Video Games

Beauty and the Best


Tomb Raider (2013) Xbox360 Review


By special request, we here at AllGoodThings have been asked to talk about the new Tomb Raider, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix in March 2013 to critical acclaim. Most simply, Tomb Raider is what you would get if Uncharted and FarCry 3 had a lovechild, which, heck yeah, sounds awesome. In it you'll get a huge world to explore as the titular video game heroine Lara Croft on her first college-aged adventure.

You uncover the mysterious past of Yamatai, an east island featuring ancient kingdoms, twentieth century wartime, and modern settlements. You’ll interact with locals and - egads! - did Lara really just choke that guy with her bow and arrow? Yeah, the New Tomb Raider may not be the light-hearted adventure that some of you have come to love, but that shouldn't dissuade anyone from playing this game, and here's why.

Of course you will find your mandatory platforming in this installment and the controls are very responsive. Those of you who have been following my reviews, however, already know that I love castletroids and in a sense this game is a castletroid. You will gain new abilities and gather new equipment throughout your adventure, which encourages you to go back to previously explored areas where you will find new options have opened.

The adventure theme replaces a lot of the puzzle elements found in previous Tomb Raider games, but it also improves the combat dramatically over those. As I said prior, your main weapon is no longer Lara's signature twin pistols, although they do eventually appear in the game. Instead, you'll mostly find that you'll be using your bow an arrow to silently, efficiently, and often brutally take down enemies or wildlife throughout the island.

This brutality comes back to you as well. Every death scene is extremely graphic, especially for Lara. I've seen her break her neck, be impaled, and, well, I don't want to ruin all the surprises for you. Suffice it to say, this is not a game suitable for children and
not for the same reason the original wasn't suitable for children. (Don't pretend you don't know what I mean.)

Crystal Dynamics has really gone to great lengths to craft a believable protagonist. Gone are the snappy one-liners and aloof attitude that was so cool in the 90s. And I'm all right with that. I'm not 13 years old anymore and I want to play as characters I can connect with. In short, the writing in this game is superb - at least for Lara. She seems like an exceptional, but not unbelievably so, woman you would meet at your local college campus which gives this game a good grounding in reality.

This reality is then enhanced further by the wonderfully rendered graphics. I played on the Xbox360, which made me stop at times just to look around at the forest (I’ve watched videos of the PC version that looks even better). For years I wondered what it would be like when games would allow me to run through believable jungles and forests and it's wonderful that we're finally here for this 15-20 hour adventure.

Finally, there is a full multiplayer suite to keep you coming back to Yamatai for years to come. Square Enix has really been on a roll this generation with this and other games, such as Deus Ex: Human Revloution and Just Cause 2 before it, two of my favorites from the past 5 years. So if you have an Xbox360, Playstation3, or a Windows compatible PC then you have to ask yourself is all this content worth sixty dollars? For me, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.”

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Aliens: Infestation for Nintendo DS Review

So the long awaited Aliens: Colonial Marines isn't the definitive Aliens game adaptation people had hoped for (to say the least). It's apparently linear, ugly and full of bugs other than the kind you wanted to hunt. I guess SEGA and Gearbox Software just didn't have what it takes to release a good installment to the series after all. Well that's great, that's just fucking great man. Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? Game over man! Game over!

Or is it? You see, there's another Aliens game which those two released way back in 2011 for the good ol'
Nintendo DS and they did so with the help of one of my favorite studios, Wayforward Technologies. It's called Aliens: Infestation and it is by far the best thing be released with the name "Aliens" on it since 1986.

Being that it is on the DS, Wayforward wisely chose not to make Infestation another FPS. It's not that the DS is incapable of running good horror/sci-fi first person shooters, but this title decided to instead take inspiration from a game that was itself inspired by the original films. Aliens: Infestation is another example of the 2D action/puzzle platforming castletroid sub-genre. The original Metroid drew heavily from the Aliens films for its H. R. Giger styled visuals amongst other things so it only seems fitting that an Aliens game should do the same in return.

Aliens: Infestation however, also builds upon that by throwing in a little bit of
survival horror taken from another game heavily inspired by the Aliens films, Dead Space. Like Metroid your character will explore the labyrinthine corridors, finding new equipment that opens new paths & areas but like Dead Space, there are limited amounts of ammunition for your Pulse Rifle so you had better not wander too far off without finding supplies otherwise you could end up dead - or worse.

If you do however, then there's an interesting added hook. You simply take over as another Marine in your squad or as one you rescued along the way to continue the adventure. There might even be opportunities to rescue your previously fallen characters as well and get them back into the game if you're lucky. In all, there appear to be dozens of possible characters to choose from and each one has their own unique sprite with their own unique animations, such as standing on their helmet or playing with their flashlight when idle.

It's wonderful little details in the presentation like this for which Wayforward is known. Enemies are very well animated too, sometimes filling almost the entire screen and the locations are beautifully drawn, often with layers
parallax scrolling. Likewise, this game does an excellent job with the sound from the pulse rifles, to the motion tracker to the eerie soundtrack that plays or stops depending on where you are or what is happening on screen.

If I had one complaint about Aliens: Colonial Marines, it would be that enemies spawn at the exact same spots every time you re-enter an area. This takes away from the tension a little because backtracking is a big part of castletroid type games so I always knew where something would jump out at me in familiar areas. New areas were always gripping though and that made me always press on.

If you love Aliens, Metroid, Survival Horror, 2D art, have a DS or 
3DS then I would easily recommend Aliens: Infestation. It is ridiculously inexpensive now, I got mine new for 5 dollars because it came out so late in the life cycle of the system that I think it went under a lot of people's radar.  As such it can still be found easily even at department stores, probably in their bargain bin, which is a shame because this is an excellent title that you should pick up before it becomes another rare cult classic.

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Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble for PSP Review

Atlus, you've done it again bro. Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is a 2009 game for the Sony PSP that can easiest be described as a manliness simulator. Badasses like me don't usually make time to talk but if you shabazo need a better explanation then I guess I have a few minutes to spare before my next rumble.

Kenka Bancho is kind of a cross between 
Grand Theft Auto III and River City Ransom. You play as Takashi, a Japanese high school student on a class trip to the fictional city of Kyouto. You're not interested in learning though. (If you are then you'd be better off just reading the translations in the load screens and hey, the writing in this is pretty funny.) But nah, this is the perfect chance to prove you're number one by wandering the streets and finding other students from rival schools to beat the crap out of. And if you can top their biggest badass then they'll answer to you from now on.

Fights happen in real time. You punch kick, throw and use anything you can get your hands on to get the job done. Oh, also you shoot lasers from your eyes. A real badass doesn't need lasers as weapons though. The lasers just let you stare down your opponent before a fight with a trash talking Quick Time Event. Once you lock gazes, if you can out intimidate your adversary like I do then you'll be rewarded with a powerful initiating strike. Or you could just run up and start wailing on them. That works too.

The more you fight, the more of a badass you get. You'll keep getting stronger, tougher, faster and learn new moves. But be sure to also check out the local city stores for grub and new gear. Don't waste too much time shopping though, you've only got until the end of the field trip to take down those 47 wannabe banchos from the other schools and the clock's ticking kid. You can take the ladies out as well, show them the sights and see where it leads Winking

Music in this production is fairly minimal, but that’s not a bad thing. Leaves you with the bare sounds of the city. Kyouto may not be the prettiest city you'll ever see but, I'll still carve it out as my own, piece by piece. If you think you're badass enough to take it from the other shabazo then you can still find Kenka Bancho, developed by Bullets Studio and published by Atlus at most gaming stores for less than the price of a new steel bat. Now get out of here before you see first hand what happens when I run out of things to say.

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The Last Story for Nintendo Wii Review

A big congratulations to weeaboos everywhere, Operation Rainfall has been a complete success! After its large public petition to have three critically acclaimed Japanese Role Playing Games published stateside for the Nintendo Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles was released a little under a year ago, Pandora's Tower will be released this spring and smack dab in the middle was the third game, called The Last Story. And I'll just get this out of the way now, this is the first time I can say I've liked a true JRPG in five years. (The last one being Opoona, oh and don't worry I'll get to that one too eventually).

So what makes this one any different than the dozens of JRPGs released in between? First, let me tell you what usually defines this genre. JRPGs grew out of Japanese developers during the 1980s who wanted to make their own versions of western developed PC Role Plating Games such as Ultima or Wizardry but make them more accessible for casual players and more streamlined for console owners.

Some of the ways in which they did this was by automating the stats, automating the random number generation etc as well as making the stories and progression much more linear for players to follow more easily. 
Enix's Dragon Quest (known as Dragon Warrior in the west) was the original title released to adopt this formula. It proved to be so wildly popular that other companies began creating their own games modeled after its style. One of these companies was a struggling little studio known as Squaresoft who tasked their employee Hironobu Sakaguchi with making one more game before the company went bankrupt. They decided that it would be a role playing game and that game was to be called Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy proved to be the savior of the company, a company which exists still to this day, merged with the one that inspired them, and today Final Fantasy is one
Square-Enix and gaming as a whole's biggest franchises. Sakaguchi is no longer with that company however, he went out on his own to develop his own game with a similar title. Have you guessed what it is yet? That's right, it was The Last Story.

Now those who know me, know that I don't think much of the latest installments of Final Fantasy. In my opinion they are cliched, melodramatic and self important. So why would I then choose to play and talk about a game made by its creator? It's because The Last Story is, aside from its name, not much like Final Fantasy at all. The first way this is apparent is in the story of uh, The Last Story. It's comparatively very small. There's no war for ancient technology or having nature itself hanging in the balance, it all revolves around a group of mercenaries making their way in one city and I like that.

It makes for a much more intimate experience where I was able to grow more attached to the characters and setting. None of them are emo douches like most other JRPGs, they're actually all very likable. This is helped by the excellent localization originally made for its European release, meaning that the characters all have varied accents from around the British Isles. They're all voiced well which is still something to be appreciated in 2013 and the dialogue is translated very naturally. For a genre which is so rooted in its narrative, you would be surprised how often JRPGs fail to deliver a fresh scenarios with relatable casts.

Also the gameplay distinguishes itself from other JRPGs in that it is neither turn-based nor active in the style of
MMORPGs. By default, it is set to the latter but I prefer directly controlling my character which makes the game play more like a hack & slash brawler with RPG elements. It has unique mechanics involving strategy, cover mechanics, party management etc along with the usual RPG mainstays of customizing your characters with armor, weapons & other equipment. In between dungeon areas, you explore the city accepting side-quests, finding/trading/buying/selling items, talking to NPCs and other little surprises I don't want to spoil here.

Accompanying all this is an excellent soundtrack by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu who has created some of gaming's most iconic scores. The music is fitting and varies from setting to scenario and is all appropriate for its semi medieval backdrop. But I know the question you're all asking is "How does it look?" Well, the answer is, quite good in fact. Yes it's on the Nintendo Wii which is comparatively weaker than other consoles this generation but it has particle effected lighting, detailed textures, giant enemies, really it's one of the best looking games for the system and could easily be mistaken for an early Xbox 360 game.

So should you play The Last Story? Yes. If you're someone like myself who used to like JRPGs but moved away from them because they all began to feel the same then yes. If you're someone who likes fantasy adventures regardless of where they're from then yes. If you're someone who just has a couple dozen hours to kill before winter ends then yes. Play The Last Story. Luckily, it recently received a reprint and price cut from its publisher 
XSEED so it should be easy to find wherever games are sold, more affordably than ever.

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Ninja Gaiden SMS Review


That's right, Ninja Gaiden for the SEGA Master System. Many of you may not have known this version existed or even what a Master System is and that's because it was a much more popular system in Europe so as such that's where this game was originally released. The good news however is that the Master System has no region lockout so games that were produced in Europe, Asia and even South America up until the late 1990s are all playable on any unit.

As for what the Master System is, it was SEGA's competing platform against Nintendo's NES and like many others at the time, it didn't do well here because of Nintendo of America's illegal practices in the late 1980s. These practices prevented other hardware manufacturers from getting third party support like that from Tecmo who gave Nintendo its well known Ninja Gaiden trilogy. Tecmo instead gave SEGA the rights to produce their own Ninja Gaiden game in-house that later released in 1992. That version is not a port of the NES games either, it is its own stand alone title. And this is what I am talking about today.

Then how does it stack up against its more popular installments? Well firstly, the Master System's audio chipset is very basic so can't easily create the square wave forms which gives NES music its slight amount of reverberation. Basically this means NES music is generally less shrill so more pleasant to the ears. That being said however, Ninja Gaiden for the Master System has a kicking soundtrack anyway. It's catchy, varied and energetic and because of that, you're always ready to have another try after losing a life.

And while the audio hardware may be subjectively weaker than that of the NES, the Master System's graphical capabilities are far superior. Ninja Gaiden shows that fairly well with rich colors and a frenetic pace that is night and day when compared to its Nintendo based counterparts. This is important because a game like Ninja Gaiden involves crack reflexes and timing when jumping from platform to platform so it's very good that I experienced no flickering or slowdown during my play through either.

Neither is it hampered by crippling controls. Like other 8-bit Ninja Gaiden games you may have played, this one involves running, jumping from platforms or walls and slashing your way through to a boss fight and next level until completion. It all feels great. You can also pick up a variety of special items along the way to make your journey easier such as shields, bombs, projectiles etc. which also helps because like all Ninja Gaiden games, this one can be very difficult.
It was a wise choice on the part of the developers to include unlimited continues or I may not have even seen the end for my review. That makes a tough game still a fair game and definitely a fun game when you throw good music, good art and tight controls into the mix as well. If you're interested in playing this game for yourself then it can be purchased on eBay. Amazon or through your local vintage gaming boutique. Unfortunately it is not yet available through any official digital download service but if it ever is, we here at will be on top of it.

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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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Retro Review - Gate of Thunder

I'm about to say something very unpopular. The TurboGrafx-16 is an 8-bit system. That's right, it's an 8-bit system. Oh sure, it may have 16-bit GPUs but it has an 8-bit CPU. What does any of this even mean? I don't know but countless schoolyard friends became bitter enemies over the answers to questions like this or whether you can make Lara Croft's clothes disappear through a cheat. You can't, so stop trying! What we can say for certain is that the TurboGrafx-16 was the first home video game console to release an expansion that used used this crazy new storage medium known as compact discs.

Now even without this, the TubroGrafx-16 was capable of some amazing visuals due to its rich color palette and clever architecture, but with the expanded storage (and sometimes expanded
RAM), it was able to produce games that Nintendo Entertainment System owners could never have dreamed possible on an 8-bit machine. Recorded audio, full motion video and more sprites with greater amounts of animation were all now available in people's own homes.

As the first to adopt this new technology however, the price-tag was high when put on top of the cost already invested for the base console. So the system was later redesigned to combine the CD expansion into the stock unit and it came with several pack-in games to showcase just what it could do. One of these games was Gate of Thunder.

The first thing you'll see when starting Gate of Thunder is an
anime cutscene accompanied by the rocking soundtrack that sets the story. I'm sure this was all mindblowing back in the early 1990s but nobody cares about the story because this game is a shoot-em-up! Simply put, shoot-em-ups or " shmups" are games where you shoot everything. If that sounds too simple however, then there's a catch. You also have to avoid everything. In shmups if there is one golden rule it's "never get hit"

In many shmups, if you get hit, even once, then you die.  Gate of Thunder is a little more forgiving in that it only takes your power ups away - and then you die. Even with all the upgrades, you need to have crack reflexes to dodge the storms of bullets and large enemy spacecraft that fill the screen. So without them, you're screwed. There is always a lot going on which you have to be aware of and it's difficult not to focus too much on one thing or another because this game is just so pretty.

As I mentioned, TurboGrafx games are very bright and colorful but there's also animated background with parallax scrolling, and the sci-fi setting really opens it up for creative levels from alien worlds, to asteroid fields, then space stations and more. "That's great" you say, "but who the hell owns a TurboGrafx-CD?" I don't know anyone else who has one either but that's okay. It's available through Nintendo's Virtual Console service and because it was a pack-in game then you can find the actual disc for relatively cheap to emulate on your home computer or even on the original hardware if you are crazy enough to track down everything you need.

If you think you're "teh hardcorez" playing 
first person shooters then you need to test your skills against a good shmup and this is a great one. Maybe it's not the most difficult one ever made but it still requires a lot of patience, memorization, some psychic powers would be helpful as well as hand-eye coordination and when finished you'll know you're hardcore. Even if you never make it to the end then playing this is still a blast but whether you do or don't or how or where, you should play this game, Gate of Thunder.

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"Ghostbusters: The Video Game" Review


I really wanted to talk about something Thanksgiving related for AllGoodThings but there aren't any Thanksgiving songs that I know of, nor any movies about Thanksgiving either. Yet I do know a game that at least takes place on Thanksgiving. So get your cornucopia ready to have something to snack on while I talk about the greatest and only-est Thanksgiving game of all uh, Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game takes place during Thanksgiving 1991 where you assume your role as "the Rookie" who has been recruited by the original four to be their new experimental equipment tester. Not long after arriving at the firehouse however, an energy pulse spreads throughout
Manhattan, causing a surge in paranormal activity that only someone armed with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator and a high voltage laser containment system can take care of. You've got the tools but have you got the talent?

If you think you do then from there you'll travel to different locations around early 90s
New York City, zapping & trapping all manner of spooks, specters and demons while unraveling a century old plot intended to bring about the end of the world. It's extremely satisfying to wrangle a spirit in your proton stream then guide it into your trap. Doing so also earns money that can be used to buy upgrades for your various tech like the PKE Meter or Slime Blower. How this is done however depends on which version of the game you play

There is the version made by
Terminal Reality for Microsoft WindowsXbox 360Sony Playstation 3 which uses a realistic looking aesthetic, the version made by Red Fly Studio for the Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation 2 & Playstation Portable which uses a stylized looking aesthetic not unlike something from a Pixar movie, and the version developed by Zen Studios for the Nintendo DS which despite sharing the aesthetic of Redfly's version, is pretty different in terms of gameplay from the other two. The other two however only differ slightly with details like Terminal Reality's penalizing the destruction of property while Redfly's version rewards it.

All three do have one thing in common and that is the excellent story penned by none other than
Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis. From both of them having written the original films GhostbustersGhostbusters II, it gives a real air of authenticity that a lot of movie licensed games don't have. The dialogue is sharp & funny as ever and the plot is deep & full of references to the other two. Of Course they also played the parts of Dr. Ray Stantz & Dr. Egon Spengler in the films respectively so have reprised those roles by providing their voices for all but the DS version. 

Remarkably they also convinced
Bill Murray to reprise his role as Dr. Peter Venkman, Ernie Hudson as the now Dr. Winston Zeddemore, Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz and even William Altherton as Walter Peck all do the same. So in a sense, this really is the Ghostbusters III that fans had been waiting for through the past 20 years. And I prefer it this way. I would rather see these characters as I remember them instead of seeing geriatric Ghostbusters in 2012 or Hollywood try to make hip new Ghostbusters starring Jack Black, Shia LeBeouf, Justin Long & Chris Brown. You know that's what they would do and it would it be horrible so this is the best possible outcome.

It's everything that a Ghostbusters fan could want. It has the original writers, actors, music (including hours of unused music that was composed by
Elmer Bernstein for the 1984 film) and the feeling of finally living that childhood fantasy of being a Ghostbuster yourself. The Wii version even has an added benefit of using the Wii Remote to aim like you were really carrying a Proton Pack. It's an extra level of immersion that you should consider trying despite it having that stylized aesthetic I mentioned.

However you play Ghostbusters: The Video Game though, play it (except maybe the DS version). There is an incredible amount of love and detail put in by all the people who worked on it. It came out a few years ago in 2009 from
Atari so now it can be found for only a few dollars and this year when you don't see any ghosts on Thanksgiving, you know who to thank. But if by any chance you do see one, who you gonna call?

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NiGHTS into Dreams HD Review

Poor SEGA. I used to be one of their soldiers during the Great Console Wars but it seems like they just can't do anything right these days. They keep releasing sequel after sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog and their open world series Yakuza to lower and lower scores. And when they take chances on publishing intriguing third-party games like Vanquish or The Conduit, people just don't buy them. It's sure not like the good old days but SEGA knows it. That's why they've started re-releasing HD updates of some of their classics on the PSN and XBLA. Now new audiences can experience SEGA's lost glory in full high definition.

The latest classic game to get this treatment is NiGHTS into Dreams. It isn't quite like anything that came before it or anything that has come since, unless you count its disappointing sequel for the Nintendo Wii - which I don't! In it, you play as either Claris Sinclair or Elliot Edwards as they fight off the demons of their nightmares with the help of Nights, an androgynous flying jester who merges with your player to collect Ideya crystals and defeat the evil six-handed Wizeman.

I've lost you haven't I? Don't worry about it, the stories in older games aren't as important as the experience and like I said, NiGHTS into Dreams isn't like anything you've experienced elsewhere. It is a 3D game which, for the most part, locks you onto a 2D side scrolling path. That sounds ordinary enough but remember, I also said Nights can fly. After walking your character to a shrine, you take control of the titular character who moves fluidly through the air, spiraling and circling past enemies while you collect as many points as possible.

This is done by defeating opponents, collecting items, doing gratuitous tricks whenever possible and getting a good time. Behind it all, NiGHTS into Dreams is a score attack game but one that is made extremely fun due to its intuitive controls. The original was even bundled with an analog controller before Mario 64 was ever released and it also had widescreen support in 1996. If you can say one thing about SEGA, it's that they definitely knew how to think forward because I barely knew anyone who had a widescreen television in 2006.

This is all brought together through a very colorful and cheerful presentation with the graphics and sound. Of course the visuals aren't as impressive as something brand new, even with the upgrades for its re-release but they're very refreshing compared to the brown and greys that make up the majority of today's gritty "realistic" releases. The 
music itself is extremely upbeat and catchy, stuff you might find yourself humming later if you aren't careful.

So if this already sounds good to you then let me tell you that it gets even better. The recent re-release also has online leader boards, for you to finally prove you're the best androgynous flying jester around and put those questions to rest forever, as well as content from the SEGA Saturn demo disc Christmas NiGHTS that includes specially themed levels perfect for the holidays around the corner.

If Prozac were a game, this would be it. I should add however, that this game has some really strange and appropriately nightmarish end bosses to its stages. It's nothing that would really scare any of your younger family members but it can be a startling juxtaposition and sudden stress inducer to figure out. This isn't a complaint, mind you, just something to watch for. In any case, I want you to watch for NiGHTS into Dreams whether it be on the original SEGA Saturn, the Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade or soon where it will also be available on on Microsoft Windows compatible platforms.

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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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La Mulana Review

blogEntryTopperI'm about to do something very unprofessional and that is review a game which I haven't even finished. La Mulana is challenging, really challenging but also really good so I wanted to talk about it anyway because otherwise it might fall into an obscurity which it doesn't deserve.

After years in development hell where it waited for approval from the same crack team of quality assurance professionals who green lit Imagine Party Babyz and Major League Eating, I'm glad to say that it is finally here and it is an excellent throwback to the 8 and 16 bit eras. 

La Mulana is a 2D action platformer released by Nigoro for Nintendo's WiiWare in September of 2012 as part of a sub-genre known as castletroids or metrodivanias. They're called this because like Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the gameplay involves exploring a sprawling world to collect upgrades and new abilities which opens up even further areas as well as secrets in areas you've already visited.

In this castleroid, you control an archaeologist named Indiana Jones, I mean Dr. Lamenza. Oh who am I kidding? I mean Indiana Jones. You start of in a camp near some jungle ruins, armed only with your whip and the rest you pretty much have to figure out for yourself. If you talk to the proper character then you will get e-mails giving minor hints but there's not much hand holding in La Mulana.

Did I mention that this game is challenging? Because it is. For example, you know how in most games when you solve a puzzle, it plays a 
jingle to let you know? Not in La Mulana, you have to find an item just to have that convenience. That may be too much for some people but thankfully, the difficulty has been toned down from its original version.

Yes this is a remake of a 2005 Windows game by designer Takumi Naramura as an homage to a Japanese gaming computer known as the MSX. This version, being an official release, unfortunately scrubs a lot of the references to that system but in exchange it has beautifully updated hand-drawn artwork and synthesized music. If you want to play the original, then it can be downloaded for free but I would really recommend paying the ten dollars to try this version on your Wii or PC after all the work and trouble gone through to make it possible.

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Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patti in the Pursuit of the Protruding Pectorals

Leisure Suit Larry
I don't know about you but when I get tired of hooking up with so many beautiful women night after night, I like to just sit back and kick some games. Pwn some noobs, glean some cubes and not think about getting laid for a couple of hours. So why would I want to play a game where I do exactly that? Because it is one of the funniest & ahem "rewarding" games I've ever played and that game is of course Leisure Suit Larry.

Did I say one of? I meant six of, yes there are six of these games. No, no, please don't tell me about Magna Cum Laude or Box Office Bust, they don't exist. In fact, I just made up those words and am now putting my fingers in my ears. With a pencil in my teeth, I'm writing about the games created by Sierra On-Line legend, Al Lowe,

Al Lowe, whom you of course recognize as the musical composer for the Space Quest series also created & wrote Leisure Suit Larry 1-7. Four really doesn't exist for reasons it's better not to get into but they all follow (except when they don't) the lovable loser Larry Laffer. I could talk about each of these and I hope to eventually but for now I'm going to start with my favorite, Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patti in the Pursuit of the Protruding Pectorals. Try saying that five times fast.

While you do, I'll explain a bit more. These games are point and click adventures like Maniac Mansion or most recently the Walking Dead games by Telltale. That means that you will be wandering around, talking to people, collecting items and solving puzzles with them. In this installment, Larry is left by his wife so is back on the dating scene in Nontoonyt Island and that's it. Go get 'em you big stud.

Okay, there's more than that. As you read, it's really funny. Crude but funny and that's the first thing to look out for. If you're easily offended then maybe you should stick to Maniac Mansion. No wait, that's also offensive. Anyway, it can be crude but also satirical which is important because the writing is really what carries these games. The other thing you should look out for is how dated these can be. I said "point and click" but this one specifically predates that innovation so it is a lot of writing along with the reading.

And then there's the graphics. I hope you like fluorescent colors because it has some of the brightest 1989 had to offer and knowing the 80s, that's saying something. Personally, I think they have a nostalgic charm but that's just opinion. The last issue you might have is how do I play it? It can be bought alone or as part of a collection, downloaded digitally or are being released in updated formats through Replay Games starting October 2012.

Overall, I would highly recommend this game and this series to anyone who likes good humor, likes good puzzles or likes seeing the underdog get what he or she deserves in the end. I wouldn't know anything about that last part though, I'm already late for a drink.

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Heart of Darkness PSX

blogEntryTopperDo you have fun while seeing a little boy being stabbed, crushed, drowned, poisoned or chewed up by wild animals? You sick bastard! I have a game for you. A game called Heart of Darkness.

Heart of Darkness is about an African river boat captain named Charles Marlow at the turn of the twentieth century who, wait that's not right. Different Heart of Darkness, sorry let me start again. Ahem, Heart of Darkness is a 1998 video game released by Infogrames for the original Sony Playstation/Windows based PCs and created by French designer Eric Chahi of Out of this World as well as 2011's indie darling god simulator, From Dust.

This Heart of Darkness is about a scientific prodigy named Andy, who while at the park with his dog Whiskey, witnesses a solar eclipse. During this solar eclipse however, Whiskey is stolen away by unknown aliens so it is up to Andy to go get his home made spaceship from his tree house and fly off in the direction of the creatures on a quest to save his dog.

I know what you're thinking, dog questing, pretty epic stuff huh? BUT it's also filled with fantastic creatures and the struggle for control of an alien planet. This all unfolds by guiding Andy through, what we in the biz like to call, a "cinematic platformer". In a style similar to the original Prince of Persia, Heart of Darkness plays from a 2D perspective and involves careful thought, precise control and a lot of trial & error to pass enemies or solve environmental puzzles.

Even with those however, you'll see poor Andy meet his end again and again and once you've bought a new controller to replace the one you smashed, a couple dozen times after that. They can be pretty gruesome too so is it wrong that I get as much of a cheap thrill from watching those as I do from actually progressing into a new area? Yes, absolutely, I need help but the the visuals and sounds are so stunning that I just can't help myself.

Like all cinematic platformers, the animation in this game is superb, as is music & ambient sounds. So much care went into the presentation that it took six years to finish. But they kind of have to have that in order to keep people entertained and coming back for more despite the slow pacing and constant failures.

It worked on me but because of this, along with its niche style, Heart of Darkness isn't going to be for everyone and even for those of you for whom it is, there is no digital release for it as of yet. However, if you can track down a copy of the Playstation version, it can be played through the backwards compatibility of PS3s. So if you find one, pick it up. You won't regret it most of the time.

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