Portal Review

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In one hole and out the other.

It has happened! Steve-O and I have finally experienced Portal! The critically acclaimed, fan-favorite puzzle game that seems to have had nothing but positive buzz since its inception. I’m happy to say that we thoroughly enjoyed everything that it has to offer.

Let me first start by saying that I suck at puzzle games. I don’t normally play them. As soon as I get even a semblance of a puzzle in, say, God of War, if I can’t find a solution quickly I look it up. I never play a Legend of Zelda game without consulting a walkthrough. Okay, hugging a walkthrough for the entire game. This made me very wary of starting Portal. Thankfully, with our powers combined (and a friend sitting in on about half of it who had completed the game already) we were able to see Portal through to the end and can now consider ourselves “in” on all of the Portal references spread throughout the gaming community.

Your avatar, Chell, awakens from what appears to be stasis, in what appears to be an abandoned research/testing facility. Abandoned, except by GLaDOS and the technology that keeps the place running. I say “appears”  because this game is very light on the storytelling aspect. Much of what you learn about the setting will be through observation and what GLaDOS tells you. Which is all subjective, of course… There’s no guarantee the super computer running this joint is even telling you the truth. And Chell doesn’t ever speak. In fact, the only reason I know the playable character is female is by seeing her through the portals.

The bulk of Portal consists of completing 19 trials with your fancy portal gun supplied by Aperture Science. You can shoot orange and blue portals against most walls and ceilings. Going into one portal will cause you to come out of the other. And no, they aren’t color-coded. I think my main problem with puzzle games is that even if my preconceived notion about how the mechanics work is wrong, I have a hard time getting it through my thick skull. So for the first few trials I kept thinking maybe orange was the enter portal and blue was the exit… Which isn’t the case at all. Whatever color you enter, you will exit the other. Simple concept, right?

Needless to say, more variances are thrown in to make progression a bit more complicated. Enter Physics: Mainly, learning to build continual momentum while falling through portals so you can launch yourself across rooms. Trust me, it’s dizzying and confusing. Then add timed doors, hazards like poison, shooting robots, energy balls that will kill you on contact but must be used to activate certain apparatuses, and the infamous companion cube… And you have fascinating depth to a puzzle-platform game that is definitely more than it seems. You can’t die from falling, but there are enough hazards to make you think careful about how you want to continue on. Many of the traps are one hit kills. It’s nothing to be too concerned with, as the game frequently auto-saves. Plus, you can quicksave whenever you want. A very helpful feature.

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I didn’t want to incinerate you…

I can’t talk about Portal without mentioning the humor. The hilarious deadpan, dark humor. All provided by the super computer that guides you through your journey. GLaDOS is, quite simply put, my favorite video game “character” in a long time. The funniest, hands down. More often than not I was chuckling at everything it said. By the time the “great reveal” hit and GlaDOS was desperately trying to backtrack what happened, I was laughing consistently.

Then the end credits hit. Seriously, the entire game was worth the ending credits. Definitely the funniest, most clever ending credits I’ve ever seen.

Even if you don’t play puzzle games, download this for cheap on Steam and play it. Use video FAQS and walkthroughs if you must. Because, seriously, it’s worth it just to experience this gem. I can’t imagine anyone out there who enjoys puzzle games and *gasp* using their brain when playing video games having not played Portal or Portal 2 yet… but if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and go play this now. You’ll finish it in a few hours, but the experience will stay with you for far longer.

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Retro Review: Suikoden 2

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Still not enough room for all of the characters.

Recently, Steve-O and I had the urge to scratch a “retro JRPG” itch. Remembering that Suikoden 2 was added to the Playstation Store for only $10, a much more affordable option than the rare disc which, until then, sold for over $100 used, I went ahead and downloaded it. A game that had been on our bucket list for a long time, but disregarded because of the old price point, we were excited to finally play it. Steve-O especially, as he’s played every main entry title.

We’d played Suikoden 1 and 3 together in past years. While I don’t exactly dislike Suikoden games, they do have two defining features that also happen to be on my RPG pet peeves list: silent protagonists and recruiting a bajillion characters. Recruiting all 108 stars of destiny characters is mandatory if you want to see the best ending, to boot! Suikoden 2 doesn’t stop there when it comes to arbitrary requirements to get the better ending after investing 50 hours in the game. All I have to say is I’m grateful we played the game during Age of Google.

RPG pet peeves aside, Suikoden 2 is a pretty solid JRPG. It takes the groundwork framed by the first Suikoden and improves upon it. You’ll create your own silent (generic and boring) young protagonist, and through a strange series of circumstances, become the leader of a rebel army. You’ll get to name the main character and army, so choose the most inappropriate names you can come up with. Personally, I’m still gravely wounded over not having enough character spaces to name my army the “Fuzzy Beaver” or “Bearded Clam” army. So many missed opportunities…

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Having six characters in battle at one time is helpful when experimenting with new allies.

Suikoden 2’s battle system is a bit different than many turn based games. I love that you’re able to bring six party members along with you, especially since the game FORCES certain characters on you ALL THE TIME! Add that to my RPG pet peeve list. In a game with over 108 recruitable/playable characters, being forced to bring certain characters with me so they can have one line of dialogue during a scene is beyond frustrating. Especially when you have a lot of equipment and Runes to swap around. Armor is relatively standard fare, but character weapons are unique to each character and can’t be removed. These add some individuality to a game where interchangeable Runes can make them blend together.

Certain characters have weapons with Runes embedded in them. This gives their weapons special effects, adding some flare. Some will have extra damage, some will have elemental effects. Each character can also have up to three Rune slots unlocked as they level. This means that you could potentially equip someone with 3 Runes to boost their physical attack prowess, 3 Runes full of magic spells, or whichever combination you desire. You can make some pretty sick physical attackers and mages with the right Rune combinations.This system helps make nearly any characters you select a viable option, but it does mean you’ll spend a lot of time micro-managing when swapping characters. And you will be changing your party up a lot because the game doesn’t really give you a choice not to.

One good feature that does help to offset all the character swapping and leveling you’ll potentially be doing is the experience distribution. The game doesn’t give those sitting out experience, but low level characters will catch up in a matter of a few fights, tops. This is the only hint I got that maybe, just maybe, they DID want us to experiment with different characters.

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Favorite boss design in the game.

I won’t say that Suikoden 2 is difficult, because it isn’t and if I did I’d be harassed with “N00B!” comments. But with that being said, the first boss fight was definitely a wake up call. Everything went from smooth sailing to “Okay maybe this game is serious!” Bosses in this game get multiple turns in a row, counters, and do crazy AoE damage. Sometimes, just for fun, they counter with an AoE attack then do it again on their turn before your characters get a chance to heal. Moral of the story: Never go into a boss fight without resting and getting spells back. You won’t make it long without high damaging runes and heal spells. Aside from the boss fights that actually require some thought and strategy, much of the battle system is a breeze.

The battle simulator fights, however, aren’t all that  great. Truthfully, it’s never been my thing to begin with. So I am a bit biased against them. I find the entire process cumbersome and boring. Half the time we wanted to let Apple do her own thing (This prompts the AI to handle the fighting for you) but she typically got units killed so we’d have to take matters into our own hands. Unlike other games of this nature, the player isn’t given a very clear picture of what their goal is. There were way, way too many hidden agendas and forced “Get your ass kicked by the enemies” for my liking.

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There is no HP meter either, you have to guess based on how many soldiers are left standing.

Don’t let fanboys with nostalgia vision try telling you about how unique the story in this game is, either. Sure, the over-arching plot doesn’t turn into “saving the world from an ultimate evil” like virtually every other JRPG in existence, but there’s plenty more JRPG tropes to go around: Silent protagonist? Check. Annoying characters that you just wanna kill tagging along for the entire journey? Check. Childhood best friend becoming your misled, angsty nemesis? Check. Traumatized child who refuses to speak until the dickbag she worships has his redeeming moment? Check. And that’s not even getting into all the watered down caricatures the characters are. There’s 108 of them, so it’s not like the writers really had any other choice.

As with most other old school JRPGs, the terrible translations make the entire experience more humorous than it probably should be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Though I have no doubt she really said this!

All in all, Suikoden 2 is a worthy JRPG to take the time to play if you’re a fan of that genre like we are. Steve-O, the Suikoden veteran, gives it a two thumbs up. Suikoden 2 wasn’t masochistic and grind-y enough for our tastes, though…. So maybe we’ll do Earthbound Beginnings next to further torture ourselves!

Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 4: Sons of Winter

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I’m sure this city needs no introduction.

The latest in TTG’s Game of Thrones interactive series, Sons of Winter, picks up in some story lines and drags in others. Mira Forrester, the handmaiden to Lady Margaery who keeps finding herself in all sorts of King’s Landing gossipy troubles, was even more painful than usual to slog through. I should’ve enjoyed stickin’ it to the chubby jerk named Andros. He rightfully deserved the double-handed trickery I performed against him in the name of preserving the Forrester’s hand in ironwood trade. And yet, I was more than willing for her portions to end to get to the more action-oriented segments.

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Daenerys is definitely one of the best looking adaptations to her HBO counterpart.

Daenerys’ model is certainly one of the better looking ones. But what she was bestowed upon with beauty the writers took away in attitude. She’s got a stick up her butt or something… all bent outta shape over Drogon going missing. Yet for some reason I can’t discern (except to cause conflict for the sake of conflict) she refuses to believe Asher and company saw Drogon. And when I presented his tooth as proof, she got all defensive and stood by her poor baby when we described how he KILLED a bunch of people. It was all very contradictory to the Daenerys we know, who was guilt-stricken over her dragons eating children and CHAINED them up in dark seclusion.

As usual, Asher and Beska’s sequences are full of action. In this case, they are assisting The Mother of Dragons in taking over Meereen in return for acquiring an army to assist with the Forrester family’s Whitehill problem. There was a “stealthing through the streets of Meereen” portion (insert not-so-surprised gasp). Usually I hate stealth, with all its transparent tacked-on-because-every-game-needs-stealth-moments and OHKs. This wasn’t so bad. Easy, short, and to the point. I’m a bit concerned about potential ramifications over what I allowed Beska to do, defying orders and all, so we’ll see if it amounts to anything in Episode 5.

Garred Tuttle, our Castle Black token character, had a rather bland showing this episode. He, along with Cotter and Pyke, finally leave Castle Black behind in pursuit of the legendary North Grove. I was relatively disinterested until his cliffhanger at the end, when we’re introduced to a new character:

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Looks like she’s wearing a Daenerys wig.

I won’t spoil who she is, but suffice it to say, I’m curious to see how Garred’s story will progress moving forward. I’m hoping it gets the shot of adrenaline it needs.

And, at long last, the Forresters on the home front FINALLY start giving it back to the Whitehills. After tolerating Gryff the entire series thusfar, there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to beat his face in when I had the chance. Elaena, Rodrik’s betrothed in my game, finds her breaking point and is instrumental in assisting the Forresters in exacting revenge on the Whitehills.

Did I mention how much I love it when women in the GoT universe release their badassery?

I was a little worried when this dashing young man came walking in with my woman:

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Finally, some archers!

I almost thought she was going to say she was sick of all the drama and moved on with her life. Instead, I got a “Do you remember my brother?” And released a sigh of relief.

While it’s true this episode finally let me release some pent up aggression against the Whitehills, it still sets the stage for some interesting events forthcoming… I can’t help but feel all the advances I made are going to blow up in my face next episode. But hey, that’s all part of the allure when it comes to playing these sorts of games. And it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if they didn’t pull the rug out from under me and kick me in the face a few times, would it?

Saints Row IV

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That’s an enormous energy drink can, in case you were wondering.

Over-the-top violent and sexual humor, super powers, and a whole lotta purple. My three favorite things.

Also, Saints Row IV in a nutshell.

If you played Saints Row The Third, you only need to imagine more of the same type of gang violence and humor, except now your character is the President of the United States and imbued with superpowers in a sort of Infamous knock off kinda way.

This is all possible because… *Cue spoiler alert* EARTH IS DESTROYED!! By this jerk:

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Meet Zinyak, destroyer of worlds.

The game opens with a bang. Quite literally, actually, and removes trite things like reality to offer a radical evolution of the series. Much of the gameplay takes place in a simulation created by Zinyak. Think of him as a collector of humans, placing his toy-things in an artificial reality to play in. The simulation is basically a replica of Steelport. I know it was supposed to be Steelport, but I was so busy sprinting at the speed of light and flying without a cape that I hardly noticed it was the same place. After the obligatory tutorial quests that introduce you to vehicles and aside from the side missions, I never touched a vehicle. I know it’s hard to believe… I couldn’t believe it myself. But with all the crazy upgrades with sprinting, jumping and gliding, there is no reason to drive a car.

You will obtain superpowers that will aide in creating Saints Row-style mass mayhem and slaughter, but they didn’t stop me from using guns. In this regard, the abilities act more as a supplement than a complete replacement. Besides, the team came up with some crazy new weapons that you’ll love to play with. Our favorite? The dubstep gun.

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This is only the first of many models you can choose from.

The dubstep gun fires waves of sick dub beats to dance your foes (and their vehicles) to death. No exaggeration here. In fact, there’s a few different types of music you can choose from too. Other weapons include guns that disintegrate your foes and create black holes. Even the tentacle pr0n melee weapon can knock cars across the map when it is fully upgraded.

All of these fun guns don’t help the battle system for me. I don’t find it intuitive or very responsive. Thankfully, me sucking at the controls didn’t ruin the game for me. Saints Row IV is kind enough to allow the player to become ridiculously OP from the start. Especially with all these crazy new super powers. Becoming OP also happens to be Steve-O’s favorite thing to do, so he pounded out all of the side missions ASAP. Fun side missions such as tank mayhem and insurance fraud from the predecessor are still here. Insurance fraud is great for some flying ragdoll action. The amount of cache you can rack up for upgrades doing these side missions is immense. On top of all the side missions spread across the map, there are also clusters to collect for upgrading abilities. And trust me, you will want to get upgrades and be the most OP MFer out there.

I’m a bit saddened about certain characters from The Third not being included. I read a blurb about all the DLC and it looks like they can be downloaded, but even then it sounds like they won’t have much to contribute to the story. The characters who do return do not disappoint. Their personal quests and loyalty missions (A la Mass Effect 2) are hilarious for the most part. None of them felt like a chore. There’s even some character growth in this game with some background information; helpful for players like myself who weren’t around for the first two games. Hell, all I knew of Johnny Gat was his death scene in The Third.

I can see how longtime fans of the series could have been turned off from this entry. It’s even more over-the-top than The Third (Hell, it has a STREAKING mini-game). The flying, gliding, and overall alien invasion takes away from the gang violence the series began with. Personally, I liked all the new additions… they allowed for much more creativity during exploration and combat. I think the next entry will be a bit more level-headed. Which is fine… I GUESS. It does make me glad they went ahead with this idea, even if it amounts to nothing more than a fringe entry that only weirdos like Steve-O and I enjoyed.

And on that note… we’re already knee-deep into the Gat Out of Hell DLC. Keep your eyes peeled for that review!

Axiom Verge Review!

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Believe it or not, that lab coat is the best part of his arsenal.

Next in our lineup here at Hardly Hobbies was yet another high profile indie game. You may have heard of it (or maybe not since it was Wii U exclusive up until last week), as it received some Best at E3 awards and a lot of interest due to being developed entirely by one man, Thomas Happ. Axiom Verge was hyped as the “Metroidvania” game that retro gamers like us have been waiting for. Like Shovel Knight, it is a throwback to games people in their late 20’s and 30’s grew up playing. Except Axiom Verge, while still a 2D side-scroller, pays homage to a totally different style of gaming.

First things first: Do we believe Axiom Verge lives up to its hype? Did it deserve all of the rewards it received, even before it was released?

Definitely.

Here’s the thing. While Axiom Verge may appear, especially to gamers who’ve never touched anything more graphically degraded than a Wii game, juvenile and simple. It is not. Like Shovel Knight, it manages to capture the essence of the games it nods to (Metroid and Castlevania, with some Contra vibes thrown in) excellently, while still being its own game. I’d rate Axiom Verge as having slightly less independence than Shovel Knight, it’s still worth playing if you haven’t played the old Metroids or Castlevanias. Provided you have patience for backtracking and exploration, that is.

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You can’t tell me this doesn’t scream METROID!!

Axiom Verge tells the story of Trace, a scientist whose lab explodes during an experiment during the opening cinematic. When he awakens, he is in this strange, alien(?) world, with only a few beings to interact with. The loneliness of Trace’s experience is compiled with moody atmospheres and ambient music, bellied by the shortsightedness of the bosses you’ll uncover who aren’t interested in talking things out. The soundtrack to this game really is superb and sets the mood as it should.

Oh, and those bosses that I mentioned? Aside from the Hornet boss, they certainly make up for how drab some of the typical enemy designs are.

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Where’s Trace?

Axiom Verge’s sense of progression is what will keep you coming back. Every play session of ours went something like this: Explore until finding a power up that changes the way you interact with the map, backtrack and find health/power upgrades, kill boss, rinse and repeat. And you know what? It works. Every power up we found got us excited to backtrack and uncover the areas of the map we couldn’t get to before. This does mean every play session involves “Hey, remember that room…?” Or, “Where was that spot again?”

And that’s okay. After all, it’s pretty much the point of these games. My one small gripe is that there’s no fast travel in this game. It’d be great if the save points acted as fast travel locations, but unfortunately they don’t. One feature that I think helps balance this development decision is how AV handles death. When you die, you pop back up at the last save point you hit. No progression lost!

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These save pods are more than what they seem…

Which is a damn good thing. Because if it weren’t for full healing and progression auto saves at death, I would have lost my patience. Mostly because I died a lot in the beginning. But, thanks to the plethora of upgrades and weapons found throughout the game, by the end of it we were near-gods. There are literally dozens of collectibles in this game. We had so many guns, I was overwhelmed when it was time to experiment. Same goes for backtracking. Just got an upgrade that allows you to teleport through thin walls? Expect to spend half an hour to an hour going back through the unexplored parts of the map.

One of the best weapons in the game is the “Glitch Gun”… this allows you to purposely glitch enemies or remove glitched walls to reveal new passages. It was a clever homage to glitches in those NES cartridges we grew up with. You can also glitch enemies, and every enemy type responds differently to being glitched. Some will spit out health for you. Others will slow down. There’s an annoying crawler enemy that spits lasers, and if you glitch it the lasers hurt other monsters instead of Trace! Loved that glitch, by the way.

Axiom Verge also hides a fascinating existential plot, but unfortunately it is buried beneath poor pacing. You’re really only treated with about 3 cut scenes, and they’re much longer than they should be. Without reading the extra notes, some of which require ALSO finding passwords to translate them, you won’t really get much of the bigger picture. I find this to be a shame, because when I went online after beating the game and read some of the notes we didn’t find or translate, I started putting the pieces together and found a deeper, more interesting plot than the cut scenes in the game led on.

AV has a unique feature that I wish more games included: Speed Run! Yes, there is a mode specifically designed for speed runners, which skips cutscenes and dialogue. While I don’t do speed runs myself, I enjoy watching them for some of my favorite games. And I can’t wait to see what players will have posted on YouTube soon!

There’s a lot to take away from Axiom Verge, whether you’re playing it to relive those glory days of gaming or not. People are putting Axiom Verge off as a Metroid clone, and it is a disservice. From start to finish, I could tell the developer poured 110% of his energy into his creation. There aren’t many games created entirely by one person, for obvious reasons, but based on the production value I never would’ve guessed. I had absolutely zero technical issues as well. Nope, I’d have never known only ONE person made this fantastic indie game. Yes, Axiom Verge deserved all of the hype it received, and I thought it was worth every dollar.

Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon

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Totally digging Cynder’s green fire breath!

Over a year later, slcantwell and I finally saw the end credits to Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon. Give us a break. Whenever we hang out we’ve got two toddlers almost exactly a year apart to entertain, feed, and keep out of mischief. Playing co-op games makes this pretty darn difficult. Try not getting your on-screen partner pushed off-screen while negotiating diaper changes and meltdowns over sharing toys.

So, yes, we often went a month or two at a time before picking up this game again. I want you to keep that in mind, as I’m going to admit a lot of our frustrations stemmed from forgetting what button does what. (Something that could have easily been remedied with an input overview screen every other game takes the time to throw somewhere into their menus).

The rest of my frustrations mainly sprouted from a lot of outdated and/or lazy mechanics. As far as PS3 games go, this one is old. Back when they simultaneously released PS2 and PS3 versions of the same game old. Before trophy integration old. Laughable “wow looks like I AM playing the PS2 version” bad graphics old. Dawn of the Dragon was released before publishers decided to mainly start pissing on the idea of including local co-op in their games, so that’s a bonus in my book. Too bad the co-op camera is frustrating enough a lot of the time you’ll purposely swap to one player mode to get past certain landmarks or puzzles. Being able to switch one or two player mode on the fly is one of the few intuitive aspects of this game, actually.

As with many other video games, the camera is your worst enemy half of the time. The main shtick in Dawn of the Dragon involves Spyro and Cynder being attached by a magical leash (which must invoke some awkward “turn around I have to pee” moments). Anyway, this means when you’re playing co-op the camera arbitrarily bounces between which player it feels like following when you and your pal get distracted beating up enemies. Or one of you has a sudden “I gotta get outta here before I die” moment without verbally telling the other player. Depending on the backgrounds or puzzles going on, this got annoying really fast.

Surprisingly, most of the commands are similar to God of War. Light attack, heavy attack, grab, jump, and magic are the same. This was a helpful way for me to remember what button does what. It was NOT helpful when it came to using Fury mode. Like Rage of the Gods in God of War, Dragon Fury is the souped up “deal extra damage” mode you can access after filling a bar. I kept trying to click in the two analog sticks to trigger it and nothing happened. There’s also a way to transfer life or mana to the other player. Neither of which are anywhere to be found in the game unless they pop up as a tutorial message during load screens.

Compared to other Spyro games, the final installment is very open and offers more exploration. There’s magic, health and experience gems to be found, as well as armor pieces for Spyro and Cynder. There’s “elite” monsters to fight, too. Good luck with that. I don’t think we managed to kill one of them. It’s a “find the right element” coin toss we didn’t really have the patience for. Exploring these larger environments is easier with the new ability to fly around on command. This feature is fun until you want to land. Ugh. Then you realize you could’ve saved yourself a bunch of time because it takes longer to get the damn dragon to put its feet on the ground than it would’ve taken to just get there on foot.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, this game has magic. Spyro and Cynder have four elements at their disposal each. The experience points received from killing enemies and busting gems goes towards leveling up the elements of your choice. I didn’t quite get to max out everything but I didn’t really care– I always played as Spyro and I never used his earth element spells in battle. Electricity and Fire are where its at. Cynder’s Fear spell is pretty awesome too. Two characters to control with 8 elements between them made for very interesting puzzles to solve.

I can’t speak too much for the overall plot in terms of whether it does the Spyro trilogy justice or ties everything up neatly. My only prior experience with these games is the first Spyro installment on the Playstation, and that was so long ago I don’t remember much about it. All I can say is it is SUPER cheesy; from Sparx’s annoying Mushu-from-Mulan-wannabe-act to Cynder’s contrived “I love you” bomb during the ending cinematic, it was eye-rollingly bad. Sparx was the only non-forgettable character. And it’s for all the wrong reasons.

This game did boss fights right for the most part. When you fight a big baddie, it is a big baddie. Bosses can fill all of your vision, have multiple phases, do some major hurt, and have quicktime death animations to  boot!

One of my main complaints falls under my pet peeves. This is one of those games with a huge difficulty curve. Yes, we went months at a time without playing. But every time we picked the controller up we got back into the groove easily enough. When we reached the second-to-last zone it was like hitting a brick wall. All of a sudden we were unable to kill enemies unless we used Fury mode which never happened to us before that point. I prefer games that build up to that level; games that train the players to incorporate more skill until it becomes second nature. Don’t let me think this is a button-masher up until the last half hour of the game and make me want to give up because the fodder suddenly stop wanting to die. We were able to overcome the sudden spike in difficulty, but not without conferring with the internet to see if there was anything we were doing wrong. Nope. No special element or tricks. Just try not to get hit. Even when the camera refuses to show you the enemy pounding you from off-screen.

Following today’s standards, Dawn of the Dragon has quite a few blemishes. Bad graphics, poor sound quality, detrimental camera angles and forgettable characters/story rank at the top of my grudge list. Even still, this game has endearing qualities I can’t quite place. I don’t regret playing this game, but I doubt I will ever pick it up again. Dawn of the Dragon wasn’t incredible, but it wasn’t completely terrible either.  I’d say it walks a dangerous mediocre line, quite capable of teetering on the brink of bad depending on the player’s tolerance for outdated mechanics and silly dialogue.

God of War Origins Collection

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The God of War: Origins Collection was released back in 2011.  It includes the Playstation Portable entries Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta on a blu-ray disc remastered in HD. This is not to be confused with the God of War Collection which includes remastered versions of the first two GoW games on one blu-ray disc. I played the two PSP games when they first came out. As I no longer have a PSP and I spend more time playing my home consoles than my portable ones, I figured picking up a used copy of Origins for super cheap at GameStop wasn’t a bad idea. I’ve been itching to play them again and after letting Steve-O borrow my copies of the first three console games, it’s been fun showing him the rest of the God of War saga.

There are getting to be one too many installations in this series for my comfort level. It isn’t on as grandiose a scale as, say, Kingdom Hearts, but I’m starting to hate it when companies drag this crap on. Thankfully, the plot stays simplistic and doesn’t get all KH convoluted and crap. The standard formula remains the same: a testosterone-laden bloodbath inspired by Greek mythology featuring a former Spartan general who hates the gods because he got tricked (or something) into killing his wife and daughter. Yadda yadda, you guys know the drill.

The basic premise for Chains of Olympus is Kratos getting sick of doing the gods’ dirty work. But, yeah, he’s still stuck running bloody errands for them. Throw in the typical teasers about the family he killed with his own hands, kill famous mythological Greek figures,  and there you have it! The lucky member of the Greek Pantheon who incurs Kratos’ wrath this time around is Persephone. I think its funny that Hades fails to mention the fact that Kratos offed his wife during their confrontation in God of War 3 (IIRC), but the writers also don’t bother discussing the potential ramifications of such an act. I mean, Demeter put the world in six months of winter while her daughter was in the underworld with Hades. Imagine what would happen if she found out her daughter was dead!

Ghost of Sparta is a bit more interesting, because it takes Kratos’ brooding over his dead wife and daughter and applies his rage to something else! A brother! Still more family angst, but it does break away from the mold just a tad. It was nice to kill the rest of his family, as I always hate leaving things undone. The boss fights are pretty cool too. I really enjoyed the spell Kratos steals from Erinys. And the tag team final boss fight was an entertaining variation from the usual formula.

Unsurprisingly, the graphics in Ghost of Sparta are better than Chains of Olympus, as it was released afterwards. I’m not overly concerned with graphic quality anyway, but I found it bothersome that they didn’t polish the experience up. the God of War  home console games run almost seamless on their respective systems. But these ports still have the screen freezes I remember seeing when the UMD was loading on my PSP. Except there is no UMD anymore. Sometimes I thought the game was freezing up. They should’ve just been honest and included a loading icon or something so I wouldn’t be under the impression my PS3 was crapping the bed or my disc was scratched. Other bonuses include added content I didn’t really check out, 3D compatibility, and trophy integration!

All in all, the games themselves and the port content are par for the course. If you didn’t have the chance to check out these installments on the PSP or if you collect everything that is God of War like me, definitely pick this up. This collection is cheap and the games are fun, visceral action games you can pick up and beat in a couple of sittings.