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Beauty and the Best

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Review

Knights of the Old Republic
By now you've all heard about Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm and how they plan to use it for producing new regular installments of the Star Wars franchise. This might not actually be a bad thing because they also already owned Jim Henson Studios. So is it too much for me to hope that the next film will have practical effects like the originals? Yes, yes it is. Disney missed the point with Tron Legacy and I doubt they hold Star Wars with any more respect than they did for Tron to be anything other than a calculated cash cow.

That doesn't mean I hate Star Wars however, far from it. It's just been so long since I've experienced something new related to the series which wasn't frigging awful that I'm a bit jaded by this point. It's the end of 2012 which makes it almost 10 years since the last time I could say I've enjoyed Star Wars. No, I'm not talking about the Genndy Tartakovsky
Clone Wars cartoon but that's a good guess and shows that some people do still know how to make use of the property. Another group which did in 2003, were the people at BioWare who lovingly made the RPG video game epic, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

For those of you who are familiar with the Star Wars universe, this game takes place 4,000 years before 1977's
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. And it's amazing how little has changed in that time. Ships, architecture and social constructs are largely the same as they would be in the films. Instead of an empire vs rebellion however, at this time a different empire, waging a war of conquest is threatening the established Galactic Republic. You take the role of a republic soldier during an attack on your ship and from there embark on your own adventure a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Shortly afterward you and another soldier crash on the planet wide city of Taris where you must find other companions and escape a blockade to save the galaxy from a mysterious new tool of the empire called the Star Forge. Once the universe is opened up to you, you can then travel at your leisure to a number of other locations like Tatooine, the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, Dantooine and others. It adds a wonderful amount of diversity which is only furthered by the huge cast of characters that you'll interact with throughout.

Many familiar alien races and even some new yet important ones are found wandering the cities and wilderness but all of them are fully voice acted. Like many of BioWare's other games are known for, Knights of the Old Republic is all about player choices. What others say and how they respond to you depends on what you say and how you respond to them. You can be a force for good or for evil or anywhere in between. It must have taken an enormous amount of writing to ensure such natural dialogue in any context and it is all written very well. It's far better than the prequel films and it even has a plot twist worthy of The Empire Strikes Back.

The characters in your party are colorful and diverse. From Jedi to mercenaries to droids and more, it's always interesting to see what they'll do next when you take them out on a particular mission, which can be played in a variety of ways depending on who you bring and what abilities or weapons they have equipped. The gameplay itself uses a
D20 system for role playing battles or using skills and it all gives this game an incredible amount of replayability through branching pathways.

That is if you can stand decade old graphics. They are still very nice but definitely show their age. Backgrounds look rich and vibrant but a little sparse and character models can look a little angular when up close. It's not terrible however and it shows how good art direction can support a game's aesthetic long after its technical merits no longer amaze. One thing which can never age however is the sound. You will find the expected Star Wars theme originally composed by John Williams but also hours of original music that fits in with his style perfectly. The sounds of laser blasters and light sabers are all present and in spite of the amount of dialogue, none of it sounds forced. They even had actors perform in alien languages much of the time and it still sounds great.

Overall, it took me more than 60 hours to finish the game but if you wanted, it could probably be done in half the time. I just enjoyed myself so much that I did every mission & side quest possible, explored the locations thoroughly, spoke to everyone and savored every moment. If you think you would enjoy this too and want something to tide yourself over until Disney's Star Wars releases in 2015, then this can be purchased for either
Microsoft Windows compatible home computers or purchased for original Xbox which is playable on modern Xbox 360's.  At no more than twenty dollars for this investment, the long winter nights will just fly by. Happy Wookiee Life Day, All Good Fans!

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Indigo Prophecy Review


It's December now and in only three weeks it will be winter or the end of the world. Either way, I should probably mentally prepare myself for it. If only there was a game that dealt with both. Wait, there is! The game Indigo Prophecy published by Atari for the Microsoft WindowsXbox  and Sony Playstation 2 is the perfect primer for a wintery end of days.

Indigo Prophecy (also known in Europe as Ferenheit) is a 2005 game by Quantic Dream, the same studio who would later go on to develop the Playstation 3 exclusive and technical showcase Heavy Rain. If you've ever played their latest release then you know what to expect from Indigo Prophecy. It is an adventure where the story unfolds through exploring surroundings, engaging in conversations, examining objects and performing various Quick Time Events. If you're one of the people sick of Quick Time Events then you should be aware that even they are worth it just to see this story unfold.

So let me tell you a little bit about it. Indigo Prophecy takes place in the distant and far flung future of 2009 which yes does automatically date this. But if you can otherwise get over that then it's still very relevant and here's why. It takes place during a bitterly cold, early winter where your character begins his story by coming out of a bathroom stall to brutally murder a man simply washing his hands. From there you snap out of your trance-like state and realize what you've done. You have no recent memory and have tribal patterns carved into your arms, also a murder victim to deal with.

After that, it's up to you. Do you hide the body? Wash the blood away? Try to make a run for it? Talk with people in the building to figure out what happened before being discovered yourself? It's all up to you and there are several correct ways to make it through to the next scenario. Now here's the hook, you also play as the police trying to investigate the murder. Throughout Indigo Prophecy you take control of several plot threads that interweave and come together by the end, all discovering an 
Aztec legend about end times where a winter would come but never leave again.

See? Instead of being Mayans in winter 2012, it's Aztecs in winter 2009 but essentially still everything that people have whipped themselves into a panic over this time. And if for no other reason to play this then play it for Officer Carla Valenti. If I made a list of top ten hottest girls in video games (which I won't because I can't decide whether or not to include Final Fight's Poison), she would definitely be on it. Unfortunately you will have to get the European version of the game if you want to see her nude but it's still some good fan service.

 If you don't mind a deliberately paced & thoughtful gaming experience then I would recommend Indigo Prophecy. There are several endings of various satisfaction that also gives this game an amount of replayability along with the multiple paths to those endings. It can still be played on Microsoft Windows or the 
Xbox 360 through its backwards compatibility. Playstation owners however, will either have to have the model backwards compatible with Playstation 2 or take their old console out of retirement to re-live its glory days. Just don't wait too long, you never know what will happen.

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Retro Review - Deadly Creatures - Wii

blogEntryTopperDeadly Creatures is a game THQ released in 2009 during the console's heyday. Like the Nintendo Wii's other title Animal Crossing: City Folk, this has you enter the world of small animals in their everyday lives. Unlike Animal Crossing though, Deadly Creatures does not in any way anthropomorphize the subjects within. There are no cutesy chats between Mr. Scorpion & Ms. Spider about what they will wear to their tea party, this is a about the pure amoral brutality of nature.

It's kill or be killed, that's all the motivation they have and what more do you need? In Deadly creatures you take the role of Mr. Scorpion or Ms. Spider (why am I still doing that?) a poisonous scorpion and a large hairy tarantula as they scurry about fighting other arachnids, insects, reptiles and small rodents through their unblinking indifference to survive at all costs. Rather, the story in Deadly Creatures, is told through two towering human characters, played by Billy Bob Thorton and the late, great Dennis Hopper as they search for lost Civil War era treasure in the American south-western desert.

The story is actually quite well written and of course well acted due to its cast, ending with a whole "who is the REAL deadly creature, the animals or man? dun dun dun!" moral but that's something for those of you who play Deadly Creatures to find out for yourselves. I can tell you about the gameplay however, this is another example of the
castletroid sub-genre. You take the role of one of the two playable avatars (I can't really call them characters as you already read) and explore a sprawling world beneath thorny bushes, inside cacti, between floorboards & other places we usually never see. The spider even has the ability to crawl along walls & ceilings as well.

It creates a strange sense of perspective so just don't play Deadly Creatures when you're hung over. Trust me, I've already made that mistake but at least you'll never get lost. There's always a handy arrow to point you where you need to go which is available at the press of a button. While exploring you will expand your skill-set by finding upgrades and defeating other creatures that opens up new areas to explore.

Fighting enemies uses a bit more flare than in reality but it is always very visceral. The scorpion controls more like a tank by grabbing enemies and stinging them or tearing them apart while the spider leaps around shooting webbing from its spinnerets and sucking enemies dry. What grounds it in reality is the amazing amount of detail that was put into the character models, especially considering the limited hardware of the Wii. You can see the little flagella on the tarantula's legs and even its idle animation has it twitching and occasionally grooming itself. Deadly Creatures definitely isn't something to be played by someone who has any kinds of phobias for small organisms.

Lastly, I have to mention the excellent sound direction this game has. The levels have a hazy, ambient soundtrack and while obviously neither insects nor arachnids really vocalize, the foley engineers did some very interesting work which fits in perfectly along with the other clicking, buzzing and scratching sounds heard throughout the levels. All together, this makes Deadly Creatures one really fun game on a system most people wrote off from the start. So if you're one of them then it's never too late to take a second look and now is the perfect time to start your collection with Deadly Creatures for only a few dollars wherever games are sold.

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