Archive for the ‘Puzzle’ Category

(Caution: May Contain Slight Spoilers)

If you’ve been living under a rock recently, or if you’ve been doing something productive, rather than play video games, then you’ll know about a new sequel to a very popular title. A title that won several awards, and was credited as one of the most influential games of the first decade of the 21st century. And the name of this title? Well, Portal of course. That little puzzle game that came bundled in The Orange Box proved so popular it’s managed to get its own sequel; Portal 2.  With so much hype generated this title is worth a look. So let’s dive into the blue portal, and fly out the orange one, and see if lightning can strike twice.

Portal 2 Screenshot

How does Portal 2 measure up to the original Portal?

Portal 2 is set after the events of the first game. It doesn’t tell you how long after though. You wake up in a seemingly normal looking hotel room, with an announcer’s voice asking you to perform simple tasks, like look up down, stare at art, and listen to music. You are then told to go back to sleep. 5 seconds later you wake up to the same room… which now looks like a bomb site. Looking around you are then introduced to your only friend; Wheatley. He’s a tiny robotic sphere with a single eye, dangling from a ceiling rail, and is kind of a guide and an assistant to help you get through Aperture Science.  This is where your adventure begins. What I like about the storytelling, and the pacing is that there’s no narrator telling you the tale, or an internal monologue spelling everything out for you; you find out by exploring, by thinking for yourself. By allowing the player to think for themselves, they become more immersed in the experience, and enjoy it more when plot twists occur.  One good example is returning to the chamber where you destroyed GLaDOS. When I saw her crumpled mass all over the floor, I just thought, ‘Wow… I did all this?’ while my mouth was open. And when you see her slowly revived, I was swearing (a lot) in my head, and getting quite intimidated. If the game spelled out what you should be feeling, I bet the scene wouldn’t be as effective.

If you played the first Portal, you’ll be instantly used to the gameplay in the second game; it’s the same basic mechanic. For those who are confused about how portals work here’s a quick explanation. Chell, the main character (you) has the use of a ‘portal gun’. It can fire two portals of different colours; blue and orange. These are link to each other, so you can enter one portal, and exit the other. So if you were to shoot a portal at the floor, and one on a nearby wall, you can jump into the floor and appear by the wall. The first game really tested your intelligence, challenging you to use these portals to reach the exit. The second game does that just as well, but it also ramps up the difficulty by introducing extra items to use. The weighted cubes return, but you also need to make use of lasers, coloured goo (which can either bounce you higher, make you run faster, or allow portals to be placed anywhere), gravity fields and light bridges. These challenges cause you to think so far out of the box it’s in another room. In another house.

Portal 2 Cover Art

Portal 2 is available now on Playstation 3, X-Box 360 and PC/Mac

What I liked about Portal is the emotions it invoked. One particularly notable section was when Chell discovered an opening behind some panels. Inside was drawings and pictures from other test subjects who had failed. When looking around, I honestly got the feeling like I shouldn’t be there; like I was outside of the game. And that was a genuine thought as the game didn’t need to explain to you that you didn’t need to be there. When I played Portal 2 I was wondering if they would do something similar. Wandering through all the levels I was beginning to wonder if they’d do anything like in Portal. By the time I reached what I thought was the end, the game carried on to a new section of the game. After a particular scene, it made me think the game should’ve ended; I should have beaten the game. But I was made to traverse even more obstacles. Usually that would be a negative, but the way the story played out means it became a good pivoting moment in the plot.

Even if you manage to beat the solo campaign (and I mean barely beat) there’s the multiplayer cooperative mode to try. This time you don’t play as Chell, but two robots who must work together to complete GLaDOS’ tests. These robots are known as Atlas (because his blue body is the shape of a globe) andPeabody(the orange bot with the thin torso).  They both have a portal gun each, and both shoot two different portals; Atlas can fire blue and purple portals, whilePeabodyuses Red and yellow.  Neither can talk, so can’t tell the other partner what needs to be done to solve the puzzle. Instead, they make use of aPingtool, which allows either robot to indicate where the attention should be drawn to. Usually in a co op campaign both players can just talk to each other, but this use of the ping tool is quite clever; it means players must think more about how to communicate their ideas and work together. Portal 2’s co op is not about rushing ahead of your partner blindly; it’s about taking the time to look at your surroundings, formulate a plan, and exercise perfect teamwork. It makes a nice change to usual online gaming, which is run ahead and shout at anyone who isn’t as good as you.  I had a partner to help me with the co op mode, and asked for his opinion on the game. ‘Connorsts94’ says that the Co op is well thought out, and it provides quite a challenge having to place 4 portals correctly. He also enjoyed the solo mode’s story and humour, which is just like the first Portal.

Special mention should be made to the two biggest characters in the game: GLaDOS and Wheatley. The voice acting is brilliant in this game, especially Wheatley. He is played by Stephen Merchant, which came as a huge surprise to me… as I thought he was hilarious. I usually avoided him for his association with Ricky Gervais, but Merchant’s voice acting was top notch. GLaDOS is, as usual, excellent in her acting skills. She retains the wit from the first game, while showing even more emotion when it’s needed (you’ll see why when you play the game).

If I did have to mark it down, it would be the levels of frustration that appear when you get stuck on a particular puzzle. There will be times you’ll wander round the entire section, and become angrier and angrier with each second. And on some occasions, when I found the solution at a distance and in a hard to miss spot, I found myself shouting, “Oh come on!”. Sometimes you feel like you’ve achieved something solving the puzzles, other times you just feel glad you got past the level after 2 hours of running through portals.

At the end of the day though, I really enjoyed playing Portal 2. It’s clever, challenging, and makes for a great game to immerse yourself in. Is it better than Portal 1? Oh yes, but don’t count out the first game. This is one game that’s worth the hype.

Score: 10/10

Review found on a desk at Black Mesa by: Satchel

Thanks to Connorsts94 for putting up with my dim attempts to solve the co op levels.

Buy Portal 2 (Xbox 360) from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Portal 2 (PS3) from Amazon.co.uk

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Those of you who know me know my views on the 3DS and those that don’t know me please read my Nintendo 3DS Preview Post Now we’re all caught up to date, who wants a review of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the 3DS.

Link vs. Robin Hood Comparison

Seriously!! Link meet Robin, Robin this is LInk

Firstly, I feel as though it would benefit us all if we took a look at the original and told our readers who don’t know about Zelda what the game is all about. You play the role of Link – a hero who looks strangely like Robin Hood. You travel around a kingdom called Hyrule in a sacred attempt to defeat a guy called Ganondorf who is attempting to find a relic known as a Triforce. (Keeping up) The triforce has the power to grant its owners’ wishes and Link is seriously against this. And all of this because you are the chosen one who gets woken up by a damn fairy, referred to as Navi. (Still keeping up) So with your trusty fairy, (Did I just say trusty fairy) you navigate caves, search through dungeons, get eaten by a big whale (No, I’m not joking) all in your attempts to stop this guy (Ganondorf) from petty theft. The ocarina plays a major part in the game, as you have to play it to go back and forwards in time, and other things such as summon your horse (If memory serves me well)

So why would you want this and not the original, here’s my review. This is not a re-working, so anyone who questions my reviewing abilities can go and stand on a very busy motorway. Although they have updated the graphics and they have included two new ‘never before seen’ modes for those who want something a little different from the original (Although why would you want to change the original) The extra modes (At least according to Game) are Master Quest and Boss Challenge. The Master Quest mode though just seems rather useless as the only differences are that the land of Hyrule is mirrored (A rather boring novelty in most games) puzzles appear harder and you have to think about them (Isn’t that why they are called puzzles) items and enemies will appear in different locations and enemies will prove more difficult to beat (Has anyone even attempted beating Ganondorf on the N64, he was difficult to begin with) The Boss Challenge mode, does what it says on the tin and offers the player the ability to ‘face any of the previous Bosses they have defeated once again, or, the option to face and confront them one-by-one, all in a continuous battle.’ This made me, once again wonder if Nintendo are just taking your money for the re-release of a game, as this mode seems mundane, and I wonder just how many people would use it.

Graphics / Screenshots of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 3DS

Is it me or are these graphics just not as impressive as expected

Now knowing that my reviews and previews for anything Nintendo get scrutinised quite a bit it would make sense for me to tell you the other features, in case someone points out that I haven’t. Well I’ll tell you some of the main new features. The first main feature is that it’s all in ‘glorious’ 3D, and I used the quotation marks because I know a lot of my fellow gamers see this feature as a novelty, and other people see this as a nauseous experience. (Their words, not mine) The original control scheme has gone out of the window to be ‘improved’ by an all new and intuitive system. Now I played the original and I am happy to report that I understood how to play the game and completed it. I can’t see how you can improve the control scheme, although I know that the 3DS doesn’t have as many buttons as the N64 and this is probably why they have had to redesign the controls. The only other major feature is that you get to use the built-in gyro sensor to look around your world by moving the 3DS. As far as I can see that feature is the only feature that I would class as a feature, it is a good idea and a great use of the gyro sensor (If it works properly).

This review seems very biased, and I don’t like to swear in my reviews so you fill in this blank space ______ you. I am not biased towards any console, manufacturer or religion, I loved the original version of this, I feel as though the N64 was one of the most undervalued consoles of its time and this is one of the best games on that console.

Zelda: Ocarina of Time Cover Art

Is the updated features and functionality going to make this a legend?

So should you buy it? Well the game RRP’s for £39.99 so a quick search on Amazon (Actually does do a quick search on amazon too) and you can buy both the Nintendo 64 and the original game for £30. So, personally I would buy that and here’s why. The original is always best (Godfather 1, Saw 1, Halloween1 etc.) so why would you go and buy a re-working that isn’t even a re-working.  You would get the chance to own one of the most under-rated consoles of all time. Also, you would get to play some of the greatest games of all time (Zelda, Perfect Dark, Goldeneye, Mario Kart, Super Mario 64 the list really is endless)

OK, that’s great, but I already own an N64 and Zelda, so do I buy this? No you don’t, you keep the £39.99 and buy an extra-large mallet to hit yourself over the head for the suggestion of buying this. The improvements, if you can call them that are minimal and boring, not to mention that the 3D effect causes nausea, headaches and a free visit to your local chemist for something to counter act the nausea and headaches (Not to mention the trip to the hardware store for the extra-large mallet).

So to finish my review, the original gets a score of around the 9.9999995 mark. (Or would if I was reviewing it) But I’m not so…….

Score:  5/10

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of  Time will be available to buy from the 17th of June 2011

Review carefully drafted whilst watching scrubs and making reference to it in this review by: parkergordon

Pre-order The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 3DS) from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Nintendo 64 Console – Grey from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Zelda : The Ocarina Of Time (N64) from Amazon.co.uk

You’re on a break, you want a quick game to play, something to challenge the mind, which you can easily jump into.  Well there are plenty of games that can do that… But what if you wanted to play as some adorable characters, while solving challenging puzzles? Well then you’ll love ilomilo (all lowercase); the Xbox version of Sackboy.

Ilomilo: The X-Box answer to Little Big Planet?

Ilomilo: The X-Box answer to Little Big Planet?

The main premise of the game centres around two characters; ilo and milo.  The two cutest characters I have ever seen.  Now I’m the kind of guy that likes brutal fighting games, deep RPGs, and insane shooters.  But when I laid eyes on those two little guys my heart melted. They are distinguished by their colour, one is red and one is blue (I can’t remember which one is which). The story is they meet up everyday at the park and enjoy apple tea together. However, everyday they meet up, it seems to get harder and harder, as the path appears to have been rearranged, including the roads. This is where the player is needed.

You take control of ilo & milo, switching between the two at will, and move them round the block path so they cam meet up again. This is done by either picking up blocks to make a bridge, or moving blockades to clear a path. You also make use of red carpets that allow you to move along a different axis. While you can only move along the X and Y axis (walking forwards, backwards, left and right), these red carpets carry you to the Z axis, so you’re basically moving up and down a wall. So it makes you think from a more 3D perspective, which is quite ingenious. If that didn’t make any sense, play the game and you’ll see what I mean.

Ilmilo Screenshot

Ilmilo available for X-Box 360 and Windows Phone Only

Graphics wise, the design and colour is all vibrant, cute, and very relaxing; there are no overly intense colours or effects that’ll get you worked up like a fighting or a racing game. The levels themselves all have the patched up, knitted look, which further adds to the game’s charm. I find this kind of design refreshing, as sometimes you need a calming image, to give yourself a break once in a while.

The difficulty, however, can get a little too much on the bewildering side, but luckily not in any sort of excess.  If you were to take a spectrum of difficulty for puzzlers; stupidly easy on one side, brain crushingly difficult on the other end, and perfect balance in the middle, ilomilo would sit in-between balanced and difficult.

This is a game that somehow charms you into giving it a look; the worlds are rich with artistic flair, the two characters are lovable, without them having to do anything, and the puzzles offer a fair and stimulating challenge. When you see ilo and milo do their little dance after completing a level, you know you’ve earned it

Score: 8/10

Review found next to the Triforce of Power by: Satchel

 

Everyone knows about the matryoshka doll; the wooden Russian dolls that can be placed inside each other. Nice little ornament, but hasn’t many uses, apart from shelf space. That hasn’t stopped Double Fine (creator of such games like Psychonauts and Brütal Legend) from making a game about them. And that game is Stacking.

Screenshot taken from the X-Box 360 version of Stacking

Screenshot taken from the X-Box 360 version of Stacking

Stacking is set during the Industrial Age; everything was steam-powered, soot covered 95% of the world… And the human race evolved in to matryoshka dolls. What… You never read about that part of history? Yes, in this game, everyone is a Russian doll, each a different size. You play as Charlie Blackmore, the smallest doll in the whole game. Being the smallest doll has to put a damper on this kid’s self-esteem; there are babies in prams bigger than he is. The Blackmore family all work as chimney sweeps to make ends meet. When the father mysteriously vanishes, the children are forced to work to pay off the debts. Of course, Charlie is left behind with his mother because he is too small. Again, this can’t help his self esteem. Charlie learns that his brothers and sisters are being held against their will and forced into child labour by the Industrialist Baron, so ventures onward to rescue them.

What makes the story telling in this game captivating is how it’s told. The cut scenes play out like a silent movie; the characters act, followed by a text with what they just said, and the emotion of the scene is indicated with the musical accompaniment. Well with your face painted on it’s going to be rather difficult to pull of a facial expression. I like this way of story telling, as its simplicity is very effective. The simplest ideas usually work best; look at Pac-Man, Pong, and Super Mario.

Stacking for X-Box 360 and Playstation 3

Stacking for X-Box 360 and Playstation 3

The game is essentially a 3D puzzler, so no swords or robots this time. In order to progress further, you need to solve various conundrums dotted around each level. To solve them, you make use of Charlie’s unique ability to ‘stack’ into other characters, take control of them, and use their abilities to decipher the puzzles. These abilities include moving people out the way. Opening vents, punching things, and passing flatulence (classy eh?). Even if you do complete a puzzle, there are multiple solutions to find out. So just clearing each conundrum once won’t get you 100%. For example, to get past an obstacle like a guard, you could seduce him, lead him away, and stack into him, allowing you to open the door. Alternatively, stack into a mechanic to wrench open a grate to enter the vent. Each solution to each puzzle is unique and offers a balanced challenge; challenges are not too difficult that you eat the controller out of rage, or too easy that the game feels patronising. Even when you figure out the solutions and reach the end, you can still aim for 100% with hi-jinks; little challenges that make use of a character’s ability to cause a bit of mayhem, from punching a number of people, to scaring them, or playing tag.

One thing that I find a small let down is the length of the game; it’s quite a short game, and after you finish it, there’s nothing else to do but wander around aimlessly. That wouldn’t be so bad, but it fells like there should be more to the game, like more things to do to kill time. And giving the high price of the game (1200 points on the XBLA) it seems there should be extra content on offer.

I have to conclude that Stacking is a very enjoyable game, though the length and the lack of replay value have much to be desired. If they release some extra DLC I may let this slide.

Score: 7/10

Review carved from soap by: Satchel

Buy 2100 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360) from Amazon.co.uk

Mario hammering Donkey Kong

Mario this time using tools (Such as hammers) to defeat his foes.

Have you ever wondered what happens when you mix Mario with Lemmings? Well this game is just that.

In each level you have a few mini Marios that you need to get safely home, but of course, it is not that simple, there are a series of obstacles you need to get your Marios past.

Using your DS touch screen you can make your Mario walk, jump or go back to stationary, but be careful, if a moving Mario bumps into a stationary one both will start moving in different directions. This can cause a lot of chaos in the game especially as I tried to press a Mario to make him stop moving and then he bumped into another Mario and they were all just running anywhere.

When playing this game you will notice a letter in each level and if you collect them all they spell out ‘minimarios’ at the top of your touchscreen in each world. Collecting all of these letters will unlock a mini game at the end of the world for you to play before moving on to battle against Donkey Kong.

Mario vs Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis Cover Art

A mini adventure? Mario vs Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis

This game is good I do like it especially since you can just pick it up and play it for a long or as little time as you wish but I do feel it requires quite the level of concentration, you really need to think about what route to get your Marios home and how to overcome the obstacles.

Although this game is only just being advertised now it has actually been available since 2006!

Admittedly the mini Marios are cute but it would be better if you could pick a different character (perhaps mini Yoshis?) and I feel the battles with Donkey Kong are not much of a battle. In the first world, for example, you fire your little mini Marios at Donkey Kong and that is pretty much the battle. A bit too simple for my liking.

There is a lot that could be improved in this game, but for anyone who just likes a puzzler this game is perfect. For those who like Mario but don’t fancy thinking about the game, I would recommend just sticking to Mario Kart.

Score: 7/10

Review by: Rainbow

Buy Mario Vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis (Nintendo DS) from Amazon.co.uk