Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 (PS4)

Growing up as a gamer among my brothers I had the privilege to share my time playing some of today's retro classics in good company. One of the most memorable gaming moments that I can think of in regards to those times, and those classics includes me playing "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2" on the PSOne with my brothers back at the old homestead. We always challenged each others' high scores, and even spent time laughing as the characters wiped out on the pavement of various environments in an over-the-top fashion. Things like the absurd gravity effects which caused characters to drift forever upward made for some truly laughable moments. I also loved unlocking the secret characters which always seemed to make the experience even more enjoyable. Being able to play as different versions of Spider-man was awesome as was the other unnatural characters which became a part of the Tony Hawk's lore over the years. The series was definitely epic in every way imaginable back in the day, and as time progressed with new releases the franchise always seemed to stay close to the roots only deviating from said set path to innovate a little. Everything about the series from the arcade style skateboarding features to the secret characters, and unlockables as well as the easy to learn mechanics always kept true to the classic Tony Hawk's pro skateboarding video game formula.

Past all that, and onto the recent release of "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5" though I have found that while the game has attempted to stay true to it's core standards it deviates somewhat, and sometimes fails at being the more fantastical, and rock solid skateboarding adventure that it once was. Instead of adventurous treks through larger than life skate parks for that high score we have a series of environments that are more true-to-life in size, and centered mostly around a socially interactive experience much like a true skate park would be. Things like online competitive modes, and a new "Create-A-Park" map editor will have you experiencing the game with people from across the globe in a variety of different ways as you show of your virtual skateboarding skills. Even the offline single player which has you gaming by your lonesome offers up social standings in a sort of leaderboard fashion that keeps track of your performance progress, and feats in the limited selection of levels that are made available to you. I think this time Activision really went for that true-to-life skate park appeal, and only added certain arcade style gaming nods into the mix as more of an afterthought. Those missions that have you completing gap lists, and collecting items as well as spelling words are more or less a way to unlock the customization extras which are tied to the game's new skateboarder leveling system. As such the main focus is more about impressing people with your skills, and less about the single player campaign shenanigans.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Gaming Journalism - The Inside Scoop

I've been in the gaming journalism biz a little over four years now. Closer to five, or six if you count my work with other official websites. I've poured countless hours, days, months, and even years of my own personal time into ensuring that I have a place among the more well respected gaming journalists. As a one man reviewing army I think I've pulled off some impressive numbers in my time. More so than most paid off, or bought out mainstream gaming journos. Sometimes I honestly feel that the struggle to stay relevant in this industry isn't worth the hassle though. If that makes any sense? As a lowly blogger it hasn't been an easy road getting to where I'm at today. Not by a long shot. I've had to prove myself over, and over to various PR of the same studios which I've worked with in the past due to constant staff changes among other things. The PR turnover itself is, but one of many stumbling blocks I've tripped up on on my way to covering retail releases. The fact that gaming journalism is an actual "J-O-B" that requires actual dedicated work often times makes me second guess what it is I'm doing, especially since I offer up my services for a game code that costs the developer/publisher nothing in the grand scheme of things. That, and the added fact that I pour my heart into what I do to provide some of the more notable reviews on the web really makes me question things.

For the longest, before all of the knit picking guidelines, review material hassles, PR bullsh*t and journalism requirements were introduced I was a successful indie exclusive blogger. I truly loved the time spent exploring, and sharing what I found in regards to those lesser yet innovative indie games. It was easier to convince indie developers to have faith in my work, and in turn made it easier for me to provide critiques that were attention getting simply because the games themselves were unique. Jump forward to today though, and you'll find that the retail phase I'm in doesn't allow me to provide as many review posts as I did in this blog's earlier years. Sure the support has grown as have my followers, but I feel like I'm letting the lot of you down by not staying up to date with what's going on in the gaming industry, game-wise. Like other journalists I'm slowly losing motivation to continue onward due to the various complications that I run into. Whether it be PR like that of Atlus's who won't give you the time of day in regards to a request/follow-up inquiry or the lesser and lesser amounts of available review codes it always seems like something is getting between me, and what I aim to do with my blog. At times I've lost heart, and felt like retiring. Enjoying some gaming for myself doesn't sound all that bad, to be honest. To hell with developers, publishers, and PR who have the business etiquette of a spoiled child (you know who you are). At least that's the way I see it sometimes ...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (PS4)

Returning with a vengeance NIS's long running tactical JRPG series, "Disgaea" makes it's way once again to the forefront of the gaming scene in an attempt to impress a new generation of gamers. This time around the PS4 exclusive that is "Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance", and it's traditionally based, but vastly tweaked micro-management system aims to attract a broader audience with even more to do, and plenty more to discover! While those of you familiar with the series will find yourselves at home once again in the netherworld that coincides with the Disgaea series theme you will also find that new mechanics/features have been added as well as new characters, and an all encompassing plot that takes in account a multitude of different warring netherworlds. Even the enemy comes in various new forms with the main threat being that of Void Dark.

The rag tag group of vengeance seeking overlords which will be leading the episodic show-down against said baddies includes the mysterious wanderer "Killia", The mistress of men "Seraphina", The brute demon with a superiority complex "Red Magnus", and the supposed demon overlord with a hidden agenda "Christos", among others. As a team brought together for a single unified cause these denizens of the damned are all out for one purpose, and one purpose only. That purpose being to rid the netherworld of Void Dark! Each of them, for their own personal reasons want to conquer Void Dark, and his tyrannic army. This of course is where you, the gamer steps in. While there's not really one main character to take on as a personal role plot-wise you will find yourself seeing things from all of the main characters' perspectives. As I mentioned before this latest installment of Disgaea has a plot that is all encompassing. Through some serious grinding you might just be able help the anti-heroes, and heroines of this particular tale do what they've set out to do as you learn more about their deep seeded plight.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Destiny: TTK - Initial Thoughts & Opinions

It has been a long hard road out of the Hellmouth folks. Seriously. Year one of Destiny has taken a toll on my confidence that online gaming can be salvaged for future generations. Throughout Destiny, during the first year it was evident to me that the game was flawed on a serious level. I could ramble on for a good hour, or more about how many things were wrong with Destiny in it's "Beta" phase, but I won't though. You've likely all heard it by now anyways, and with the new expansion upon us what is relative is "The Taken King". When it comes to this hyped, and highly promoted end-game experience which is tied to the core of Destiny the added expansion has lived up to said hype in some ways, but still continues to fall extremely short in others. The story, for example is the prime example of what the other expansions should have been content, and story-wise. It is the most epic, and cinematic journey I've seen in Destiny, yet. The Crucible, however is still plagued by problems mainly brought on by those who play it, and those who sit on the sidelines doing f**k all about what's going on. Even with the new maps, and modes of play the online multiplayer that is the Crucible comes off as being a proper annoyance in many different ways. As a result Destiny, in it's entirety is currently an offset balance of quality, and the lack thereof.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Whasssup!? At The Inferno???

As you've probably noticed the posts have slowed down to an almost non-existent state this week. There's a reason for this, so don't jump ship just yet. Currently I am working behind-the-scenes on my "Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance" playthrough, so that I can have that review out when the embargo is up. Disgaea is a game series that demands a lot of attention as it includes a ton of different things to do. I'm having to dedicate time to focus on details of the game so that when review time does come I can flow forth words in one fluid motion without having to go back, and reference things. Believe it, or not, but JRPGs are one of the more difficult genres of games to review, especially if you aim to be thorough. With that being said though I will be looking into Tuesday's PSN store offerings to see if I find something worth bringing to your attention via a review. I have admittedly slacked a bit in requests, but with my Xbox LIVE subscription renewed I can start reviewing Xbone game releases again. That will up my review count at least a little. Thanks to those of you who did not take back your Google+ likes, and to those of you who have stuck around. Just know that I've not given up, and have more reviews intended for the weeks, months, and possibly years ahead. Life willing, of course.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Knock Knock (PS4)

Ice-Pick Lodge's debut console thriller, "Knock Knock" will no doubt strike a chord with many creepypasta, and urban legend fanatics around the world. Not only is it's gameplay psychologically horrifying, but it's also the type of game that makes you second guess yourself. In fact the introduction to the game which is typed in a sort of hypothetical series of quotes clues the gamer into such a creative direction, or possibly even the lack thereof. It basically states that the developers obtained instructions on how to make the game from an anonymous person, and that the game is best looked upon as an urban legend as well as played alone, and in the dark. When it comes to making sense of the game it definitely all depends on which way you choose to look at things. I personally think the reality behind the game lies on a deeper more psychological level meant to test our own rationalization skills.

The suggested "interactive" experience that lies within the digital confines of "Knock Knock" is eerily child-like, and borders on being stealth in design while including the need for proper understanding without overthinking things as well as actual platforming element knowledge. All of which is tied to the theme of irrational fears. At heart the game incorporates the passage of time, and everything horrific that the haunted mind can dream up within the nighttime hours. The creaking of floorboards, the flickering of lights, and voices in the dark will all play on your most primal fears. Your objective as it were, is to merely make it to dawn so that everything regains a sense of normality for the game's odd protagonist. I'd say that despite it's obvious trip into the psyche of the rather disturbed individual (aka, worldologist) it plays heavily on the key fear behind trying to rationalize irrational circumstances. Of course I too could be overthinking it all, and it could simply be a game to test areas of my own human nature as a gamer, and a fellow human being.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hyper Void (PS4)

In my twenty plus years as a gamer I've seen all kinds of shmups (shoot 'em ups) come to light. From the Atari 2600's "Yar's Revenge" (which basically amounted to clusters of tiny moving pixels) to the more complex, and intense bullet hell shooters of today the creations developers have designed have evolved in more diverse ways than what most video game genres can claim. I think the fact that shmups aren't the hardest thing to develop makes the interest in creating such games all the more attractive to developers thus making them an easy go to project, and one of the most plentiful of indie gaming experiences for gamers to purchase these days. I think the developers who grew up at the time I did when arcades were a hit, and such shooters were commonplace really connect with the genre on a personal level. Thankfully there are also gamers around who still love the high scoring challenges, and challenging nature that such games provide as well.

When it comes to Inframez' vision of a shoot 'em up I think it's safe to say that "Hyper Void" somewhat surpassed the visual hype that was the trailer, and at the same time kind of lived down the sickening graphics that most of you will be worried about. At the heart of the experience "Hyper Void" is a simple space saga in the making that will most likely be lost to the gamer due to the more binary terminology, and the way the story elements are presented in-game. Sure there is a story if you stop long enough to read it, but spamming the various shooting options, and control functions will often times cause you to skip the virtual panel pop-ups that house said information. Regardless of this fact the gameplay itself is a deeply involved "Wipeout" inspired gaming experience that will definitely test your mettle as a high scoring arcade game player, and try to impress you while doing so. The game is both simple in layout, easy to pick up on, and vastly complex in the way the visual environments are depicted. If you remember the wire frame computer graphics of the 80's arcade scene, and enjoyed that first introduction into the realm of 3D I think you might just enjoy 'Hyper Void' for it's visually heavy gameplay. Be warned though it does have the potential to cause seizures in those who have a family history of it. Thankfully the warning is one of the first things you'll see when the game starts up.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What Warrants a Perfect 10 Rating in Gaming?

In light of the hype that surrounded MGSV's perfect rating I feel inclined to voice my opinion about what I think warrants a "10/10" rating in the world of gaming. Before I get into that though I want to explain that I can't recall in my career as a gaming critic ever having scored a game with a perfect numerical rating. I've just never found such a game, and if I were to be 100% honest I'd say that that game does not exist even with today's gaming technology advances in place. There are too many factors to consider when rating a game based on number values as well as particular in-game features that must be evaluated, and unless all those points are flawless then such a perfect score would be invalid. That's why I tend to avoid numerical ratings altogether.

While I've personally been amazed at what Konami has done with MGSV (and speechless at moments) I still cannot bring myself to saying that the game is perfect. It honestly isn't. Despite my urge to critique the knit picking things related to MGSV's build I will refrain from doing so, because I want to keep this article as generic as possible. This isn't only about MGSV. This article is about giving a game a perfect score, and whether or not the game deserves it. It's also about what a perfect game would have to be like to gain such a rating.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Amnesia: Memories (PS VITA)

Produced initially as a visual novel game for the PlayStation Portable back in August of 2011, the "Amnesia" series has continued on throughout the gaming scene in various forms, and has captivated it's core Japanese fanbase while doing so. In turn this capturing of the core audience's attention has also caused the creation of other non-game related merchandise including a 2013 anime series on the side. It has even brought the series over to our western shores via translated versions. The story behind said visual novel based experience is basically of the "Otome" game classification. Meaning that the gamer will be taking on the role of a female protagonist, and will be engaging in relationship related scenarios with provided male characters while progressing the plot at hand. While there's really nothing sexual to be shown in the provided situations the romantic relationships found within do play a prominent part in said instances. In the case of "Amnesia: Memories", for example the nameless female protagonist in question finds herself waking up without a name, recollection of she is, or what has happened in her real world to cause her to forget all of said information. What she is left to deal with as she awakes, and traverses several possible alternate realities/worlds named after playing card suits (Heart, Spade, Club, Diamond) is a lingering tug-of-war relationship with a supposed boyfriend, and a separate possible love interest/s.

As you play the game, and get to know the girl's odd situation more intimately through character driven conversation, detective work, and her daily routine things begin to make sense, but only if you choose the right replies to the questions that are asked of you. This is one of those game series where choices greatly impact the story's outcome, and as such you will certainly find different endings for each scenario based on what you choose. The balancing scale in the middle of all of said character interactions being that of "affection", "trust", and "suspicion". Mind you there is a common ground in the different worlds that the female protagonist encounters though, and for the most part that common ground comes from a rather fantastical source as you'll find out from the start.