Reviews

Review: Minecraft (Nintendo 3DS)

I have to be honest here: I’m not a fan of Minecraft. The most I ever remember playing it was back in its Alpha stage because there was something unique about it. It was like a show of fireworks for the deaf – intriguing, but not massive. Nowadays you can’t escape Minecraft. Name any console and it has a Minecraft port, and if it doesn’t then they’re currently working on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a version of Minecraft that uses its controls to teach you how to play the piano. Hell, I have to give kudos to Microsoft for making me dread the name Minecraft itself.

With all of that, it’s no surprise to me that they said “screw it” and ported Minecraft to the 3DS – albeit, the New 3DS only. This is the third time (to my knowledge) that a portable version of Minecraft has been made. The first one was on Smartphones, next on the (sadly fading) PlayStation Vita, and now on Nintendo’s popular, and slowly dying 3D handheld. So, how does it hold up to the other portable versions and console ports?

The answer is a sad and heavy ‘mehhhhh’. Playing Minecraft on the 3DS is like playing Doom 2 with a set of electric drums. It’s a very interesting way of playing Minecraft, but that doesn’t mean I recommend it. Before I can tell you why, however, I do have some positive things to say. The controls aren’t very awkward, although the C-Stick clearly wasn’t made to be used with First Person games. It also somewhat utilizes the touchscreen, but I’ll get into that later. Finally, it’s good to have for LAN play (multiplayer but with your friends/people around you and not 100 random strangers) because it’s on the 3DS. The negatives, however, outweigh all the goodwill of this port.

Minecraft on the 3DS faults in some glaring and alarming areas. First of all, it has an inconsistent framerate. Everything will be fine, but once you start digging it has a VERY noticeable dip. This is especially bad as mining is as essential to Minecraft as water is to humans. It’s also kind of ugly-looking. I know saying that about Minecraft is kind of redundant (it’s not a very pretty game), but the hardware limitations imposed by the 3DS somehow make it look like one of the first versions of the game – which, mind you, was online for free for quite a few years. Speaking of technical limitations, this game hits quite a few of them. To name the most apparent one, the pop-in on this port is the most intense I’ve seen for Minecraft since trying to run it on my mother’s 2007 notebook years ago. For those who don’t have any idea about what pop-in is, it basically means that objects and scenery pop into view seemingly out of nowhere. Yes, Minecraft has always had this as a “feature”, but, again, it’s especially bad on the 3DS.

This basically sums up my thoughts on the 3DS version of Minecraft. It ran like I expected it to, like a 35-year-old car with a dying engine and a set of newer, although not as popular as they used to be, wheels. Everything wrong with this port has to do with the fact that it’s Minecraft running on the freakin’ 3DS. I would act shocked that the much-loathed Vita port is 10 times better, but that would be stretching it too far. It’s ONLY worth a buy if you have friends or family members that will play with you on long car trips. Otherwise, it’s an expectedly unwieldy port that can be played much better elsewhere.

4/10


Things done right: 

  • The Full Minecraft experience on the go!
  • Local Area Network (LAN) is much more accessible on the 3DS and should work well with Minecraft
  • Some clever utilization of the touchscreen

Things done wrong:

  • Even on the New 3DS, technical limitations are very apparent and can make the game not as fun to play
    • This includes pretty insane amounts of pop-in
  • Low framerate, especially when mining
  • One of the ugliest versions of Minecraft

Meh:

  • New 3DS exclusive

 

In general: Buy it only to play with friends. Otherwise, stick with any other version available.

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Movies · Reviews · Spoilers

Logan – Movie Review/Thoughts (TINY Spoilers)

Please note: My game and movie reviews are formatted differently.

This is a little late, but I could care less. This is the tale of when Logan saw Logan, as in the film. Since this came out more than a month ago, yet some people still haven’t seen it yet, I’m just going to put this right here: This review contains slight spoilers, I won’t be telling you the majority of the story or how it ends, but I will be discussing minor things that you’ll have to have seen the movie to understand.  There.

I went into Logan anticipating a climax where EVERYONE dies, even the small child. I talked to buds of mine who were big enough dipshits to tell me this… they lied. The movie begins interestingly enough with a location I could have sworn I’d seen before: an appropriately dimmed down version of a (light) blue color that surrounded the scenery, a messed up road, and also a bit of a town. It took me less than a few seconds to remember that this was the teaser for Deadpool 2. As typical, funny stuff that knows what it is and what movie it’s playing before. This was great and one of the best pre-movie things I’ve seen in a while… too bad Hugh Jackman won’t be revisiting his fake silver claws for that film, though.

Then the movie begins. It hits you right off the bat, showing Wolverine (now using his other codename, Logan) having to cut into a bunch of assholes trying to disassemble his car for parts to sell. This was a great way to open this film mainly because it not only shows how violent the film is in comparison to all of its predecessors but also tells the audience about Logan’s weakened healing powers without ever needing to say a word about it. This describes why I loved Logan so much: it’s NOT the typical Super-Hero movie abusing the same formula for profit. There are no quick and cartoony gags or reckless behavior and acts that get unpunished. Like The Dark Knight before it, Logan is a Superhero film only in the sense that the main character has amazing powers and/or special abilities.

From here, the movie goes on to give a pretty awesome show. I’m not a psychopath, but I think the violence here was fitting, as this is what Logan’s powers could realistically do to someone if he used them on somebody. The practical and digital effects for the gore and visuals were also pretty well done, too. The story is one that gets more and more heartbreaking as it goes on, and the finale had me in tears – which is quite rare for me. The characters, for the most part, were decent, but some were obviously there to move along the story and get killed afterward – wouldn’t ya know it, they die. Probably the best part of this film are the performances from everyone involved. Obviously, Patrick Steward and Hugh Jackman fit their roles more than peanut butter fits jelly, but Dafne Keen as Laura, or Logan’s clone, was also amazing here as well and the things she was able to pull off here are outstanding things for any child actor, period.

And that basically describes it. Sorry if this feels rushed or incomplete – I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but haven’t gotten to. For anyone wondering – yes, when I get the chance to, I’ll do more than writing about Video Games and related items.

 

Reviews · Video Games

Review: Lone Survivor (PC, PS Vita and PS3)

What is it?

Lone Survivor is a 2012 2D Survival Horror game in the same vein as the Silent Hill series. Developed only by one man, Jasper Byrne, the game has been ported from the PC all the way to the Wii U and PS4. It follows 1 man, only referred to as ‘You’, who’s a ‘Lone Survivor’ (just like the name), as he attempts to escape his Apartment complex, which has been invaded by some unnerving monsters, to say the least. Along the way, some interesting things happen, and the main characters meets intriguing, albeit minor, figures. It really is a game that should be experienced without much knowledge, so sorry if I’m cutting far more information than I should off.

The Port Report

So, I played this on my PS Vita, PS3, and PC. I have only managed to finish the game on the latter, but I’ve played enough on all 3 to say that the differences are VERY minor. All 3 run practically the same, without missing a track of music, sound effects, or even performance issues. The only real difference is in the controls, which are simple enough for this to be translated to basically any platform it was ported to without a major difference in that regard. If you’re struggling to guess which platform you should get it on, just know that there are no real major, game-changing differences between them.

The Director’s Cut does add a few new endings, but since it’s release, essentially all versions are The Director’s Cut, without needing to re-buy what was previously purchased on PC.

The High Points (Pros)

Right off the bat, Lone Survivor has a brilliant, distinctive art style. Yes, it’s all pixel art, but the way it’s done is jaw dropping. Environments feel alive without ever needing to resort to an art style that would do that instantly. When it comes to the sound department, that’s amazing, too. Despite only being 30 minutes-or-so long, the soundtrack here is amazingly done, adding to the already fantastic atmosphere. Sound effects, like those from Monsters, are also amazingly done, too. All of it really adds up to an unnerving atmosphere that did crawl under my skin at moments. What should really be commended, however, is the story, writing, and choices. All 3 tie together expertly, adding a real sense of urgency to the actions players take in Lone Survivor. This game is perfectly ambiguous to make you think a little, but not too much, about what’s happening or happened. The controls are also incredibly simple, without ever having something that feels clunky across all platforms.

In Summary:
+ Beautiful art style
+ Amazingly atmospheric
+ Excellent sound design – from music to sound effects
+ Great story, Choice-Based Gameplay, and writing – all tie together perfectly
+ Good, simplistic controls

The Low Points (cons)

There are only 2 things I can think of here, but both do get annoying. The mapping scheme, and an annoying chase sequence. The game is presented in 2 dimensions, but the maps you’ll use to help you get around are crafted from a top-down perspective of the building, or part of the building, you’re in. While I did eventually get used to this, it took me nearly forever to do so. Then there’s a late-game chase sequence. Again, I won’t be spoiling anything, but it was far more frustrating than anything else. It was a real game of trial and error whether or not I could progress there, and that’s what actually stopped me from progressing for quite some time. That said, you can certainly beat it, and it’s something that only really happens once.

In Summary:
– Awkward, mind-boggling maps
– An annoying late-game trial-n-error chase sequence

Conclusion

Despite it’s awkwardly confusing maps, and that one crappy chase sequence, Lone Survivor is well worth trying. It’s beautifully atmospheric visuals, excellent sound design, simplistic controls, and excellent mixing of choices, story, and dialog make it a strong contender for one of the better indie games out there. I get that what I’m saying here has been said before, but trust me: this one’s worth it.

Verdict: A-

Image used taken from: TVtropes.com
Reviews · Video Games

Review: Grand Theft Auto IV (PC & PS3)

What is it?

No doubt, if you know anything about Video Games, you’ve heard of Grand Theft Auto. It’s constantly in the media, both in a negative and positive light, and is often times referred to as one of, if not the, most controversial game series of all time. Gameplay consists of more than stealing cars, however, as the player can explore the city at their leisure in between missions, and even do side activities around the city.

Grand Theft Auto IV is the 2008 incarnation of this formula, best known as the first modern addition to the series. This addition stars Niko Bellic, an immigrant who arrives to his cousin, Roman, in America as they fight for money and fame in a place where those 2 variables rule the streets.  The game also has a multiplayer mode, which can go from exploring the city with a friend, to a rather simplistic deathmatch, to races and so many more modes.

The Port Report

Before I can review the game, I’m going to address subtle differences between the 2 versions of this game I played: The ‘Complete’ Edition on the PlayStation 3, and the standard edition on the PC. First up is the PS3.

For a PS3 port, I barely noticed any stutters, downgrades, or any other negative that would detract from the experience on this specific platform. That said, the framerate did drop every now a then, but that seems to be an issue with the game itself and not the port. As with the console versions of GTAIV, the brightness is an issue. To say this game is dark on consoles is an understatement, as I had to fiddle with my TV’s brightness settings just to get a bare resemblance of what goes on during the night time. This becomes especially bad during missions, where seeing subtle objects like ladders can become much more difficult when everything is almost pitch black.

My main issue with the PS3 port is the controls. The triggers (R2 and L2) on the Dualshock 3 aren’t very good, and tend to wear and break after some time using them. This became such a big issue for me that I’ve resorted to using my Wireless Speedlink controllers instead of the standard ones. GTA IV is one of those games, but where it faults is a lack of options in the controls department. Games like Just Cause 2 let you fiddle with their controls in a way that you’re comfortable with, while other games give you presets that might make the game a little more playable. GTA IV chooses the latter route, but packs a very small number of presets that barely meets the concern most players would have should they ever wander into those settings. It also has long loading screens and a long wait to install the content for each piece of The ‘Complete’ Edition.

The ‘Complete’ Edition adds in 2 additional content packs: The Lost and The Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. I’ve yet to play these 2 a whole lot, but from the small amounts of time I’ve put into both, it seems that The Lost deals with driving around, while Gay Tony adds in a whole new club-life mechanic that’s really hit or miss.

Now onto the PC Port. The game itself plays great on PC, and, as with GTA tradition, moving around with mouse and keyboard is done expertly, with no limits to mouse movement to make me feel sick or gives me a headache after more or less than an hour of playing. That said, the driving controls aren’t very good. Since keyboard keys lack the ability to tell how hard you’re pressing them like triggers on a controller do, driving is much more of a hassle at higher speeds, which the game is more than happy to throw at you. Of course, modding is the main reason you’d want to get this game on PC… well, it was until the newest patch. If you want steady performance and great compatibility with newer systems plus mods, you’re shit out of luck. That said, there is a way to revert to the previous patch… but excellent results shouldn’t be expected.

On top of this, there’s Games for Windows Live. This is required to not only play the game on PC, but save. You can get an offline account, but there’s no way to switch online should you want to play multiplayer after doing that. The User-Interface is clunky and terrible, and reeks of Microsoft’s desire to be like Steam. This said, even with GFWL, the game is still playable. Annoying and much more of a nuisance to deal with, but playable nonetheless. Performance issues still reside, but tend to vary.

If I were to pick a platform to play GTA IV on, I’d go for the PC despite the bloatware you need in order to play it, plus the lack of modding support.

In Summary:
PS3 Port Pros/Cons:
+ Great preformace
+ (With Complete Edition) Loads of content
– Too dark at night time
– Controls aren’t very good
– Long loading times
– Has to install each piece of content before playing

PC Port Pros/Cons
+ Mouse and Keyboard Controls work very well
+ Easy to start-up
+ New Patch fixes compatibility issues
– Games for Windows Live in general
– Lack of modding support in new patch
– Driving controls suck on keyboard
– Performance issues

 

The High Points (Pros)

When going into GTA IV, the first thing that becomes evident is the world. Liberty City is just as fun as it was to explore back in 2008,  with a unique coloring scheme that, though flawed (some places can be more brown than others), does give the city a beautiful look and feel. The world feels alive in a quite atmospheric way, and there’s quite allot to do when you’re not doing a mission. The writing here is sharp, and, as series-tradition goes, even greatly satirical at points. A chunk of the characters are pretty well written, and the same goes for the story, too. Some activities, like bowling, are quite fun, and a nice addition to the game. The guns in this game look and sound nice, which is a great addition. Multiplayer, while not perfect, is also fun despite no longer having a strong, thriving player base… Co-Op especially. The Voice acting in this game, with a few exceptions, is very well done, and the music, as with Series-Tradition (again) is also pretty great, too.

In Summary:
+ Excellent, atmospheric world design
+ Great writing with a satirical edge
+ Decent characters
+ Good plot
+ Great Gunplay
+ Fun activities
+ Multiplayer isn’t that bad
+ Good Voice Acting
+ Nice selection of music

The Low Points (Cons)

Here’s where things get interesting. Despite the game’s astounding world, the missions that surround it are quite linear. It’s easy to know when a scripted car chase is going to happen and when it will end. The driving in this game is terrible at fast speeds, especially with turning. I often times found myself ramming into just about everything without even wanting to, and in some cases, failed a mission because my car was so wild it landed itself in a lake. That happened to me more times than you’d think, with each one of them being just as frustrating as the last. While some characters are pretty well done, others are simply annoying. I had to put subtitles on to understand what one person was saying, because other than that, I could only tell that they were slurring their words and that was it.

While some activities, like bowling, are fun, there are terribly boring activities like Darts. Darts, in particular, is more of a chore to play than anything else, and without a button that lets me quit a round once I’ve accidentally started another one, I often times found myself quitting more than carrying on and playing the round. I also hate how you can’t restart a mission, or quit one, without failing it.

In Summary:
– Linear, scripted missions, that don’t mix well with the Open World design
– Terrible handling (driving controls)
– Frustrating chase sequences
– Annoying characters
– Darts. Yeah, Darts…
– You have to die to quit or restart a mission

Conclusion

Do I recommend GTA IV? Maybe. It’s Open World is amazing, as with it’s Story, Characters, and so many more things… but I struggle to want to revisit all of that when I have to go through mediocre missions and terrible chase sequences with some of the worst driving controls I’ve ever experienced just to see a glimmer of it. However, despite that glaring issue, it’s still a landmark title that’s still fun, despite it’s age. Is it my favorite GTA game? No. That’s an uphill battle between San Andreas and V for me, but it’s still damned fine. Just, don’t buy it for your 8 year-old. Maybe it’s a little late to say that, but these games really aren’t meant for small children.

Verdict: B-