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Beauty and the Best

Costume Quest Review

Costume Quest

Is a hurricane keeping you from going trick-or-treating this year? I have the perfect substitute for you. Costume Quest is a delightful little downloadable title that was developed by Double Fine Productions of Tim Schafer fame and released in 2010 for Microsoft Windows, Xbox Live Arcade & Playstation Network by THQ. In the almost two decades since I last stepped out to collect candy on a fall evening, nothing has again made me feel the way that this game does.

And collect candy you will. Costume Quest is a role playing game similar in style to the JRPGs you may know such as Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. You wander around, talk to people, complete quests & battle enemies to upgrade your characters and progress through the story. Unlike those games however, this one has you play in a pseudo real world setting where you and your friends go out adventuring on Halloween. Then unlike the real world however, you will come across actual monsters to battle, sometimes on the streets and other times behind the neighborhood doors you knock on in pursuit of sweet, sweet candy.

Candy, you see, takes the place of gold or other forms of currency found in most games. You'll use the candy to barter with other kids for information or perhaps new costumes which are the keys behind gameplay. Your characters' abilities will depend on what costumes you equip them with and the battles are portrayed through the characters' child-like imaginations.

So if your character is dressed in cardboard and tin foil, during battle they will be a giant robot with missiles and lasers. And if your character is dressed as the Statue of Liberty then during battle they will make you god damned love America. It works on me every time.

Being that this is a downloadable title, there isn't really any voice acting, the music is basic if not fitting, the story is nothing profound and it clocks in at a relatively short length compared to many JRPG styled games you may have played in the past. But Costume Quest is a simple and charming game that anyone who fondly remembers what it was like being a child this time of year should play. It's one inexpensive little treat that can be enjoyed anytime without going out into the cold or the rain.

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Resident Evil Remake Review

Resident Evil was originally released by Capcom for the Sony Playstation in 1996 and follows members of a police special operations team called S.T.A.R.S. as they investigate another squad's disappearance in the forests surrounding Raccoon City. During their investigation they get chased into a spooky and mysterious mansion by wild dogs. As one of these members of S.T.A.R.S. you explore the mansion, fight off infected zombies and other creatures (bosses), solve puzzles, and uncover the terrible truth of just what happened there.

It was the game that really kicked off the survival horror genre and is still remembered as a classic. That's why in 2002 it was remade for the Nintendo GameCube then ported over the Nintendo Wii in 2009. This remake is the real classic in my mind however and one my favorite horror games to this day.

How the Remake Differs from the Original

Most obviously, the graphics have been updated along with new areas & enemies for this version and they still hold up remarkably well for a ten year old game.  The backgrounds are beautifully pre-rendered animations and that frees up a lot of processing power to allow character models & other effects to be incredibly detailed. “The mansion's confined hallways and dusty rooms offer a claustrophobic and helpless atmosphere that's been missing from previous episodes. And like the best horror films, RE Zero's environments are portrayed from camera viewpoints that leave you filled with dread at the prospect of what awaits you around the next corner.” (Wales on Sunday, Cardiff Wales, Sept. 22, 2002.)

The music and dialogue have thankfully also been updated. The original was pretty notorious for having terrible voice acting, "Jill, here's a lock pick. It might come in handy if you, the master of unlocking take it with you." Some may argue this was part of the campy, B movie charm that Resident Evil was going for, but I personally find these changes in the audio to be a lot less grating.  

And before you ask, yes it still uses what are known as "
tank controls.” Tank controls mean rather than pressing left to go left or right to go right, you pivot on the spot in the direction you press then use up or down to move forwards and backwards. It's definitely something to get used to but many people think it's just too hard. “Resident Evil Zero forces players to turn the character left and right with the analog stick and then push forward to move forward. This means no strafing or free movement of any kind. Some gamers will swear by this control scheme.” (IGG, Clementes, Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil Zero Review.)

RE’s Contribution to the Zombie Revival

Around the turn of the century, there was a zombie renaissance in the US. It started with films like “28 Days Later” and Zack Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” but Shinji Mikami's phenomenally popular Resident Evil video game - the most prominent of more than 70 zombie game titles - definitely played its part in the zombie revival. The game alone has spawned at least four movies starring B-queen Milla Jovovich, all of which could be considered “zombie flicks.”

For me, however, it's not only the zombies that create tension; it's the consequences of potentially crossing one. It's something few current gen horror games have given me. They just make it too easy to avoid or defeat enemies, and even if I die, so what? I saved only a few minutes ago.

Not in Resident Evil. Ammunition is scarce so you have to choose between wasting what little you have, finding another route if you can or whether it's worth risking damage by trying to run past an enemy despite the controls. That's all part of the game and if you die, you could be set back hours because even when you cross a save point, you have a limited number of items that let you use it. It gives this game the scariest thing of all - pacing.

Deliberate Pacing

It's the moments between encounters that are scariest of all. I play by creeping around, letting the fear grow and grow about what could be around the next corner and whether or not I'll be able to even survive long enough to get that next item I need to heal or save or progress. It's stressful but it makes the pay off all the sweeter and in a sick way, it's kind of fun.

It's fun to be scared. It's fun even when I get killed or have to play a part over and believe me those things will happen. It's encouraged to go through multiple times however because there's even two different playable characters, each with their own scenarios. This “replayability” and level of immersion definitely makes the Resident Evil Remake a game worth owning for those darkened evenings alone.

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Doom 3: BFG Edition Review

Mars seems like such a nice place doesn't it? If movies like Total Recall or Ghosts of Mars have taught me anything, it's that those who visit the red planet can look forward to poorly lit, claustrophobic environments and alien monstrosities. I can certainly see why people are so anxious to go? So if you too would like to be one of the people who experiences these things, then as a primer I would highly recommend the Martian life simulator known as Doom 3: BFG Edition.

This is the latest and greatest version available on the market to approximate a typical day on Mars. You arrive, get your gear, you talk to the locals, a portal to hell opens releasing demons and flying skulls while turning your friends into gun wielding zombies, those sorts of things.

Now technically this is a remake of Id Software's 2004 game simply called Doom 3. Rather than being a simple port with maybe a resolution bump like many other games gave gotten however, Doom 3: BFG Edition has updated textures, improved lighting, 3D compatibility, the duct tape mod allowing you to use both the flashlight and your gun simultaneously is now standard, the expansion, new exclusive levels and the original Doom & Doom II with online capabilities are all included for an MSRP of just $39.99 USD.

That's quite the bargain, one to make even those who had already played this consider buying it again. If you haven't played this game though, should you pick it up? Definitely, why are you still reading this? No wait! I mean, keep reading more and click a couple of ads while you're at it. That's better. Doom is the definitive series of the FPS genre but you should be aware that even this one is not perfect. 

The lighting and textures while stylish and showing a great amount of attention to detail, still look a bit dated despite the retouches made for this version. Also for whatever reason, you cannot exit from one of these three games in order to start playing another without shutting down the game entirely. These are minor complaints however and shouldn't stop anyone from playing a truly terrifying game this Halloween. It's like Bioshock & Dead Space rolled into one and brought to us by the good people at Bethesda for the Xbox 360, PS3 & PC. It's Doom 3: BFG Edition.

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Retro City Rampage Review

I've heard that there's been complaints about how we here at only talk about old games. I want to respond right now by saying that is completely untrue! Some of them just look like old games. Retro City Rampage is going to be one of those but does that mean you shouldn't play this game in the age of high definition, near photo-realistic graphics? Absolutely not. Retro City Rampage is the most fun I have had with a game this year because it is so much more than a technological cop out.

So where do I begin? As you've already read, Retro City Rampage looks like an old game, like something that could be on the 
Nintendo Entertainment System to be specific. It recreates the look of NES games that were known for being platformers, brawlers, sooters, platformers, puzzles and platformers but this isn't any of those - it's a sandbox.

That's right, you've probably played Grand Theft Auto or one of the many, many games which use its formula by now. You have an open world where you can steal cars, take missions & work your way up through the criminal underworld. That's what you do in Retro City Rampage, as well as shoot, brawl, solve puzzles and um platform. Okay, so it's all of those things I said it wasn't but that's part of what makes this gameso great.

Everything about this game is loaded with references to everything people loved about the NES era, the 1980s by extension and lots of other pop culture that came after as well. I don't want to give too many spoilers for those of you who want to play it for yourselves because you'll see or experience something that will appeal your nostalgia around every corner. For those of you who just have to know however, within just the first mission alone you will see references to Mega Man, Duck Hunt, Mortal Kombat, The Dark Knight, Frogger, Super Mario Brothers & Ninja Turtles and it doesn't stop there.

There are even audio cues referencing sound effects or music you may recognize but Retro City Rampage also has over two and a half hours of original music composed in the style of old NES games. It's all really catchy stuff too which is important because this game takes a good dozen hours to see through to completion.

Aside from the main story though, there are also lots of side mission, mini games, collectables, customization options, unlockable characters, free-play modes and more with which to keep you entertained well past what the cost of what $14.99 is worth. Retro City Rampage is available for download now on PC, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita and is coming soon for the Xbox 360 & Nintendo Wii. Try the demo, you have to see this for yourselves.

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