and I’d wait until this game went on sale before seeing this as a truly worthwhile purchase.


Originally Published: February 27, 2011, on my StrongProtector profile on GiantBomb.com

While growing up, I passed on playing the original Bionic Commando for the NES. Money was tight, there wasn’t as much media covering video games to help us make informed decisions, and I was only three years old. But I had always heard later on just how awesome it was to use a grappling hook to get around and shoot pseudo-Nazis and felt I missed out.

Of course, 20 years later I would get my chance when the original Bionic Commando would be remade as a 2.5 D port named Bionic Commando Rearmed. Then, Capcom published a 3D action-platformer Bionic Commando that was supposed to take place 10 years after Nathan “Rad” Spencer’s original adventure and saw the story take a drastic turn into a post-apocalyptic conspiracy theory driven world with very little explanation, but had some sweet new elements, like grenade launchers and the ability to actually jump.

Finally, Capcom and developer Fatshark, who took over for developer GRIN who had started the work on this game before folding in 2009, decided that they needed to fill in the chronological gap between those two titles and see what they could do if they combined the most popular elements from both games. And so I present to you Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 and let me tell you, it brings a lot more to the table than just a sweet porno mustache for Rad.

The plot is similar to the original Bionic Commando, but instead of going after pseudo-Nazis and Generalissimo Killt, you are going after a Fidel Castro type named General Sabio who is threatening to bomb the FSA from his just off-shore island nation of Papagaya. The FSA sends in decorated war veteran (and Ed Harris look-alike) Colonel Buebaker, but he quickly disappears and so a team of bionics, spear-headed by Spencer, is sent in to retrieve the Colonel and defuse the missile crisis.

General Sabio is far more brilliant than Killt ever was though and aside from just employing some tanks and goons in jumpsuits, Sabio also has a variety of flying drones, tanks that can climb up walls, and some special jungle themed robots that will cause havoc for Spencer and his crew.

And speaking of jungle themes, the look of Rearmed 2 is much brighter than in the original. The first Rearmed was limited in its level design and color palette because it was taking so much from the original Bionic Commando. With Rearmed 2 being its own special adventure, I’m sure the idea to drop Spencer onto a tropical island wasn’t a mistake. From the dull, bland colors of prisons and robot factories, to dank mines, lush jungles, and snow covered peaks, I started having flashbacks to my SNES days and the original Donkey Kong Country because of the great variety of landscapes you have to traverse and how much they just seem to jump off the screen.

If familiar with the Bionic Commando series then the audio won’t surprise you as much as the graphics. Many of the themes from Rearmed and the 2009 3D Bionic Commando return with a few tweaks and keeping with the tradition of its Rearmed predecessor, there are almost no voiceovers whatsoever besides a few exclamations from fallen foes.

The biggest difference between Rearmed 1 and Rearmed 2 though comes in the gameplay. The basic mechanics are still there like using your grappling hook to get around and you have a variety of guns to take down your foes. But now included is a feature from the 3D Bionic Commando and that is the ability to jump.

Now, many diehards of the original game took up arms when they heard of this development for this new side-scroller in the series, and it does make it feel a bit more like a traditional platformer, but it really is a plus because it allowed for a larger variety of puzzles and scenarios to put Nathan into that may have been limited otherwise. And the diehard purists out there need not fear. If after playing through the game once you are still not convinced a jump ability is for the best, you can unlock a “no jump” mode that allows Nathan to move through the game in his old-school swing only style.

Aside from this, to go along with old school collectibles like Yashichis, Nathan also sees new upgrades to his arm like a grenade launcher that fits into his shoulder or ammo regeneration that, much like the 3D Bionic Commando, he can collect either initially or by revisiting levels later on. There is also the inclusion of his “Death from Above” maneuver that is great for breaking through weak floors or wiping out several foes at once.

There is also a completely new ability called Bio Vision that acts much like Samus’s scanners from Metroid Prime where you can pause the game and scan the world around you to find out information like what weapons barriers are weak against and clues on how to take down bosses.

My biggest complaint with Rearmed 2 is that they took away a lot of the staple elements from the original game like the overhead map where you could choose what path you take and instead have laid out a linear path where beating one level leads right into the next one. Also, the ceiling view mini-levels that would start when you bumped into an enemy truck have been removed completely. Although not the most memorable aspects of the original Bionic Commando, the ceiling-view mini-levels were a nice break from the meat and potatoes side-scrolling levels and were a solid attempt at mixing up the gameplay.

When all is said and done, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 takes elements from its predecessors, but is really its own game more than just a carbon copy of either one. The physics with the grappling hook are very tight and the puzzles, bosses, and level design hark back to a simpler, yet more difficult time in platform gaming. The jump feature will irritate purists, but overall was a necessary evolution for this franchise and although the gameplay is now very linear, there are twice as many levels as in Rearmed 1 making the single player campaign nearly a 10 hour experience. Add in local co-op multiplayer, the return and expansion of the challenge rooms, and online leaderboards for speed runs for each level and Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is well worth its $15 price tag.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 9.0: Continuing with the same style as the first Rearmed, the 2.5D world that Nathan finds himself in is far more colorful and diverse compared to the world based off the original Bionic Commando. This vibrant style is a pleasure for the eyes and only loses a point due to the simple picture inserts used instead of cut scenes.

Sound: 7.0: Although some brilliant new songs flesh out the soundtrack that features a revamped version of the original Bionic Commando themes, a lack of voice acting and repetitive screams of pain from dying foes is definitely a downpoint.

Plot/Plot Development: 8.5: Paying homage to the original Bionic Commando which was modeled after Nazi Germany, Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 did a brilliant job modeling itself after Fidel Castro’s Cuba. This also made the villains somewhat predictable though in just what they would try to do unfortunately. At least the game did a great job of bridging the gap between the original Bionic Commando and the 2009 3D platformer release.

Gameplay: 7.5: Although there are some great additions to the series like finally being able to jump (even if purists out there were grinding their teeth about it) and some new weapons was something to help keep this from being a straight rip off of the first Rearmed. Unfortunately, some of the swinging glitches and some brand new ones caused by the jumping tend to crop up and makes the platforming even more difficult than it needs to be. Throw in the linearity implemented in this new game’s level selection and the gameplay isn’t as strong as most would like.

Replay Value: 8.0: A lack of a versus mode is unfortunate, but with dozens of collectibles scattered around each world, co-op available in the story mode, the return of the challenge modes, and a variety of difficulty levels makes this have some very solid replay value for a downloadable title.

Overall (not an average): 8.0: For the amount of content you get for the price tag on Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, this is a great game, but it does lack the polish you would like from a completed game and that keeps this from reaching elite status. If you are a fan of the Bionic Commando series though, this is an easy purchase.


Originally Published: January 25, 2011, on youtube.com/CGRundertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Shadow Complex from Epic Games for the Xbox Live Arcade.

Originally Published: January 11, 2011, on youtube.com/cgrundertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, an exclusive for the Xbox Live Arcade from Konami.

Originally Published: December 28, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Bionic Commando Rearmed from Capcom from the Xbox Live Arcade.

Originally Published: December 19, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for the Xbox Live Arcade.

Originally Published: December 15, 2010, on youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed the Costume Quest: Grubbins on Ice DLC for the XBox Live Arcade.

Originally Published: December 10, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I was forced to review possibly the worst game of all time in Avatar’s Rock from the Xbox Live Arcade.

Originally Published: October 13, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Hypership Out of Control! for Xbox Live Arcade, a Galaga inspired game devoid of achievements.