Review: Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition

Only six months after the release of the full version of Mojang’s Minecraft on the PC, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, developed by 4J Studios in conjunction with Mojang and Microsoft Studios, was released for Xbox Live Arcade.

Minecraft is a 1st-person sandbox-building-survival game. You are placed in a world with nothing but a map and your bare hands. Luckily, just like in real life, your hands are powerful enough to break down wood from trees to begin crafting materials and tools. Initially, your goal is to gather materials and build shelter before nightfall when all sorts of baddies come out. However, Minecraft really shines with its unique ability to allow players to create practically anything they can imagine. Continue reading

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Review: Dear Esther

If ever there was an appropriate use of the phrase “hidden gem,” it is beyond a doubt in reference to the masterful remake of “Dear Esther” from indie developer thechineseroom & Robert Briscoe.  “Dear Esther” is a bold departure from the very fundamentals of what we know to be video games and is arguably the greatest example to date of how video games are indeed a new form of artistic expression.  The game abandons all notion of conflict, interaction and linear progression in favor of open-ended exploration punctuated by poignant storytelling and breathtaking visuals. Awakening on a rocky beach just before sunset at the foot of a towering lighthouse and a tower atop a cliff as the only indicator of where to go, the player begins the journey through “Dear Esther’s” narrative. Continue reading

Video Review: The Secret World – Part 1: First Impressions

The Secret World is an Massively Multiplayer Online game from Funcom and Electronic Arts that attempts to take everything you know about MMO games and toss it out the window.  Gone are the elves, orcs, goblins and what-have-yous.  “The Secret World” puts you in the shoes of an average person living in the modern world with a massive dose of the paranormal, weird, and straight-up creepy.  Also gone is the requirement that players increase in level by gaining experience.  In fact, there are no levels in this stage.  The experience you gain from playing the game goes directly into granting you new abilities to ward off evil. Continue reading

Day 6: Star Wars Episode I – Racer

While Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is quite maligned by hardcore and casual Star Wars fans alike, the film undeniably spawned a few surprisingly enjoyable licensed games. Unlike Jamie, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the Playstation 1 game inspired by the film of the same name. In fact, the only game based on the prequels which I enjoyed more was Star Wars Episode I: Racer, which was first released on the N64 in May 1999 and Dreamcast in April 2000 and then was reworked and fitted with replica podracer controls for the 2000 arcade release. Although the arcade version definitely gave me a greater appreciation for the game, I always found the controls a little too squirrelly. For my money, the N64 version was the ultimate version of this underappreciated gem.

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Day 4: The Phantom Menace – The Game

Let’s face facts here;  Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace spawned an unfathomable amount of content to promote the movie.  There were soda cans.  There were fast food commercials.  There were books.  There were games.  The list goes on and on and is seemingly endless.  The unfortunate result of a mediocre film flooding the market with promotional content is that, more often than not, the promotional content is just as bad, if not worse than the movie itself.  This is the case with The Phantom Menace: The Game that was released for the original Playstation and the PC.  Players took control of various characters from the film and played through key moments of the storyline.  Trying to imagine how a version of The Phantom Menace without the subpar performances and fart jokes could possibly be worse than the film is a little difficult, but it happened.  Read on to find out how.

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Day 3: The Force Unleashed

The grand Galactic Republic has fallen.  Chancellor Palpatine has declared himself Emperor and with his deadly servant, Jedi Knight turned Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, Palpatine has hurtled the galaxy into darkness, fear and despair.  Fast foward nearly two decades, shortly before the birth of the Rebel Alliance.  The Empire is flourishing under Palpatine’s rule and Darth Vader has grown ambitious.  Vader has trained an apprentice in secret; hidden from the watchful eyes of the Emperor.  His goal is to root out and eliminate the enemies of the Empire while at the same time drawing enough power to destroy the Emperor himself.  This is the foundation of LucasArt’s The Force Unleashed.  While the story is engaging, does the rest of the game rise to the call of delivering a powerful experience set in a virtually unexplored time period in the Star Wars universe?  Read on to find out.

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Day 2: Dark Forces

Oh my, where to begin.  Dark Forces is a Star Wars first person shooter (FPS) from Lucasarts that debuted in 1995 for PC, and was later released on the original Playstation.  The original game is set during and after the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, and tells the story of the mercenary, Kyle Katarn, in his quest to aid the Rebel Alliance in their struggle against the Empire and their Dark Trooper campaign.  Dark Forces spawned several incredible sequels that span the length of the latter half of the Star Wars saga.  .  The Dark Forces saga is one of the most highly acclaimed video game franchises  of all time, and has spawned a community of fiercly loyal fans that are still active almost 17 years after the original game’s release.

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