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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As readers of my over-verbose discourse on all things videogames will testify, I am rarely lost for words. BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger leaves me lost for words. A snapshot of Japanese insanity, conched in a beat ‘em up whose mechanics I have barely penetrated after a few hours play, BlazBlue both baffles and intrigues. With knowledge of fighting games stretching no further than the ubiquitous Street Fighter series, BlazBlue represents a bold step into the unknown for me, and it’s very fortunate that the Limited Edition of BlazBlue comes with a DVD stuffed full of tutorials on how to master its intricate complexities.

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So impressed were we of independent game FlipSide, that we asked its creator Brian O’Keefe to answer some questions about his Xbox Live Indie Games title. Happily, he obliged, answering the following questions by the magic of email from all the way across the pond. Find out after the jump how the game came about, why it’s so bloody hard, what it’s like getting a game onto Xbox Live Indie Games and what that murderous zebra on the box art is all about…

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Despite loving blockbuster games from big-name developers as much as the next person, infinitecontinues also likes to champion the cause of the proverbial ‘little guy’, the one-man-band outfits whose love of videogaming inspires them to put together their own creations. In the first of a new series of reviews of titles available on the Xbox Live Indie Games platform, we check out FlipSide, a pure skill-based game that’s as sadistic as it is addictive.

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Dante’s Inferno // PS3

February 20, 2010

If ‘Hell is other people’, then nobody told Visceral Games. To them, Hell is rivers of boiling blood. It’s enormous beasts with mouths for hands. It’s a clutch of babies with scythes for arms that have been birthed by a mouth-shaped nipple on an extremely large blue tit. To the players of their videogame adaption of Dante Aligheri’s 14th-century epic poem, Hell is illogical puzzles, cheap deaths, laughable voice acting and unlikeable characters.

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BioShock 2 // PS3

February 17, 2010

There has been a trend over the last six months for sequels to take the promising first stab at a new franchise and improve upon it very successfully, whether that be Assassin’s Creed 2 taking an original premise mired in repetition and creating a wonderfully varied, long adventure out of it; or Uncharted 2 taking the very solid and slick Drake’s Fortune and turning the dial up to 11 for Among Thieves, improving upon it in every way. BioShock 2 then, was always going to have its work cut out – the original foray into Rapture was a stunning game, one lavished with universal acclaim, Game Of The Year awards and even a BAFTA. It was the shock of the new that elevated BioShock to it’s lofty critical perch; total immersion in a city like no other the player had ever experienced. Shorn of that surprise, would a return to Andrew Ryan’s ‘utopia’ deliver the same highs in Rapture’s dark depths as its predecessor?

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First Impressions: BioShock 2

February 11, 2010

Set in the submerged, dystopian city of Rapture and championing the power of the self over the collective, the original BioShock proved that game developers could take literature as its chief inspiration and still craft a fun but mature game based on its premise. The works of author Ayn Rand, particularly The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, played a crucial part in forging the atmosphere and underlying ethos of Rapture, and was the primary reason why I stuck with BioShock through to the bitter end when the gameplay mechanics had grown a little repetitive. Two and a half years later, I was keen to find out whether the narrative of its successor, BioShock 2, was the game’s saving grace or one of many highlights.

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