Kerbal Space Program Review: A successful launch falls short of orbit

The lack of creativity in modern gaming is my biggest gripe about the hobby. Games offer the opportunity to interact with incredible worlds and situations that are far beyond everyday experience, yet most titles boil down to shooting or stabbing something in the face. Granted, most of us don’t spend much time murdering, so the allure is obvious – but there are other frontiers to explore.

So you can probably understand my excitement when I heard of Kerbal Space Program late last year (yes, I’m late to the party). A game about building and launching rockets? About exploration? About challenging what seems possible? Fuck, yea!

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Borderlands 2 Review: A bad game concealed by good friends

Several months ago I wrote a snippet slamming Borderlands 2 as the wrong kind of hard. I tried to play it by myself and found it to be a clusterfuck. And that’s being polite. Stupid and repetitive enemies with gobs of hitpoints don’t make for a good single-player campaign.

The standard response to this is that playing solo is doing it wrong. Okay. I get that. So I now have played to level thirty in co-op, and guess what? It’s still bad.

That’s not to say the game is never enjoyable. The writing is amusing at times and some of the gun-fights are a hoot when there’s a friend around to take some bullets. But here’s the thing – almost every game is more fun with a friend.

Borderland’s brief flash of brilliance is in its approach. By claiming to be a co-op game its developers gave themselves an advantage straight away. Flaws like poor AI, bad pacing and dull boss fights are easier to miss when you have another player to experience them with. But that doesn’t mean the game is good.

Hell, you’d think a co-op game would at least provide reason to work together, but Borderlands just barely manages that. Besides the downing system (players who are taken down can be revived by another) and a handful of buff and healing effects there’s no coordination between the classes. Shooting stuff with other people is just shooting stuff with other people. There’s nothing else to do and sniping remains the best tactic, though it’s not much fun.

The game occasionally forgets to even acknowledge that there are multiple heroes the game world – and this is supposedly a co-op game! Holy shit!

But a lack of regard for core fucking mechanics is common in the game. Guns are another example.  GUNS. GUNS GUNS GUNS. Did I mention the game has guns? Yea, just one problem – most are less useful than a wet firecracker. Some are woefully inaccurate. Some do shit damage. And some literally can fire one damn salvo before they have to reload. One shot! Apparently the Borderlands devs think revolution-era muskets are like YEEEEAAAAH!

I could go on. About the dumbass AI. About the terrible level design. About the slog-fests that pass as boss fights.

But I won’t. I think you get the point. I don’t like this game. If you are thinking of buying it, I recommend that you don’t. Want co-op? Okay. Buy Torchlight 2. Buy Orcs Must Die! 2. Buy Left 4 Dead or its sequel. Just don’t buy this. It sucks.

Verdict: Skip it

New Super Mario Bros. U Review: Bowser is still an asshole

There’s a certain irony to the New Super Mario games. “It’s new!” the company declares as it winks and nudges you between the ribs with its elbow. Okay, uncle Nintendo. Sure it is.

Uncle Nintendo’s sarcasm is tolerated, however, because the genre has been mostly abandoned by major game studios. The indies have cranked out a number of excellent options – games like Braid, Super Meat Boy and Capsized come to mind – but these titles all tend to rely on a gimmick. When it works, it works, which why the previously mentioned games are good. But a tight indie game with a great gimmick isn’t the same as a sprawling old-school platformer with big-budget production.

New Super Mario Bros. has had several previous incarnations and the games, while decent, suffered from unimaginative design and middling controls. NSMBU puts that to an end.

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Dishonored Review: A Serious Action-Stealth Game

Dishonored is a serious game. It’s made by serious game designers with serious experience who like difficult, engaging and seriously memorable gameplay. It has serious art style courtesy of a serious artist, Victor Antonov (of Half Life 2 fame), a guy so serious that he left Valve because he was only interested in doing big, risky, creative games.

It should come as no shock, then, that Dishonored is often a very good game. It has some of the best stealth mechanics to ever and, as if that weren’t enough, some excellent action as well. Arkane Studios seems to know this and wastes no time letting players come to grips with the action-stealth mechanics. Players begin the game by sneaking out of a prison and, shortly thereafter, are given access to supernatural powers. All of the powers and weapons are available within two hours of play. The first mission after the escape / tutorial asks the player to penetrate the headquarters of Dunwall’s secret police, known as Overseers, and kill the High Overseer. There are no milk runs here.

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Torchlight 2 Review: The Perfect Action-RPG

You may not have heard of Travis Baldree or Max and Erich Schaefer but you’ve probably played one of their games. Before crafting Torchlight Travis worked on the massively popular casual action-RPG Fate. As for Max and Erich, well, their resume includes a niche franchise that goes by the name of Diablo. No one in the gaming industry predicted how big of a hit the original Torchlight would become though. Given the wealth of talent that worked on it, we should have.

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