God of War Chains of Olympus

March 15, 2008 by  
Filed under PSP, Reviews

God of War Chains of Olympus, is the exclusive prequel to the God of War series on the Playstation 2. Even though the original series was a SCEA Montana project, the PSP game has been developed by Ready at Dawn studios, the same guys who did the award winning JAX game on the PSP. Handing over the reigns of such a mammoth franchise to another developer might seem worrying, but it’s apparent that the trust has paid off.

Before we begin the tale of the Chains of Olympus, here’s a reiteration of what sets the story to the entire series. God of War is about Kratos (power – Greek), a general in the forces of the Spartan army. He followed orders of the Gods of Olympus (Zeus and family), killed many and established the Olympian way of things – no objectivism. He was ruthless in his ways with years of bodies and blood behind him and a penchant of doing the impossible, he had become cold and as pale as death itself, hence very aptly named, the Ghost of Sparta. The Gods obviously figured the need of such an avid worshipper, and he was soon hailed as the Champion of the Gods. For every problem that the Gods had in this world which was worth killing for, Kratos was put to service.

Not to establish any spoilers, in the first two parts of the series, Kratos is seen fighting for the Gods then later to become a God, and then afterwards to kill the God and be the ultimate supreme power. What actually unfolds in the series is for you to experience and find out, but what makes Kratos the Champion of the God’s is reiterated in this prequel.

Kratos only wanted one thing in life, to forget his past. His sins had been forgiven since he served the Gods but they never took away the reminiscences of the death of innocent people that he had caused, more so of his own wife and daughter. The game sets from the point where Kratos had already received the Blades of Chaos (enchained to his arms by the God of War, Ares) and also murdered his family and desperately wanted to get rid of the memories he had of them. Surely, the Gods had other things planned for him.

While he slaughtered the Persian Basilisk to hell (the first level), something more sinister brew in the skies, as Helios (aka SUN) came pelting down to Earth and into the Underground. Soon enough the world was covered with darkness of Morpheus (God of Dreams) and the Gods commanded Kratos to save the mankind from extinction. They required Kratos to pull the Chariot of Helios across the sky again; for if he completes the task, his sins would be forgiven and his past forgotten.

Keeping true to the story, there are a number of settings for the game. From the hills of Persia to the bowels of the earth, however most of the game is set in the Underworld, ruled by Hades where the God of Death and After life has enchained Titans to his will to hold the entire earth on their shoulders. Some of the more memorable settings include the Groves of Persephone (The wife to Hades and the Queen of the Underworld) where you need to kill souls to regain your powers and the Temple of Helios, which included some mega structures and lightning effects from the sun itself.

All said and done, most of the game’s soul lies in the combat system and this had been a very critical area when GOW COO was in production. The unavailability of a secondary analogue stick and the R2 L2 buttons looked like things could get quite out of hand but surprisingly they don’t. To roll now, you use R and L button together with the analogue, and it actually works better over the course of the game as you realize that since you’re already pressing the analogue button in the required direction, you don’t need to particularly think about where you need to roll, where as if you had another analogue stick you’d need to worry about which side you’re rolling on. Secondly since your thumb never moves from the face buttons it is easy to pull off a very quick attack after the roll. The lack of secondary shoulder buttons actually made it easier to access your magical powers, since now they’re all mapped to the face button and R in congruency. R + Triangle would unleash the Efreet (a Persian fire technique), R+Square would unleash the powers of light etc.

God of War Chains of Olympus Demo Impressions

October 22, 2007 by  
Filed under Features, PSP

Naah I am just messing with you. None would want a friendly Kratos, now would you?

If you had been lucky enough to find or import a God of War II disc you’d have already seen the COMING SOON on the ‘other leaflet’ included in the box. Even otherwise they had been pumping the whole thing up very much for some time and now that it is dated in March (fingers crossed) they sent out a tentative demo disc to all Underground registered users. We had a few importing issues but we’re here and we’ve played that too and listened to the sound track, seen the commentary walkthrough of the ATTICA and we’re certainly looking forward. Here’s our side of story if you don’t mind.

The game starts with as much ease as anything on the PSP no hiccups. The first screen meets with the customary half face zoom in likewise the first GOD OF WAR. Very nostalgic but there’s a slight feeling here that Kratos isn’t as dark and as pissed as he used to look. Start on though and those worries would wipe off your fro, like you wipe a fly off your nose.

The first phase of clearing and swiping sees a very PART 1 feel where you’re fighting on board of a ship only this time it’s on top of a Greek building. Movement stick is the analog and very responsive. I personally was worried about the analog stick but I must say it’s really precise for itself.  Using the customary square and circle and triangle you can pretty much nail the whole thing. Then also the L1 and attack is very much working and very clearly those level 1 upgrades of blade swinging like fans on the top of your head is there as stock. The red orbs were there but we couldn’t use them on the start menu since that was not available for the demo which is fair enough, no grudges there, we’d like the new moves to be kept secret.

In the background you can see a significant amount of chaos going on and arrows flying. It’s that where you realize that this scene is the depiction of the 300 scene of the boats rising up to the Empire of the Spartans and trying to reach ashore. On the side, Kratos finds a big Cross bow lit with fire to engulf a whole ship and guess what?! You shoot one at sea to blow the booms of a sail.

Kratos climbs down and you meet another regular bunch, but once you’re clear of that and move to the gate of that building, the one eyed monster, Mr. Cyclops bursts in with a stone pillar as a club to bash Kratos’s shiny bald. You do your button mashing of the circle button to push that pillar back onto him and as soon as he stumbles backwards he’s swallowed by a Basilisk. Now this Basilisk is not as human sized as the one you’ve seen the son of the captain take down with a single arrow to his eye, in 300. This guy’s huge as a fort … well, almost.

This becomes a very similar instance to the first game where you fight the dragon in the mouth of a door way for the first time. You do just that and here is where you learn how to roll. You press both R and L shoulder buttons and move the stick to either side to roll. It obviously takes some time to get used to. Clear him, dodge roll, hit and repeat, but he’ll escape and you’ll find him climbing a wall to break into the city.

Kratos follows his lead, bashes a few more dudes, swings his blades of chaos breaks a door get’s a check point, clears more bow and arrow dudes, clears more bad guys, opens a door with a small rotate-that-stick-to-open-a-door puzzle and you’re finally facing the boss. A Persian servant to the Lord who’s come to take over the Roman Empire. This is your first boss battle I believe and pretty much feels like one with foot soldiers every now and then and the Persian bearded guy trying to break you. Like all boss sequences you get him in a trance towards the end and do some context sensitive kicking butt and then finally mash circle and break his head with a black box. You also get your first magic here and a nice COMING SOON right after that.

Phew! What a ride! The most awesome fact is that it still retains the whole GOW feel so well that it doesn’t feel different on the PSP at all. I am not much of a roll user anyways (I like to jump) so it just felt seamless and made for the PSP. Also the frame rates were top notch and it was really wonderful to see the details tweaked. The blood stays the gore looks brilliant, the lanterns swayed when the Basilisk attacked, the fires blew out sparks and it was cool of them not to use undead monsters but actual foot soldiers. However even when I didn’t want Kratos to change I did want newer enemies which was not the case except for the two bosses we saw.  They just had skin over the undead and they did the exact same thing. In any case the game looks very ultra uber sweet (excuse my fanboism) and we are glad that the emotional connection has not been lost. Kratos has in no way gone sweeter but yes he’s not as dark and in the small amount of dialogue it seems he is not overly consumed by power and loyal to his masters. This is definitely an interesting chapter in Kratos’s life and a game that is looking up to be a must buy!

Arabian Lords

September 16, 2007 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

Holding the box in my hand, the packaging resembled more so of a book than anything else. Then I noticed another thing, PC CD ROM. In the age of HD DVD’s it is an odd choice to go two generations back and that itself raised a skeptical eye within my head. Then again I had to clear my mind and come from a point where no one else has officially come from. An exclusive game for the middle eastern region being made by a renowned developer; Breakaway games (Civilisations Expansion Packs), and an entrepreneurial effort by Quirkat Games (Kuwait Jordan based (thanks Eyas for pointing that out!) software development company) and it’s even been doctored for this part of the world; that in itself is a risk only the brave can take. Talking about what should’ve been done and can be done to an Arab title is a totally different topic. Hereon we shall only target the game and familiarize with the concepts and gameplay of Arabian Lords aka Saada As Sahra!

Prince of Persia 1.3 anyone?

It took almost no time for the game to extract and install and I was never met with any epic music or splash screens, very simply the install button and the quit. Double clicking the Play icon and you’re given a choice of Arabic or English. This is pivotal as the rest of the game is totally done in that language. This is where the game is, well really any different from others in the market at the moment. In game sounds may be the only thing similar to either language selection. Not good at Arabic, I went ahead with English and a very jaggy, Breakaway Games logo presented itself. Then we see an entrance to an arch way very similar to the first Prince of Persia on Microsoft 1.3, and in almost the same texture and color pallet. There begins the story of a weary traveler (which is yourself); they brief you exactly why Bedouins are essential for trade through the oasis, how powerful the Islamic Empire has become; and in the 13th Century, you being a trader shall have to prove your name amongst the dwellers of the desert and eventually be strong enough to defy the Mongolians, who are basically the barbarians for the deserted side of the world.

The whole of the introduction is in form of paintings being zoomed in and out. The next screen is a very basic Visual Basic Background done with a few buttons. You create a profile and start off the first of the two tutorials. The location is Basarah and the purpose is the introduction of the controls and the menus and the rest of the necessary stuff. In fact not necessary but obligatory, and it’s more or less a guided tour of the mission. It gives you exactly 5 workers who you can move about, but it also tells you where to plot them and how to use them for that particular mission. It’s a breeze going through it but you’ll need to follow each and every step, or else the dialogue box will keep popping up like those internet advertisement. Each of the steps are dialogued as well as audible and for any new comer to RTS this is an ideal start.

Moving to the 2nd tutorial and you’ll be guided further about the classes of workforces, what unlocks them, trade types, Vizier and Guard Chief, etc. The bummer is however, that it’ll leave you at a certain point and if you hadn’t been paying attention, you’re lost. I know I wasn’t, so I had to redo the whole mission and go through the extensively long dialogue and speeches another time.

Now there are two sides to this; the better one first and the downers will have a dedicated section. You’re lost because the game play is very deep. Most of your missions include, building up X number of resources or X control or X population or X territories, so on and so forth. That said, it takes a lot of work and contemplation to make the right decisions at the right time (just like any RTS). Since you’re a civilization and a new trader, it’s natural that you’re not allowed to go all out war to gain control of neighbouring territories for most of the game. You have guards who shall look out for you and the rest is basically handled by how skilled your workers are.

Supermarket in those days!

Areas are divided in districts which you shall have access to and if they are neutral, two of your apprentices can make it into their own. The district types include, Residential, Agricultural, Industrial and Commercial all serving their respective purposes of population, food, money, goods and imports. There is also a main Palace which can be used to deploy more workers and apprentices and install more specific buildings, such as Science Halls, Libraries and Baths.

Crush

August 16, 2007 by  
Filed under PSP, Reviews

Crush or Curse, do none of those to your sexually appealing but extremely modest PSP. Modest cause well, it hasnt had anything great on it flying through lately, unless ofcourse the Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops is your kind of thing. If you’re already tired of that here’s another mind boggler; in fact, a shape shifting mind boggler, brought to you by Sega. It is wonderful to see that developers are taking chances and trying original stuff exclusive for the PSP and the game in question; CRUSH; proves how enjoyable good ideas can be.

If you havent already heard, Crush is a platformer at its core. Mr Danny is a great chef, but recently, the world’s not the same. His insomnia has taken its toll on him and he finds himself in the ultra clean hallways of a psychiatric ward. Here you are planted under C.R.U.S.H. (hence the name), a machine that allows you to manually tackle problems inside your brain. So eventually you’re untieing knots while inside Danny’s head. However, here’s the twist; C.R.U.S.H is not just any machine, and it understands that a brain is a very complex human organism. To conquer the treacherous territories of the human mind, CRUSH gives the user a 3-Dimensional, as well as 2-Dimensional views at the same time.

In simpler terms, when you tap the shoulder buttons the platform crushes and uncrushes into the desired way. For example, if you see a platform raised high which you cannot jump to in 2D you can Uncrush the environment to become 3D, press the up button on the D-Pad to go to top down view and then finally press the shoulder button to crush back into 2D so that the platform comes on level with your current platform; then just walk up.

It’s a fact that this is not the first time a 2-D to 3-D conversion has been implemented. However as far as the core gameplay mechanics go, this is essentially the bread and water of CRUSH. Unlike Paper Mario, this is absolutely required at all times in Crush and is implemented in more than one way; as in from any side you may like. Then again there are areas that you cannot crush and blocks that you cannot stand on when you are crushed. Also you have hidden beasts (which are basically giant and very extremely ugly cockroaches) lurking around which need to be killed using the Crush mechanism and that is grossly satisfying. There is also a clock; if it is activated you need to switch off the alarm before it wakes you up. All of this adds a further edge of challenge into the game.

For replayability, theres an addition of Trophies you can collect when a star point is available and also puzzle pieces which unlock extra content. Collecting Trophies unlocks the Trophy mode which is basically challenging yourself to finish an already completed level with a limited number of moves or time constraints, etc. Essentially though, your main aim is to collect marbles and once you reach a set number per level you advance to the next stage through a gutter like portal. And as you creep up this adventure, you’re given insight as to why Danny’s being such a mad man.

The fun meter however is directly proportional to how the level has been designed for a game such as Crush which is almost completely enviroment driven. And it does boil down to that, fortunately for Sega’s sake its usually very well done. We say usually because very randomly it’ll throw a level at you which will probably fry your own brain before you could even think about Mr. Danny’s pink glob. However, apart from the painstakingly tough levels; (which you might get around using a FAQ, or might as well burn half your brain trying to understand that alone) the game’s a real treat for people who are even partially interested in some puzzle fun.

From a graphical and audio stand point the game doesnt pull any rabbit out of it’s sleeve, let alone Danny’s head (although that’d be cool too). From the looks of it, it does have a very Psychonauts feel, with the twirls, the psychology and definitely the purples and greens. The environment could’ve been made brighter, but I am guessing that’s how a cook’s mind looks like after years of fungus-ide food. They say he was good though, but that aside, there’s alot of feeling of a looser who’s trying to be cocky and doesnt like any change. Sound wise the game does well to bring about the emotions and situations. The tutorial specifically is very well done and achieves a good explanation with onscreen and audio guidlines as well as story back grounds. Most of the game’s story take’s place in pictures so that’s not saying much for any cut scenes or sequences.

In all, Crush is definitely a one of a kind games for the PSP. Nothing like it yet for the PSP and being the first it is surprisingly very stable and a great addition to the PSP’s humble collection of great games.

Ratchet and Clank Size Matters

June 12, 2007 by  
Filed under PSP, Reviews

One of Insomniac’s reason’s to be proud is the Ratchet and Clank series so hugely popular on the PlayStation 2 and many me regard it as some of the best platformers for the system. So when they finally announced something for the PSP too, many fingers were getting excited.

Ratchet and Clank Size Matters, stars our beloved lombax (that’s some animal) and its robot handy man in yet another crazy scenario on the PSP.

When an enthusiastic fan girl is mysteriously abducted and an extremely high tech gizmo which is hard to find is strewn in the worlds like stones on a rocky shore, something’s really wrong. This is where Ratchet and Clank step up to unscrew some bolts.

At the core of the game it’s a basic platformer which loves to shuffle up things here and there. That in fact is one of the reasons why it keeps the player so hooked to itself, because of its nature of throwing varieties of scenarios, environments and even game play elements for you to play through. Since most of us have extremely short attention spans, this works out really well to keep us from getting bored and for the game to develop in a non linear fashion. Some of the more interesting side games are the hoverboard racing which sports Ratchet on a skate-board like thing that floats (hence the name) and you lap around a track full of obstacles and speed boosters. Another fun event is the space shooting which features Clank blasting off colorful smoke and sparks into crappy space ships.

All of these side elements are carefully crafted into the game to make them worthy of doing atleast once. By that I don’t mean its not fun to do them again. In fact you can keep doing it over and over to get better at the ranks and the rather different control scheme that they use than your conventional shooters or racers. The only problem is that the AI seems imbalanced. Specially in the race games where as soon as you’re down the board your rivals float by you like they were right at your heel, where as when you crossed them some 30 minutes ago, they were slower than your standard speed.

In any case that is not the main secret behind Ratchet and Clank’s extreme success. The recognition is more to do with the weaponry and boy does it have truck load of those. Some of the wackiest and most bizarre guns and weapons are present along with the clunky cool conventional stuff. The cool stuff includes a Lacerator, which is a Laser gun, a concussion gun, which is a shotgun, a rocket launcher and a hook which can be used on to latch something or just for plain melee attacks. The crazy stuff includes a water sprayer, an acid bomb, mini robot like things that attack your enemies etc. The latter are varyingly useful at different points as compared to the usual arsenal. For eg the water spraying flask can be used on designated plants which grow into a useful platforming element (like a trampoline, or they’ll throw fruits which can break walls etc) in different locations. However stuff like acid bombs may be used to get rid of foes over a large area.

Using more of each weapon enhances them and thereby upgrades them to a more powerful or advanced type. For instance, the rocket launcher becomes more hurting and so on. Otherwise, you can buy the upgrades at different points in the game in exchange of the scrap metal you collect after blowing up your foes.

Lumines II

February 19, 2007 by  
Filed under PSP, Reviews

It’s a wonder when your highly advanced, uber-sexy, sleek and ultimately next gen handheld console’s best game ever, (not counting GTA) is a puzzle game. Lumines won the hearts of millions around the globe with some of the most engaging puzzle game play we’ve had, I dare say, since the emergence of TETRIS.

Likewise, the basic concept is similar, break the bricks and score the points. A block of 2 by 2 bricks falls from the top of the screen which has all of its 4 bricks colored. There are only 2 colors per level. You press X to re arrange the block in the color combination you like and land them in such a way that they form another 2 by 2 on the floor, but of a single color. You can string that further to form 2 by 3’s 4’s 7’s etc to gain extra combo points. These single colored squares now formed get highlighted and a time line moving from the right side of the screen towards the left takes them off your screen, in-turn giving you the points you have earned and the much needed space you need for the game to carry on. As for the combo’s you could string the squares as stated above or some of the other score hoarders include single color combo, where you should have only one color of blocks remaining on the floor, or the no blocks combo, where the floor is empty. The best assistance however is provided by the star block. If you get it connected into a square all the similar colored blocks connected to it will automatically disappear when the time line swipes and this can be a major life saver at critical times.

Thus was the brief summary of what the game already did when it debuted round about the time of the PSP. Come 2006 and the game does just that, only in a more mainstream way.

A big chunk of the success story for Lumines original was the awesome music. Starting off with the Super Shining of the techno culture of Asia, the game really pulled you into all its fitting ‘shine’. The back grounds were semi-animated and the game play was glittered with lights, bright, and neon Tokyo. It had an immense ultra futuristic feel which it still retains but not completely.

By going mainstream we imply that the sound tracks have gone to the Top of the Pops section. You got the likes of Gwen Stefani and Black Eyed Peas playing to the brick breaking and that also includes the animated back grounds which means you’ll be able to see their whole ‘respective’ (pun intended) song videos. This is in many ways a hindrance to the game play as not only are you disturbed with a million weird colors (specially Gwen’s bright video with white and purple blocks) but also the asset thrusting that may occasionally catch your eye through the checkered mess on the fore ground.

‘Every press music’, or EPM as we would like to term it, is that every time you press the button there is a syllable that you can hear with it and its available on all these songs. Pleasantly surprising is the fact that it feels very well meshed into the track which is a wonderful achievement in itself. All said and done this does not mean that all the music has become pop, as 60% of the beat set is still your favorite funky house and Korean techno mixes all inclusive with the EPM.

Some of the newer additions that have been put in place is the ability to choose your difficulty level. Which apart from the difficulty also enables you to unlock different songs and skins on each separate difficulty. Speaking of skins, and you got loads of them to unlock to play later on, which you can also string into a play list of skins. Or better yet, create your own skin and music to the game and play as you like.

The CPU mode and the Multiplayer are pretty much the same where similar to the previous version you need to build your space and blow off the opponents. The screen’s divided into to halves so each time you break your bricks depending on the score both of the players make in one shot, the game moves the divider from the middle of the screen towards the lesser scorer, thereby crushing it until he exceeds his limit of holding the blocks and looses them.

Another cool mode’s the mission mode. Somewhat similar to the puzzle mode it is actually very objective. Such as you need to clear the blocks in ‘x’ amount of time or fill in the whole screen in ‘xx’ amount of time. And is not mighty difficult either, apart from being tones of fun. Puzzle mode on the other hand remains unchanged, and you still need to make a dog out of the blue blocks and a flower out of the pink ones and it really isn’t that bad. Also the game includes a packed in demo of the Every Extend Extra game, the game cover of which is extremely inviting.

All in all the Lumines will still glue you for hours once you start. The funk, the soul, the game and the sparkle is all there and it’s all working. The only problem is that it may not be worth another buy, unless you’re part of the pop culture peeps who haven’t tried the first one yet, or you like Top of the Pops and would break bricks to them than dance, or you have sworn your soul to be a fanboi who’ll get it nonetheless. I shall place myself in the last category and I can vouch for the bucket loads of fast paced finger funky and ear pleasing fun I am having, despite the fact that LII has swallowed the pop pill.

Mortal Kombat Unchained

December 24, 2006 by  
Filed under PSP, Reviews

Mortal Kombat is one of the few arcade fighters that actually have some vague and outrageously wild story line and more surprisingly, a cult following for the same. What got me hooked onto the MK series were the characters back in the days of the Sega Mega Drive. They looked like photographs of real people pasted on animated cell blocks. It was all too cool back then, and in time Midway has realized that real is out and ugly looking unreal is in.

To test it on the cool meter, Midway has launched the Mortal Kombat Deception on to the PSP by the name of Unchained. Now whether this name change is a market strategy to fool the ignorant or just a way of adding some arguably fun content, is yet to tell, but over all the game sprouts out of MK:Deception and it even starts with the same cutscene.

Only rendered far better than before and you’ll like Quan Chi and Shang Tsung looking and fighting smooth with Raiden. You can clearly make out the advancement in CG once you open up the Krypt in the main menu and check out the older animated opening sequence.

Yeah so, Onaga has come back to the Outworld, and he’s ready to take his position as the supreme and some dark lurking figure says, ‘I have taken him out, and only I can get him back’. That said, you fight up the patent Mortal Kombat ladder and kick immense butt of your foes in the main arcade competition to finally reach the penultimate ‘Noob Smoke’ and ultimate Onaga. Why I specifically mentioned ‘noob smoke’ is the fact that he is excruciatingly painful to kill and the feeling is reflective on your fingers. Smoke’s become a duo and also earned itself a permanent spot on the ladder; it plays like Tekken Tag, only it also has all its previous powers which includes disappearing and reappearing behind you.

The similarities in the arcade section are exact, except for an added endurance round in the PSP version; which like its name sake is basically putting you up against number of foes without any life replenish as in normal rounds. The fighter’s list has been increased with the likes of Jax and Kitana in the roster. Each of the character’s have the same three stance fighting techniques with the last one allowing the fighter to wield specific weapons to fight with. Even more interesting are the multi-tier levels which allow you to throw your opponent through a roof and play on to the lower floor. Other levels even have the option of a single step kill, whereby you ring-out your opponent into spikes or fire etc. All of this, along with character specials and fatalities, is potential for some good engrossing and lengthy fighting experience which provides more incentive to play all the players, than an ending cut-scene.

Nevertheless, as lovely and feature packed as this may seem, some horrendous control issues plague the combats and make it a not-so-very-worthwhile-experience. With the amount of accuracy and timeliness required to perform the right moves and the specials the game is hardly any help in the area. More so is evident once you play the Konquest mode, which is more like an open world yet scripted third person game based on the tyrannies of Shang Tsung and how your character, is hell bent to learn the martial arts and defeat the sorcerer.

Project Gotham Racing 3

November 18, 2006 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

PGR has been a benchmark in the racing genre for the many years that the original Xbox lasted, so to come up with a truly next-gen sequel to an already major franchise and at the same time taking the lead in games for Microsoft’s latest console venture; the task on Bizzare Creations shoulder was huge. They had the game plan and the best thing to do would be to utilize the abilities of the new machine and enhance the experience, and PGR3 does just that. In simple terms, its racing perfection, for those who’d like to play for fun, yet keep the challenge gripped tightly to the tarmac.

The premise of the game is merely to buy cars, race on tracks, complete objectives, climb up the rankings, until you’re no.1 or just run out of races. Playing the single career mode takes you from city to city competing in challenges which previous PGR players may be familiar with. Before starting each race, you can buy a car, or select a car from your garage and select a difficulty level (based on which your award money changes). These moneys aka CR can be used to purchase cars , and any near to normal racing car enthusiast shall be able to do good as well as earn well playing at Medium level difficulty.

The other element that forms part of the games scoring system is the Kudos. Fans would remember that this is kind of like your stunt meter. Every time you turn a corner, every time and any time you skid or may be unintentionally pull off something sweet or just fly your car up a bump you get Kudos points. If strung together well, these can create big combos and earn you multiple Kudos. Naturally if you fail to pull off your stunt and slam, your score is not counted for a few seconds (and all your strung combo is automatically negated).

PGR3 utilizes these elements as well as the almighty time in excellent conglomeration. Apart from your simple point to point races and Hot Laps where you need to reach a point before time runs out, the Kudos system helps bring in some twist to your normal road grilling. One such race is the Cone race where you need to pass a sufficient number of cones safely and speedily enough to score Kudos points and reach the finish line in time. The difficulty is increased when just passing through them is not enough, you need to pull of extra stunts to be able to reach the target Kudos points.

In another race you need to beat the clock, but it is most certainly impossible to finish the track in the given time. Here you need to stop the clock and your Prince of Persia stunt is only pulled off when you work out some deadly Kudos earning stunts. Each time you do that the clock is stopped and you get that much closer to the deadline.

You do all this and more in some of the most amazing petrol hogging ladies in the world, from the past as well as the future. There is a plethora of cars available for any one’s driving pleasure from the McLaren SLR to the Lamborghini Countach and Ford GT to Honda NSX. And all of that can be bought easily as the race winnings are really rich. Some might go up to over 600,000 CR and stuff, but most of the good looking and riding babies are affordable. The concept cars however are only unlocked after you’ve accumulated some amount of Kudos. The best thing however is the fact that you can test drive each car before going on to race with them. Thereby, I declined my Mc Laren SLR thanks to its extremely crazy handling round the corners as the tail just loved to run to the crowds.

Gradius Collection

November 9, 2006 by  
Filed under PSP, Reviews

Just as the world moves ahead to plunge into an obfuscating wonderland of Next Gen Electronics, our oldest buddies in the game industry take a step back in time and resonate a nostalgia so good its gamegasmic!

Say hello to Gradius Collection on the Playstation Portable, reincarnated by none other than our beloved, Konami. The collection includes full length games dating to the first ever Gradius made in 1985, when UAE was still thirteen years old, and we were even younger.

Incase some of you were never born before then; Gradius was the game that defined a genre of games to follow. The inevitable side scrolling phenomenon evolved here; and the clichéd nerdy story put you in the cockpit of the Vic Viper. Vic Viper was the space craft protagonist of the game defying alien invasion and the only hope for mankind. Very simply though, your level continuously moves towards the right and you control a small plane like thing, shooting pixels at any and everything that you think may come in your path to save the universe.

If at all, the aforementioned may have concluded anything about the game; it sure helps you to understand where the game story writers get inspiration from, even now. Moving on to the collection, it’s got five Gradius titles, including Gradius Gaiden; probably the most diversified and popular Gradius to date; also the most enjoyable one amidst the others on the UMD. 

Namely, the roster includes Gradius I, II, III, IV and Gaiden for the games bit. The game is best enjoyed if you play it up the actual timeline and wow yourself at the improvements in the level design, the intensity of the game and the wonderful boss fights. I mean where else will you be fighting a fiery flying flame throwing Cock in the middle of the galaxy?

What sets this game apart from other side scrollers is the immense and immersive detail in the level designs which only gets better as you move from Gradius I to Gradius Gaiden. You have levels that not only move sideways but even up and down (Gradius II is absolutely stunning at that), and they just concrete on the hours of work put into the game even if all of the stuff is scripted. The games also includes special boss fights in the same level; for instance if you move into the upper area of the game, you’ll face another boss than the one you would have faced if you had gone through the lower vicinity.

Apart from the boss fights even your normal foes are remarkably challenging and innovative. Higher levels will see you being attacked by behind and they’d disappear and come again forming into different objects. There are similarities in the enemies between all of the Gradius, for example you’ll see suns spitting out dragons in Gradius II and you’ll see the same suns only this time they are colored like mercury in Gradius III. But that’s the least of your worries, and it only makes you sharper and better at killing them.

Most importantly though, it’s the option based power ups that makes the game all that different from so many of the others out there. It lets you decide which power-up you want to use when you collect them by blasting certain enemies (hint: ‘they are usually orange colored space-crafts or a chock full together). So as you squeeze through tiny gaps and shoot through the foes, you should also keep an eye open for the bar in your left corner and see whether you need a speed up or a dual shooter, or perhaps a laser beam. My personal favorite is an ‘Option’ where there appears a heavenly light, which helps you in your adventure and shoots exactly what you do and this can be very helpful in most of the situations when they come at you from every corner of the 16:9 screen of the PSP.

Speaking of which, you can play this game in both the original resolution as well as zoomed in PSP screen size. It’s definitely more fun being close to the action as the original aspect ratio can make things even smaller than they were in the first place. But then again, moving into more crowded environments, there is definitely a drop in the frames to quiet a considerable extent. Much like something that will be expensed with the life of your fighter, as the game slows down and your jet becomes some what unresponsive.

Nevertheless, the unresponsiveness of the jet is not entirely due to the lag but the game has indeed got some controlling issues; especially once you’re up the speed gear. You can use both the D-Pad and the analog stick to steer the Vic Viper and the others through the game but it will become apparent that the game lacks a perfect balance in the controls department; the stick being over done and the D-pad being as lousy as we’ve come to see from the PSP. There isn’t much that can be done for that bit, than to try again; and it’s seriously worth doing stuff again.

Another slight problem with the game is the difficulty curve, its very steep! Gradius III can be absolutely punishing that even the most masochists of all players would be troubled. I had been playing a Gaiden level which had a 20 second stretch and I couldn’t complete for two hours; do the math and calculate my suffering. It is really this acute challenge and the frustration that might hamper your enjoyment of the game for sometime, but you will be back if you’ve got a thirst for challenges.

There is only a small amount of difference in terms of what you can do in all of the five games in the pack, Gaiden being more creative than others. In Gaiden you can select the order of specials you require and also choose between four different space crafts (as opposed to only Vic Viper in the rest) with varied shooting styles. Each one of them can be handy in different areas and since you aren’t slotting any penny in the machine you can change into them once your credit wastes off; and start from the same place in the level. Relative to the same ease, is the save system, which works like any other save system on any other game. Only this one allows you to save in the middle of an ongoing space race, and it’s extremely essential for pick and play the PSP is actually meant for.

No collection pack is ever complete without some collectibles and Konami does no mistake to add them. Added is a gallery which includes cut scenes from the game’s intro videos which look a lot like what we used to fantasize how games should appear, back then. More exciting are the music clips in original 16 bit sounds from the game which can be a historic audiophile’s heart beat to say the least. They are downright pleasing to the ears and provide the apotheosis the game so deservedly earns. All said and done, Gradius Collection is a retro phenomenon almost equivalent to the feat it was back in the days. If you want to suck up to some retro coolness and re-experience an old but thoroughly refreshing adrenaline, Gradius Collection is the way to go.

The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning

October 28, 2006 by  
Filed under General, Reviews

For people who have played the Spyro series from its birth in the Playstation days, they would probably rate it amongst the best platformers at its age and time. It had tough competition from Ratchet and Crash too, but it just found its own place to breathe (fire) and made for some remarkably entertaining game play.

Enter the now last generation, it’s been hard for Spyro to glide, let alone fly. The latest addition to the title seeks to add fresh air into the shimmering glory of the legendary dragon.

In The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning, Spyro’s parents reveal to him that he is not their actual child, and infact not a dragon fly, but a DRAGON (surprise, surprise). Simultaneously a Dark Dragon is taking over Spyro’s homeland and in a mixed attempt to save his new found land and discover his identity, the game plays the adventures of Spyro’s journey, quests and battles.

Playing in a typical third person style the game rides along a slower than natural pace, something which seems to be aimed for the younger audience. Yet at the same time, the buttons seem less responsive and the camera controls specially in closed areas totally mess up. Other than that and the flying levels there is not much problem with the control scheme.

The combat system is revamped and includes lots of additions. You collect power ups to use them similar to God of War and upgrade your abilities and moves. This time Spyro can flame throw, wave wings to blast away enemies (even when they are so small) and basically a lot of dashing and fire blowing moves are included. However as you progress you’ll find out that there isn’t much variety that is thrown your way, in terms of moves and combat techniques.

The game looks pretty good for itself and in fact some of the areas are very well detailed and the mini bosses really well made. Specially when you are burning so much the burnt out matter seems to be doing alright and it doesn’t drop any frame rate.

Moving to sound the voice acting is pretty good. You’ve got names like Elijah Wood talking for Spyro so it’s definitely well done. However at the same time, there isn’t any good dialogue other than knowing ways and procedures and an occasionally WOAH!? So that basically doesn’t effect that much, infact you wont even realize unless you’re paying attention – which you wont and the kids don’t. Nevertheless, the music is extremely well done and fitting to the atmosphere.

All said and done the game’s pretty much an average thing, nothing over the top and not a complete flop either. The younger audience might get hooked onto it, but the hardcore platforming champs would probably whine at the lack luster gameplay the Legend of Spyro : A New Beginning brings.

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