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BioShock Infinite - Playstation 3
BioShock Infinite - Playstation 3
Offered by Just Like New Consignments
Price: $11.47
280 used & new from $1.99

10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bioshock: Inferior, April 2, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Despite a large chunk of time between the black-sheep release of Bioshock 2 and this new and supposedly "true" sequel to the original, Infinite feels like a watered down, artistically compromised product compared to either of the previous titles.

Obviously, the most drastic change would appear to be in location and setting, as Infinite steps a decade back and a few miles up to the floating city of Columbia. Unlike Rapture's decaying atmosphere, you join the protagonist Booker at the peak of the city's brilliance, walking through a carnival-like celebration of the superior technology and worship of the primary antagonist, Father Comstock. The city's inhabitants don't hold out their scythes and weapons as welcome, but instead smile and continue with their "ordinary" lives, most of them barely pay attention to Booker's presence. Billboards and statues give rather heavy-handed clues about the ideology, a religious take on the founding fathers and the equation of the America they seceded from below as a new Sodom.

This peaceful environment doesn't last long, of course. Once you are taken off the storyline rails, the game definitely returns the mechanics and presentation Bioshock fans will immediately recognize. Dual-wielding weapons and the superpower vigors (one of the few tweaks Irrational couldn't just ignore from the often-ignored Bioshock 2), having someone on the loudspeaker berate/educate/hate you while you wander around gruesomely redecorated hallways, enjoying the satirical propaganda plastered on walls, pilfering corpses and coinpurses, collecting recordings of a person's warped paradigms, battling mechanical abominations, things start looking a lot more Rapture-ish.

The unsettling part is, while these hallmarks do return, most of them aren't on the same level as the previous games when it comes to engrossing, educating or empowering the player. The leftover recordings, for example, do have their shining moments but are largely uninteresting, or filled with info you'll learn about in the main story anyway. This seems odd when earlier Bioshocks went out of their way to study even the minute, such as the process of linking Big Daddies to the Little Sisters, the creation of the Big Sister, little things you didn't have to know but made the environment so much more interesting once you did. Curious how the Handyman or Boys of Silence function in Infinite, maybe wondering about the League of Lincoln Haters mansion you just went through? Tough luck.

As for weaponry, your attacks and customization takes a few steps forward and a few more back. You can customize individual weapons, but the customization isn't physically shown on the gun and are just all-around less cool, i.e. 25% more damage stuff instead of fiery projectiles or freeze melee. You gain tonic-like upgrades via clothing, but you are forced to use a considerably lower number of them at any given time. Vigors can be used for laying traps, but the lack of mission variety means you'll rarely get to make good use of them. And then there's just the complete downgrade of ONE ammo type per weapon, so no more armor-piercing rounds or anything like that, as well as a comparatively cliche lineup of guns to begin with. I know we're kinda early in the timeline here but come on, I had a freaking DRILL and rail-launcher-thingie before, it's hard to enjoy a plain ol' machine gun after that.

And all that stuff isn't even the worst part. The most troubling bit is, how rushed the game appears to be when you look at it as a whole. The pacing is completely out of whack (bunch of safes requiring five lockpicks to open when you have had time to hunt around for may three, zero locked areas near the end when you have 30+ lockpicks), side missions are halfhearted backtrackery (find codebook/key, bring to code/safe) through environments that barely respawn enemies, the AI is dumbfounded in larger areas, a shockingly large majority of fights are the same gun-toting enemies with little variety thrown in, and everything all around just feels like it was being shoved out the door way too soon.

MOST of the content we'd seen in E3 demo is severely underwhelming in the final product, such as your companion Elizabeth's pitiful contributions to fights, she is basically an on/off switch for items to spawn and enemies completely ignore her. The rail-riding combat is also lackluster and actually kinda laughable, since the structures in-game tend to make closed loops which serve no practical purpose whatsoever to the people of Columbia. The brilliant "Shooting first is not always an answer!" advice I got early in the game is clearly a leftover from an old version, as damn near everyone will attack you on sight. At least three of the Heavy Hitters - the replacement for Big Daddies/Sisters - are barely in the game at all, and two of them are a little too similar in function. Killing the Heavy Hitters also feels less rewarding since ADAM - somewhat rare stuff in Rapture - has been nixed for 100% cash-based upgrading, while simultaneously making all but the stealth one mandatory to kill, or at least run away from. Oh yeah, and there's no morality system or an equivalent to it, so there's even less motivation to play through a second time.

I'm really tempted to give this a 2/5, but there are some positive upgrades to the series like no longer munching on medkits as you take damage. Actually that's about the only thing coming to my mind BUT it also comes with an install of Bioshock 1, on the disc even, so not all is lost. In the end, I'd say this was definitely worth a rental, as you'll finish it in 8-12 hours and the first time through is pleasant, if a bit disappointing. But do you see that sign on my review that says I bought this game? Yeah, don't be like me, not for sixty bucks at any rate.

Gravity Rush - PlayStation Vita
Gravity Rush - PlayStation Vita
Price: $22.19
43 used & new from $14.44

31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vita's first great game., June 15, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
While not a perfect experience, Gravity Rush is an excellent demonstration of the Vita being more than a port machine designed for cash-in HD Collections, and goes a long way in restoring some play time to my dust-layered handheld.

After a questionably unnecessary tap or two, the game starts with your hero, Kat, groggily lifting her head, clueless to her surroundings and even her identity. She's dressed like some ornamental grasshopper, her eyes are a rabid shade of red and she's introduced to a very strange cat: this is pretty much all the storyline you get for a while.

The game doesn't give you much peace before introducing you to the core mechanic, gravity shifting. It was about ten seconds after this that I flung my character into a black hole, which was the beginning of wrapping my head around a gameplay structure I never really experienced before. You main movement is done by first defying gravity with a push of the right trigger, aiming the camera where you want to go with the right analog or tilting the Vita, and hitting right trigger again to shift downward gravity in that direction. You can sorta move your character around while "flying," but the most accurate method is always to double-tap the trigger aiming where you wish to "fall." To return to the standard gravity takes just a quick push of the left trigger. All of that plus a weird Megaman-ish gravity slide along the ground makes up your transportation methods.

This works beautifully 99% of the time, and once you get over the initial confusion, you'll feel like some sort of Spider-Man side character using your own unique way of zipping through the city. And speaking of the city, man, that place is pretty huge. I don't just mean for a handheld game, either. For giving a massive sense of scale, I haven't seen a game pull it off as well as Gravity Rush has since...Shadow of the Colossus, perhaps? And it's nowhere near as static/uninteractive as I first feared: pedestrians cower, rails and pillars collapse from your battles and each city sector you go through has a distinct feel to it thanks to a diverse, orchestral soundtrack. You really have to play it yourself to see how incredibly detailed the city structure is, because pretty much every screenshot ever makes it look like leftover footage from Superman 64.

The city and gameplay compliment each other nicely, but of course the rest of the game needs a wee bit more than that. In comes your shadowy, pink-and-black monsters called Nevi. I keep reading it as Navi while playing: I think that's what makes killing them so much more fun. But anywho, Nevi come in multiple forms and sizes, can either dominate the land or air, but their one signature weakness is the pink orb or two on their bodies. Barring your occasional armor plating, that's your bullseye, that's all you have to focus on. Very little in the way of pattern memorization or outsmarting them, just seek and destroy with the combat system.

And this is where things get a little sketchy. See, you have one basic land attack, one basic air attack, and while both can be upgraded to increase damage and complexity, neither one ever really feels efficient when dealing with enemies. Your land kick is obviously going to keep you grounded, but your aerial attack is an all-out charging bull maneuver. That charge attack works fine for a few hours, but then you get these hopping jerkfaces with orbs out of reach from the ground, and they kinda love to hop out of your way while you Bruce Lee right by without leaving a scratch. Later on, the flying enemy with its own charging attack shows up, and these fights consist of the two (or five) of you zipping by each other like a bunch of rams blindly trying to headbutt each other. True, you upgrade a throw attack to toss any spare junk lying around, plus there's the several super attacks which can devastate the horde pretty quickly, but those aren't always available options. Combine this with missions that increasingly rely on combat and less on the clever platforming, you begin to see how this is an issue. Protip: never be still.

While the combat never really takes off, other missions stand out as surprisingly clever and memorable. From the schoolgirl mode that sends you on multiple false leads to fourth-wall-breaking fetch quests, the characters and goals are excellent. Sometimes you even leave the main city, combining the joys of exploration with an even greater appreciation for just how big the game tries to be. Bonus missions like races and combat scoring go the extra mile in adding content, mainly because they can be brutal in their qualifications and conditions.

While some games on the Vita try to be just like their home console version and fail horribly at presentation (Mortal Kombat's Johnny Cage looks like a fifty-year-old man with an afro), Gravity Rush has a look that fits the console perfectly. I even like most of the touch/motion controls. To hell with Uncharted and WipEout. THIS is the game to display the Vita as a true handheld capable of its own experiences, similar to the Pokemon or Mario & Luigi games Nintendo brings to their handhelds. Completely unique in gameplay, massive in spatial scope and memorable in character, Gravity Rush is, more than any other game so far, a reason to buy a Vita.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2013 1:52 PM PST

Kid Icarus: Uprising
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Offered by BASCO GAMES (USA)
Price: $43.26
96 used & new from $23.00

137 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow., March 23, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Kid Icarus: Uprising (Video Game)
I picked this up, expecting a clumsy Star Fox-y experience and a few hours of entertainment. I was very wrong.

This game is big. Freaking HUGE, considering its genre. Not really sure where to begin, in fact. I believe I'll leave out everything concerning the storyline, except for this little tidbit: if you are the kind of person who can't stand constant banter while playing, there's an option to turn it off. However, I LIKE the constant banter, it breaks the fourth wall constantly and doesn't take itself seriously, allowing cheesy lines to just work.

EDIT: all this talk about the complexity of the game and I didn't even mention how it looks. Silly me. Anywho, this is easily the most diverse and prettiest game on the 3DS yet. You'd think "aerial battle" would leave little room for variety, but each chapter has constantly shifting environments that go from pretty to trippy to occasionally creepy. Sometimes you will fly gracefully and be able to take in the sights, other times the camera will spin you 360-degrees while ten floating eyeballs fire at you nonstop. Animation is extremely fluid and framerate never drops in single player, with online rarely hiccuping at the 6-player chaos going on. That's all pretty impressive considering I cranked the 3D up at all times.

Well anyway, the game plays like 1/3 Star Fox and 2/3...I dunno how the hell you'd describe it. Super Smash Bros. in three dimensions comes close, as you run around, shoot/swat at anything that lies before your path and dodge projectiles that can (and will) block the entire screen. The air parts are the easiest, as it shares similar-yet-advanced controls with Star Fox 64 3D. Unlike that game, you can move and aim in different directions using the slider and touch screen, respectively, which gives an amazing level of aim. A charged shot loads while you have a moment of peace, movement is quicker when you're not shooting, certain enemy projectiles can be shot back or reflected...there's a lot going on.

This gets even more complex on the ground. Pit is an agile cat, able to pull off charged shots with the same ease you had in the air. But land combat also includes dashing (which itself has its own charged shots depending on which direction you go), grinding rails, bunny-hopping and camera control. The last one is the finicky bit. A lot of reviewers apparently can't wrap their heads around the touch screen being used to move the camera AND the aiming reticule with different motions, it's usually the dominant complaint in any review of the game so far. But while the control layout itself is abstract, it is by no means unusable. I kinda relate it to a similar "holy crap this is difficult" feeling you get playing rhythm games like Rock Band, where the input method itself works fine but it's the person playing who has to adapt. But this will differ for everyone, and just because I have yet to feel anything remotely painful enough to stop playing, doesn't mean you can show up and play the game flawlessly.

Those are the only two things you actually DO throughout the whole game, which consists of plenty of storyline chapters and an online mode. Sounds pretty simple, eh? It's not. As soon as you complete the first mission - set on the "baby" difficulty - you are awarded with hearts (in-game currency) and perhaps a new weapon. These are doled out from playing the missions themselves and finding hidden chests, or from completing a task on the HUGE achievement list. Weapons not only come in nine different classes, there are easily a hundred different weapons to choose from, and the stats vary on EVERY SINGLE ONE, and the bullets fired all vary in shape/speed/homing capacity/look/size/damage depending on HOW it's fired and what weapon it's fired from, and melee attacks have varying range/power/speed/combo length, and two weapons can be fused to create a new weapon with hybrid stats. You get all that? If you have no interest in the weapon at all, you can sell it for more hearts, which in turn can be used to buy more weapons. I know some of you may be imagining a nightmare scenario where you have to equip each weapon and halfheartedly play a mission to get a feel for it. Fear not: you can try out any weapon you want while in the weapons menu.

See, look at all that text, and I didn't even mention the bonus box. I dunno what the game calls it, but the bonus box is a Tetris-like system where certain skills (poison, grenades, health boost, dozens of others) can be equipped by sliding their blocky shape into said box. These show up in-game on the bottom screen, and can be activated with touch or the d-pad. These can change your playstyle just as drastically as a different weapon class, so experimentation is key.

Sound like a lot of grinding? Well, it COULD be, if you take the easy way out and pick "wuss" mode. But the difficulty is extremely adjustable, allowing you to wager hearts and say "Yeah, I can beat this." I wouldn't recommend this early on, you will get stomped. But when you DO feel up to it, don't think the game will be completely out of surprises just yet: hidden areas will only open if you hit the difficulty threshold, and that's where you'll find even greater challenge and loot.

As that wasn't cool enough, 99% of what you unlock in the storyline will become available to use against people all over the world. There are only two game types - free-for-all deathmatch and a protect the leader-ish Light vs. Dark mode - but the infinite weapon variations more than make up for it. Once again there is no online voice chat, not even for friends, but to be honest there's so much going on I don't know what I'd say to my partners that would lessen the chaos. And there are items you can only collect/use from playing online, too, giving even more variety.

On top of all that, you have a card-battle system which uses the 3DS camera, a Smash Bros.-like figurine collection, hidden pictures slowly revealed via achievements and customizable menu screen. Yeah, really. It is insane how much content is packed in that little cartridge, and anyone who thinks they're up to testing the unusual control method could do worse than pick this game up.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2013 6:03 PM PST

Uncharted: Golden Abyss - PlayStation Vita
Uncharted: Golden Abyss - PlayStation Vita
Price: $17.07
174 used & new from $10.54

19 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of a rip-off, really., February 26, 2012
Alrighty, so you have a brand new system, and your game has become a launch title. The best thing to do? Jack the price up by ten bucks just because you'll probably get away with it.

I'm being cynical, I guess. Lemme start with the good. The game (along with the Vita screen in general) is SO PRETTY. This is especially true to someone used to 3DS offerings. That a launch title for this system looks better than 99% of the 3DS' year-old library really says something about the power behind Sony's little handheld, and it can only improve from here. True, the game seems to sacrifice some aliasing in order to keep the framerate steady - which works for the majority of the game - but the jagged edges are nowhere near an eyesore.

The sound effects, music and voice acting are also top-notch, although the soaring orchestral bits can occasionally try to drown out the actors. I did notice one "problem," but it's more of a Vita gripe: the speakers on the system are kinda blocked by your hands most of the time, and when you have to move them in order to do the touch segments, you notice how much sound you're blocking out. While the voice acting is very well done, some of the dialogue can feel a bit forced and repetitive. Generally, Drake says or does something, another side character makes a snarky comment, and that little bit becomes the joke for the rest of the segment. Moments of sentimentality and anger share similar traits, making Drake a bit on the predictable side.

There are a few other little trinkets worth mentioning before I get into the negative. The game has a Streetpass-like functionality to interact with Vita owners around you, as I assume all future Vita games will. The extra control inputs for climbing and combat are...there, not really detracting from the game because they are optional. It's kind of a barebones package, to be honest, which brings me to the less satisfactory parts of the game.

One of those less satisfactory parts of the game revolve around the gamePLAY. The first three Uncharted games, stripped of their huge disaster setpieces and witty dialogue, followed a simple pattern: find a locked door, climb around said door, get ambushed by nameless soldiers, quick-time event or two, advance farther, puzzle area, repeat. The only area that has evolved at all are the puzzle segments, while the rest has become far too formulaic and predictable. Uncharted on the Vita manages to find a spot between "puzzle" and "stupid time-waster" with the inclusion of touch-based segments. These segments are unskippable, force you to use the touch screen, go on for far too long and show up way too often. In one segment of the game, you have to make a charcoal rubbing (think of The Last Crusade scene right before the rat BBQ) from four statues. This means you rub the Vita screen until you've hit around 60% of it, four times. Later you do the same thing with SIX slightly smaller sketches.

These would be forgivable if they were alone in the stupid-idea category. They're not. Drake will put down his gun and proceed to piece together shredded papers randomly spread across the game. You occasionally have to twist and turn an item using the back touch screen just to say you've looked at it, sometimes having to rub/clean it in the process. You will come to loathe every narrow walkway ever because Drake suddenly needs you to keep balance for him. The ultra-sharp machete he carries around requires you to draw certain patterns before it can cut through bamboo, or even worse, a flimsy bit of cloth. While not mandatory, the camera bits say you sure as hell better include that random shrub at the bottom of the picture of the giant waterfall or it won't even be worth saving. All of these do a great job of eliminating the flow of the game.

Then the biggest issue comes to mind: the price. This game is NOT fifty dollars-good. The storyline will probably take you less than ten hours to blaze through, and unless you are the trophy-loving kind of guy, there's not a whole lot else to go through here. What's even more disturbing is the complete lack of online play, which has become a complex, deep system on the PS3 side. Keeping in mind a game like Resident Evil Revelations released on a weaker system while boasting a full storyline AND online co-op, it becomes obvious Golden Abyss is priced at such just because of the name on the box and the comparatively low choice of games on the new Vita. Combine this with absolutely forcing you to buy a memory card before the game even starts...yeah, not worth it.

This is not a game worth buying a Vita and a memory card for. It's not even worth buying a Vita alone for, actually irrelevant because you can't do that, haha. Maybe when it hits a price of around thirty bucks, but definitely not now.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2013 9:40 PM PDT

Rage - Playstation 3
Rage - Playstation 3
Price: $15.39
267 used & new from $0.95

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Doom: Earth Edition, October 5, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Rage - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
I've killed about six hours with the game so far, at least half of the single-player mode I've been told. So far I'm less than amazed.

As your Doom Guy (don't even pretend he's anyone else) wakes up from his chambered sleep, the graphics instantly amaze. Metal comes in varying degrees of rust and shine, the sky is sharp, and rocks all have a rough texture that pops out of the screen. This high detail comes at a price, however: changing focus from near to far objects creates blurs and texture popping, even while standing still. occasionally while driving, horizontal lines will stutter across the screen. Generally you'll be too occupied to notice these things, but it is a constant issue.

You'll spend about ten, fifteen minutes in the game before you get the obligatory crappy pistol, and perhaps an hour before you have a decent selection of weapons. They all have "weighty" sounds - unlike some games where shotguns go off like bottle rockets - and the FPS controls act nicely. Please ignore all the idiots that say this controls like Fallout 3 or Borderlands, though there is a slightly smaller resemblance to the latter. As I shuffled between blasting mutants in the face with my shotgun and slicing their heads off with a doomerang, what immediately came to my mind was Bioshock's primary weapons and its d-pad of gadgets. The amount of weapon customization and scavenging seem roughly the same, too. You could even switch the sun-blasted desert with Rapture's little aquarium and have similar shootout areas, when it comes to size. Most of those pretty panoramas are strictly for show.

Eventually you'll get access to your own car, and this is kind of where the Borderlands similarities come into play. Both vehicle modes control somewhat the same, but Rage's are less floaty and come with Twisted Metal-ish items that have to be purchased later on. The corridors are thrown out when it comes to the buggy mode, at least. There's plenty of jumps and distractions between you and the long drive to the next mission.

Oh right, the missions. Once you get past the first few hours of "go here to finish that mission while getting another mission to get a mission" structure, you're given a little more leeway on what you can do. The simplest (and often the quest-after-quest) ones require you to drive to one area, perhaps push a button or talk to someone, and voila, done. There appears to be passive quests as well - continue to take out bandit cars and receive money - that you can finish along the way.

For the most part, shooting missions take place outside of the Wasteland HUB world in little nooks, separated by a loading screen. These areas are decent in length but narrow, and shouldn't surprise any Doom fan. What IS surprising is the varying AIs and how they interact with the environment. Bandits literally scramble for cover, stagger and fall back for greater numbers. To counterbalance this, melee characters come charging at you with flips and dives, hopping over obstacles and basically being a pain to shoot. Every now and then you're given a boss fight, and while these haven't exactly been challenging (yet), they tend to force a change in strategy. Die once, and you'll partake in an interesting minigame to resuscitate your carcass. Die before that ability has had time to recharge, and it's back to the last checkpoint (auto-save) for you. You might want to save a lot, even if it takes an annoyingly long time.

While that's all well and good, there are several large issues bringing the game down. Lack of FPS multiplayer is arguably one of them, I'm sure someone around here has complained about it by now, but there are basic design flaws. Loading screens that bookend maybe thirty seconds of driving or walking, for one. Quests that teleport you to the location (loading screen), then instantly teleport you back upon failing (loading screen) without an option to retry, forcing you to reactive it (loading screen), is another. Those may seem like minor quibbles...until you get to the harder difficulties.

Then there's the hard truth that there's just not a lot of unique moments in the game. Barring the interesting AI, you have a fairly standard weapon setup, Twisted Metal Lite vehicles and graphics that are pretty as long as you don't move. I'd like to rate this 3.5 stars, really, but since this will do a good job of killing off my weekend, guess it can get 4.

Star Fox 64 3D
Star Fox 64 3D
Offered by BD Stuff
Price: $92.99
59 used & new from $34.98

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yay, something sorta-new to play on 3DS!, September 9, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Star Fox 64 3D (Video Game)
3DS owners have had three options for games for the last month: old DS games, free NES games and maybe two or three above-average 3DS titles. Over the next few months, that horrible dry spell will fade away. Star Fox 64 3D is the starting point.

Unlike the recent Ocarina of Time 3D version that felt a bit light on the graphical overhaul, Star Fox 64 on the 3DS makes serious, awesome adjustments. Those flat, murky water effects are tossed aside for sparkling waves, generic white snow becomes layered sheets of ice and sleet. Virtually all of it runs smoothly in regular and 3D play. The only loss from the N64 version that I can see is the cockpit view, and I have to admit that stings a little. The 3D effect...actually didn't seem as intense as I thought it would with this kind of game, albeit the screen can be too hectic to bother noticing every little thing that flies at you.

The controls can be tweaked enough to satisfy the majority of people. It includes the two sensible weapon/speed button layouts and lets you switch between standard and inverted flying. There are also gyro controls, which I haven't got a chance to try yet, but it can be turned off or even used alongside the buttons.

The story mode has changed very little, it's just been slightly modified. You still go through a string of missions, where alternate paths and hidden bosses can be unlocked by accomplishing certain achievements. The only major change is the ability to choose whether or not you wish to continue with an unlocked path or go the "regular" route. Note that this doesn't mean you can cruise through any mission you want without first unlocking the OPTION to. This is (mildly) offset by the ability to replay the last stage you completed at the expense of a ship/1-up. You can also just play around on individual levels and aim for the best score, but it looks like you have to unlock the stages in each "difficulty," via the story mode. There's two difficulties, but I see no glaring differences between looks like you could stick with one and not miss anything.

The story itself is 100% unchanged, as are the methods to unlocking different routes and defeating the bosses. Dialogue has been completely redone - supposedly by the original actors - and whether or not you enjoy it depends greatly on your tolerance to the cheese factor. And for those who really care about it, prepare for a shock: not every line from the N64 game makes it verbatim. You've been warned. Oh, the music's been tweaked a little as well, but I honestly can't spot the differences off the top of my head, so be aware of that as well.

Now aside from the graphics and audio, the big draw for the game appears to be its multiplayer mode, which allows aerial dogfights between four local players using a single cartridge. While the ability to see less-than-great video feeds of your friends in the game is...different, the total lack of online play really brings down the experience. Keep in mind: the Star Fox on the original DS managed to do this, and even though Nintendo wants to show how much their online enthusiasm has grown, the perfect game to make use of that cobweb-infested friends list goes unused. Not cool. I expect much better interactivity in Mario Kart and Smash Bros.

Even if 3DS owners weren't in this current drought, I would still recommend Star Fox for anyone who can bear the sting of a wasted opportunity for online play. It's still an incredibly fun game, only now it doesn't look ugly and it's in portable form.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2011 6:55 AM PDT

Fable III - Xbox 360
Fable III - Xbox 360
Offered by Galactics
Price: $19.99
512 used & new from $0.25

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The only series that gets simpler each sequel., November 20, 2010
This review is from: Fable III - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
First off, I finished the main story in less than a day. Less than 24 hours. Maybe ten hours, tops. That alone docks a game like this a couple of points, but as a player of the first two Fables, this game is easily the worst for other reasons.

But hey, let's start with the good. The most immediate change is the new game system, which is anorexic compared to the bloated, slow gameplay of past games. The good news of this is there's no real need to go into the deep sub-maps of the directional pad to find just the right emotion, no carrying several dozen different kinds of food/drink, no inventory screens to scroll through, no planning your paths to make the best use of time (all transportation is now instant, it seems), even the exploration has been cut down substantially. Things that didn't really work in the first and second Fable have been cut out, and this makes the game flow much more smoothly.

The downer part of this is, the combat - already a fairly weak system since the first game - takes its fair share of cuts. All of your melee attacks remain more or less intact, which isn't saying much with a one-button system, but the speed and "durability" options of the past have disappeared, and the leveling system focuses on power alone. Gunslinging can still be done by either tapping Y or holding it down for a stronger shot, and holding the left trigger still has the over-the-shoulder view, but the ability to shoot certain body parts has been cut. That's a shame, since your dog is completely useless in battle except against floored enemies, and instead of cutting out their legs, you're left hoping a charged shot MIGHT make enemies collapse. Magic skills in general have been shrunk down from the last two games (creature summons and slowing time now appear as potions), and while the ability to mix two spells together might appear to add complexity, I never found any situation that fire/ice were less useful than the other two spells.

It gets worse. All weapons, ALL OF THEM, now fall under just four categories: pistol, rifle, hammer, sword. That's it. Were you a bow or crossbow lover? Tough luck. The developers try to remedy this by magically letting the weapons "morph" to passively upgrade as you progress through the story. But the problem there is, the quest is so short, you don't feel like the one or two weapon transformations are really worth it. I suppose replaying the game as an evil person may double this meager number, but I'll get to why that will never be happening for me shortly.

Even with this flawed setup, the story nearly makes up for first. The journey to build up supporters to overthrow your evil king sibling is filled with entertaining quests, be it the main storyline or amusing sidequests with Dungeons and Dragons parodies. The voicework - when four or five people aren't all talking at once - is usually quite good, if a bit recycled from the past games and pretty funny throughout. No big shocker here, but when you do become the monarch, the game is only 2/3's over.

That last 1/3, though, is sketchy. I'd say broken, even. In the earlier parts of the game, you are forced to make promises to your prospective allies, and when the characters return for your side of the bargain, it's usually in a situation that is lose-lose. Vague example: the castle is ready for a new interior decorator, and the choice is between a "good" and "evil" design. Since my goal was to save the kingdom money while being good (not an easy task), I couldn't help but wonder why the option to not do ANYTHING to the castle wasn't available. The rest of my actions are with the consideration of a great evil approaching, why do I have to spend money on EITHER decorator? In the end, unless you donate a very, very, very large chunk of personal gold to the treasury, or become just as tyrannical as the guy you overthrow, you're going to be a very lonely cat by the end of the game. Being a queen, working as a blacksmith to save the entire, that's just stupid.

Now for the single thing that killed this game, made me grit my teeth and bear through with grim determination: the dramati-cam. This is what I call it when the camera decides you just did something awesome, so it slows down, takes its focus off of you to show the guy you just hit, and spins slightly. The dramati-cam was in previous games, and was kinda okay, but it is completely broken here. Instead of seeing the dramati-cam after the finishing blow, you'll see it when lightly striking an enemy with a weak bullet. The dramati-cam will zoom in and slowly spin to show the enemy flinch slightly and shoot you. The dramati-cam will leave you defenseless as you rapidly press A and any direction, hoping you're not rolling right into the group of hollow men. The dramati-cam will return to show you again...facing the wrong direction. So unless you're a natural at fighting enemies who are yet to show up in your screen, and disdain the idea of turning the camera around to see them, the dramati-cam will show up two or three times a fight and make life hard. The dramati-cam single-handedly killed this game of any joy I'd find in replay value.

Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard for Xbox 360
Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard for Xbox 360
Offered by PNP Games
Price: $27.88
33 used & new from $19.99

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just another plastic controller., November 12, 2010
I will kinda cut the actual Rock Band 3 part of this thing out, because the focus here is on the instrument, the 360 version specifically. I'll just say that it does its job perfectly fine with the game and move along.

So, on to the actual keyboard. Anyone who's ever spent ten seconds messing around with one will either know or secretly understand there are usually two things about keyboards when it comes to their construction: the keys have a certain weight to them, and the instrument is usually solidly built (not plastic-y). The MadCatz keyboard fits both of those roles perfectly. It does NOT feel like the vast majority of the other Rock Band 3 instruments, namely the guitar: thin, hollow plastic things which feel like you could snap them over your knee. No, this cat is pretty solid and feels like it could take a battering if need be. The keys have a natural weighted feel and respond just as they should, but with a single addition of ridges over the left ends of some, likely to help newbies with the game align their fingers with the colored sections without having to look much.

If I've given the impression that this thing has a built-in speaker, think otherwise. And Rock Band 3 doesn't, as far as I can remember, have a freestyle mode to let you play whatever on the keys. But, this does come with a 5-pin MIDI outlet, and all of its buttons and keys - and I'm pretty sure literally ALL of them, even the touch strip - are programmed for use with MIDI software. This puts it further into something more of an actual instrument than just a game controller.

It makes for a compact, fairly versatile item, albeit for the niche market of music gamers and creative keyboardists. As for its interplay with Rock Band 3, there's no real need to mention it here other than it works, because anything deeper is on the game side, which I'll save for a review of it rather than this peripheral.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 19, 2013 4:31 PM PST

Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 6000 - Black
Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 6000 - Black
Offered by Clear&Honest
Price: $179.99
11 used & new from $59.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Works perfectly w/o the software., January 14, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I had this mouse plugged in and working instantly. Over the last few hours, I've been toying around with it. So far, I'm very happy.

The mouse itself fits in the hand nicely, but there are two little things that irk me. People with larger hands may find their fingers lifted up and over the buttons while using, which may or may not be bothersome. Really a matter of personal preference there. But the biggest issue is the feel of the scroll button. The surface will grip your finger, kinda, but it offers no physical feedback (click, noise), and is very smooth. It works perfectly, but does feel weird for a while.

There's no required setup at all, for those who just wanted a plug-and-use kind of thing. I've read a few reviews stating the mouse is too sensitive, or not sensitive enough, cannot be changed, etc. So far, I've been able to change my preferences found right in your common Windows control panel, and have them reflect on the mouse. I couldn't give you an opinion about the software it comes with, because I honestly don't need it. Even the two side buttons (which I thought would absolutely need the software) work as previous/next in Firefox, and that's fine with me.

I'm also paying attention to the tiny USB receiver, which has a handy clip-in slot underneath the mouse. There have been some reviews stating it gets hot to the touch, but so far, works like a charm. The connection between mouse and receiver is at least six feet from my testing, with no jagged movements lag. Very awesome.

So for under thirty bucks, I'm happy with this mouse. Definitely recommend it for those who are stuck with using a laptop pad like I was, or as a replacement mouse.

Fujifilm Finepix J38 12MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD
Fujifilm Finepix J38 12MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the hundred bucks., December 3, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I unpacked this awesome little camera a few hours ago, and have been putting it through some paces. Overall, I'm impressed.

I'll start with the good. The portability is top-notch. To give perspective, its about a 1/3" shorter and twice as thick as my classic iPod, and roughly the same, dainty weight. The screen, while beautiful, will absorb fingerprints, so a cleansing cloth is a must if you're nitpicky. There are a grand total of eleven buttons on the camera, all of them about as ergonomically pleasing as you can get with a rectangle.

Now on still shots, it's been my experience that Fuji products tend to jack up the ISO on Auto mode. The J38 is no different. This will result in some noise, in any camera, but unless you go looking for it, there's no real glaring problem here. The pictures will look fine if you feel like having them printed out, and don't go over them with a magnifying lens. The Scene Recognition Auto - a setting that decides what the shot should be taken as - is good in theory but so far has been iffy indoors. I've gotten a few unwanted flashes with my pictures that I considered well lit.

Luckily, for all those snobs who want the finest Finepix, the manual mode is pretty deep, considering the point-and-shoot type of camera this is. You can change the ISO (100 will produce excellent photos in decent light), the exp. compensation, and the White Balance, along with turning the face recognition on or off. The results of tinkering will usually be obvious from the screen, so this will help ease newbies into exploring the camera's true capabilities. (A note: the macro mode is adequate but not mindblowing, and there is no super-macro mode)

Oh yeah, the screen. You're stuck with it, because there's no viewfinder to be found on this model, but for me that's a moot point. This type of camera is the kind you hold out in front of you and snap a picture. But the screen's only real drawback is the speed as which it "draws" your picture to be. There's just a hint of lag, nothing bad at all, but it will go blurry with fast movement, and at the moment I'm not sure if this affects the focus. I doubt it would.

Video is more than I was expecting. The quality is a smidge above your average professional Youtube video, and stays in pretty good focus as you move. I have a feeling really fast movement might become a blur, but so far it's been on the ball with recording. Oh, while the zoom doesn't work while recording (bummer), the built-in microphone seemed to pick up things rather well. I fussed with the buttons while recording, and the clicks and taps on the camera body were picked up a little too good: keep a firm, unmoving grip and you should be good to go.

Internal memory is severely lacking. Like, three 12MP pictures and it's full. Be sure to pick up a decent SD card, and you won't have any problems. My 2-gig card can hold over six hundred pictures, or over thirty minutes of footage, and the higher memory SDs are pretty cheap.

I'm totally happy with my purchase. For 100 dollars, I got a camera that needs considerably less of a babying through than my others. That said, it will take a degree of time for a newbie to get the best pictures out of the camera, so an optimistic outlook is needed. For those who are in a hurry to snap something good, or the semi-veteran who doesn't feel like lugging around his bigger camera, this is a great point-and-shoot with some (eventually) foolproof features.

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