Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Big Planet 2 Review

Little Big Planet 2 is a silly, entertaining, diverse, slightly frustrating and gorgeous game. This game is developed by Media Molecule and only for the Playstation 3. You take the role of Sackboy, or Sackgirl, and travel through a story that involves saving the world from the "Negativeatron". It came out late January and I’ve had a lot of time to experience all aspects of the game, putting in easily forty plus hours. There is a lot to love about the game and little to dislike.

Little Big Planet 2 may seem like a game advertised to younger generations but it has a lot to offer for everyone, just like the first one. It is a 2d platformer, similar to older Marios or Prince of Persia, of varying difficulty that has many puzzles and different diverse modes of play. It is a great game to play with friends, significant others or kids. For those veterans of the first game, you will find a lot of similarities but you will find most of the new additions to be intriguing and enjoyable but in the end the gameplay is all based around the core fundamentals the first one developed. It is a great game to play with anyone who is not scared of a slight challenge from time to time; those looking for constant action akin to a Call of Duty game forget it.
One of the main goals of the game is to collect everything, if you have your data from little big planet 1 it will carry over your stickers and costumes, which includes stickers, costumes, levels and patterns. In some levels it is very difficult to collect 100% of everything, but not horribly difficult. It is a lot of fun to collect everything and figure out all the hidden areas. You use many of these collectables to dress up your in character, with so many options. I've seen sackboys dressed up in Tron costumes, knights, vikings, lions, statue of liberty's, chinese dragons and everything you can think of. My only complaint about collectables is that some of them can be incredibly difficult to grab thanks to how hard the grappling hook is to use.

For those who want to just singleplayer, you may easily do so but you may find the game continually suggests playing with others. There are many sections of the game that require multiple players to get 100% the collectables. For players who are skilled at platformers you may find this game to only be slightly difficult, while newcomers to the genre and series will find the learning curve to be tough at first. The story mode starts off pretty difficult but not as hard as the last few areas of the first game. Unfortunately, I found that difficulty level to stay the same throughout the entire story. While the first game got progressingly tougher, this one is more sporadic. There are hard parts of levels here and there, but for the most part it never gets very challenging, especially for Little Big Planet one veterans.
For those wondering what the differences are between the two games there are quite a few-

  • Level Links- Levels now often have two parts. There are links that teleport you to new areas, often making levels longer than they could be in the first game.
  • New Modes- There are modes and new types of levels, entirely different than the normal gameplay. For example there are racing levels, that change point of view and the feeling of the game. There are also levels that are similar to tetris, asteroids, pong, side scrolling shooters and others.
  • New Tools- Grappling hooks, which are a bit of a pain and a steep learning curve. Grabbinators let you grab large objects or other players. Sackbots which are little sackboys that take the form of friends or foes. There is also a new shooting tool that can take many types of ammunition, even cupcakes.
  • Improved Multiplayer- New Media Molecule option allows you to instantly go to a list of the very best multiplayer levels created by players.
  • Improved performance- The game runs much smoother than the first one, this applies to multiplayer as well. Also I've only run into one bug and it was minor.
  • Creation Tools- There is a lot of new tools and tutorials for creating your own levels. I've gone through a lot of them and it can get pretty complex, but the results of some levels people have created is fantastic.

Of course they also have a new story, with voiced cut scenes, and everything that results from that. One thing about the story that I loved is that many of the minigames are immensely more enjoyable than the ones in the first game, they threw a lot more effort into making the minigames unique and interesting.

The levels the community of Little Big Planet has been very impressive. What people can create now, with all the new tools, has been a pleasure to experience. I've played several games that resemble old school space shooters, like asteriods or Ikaruga, also I've seen a first person shooter, a first person adventure game, a older final fantasy style rpg, a top down racing game, a tower defense game, left for dead parody and many more. Once you are done with the storymode you can spend a lot of time in multiplayer, I've already spent a lot of time playing peoples fantastic levels while trying to finish up the story.

Now it time to sum this all up and I wish to do so in a IGN style breakdown, feel free to suggest otherwise.

Presentation: Smooth gameplay and framerate, silly yet entertaining storyline. Easy to use menu's and options.

Graphics: The same engine as Little Big Planet one but improved upon, resulting in fantastic looking environments with a lot going on. The backgrounds are greatly improved upon.

Gameplay: This game is a blast to play by yourself, but even better with friends. Love the new additions to create mode, and the core gameplay. Switching between layers can be troublesome.

Lasting Appeal: The story mode is fairly long, especially if you try to get 100% completion. Multiplayer adds a lot to the game and greatly improves the length. I plan to play often just to check out the constant supply of new levels from the community.

Violent Score: 9

Written by Sean Cargle

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shogun 2 Singleplayer Demo

It is here at last! I've been waiting for this day for quite some time. I had always worried that creative assembly would release the Shogun 2 a week or so before the actual release, like Medieval 2 and Empire Total War. I've played through a lot the demo, which is thankfully

lengthy but it is 6 gigabytes, so I'm glad that correlates with something. Let me say, the game is everything I've hoped for so far.
  • Research has been broken down into learning *arts* of war, or the other path is the path of Chi.
  • Building in cities is much different, while it may seem like less options a lot of new options for buildings open up through learning arts.
  • Battles are vicious and quick and graphics are pretty vibrant and detailed. My only quarrel with the graphics is some mesh problems that seem to be overlapping.
  • Menu's are excellent looking and easy to use
  • Campaign map is very colorful and correlates really well with all the seasons. Also fog of war is handled in a very neat way.
  • Family tree is similar to Medieval 2 but some nice new features.

I've run into a couple problems so far in the demo. I was very excited to get to do a castle siege and see how that goes but the first castle in the tutorial campaign only gives you the autoresolve option. Thankfully later on you get to actually siege a castle which was pretty fun but difficult. I won with 3 units left. I've found most fights in this game to be quite difficult so far, which is a nice change of pace from Empire Total War. Also the graphics engine is a little rough looking around the edges but runs well most of the time on my setup. I got to a part of the tutorial, which takes you through some stuff on the campaign map, where you are supposed to engage in your first naval battle and found all of my ships unresponsive on the campaign map and the game would not move forward. I eventually just restarted the campaign tutorial and got back to that point and was saddened to see you it is only a auto resolve battle, so no naval battles in this demo, sorry. I hope I've wet your appetit and check out the many ingame screenshots and enjoy the video of some artillery lobbing some flaming objects into some archers.

I can't wait for the full retail game next month, can you? By the way it comes March 15th. The demo is available all over, but with the best speeds from Fileplanet or Steam.

Ran Shogun 2 Demo with
-Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
-Nvidia Gtx 460 graphics card
-4 gigs of Ram
-AMD Phenom 2 X4 (4 Cpu's) 3.0 ghz

-Averaged around twenty-five FPS with Maxed out settings. Zoomed out in battle 40 fps average

Written by Sean Cargle

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ilomilo Review

Challenging, innovative, fun, interesting, comical yet touching is essentially what I attribute to my play-through of Ilomilo for Xbox Live, by Southend Interactive. It was released on January 5th of 2011, while it was originally released for Windows 7 Phone on November 8th, 2010. It is a puzzle game with a side of old bit style arcade game, which you unlock in the form of a mini game. There are many positive things I can say about the game and very few negative things, but first for the positive.
  • The game can be very challenging, often frustrating, but it is entirely a choice.
  • To beat the game you don't need to complete every level, many of the most difficult ones are optional.
  • Collectibles, music records and photos, can be challenging to get but are usually not strenuous to collect.
  • Music and sounds are enjoyable and fitting
  • The games art style is very unique, odd and interesting. Can be a put off if you can't seem to embrace its weirdness.
  • It is long, forty-nine levels, and a side mini game called Ilomilo Shuffle.
Now for some of things that bring the game down a bit.
  • By the third chapter you start noticing repeating types of levels, that offer similar challenges to ones before. This isn't a huge problem though because they always seem to offer something new to challenge you.
  • Coop is fun, but could have done much more. It removes a aspect of the singleplayer game entirely, the story; which isn't that vital but it is enjoyable. Will touch more on this later.
The story in this game revolves around the two main characters, Ilo and Milo, and how they keep losing each other and each level is just them trying to get back to each other. There is also a side story that continues through each stage. Each chapter contains twelve levels and there are four chapters; each chapter is a different theme, for instance the first chapter is park themed and
the second is water themed. The main collectables in the game are safka's, little guys "like to wear hats", and photos and records. Records unlock music from the game and the photos unlock concept art and pictures they have created. The design of the game is very odd but it is great once you get used to it; the colors they use are very reflective of the themes and some of the level design is a joy to conquer. The level design is not all good though, some of the levels are very discombobulating or dizzying because of how you can rotate to different sides of blocks through carpets. Also the pacing of the difficulty levels is all over the place, some levels in the third chapter were as easy as some of the levels in the first chapter.

To touch back on the Coop, it is handled in a hot seat kind of way. Only one player controls Milo or Ilo at a time, which is the same as singleplayer, but the second player in Coop can highlight objects which isn't very useful since it only local multiplayer. The most enjoyable thing about Coop is being able to find the secret eggs that are hidden throughout all the levels, also if you press B, X or Y you can make musicians shoot out from corners of the screen and play music. My fondest memory of multiplayer was the musicians and making them playing different tunes while the other player tries to play the game. Here is a long good quality gameplay video of the beginning of the game from a youtube user, MichaelXboxEvolved.

The side game that unlocks, about halfway through the chapters, is called Ilomilo Shuffle and it is a top down arcade game that involves evading collapsing tiles and collecting coins and Safka's. It is a little bit of a challenge to get points required for the achievement for the mini game, but other than that there isn't much reason to keep playing it. I'm not saying its not enjoyable though, it has merit just not enough to deter you from the main game. I do not recommend it to anyone who is easily disorientated, there is a lot flipping upside down and rotating. While none of that would normally be a problem the camera angle is sometimes uncooperative and problematic. Ilomilo is a great game for anyone who likes interesting puzzle games with new designs and ideas, that can be very challenging. It costs 1200 Microsoft points and took me 10-20 hours to complete 100% of everything but coop, all achievements completed except for the one coop achievement and a tricky one with the main menu.

Violent Score: 8

Written by Sean Cargle