First Impressions: MARS: War Logs

[wpspoiler name=”First Impressions vs. Reviews” ]First Impressions are based on demos while Reviews are based on entire games.[/wpspoiler]
MARS: War Logs is set in the war-torn, waterless future of Mars. Surprise, you colonized Mars and its supply of one gallon of water didn’t last to sustain a whole planet full of people.
According to the Purple Prose introduction narrated by the most pathetic grunt in the Water War, there’s a war on and there are Water Gangs fighting for control and—I don’t think there’s a society anymore. I think this is like post-apocalyptic anarchy on a colonized planet. Deep.
Well, our grunt is in a truck with other folks heading to elsewhere. Apparently he’s been captured and is a POW (prisoner of war) being shipped off to the enemy camp.
(Keep in mind, all this is being told through Purple Prose and cinematics. Try as you might, you don’t get to play in the train, in the loading bay, in the gen pop area… No playing for you.)

Innocence in a box
Innocence in a box – That’s him in the corner. That’s him in the spotlight.

Finally this sad little lad with the emotionless reading voice telling me of all the horrors of war arrives at the enemy base. Yay, I get to play! PSYCH!
The kid’s introduction to the POW is a foul-mouthed gang of other POWs who wish to make passionate love to his butthole. The portly gang leader is Fatso. Literally, his name is Fatso.
Our idealistic little runt fearing for his rear-virginity? His name is *Le Sigh* Innocence. Yes, his name is Innocence.  Take a minute to eye-roll and regroup.
So Innocence is all, “But I don’t want to be but-raped.” And Fatso is all like, “But I’m a villain and this is prison and you’re new so… Dibs!”
(You still not playing the game yet.)
So then this dude comes up and stands at the edge of the argument with his arms folded and I’m like, “YES! Finally I get to play, I’m gonna brawl this Fatso!”
NOOOOPE.
Dude stands there with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed. And Fatso is like, “Whadda you want?”
Dude stands there with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed. And Fatso is like, “This doesn’t concern you.”
Dude stands there with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed. And Fatso is like, “The Boy is Mine.”
Dude stands there with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed. And Fatso is like, “You’re Crazy!”
Dude stands there with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed. And Fatso is like, “Let’s get out of here guys, this guy’s crazy.”
Dude stands there with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed. And Fatso is like, “This isn’t over.”
WHAT THE FUCK!? (Pause for head shaking and or eye rolling.)
Okay, so whatever, you finally get to play now. Now that nothing is happening, you get to play.
And by play I mean you talk to Innocence and decide if you want to be a hard ass or a nice guy (your reputation matters). Apparently Innocence is just an introduction and Roy is our main character. He’s like, “I’m Roy.” And Innocence is like, “Ohmigawd, ROY? The Roy?”
Roy, local badass and side burn aficionado
Roy, local badass and side burn aficionado

Roy’s like, “Yeah, The Roy.”
So by now it’s very clear that the writing is not good and the voice acting ranges from cringe-inducing to pretty good. However, since I only started actually playing the game a minute ago, I powered on.
Uh oh, Fatso and his gang are waiting for Roy and Innocence in the courtyard ready to pin down Little Buddy and slip it in the back. (There’s a lot of swearing and Fatso is really keen on rape).
Tutorial fight time! I like tutorial fight time. I get to play the game and beat up bullies. X to hit. RT to distract them. A to break their defenses.
Cool got it. Let’s punch more people!
Nope. Time to sit and chat with Innocence. Go hither and fro. Chat with dudes.
Okay, this is an RPG so you’re not going to just side-scroll style fight through the world until you hit a boss. Roy is running around (with Innocence in tow) exploring the base with a surprising level of freedom for a POW.
Mutants are sad
Mutants are like people only mutated and sad. And oddly spiritual.

They fight a few other prisoners and a beast and meet the mutants. The story and the game really start to take off. The dialogue stays horrible but the story is fascinating. In this war-torn world, there are people called Technomancers who control electricity, underground monsters called Moles that make it really hard to dig for water, and possibly mysterious ruins from the colonists who first settled on Mars.

Developer(s) Spiders
Publisher(s) Focus Home Interactive
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network
Release date(s) Windows
April 26, 2013
XBLA
July 26, 2013
PSN
August 13, 2013
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player

Mars: War Logs Pros:

A mysterious technomancer
Mysterious technomancer is mysterious.

1. The story is interesting a possibly unique. With all the hokey dialogue and waiting around, the story is what kept me around.
2. Innocence fights with you instead of acting as another obstacle to keep track of. He doesn’t finish any off on his own but he’s definitely more partner than package.
3. The game world is large and the menus are extensive creating  a deep and interesting experience for just $9.99.
Mars: War Logs Cons:
I assume this is a boss.
I assume this is a boss.

1. Holy shit the dialogue is bad. It’s outright laughable at some points and not helped by the fact that a lot of the voice acting is sub-par.
2. Can I say the fact that it’s not a book is a con? I truly like the story but didn’t feel like I was a necessary part of it. Maybe that’s because it was a demo so it was just a teaser of what’s to come. I just didn’t feel moved so much as curious.
3. The demo felt long. If a game is truly engaging it should steal hours of your time and have you looking around in surprise because you didn’t realize how immersed you were. Mars: War logs felt like it was taking too long. I wasn’t pushing forward but trudging. I found myself annoyed when I accidentally retraced y steps because UGH I just want something interesting to happen.
Overall, what I think of Mars: War Logs:
Moles are not your friends. But if they were you wouldn't dig through their home and then murder them indiscriminately...
Moles are not your friends. But then again, if they were you wouldn’t dig through their home and then murder them indiscriminately…

During a time where games aren’t launching and tax season may or may not leave you broke, Mars: War Logs is definitely something to look into. It seems like it will provide hours of entertainment with an interesting story.
I realize I’ve mocked it relentlessly but that’s because the game does manage to stumble into a writing trap where things are described too beautifully or characters aren’t dimensional enough. Paired with the voice acting, that would be fine for reading aloud in class, it gets a bit laughable.
The silliness though, doesn’t detract from what is a pretty solid game with decent graphics and a large, interactive world. There are side missions, craftable weapons, upgrade trees and a lot more. For $9.99!
Try the demo and see if you can live with the writing and reading.

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The Maw is the Most Adorable Apocalypse Ever

Maw and Frank being totes adorbs.
Maw and Frank being totes adorbs.

Most apocalyptic video games are bleak and depressing. They’re set during a time where things are going or went horribly wrong. Twisted Pixel managed to take those aspects, cover them is pink frosting and sunshine, tie it up in a bow and deliver The Maw. A similar yet very different kind of game about the apocalypse and friendship.
The main, playable character in The Maw is Frank. Frank is an alien on an alien planet. He’s abducted and crashed on a strange world with a strange, purple fellow captive. This giant, one-eyed, purple creature has the affect of a puppy. Like any good dog, he’s hungry and loving.
MAWPreview3
Due to his giant mouth, the purple fellow is called Maw. Maw is tethered to Frank via a collar-bracelet situation. I guess that’s just so he doesn’t fall off a cliff because when Frank wants him to come closer her just hollers, “Maw!”
Frank takes Maw under his wing and goes about trying to escape this planet. On their way Frank discovers that Maw loves to eat the Yums native to this planet. Oh well, whatever keeps the slobbering beast happy.
Frank and Maw make their way across the planet with Maw eating everything he can and Frank kindly keeping him alive. With each Yum Maw eats, he grows. Some things he eats cause him to take on their characteristics—a very useful skill when traversing rough, unknown terrain.
Spicy food can sometimes have adverse reactions.
Spicy food can sometimes have adverse reactions.

Maw and Frank face enemies and obstacles of all kinds while trekking across the planet. As Maw’s size increases it starts to become clear that this might become a problem. How big will he get before he tops off? Will he top off? Will he start eating asteroids and planets? What if he eats a sun…
Oh, snap. Now I get why these intergalactic mercenaries wanted him destroyed.
Aside from the cutest best friends ever, The Maw also offers a relaxing game with solid mechanics and challenges worth taking on.
He seems to be getting bigger...
He seems to be getting bigger…

Neither Frank nor Maw speak aside from Frank calling Maw (which is good because bad voice work can really ruin a game) but the story is fairly clear and engaging. The game is quick, but not too easy.
2013-03-22 20.43.14
Personally, I think being eaten by Maw is a perfectly acceptable way to go. I’m a huge fan of the game and the characters and the feeling I get when playing it. I even have a Maw plush toy, and my best friend has a Frank plush (he shouts “Maw” when you press the telepathic orb on Frank’s head.
Buy The Maw; play it; love it; buy it for your friends.

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First Impressions: I Am Alive (XBLA)

[wpspoiler name=”First Impressions vs. Reviews” ]First Impressions are based on demos while Reviews are based on entire games.[/wpspoiler]
I Am Alive tells the story of a man who spent over a year crossing the ruins of a ravaged country to get back home to his family. He’s practical and cautious, prepared with just enough of the right tools and abilities.
Gameplay is also practical and cautious with just the right amount of badassery.
Ubisoft makes such a wide variety of games from Farcry to Rayman so depending on how you’ve personally interacted with Ubisoft, this gritty, post-apocalyptic, personal journey might be something to add to the deck of awesome or something very unexpected but still very awesome. Continue reading “First Impressions: I Am Alive (XBLA)”

Review: Bastion (XBLA)

“There’s like a kid who wakes up and everyone’s dead and the world is gone.” That was how my husband described Bastion to me.
“Ew.” Was my response. “That sounds terrible and sad and not like a game at all.”
“I guess I can see that. It is pretty sad… Meh, try it,” he said, handing me the controller.
I settled in and tried it.

Immediately I was sucked into the story of The Kid as narrated by the old man with a voice made for storytelling. The Kid and I had the same questions: What happened? Where’d everyone go? Where’d the world go? For the saddest premise in the world I jumped into Bastion feeling motivated and curious.
The controls were intuitive and the game was forgiving while I acclimated myself to my new surroundings. “The Kid just raged for a while,” The Narrator said, prompting me to move on from smashing all the boxes, objects, and general scenery as is customary in semi-similar action games. I found it easy to defeat my enemies as my ability was scaled proportionally with theirs. As the story unfolded and I learned about The Kid, Caelondia, and The Calamity that got us to the world as it is.  I fought slow moving enemies with slow weapons until I able to choose between brute force and speed. Eventually I was able to upgrade certain aspects of my gameplay using potions from the Liquor Store[1. It was called something more clever but it sold potion upgrades that were named to sound like liquor. eg.: Were Whiskey].
Your goal is to fight your way through The Wilds (levels) and collect Shards  to build up The Bastion, a mysterious situation that is the solution to the Calamity according to the narrator who clearly isn’t telling you the whole story.
The whole story is really what makes the game. While I was playing because it was a game I stuck with it because I wanted to  get to the end of the story– and I was the one who would get there. The Kid falls because I fall and he continues on because I continued on. Somehow Supergiant Games too that evocative part of books and movies and campfire stories and brought it to an action-adventure game.
All parts of the game worked harmoniously from the controls to the story to the design to the music[2. The music is unbearably AMAZING in this game. I normally don’t even notice but there were levels I didn’t want to finish for fear of never hearing the song again.] I was immersed.
I rarely finish games, I know “boo” “hiss,” I just get done playing before the game is done and if there isn’t enough of a story I don’t care if I don’t know how it ends. This game, I needed to know and I enjoyed playing. One of my few grips with Bastion was at one point I realized the forward motion of the story slight over shadowed the fact that it is in fact a video game: Once you complete a level you can’t go back to it. There was a level that I accidentally completed because the finish the level button and the attack button were the same and I happened to be standing by the exit… So i was done, never to complete that level to my satisfaction again until my second play through.
Overall, I would emphatically recommend Bastion as a game, story, or album.
[rating:4.5/5]
Check out some on the beautiful screenshots:

Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone

Poor Char. The apocalypse is always hitting Canada and Canadians the hardest. Even in this tongue-in-cheek video game about surviving the apocalypse on a island, Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone, Canada gets more than theirs.

PlayStation®Network, Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone, casts users as four unlikely heroes who are put to the test when the Zombie Apocalypse hits their small Canadian Island. Banding together for survival, and armed with weapons including guns, chainsaws, and C4-impregnated teddy bears, the heroes must work together to find a way to survive the zombie hordes and get off the island.”
SOURCE

The game basks in the more camp aspects of apocalyptic culture in the way that Army of Darkness or The Evil Dead do.

Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone could be a fun, lighthearted survival romp worth trying for 800 Microsoft points or $9.99 on PlayStation Network. Both networks have demos available so you don’t regret your purchase.
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