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Dark Memories
Dark Memories
by Jeffrey S. Savage
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.73
18 used & new from $0.86

3.0 out of 5 stars Scares Work, But Not Much Else, July 12, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dark Memories (Paperback)
2.5 Stars.
With "Dark Memories," Jeffrey Savage and Covenant make a decent attempt at a "clean" supernatural horror novel-- and while they mostly succeed at that basic premise, the novel itself lacks in other areas that make the end result ultimately mediocre.
The "clean" part: no swearing, sex, or gore... and the violence (this is, after all, a horror story-- you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, likewise you can't have horror without breaking heads!), the violence happens in the shadows, events are suggested rather than described in detail-- Savage describes the axe going up, it is obvious the victim's head is in the downward trajectory, then the author leaves the reader to fill in what happens when the axe falls. For the most part, these scenes are very effective. It should go without saying that your mind will conjure up images that are more personally horrible and effective than most of what a writer could describe, so the suggestion of violence rather than detailed descriptions works well. As does the lack of gore. I know many horror writers use those types of visceral details to drive home the horror of a situation, and I don't necessarily agree with those who think that gore is always the mark of a lazy or unimaginative writer, but I do think that feeling "creeped out/scared" and feeling "horrified" are two different emotions, and that Savage is definitely going for the creeped out vibe. In that, he often succeeds very well. There are chapters in this book that will make you worried about what might be under the bed... but there's no way you're going to kneel down on the floor and check!
As for the other parts of keeping this book "clean": well, there are no sexual situations that arise during the course of the story, thus nothing for the author to shy away from, and as a matter of fact, any attempt at that would have felt shoe-horned in to this story of a newly widowed sheriff rushing to catch a murderer. In times like these, who has time for that!?
However, when it comes to the avoidance of swear words, parts of this book felt very forced. Outside of those who would be considered extremely religious (emphasis on extremely), the vast majority of people I've met have no real problem with swear words, other than that they are considered impolite. The average person tends to look at swearing the way they do burping: it's not polite to do it in public, but when you're home alone or with close friends, it's all systems "Go"! So when the unreligious lifelong cop who lived and worked in Los Angeles for over a decade thinks about how his late wife used to "give him heck," it just doesn't ring true.
And this actually leads to the biggest problem with the book: characterization. The characters in the book don't feel like real people, they feel like characters populating a book. Most of them fall into very stereotypical roles, looking, talking, and acting exactly how you'd expect a character filling that role would look, talk, act: the small-town librarian, the angry/crazy old-time farmer, the shrewish politician's wife, the secretive millionaire family, the mystic Indian-- yes, there is a mystic Indian, full of wisdom and dry humor... cliche of cliches! Except for the overly faithful butler... that's even more stereotypical of a murder mystery, is it not? A butler!
And there lies the rub: all of these characters behave in ways that are not only irrational, they often seem unrealistic. With a murderer on the lose, not only do people refuse police protection and then take no precautions to protect themselves, but they also go out of their way to avoid the police and lie to them simply to avoid media exposure. Every single character seems to be hiding something, and they all explode into irrational and seemingly uncharacteristic behavior when the cops even begin to question them. For the most part, these characters mainly function as pawns that the author moves into place in order to throw up roadblocks and red herrings for the main character.
Speaking of the main character, Chief Cal Hunt isn't much more believable than any of the others-- and he's absolutely unbelievable as a police officer and detective. For most of the book, he sort of goes through the motions of investigating the murder, but his digging never seem to be much more than surface level. He drives around and "questions" a lot of people, but he never pries too hard and always seems to accept each person's answers and explanations without any real cross-examination, even when he notes suspicious behavior in those people. There are even multiple times when insights and connections "tickle his mind," just out of reach, but he always just sort of lets these things go rather than work to unravel them and draw any real conclusions that might help the case. Again, these things keep the story from feeling realistic, and rather than the shape of the story unfolding naturally, the author's hand can always be seen, guiding the story and putting the pieces where he wanted them, holding back simply because it is not time for a reveal, and then jumping ahead to get the characters in place for the next creep-out.
Ultimately, these problems outweigh the positives. If the characters don't feel real, and the story doesn't feel natural, then there is not any real emotional connection for the reader. And those are the things we remember: the books that made us feel something, the characters that came alive, the stories that surprised us but then upon reflection we realized that the conclusion was inevitable and the real surprise is that we didn't see it coming. "Dark Memories" is not one of those books. It will sit upon my shelf, and when I'm dusting and I notice the title on the spine, I'll know that I read it, but I won't feel much beyond that; if someone asks asks if they ought to read it, I won't say "no," but there are definitely a lot of books I'd recommend instead, with the understanding that if it's necessary to plow through foul language and blood and guts in order to find a truly well-written book that will touch me and stay with me long after I turn the last page, that's a trade I'm more than happy to make.


Wyoming
Wyoming
Price: $11.99
43 used & new from $2.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I will die in Wyoming...", May 1, 2013
This review is from: Wyoming (Audio CD)
Great contemplative, haunting album. The lyrics are full of evocative imagery of desolate hearts and lives, punctuated by the dark beauty that can be found in even the most mundane, everyday things. The music is stark, stripped-down alt country that occasionally gives way to blasts of noisy guitar at all the right moments. (There are also tantalizing hints of classic rock 'n' roll [think Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins] beats and melodies that have been slowed down to a dirge-like pace, showing that Water Liars are the latest in a long line of musicians reinterpreting the classic song structures).
I've had this album for two weeks and I have hardly played anything else; and "Wyoming" is still growing on me. It's been a long, long time since anything has caught my attention like this has-- years, at the least.
I was introduced to Water Liars at my local music store by an employee who knows I love Mark Kozelek. He suggested I give "Wyoming" a spin, and 1/3 of the way through the first song I knew I had to buy it. Great suggestion on his part, great decision on my part. I will definitely by buying the other Water Liars album very soon.
As for the rest of that lyric I put in my title: "I will die in Wyoming, in a drugstore parking lot, so high I will believe that I am parked outside your house 2,000 miles away."


Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier - Sony PSP
Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier - Sony PSP
Offered by JGmediasupply
Price: $11.88
59 used & new from $4.88

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Game Breaking Design Choices, July 19, 2012
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is based on the PSP version of the game.
Oh, how I wanted to love this game. As with pretty much everyone else who has written a review, I loved the original PlayStation 2 "Jak & Daxter" games. I even loved "Jak X." So of course, I was not only eager to play this game, but willing to give the benefit of the doubt, even without Naughty Dog onboard.
But knowing it came from High Impact Games made me skeptical. My love for the "Jak & Daxter" franchise is eclipsed only by my love for the "Ratchet & Clank" franchise. But the two PSP "Ratchet" games made by High Impact were both relatively mediocre. In fact, at the time I played it, "Secret Agent Clank" was the only game I ever got more than halfway through and then never finished. I reached the final boss battle of that game only to realize that I hadn't leveled up my weapons and health meter enough, but rather than go back to the grind in order to beat that final boss, I simply put the game away, never to return. Frankly, I just didn't care enough about the story to finish (remember, we're talking about a game where I was facing the final boss!).
Needless to say, the involvement of High Impact Games with "J&D: The Lost Frontier" was not a selling point for me.
But like I said, I love the franchise so I bought the game not too long after it came out, around Jan./Feb. 2010. I played through the first level, found it interesting enough, but got busy with life and other games, and never touched it again until September 2010, when I found myself in a hotel on a business trip with nothing to do. So I returned to "J&D: The Lost Frontier" and played for 3 or 4 hours. I wasn't captivated, but I found it a decent way to pass the time. However, once I put the PSP away, I never felt any tug to return to the game. Neither the story nor the gameplay had grabbed enough of my attention (or subconscious) to make me yearn to find out what would happen next, or pass the next level, the way the best games do. This time almost 2 years passed before I picked up the PSP again to give "J&D: The Lost Frontier" another go-round. In July 2012 I decided to finish the game once and for all; not so much because I had come to wonder about the story or gameplay, but because I simply wanted to move the box onto my "finished games" shelf, and finally put the PSP in long term storage. So I spent a few hours over the last couple of days playing through the rest of the game.
But here's the kicker: I never finished "Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier." And I don't plan to. Of the 3 games made by High Impact that I have played, 2 of them will remain forever unfinished-- both on the final boss, it should be noted.
And here's where my review title comes into play: Game Breaking Design Choices. ---SPOILER ALERT---
You see, as others have noted, "J&D: TLF" contains a good deal of aerial combat, with multiple airplane options, and multiple weapons and upgrades available for customizing those planes. Now, one of the final boss encounters is aerial combat. Unfortunately, it is aerial combat of a sort very different from any previously encountered in the game-- it is about defense and evading damage as opposed to going on the offensive, as is the case with every other air battle in the game. But there is no way to know this when choosing which airplane to take into the boss encounter, not to mention when choosing how to equip your plane for the encounter. So, it seemed logical to me to choose a fast, easily maneuverable plane, and to equip that plane with heavy duty weapons and upgrades that would increase the damage I was doing to the boss. I didn't figure to have too much trouble with regards to the damage that I would take in the battle, since I had never had trouble in any previous battle. Boy was I wrong! This encounter was all about endurance, about taking big amounts of practically unavoidable damage and being able to repair it and hold your plane together long enough to get to the actual final battle. Which I was not remotely able to do with the plane/upgrade combination I chose. And this is where the terrible design choice comes into play: the loading point for this encounter is after you have chosen and equipped your plane, and there is no way at all to go back and prepare differently.
---END SPOILER---
Let me repeat that, in a way that will hopefully make my point yet not be considered a spoiler, because I think anyone interested in this game should know this:
(If the following spoils anything for anyone I apologize profusely. But I really think this point needs to be made):
For the final battle, you are locked into the choices you made before entering the battle. If after attempting the boss you find that you prepared poorly (equipped the wrong weapons, upgrades, etc.), you cannot go back and swap your equipment. If the items you choose to bring into the final battle are the wrong ones and you are thus unable to survive that battle (and therefore finish the game), you are flat out of luck.
This is exactly what happened to me. I replayed that final encounter again and again for over an hour. I looked up FAQs and guides and videos online. I did every thing I could think of to pass that section of the game. But to no avail. I understand precisely how to pass that section-- I understood after my second or third attempt-- but it doesn't matter. Because I equipped the wrong things and the loading point for that encounter does not allow me to go back and choose different equipment.
Therefore: GAME BREAKING DESIGN CHOICE.
Trial and error are part of the fabric of any good game. And in any game that lets you choose equipment and items, one aspect of the "trial" is experimenting with that equipment in order to find the right combination that will allow you to progress through the game. But if you make an error in choosing your equipment or items, the game must allow you to return to the point whereat you made your choice and try again. Trial and error and trial, in a loop until success is achieved. "Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier" does not allow you to do this before the final boss. There is no loop. There is only one "trial," and if you made an error, there is no recourse.
So there it stands. Forever unfinished. There is a chance I could finish the game with that which I currently have equipped; perhaps I am simply not a good enough gamer. Doesn't matter to me. My patience has expired-- mostly because I know without a doubt that I could easily finish that final encounter if I had equipped a different plane, weapons, and upgrades.
Beyond that, there is little I can say regarding this game that others have not already mentioned.
The camera is indeed awful (as it was with High Impact's "Ratchet" PSP games). Even in the places where the player can control it, that camera will fight you every step of the way, shifting out of place the moment anything on screen moves. And it almost always feels claustrophobic, like there are huge blind spots on every side.
The controls are adequate, but nowhere near as fluid as those in the Naughty Dog games.
And of course, the design of the PSP itself does little to help either the camera or the controls. As with every PSP game I've played, the lack of a second analog stick is fairly crippling. In addition, the button mapping felt less than ideal. More than once I died during a fight because I had to take my thumb off the analog stick (thus bringing Jak to a standstill, leaving him open to enemy attacks) in order to activate special powers or rotate guns. And I don't know if it just isn't possible with the PSP button/control options, or if High Impact Games simply has an aversion to strafing (no strafing in the "Ratchet" games either), but seriously, note to all game designers: if gameplay includes shooting, please allow strafing-- it makes no earthly sense whatsoever for anyone to turn their back on an attacker in order to gain distance from them. Seriously, come on...
Graphics are on par with the best you can expect from the PSP, although the character models seem to be a bit off, especially Kiera, if her voice hadn't been familiar, I would not have known it was the same character from the other games.
Voice acting is decent, although there is an annoying lack of variety in ambient dialogue. If I never hear Max Casella (the voice of Daxter) say "Smoked like a fine ham" again, it will be too soon.
Soundtrack is good, works well in every context.
Story is unexceptional in every way. It hits every beat you expect it to, and there are no surprises along the way. Daxter never really made me laugh the way he did in other games, and there is little dramatic weight to anything that happens. "The Lost Frontier" feels in every way like a side story-- which is fine with me; since it was made for a portable system and not a home console, I actually expect the story to be a side story, leaving the main story for console releases.
In the end, the feeling I am left with about this game is that it was adequate-- barely-- but nothing more. If not for the aforementioned design choice that stopped me from finishing the game, leaving me with no closure and a feeling of having wasted all the hours I spent with it, I would probably have rated it as 2.5 stars (I would have rounded up to 3 for Amazon's system). But with that game breaking design, I simply cannot rate my experience as more than 1 star.
Hardcore fans of the series will want to (and be the ones most likely to) check this game out. But they will also be the ones to most bitterly feel the sting of disappointment. I'd recommend skipping this installment, but I understand that if you love this world and these characters, you'll feel compelled to give this a spin just to see for yourself. I honestly hope you enjoy it more than I did.
If you've never played a "Jak & Daxter" game, this is absolutely not the place to start. Search the Amazon Marketplace and pick up the originals for the PS2. Or if you've got a PlayStation 3, seek out the high definition "Collection." "Jak & Daxter" is a great series and deserves better treatment than this from Sony.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 11, 2012 8:19 AM PDT


Silent Hill Downpour: Prima Official Game Guide
Silent Hill Downpour: Prima Official Game Guide
by Nick von Esmarch
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.74
60 used & new from $6.57

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything I Could Have Asked For, May 9, 2012
This guide is one of the best game guide's I have used in quite awhile. To put that statement into perspective, I should note that, if there is one available, I buy a printed guide for every single video game I buy and play. I know, I know that there are plenty of strategy guides and walkthroughs available online these days, but this "tradition" of mine goes back to the original PlayStation days when, if you wanted help on a game a printed guide was so much simpler than stumbling around the internet via a dial-up connection, hoping to encounter a useful source of information. I have continued to buy/collect game guides mainly because I really like having a corresponding shelf full of guides just below my shelf of games; but to be honest, in most cases these days I don't find much use for the guides when playing the games. Most printed guides these days seem to be assembled via committee, they are pretty to look at, but they often lack important information, not to mention actual "strategy." But this Prima guide for Silent Hill Downpour definitely bucks that trend. It was written by a single author, Nick von Esmarch, who not only seems to care a great deal about the game, but who obviously put a good deal of thought into how to present the information, guiding the player through the game without "hand-holding," and without spoiling any surprises.
I played through Downpour with this guide from the beginning. I knew that I needed to complete the game during the weekend I had set aside to do so, before other commitments began to suck up my leisure time for the next few months. So I used the guide from the start to ensure that I stayed on track and got the most out of the game. And I found that this guide took me, step-by-step, to each spot I needed to go, making sure that I collected every available item and found every single health pack and box of ammunition. Yet Mr. Von Esmarch did all of this with great care-- he was always specific enough to get me exactly where I needed to go, yet vague enough so as not to spoil any surprises, or ruin any of the atmospheric "beats" that the game used to tell the story and ratchet up the tension.
The maps in the guide were detailed enough to help me orient myself and find what I needed, yet never filled in so much detail that I didn't want to explore the streets and hallways of Silent Hill on my own to complete my own in-game map. There were even "hand drawn" maps in the guide for a couple of areas in the game that didn't have maps.
I also found that the pictures included in the guide were very thoughtfully composed and compiled-- again, showing enough detail to help me orient myself, but never giving away anything about the game that might spoil the discoveries I would make on my own as I played. In fact, the only time I struggled to use the pictures in this guide for help was during the Otherworld sequences-- and those parts of the game were specifically designed to be labyrinthine and confusing! But, honestly, I found that if I really studied the pictures in the guide, there always seemed to be a subtle clue that would help me find my way.
Furthermore, during those dizzying Otherworld chase sequences, I found Mr. Von Esmarch's step-by-step instructions to be spot-on: easy to follow, with perfect descriptions to help me find my way. My method was to play through those sequences without any help, but refer to the guide if I found myself dying or losing too much health. Every time I used the guide, I was amazed at how clear cut the path seemed to be once it was explained.
This guide is a huge asset in solving Downpour's great puzzles. For each puzzle, the author not only breaks down the specific steps for Easy, Medium, and Hard puzzles, but he again lays out the information so that the reader can choose as much, or as little, help as he wants. First, Von Esmarch reiterates the clues, then he describes the solution in general terms before finally breaking down each specific step needed to solve the puzzle. As with the Otherworld chases, I would always try to solve the puzzles on my own, only referring to the guide if I was completely stuck-- and I was always amazed at how well Mr. Von Esmarch did at guiding me while somehow leaving just enough out to make me feel like I was solving things on my own!
Regarding spoilers, the guide uses call-out boxes and specific color schemes to make sure that anyone reading the guide never encounters even the smallest bit of compromising information. Von Esmarch doesn't even leave vague spoilers (i.e. "There may be something hidden around the next corner...") in the main body of the guide. Yet within those call-out boxes, the author gives plenty of information so that the player who wants to know what is coming can prepare himself, but the guide still avoids giving away the exact nature of what is to come.
Now, for the first time in a Silent Hill game, Downpour includes multiple optional side quests. These quests can be completed at any time once you gain access to the section of the town wherein the side quest takes place. Basically, there is a linear, story-driven section at the beginning of the game, followed by a chance to explore a couple of neighborhoods in Silent Hill at your own leisure, completing side quests and trophies (or, alternately, hurrying on to the next required area to move the story along); next, comes a linear, story-driven jaunt through a large building; the completion of that building opens up the next neighborhood, allowing the player to again decide whether to explore the streets and complete side quests, or hurry along to the next plot point. This "linear section followed by an increase in the open town map" pattern repeats multiple times throughout the game.
There are a couple of ways Mr. Von Esmarch could have chosen to organize the side quest walkthroughs in this guide: he could have saved all the side quest information for its own section at the end of the walkthrough, focusing first on only the steps required to move the main story along... or he could explain each side quest at the earliest point in the walkthrough that the player could begin the side quest. Mr. Von Esmarch has chosen the latter option-- which, for me, made perfect sense, for a few reasons. First, it gives the player access to health items and better weapons as soon as possible. Second, it cuts down on the amount of backtracking the player has to do, since in some cases he can complete an entire neighborhood while he is "passing through" and thus not have to return later on to complete a side quest. Lastly, there are a couple of plot-driven "points of no return," and the way this guide is organized helps ensure that the player has the chance to complete any side quests without accidentally stumbling through one of these "no turning back" checkpoints. (The author is very explicit about pointing out when these points are about to happen). Now, some of the side quests cannot be completed until the entire town is accessible. So there will be some flipping back to an earlier page in the guide when a new section of the map opens up, in order to continue with a quest that may have begun in a previous section of the town-- but that depends a lot on how each individual player chooses to approach the side quests. It made perfect sense to me to finish up every single action I could in a particular neighborhood before moving on to the next, so yes, I did have to revisit earlier pages in the guide to continue with a quest when I reached the next neighborhood. But this was my choice-- and at the beginning of those quests, I appreciated being alerted in the guide at the earliest convenient starting point for a quest, rather than having to flip to the back of the guide for information about a quest. In other words, I didn't have to keep track of when and where any given quest might start, because the guide told me about it as soon within the walkthrough as I could begin (and reminded me to go back as soon as I could continue with a suspended quest). Alternately, I feel like it would have been a hassle to have to flip to the back of the guide for information regarding side quests, or to follow the story all the way through town and then have to backtrack in order to follow the guide through the side quests. Personally, I'll take revisiting an earlier section of the guide over running back through entire sections of the game any day.
When it comes to Trophies/Achievements, Mr. Von Esmarch is again very helpful. Many guides simply give a list of the trophies followed by the same description that appears in the game once you obtain the trophy. This guide, however, gives helpful tips when necessary (some trophies are very self-explanatory) to help ensure that the player understands what is needed to complete each task. I do think this section of the guide could have been expanded and even more detailed, especially for those players planning to grab the Platinum Trophy, but since I only ever planned to complete one single playthrough, only collecting the trophies that I earned during the regular course of the game (not going out of my way to hunt trophies), the guide worked for me.
As with any Silent Hill game, Downpour also contains multiple endings, and the ending that the player receives depends upon various actions taken throughout the game. The author doesn't spoil any of these endings, or even detail the repercussions of certain choices within the body of the walkthrough-- since any discussion of that type could be considered a spoiler. He saves all this information for a section following the walkthrough. I appreciated this, since even though I was following a guide, I wanted to make my own choices within the game, and reach whatever end I acquired as organically as possible. Unfortunately, once I finished the game, I never took the time to look at this section of the guide (and I loaned it to a friend so I don't have access to it right now), so I can't speak to how detailed or helpful this particular section of the guide is. I'm sure that help in achieving every ending is something that would be very important to many Silent Hill players, so I apologize that I can't give better information regarding that aspect of this strategy guide.
Finally, the Bestiary and Weapons section of the guide: I found the Bestiary very helpful in preparing for encounters with the enemies in Downpour. Rather than simply describe the monsters, the author gives tips on how to deal with them, and I found those strategies to be very useful. As for the Weapons section, there isn't a lot of variety when it comes to weapons in this game, and it is always quite obvious during the game which weapon is the more powerful option; so although the Weapons section doesn't include a complete description and statistical breakdown of every gun and melee weapon, it worked as a means of giving the player a heads up regarding what to be on the lookout for as you wander through the foggy streets and dark hallways.
...I should also point out that there are green lockers in the game that contain special weapons (one gun and one melee weapon). These lockers require one of three special combinations that were given out as pre-order bonuses by certain retailers. The specific combination you use to open a locker determines which specific weapons you find inside the lockers. Since these combinations were pre-order bonuses, it makes sense that they were not included in this guide, since that would negate the point of offering these combinations as an incentive to pre order (yes, I know those combinations can be found all over the internet-- I used one myself-- but that is entirely beside the point). However, I was surprised that the lockers weren't mentioned at all in the guide. When I encountered the first of these lockers, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the guide didn't say a thing about it (which led me to the internet for answers, and the eventual acquisition of the combinations). I can only presume that these lockers were added late in the development cycle (perhaps in the months after the game was delayed from its original release date), after the guide was completed. Regardless, I won't fault a writer whose book exists by the grace of the developer for not giving away a secret linked to one of the developer's marketing/sales strategies...
All-in-all, I hope I've made it abundantly clear that I found this guide to be very helpful, perfectly organized, and extremely well thought-out in terms of presentation. Oh, and on top of all that, Nick von Esmarch can actually write well-- by which I mean he knows how to construct grammatically correct sentences, and give instructions in an easy-to-understand manner, and that this book actually seems to have been proofread before it went to press (a sad rarity with strategy guides these days)!
I'm glad I bought it, and glad I used it. I sincerely hope Mr. Von Esmarch continues to write game guides, and that I get the chance to use one of his books again in the future. I can say in all honesty that this guide stands with the best that I have personally encountered.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2012 2:27 AM PDT


Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Signature Series Guide (Bradygames Signature Guides)
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Signature Series Guide (Bradygames Signature Guides)
by BradyGames
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from $1.10

1.0 out of 5 stars Good for Nothing, January 11, 2012
There is really not much I can say about this guide that MDT (the only other reviewer at this point) hasn't already said in detail. But I did want to reiterate that this guide is indeed poorly written, full of errors, and lacking in useful information.
The walkthrough is so basic that it really only describes what the gamer can't help but do, with or without guidance (the game is very linear). In essence, the walkthrough reminds you to pick up the items that you are bound to "stumble over" because they are smack dab the middle of your path. But when it comes to any real strategy (best weapons to use for various enemies, how to gain experience and level-up weapons quicker, which areas might be ideal for "bolt farming," etc.) there is absolutely none. Unless repeated instructions to "scramble quickly ahead of your friends and collect all the goodies before those suckers realize what hit 'em" can be considered strategy. (I'm paraphrasing, but not really exaggerating the tone).
As for locations of collectibles in this game (critters, hero bolts) this guide either has no information at all, or in the instances when things are mentioned, it is often flat out wrong, or so vague as to be useless.
The other area where a gamer might look to a guide for help is with Trophies and Skill Points. Well, don't look here. There is no description beyond what the game itself already gives, and absolutely no guidance or strategy presented as to the best way to complete these extra tasks.
In essence, this guide-- which costs money-- offers less help than can be found all over the Internet for free.
It's colorful, well-bound, and printed on high quality paper, so I guess that's something...
I have to agree that BradyGames has grown very lazy, and the quality of the information in their guides is more often than not very low. There used to be other publishers making game guides, and I would always choose a BradyGames guide if I had the option, because I knew it would be beautifully assembled and full of useful information. Not anymore. In fact, I suspected as much before I bought this guide, because I was very disappointed in the guides for the previous two "Ratchet & Clank" games for PlayStation 3. But I am a creature of habit, and I bought this anyway. Fooled me twice [3 times actually], so shame on me. But still, I'd hope that the writers and publishers of this guide would have a little more pride in their work.


Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles - Sony PSP
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles - Sony PSP
Offered by Hitgaming Video Games
Price: $15.88
99 used & new from $4.49

29 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT For the Casual Gamer, October 15, 2008
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
First thing first, if this were a review for "Symphony of the Night," and "Symphony of the Night" only, there would be 5 shiny gold stars at the top. However, this is a review for "The Dracula X Chronicles," the largest part of which is the remake of "Rondo of Blood"--thus: 1 star for including "SotN" as BONUS CONTENT (you'll have to beat "Rondo" to play "Symphony"), and 2 stars for "Rondo of Blood."
Now I know that such a rating will border on blasphemy to the Castlevania faithful, but so be it. This isn't a review for them. This is for any but the most hardcore gamers who are Castlevania fans, for those who might be as turned off as I was by this game's most serious deficiency: playability.
I define "playability" as the X factor [meaning it may be many things in many different games] that causes the player to never want to put the game down; it's the thing that keeps you up into the early hours of the morning playing "just one more level." And, most importantly, it's the thing that puts a smile on your face. Playability leaves you anxious for more, and satisfied once you've finished that 100% completion; it's the thing that makes you just the tiniest bit unhappy when you're done because you don't know how long it will be before you have such a rich, rewarding gaming experience again.
It is this type of playability that "Rondo" lacks. It's a beautiful game to look at, and it certainly delivers a solid 3D/2D side-scrolling Castlevania experience. BUT that experience is hampered by the masochistic difficulty of the game. I'm all for challenging gameplay, and I wholeheartedly believe that a game should reward the gamer's developing skills by increasing in difficulty as levels get higher, but "Rondo of Blood" is punishingly, frustratingly difficult from the beginning--and extremely unforgiving of small mistakes: time and again you will find yourself taking damage due to the most miniscule misplacement of your character, and even small enemies deal out damage that drains large amounts from your health meter. Again, I love a good challenge, but I also like to be rewarded for gaining the skills to overcome that challenge. I want that feeling of satisfaction that comes when you know you've finally figured out the key to passing a certain level or beating a certain enemy--that you've risen to the challenge. Unfortunately, that feeling is rare with "Rondo." Rather, the feeling I most often had at the end of a level was relief that I'd finally broken through, and the suspicion that it was luck more than anything else that finally got me there. And I was usually ready to turn the game off, which in my opinion is the one emotion that a game should never, ever evoke in a player: you should always shut down your system with regret, not relief! And, more than anything, the gamer should NEVER want to throw his controller (or entire system in this case) out of frustration. I'm looking for positive emotions from my gaming experiences, and that type of deep frustration is as negative as it gets--but it's one that I felt all too often playing "Rondo of Blood."
I am a very casual gamer (2 or 3 titles per year), and there are just too many good games out there for me to spend time on anything that delivers so much frustration and so little satisfaction.
I love Castlevania, and "Symphony of the Night" is my favorite game of all time, but I just can't recommend "The Dracula X Chronicles" to anyone but the most hardcore Castlevania fans.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 16, 2012 12:47 PM PST


Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Signature Series Guide (Brady Games Signature Series Guide)
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction Signature Series Guide (Brady Games Signature Series Guide)
by BradyGames
Edition: Paperback
50 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Offer Anything but the Basics, September 29, 2008
I've been very pleased with all of BradyGames's previous Ratchet & Clank guides, but this effort lacks anything to make it worth recommending. The game itself is so straight-forward that there shouldn't be much need for a walkthrough, even for someone entering the R&C world for the first time (or, playing any type of video game for the first time, for that matter). So what I was hoping to find in this guide included better maps than there are in the game, and strategies for going beyond a basic play-through, i.e. tips on upgrading weapons most efficiently, playing through Challenge Mode "and beyond," and achieving Skill Points. Unfortunately, the maps in the guide are no more detailed than those in the game, and while they do call out the location of Gold Bolts and other hidden treasures, they really don't help all that much. When it comes to Skill Points, this guide is useless. It does give the cryptic descriptions that accompany the Skill Points in the menu-list (the descriptions that you get once you achieve the Skill Point), but the guide does not list any suggestions or strategies on how to achieve the Skill Points-- even in instances where the Skill Point requires that you affect a specific number of enemies, the guide doesn't even tell you that number. I ended up getting all the help and strategy I needed from internet message boards, and don't think I used this guide more than once or twice to help in playing/beating the game. This guide does include interviews with members of the Insomniac team that produced the game, but even those interviews ceased to be interesting after the 3rd or 4th person answered the same questions the same way as their coworkers did. Save your money! Chances are you won't need help on any part of the game that this guide covers; and you'll just end up online looking for answers to the things that this guide skips over.
To see an exemplary game guide that goes above and beyond in every way, check out Piggyback Interactive's guide for "Metal Gear Solid 4."


Songs About Jane
Songs About Jane
Price: $3.99
314 used & new from $0.01

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Acceptable Band, Terrible Singer, November 30, 2007
This review is from: Songs About Jane (Audio CD)
The only thing Maroon 5 prove on this debut album is that listeners of pop radio are hungry for "rock," or at least any alternative to the hip-hop and r&b that dominate radio station playlists these days; otherwise, there's really not much to explain the popularity of either the group or this album. The songs are an uninspired mix of pop-rock and the brand of r&b/soul that Prince perfected in the early 80s. And while the band themselves seem to have quite a bit of talent, occasionally latching onto a funky, good-time vibe that would sound right at home in a rock-oriented dance club (if there even is such a thing), any enjoyment that might come from the music is swallowed in the screeching of Adam Levine's voice and the vapid idiocy of the lyrics. It's not that Levine's singing is uninteresting, as is often the case in these times of cookie-cutter bands and lowest-common-denominator, reality TV-born pop stars, it's that his wail is beyond irritating and begins to grate on the nerves by the second line of the first verse of the first track. Be careful not to play this disc above the 2nd or 3rd volume marker, or Levine's caterwaul may pierce your eardrums, causing blood to leak from your ears, destroying your favorite shirt. And heaven forbid the neighbors hear you playing this, or you can surely expect a visit from your local animal control officer, inquiring about mutilated felines. All in all, Maroon 5 fall right into line with such acts as the Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox 20-- bands whose great fortune it is that their frontman is easy enough on the eyes that the ladies swoon without caring in the least what type of noise is coming from their speakers. If this is the type of "rock" that pop radio programmers and listeners are willing to accept as catchy and cutting-edge, then it's no wonder that radio seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. And, despite the damage to my eardrums, I can't help but admire Adam Levine for parlaying his pretty smile and discernible lack of talent into a genuine career on the hit parade.

If you want modern, radio-ready rock, try Jimmy Eat World or Hoobastank. If you like the band's funky vibe, go for 311, Incubus, or Red Hot Chili Peppers. Or go old school and dig out some Prince. Or go really old school and break out the James Brown.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 1, 2012 5:20 AM PDT


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