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Showing posts from March, 2011

Review - Dragon Age II

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Comparing Dragon Age II to its predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins, doesn’t do it any favours. Despite offering a deep and engaging adventure it is difficult to shake the feeling that it’s a wasted opportunity - neither building upon nor matching the achievements of the first entry in the series.
Dragon Age II opens in the war-torn kingdom of Ferelden, where you assume the role of Hawke, one of a group of refugees fleeing from their burning homes. After making your escape you take to the high seas in search of safety and a new life. Arriving in the sprawling city of Kirkwall, you soon discover that the demonic hordes of the Archdemon are not the only hostile forces standing in your way. Rife with in-fighting, turmoil and segregation, the city plays host to your rise from illegal immigrant to hero over the course of a decade.
Hawke’s story is told through prolonged flashbacks with Varric the dwarf, one of your more charismatic companions, recounting the tale. Varric has the gift of the gab…

Fifteen Years of Resident Evil – Weekly Recommendations 28/03 – 03/04

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Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own.Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
Last week it was announced that Capcom are to release a Resident Evil HD collection. Marking the 15th year since the doomed S.T.A.R.S team first sought shelter in the Umbrella mansion, it will feature newly polished versions of Resident Evil 4 and Code Veronica X, running in glorious HD. Japanese gaming bible, Famitsu, broke the news but did not offer a release date.
Created by Shinji Mikami, the series has undergone a number of changes since taking its first clumsy steps in the survival horror genre. Recent instalments have been more action orientated and the series has also branched out into the on-rail shoote…

Saying Goodbye to the Instruction Manual

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Video games have sat atop my Christmas lists since first receiving a console at the age of nine. After the frenzied shedding of ribbons and wrapping paper on Christmas morning I would transport my favourite presents from room to room throughout the day. I would gradually deposit the heavier presents in different piles across the house, only retaining the bare essentials for further perusing. Come Christmas dinner I would be in possession of only the lightest and most informative part of my Xmas stash: video game instruction manuals.
I would produce the manuals from under the table between oversized helpings of roast potatoes and Christmas pudding, beginning to familiarize myself with my new games which, once we had finished with the festive rituals, I would jump straight into. The instruction booklet was an important part of the first few days with my games – as Christmas as mince pies, loosened belts and the Queen on the telly.
Over the years the manual has become less and less importa…

Review - PopCap Hits! Vol. 1

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This review was originally posted at criticalgamer, where you will find an abundance of video game news, reviews, previews and articles.
Chances are you familiar with, or perhaps even own, at least one of the puzzlers found on PopCap Hits. Offering four games of varying quality, it is a tidy reminder of PopCap’s impressive back-catalogue. However, it is a rather lazy collection and is thus difficult to recommend to the majority of gamers.
Volume one features two of PopCap’s finest – Peggle and Bejeweled 2 – along with two far more forgettable puzzlers in AstroPop and Feeding Frenzy. All four have been available separately on XBLA for some time, not to mention numerous other platforms.
Peggle couldn’t be simpler; fire a marble at a series of pegs, and then sit back and enjoy the illusion that you are in control of the ensuing chaos. Orange pegs are your primary target, but extra points can be earned by taking out other colours, culminating in a blast of Beethoven as you eradicate the fina…

The Rise of PSN – Weekly Recommendations 21/03 – 27/03

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Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own.Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
Presenting at the recent GDC, Sony were keen to show-off the impressive growth of their PlayStation Network (PSN), the PS3 and PSP’s online, multiplayer gaming service and digital media store. According to Sony, PSN revenues jumped by 70% last year and there was a 60% boost in traffic to the Store. The overall user-base now stands at an impressive 70 million, though this does not take into consideration PS3 owners who have opened multiple accounts on one system.
Sony’s free service has seen a number of changes over its first couple of years. 2010 saw the inclusion of a premium paid service - PlayStation Plus - b…

Games That Have Passed Me By

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Over the years there have been a number of games that have passed me by, which I wish I had played. Most of these oversights were due to a mix of ignorance, financial restraint, and a lack of interest or required console at the time. HD collections and re-releases are making it increasingly easier to access older gems, though wanting to play and hunting down a copy is often only half the struggle.  Finding the time and motivation to play them, in favour of newer games, often stands in the way of playing catch-up.
Despite being an avid gamer for the last twenty years, I have never played a Zelda game. Not on one of my consoles, not on a friend’s system and not even drunk at one of the retro game bars I used to frequent - not even for a second. I would very much like to rectify this, and it is the N64 entries – The Legend of Zelda:Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask (1998 & 2000) – to which I am drawn. Majora’s Mask first piqued my interest last September when I stumbled upon a well wr…

Blood Splattered Dragons – Weekly Recommendations 14/03 – 20/03

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Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own.Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
The second entry in BioWare's mature role-playing series, Dragon Age, hit the shops last week. Some things have changed since the original, but one feature that remains is the over-gratuitous use of blood. Splattered everywhere, it is likely to cause a few initial chuckles, but it is part and parcel of the Dragon Age experience and I can’t imagine my characters without their accompanying splash of claret.
Whereas some games rely on violence and gore to divert attention from their less enviable traits, there are others, such as Dragon Age, which don’t allow their violent content to define them. The following …

When a PlayStation 3 Dies

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The Yellow light of death – a term that can send shivers down the spine of any PS3 owner. Though not as notorious as Xbox 360's Red Ring of Death, it is equally as debilitating and may appear without warning.  It is caused by the overheating of the device and/or loose connections and there are a couple of quick D.I.Y fixes including the time-tested switch off and on again, as well as some less technical voodoo. However, if none of those do the trick then the system is rendered useless - an expensive plastic brick.
A fortnight ago the yellow light paid me a most unwelcome visit, resulting in my PS3 - a Japanese model from 2008, out of warranty and a long way from home - being scrapped. This initially resulted in some long overdue attention for my Xbox 360, though I eventually and reluctantly shelled out for a new PS3 Slim model a few days later. This was not the first time that I have bought a replacement console this generation, but hopefully it will be the last.
That day I had been…

Launch Day Line-ups – Weekly Recommendations 07/03 – 13/03

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Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own.Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
It’s a little known fact that all console and portable launch day line-ups are required, by law, to include a new Ridge Racer. The 3DS was no exception, being released a few days ago in Japan alongside eight titles, one of which was Ridge Racer 3D. Nintendo will be pleased with early reports showing that initial stock of the portable sold-out within hours, despite gamers complaining of 3D induced dizziness.

Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle was by far the most popular launch title (sorry Ridge Racer), being the most interesting of a typically vanilla bunch. By and large launch titles are rather forgetta…

My Ten Favourite Games in Ten Words

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When it comes to talking about video games I can get a little bit carried away, liable to ramble on for hours about the same game when chatting with like minded people. So I thought it would make a nice change, and provide a bit of a challenge, to write about my favourites in a more concise manner. Ten words for ten games, to be exact.

These are my ten favourite games of all time, dripping with nostalgia and seen through rose-tinted glasses. They are not necessarily my favourite games to play today - the current generation would dominate such a list - but are instead those that have shaped my first 20 years of gaming and left the biggest impression.

In alphabetical order, not of preference: