Alan Wake // Xbox 360

May 16, 2010

It’s mildly ironic that a title that tries its hardest to ape other mediums and thus transcend its own, is marred frequently by its insistence on incorporating run-of-the-mill videogame mechanics. Alan Wake is a cultural hodge-podge of influences, most notably the brash thrillers of Stephen King, but also finding time to riff on Ridley Scott’s adaptation of King’s ‘The Shining’, incorporating motifs from Alfred Hitchcock’s films, name-dropping authors from Raymond Chandler to Brett Easton Ellis, and aping the episodic format of successful TV series’ like Lost. But a bewildering array of meaningless collectibles that add nothing but artificial padding to the game length and solid but repetitious combat prevent this good game becoming a great one.

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It would be lazy to describe Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story as the third instalment in a trilogy of Mario games that you’ve never played, but it wouldn’t be far from the truth. Developed by Alpha Dream and not the big N (with the reduced marketing budget that that entails) and featuring the plumber and his friends in an RPG-like mechanic, virtually guarantees that this series will never get the audience it deserves. Which is a shame, as it’s a beautifully polished gem that should be in every DS collection.

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Taking a break from the many, many hours of healing stricken comrades and reviving their corpses in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 allowed me to get some hands-on time with a couple of recent preview builds. Namely a beta code for the Xbox 360 version of Blur, and the general release demo on PSN for Just Cause 2. Impressions for both are after the jump.

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I’ve been slack. Once a devoted Nintendo fanboy who would devour any new Mario games within days of release, I’ve recently allowed myself to become distracted by numerous other games on other consoles. Today, I was determined to make amends, to give New Super Mario Bros. Wii the dedicated attention it deserved, and sat down to my save at World 5 determined not to get up again until the final credits rolled.

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I had to stop myself from writing this review for the God Of War Collection after I’d finished the first game, ready to wax lyrical about the epic scale of Sony Santa Monica’s initial tale of God-slaying at the hands and blades of Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta. The sequel needed to be played to be able to have a full opinion on this two-game set, and, true to form, the developer dialled the Epic meter all the way up to 11 for God Of War II. The result is a package of staggering quality, and it’s very easy to overlook the fact that you are playing PS2 titles on the latest generation of hardware; a few ropey cinematics aside, of course.

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Darksiders doesn’t so much wear its influences on its sleeve as sport the official fan club badges on its gleaming plated breast; ‘We ♥ God Of War’ they read, and ‘The Legend of Zelda Appreciation Society’. But if you are going to steal, than its wise to do it from the best, and Darksiders takes this to heart; knitting together elements from both games under the banner of its own individual art style and over-the-top tale of the impending apocalypse at the hands (claws?) of The Destroyer.

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Toeing a line that splits astounding action with incredble frustration, Bayonetta is a whirlwind of action that perfectly encapsulates its medium; a madcap, crazy rollercoaster that would be impossible to realise in other media which continually surprises, amuses and enrages in equal measure. But in a game where you eat angels with your own hair, its easy to forgive the cons and focus on the pros.

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It can be explained by one of two things. Its either rose-tinted spectacles or a bungled attempt at a remake; either way, a playthrough of TMNT: Turtles In Time Re-shelled, an high-def update to the original 1991 arcade game, gnawed away at my patience so much that finishing it became more a war of attrition than an fun exercise, even despite its short length.

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First Impressions: Far Cry 2

December 31, 2009

Another ‘old’ game (released in October 2008) that I received as a Christmas present, I initially expected not to enjoy Far Cry 2. The gritty setting and the emphasis on realism is something I normally shy away from in first-person shooters – I like my videogames to stand apart from their equivalents in other media, which is why I adore games like Bioshock. But after seven or so hours of play, Far Cry 2 has pulled me right in to its fictional, war-torn African state, even though, at this point at least, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what is going on.

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Prince Of Persia // PS3

December 28, 2009

Prince of Persia, the 2008 re-imagining of the series from Ubisoft Montreal, is a strange beast. It’s not a particularly good game, and it’s certainly not a challenging one. Yet despite that, I have been playing it to death, and have enjoyed (nearly) every minute of it.

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