Friday, July 29, 2011

Child of Eden Review

Child of Eden is the latest creation by legendary game creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who is best known for the musical shooter Rez. Child of Eden is actually a spiritual 'prequel' to Rez and features the same great sort of gameplay that had thousands of gamers addicted 10 years ago. This title had a surprisingly large amount of hype surrounding it and had been touted as the best Kinect game to be developed before we had seen any official gameplay. Child of Eden was meant to save the device from the onslaught of casual titles brought to the device by Microsoft at launch. A new era of more hardcore titles were hoped to be inspired by this on rails shooter and E3 2011 showed exactly that. Hype surrounding this game meant I opened Child of Eden with high expectations, thankfully most of the fame was warranted as this is a superb Kinect title for most aspects of the game.

This isn't your ordinary on-rails shooter where bad guys pop out and you must kill them. Child of Eden is a psychadelic shooter based on bright colourful objects and a spectacular light show. Mizuguchi has created Child of Eden with the aim of taking his product into the future and away of the stock standard human warfare. You are shooting at shapes and creations that explode and shatter creating the sensation I imagine you would receive from psychadelic drugs. The mystical nature surrounding Child of Eden drags you into the mystique of the game and focuses on a fun experience rather than a gripping storyline. The developers obviously haven't been scared to go against the popular gaming model of today and have created a title that builds on the popular formula of Rez.


If you want to look at a game proving that realistic graphics are not needed to make a great game, look no further than Child of Eden. Set hundreds of years into the future, the internet is basically a virtual reality that is made up of a whole array of bright objects. The constant movement through five distinctly unique areas is simply beautiful and the explosion of colour on the TV screen will you have admiring the scenery rather than focusing on the task at hand. The euphoria Mizuguchi has managed to convey from this visual spectacule to the player is a solid effort and just proves how he is one of the greats in the video game business. Child of Eden is something that simply has to be seen to be believed. The end of level boss battles are the most unique, spine tingling moments I have had to date in gaming. Emotion is quite hard to get out of a gamer in this day and age of mind-numbing tactics by developers but Child of Eden exceeds with flying colours.

There is no such thing as a solid musical shooter without a flawless soundtrack to accompany the tone you are going for. The music in Child of Eden brilliantly supports the graphics and adds to the overall atmosphere of the game. The pacing of the music feeds off your performance and gives the sensation that you are in fact the creator of the music. The music changes from a relaxed pace to an intensive beat in an instant, automatically setting the scene for the intensity of the next area. The intertwining music and graphics are a perfect mix of design and relaxation that creates an ecstatic atmosphere that doesn't let you go until the credits begin to roll.


One feature coming to all future first party titles is Kinect compatibility as an optional extra. Child of Eden takes that optional compatibility to another level with the exact same game available for either the Kinect or a standard controller. The standard controller option feels like it was thrown on just to get a few extra sales by people who don't have a Kinect. While it is still fun, you just don't get the same experience as you do from using motion controls. Using the Kinect utilises your hands perfectly. Movements you make are almost automatic and there is no visible lag from the Kinect processing the movements like some other games. Just starting the game for the first time and getting through the menus you can tell how responsive the controls are. During the game changing from your left hand (automatic firing) and your right hand (lock on targetting) is seamless and smooth. When the game gets tough and quick reflexes are needed you can perform movements with ease just like you had the precision of dual sticks on a controller. After playing Child of Eden it has automatically raised my expectation of Kinect games going forward.

One of the biggest gripes I have with a game that looks so good is the length of it. There are only five different levels in Child of Eden and if you are able to beat each level on the first go you can technically reach the credits in just under a hour. There are no other modes, no online and only added unlockables to keep you coming back. In an era where consumers expect more and more bang for their buck this is a dangerous situation to leave us in. Child of Eden is a fun, exhilarating game and each level will require multiple playthroughs to finish. Then after that you have the aim of unlocking concept art and going for achievements before finally ramping up the difficulty and going for a perfect score. Child of Eden is challenging and I found myself losing all my lives and doing multiple attempts at passing the level from the very start. The replay factor of this game extends Child of Eden into the 6-8 hour bracket but players who don't enjoy replaying the same areas constantly will find this title dry on content.

Despite the short game, Child of Eden is alot of fun in the action packed hour of content. With a constantly changing scenery and some absolutely massive boss battles, Child of Eden never stops delivering with entertainment. The game style perfectly couples the euphoric style of the music and graphics as you are set out to destroy the evil, darker areas of Eden. The reasoning for this is quite bland and an opening cutscene that tries to tell the story of Eden. I found it confusing and almost meaningless to the entire game and to me seemed like one of the bizarre storylines that generally comes out of Japan. Some people may enjoy the story, but it did absolutely nothing for me instead of causing unnecessary confusion. I would have preferred the time spent making that invested in perhaps an arcade mode for Child of Eden.


Child of Eden is by far the best Kinect game to date, showing that motion controls can be used for good in the future and not just children who enjoy to throw a javelin or dance to Lady Gaga. Every now and then a game comes out that brings something magical to television screens around the world and the musical euphoria surrounding Child of Eden is one of those special games. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Child of Eden, what has ultimately let it down though is the lack of time you can spend with this title. Perhaps games based in the era of Eden don't have multiplayer and extra game modes, but it is something that severely puts this title behind the pack in 2011.

Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 9.5/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Overall - 8.5/10

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bastion Review

The Summer (or Winter depending on where you live) of Arcade has rolled around for another year and is headlined by an interesting action role-playing game known as Bastion. Some massive downloadable titles have been released in previous Summer of Arcade promotions including Geometry Wars 2, 'Splosion Man, Castle Crashers and the 2010 hit Limbo. Bastion had a lot to live up to, but the kid and his narrator that takes you through the entire game has done SuperGiant Games proud as they have brought a massive hit to the Xbox 360.

Bastion is a mysterious game that follows the path of an unnamed hero that is simply known as "The Kid" who is set the task of saving Bastion. Something called the Great Calamity has taken over the world and destroyed Bastion which is an area where everyone is supposedly meant to travel to when danger strikes. The job of the kid is to restore Bastion to it's former glory by going out into the world and finding core's which allow you to slowly but surely rebuild Bastion to your liking. It is an interesting story, but one which is never really given any meaning or deep insight during the game.


This is a beautiful game at it's core with an unique art style which really divides Bastion from the other many action RPG's released in the past. It is something I find hard to describe but the cartoon-esque landscapes are filled with detail and mystery, adding the special flair to the game that graced titles such as Braid or Limbo in the past. The layout of Bastion is something that simply never gets old no matter how many times you see it. Even from the very beginning of the game you are on a level in the sky, yet as the kid moves the level forms around you and the path needed to progress is unveiled in a discreet manner. This game is simply outstanding and the risk to do something different has paid off in a very big way.

Speaking of taking risks, the decision to have a mysterious voice in the sky narrate your entire adventure was one that could have been a downfall for Bastion. The deep, emotionless man who describes the kids journey to remove the Great Calamity is a major part of Bastion and sets this game up to be one of the most enjoyable audio experiences you will find anywhere. Narration in Bastion is superbly done, not just stating what is going on, but giving insight into the story and is a great medium to set up a story that would be severely lacking without it. At times I found myself trying to do things in Bastion with the sole intention of seeing if the narrator had something to say about my actions. Hanging around an area and smashing everything in sight caused the narrator to say, "The kid is raging at some items." The narrator, a seemingly bonus extra in a game like this, has been brought into the limelight as one of the most crucial parts of Bastion's success.


Strictly speaking, Bastion doesn't do anything outstanding from a gameplay point of view, yet it has managed to be extremely addictive. At it's core Bastion is still about running around linear levels mashing one button to strike with your sword/axe/club and another button is for shooting your gun/arrow. Somehow the game doesn't become boring, with this very simple process coupled with a dodge button, Bastion requires strategic movement if you want to survive. That being said, Bastion is not a hard game and the toughest parts of the game are at the beginning before your weapons are upgraded. Instead of difficulty levels the developers had added an equivalent to Halo's skulls which make the game harder. These can be found along the way and by using them you not only make the game more challenging, but earn extra experience along the way.

Using Bastion as a hub world that you are rebuilding is a cool process and in a way is just like the kingdom in Fable III. It is the centre of the game and it is a really rewarding experience to see your time and effort going into something. The story is light on details at the beginning of the game, with the narrator seemingly the focus of the game. Over time though the story is unveiled and those who get invested into Bastion will appreciate it by the end. Certainly some gamers won't like the lack of a deep story to get carried away into.


Bastion isn't a perfect game, but it is certainly an engaging experience with fun gameplay and outstanding visuals that will manage to capture hardcore and casual gamers a like. What really sums up this game is the narrator. The deep, strong character is a strong step into the unknown for Bastion and that is the precise principal of this game. Never knowing where the path will take you is a strong premise for one of the best downloadable titles on the Xbox Live Arcade. When people look back at the 2011 Summer of Arcade they will see Bastion as one of the strongest, if not the best release of the event.

Graphics - 9.5/10
Sound - 10/10
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Overall - 9.5/10

Torchlight Review

Torchlight is an excellent hack n slash RPG that has made it's way from the PC in 2009 to being an arcade title for the Xbox 360. This is a nearly identical version from the one that came out two years ago except for the obvious transition from the keyboard and mouse to the controller. Combat is fast and bloody, loot drops are regular and varied, and the overall production values are rich with cartoonish visuals, as well as a catchy soundtrack that will keep you humming tunes long after you have shut down the game. This is basically the definitive RPG that you could hope for with levels upon levels of dungeon crawling for under $15.

The story is about your hero’s (One of three classes in the game.) adventure in the small mining town of Torchlight. You advance the story by going down the levels of the mine underneath Torchlight vanquishing the enemies in your path to reach the source of the evil troubling Torchlight. This game is made playable for every one. New players to the classic dungeon crawler formula will be able to choose an easy difficulty mode and cruise through the game with relative ease. Old hands who don't fear any enemies in Diablo can crank the game up and experience the full onslaught that happens below the town of Torchlight.


Torchlight isn't your standard hack n slash game, it brings humour and a casual nature into the genre. The art style is cartoony and the characters in the game have exaggerated body features such as abnormally large biceps which turn them from real world humans to heros of Torchlight. Animations are smooth and the controls work extremely well to deliver the constant action. The developers Runic Fate certainly like to mix things up. Everything here is exaggerated, from huge 360 spin killing blows that shower blood to monster pygmies that can leap across the screen and surprise you with an array of attacks. The dungeons are incredibly vast and unique and each level you progress into have landmarks such as waterfalls, mine shafts, flowing lava and ancient palaces. Not bad for dungeons which are randomly generated everytime you enter them.

The outstanding soundtrack is even more memorable than the visuals. The tunes cover a range that is all over the musical spectrum, including tension-building piano moments, dramatic deep tones, and a set of progressive rock tunes. This is one of those game soundtracks that resonates in your head long after you have finished playing. Gone are the days of the stock standard tune that slightly changes between the menu and the game, Torchlight delivers a memorable experience.


There is a pretty lackluster story that give a mediocre attempt at forcing you into the dungeons. The stock standard story of evil means you need to go and save the day by completing missions along the way. The basic format of Torchlight is you start, you run around town until you get to the fighting, after defeating some enemies, they drop items that are different and better than what you have, you decide what items you wish to equip, then sell or save what you don’t equip, decide if anything in the shops are worth buying, then go back to combat and rinse and repeat. For what may sound like a boring process on paper, Torchlight is a very exciting game and will keep you coming back to just progress through 'just one more dungeon'.

The range of magical enemies and loot they drop keeps adding to the amount of content in Torchlight. From the giant spiders to the bosses with ludicrous names such as Slag'Zanik the Cunning they just all add to the mystery which you must unearth. It is great to see that the inventory is back in full force after big name titles such as the Fable series have done their best to tone down the RPG genre to little more than fighting. Finding loot and selling unwanted items is super easy and the whole process will seem like a piece of cake for even the novice gamer.

If there are any criticisms I can give to the formula used in Torchlight is that there is an obvious lack of multiplayer. This game seems tailor made to play in co-op with a friend over Xbox live, yet it is a disappointment that this is a solo adventure you must undertake.


Torchlight doesn't try to revolutionize the RPG formula but is rather a pint-sized ode to the great RPG's of the past. For 1200 Microsoft Points this title offers some great value and will take at least 8 hours to complete the main quest and more as this game is addictive enough for multiple playthroughs. The only thing holding it back is that I can't experience it with a friend. Nonetheless this is an excellent title that should be considered if you are looking for a cheap dungeon crawler.

Graphics - 8.5/10
Sound - 9/10
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Overall - 8/10

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Swarm Review

XBLA is an early form of the incredibly successful App Store platform now deployed by Apple and their many impersonators. Some of the most rewarding Apps I download for my iPhone aren't the big titles that are released by Electronic Arts or Gameloft, but instead it is those smaller games which catch your eye and suck you in despite fighting for a minority of users. Swarm is one of these such hidden gems that is found on XBLA under the promotion of titles such as Trials HD and games featured in Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotion.

Swarm is a simple game that is easy to load up but hard to turn off. With cute graphics and online leaderboards, the process of keeping your 'Swarmites' alive is made into a fun game. This game is one you may not have heard of before, but make sure you take notice of it now!


The distinct art style in Swarm is one that will get you sucked into the game. Your swarmites are cute little blue creatures that you are moving through a variety of areas, avoiding obstacles that come your way. These linear paths are dark and resonate evil, yet manage to make you feel welcomed and inquisitive enough to keep leaping and scattering your swarmites through to the finish line. The hazardous style of this game has allowed the developers to create an unique atmosphere in which moving platforms, enemies and even random bursts of fire flourish. The dark setting is handy for when you are down to only a few swarmites left and it gets hard to see their little bodies on the screen as you try to make it to the next checkpoint.

The music sets the scene for the suicidal mission your swarmites are embarking on. The dark tone is often coupled with the squeals of death as one of your swarmites if killed off, or was it sacrificed? The whole package is put together nicely with an awesome levels screen that is inspired by the world you are about to enter. This is a slick game that looks great for an arcade title and is sure to appeal to young and old gamers.


Your courageous, fearless swarmites will be thrown the short straw as you force a group of 50 along a small path to the end of the level. Along the way many obstacles will appear and you need to have the realization that not every swarmite is going to make it out alive. You are going to have casualities and many of them, but don't worry as regular checkpoints and swarmite regeneration stations will make your job a lot easier. Swarm is essentially a 2D platformer in a 3D world and at its basics requires you to jump and run your way to the end. The intuitive controls add to the strategy of how you do this as you must navigate the swarmites past a whole array of challenges. Instead of the basic commands such as run and jump, swarmites can be spread out or closed in for tight paths as just one example of the different controls used in this game.

The game isn't overly tough due to the fact that there are regular checkpoints, but competing against your friends for the highest score and fastest time possible on the leaderboards will add an area of perfection to this game. The real joy of Swarm for most won't necessarily be finishing the game, but instead killing those hapless swarmites. There are medals to collect for killing off swarmites in different ways and you will often find yourself trying new and original ideas to collect just one more death medal. While there are two boss levels to mix it up a bit, the majority of the game is all the same and if you don't like it from the first few levels you certainly won't enjoy it by the time you reach the finish.


Swarm is a game that has probably gone under your radar until now. The simple style of Swarm coupled with it's addictive nature makes it one of the best titles you will find on the App Store to date. Dieing has never been more fun and your cute little swarmites take it to another level. For only 800 microsoft points this is a pretty good deal compared to others at the same price point. If platformers interest you then this is definitely a title to go and check out!

Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 8.5/10

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

L.A. Noire "Reefer Madness" DLC Case Now Available for Download

In "Reefer Madness", Detective Cole Phelps and his Vice desk partner Roy Earle find themselves in the throes of one of the city's biggest narcotics rings after a deadly shootout with a local drug dealer. This new downloadable case for L.A. Noire is now available for download via PlayStation Network (AU$6.95/NZ$7.90) and Xbox LIVE (320 MS Points). Anyone that purchased the L.A. Noire Rockstar Pass can also download this case, at no additional cost.

Once you've registered for a PlayStation Network account you can then scroll to the PlayStation Network icon on your XMB and select PlayStation Store. The "Reefer Madness" case is available from the Add-On section. Additionally, you can download via the in-game menu by pressing the Square button at the start up screen. Those who have the Rockstar Pass will need to actively download the content even though it has already been purchased, although you will not be charged.

Simply go to Xbox LIVE Marketplace with your connected Xbox 360 console and select the "Reefer Madness" case from the Game Add-ons section of Marketplace. Alternatively, you can download the DLC from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace website and have it ready and waiting for you the next time you go online with your Xbox 360. Additionally, you can download via the in-game menu by pressing the X button at the start up screen. Those who have the Rockstar Pass will need to actively download the content even though it has already been purchased, although you will not be charged.

For more information about all the DLC as well as L.A. Noire itself please check out