Video Games

Sony E3 2013 PS4 Press Conference Thoughts

Sony’s been the focus of my gaming attention for quite a while now, as I’ve had literally zero interest in the Xbox One, even before its official announcement (and when the announcement came… well, we all know how that went). So, as I’m watching the stream of Sony’s Playstation presentation, I’m really happy. Really happy. Like a kid who found out he could have a date with Emma Stone after his Saturday morning cartoons. There’s only one thing nagging me, and it’s one of those pesky nags. Like a parent telling you to take the dog out, or having to procrastinate practicing your violin. It’s that portly white guy, when discussing the PSN’s features, made it sound an awful lot like online play will require a PSN+ subscription. This was the one thing that I always felt Sony had the upper hand with, and now they’ve (seemingly) thrown that advantage out the window. Fuck, Sony, I was about to sign on as a loyal will-be PS4 buyer. Now I have to reconsider.

*Update: It’s official now, Sony is pulling a Microsoft and charging for online multiplayer. That’s annoying, really annoying. Not a deal breaker obviously, a lot of good stuff is on the horizon for Sony, but c’mon guys. C’mon. I thought we were better than that.

**Even more current update: Sony’s used game policies were fantastic as it was, but even better, $399 price tag. That’s orgasmic. God Bless America (or Buddha or Kratos or whatever you like).

The Scrap Yard

Review of Escape Plan for PS Vita

I’ve had this game for, like, a year now.escape-plan-ps vita

Escape Plan is a puzzle platformer that uses touchscreen controls only. Initially, that sounds like a really scary premise: Precise puzzle movements that are controlled solely by twitchy fingertip recognitions. In reality, the final product is actually pretty great and does a good job utilizing its control scheme.

The motions you’ll play Escape Plan with are finger taps, swipes, swirls and rear touchpad bumps. It’s all utilized extremely well, and rarely do levels require awkward combinations of the previously mentioned movements. On the best of levels, you actually start to think touchscreen controls are a good thing in gaming. It’s a combination of the clever level design and quirky gimmicks that make the touchscreen gameplay work, as levels and gimmicks allow you enough processing time to figure out the puzzles and keep your fingers moving. I think that’s the key to touchscreen gaming, allowing you enough time to do your motions on-screen correctly, which Fun Bits Interactive (the developer) nails.

While gameplay alone is a big plus for Escape Plan, its real charm lies in its presentation and audio. The game chooses to diversify itself from other platformers by being completely black and white, like something out of a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon. Not only that, but every character hosts an inky, blobby physique, one that complements the two color color scheme perfectly. As simplistic as the visuals are, the graphics maintain cutting edge status for Vita standards, the lighting/shading effects being a perfect example of Escape Plan’s graphical capabilities. With that said, things still have an innocent factor to them that the game’s decidely classical soundtrack only helps to exemplify. Beethoven’s 5th playing as two black and white inky blobs scuttle and bumble their way through obstacles such as razor blades and giant hammers has a certain appeal that not many games have, being both perilous and humorous at the same time.psv-escape-plan-ss4

In conclusion, Escape Plan is both a poster child of intuitivity (new words ftw) and proper touchscreen controls, two things gaming as a medium is in desperate need of. Even if there’s only three to four hours worth of content in the actual package, Escape Plan’s unique allure alone is enough to justify the fifteen dollar price tag.

The Scrap Yard

Review of Sonic CD (Xbox Live Arcade)

Sonic CD. The one Sonic game no one has ever played. Some called it an overglorified Sega CD game, some called it the best Sonic title to ever be released. Which one will it be? Read on to find out!

Sound: Classic Sonic games knew how to make music, that’s for sure. Epic soundtrack, especially the song in the intro with what I think is the first to have vocals in the series! Of course, the 8-bit (or 16-bit, I don’t know) music is some of the best in Sonic history. And to top it off, this version comes with both the USA and Japanese soundtracks! Sound: 9.5/10

Presentation: It’s pretty much the perfection of the Sonic 1 graphics. It looks great, although I prefer Sonic 2 and 3’s graphical style. Special stages, on the other hand, have aged pretty badly and look sort of tacky as just sprites in comparison to modern day visuals. Presentation: 7/10

Gameplay: Thought you knew the classic Sonics? Well, think again! This game feels practically nothing like it’s brethren, being a bouncy cluster of springs, obstacles and countless enemies, all placed in levels that are packed to the top with platforms. Because of these numberous obstructions, the game focuses more on precision platforming than speed, which is quite a change of pace from other Sonic games. The platforming is fun, but with Sonic’s new figure 8 move, it’s a bit of a shame we couldn’t see more of it due to the inability to ever build up enough speed. Aside from that, there’s also the ability to time travel, which gives the game infinite replayability. The future stages are the easiest to blaze through, the present have the most standard feel to them, and the past are the ones where you can destroy generators and fix the future, thus giving the game a good ending (and yes there are multiple endings). I have to talk about the annoying special stages, though. These things make me want to yell at puppies. They are the most aggravating special stages I’ve ever encountered in a Sonic game, due to the fact that all of the obstacles are so flat and graphically outdated that you can’t even tell what they are until they’ve hit you. The dumb little UFO’s you have to hit are extremely mobile and all in all it’s just a ridiculous goose chase trying to get the Time Stones these stages unlock (Getting all of the Time Stones through special stages is another way to reach the good ending). Lastly, once you beat the game you unlock Tails as a playable character, a cool new addition in this port. Only problem is that you have no incentive to play as him because he can’t unlock achievements. Gameplay: 7.5/10

Multiplayer: N/A

Length: If you rocket through the game, totally ignoring time travel and special stages, you can probably rap the adventure up in under an hour. But if you dedicate enough effort to finding all of the generators in the past and getting all of the Time Stones, this game can last countless hours of intricate exploration and platforming. For the standard gamer though, the latter will be disregarded and the game will be over in under sixty minutes. Length: 7.5/10

Overall: Sonic CD gets a well deserved 7.9/10! Although it’s not standard speedy Sonic action, and is based more around careful exploration and the time travel gimmick, I say go out and get it if you’re even mildly interested. It’s only 400 microsoft points, to boot!

The Scrap Yard

Review of Sonic 4: Episode 1 (Xbox Live Arcade)

Quite a few years after the classic Sonic games, SEGA has created the ultimate fan service title: Sonic 4. Does this game show us that 2D platformers are still fun? Read on to find out!

Sound: This game follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, sporting a catchy techno-esque soundtrack that any 2D Sonic adventure should have. The only issue is that although the music is good, it’s not as memorable as the classic tunes. Sound: 7.5/10

Presentation: The visuals look almost like a comic book. Everything looks crisp and almost 3D, because of the way the textures of the graphics are. It’s a cool style, and definitely retro. Presentation: 9/10

Gameplay: Sonic sure doesn’t play like he used to. His spindash is rendered almost powerless, his homing attack is a necessity, and momentum-based physics are gone. Now, although this sounds like a recipe for disaster, all of these seemingly negative things add up to make a positive, new and somewhat intriguing gameplay experience that just takes a lot of getting used to. Aside from that, controls are responsive and everything works as it should. Levels consist mainly of holding right, jumping a few times, not much precision platforming and even a few puzzles are thrown into the mix. Level design itself is good, encouraging the slightly awkward physics by offering speedy routes to those who have mastered the quirks of the game. Each of the four zones also has its own gimmick, with the factory/industrial level having steam pistons that rocket you all over, and the ancient ruin level having giant Indiana Jones boulders chasing you down caverns. Overall, a pretty varied and unique gameplay experience. Gameplay: 8.5/10

Multiplayer: N/A

Length: Leaderboards, achievements, special stage and the four zones of the game are what you get. Once you race through all the levels once (which only takes about two hours or so), you can go tackle the special stages to win the chaos emeralds, but that’s about it if you’re not into achievement hunting and leaderboards. Length: 6/10

Overall: Sonic 4 gets 7.8 golden rings out of 10, and even though the bliss is short-lived it’s still a fun remake that brings back all those fond memories of a spiky blue hedgehog bouncing around on a 2D plane.