Category Archives: Gaming

Buff Review Show has gone off Dragons, is back on Pirates!

I’m a fickle one, see! ;-)

Anyway, just a short post before I go to gym-land. My second game review for Midlife Gamer is now up on their front page, but to go straight to the review click here and it’ll take you right to the page!

Please leave a comment and check out the rest of the site, it’s a great place for everything gaming, so nose around and register yourself if you like!

See you all after my session! Bye!

Buff Review Show Gets Bored of Dragons, Goes Questing for New Thumbs Instead

Can somebody please loan me their thumbs so I can try and finish this accursed game? Here is a (near) full account of my time spent with the game. I’m going to go ice my metacarpophalangeal joints (lower fingers). Enjoy.

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie/Realms of Revelation

Crikey I’d forgotten how long some RPGs were. I’ve only had FFXIII in the past 18 months, or so, as a true, fully-fledged console RPG worth playing for the subsequent 80+ hours. There have been others filing into the 30-50 hour mark of course. I have to say though; Dragon Quest VI is going to be one of the longest handheld RPGs I’ve played in a long time. The attentive among you may have noticed the word “going” in the previous sentence. At the rate I am “going” it will take me another fortnight at least to complete this game. I went onto on of those handy walkthroughs, just to look through the contents list at the beginning, and found that at nearly 30 hours into the game I’m roughly 1/3 of the way through the main story. So the following is as full a review as possible, neglecting to mention just the ending really, as I seem to have experienced enough of the story, graphics and gameplay elements to give my opinion on.

First things first: DS games, and particularly RPGs, have a good history of using the touch screen to navigate through menus and abilities during battles, making that element of the game easier and more fluid for the player… is really what I SHOULD be saying, but alas, DQVI falls out of it’s starting blocks before anyone has even fired the pistol.

The game has next to no touch screen integration whatsoever. After all the time spent porting it onto the DS it baffles me that the developers didn’t have the decency to allow touch screen controls during battle. Oh, but it’s okay, because there’s a Slime mini-game you can play that uses the touch screen, so it’s almost as if the designers have used some effort and innovation isn’t it? Well no, not really.

Anyway, after my irritation wore off I decided just to get on with things and use good old-fashioned button-presses. I swiftly changed the battle message speed up to full, hoping that might assist me in speeding through the game a bit more. “What’s that?” the game seemed to say, reading my thoughts, “You want to get through this nice and quickly? Well we can’t have that,” it continued, crossing its arms and pouting like a perturbed child. Every single action, battle message, speech message, piece of text, item discovery, learnt ability, gained money, has to go through the RSI-inducing action of pressing the A button to continue on to the next instruction, screen of text, or menu, etc.

After a time I discovered I could mash in the characters’ battle instructions without even looking at the screen, and then mindlessly twiddle the 3DS thumb pad until the animations stopped and I was back at the main battle screen. This gave my thumbs a rest but still seemed to add about 20% more time to anything I did. I could have been halfway through the game if half of the faffing about and needless button mashing had been removed. I’m all for grinding and levelling up in RPGs, but when it takes so long and is so damn arduous that I have to resort to using other appendages just to spice up the monotonous drawl of selecting the next thing I have to do, I’m not really enjoying the game.

Right, I’m two-thirds of the way through this review and I’ve not talked about the characters or the story yet. Well what is there to tell you, really? You’re a nameless blue-haired Hero, who starts the game with two companions on a mission somewhere to defeat the villainous Murdaw (believe me, there are far worse character and place names that crop up later on), only to wake up back home and discover it was a dream. Or maybe it wasn’t. You’re not quite sure and really, the dream-hopping and other-world travelling that ensues soon gets a bit messy. I couldn’t tell initially if I was travelling between different worlds at the same time period, or different universes with different sets of characters and alternate places, similarly named but somewhat different to the “real world”, or whether I was travelling backwards and forwards in time, and OH MY GOD JUST TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON…

There’s a distinct lack of being told what to do in this game. As you gain characters, you can talk to them outside of battles and while walking round towns, but the information they provide so rarely of any help it’s a wonder they added the feature at all. Once this game gets going (about 10-15 hours in) things become much smoother. A clear path and story is set out, and I felt more aware of what I was doing and where/when I was doing it.

The vocation system (job/class system for those familiar to any other RPG) works very well once you finally get it, but it seems like you get it a little too late. You choose a vocation for a character to develop, such as Warrior, Martial Artist, Mage etc., and you must level these up to learn abilities. Once you master them, you can unlock new vocations and combine mastered vocations to attain super rare and more prized vocations later on. You level up vocations by defeating monsters, HOWEVER – you only gain experience points towards your vocations if the monsters you defeat are of a higher level than the character that defeated it. This means you’re constantly on the run trying to find stronger enemies because your characters keep levelling up too quickly, and you can’t make them stronger to continue the game without accessing some different vocations. The first 20% of the game was only there to unlock the ability to gain and change vocations…

On the whole, the characters are nicely varied and there are plenty of sub-quests to flesh things out, but expect to put in a good 80-100 hours into this one, folks. This game is lengthened by the amount of button presses you have to do, but the story, dialogue between the characters and the gameplay as a whole are good, marred only by development choices that I thought would have been bred out of RPGs on the DS by now. We’ve had the DS for some seven years; any developers failing to add smoother and faster touch screen controls, or reducing needless button- mashing ought to be pushed into an oubliette slowly filling with warm lard.

DQVI should have been a neat, snappy little RPG. But it starts off too flabby and slow, and does nothing to lose the excess weight throughout that getting through the damn game is like swimming through the aforementioned tidal wave of hot fat.

Buff Review Show Enjoys Non-Alcoholic Rum-Soaked Block-Building

The words “non-alcoholic” should be banned from modern language…

Anyway, a somewhat delayed review of Lego Pirates of the Caribbean! Enjoy!

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean

I’ve talked before about the Lego franchise of computer games that started a few years back when the original Star Wars movies were faithfully recreated in everyone’s favourite coloured block (fans of Duplo need not read any further), featuring fantastic platform gaming, fun enough for kids and adults to play, and just bordering in that sweet spot between the terms “kiddy” game and “proper” game that a lot of people use these days. Since then we’ve seen the prequel Star Wars trilogy, The Clone Wars series, Indiana Jones and the first four Harry Potter films all converted into multicoloured blocks. And with Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 just weeks away, our first brick-fest for 2011 comes in the way of Lego Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Pirates films are well known for having a near-impenetrable and convoluted storyline. With frequent instances in the films of pirates betraying pirates and different pirates fighting different pirates and sudden appearances of family members and new characters left right and centre, it is easy to get lost even with dialogue provided on screen. I feel the games use their subject matter well, but unless you are already familiar with the plot of the films, you may find yourself a tad lost through some of the many animated cut-scenes featured. Star Wars and Indiana are much more straight-forward stories and do not have the near-constant side-switching and backstabbing that is associated with Piracy and the Pirates films in general. It must be said though that the story plays out in beautifully animated scenes and in-game events, so the effort that has gone into the brilliant presentation helps this game out far more than it has been needed for previous Lego titles.

The jewel-encrusted goblet for these games is always in the graphics, but this was to be the first Lego game to feature on the Nintendo 3DS, so I opted to play the 3DS version as well as the PS3 version, just to see how well they translate between the two. Normally, the DS incarnations have not had the 3D cut-scenes, instead replaced with cutesy, but not nearly as effective, 2D flimsy cardboard animations. However, the 3DS matches it’s console buddies almost like-for-like with stunning cut scenes, and, personally, having seen some screenshots, puts the Wii version to absolute shame!

The 3D doesn’t disappoint for the most part, getting away from the gimmicky and becoming much more immersive into the atmosphere and style of the game when used, but offers nothing in terms of enhancing the actual gameplay. These are still early days in the 3DS’s history, so as use of the 3D goes Lego Pirates will stand it’s ground amongst the other launch titles, and be a good groundwork for games to work upon, and past, in the future.

For now, for those of us who would notice it, the 3D seemed to be used more sparingly than it might have done if we were a further 6 months down the line. This has been a running theme so far with early 3DS games, everyone seems a little tentative to really push the 3DS to the max so early on. At times I found myself doing the equivalent of what I actually did do in the cinema, IE the removal of my 3D glasses for large chunks of the film, and in the case of the game spent a lot of play time fiddling with the 2D slider to see what difference there was from scene to scene.

I mentioned the lack of dialogue earlier, and second pillar that holds up the gameplay, alongside the aesthetics, is the sound effects and music that is there in place of dialogue. All the characters communicate with a mixture of panto sounds, bleeps and bloops, and various other grunts, which all adds to the charm that has been present in every Lego game thus far. Developers TT Games know how to remove what the need to show the players from the films, and remove any scenes and sections of films we either do not need to see in cut-scene form, or which can be worked into the gameplay itself.

The opening level of the game follows the plot of the first film, “Curse of the Black Pearl”, and upon completion of that you unlock the other three films, and that is only the beginning. For those of you fond of collecting things, the demented magpies that all gamers are, there are blocks and costumes and secret characters and all manner of goodies to unlock and search out. It fits well with the Pirates theme of collecting and hunting for treasure, and keeps the game open to both young and adult players- for those who want to find the biggest and best items, or those who want 100%.

Some have complained that the game is becoming formulaic, but this is a formula that works well, and continues to work after six games, with Lego Harry Years 5-7 just round the corner too, and it shows no sign of slowing down. There are not many series who can tout six or more games, all of whom follow a similar formula, but each one different and vivid enough to be considered great in it’s own right. I’d say Lego Pirates is closer to Harry Potter in terms of the puzzle based gameplay, and there are certainly none of the dodgy vehicle -sections we all remember well from the first Lego Star Wars back in 2005.

And like an adorable puppy who has just eaten your favourite watch, it’s just so hard to dislike and chastise a game like this, and despite knowing you might have to go into the real world later on and fish through some dog muck for a lost time piece, you know you’ll always have that reliable, slobbering mutt to go back to for affection and cheap laughs.

If you’re a fan of the films of the Lego games you’ll find something to enjoy here, and if not it is a more-stripped back version of previous games and would be a good introduction to newcomers and young gamers, to both the series as a whole and the 3DS as a console. It’s multiplatform so play it on any console/handheld you can find, I am sure it will tide many of you over until Lego Harry 2!

Buff Review Show- More Grey Ops, with a Hint of Brown…

Am getting a new (old) Xbox360, hurrah, nice to have it back in place on my TV stand. And as such, in tribute to my former 360, here’s my review for last year’s COD: Black Ops. Night all!

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Another year, another Call of Duty game is released and another percentage point the divorce and separation rate for couple gets cranked up. If you own a home console and at least one thumb you will have played one of the previous Call of Duty games, or seen someone play it, or known someone who has played it, seen an advert, heard it mentioned on the news and so forth. This time around we head away from the Modern Warfare bubble of realism and head for a new string to the franchise’s ever-expanding bow: Black Ops, and a new style of first-person-shooter for all other game franchises to mimic for a sequel or two.

Although it seems the creators of COD aren’t above copying others themselves, as it would appear the next instalments of COD are going to be set in space, and feature what they are preliminarily titling “space marines”, a concept so done to death in the past decade there are more soldiers fighting war in space than there are planets and alien races to conquer.

So until Call of the Dead Gears of Halo Wars: Space Edition inevitably is released next year, we’ll get stuck into Black Ops for a bit. This game is from the makers of COD World at War, Treyarch, as oppose to Infinity Ward who have made the two Modern Warfare titles, and while it is definitely a Treyarch title with all the great aspects that made ‘World at War’ a success, there are a few things it lacks that the Modern Warfare games have tried to make an established cog in the series, such as the training course level at the start of the game for us ham-thumbed shooting game newcomers. Also missing are the stealth and sniping missions, which are substituted with more frantic bullets flying through the air missions, which to be honest there are plenty of already.

But this won’t stop people running out to buy a new instalment every time. Two million units were sold in the first 5 days in the UK alone, and I think total worldwide sales have hit nearly 6 million at time of writing, and this is just for Europe and the US, let alone the various other regions that will get the game over the next couple of months. Needless to say there are a few bugs with the game that someone, such as myself, who was not queuing outside the local electronic store at midnight wrapped in my modern warfare blanket awaiting the game’s release so I could get the extra golden joy-pad, or something, would like to point out to the gaming community whom should know better by now.

So the story that accompanies the single-player campaign can be completed in the time it takes to eat a sandwich made simply of one piece of bread and the paper wrapper from the top of a tub of butter, but frankly this is as unsurprisingly to a Call of Duty game as me saying “the game contains guns badly characterised macho-men”. Also the writers, or indeed the producers of the unplayable cut scenes during the game gets absolutely no points for seemingly ripping off both Se7en and The Mahcurian Candidate. There are frequent instances when we are treated to odd moments of editing and trickery to the photography of it all that leaves me with this strange impression that the game is being edited by someone who has perhaps been shown very briefly what editing tools he is supposed to be using but instead of reading the instruction manual supplied decided to watch a box-set of Lost on one screen and reading the footnotes to a script from Se7en at the same time.

Also, often on the subtitling (if you choose to have it on) sometimes the various colourful swear words are written as they would be said, and sometimes they are replaced with miscellanous symbols as you might see when they are written in comic books and so forth ($#@£*%,, you know what I mean). I know it seems like a minor gripe, but with a game as polished as this is, and based on the highly polished finished to Treyarch’s previous COD titles, it’s a bit of a shame that something like this is missed.

The multiplayer is stellar but games can’t win points for this anymore. What I will happily debase myself in appreciation for is Treyarch managing to make the Wii version of the game contain almost exactly the same content as it’s PS3 and Xbox360 counterparts. There are the obvious graphical limitations of the Wii and it may not run at as smooth a framerate as it’s HD counterparts, but this is firm proof that developers can’t use the old line of “we had to downsize everything for the Wii to be able to handle the game because it’s made of crackers held together with cream cheese”. You know whom you are, serial offenders of this excuse (and previous COD games aren’t above using this one themselves) but Black Ops shines brightly above most other realistic FPS’s on the Wii to date. Treyarch even manage to capitalise on the control scheme the Wii was designed for from the very beginning, that up till now only the Metroid Prime trilogy Wii remake has succeeded in utilising to a great degree (that’s FPSs only, some other Wii-games work well on it… not many), and I can’t think of a joke for the end of that line so let me just end this pithy little review by saying Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo fans can finally join hands and agree that a multiplatform game is equally good (albeit equally slightly flawed) on each of the consoles.

Now if only we could get them all to play nicely and agree that FPS games are still better suited to a PC then maybe the world will be a better place. And maybe Sega will produce a 3D Sonic game that isn’t awful, and then the four horseman of the gaming apocalypse will truly descend upon us. That’s if they can draw themselves away from playing the added multiplayer levels on a game of COD I guess…

Buff Review Show- On the Brink of Something (possibly tedium)

I’m off to the pub, so for those of you who are in this evening and have no interest in L.A. Noire, why not pick up a copy of Brink for dirt cheap somewhere, because a matter of weeks after it’s release you’ll probably pick it up for at least half the price. That might sort of ruin the review right there, but give it a read and make your own judgements on Brink.

Brink

You have to feel sorry for a game like Brink. Having been released for PC, PS3 and Xbox360 it hasn’t had the smoothest of releases. You see Brink’s problem is that, as is brazenly promises in any trailers and promotional material you may find for it, the developds Splash Damage have bravely taken on the task of single-handedly revolutionising the gaming, and particularly the FPS market, industry, by seemingly marrying the warring tribes of single player campaigns, co-operative missions and online multiplayer, into one great big bundle that means you can play any missions across any maps with any mixture of human, online and AI characters. Well before we start handing out the Asda Price Bucks Fizz and celebratory chocolate éclairs someone had better warn Splash Damage that their game is a glitch-ridden mess and no amount of free stuff is going to appease some of the gaming world (more on that later).

Brink is basically unplayable online, and has been for most of it’s launch, due to the outage of the PSN and the glitch-ridden mess of a game that has been spewed onto the Xbox360, and apparently PC gamers aren’t too happy with their version of the game either. And with the PSN only just up and running again, Brink couldn’t have come at a worse time. But even if the PSN was brilliant and the Xbox360 version has actually been tested before being thrust onto the shelves, it would not have saved the game on lick. There are two factions for you to play through and join in the game, one is the armed security force of a floating city years after the former planet below has been flooded, or the armed rebels who are basically the working class in the game, and when they aren’t somehow keeping the floating city… well… afloat I guess, they’re shooting each other for fun. There are 6 missions played over eight maps, which you can play twice as each factions and under the guise of a number of different character classes, so there is some degree of replayability to proceedings, if you can stomach your way through even a signle playthrough without being bogged down by bugs, glitches and online issues.

I will credit Brink for the work on the classes in the game, and also striking a good balance between them, so we aren’t left with uneven gameplay or character classes that go unused and broken in the corner. But even when trying to work together things don’t go well. You and your allies can use Buffs on each other to give you a better chance at getting through the levels and towards your objectives. You basically begin with terrible characters who can’t do much of anything useful and continually get killed, which gets very old very quickly, even for skilled gamers out there who’ve commented on this feature. You’ll unlock abilities that are somewhat less horrible than what you had previously, making the game a bit more tolerable. It’s just so aggravating using most of these abilities, especially the buffs, because you’re often all gathered together, trying to buff one another as you make your ways to your next objective, and it’s just such a mess.

Looking back on the first half of my review for Brink, it may come off as a little harsh, but I wanted to get the bad out of the way with. Since the PSN was restored and I could actually get online for the PS3 version, I found it much better and the action flowed much smoother. Please note, I had to play this on PS3, 360 and PC to try and get a good go at the multiplayer, so my review is my experiences of all three as oppose to just PC or one of the console experiences.

Standard gameplay wise there is very little difference, but on stand out feature I will happily debase myself for is the SMART system, which is Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain system, which is in all essence a free-running mode which allows their character to sprint, leap over obstacles, slide under barricades and climb up structures in all the available environments. This freedom of movement, not dissimilar to the style of gameplay used in Mirror’s Edge, although with far less of the shaky-cam vomit enducing nature of Mirror’s Edge’s clean aesthetics, is one of the game’s highlights and its a testament to the skill that the developers do actually have within their power that they’ve managed to include a parkour element in their game which is in no way clunky or obstructive to play. Even Mirror’s Edge, to name drop it once again, struggled in later segments of it’s game, but it has been about 4 years since then and it has been done well on very few occasions if ever, so I will credit it there.

This is a game that does so much better when you can strap a controller to a friend or the dog and play it co-op and online, because it suffers from the old Borderlands problem (despite great aesthetics and a huge arsenal of weaponry, otherwise uninteresting and glitchy) I found that the single player doesn’t cut the proverbial mustard, and doesn’t even really exist very well because they’ve attempted to blend all the different modes and styles of gameplay into one huge gelatinous mass.

To make up for the lack of online play for much of the consoles launch, the first batch of DLC is being given away for free, and there are more guns and audio logs and things to purchase using the ingame awards XP, so it is up to you really what you can make Brink do for you, in return for you having a bit of patience and a willingness to forgive the clunky, badly programmed AI. Find a friend, grab the free DLC, and if you still don’t like Brink after all that, well I guess there’s no pleasing some people is there…

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