Monthly Update: March 2015

These monthly updates are a collection of extremely brief thoughts on the latest video games that I’m currently playing or have played in the past month. Explanation of the game’s story/gameplay are foregone in favor of quick impressions – these entries assume you have some knowledge of what the game is about, and if you want more info you can follow the included wiki link. Games are usually fairly recent although I throw a few retro games into the mix. I’ll also occasionally throw in games that I’m still playing but which I didn’t start during the month in question – for example, games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. I’ll try to do that when something else new comes out for those games to maintain relevance.

These are meant to be quick general thoughts, and not a substitute for a review. I’ve started an “enjoyment meter” where I state how much I’m enjoying the game from 1 to 10 in intervals of 0.5 – again, this is not meant to be an indicator of game quality, but just how much I enjoyed it (which I ultimately feel is the most important part of any game). I also include the price that I paid (I often buy games on sale), for those who aren’t familiar with approximate prices for each title. Finally, I designate a “Game of the Month.”

Games covered this month:
CounterSpy (PS4, Vita)
Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1 classic, Vita)
Republique (iOS)
Whoa Dave! (Vita)

Game of the Month: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1 classic, Vita)

CounterSpy ($7.50): 8

CounterspyFor being a fairly simple and linear stealth game, there’s a lot of character behind CounterSpy. The premise is simple: You move left to right through a facility during each level and have to disarm a bomb while finding launch plans. Yet the presentation offers enough unique qualities that mix up the formula in just the right way.

For example, you’re supposed to stop the launch of some bombs, but it’s not clear that any one side of the combat is “right” or “wrong.” While that sounds strange, it works really well alongside the game’s attempts at humor through banter between characters on the loadout screen and silly signs littered through the facilities that make up the world of this game. I never laughed out loud, but I was constantly smiling at the various instructions laid out for the workers at each facility.

The art style and direction mesh perfectly with what this game is trying to do. Not all games need to be epic open-world adventures – there are times where I just want to play through scripted levels with some fairly straightforward gameplay, and this scratched my itch for this type of game perfectly. It does have some issues which could be perceived as flaws, including its simplistic approach, short length, and seriously long loading screens, but none of those took away from a pleasurable experience for me. I really enjoyed playing through it, and I definitely recommend taking it out for a spin. I paid for it during a sale, but it’s currently free on Playstation Plus.

Bioshock Infinite ($13): 7

Read the full review.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ($5): 9

SOTN-screenshotThis game deserves every bit of hype that people throw at it. I know I’m quite late to the party with this one, but I just picked it up for the first time recently, and it’s truly an amazing experience.

It starts out frustrating, but once you get past some opening challenges and find some save points, you start realizing the vast scope of the world that you have to explore. There’s so much to do in this game that I easily could have spent several times as long as I did to complete the game just exploring different terrains. That includes – slight spoilers for a 20-year old game – an inverted version of the castle that you can explore after you’ve passed a certain part in the game, which in and of itself is a tremendous and noteworthy achievement.

My only small disappointment comes from not using typical Castlevania weapons; namely the standard Belmont whip. I always liked that component from the original games, as it made them feel different and unique. This game does have a neat range of weapons that comes along with its RPG framework, but I still miss the whip. Another minor complaint is that the voice acting is terrible, but you can’t expect miracles from these older games.

Whip issues aside, this game is really the complete package. It has a wide range of interesting and diverse enemies, beautiful environments, and solid progression systems. For a game from the mid-90’s, there’s a ton to see and explore in this trademark castle. The soundtrack sounds like a standalone album that could sell millions by itself; it’s that good. It’s challenging but feels fair, and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you progress past a difficult area or boss.

Regardless if you like RPGs, platformers, or adventure games, I highly recommend that you play this game.

Republique ($5): 5

RepubliqueWhen I read about this game, I immediately went out and bought it. I love the concept of dystopian futures where big brother governs all, and it looked brilliant. My initial excitement was quashed once I started playing.

I like the story. I wanted to hear more of it, but the gameplay, which tries to be inventive through its use of monitoring other rooms via a security camera system, just proved too frustrating for me to continue. I often had trouble getting my character to do what I wanted, leading at one point to my starting the game over to see if something had glitched in the load. It hadn’t.

Admittedly, I gave up on this game fairly quickly. When I actually did get something to work the way I intended, it wasn’t very rewarding and I just had to do a very similar action soon thereafter. This game didn’t grab me, so I moved on, but I think it has some potential for the right type of gamer. Give it a shot if you love these types of games (scouting ahead one area, and then moving your character accordingly), but just don’t expect too much.

Whoa Dave! ($5): 7

Whoa DaveMayhem. That’s about the only way to describe this game once you get past the first minute or two. Whoa Dave! is an incredibly simple concept for a game, but it’s really well constructed and does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Having tight and seemless gameplay is absolutely essential for this type of game to work, and thankfully they’ve done a great job with this one.

Things start off simple enough: Eliminate enemies by throwing something at them. As the level progresses, however, you can take your formula and plans and throw them out the window. Chaos quickly ensues as you’re hit with wave after wave of more and more enemies, not to mention environmental changes that keep you on your toes at all times.

Whoa Dave! is a quick and addicting little game where you want to pick up and play another game as soon as you fail so that you can redeem your failure. And fail you will – many, many times. But so long as you’re ok with frequent dying and edge of your seat concentration, then I definitely recommend giving it a spin. It’s free on PS Plus right now as well, so take advantage and get ready to die while having a blast.

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