My Top Five Copy Abilities in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland

by Matthew Thompson

I just finished playing through Kirby’s Return to Dreamland this week. It’s a fun entry in the series, a much better one than the previous Wii outing Epic Yarn. I may sit down and write up some full impressions of the title soon, but for now I’d just like to talk about my favorite copy abilities from the game. One of the best parts of Kirby is seeing all the powers he can gain by sucking up and swallowing enemies and this is a list of my five faves from Return to Dreamland Continue reading

Advertisements

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Impressions

by Matthew Thompson

It’s games like this that make me really appreciate PlayStation Plus. Despite hearing praise for Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, I’m not sure when I would have gotten around to giving it a try if it weren’t part of this month’s Instant Game Collection on PS+. And I was treated to a very original experience. One I’m happy I didn’t miss out on.

The biggest selling point of Brothers is its unique control scheme. You control a pair of brothers. The older one with the left stick and the younger one with the right stick plus a shoulder button for each on either side to interact with things. It feels like a co-op game for one. The result is something that tests your coordination and mind in unexpected ways. Just having the older brother to the right of his younger sibling can be enough to throw you for a loop. When you add in some of the game’s environmental puzzles to the mix, things really get interesting. Some puzzles even give you that satisfying “Aha!” moment that the best ones so often do.

Brothers 2

Brothers also tells a story worth experiencing for yourself. The two brothers are on a journey to help save their father. It has some pretty touching moments throughout and one particular scene will really stick with me. It’s also fun just seeing the differences between the two from their reactions to the people, creatures and situations you encounter. And the fictional language used in the game means the narrative is revealed through visual storytelling which makes it a nice change of pace from more typical methods.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a brief experience. You’ll run through the game in a few hours and other than going back for a trophy or to simply play it another time, there isn’t much to do when you are done. But it is worth a go for that initial runthrough. It really delivers some new ideas and a few moments like none I’ve had in a game before. I know personally I have a habit of not getting around to some of the games I get on PlayStation Plus. And while Brothers might not be for everyone it is the kind of game you should at least give a try, so don’t let this one pass you by if you are a fellow PS+ subscriber.

TV Show Power Rankings: January 26, 2014

by Matthew Thompson

I’ve always wanted to try some TV Show Power Rankings and I’m finally going to give it a go. This will basically be my top five shows at the moment where I will take their current season into account, but with an emphasis on what they’ve done more recently. If a show is not airing it will fall out, if it’s had a good few weeks it will jump up… that sort of thing. I haven’t decided whether I will do these once or twice a month, but we’ll see how it goes. Well here they are (these descriptions contain mild spoilers for the shows, if you haven’t seen them it might be best to gloss over them) Continue reading

How Sleepy Hollow Won Me Over

by Matthew Thompson

(This blog contains major spoilers for the first season of Sleepy Hollow… you’ve been warned!)

I reviewed the pilot of Sleepy Hollow and was not the biggest fan. It was just too ridiculous for me to handle and not really what I wanted from the show. I soldiered on though. Despite my reservations about the first episode, it did have the markings of good television so I figured I’d stick with it. I’m happy to say it ultimately paid off Continue reading

God of War I (PS3) Impressions

by Matthew Thompson

Despite having tried them before (some of the demos and a bit of the first game), I never really gave the God of War series a full shot. With a lull between new releases in the early part of the year, I’ve decided to rectify this now starting way back with the original title (though via the HD collection on PS3). While I may be late getting to this party, I’m glad I finally made it. Despite some issues with it, I loved this game Continue reading

My Music Highlights of 2013

by Matthew Thompson

Music is a big part of my life. It helps drive my workouts and keeps me company during long car rides and writing sessions. I am not however very adept at talking about music and why exactly it’s good like I am with say video games or TV. But I am going to talk about some of the music memories I had from 2013 anyway Continue reading

My Most Anticipated Games

by Matthew Thompson

With my look back at games in 2013 behind me, it is time to look ahead. In this blog I will be counting down my ten most anticipated games on the horizon. My only requirement was that they be announced. So even if they don’t seem like they will release in 2014, I still included them. Well here they are (I don’t feel great about the order after the top two, but this will work!).

10. Sunset Overdrive: I’m a huge fan of Insomniac. Mostly for their work on the Ratchet & Clank series, but I enjoyed their Resistance games for the most part too. Sunset Overdrive seems like the kind of fun creative shooter that they excel at and I welcome the stylized look. I probably won’t get an Xbox One anytime soon, but when I do this will likely be one of the first games I grab.

The Order 1886

9. The Order 1886: I think Ready at Dawn is a studio poised to break into the big leagues and their first stab at their own IP, The Order 1886, might be the game to do it. A shooter isn’t exactly what I was hoping for from them for their first original effort, but Victorian setting and fantasy/sci-fi elements seem like they will at least make it a cool shooter, so I’m interested.

8. Telltale’s Game of Thrones: I’m not going to lie, I found Telltale’s The Walking Dead game a little boring. It certainly had a strong story and did a great job of capturing the essence of the comic books, but I didn’t find myself engaged by the gameplay. While I’m afraid that may be the case with this game as well, I’m hoping my love for all things Game of Thrones will help me overcome the issue.

Destiny

7. Destiny: Everything about this looks great. A big open shooter created by a talented developer like Bungie. I find the art for the characters and world to be a big step up from Halo too which is a plus. My only worry is that my falling away from online play in recent times might put a damper on this one. Hopefully with some buddies jumping into co-op with me that will be a non-issue. Maybe it is even the game that makes me fall back in love with online gaming. Who knows?

6. Gravity Rush 2: Gravity Rush remains one of my favorite Vita games. Kat was a really fun character, but it was the way you moved through the environments with her control of gravity that made the game such a joy to play. A sequel that improved some of the original’s problems (namely its combat) could be a real winner.

Infamous Second Son

5. Infamous: Second Son: I was pretty done with the Infamous series. I enjoyed all three of Sucker Punch’s games on PS3, even the ridiculous vampire title. But I thought it was a good time for them to move on to something else. And yet here I am, super excited about Second Son. It just looks great. The visuals, the new characters and powers, the fresh setting. I’m in.

4. Watch Dogs: I love this game’s new hook: the ability to control the electronics and systems of the city of Chicago. It sounds like a blast and it seems like Watch Dogs could be the next great open-world action game because of it. I hope it can deliver after the long wait.

Mario Kart 8

3. Mario Kart 8: I love Mario Kart. It is my favorite series for multiplayer particularly of the local variety and MK8 looks to deliver me and my friends our next fix. It looks like classic Mario Kart fun with a fun gravity twist. And as a nice bonus, it is the nicest looking Wii U title visually I have seen yet.

2. Mirror’s Edge: It doesn’t seem like this game is all that far along. The move to something more open-world worries me. DICE seems to have botched their last game, Battlefield 4. EA looms over the whole thing. But the original Mirror’s Edge is one of the greatest platformers of all-time! I have to believe the sequel can be great too. Don’t let me down. I need this.

Uncharted

1. Uncharted: Naughty Dog is my favorite developer and their next game is always my most anticipated game and that is no different this year. Despite how much I’ve enjoyed the Uncharted series so far, I do hope they shake things up a little with this next entry and you know what… I think they will. The move to the PS4 and the longer development cycle should allow for some new fresh ideas and I can’t wait to see what ND has in store with Uncharted’s debut on the PS4.

Honorable Mention: The Last of Us: Left Behind: I didn’t want to include DLC in my list, but I am really looking forward to checking out Left Behind. Everyone knows how I feel about The Last of Us and I am really curious how they handle what looks to be a much less action-driven story. It is also Naughty Dog’s first venture into singleplayer DLC which is always a tricky endeavor. Given how much content they packed into the core game, I don’t think Left Behind will disappoint.

Other Games I Considered: Hyrule Warriors, N++, Quantum Break, Ryme, Yoshi’s New Island

Well that will do it. To be honest, I don’t love the look of the upcoming year for games so far and it doesn’t help that my top two choices might very well be 2015 games (almost certainly in Mirror’s Edge’s case). So I do hope there are some big announcements to join these on my list. I might make that into another blog… we’ll see. So which games are you looking forward to most? Which games did I miss here? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Dear Developers #1

by Matthew Thompson

(In this hopefully recurring feature, I talk to developers who clearly all read my blog and help them get on the right track)

Dear Developers,

I know you love Uncharted. Hey I do too. There is a lot to like. But I think you need to stop aping its platforming mechanics in your new game. They kind of work in Uncharted as a way to add verticality to the game’s combat, but on its own pushing the analog stick in a direction and pressing X just doesn’t cut it.

Dear Developer Platforming 1

Left: Eh… no; Right: YES!!!

It’s a shame too. Over ten years ago, platforming fans were blessed with the next big thing: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It had everything. A deep move set. Fantastic imaginative level design. It managed to include sections that tested your skills with the controller (the game’s trap hallways) but also ones that tested your brain. Finding how to get from Point A to Point B was your major obstacle adding a puzzle element to the game’s traversal. It wasn’t the first game to really try this out. Games like Ico and Tomb Raider had certainly done it before, but Sands of Time looked to be the one to revolutionize the genre. We saw some greats certainly spring up afterwards. Much like Tomb Raider inspired the Ubisoft developed PoP games, it in turn inspired a new wave of Tomb Raider games, the best of which Anniversary melded the original game’s design with some of the Prince’s more modern sensibilities. This past generation’s best platformer, Mirror’s Edge, also probably saw some of its roots in the Prince’s adventure in Azad. Heck at least something like God of War had its heart in the right place even if it was lacking in execution.

Somewhere along the way things went in a more simplified direction. The cause could be any number of things. Maybe Uncharted’s popularity has little to do with it. Maybe it’s the larger move towards cinematic experiences. Maybe it’s a new generation who doesn’t want challenge in that area of gameplay. Maybe it’s you (the developers) fear of challenging that subset of gamers whether they exist or not. Whatever the reason, things have gotten bad. If Uncharted inspired it, others took it to the next level. Remember Me, a game I think fondly of, has the same automated traversal but uses an arrow to tell you where to jump to. Enslaved is probably the worst of the whole bunch, with flashes telling you where to jump and on top of that it doesn’t let you go in the wrong direction taking any ability to make a mistake away. Even those series I praised (PoP and TR) saw reboots that dumbed down their previously deep mechanics.

Dear Developer Platforming 2

Left: HELL NO; Right: Yes please!

I guess what I’m asking you guys is to start going back in the right direction. Look to games like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. There is this great subset of games with what I call “realistic platforming.” And while you may need to make games more action-oriented to sell to the masses, there is no reason why we can’t spend the time you do give us to clamber around the game world doing something a bit more substantive. Hell you may even surprise some gamers by giving them something they didn’t know they wanted.

Sincerely,

Matthew Thompson, Desperately Looking for the Next Great Realistic Platformer

My 2013 Gaming Awards: Part 2

by Matthew Thompson

Last week I talked about my Games of the Year, but I wanted do something a little less serious and a bit sillier for Part 2. So I have come up with some random other awards for gaming in 2013 in most cases as an excuse to talk about some other stuff that got my attention this past year (also these are in jest, so don’t take them too seriously if I happen to target a favorite game of yours!) Continue reading

My Favorite TV Shows of 2013

by Matthew Thompson

On the one hand, 2013 saw some of my all-time favorite shows end. Some endings were bittersweet. It’s always tough to say goodbye to characters and worlds you loved so dearly for some years now, but if they get to go out on their own terms, it’s hard to be too upset. Others endings were just bitter with cancellations cutting things shorter than I or the creators would have liked. On the bright side, there were some great new shows that debuted this year. While these may never quite replace those other shows, they do alleviate the sting of loss a bit. This combination of no-longer airing greats and freshman favorites is evidenced in my top ten series of the year. Here they are Continue reading