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Friday, November 29, 2013

League of Legends: Let's Mystery Skin!

Right now up through December 2nd next week, League of Legends players can buy mystery skins for themselves! Now why would anyone want to use 490 Riot Points to get a random skin worth 520 Riot Points or more when the Full Machine Viktor skin is currently on sale? Well, let's just say that the potential of unlocking a legendary skin is there for are you the gambling type? Well, I decided to try my luck today with the mystery skin and guess what I got?

Masquerade Evelyn, a retired skin that got resurrected for this mystery gifting period.

I really wish it was Tango Evelynn, but at least I got an alternate skin for Evelynn now so it's not a total lost. Then, I had to sit down and think hard to myself: "Should I unlock that super awesome Full Metal Viktor or try this mystery skin thing again?" I didn't plan on spending too much money on LoL since there are some seriously crazy gaming deals out there right now so I could only afford one or the other. "Screw it, let's do this!" I said and I did the mystery skin again:

Bandito Fiddlesticks? Arrrgh!

Yeah, today is just not my lucky day apparently. Just like that Evelynn skin, the positive spin here is that I don't have an alternate Fiddlesticks skin so it's nice to have one now. How did your mystery skin adventure go? Hope it fared a lot better than mine. If you haven't done it yet but plan to, the best of luck to you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review - State of Decay: Breakdown

State of Decay: Breakdown (2013)
Developer: Undead Labs
Platforms: Personal Computer (Reviewed), X-Box 360
Available: Black Friday 11/29/2013

So there I was, rescuing a missing neighbor. Me and a member from his zombie apocalypse survivor group went looking from one house to the next, securing the perimeter from those nasty zeds as we went along until we got to the right house and found him standing in a dark corner of the living room doing whatever it was that he was doing. The three of us were on our way out of the house when suddenly, we heard a whimpering cry for help. Just outside, my crew member who had been called in to pick up some food supply from the shed next to the very house that I was in was being mercilessly attacked by a long train of zeds whom she no doubt brought along with her on her way over. Yes, the stupid A.I. is back during my return to Trumbull Valley and so are the other frustrations I found from the original game but this Breakdown expansion was not made to fix what was already there but rather, to enhance the player's experience.

Redefining quaint.

Breakdown is all about pushing the idea of survival to its most unforgiving core. In the main game, if you survive long enough, you can choose to find a closure to the game because of the narrative-focused design. Well, things are a lot more morbid here where the game doesn't end until you perish. The question then becomes, how long will you last in this zombie apocalypse? You play the game until you eventually die. I prefer this mode than the original game because hey, if the world is really all that messed up and even the military can't do anything about it, you know it's only a matter of time before you become zombie food. Now bear in mind that this is not a faster or a more arcade-style version of the game for it is very much still the same game as the original where you will spend many, many, many hours building up your community scavenging supplies, upgrading your characters and home base, as well as taking care of the many different tasks to be found in the game world. You will be prompted to find an RV to fix up so that you can escape the map when you are ready but that is exactly it, you can do whatever you want until you are indeed ready to leave: You are free to fully pick the entire Trumbull Valley clean of all resources before moving on or if things are not challenging enough for you and you are one of those sadistic people who just can't wait to get tortured, you can then just leave the map immediately.

I am not sure if it is a good idea to leave your group's survival to chance.

You see, every time you leave the map, an event that is made more interesting because you can't bring everyone and all of your supplies along, you will arrive at Trumbull Valley again! Whoever was driving that RV apparently had too much to drink. Yes, it's the same exact map, only this time, there are less resources to gather on top of an increased zombie threat. The difficulty continues to rise every single time you leave the map, so the longer you can survive, the harder it is to keep yourself alive. To make things more interesting, you get a score sheet when you leave a map that calculates your performance based on "Violence", "Skill", and "Leadership", and if you like improving your scores, this will certainly make you jump back into the game from the very beginning when your survival adventure reached its horrible end. Now returning to the same exact map may seem disappointing and it does lessen the realism of your journey but the advantage here is that by the time you have spent a lot of hours playing Breakdown, you will know the map so well that it will help you plan and do everything a lot better. New to Breakdown is the introduction of hero characters. These are characters you encountered in the main game that you can now immediately recruit into your group. They would show up randomly in the game world for you to rescue and they bring much relief thanks to their vastly superior character statistics. You can choose to start the game using these characters as well, as long as you have them unlocked by completing specific tasks that are clearly laid out in your journal. Sure, you will still have to babysit them when they are tasked as runners but at least you don't have to worry about having them getting immediately destroyed on the higher level maps when you control them.

Trumbull Valley: Everywhere you go, there will be zombies.

It is very easy to see that the Breakdown mode is better than playing through the original release. You don't have to worry about that haphazard story line while you create your own harrowing tale of survival. Breakdown is what State of Decay should be in the beginning - a very evil sandbox zombie survival game - because the focus on continued survival works really well with the game's established mechanics, not to mention that it makes the game infinitely more playable than before. This expansion is an essential addition that transforms the original game into something more substantial. I would even encourage those who are new to skip right into Breakdown for you won't be missing much from the story mode. Breakdown will cost $6.99 and it will be available this Friday on Steam. Are you ready for your eventual annihilation?

RATING: 4 out of 5


Related Article:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Games Played 11/18/2013 - 11/24/2013

- 11/18/2013 -
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/19/2013 -
Flower - PlayStation 4
Killzone: Shadow Fall - PlayStation 4
Resogun - PlayStation 4

- 11/20/2013 -
Contrast - PlayStation 4
Galaga Legion DX - PlayStation 3
Resogun - PlayStation 4
State of Decay - PC
Uncharted: Golden Abyss - Vita

- 11/21/2013 -
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - PlayStation 3
Resogun - PlayStation 4

- 11/22/2013 -
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - PlayStation 3
Resogun - PlayStation 4
Shadow of the Colossus - PlayStation 3
State of Decay - PC
Super Mario 3D World - Wii U

- 11/23/2013 -
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - PlayStation 3
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F - PlayStation 3
League of Legends - PC

- 11/24/2013 -
League of Legends - PC
Pinball FX2 - PC
Resogun - PlayStation 4
State of Decay - PC


Screenshot of the Week:

A lightsaber is best for slicing Jar Jar's neck installed inside a pinball machine.
Pinball FX2 (Personal Computer)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

PlayStation 4: The New Console Experience

They weren't trying to wow anyone with that outer casing.

It's been almost a week since the arrival of the PlayStation 4 in my Game Room and I would like to share my impression in regards to this "brand new console" - a term not to be confused with that forever abused, forever misguided marketing ploy, the media hype machine word of the month that is "next-gen". Let's just get one thing out of the way - does the PS4 deliver anything visually that I have not seen before? The answer to that is surprisingly a yes. The caveat here is that the console's best looking game that I have played so far comes in the form of the PlayStation Network digital download shooting game called Resogun by Housemarque. I also have Killzone: Shadow Fall with me and though that game does look pretty nice, it fails to top what I have seen in Crysis 3 on the Personal Computer when it comes to fidelity, detail, as well as frame rate. Resogun plays with particle effects like you have never seen before where things explode into what seems to be millions of tiny boxes that fly all over the game screen while delivering a silky smooth 60 fps without a single hitch. The thing about Resogun is that it is also addicting and fun - certainly the best game on the PS4 so far - and it is free to download with a PlayStation Plus subscription. Can the effects shown in Resogun be replicated easily on a decent gaming PC? You bet but Resogun is the one PS4 game thus far that will leave a powerful and no doubt permanent impression on even the most demanding graphics whores.

Particles. It's the new lens flare.

I have mentioned before that the PS4 console itself is not a handsome looking console but what about the DualShock 4? The biggest change to it compared to previous DualShock controllers is the addition of the touch pad at the top portion of the controller. It is usable in Killzone: Shadow Fall but to be honest, the touch commands do not bring much to the gameplay and its implementation seems forced. I personally prefer the feel of the DualShock 3 on my hands and Sony should have stayed with that design philosophy. The "Select" and "Start" buttons have been replaced with the "Share" and "Options" button, which is a curious change. It takes time to get use to the missing  "Start" button because it strays away from a well-established convention but I am sure that Sony is proud that they have killed off the whole notion of "press Start button" in video gaming for whatever reason that motivated them to do so.

A speaker on the controller? How very Wii Remote.

Speaking of the "Share" button, the much touted sharing experience is actually quite disappointing. Sony is too dependent on outside social network services to make all the sharing options fun to use. Wouldn't it be great if my friends can stop by my PSN profile straight from the PS4 to check out all of my screenshots and videos instead of having to go to all these other social networking sites? A lot of the people I know on Facebook really don't care about gaming whatsoever and that's actually okay because with the exception of a select few, I don't befriend my online gaming acquaintances on Facebook. The disappointment continues with the native twitch.tv streaming feature - and yes, you can Ustream as well. Though it is extremely easy to get setup and going, the quality of the stream, even when using the "Best" setting is quite mediocre. Playing multiplayer games plus streaming at the same time can also be disastrous to the actual stream where the video feed would start to freeze. The worst part is the inability to moderate the chat room from the PS4 when you have the chat showing on the screen - an unwise action that also makes your game screen smaller. Whoever thought that was cool must be out of his or her mind: The chat should have just popped up on top of the gameplay screen instead of inside an ugly frame that surrounds the gameplay window. When you watch others stream using the Live from PlayStation app, there is no way for you to subscribe to the stream you like so to do just that, you have to find venues outside of the PS4. Sure, all of these problems can be and probably will be addressed in future patches but if you think that you don't need an extra screen or hardware to get the most out of twitch streaming, then you are merely dreaming.

Now trending: The Playroom cam shows. Have fun.

Overall, the PlayStation 4 feels a bit underwhelming. It is quite a shame that one has to adopt it if one wants to play a lot of the great Sony exclusive games that I am sure will be coming to the console because it doesn't feel all that powerful compared to the PlayStation 3. Heck, the PS3's Xross Media Bar looks a lot more exciting than the new PlayStation Dynamic Menu - which is actually a rather ironic name because of how lifeless it is. I think little things like making the Dynamic Menu more uh, dynamic by allowing the users to customize it or even a fleshed-out twitch.tv integration would have made the console feel less of an incomplete product. The only thing that it has right now is Resogun and it is fortunately, a very strong launch title that can keep you glued to the PS4 until more exclusive Sony games arrive. I should also mention that if you have the PlayStation Vita, it is so wonderful that you can fully access the PS4 using remote play and that includes playing the PS4 games from your Vita. It works well enough but the tiny twin sticks on the Vita are not the best so I rather just play on the big screen. If you already have a great gaming Personal Computer, the PS4 is a nice little addition to your gaming library but I would advise against getting it anytime soon because of the lack of exclusive titles. For those who do not even have a decent gaming PC, well, I would recommend that you wait for the Steam Machine or build yourself one before getting the PS4.

We deserve more than being greeted by this dull menu screen when we boot up the PS4.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Loner, Get Ready to Breakdown and Cry Again

Last night, I posted a review for State of Decay, a game where I barely survived the utter mercilessness of something called a zombie apocalypse. Well, the downloadable content for the game called State of Decay: Breakdown is coming out next week on November 29th - on Black Friday, so appropriate - and you can read all about it from Undead Labs' website. Once again, I will put myself in that quite uncomfortable and very compromising situation where I will be endlessly harassed by those freaking zeds. Will this DLC make the game a lot more fun or will it act as a vehicle to keep feeding the forever hungry zombies? The answer shall be revealed soon, so stay tuned!

 To decay or to breakdown? Either way, the zombies will be fed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: State of Decay

State of Decay (2013)
Developer: Undead Labs
Platforms: Personal Computer (Reviewed), X-Box 360
Induction Date: 11/04/2013

We made it? My forever dwindling number of survivor group is still alive? Oh yes, we survived the zombie apocalypse! Well, at least we survived the entirety of the game's story line after having to go through a progressively torturous time trying to ensure that those darn zombies would not be able to kill me and my crew. For sure, this game was so tension-filled, especially with the way things unfolded for me, that towards the end, I just wanted to escape it all by any means necessary. It's a bit unfortunate however that my burning desire to find closure in the game was not only fueled by the genuine sense of fear but also by some of the game's frustrating elements that I am just not a fan of.

Don't be fooled. There are always zombies lurking about. Always.

So what is State of Decay exactly? It's basically a zombie apocalypse survival game that combines open world exploration, character progression, and of course, relentless zombie killing. You are in control of a group of survivors, at least one of them at a time, and you must ensure everyone's well-being by collecting resources needed for daily consumption like ration and ammo in addition to making strategic decisions over quest selections as well as character/base upgrades. It's a clever little gameplay design that will have you obsessing over the basics while having to worry about random situations thrown your way. It is pretty clear however from the beginning that the game does follow a main narrative thread and pursuing related goals will propel the story further but the brilliance in this game is that you are never compelled to participate in them until you want to. This means that despite not having access to the entirety of the game's huge map of Trumbull Valley where the game takes place, you are given the freedom to live the situation at hand any way you want.

Those runners are not very trustworthy.

Speaking of which, it is quite easy to get swept up in that freedom since there are always something for you to do in the game. There are zombie infestation areas to clean up, special zombies to hunt, people to save, supply to retrieve, and so on and so forth. Your journal is always filled up with these tasks so it's a matter of what you think may be beneficial to your group at any given moment. Things do get repetitive after a while but it is the zombie apocalypse after all and these people are just trying to get by on a day to day basis. I personally took a passive approach to playing this game mainly because I am not the bravest guy out there when it comes to playing horror games and this game offers plenty of scary moments, especially at nighttime - glowing red eyes from the pitch black darkness in a random room of abandoned houses makes me cry. The creepy zombie moaning and the sometimes melancholic soundtrack made things a bit too atmospheric too. So the group stayed at just one home base and I took as little risk as possible. My survival philosophy was simple: Let's stay away from the zombies! It seemed like a good idea at the moment but sadly, this backfired on me as the zombie threat continued to grow when I thought things were under control and soon, death came in waves - mind you, it is permadeath - and after that point, maintaining a stable, effective group was a living hell until the end.

Smashing zombie heads into the ground is highly satisfying and it never gets old.

I will take some responsibility over my failure to protect the group effectively but I have no doubt some of the blame lies with the game design as well. There are some things that don't add up, like the randomized events that happen at the home base itself. At one point, someone was close to dying from the zombie infection and he was supposedly being separated from the rest of the group even though I actually saw him interacting with everyone - the game does strange things like that too. When I continued the game the next day, the journal mentioned that the person turned into a zombie and actually killed off two of my group members. Yes, it is indeed a cool feature to have a game that actually does thing while you are away from it but this, obviously not the news I wanted to hear before I started another session with the game, failed to resonate with me because one of the characters killed was one of my advanced level characters. Surely she deserved more credit than being killed off by someone who was already suspected to turn at any given moment. If anything, she would have shot him before he turned. Here's another example that had me pulling out my hair like a zombie in heat: to get the extra supplies you found that you cannot carry with you back to the home base, you can call in for someone to pick it up. If you look at your map, you will be able to see the assigned individual, no matter how advanced their character progression is, do something so illogical like running into a group of zombies. They also tend to get into trouble, asking you to save them only to later die right in front of your eyes. Also, what's the use of providing the player the option between a silent but slow supply search and a noisy but fast supply search when just initializing either search to begin with would send out a large shock wave of sound on your map, attracting at least five zombies your way, even though you are on the second floor of a house opening someone's underwear drawer?

Why bother hiding when the zombies have sixth sense?

I can commend the game for its harsh take on survival, that it is not a given, but something that you have to have to work hard to earn but sometimes, it's easy to see that the zombies get an unfair amount of help in eliminating your existence. While there are a limited amount of supplies on the map, the zombie count is infinitely larger than the amount of people who ever lived on or visited the valley. It would have been nice to be able to actually clear an entire area of zombies. Sure, having several of them spawn here and there should be fine and that includes the special zombie types but those infestation zones, which bring with them a huge number of zombies, keep popping up everywhere without any sign of ever stopping. I think it would have been rewarding to be able to secure an ever expanding safe zone and it would still balance out the game because one would still have to venture out to uncharted territories to hunt for supplies. Still, State of Decay can definitely be an enjoyable experience that can be tailored in many different ways. Once you have completed the story missions, you can even go back to the game  to play around with what you have missed, and if you dare, push yourself to the very brink of total annihilation. There is plenty of content here for those dedicated enough to visit every single abandoned building and there are also enough zombies in this game for the zombie fans to last several zombie apocalypses if you can survive long enough to count them all.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Contrast: PS4 Reached Its Limit Already?

You can blame it on poor optimization or freely blame it on the Compulsion Games' minimal game development experience but the fact of the matter is, one of the free games you get with the PlayStation 4 via the PlayStation Plus program is blatantly showing horrible frame rates. What makes it worse? Unlike the other free PS+ game, the particle-crazed shooter Resogun, Contrast looks like it could easily been made on the previous cycle of consoles (Update Note: 11/22/2013 - I discovered that the game is available on the older consoles so yeah, it really shouldn't have any frame rate issues on the PS4). There's nothing high-tech about it because its visuals lean heavily towards a strong art style over anything else. I was playing this game last night and it's a pretty decent game other than the fact that the frame rate stutters and drops too frequently. It is inexcusable that a new console - I refuse to call these newer consoles as "next gen" because there is no such thing and if you want an evolving tech, get a gaming Personal Computer - would not be able to handle a game like this perfectly with ease. A viewer on Twitch wondered if me streaming the game caused it but it wasn't even a factor since I was streaming using my PC instead of using the PS4's native streaming function. With the recently released Need for Speed: Rivals reportedly having a locked frame rate of 30 on the consoles, it should be obvious that the tech jump from PS3 to PS4 is not all that huge nor all that necessary. Sony should have been more careful about these early releases.

The shadow gameplay thing has been done before but the frame rate is the real problem here.


Update Note: 01/01/2014 - I launched Contrast today and I can confirm that the frame rate problems were still there. I doubt that this is something that can be fixed with a patch because if that was the case, it would have been addressed by now. Disappointing, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

PlayStation 4 in the Game Room

The PlayStation 4 has made it to my Game Room today and it is now sitting next to my X-Box 360. I was amazed to find out that this thing is actually smaller than I thought it would be. It's about the size of the slim model of the PlayStation 3 but the boxy exterior is definitely an acquired taste. I don't particularly like it, even when I had it positioned vertically. I decided to placed it on the top of my entertainment center horizontally, which seems logical since there are vents on both sides of the console. Now show me what you got PS4!

The slanting effect is nice but overall, the PS4 doesn't look all that flattering.

Achievements from Watching Twitch and More!

I couldn't help but laugh when I read this Official Twitch Blog entry about X-Box One's twitch.tv achievements. With the system not being able to natively stream to twitch until early next year, unlike the PlayStation 4 which already has that function at launch despite looking a bit poor quality wise, Microsoft wants to make sure that X-Box One gamers are doing what they should be doing best with the console - more watching instead of playing video games! Watching twitch.tv via the X-Box One can grant a plethora of achievements:

X-Box One: Truly the best place to be when it comes to passively watching something.

While you are at it, Microsoft, may I suggest that you implement the following achievements for the X-Box One? I am sure they will be very popular with the console's users. You are welcome:
  • All-Seeing Eye: Clock more hours watching twitch.tv, television programs, and movies over playing video games on the console. You can get this achievement once a week as long as you meet the criteria.
  • Body of Work: Have the Kinect camera watch you for 100 hours.
  • Sculptured Art: Allow the Kinect to scan your full body without having any clothes on.
  • Master-Slave Relationship: Use the Kinect's "X-Box" commands 1000 times.
  • Entertainment King: Use the X-Box One only for non-gaming entertainment for a total of 50 hours before playing video games on it again. You get double the points with this achievement if you do this when you first use the console.
  • Talk to the Hand: Interrupt your gaming session using the "X-Box watch TV" or "X-Box watch movie" commands 1000 times. You must then watch the television show or movie for 5 minutes or more before going back to your game for it to count towards the total.

Aren't those suggested achievements great? You know you want to unlock them if they get implemented.

Monday, November 18, 2013

October 2013 Gaming Analysis

The results shown below are of course based on the combined data from the Daily Game Log which should provide a clear indication of a game's usage frequency. Bear in mind that even if a game is played twice or more during a particular day, it would still register as 1 in the Day Count column below. In a sense, "merits" are given based on how often a particular game can make me play it again throughout the entire period of the  month on a daily basis. A game that makes a gamer play it over and over again or at least spend a lot of time with it... Isn't that what we mostly want from a great game? I don't think it's really fair to count all the way down to the number of hours played since some games only require a short amount of time to properly serve their purposes.

OVERALL BREAKDOWN:


Total Games Played: 28


This Month's Inductees:


Total Inductions: 25

Games Played 11/11/2013 - 11/17/2013

- 11/11/2013 -
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team - 3DS
Sonic: Lost World - Wii U
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/12/2013 -
Final Exam - PC
League of Legends - PC
Pinball Arcade - PC
Symphony - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/13/2013 -
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team - 3DS
Sine Mora - PC
The Typing of the Dead: Overkill - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/14/2013 -
League of Legends - PC
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team - 3DS
Sine Mora - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/15/2013 -
Crysis 3 - PC
Sonic: Lost World - Wii U
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/16/2013 -
Crysis 3 - PC

- 11/17/2013 -
Crysis 3 - PC
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F - PlayStation 3
League of Legends - PC
State of Decay - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U
Wii Party U - Wii U


Screenshot of the Week:

They weren't exaggerating when they said that this is one good looking game.
Crysis 3 (Personal Computer)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

PS4 Out of Stock?

I am not sure why I was surprised to learn that Sony' PlayStation 4 is pretty much sold out everywhere after its midnight launch on Friday. Since they were providing early adopters the chance to pre-order, I made the assumption that Sony was making enough units to fulfill both the pre-orders and more so that people will be given the opportunity to get the system easily, especially with the X-Box One coming up just a week after the PS4's launch. People who are not able to find the PS4 to purchase may be swayed to just get the X-One if that console will be made more available next week. Why give the X-One even a slight chance to recover from its bad early impression?

Meanwhile, on eBay...

There are two other interesting developments when it comes to the PS4. The first being the lack of PS4 gamers actually streaming on twitch.tv! Most of the PS4 streamers on twitch do so with a capture card - since native PS4 twitch streaming looks quite medicore - and they are mostly comprised of gamers who were already streaming on twitch before. New PS4 streamers are actually not that many so it is obvious that since a majority of these people were not interested in streaming before, there is really no reason that they will be streaming now even with the one click stream setup. The second is that I have been granted access to analyze the system and it should be arriving sometime next week. My stance on both gaming priority and the necessity of the arrival of these new consoles haven't changed from what I have laid out before. The real question here is this: If you already have a wonderful gaming PC, is there any real value to having the PS4 as a companion to it? I think I know the answer to that but I am always willing to be convinced otherwise so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: Final Exam

Final Exam (2013)
Platform: Personal Computer (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, X-Box 360
Induction Date: 11/07/2013

The title of the game may not bring the best of memories to a lot of people but Final Exam is actually not that undesirable as one may associate it to be. It is a side-scrolling action game that begins with four long-time friends getting attacked by monsters on their to attend a party being held at the high school they attended together. The story doesn't make too much sense and what follows is pretty random and nonsensical but it also offers a convenient setup for the characters that you control which consist of familiar high school stereotypes.

On the ground and in the air, there are monsters everywhere.

The stage design of Final Exam is rather interesting for its genre because instead of the linear moving from the left to the right until the stage ends, the game features objectives that you have to complete and you are free to access the often huge layout of the entire area. A majority of these objectives are the fetch quest variety however where you have to look for things and sometimes you are even tasked to carry them to a location. There are a number of strange set pieces and objectives but these don't happen frequent enough. There are indicators that will direct you to your objectives so at least you won't feel lost doing them. Of course, there is a lot of monster-killing involved in all of the aforementioned activities and your characters are equipped with both melee and range attacks. Not only that, they also have access to explosives as well as four special abilities. Enemies spawn randomly as you run around the stage except during certain objectives where you have to clear the monsters out. There are also random horde attacks where you get a huge wave of enemies attacking you. Each stage can take quite a while to complete and there is a high degree of repetition in the game. Since character progression - the characters have access to a skill tree - is tied to completing the side objectives like reaching a certain score threshold and finding hidden items, there is a possibility that you would have repeat playing the stages after your first play-through.

Don't play with electricity.

I have to admit, this game is not all that exciting when I was neglecting its combo mechanics because at its core, Final Exam is a more of a score attack game. It is really all about scoring the highest possible points during your stage run. This is accomplished by raking up a high number of hit combos. The combo count builds up whenever you hit enemy and by turning off the automatic combo confirmation, you can pretty much wait until the combo count is crazy high before you enter the command to confirm the combo and get your score bonus. The thing is, whenever you are hit by an enemy, you lose your entire combo count and this can be maddening especially when your combo is into the hundreds and you are just too greedy for more. It's a high risk, high reward gameplay and due to its challenging nature, it is highly satisfying when you pull it off right but also very annoying when you don't. Still, it's the best aspect of the game and if you like climbing up the leaderboard, it's good enough to keep you playing the game.

Don't forget to confirm those combos!

Final Exam supports up to 2 players in local play and up to 4 players online. There are not a lot of people playing this game online on Steam but I was always able to join a group whenever I wanted my mulitplayer fix. The game is a lot more fun with other players and you can even split up to complete game objectives. You are able to select the same characters when playing with others. Though the 4 characters have distinct special abilities, they unfortunately all share a majority of the skill tree upgrades. The characters do have their own specialization when it comes to basic stats but a completely distinct individual skill tree would have ensured the player's interest in building up all of the four characters. Also, the special abilities take too long to charge up so they are there to be used mostly during moments of desperation. I would have liked to use them more often though because that would have pumped up the action a lot more.

It's all about the high score.

The one glaring problem in Final Exam is the lack of enemy varieties. The decision to limit the number of enemy types probably had something to do with the combo system because the player needs to be able to remember the enemies' attack patterns to properly dodge incoming attacks and keep the combo count high. Adding generic enemies that are only there as free kills and combo booster but then changing their looks between the stages would have helped the game. Worse still, you also fight the same bosses over and over again though the game changed up the scenarios involved in these encounters. Final Exam still manages to be a fun game, especially when played with others. The combo system offers a hidden challenge that can be both a point of obsession as well as frustration and that in itself surely deserves a passing grade.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Keep Dreaming Luigi, Keep Dreaming

Yes, there is such a thing as the best looking controller skin ever and that honor belongs to the Wii Remote Plus Luigi for Nintendo's Wii systems. Too bad that my plan for housing such a beautiful object will forever be just a dream because today, I received Nintendo's Wii Party U for the Wii U and this game comes with a Wiimote+! I really don't see any justification in getting another Wiimote+ since that would be just a bit excessive, especially since I already have a couple of those Wii MotionPlus attachments to my regular Wiimotes. In case you are curious, yes, the Wiimote "condom" is included with Wii Party U.

Black is my favorite color so this may not be a total loss after all.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Games Played 11/04/2013 - 11/10/2013

- 11/04/2013 -

- 11/05/2013 -
League of Legends - PC
State of Decay - PC

- 11/06/2013 -
State of Decay - PC

- 11/07/2013 -
Final Exam - PC
State of Decay - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/08/2013 -
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F - PlayStation 3
League of Legends - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/09/2013 -
Final Exam - PC
League of Legends - PC
State of Decay - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/10/2013 -
Final Exam - PC
League of Legends - PC
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team - 3DS
State of Decay - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U


Screenshot of the Week:

Killing zombies mercilessly is always a beautiful thing.
State of Decay (Personal Computer)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

1 Up?

In early 2012, my life was forever changed when Yoshi came into my world. My daily living at home had always been between me, the spouse, and my video games but with our sweet little girl around, it brought about a sense of joy and companionship that were missing from our lives before. I have to admit that at one point, I was apprehensive about about the notion of sharing my solitary existence with yet another living being but now, I cannot imagine a life without Yoshi. Well, the spouse has been thinking about a further expansion to our family life and you know what, I am in agreement with the idea. We shall see how this develops.

Yoshi loves to hang out with me in my Game Room.

Friday, November 8, 2013

PS Move: It's Not Phallic If It's Not Erect

I could never forget that moment when Sony first revealed the PlayStation Move controller back in 2009 at E3 because it was so hilarious. It's obvious even back then that Sony knew that the PlayStation Move controller is one phallic looking thing. To honor their phallic existence, I have decided to keep my Move controllers... erect! I was able to accomplish this using Nyko's Charge Station that I just received. I would have gotten one of those quad chargers but I only have three of these controllers. I'll have to admit. An erect Move controller looks a lot better having it on a flat surface. The pretty charging lights help as well.

These controllers are meant to be flaunted.

Wii Fit Meter: Clip It On!

I received my Wii Fit Meter by Nintendo yesterday and I have it clipped on me ever since. The one month limit for Wii Fit U has been lifted for me once I registered the device via my Wii U but I am a bit ashamed to admit that I have not been using that software ever since I downloaded it on November 1st. I supposed I should be more ashamed by the fact that I haven't used the Wii Fit Plus software ever since that injury earlier this year. I love the look of this pedometer. It's sleek and sexy and that black accentuated by the gray, classic. There is certainly no shame involved in people seeing that I have it on me. The Wii Fit Meter not only tracks the number of steps you take, it also checks for changes in elevation and temperature alongside providing information on burnt calories based on the profile you have set with the Wii Fit U software. As you may have guessed, the meter works in conjunction with the Wii Fit U to provide you the bigger picture of your healthy habits. On previous Wii Fit titles, you can choose to enter additional information manually on your own but now, the Meter takes care of some of that. It's really cute too the way the Meter communicates with the Wii U Gamepad where you have to line up the top of both devices to point towards each other. The only thing missing now is my commitment. I know I have put on some weight this year so it's time to take care of the extra fat!

You can see your Mii's face on the screen! Just adorable.

State of Decay: The Nighttime Lasts Forever

I have been playing a lot of State of Decay by Undead Labs for the Personal Computer this week and the experience so far has been rather interesting. I remember the first time I heard about the game from a friend who just couldn't wait to buy State of Decay when it was planned to be released for the X-Box 360. When I watched the gameplay videos, I remember telling my friend that the game looked like it was inspired by the DayZ mod for ARMA II. He seemed to be offended by this for some reason, I am not quite sure why because that's a bit of a compliment to the game, and claimed that it's a whole lot more than that. I was very interested to play the game back then but I have that strong feeling that it would be coming to the PC and it did! State of Decay has been in Steam Early Access since September 20th but it has finally gotten a full release on Tuesday November 5th.  Well, now that I have played the game, I can confirm my original suspicion but of course, that is not necessary a detriment.

Marcus Campbell, the hardest working man in this zombie apocalypse.

I will get into the brain-splattered details of this zombie survival simulation game in my upcoming review but I do want to share my experience with the nighttime element of the game. You know how mortified I am these days of horror games - thank you Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterflies - and the first time nighttime arrived in this game, it was quite challenging for me. I quickly went back to the first safe house in the game only to discover that there was no electricity thus there was no light in there. It was pitch black everywhere at night and that flashlight that you do get to use on your character doesn't really help much. So there I was, in almost complete darkness, trying to find a prompt that would allow me to get my character to go to sleep... and it was nowhere to be found! I frantically looked at the menu screens and it was still a no go. After crouching quietly in the eerie darkness for 5 minutes, with the sound of zombies moaning and groaning in the distance making things worse, I began to realize that the nighttime is not going to pass anytime soon and that the game is forcing you to do things in the dark. Thus, I set out to do my first night time mission: which I spent crouching in the bushes on my way to my destination. The nighttime in this game is brutal, especially for someone like me. It's scary and dreadful yet there is no way to bypass it without sacrificing progress and thus my success in surviving since time management is key in here. But this is a good thing also because I am also retraining myself to conquer that fear of the darkness and the unknown. Sure, I still scream when a zombie pops out suddenly on screen but compared to how I normally react in other games, it's something to celebrate about. Stay tune for more analysis for State of Decay soon but if you are a zombie game fan, this one is certainly a no-brainer.

FIRST IMPRESSION: 4 out of 5

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Creative Assembly, You Disappoint Me

Okay, this "living room" myth thing that Valve had started for the Personal Computer gaming community has become a nasty sort of viral infection that spreads out rapidly, eating away at the brains of everyone closely attached to the Steam Machine project. Let's look at the highly offensive, irresponsible statement below that was released today from Creative Assembly in regards to next year's release of Total War: Rome II for the SteamOS:

Really? Are you serious or you had too much to drink before you issued this statement?

Yes, it's great news to see a hardware-demanding game like Total War: Rome II actually making it to SteamOS but the problem with the statement is how it plays to Valve's living room fantasy. On the second paragraph, Mr. Batholomew claimed that a game like Total War: Rome II was impossible to be enjoyed and played in the living room before the arrival of the Steam Controller. That is just not true. Grab a small table, place a small keyboard and mouse in the living room, BAM! Another big problem with the above statement has something to do with how the Steam Controller seems to be equated to the living room only. So those who play in say, a Game Room, or those who play on a PC monitor shouldn't use that controller as an alternative? So then the keyboard and mouse controller is still superior? Wouldn't it lessen the experience then to actually play the game with the Steam Controller versus the keyboard and mouse? Also, if Creative Assembly cared so much about making all their games for all the platforms, how come the Total War series has never made it to the console? And those consoles do have their own controllers. The Wii Remote and the PlayStation Move controller would have been a nice little alternative to a functioning mouse so why didn't they get those games out to the Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation 3? Because nothing about the above statement is all that honest. I also have to mention that the game doesn't even need "Big Picture Mode" support because PC games just shows up fine on the big screen without the need to use that mode so I am confused to why that was even necessary to be brought up.

I understand that everyone is very excited about the fruition of Valve's living room agenda but please stop being oblivious to the fact that: 1) you always have that ability to play PC games in the living room by simply hooking up your PC to your living room display, and 2) the living room should not be the actual focus of this wild campaign when it's really about gaming on the big screen. Because if someone doesn't have that in their living room then they really shouldn't hook up their Steam Machine in the living room right? This whole thing is getting too out of control. Shame on you Creative Assembly for not thinking things through.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wii Remote Plus Luigi Is Full of Win

I was looking online for some replacement heads for the spouse's ancient electric toothbrush when I stumbled into something so very beautiful... and strange. It's Nintendo's new Wii Remote Plus Luigi!

Utter perfection.

Nintendo had also released a Mario-themed Wiimote+ to accompany this one but you know, it's just so red and all that. This Luigi green is just so pleasing to the eyes and those multi-colored buttons and that blue bottom-half? Delicious. Now as you may already know, even though I don't have anyone locally to play my games with, I always keep a second controller handy in case an intergalactic miracle happens but I don't believe in having more than two controllers because it's just wasteful. A history is made with this Luigi Wiimote+ however because I am willing to welcome it into my Game Room to replace one of my Wiimotes with it. It's easier to justify this action too because I don't have a Wiimote+ yet and with this Luigi controller, I don't have to deal with that MotionPlus attachment anymore. Great controller skin Nintendo! I cannot wait to hold this in my hand!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Hextech Fashion Statement

I really don't understand why there are still ugly looking splash art for the champions in League of Legends for the Personal Computer. Surely, Riot Games has some extra money to spend on replacing them? One of the worst offenders? Anivia's default splash art. It's an eye sore. It doesn't even look like a crystal phoenix but instead, it looks like a frozen chicken. I was so happy to learn that the Hextech Anivia skin was on sale so I unlocked it instantaneously. Riot, please get the old splash art updated. If you can make Sivir looks like an ostrich with her recently updated splash art, imagine what you can do with Anivia and the rest of the forgotten champions...

From "cold" to diamonds.

Meanwhile...

From a woman to... Only galaxy knows what that thing is.

Steam Machine: A Strange Case of Crazy

Valve posted some pictures of the Steam Machine prototype on the Steam Universe group yesterday and I saw a lot Steam users getting strangely too excited about the potential of buying it. I am very confused. Apparently a lot of people don't know that all they had to do is hook up their Personal Computer to their display in the supposedly best place to game - the living room - and they have themselves a Steam Machine already? Isn't the Steam Machine suppose to trick console gamers into thinking that they are buying a console when it's actually a PC but why are many of these PC gamers getting so hyped up? I can understand if they want to test out the misguided controller but why want the Steam Machine unless one has a really really old PC and these guys, based on checking out their profiles, seem to have good enough rigs to play some of the more popular Steam games. I guess it would be a lie to me to say that I don't understand the situation by now. Most people do not have a Game Room like I do, and they place their biggest, baddest television display in their living room, thus they have that craving to see their games being played on a large monitor. But then they can just hook up their PC to these displays already so why haven't they done it? It's like they needed Valve's permission to experience PC gaming on the big screen when I have done just exactly that since forever. Valve of course knows that they are set to make a huge amount of profit so they are not going to ensure that people understand what is really going on. This is the very reason why they didn't just stopped with the Big Picture Mode. Frankly, I find the whole thing grossly disgusting but I also know that it is going to convince bigger, previously console-only developers to focus on releasing more games on the PC so I have to take the good with the all of the awful nastiness.

Looks like a Motorola cable box. What other Steam users think:

"I'll changed my mind on pre-ordering PS4. I want the Steam Machine. Such a better name than Xbox One. It crazy that thing change real fast over time." - LDClaudius

"It`s amazing!!! 
Give it to me!!!" - Anahat

"Very very nice. Can't wait to have it at home in my hands!" - The Puppet Master

"I just mangasmed in my pants. I cannot wait for this to drop." - Rongey420

"SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!" - insanely wild

"T-DOG: gamepad is much more handy when playing on the couch in your livingroom, and that's where the Steam Machine is supposed to be. It's not supposed to hard counter the desktop in your room." - Black Phoenix

Big kudos to Black Penguin for this comment. There's still hope for humanity:
"can i hook this up to my grandma's old B & W TV ? >___< 
here tv is really that old. like a CRT. and thats whats in the living room >__<"

Monday, November 4, 2013

Games Played 10/28/2013 - 11/03/2013

- 10/28/2013 -
Drakensang: The River of Time - PC

- 10/29/2013 -
Drakensang: The River of Time - PC
Sonic: Lost World - Wii U
The Typing of the Dead: Overkill - PC

- 10/30/2013 -
Drakensang: The River of Time - PC
Sonic: Lost World - Wii U
The Typing of the Dead: Overkill - PC

- 10/31/2013 -
Drakensang: The River of Time - PC
Sonic: Lost World - Wii U
Spelunky - PC

- 11/01/2013 -
DecapAttack - PC
Spelunky - PC
Wii Fit U - Wii U

- 11/02/2013 -
Drakensang: The River of Time - PC
The King of Fighters XIII Steam Edition - PC
Guardians of Middle-earth - PC
The Sims 3 - PC
Spelunky - PC

- 11/03/2013 -
The Sims 3 - PC


Screenshot of the Week:

Those bandits over there surely won't see me cast this extravagant-looking spell right?
Drakensang: The River of Time (Personal Computer)