“Back in the heyday of coin-op arcades you never had to look very far for a formidable challenge. Games were made brutally tough to encourage you to feed a steady supply of quarters into the cabinets in order to stay alive for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Though my PC thankfully doesn’t have a coin slot, I almost wish it did after playing Astro Tripper. PomPom Games drew some obvious inspiration from this sadistic era of gaming history in crafting this unforgiving retro shooter. It oozes coolness in the creativity department, but it plays like a series of swift and forceful kicks straight to the junk.”
“As I thunder along a windy mountainside, barreling full-bore towards a cathartic rendezvous with the failing castle gates of my latest mortal enemy, the thrill of rounding the home stretch and plowing through a few gimpy barricades spurs my profane battle cries. I smash my rotund stone form into the critically wounded doorway, shattering it with a rumble. My doomed foe waiting inside emits a high-pitched squeal of terror right before I squash him, and the resulting “phhhhhttt” sound makes me chuckle. Almost every victory in Rock of Ages ends this way, but I haven’t tired of the spectacle; getting there is where all the fun and challenge is at.”
“It’s starting to feel like there’s a secret conspiracy amongst devs in the indie gaming scene to make 2011 the “Year of the Block.” Bigger indie titles like Minecraft and Terraria may be leading the charge in the block-centric build-and-destroy genre, but other scrappy games like Blocks That Matter are also holding the flag high — albeit in a different way. This fun download channels the spirit of Tetris into a slick puzzle-platforming adventure that’s brainy and humorous. Problem is, it tends to whittle away at your patience the deeper you go.”
“The mobile explosion ushered in by iOS devices has made it possible to get a quick gaming fix anywhere without inciting your boss’ wrath or drawing unwanted attention to your “nerdy” interests. While cool PC games often find their way to the iPhone or iPad, it’s nice to see things happening the other way around every once in a while. Edge’s PC debut finally gives those who prefer to absorb their necessary gaming nutrients while tethered to a keyboard a chance to get a taste of this stylish retro puzzler.”
“Made by the Japanese indie studio who crafted the clever and kooky Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters possesses a similar quirky vibe but lacks the unique hook that made its spiritual predecessor so interesting. Crawling through 3D dungeons to hack-and-slash throngs of blobs, floating eyeballs, and more brutal beasties starts off on the right foot, but it devolves into a repetitive grind early on. I’ll admit that the cutesy presentation won me over at first, and there is a certain draw to the way the game pushes you to keep trying even after you fail. However, irritating camera controls and other issues weight heavily on this fragile action-RPG.”
“Even if you’re a total sucker for the casual allure of match-three puzzle games like I am, the genre has been recycled so many different times now that it’s getting harder to find new versions that still feel fresh and exciting. Legend of Fae spices up the old formula with a dose of real-time combat and elemental wizardry wrapped in an engaging tale of two disparate realms colliding. This indie action-RPG puzzler also packs a surprising level of gameplay depth to round out its accessible nature and lighthearted vibe.”
“Simplicity gets a bad rap. It’s far too often that certain games get lambasted for their lack of complexity, but sometimes that’s exactly what players are looking for. Fotonica’s hyper-basic gameplay boils down to tapping a single button over and over again. But after doing just that for hours now, I still don’t want to stop. There’s something entrancing about the way this abstract first-person platformer hurls you through stark, futuristic landscapes at high speeds, forcing you to make split-second twitch judgments to leap across dangerous gaps or die trying.”
“In some ways, the rise of the indie game scene and the recent retro game revival are inextricably linked. Beyond paying homage to classic graphic styles and gameplay mechanics that have long been surpassed by modern day technology, a large number of small studios are cranking out games using limited tools and meager budgets. When the result is an excellent game like Tobe’s Vertical Adventure, who can complain? Old-school charm, a tough challenge, and simple-but-fun gameplay outshine the few murky moments found in this lovingly crafted platformer.”
It’s always entertaining when I’m playing a game for review in the living room and my wife walks by with her own commentary. This time it was “agh, that game is awful,” and it came a few minutes after putting up with what is arguably the most horrendous attempt at Russian sounding voice over dialogue we’ve possibly ever heard. Ghost Recon for Wii wasn’t really on my radar until it showed up on my doorstep for me to review, so I dug into it to see where things were at. Hoo boy. The gameplay wasn’t what I was expecting. At all. While I actually felt that was a good thing at first, the experience quickly went downhill from there. If you’re curious, you can read all about it in my review over here at GamePro.
It’s pretty rare that I’d devote half a year to a single article, but I’ve been working on a piece exploring the different angles of the so-called “Death of Print” ever since I sat in on a panel of the same name at PAX East. Though that panel discussion was quite interesting, I wanted to take a broader look at the subject and gather perspective from other editorial folks across the gaming industry, so I spent quite a bit of time wrangling interviews. Though the finished piece was originally slated to run in a print issue of GamePro, the decision was made to have it only appear on GamePro.com. It’s ironic, perhaps, but I’m glad to see it finally out, and I’m really happy to see it has retained its massive length. Many thanks to the excellent editors who took the time out of their busy schedules for interviews for the piece.
Feel free to mosey on over to check out the full feature here at GamePro.