Three hours in and I can make two sweeping assertions about 3D Dot Game Heroes: 1. It has the Worst Game Title In The World… Ever and 2. It is the Most Meticulous The Legend Of Zelda (NES) Clone… Ever. You might think that these are both undesirable monikers, and in the case of the first, it is. Seriously, who came up with ’3D Dot Game Heroes’? It sounds like a lazily-scribbled line for the game’s basic premise right back in its concepting phase – how it stuck is anybody’s guess. Of course, it could be a brutal translation from an awesome Japanese title that has no equivalent in the English language. Plausible, but unlikely. With regards to the second claim, however; it may be a meticulous clone, but that’s some source material. As T.S. Elliott once said, “Talent imitates, but genius steals.”

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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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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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Heavy Rain // PS3

February 28, 2010

It is hard to judge Heavy Rain against its contemporaries as it doesn’t fit into established genres. It’s impossible to compare its mechanics with those of another title, because it doesn’t bear any similarities to other games, other than the developer’s previous work, Fahrenheit. With such a bold stab at originality, where rulebooks are torn up and discarded with a sneer, it’s an impossibility that Heavy Rain will appeal to everyone. For those entrenched in familiar videogame tropes, in health bars and smashable crates, in boss fights and collectibles, it will be derided as a 10-hour long movie where you decide the outcome; a choose-your-own-adventure book transposed into a Blu-ray disc. But that would be missing the point entirely – Heavy Rain is not only an astonishingly polished attempt at true originality, it’s also a fantastic slice of digital entertainment in its own right.

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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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As I’ve mentioned recently, since the turn of the decade I’ve been obsessed with the online multiplayer deathmatches and dominations of a certain Modern Warfare 2, to the point where I’ve been seeing snipers in my sleep and idly fantasizing about tossing semtex into a group of hooligans raising hell outside our flat. What better way, then, to soothe my frayed nerves and assuage my battered psyche, than by settling down to a type of game that, for me, started it all off all those years ago – a 2D platformer on a Nintendo console? Enter Wario Land: The Shake Dimension (aka Wario Land: Shake It! in the US).

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