Video Game Review: Hungry Shark Evolution (Phones & Tablets)

*written in 2014.

More violent than Jaws and more scientifically inaccurate than the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, Hungry Shark Evolution is a true revolution and revelation in shark simulators! Granted, I only know of the two Jaws games and don’t know if you could play as a shark in anything else.

You start out as a small reef shark and you have to work your way up as you power-up through the game. How do you power-up? Eat everything in sight! Well, as a reef shark, you can’t eat everything – just small stuff. As your size increases and your subspecies improves, you can eat bigger stuff. As I said, you start as a reef shark but then can upgrade to a mako, a hammerhead, a tiger shark and a great white shark. Once you max out the great white, you can become the long extinct megalodon! There are also some bonus sharks you can unlock that have weird powers like electricity and freezing. I personally don’t need all that shit, as I’d rather swallow boats whole as a megalodon.

This is one of the few tablet or smartphone games that kept me interested all the way through. I started small and worked my way up till the end, as the reward of playing as a megalodon was too good to pass up. Of course, after hours of trashing and eating everything as the monstrous shark, I then started to get bored. Kind of like how God must feel after millions of years of wiping us out with floods and plagues. Actually, we probably haven’t had a good plague in thousands of years because God is playing another game now.

This game is friggin’ tits. It is also free. It is also 2014 so you, the reader, own a tablet and/or a smartphone. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that you shouldn’t download this game.

Video Game Review: Star Wars: Tiny Death Star (Phones & Tablets)

*written in 2014.

I have played a lot of video games in my thirty-five years on this planet. Since the first iPhone dropped (I now have a much superior Windows Phone), I have been an avid gamer on my phones and tablets. That being said, this is one of the most pointless and mindless yet addictive games I have ever played.

Why do I call it mindless and pointless?

Well, there is really nothing to win in this game. In fact, for all I know, it isn’t a beatable game. It is a game that will essentially go on forever if you don’t permanently put it down at some point and even then, the “bitizens” within the game will continue to exist and buy everything in sight in their George Lucas inspired digital space consumerist society. This isn’t a complaint or a knock against the game. I think it is pretty awesome that this little world will continue to exist as long as it is on your device. You would literally have to uninstall the app and even then, the world would probably exist somewhere tucked away on some cold server in a server farm far, far away.

The objective of the game is simple. You have to build as many new levels in the Death Star as you possibly can. You also have to attract residents and use them to fill the jobs on all the new levels you create. At its core, Tiny Death Star is like a more intimate and more personal version of Sim City. Instead of running a whole city, like in that game, in this one it is like peering into one of your Sim buildings and controlling just that environment at a more precise level. Except your building is in space and it is filled with Stormtroopers and Rebel spies! I’ll take this version any day, although the kaiju attacks in Sim City were pretty friggin’ incredible!

As hard as I try, I find putting this game down impossible. Not an hour goes by that I don’t feel the need to check my inventory levels and to build up the evil lower levels of my Death Star.

Now the game only has so many options for types of levels you can build. I’m not sure if you are at a stand still and can’t advance if you use all the available options. Then again, there is an icon on each level option page that says “More coming soon.” So I guess as long as they keep developing new levels for this game, it can go on forever. The question is, will I or anyone make it that far?

Update:

I stuck with the game for about six months.

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Origins (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2014.

*I played the PlayStation 3 version. The game is also available on Xbox 360, Wii U, Windows and OS X.

Having beaten Batman: Arkham City last week, I immediately wanted to jump into the next game in the series, Arkham Origins. This game is a prequel to the Arkham series of Batman video games and the third title, with the fourth to be released next year.

This game is incredibly consistent with the previous entries in the series and that consistency is why these games are so great. The first game worked so well, that they haven’t deviated from it too much and only tweak a few things here and there. When playing these games one after the other, the transition is seamless and it all meshes perfectly together like they are all just big beefy chapters of one big interlocked tale. In essence, that is what they are.

The thing that sets this game apart is the fact that it puts a lot of emphasis on some of the lesser known villains in the Batman mythos. Black Mask and Anarky are two villains that are a major part of the story. The Riddler is simply known as E. Nygma, which was a nice touch. Deathstroke, Deadshot, Firefly, Shiva and a bunch of other characters show up that aren’t as recognizable as some of the more famous villains. To whet the palate of the less initiated Batman fan, there are appearances by the Penguin, Bane and the Joker. Mr. Freeze also shows up in bonus content and the Mad Hatter takes Batman on a psychedelic Wonderland adventure.

Additionally, half of the massive Gotham City map is the same as the map in Arkham City. In fact, all the landmarks are still there except being that this is a prequel, they are pristine and nice and not completely overrun by henchmen and street trash.

This game gives the player a unique backstory on the Arkham series and establishes how Batman met the Joker and how the Riddler started out. It also gives one a sense of how things were when Batman was still a newbie and the bigger villains hadn’t shown up in Gotham City yet. It is a very mob driven town, a little less crazy than what it becomes but the introduction to the Joker brings a serious tonal shift to the game and pulls the player back into just how insane this ride would become for Batman.

I don’t know which game in this series I like most. They are all like really stellar seasons to a really amazing television show. They are different yet they are the same. Each is almost devoid of weakness and they all have their own unique strong bits that set them apart but make them all equally spectacular.

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham City (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2014.

*I played the PlayStation 3 version. The game is also available on Xbox 360, Wii U, Windows and OS X.

It has been a while since I have played the first installment of this series, Arkham Asylum. In fact, I played it when it first came out in 2009. It was an amazing game and I wanted a sequel. Unfortunately, it took me this long to get around to it. In fact, the 4th game is coming out in the near future. That’s actually what motivated me to get into this one, as I realized I was falling behind in video games in general. Life is busy and shit.

Arkham City is a much larger game in scope. Instead of being trapped within the walls of Gotham City’s iconic mental institution, you are now free to roam a section of the city that has been retrofitted as an urban prison for psychos and hard criminals.

Gameplay is virtually the same as the previous installment, the graphics are amazing, the plot is pretty solid and there are enough villains and other characters in this game to make it a who’s who of Batman lore. The main villains who drive the plot are the Joker, Hugo Strange, Ra’s al Ghul, Mr. Freeze and the Penguin. There are side quests and other minor missions that bring in Harley Quinn, the Riddler, Two-Face, the Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Bane, Solomon Grundy, Hush, Deadshot, Victor Zsasz, Calendar Man, Black Mask, Killer Croc and Clayface. Batman’s allies throughout the story include Catwoman, Talia al Ghul, Alfred Pennyworth, Oracle, Robin, Commissioner Gordon and after some disagreements, Mr. Freeze. Nightwing also appears as a playable character in bonus content.

There is a lot of meat and potatoes in this game. It is truly a total package of pure awesomeness in that it is a near perfect game play-wise, it does a magnificent job expanding on a fictional universe that has existed for over 75 years and it keeps this world fresh, new and exciting. If you are a Batman fan, this game is an essential experience and must be played – that really goes for this whole series.

I had more fun playing this than most games over the last few years. It is actually hard to try and find any flaws within it. I cannot recommend Arkham City enough. I guess I better go out and pick up Arkham Origins (the third game and prequel to the series).

Video Game Review: Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3)

Critics loved this game. So did just about everybody I came across in message boards. I figured that I was the only person that was not a fan of it. That is, until I talked to a couple co-workers and friends who also didn’t like it. One of them, however, got really fussy when he found out that the majority of us weren’t too keen on Heavy Rain.

I got a couple hours into the game and I was just annoyed, frustrated and didn’t really give a shit about playing it for another second.

Is it a new experience, as many have said? Yes. But new experiences don’t mean good experiences and frankly, I think a lot of people fanboyed out all over the game because of how it was marketing and how it was sold as “groundbreaking” and “innovative”. It is both of those things but not in a way that I found worthwhile.

The game is just tedious as hell. You walk around your house, shave, take a shower, watch your kid do his homework, microwave him his dinner, hunt down his teddy bear… real exciting stuff. You have to do this crap though. It’s boring as hell and I don’t need a video game to walk around doing mundane shit. Hell, my own life is more exciting than this game. I did get to the part where I’m a private eye and then the part where I’m investigating a murder but none of it peaked my interest. Games are supposed to be a fun escape from reality, this was the complete opposite. I wanted to turn it off and escape the game by paying attention to reality.

I’ve heard the story for this game is great. Well, where the hell is it? I played a few hours and all I did was talk to a hooker and microwave some chicken. And why do I have to check my thoughts all the time? My real thoughts told me, “Turn this fucking thing off, now! NOW! NOW!!!” And then I did and I microwaved my own damn chicken, which I was able to actually eat and not share with some ungrateful shitty kid who can’t get over his dead brother.

I’m glad I didn’t pay full price for this back when it came out. I got it for like ten bucks on Amazon. I still feel like I was robbed. I wanted something with a noir vibe but this is just a depressing mess about mundane tasks and wasting a bunch of time. Because of this game, I now take antidepressants.

The graphics are good and impressive. But that’s about all I got positive to say about this overrated turkey sandwich.

Video Game Review: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)

Sometimes great things get a really bad rap. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest gets a horrendously bad rap and frankly, it’s a damn fine game!

Years ago, the Angry Nintendo Nerd, now better known as the Angry Video Game Nerd, trashed this epic classic in his first video. People took his video to heart and adopted his sentiment as their own. Then again, maybe video games are really hard for that guy and his viewers.

You see, the biggest criticism of this game is how hard it is. Honestly, it is difficult but it isn’t unbeatable. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun and a serious challenge, more so than any other Castlevania game I have played. That challenge is why I love it so much.

Another season I love the game is the freedom of it compared to Castlevania I and III. Those games made you follow a map, from level to level with a big baddie to fight at the end. I love those games too but Simon’s Quest allowed you to explore the world you were in. You could bounce around however you wanted, similar to how Zelda II was. Sure, you had to complete certain tasks and unlock new areas to explore but for the time, this was pure freedom.

People also criticize the controls. I never had a problem with them. The game is pretty straightforward and the controls of the highly acclaimed first game, were pretty clunky… let’s be honest.

Full disclosure, I didn’t beat Simon’s Quest way back in the day, as it was a massive game and took a lot of time. You didn’t have infinite opportunities to save your games on the NES like you have nowadays. However, as soon as this was playable on an emulator, I crushed it. It was more time consuming than difficult. But beating it gave me a real sense of accomplishment that I don’t get from most games. The thing is, games today are too easy. Simon’s Quest didn’t have a difficulty setting.

The hate for this game is unwarranted, in my opinion. It has always been one of my favorite classic NES titles to fire up and play. I enjoy the game to this day and recently played through it again, in an effort to talk about it before this review.

Simon’s Quest is pure satisfaction, as far as I’m concerned.

Video Game Review: Friday the 13th: The Game (PlayStation 4)

*I played the PlayStation 4 version. The game is also available on Windows and Xbox One.

I was a bit late to the dance on Friday the 13th: The Game. Honestly, I’m not big on online multiplayer stuff, as I’m an old school gamer and like to work alone; I don’t need a bunch of people holding me back, I can fly on my own!

So because of that, I was holding out for the single player mode to be released, as it was announced some time ago. Annoyingly, it has been delayed and delayed and well, it still isn’t out… half a year later. Therefore, I was growing impatient and being that I’m a big fan of the Friday the 13th franchise, I figured I’d just take the plunge. Plus, I downloaded this on Friday the 13th and it’s October, so I figured I’d celebrate by killing camp counselors.

Unfortunately, I had problems with the game from the start. More than half the sessions I played, dropped due to connection issues. I tested my connection, it was fine. I also fired up some other games and they ran smoothly. I’m not sure if it was the Friday the 13th servers themselves or if there was just a lot of traffic bogging things down, due to playing this on Friday the 13th and it being the day that the physical copy of the game was released, alongside updates of new maps in the game.

I didn’t get to play as Jason until my fourth session. As cool as I had hoped it would be, I enjoyed playing as a counselor more.

To break it down, each game has eight players. One player is Jason Voorhees trying to kill the counselors, the other seven players are the counselors, who have to try to survive until the session time runs out. Counselors can also attempt to escape to safety or take on the ultimate challenge and try to kill Jason – good luck with that!

My biggest problem with the game, other than the connection I had, is that the controls are overly complicated and clunky. The way the controls are laid it, doesn’t make a lot of natural sense. The game is ambitious with giving you special abilities and whatnot but it makes things more difficult, especially without the game having a proper hands on tutorial. It isn’t a game that you can just jump in and play, there is a learning curve that just makes things kind of frustrating for those who want to jump in and have fun. With the connection issues, it made the experience even more frustrating.

Plus, you jump into a game with experienced players. Experienced players who don’t have the patience for some halfwit trying to figure things out for the first time. For a latecomer to the game, you’re just thrown to the wolves and it isn’t a fun experience.

The first time I grabbed a counselor by the throat and was ready to murder the crap out of her, the connection dropped. Then when I was a counselor and was finally confronted by Jason, the action mechanics just didn’t respond well. Most of the time, I survived the game and didn’t even see Jason. Maybe I have great stealth skills that carried over from years of playing Metal Gear games.

When I got to play as Jason again, the action mechanics of the game just felt like a mess. I’d hack and slash like a crack-addled maniac but I’d barely hit anything. Half the time I tried to chop down a door, the hit wouldn’t register. Everything just felt awkward and alien and I’m a guy that has played games since the time I could pick up an Atari 2600 controller. I’ve played a plethora of games on every single system that has ever come out and when it comes to gaming, I’m a completist, so I have my mileage.

I really wanted this game to be great and to live up to the hype surrounding it but it just doesn’t cut the mustard. I’m going to give it a go a few more times and see if something clicks for me but I’d much rather play the original NES game from 1989, which is also, still more terrifying.

Man, I truly wanted to love this game.