#Quickie: Battleblock Theater (XBLA)

Somewhere along the way, platformer games and I had some kinda falling out. After Super Mario World on the SNES they just never had that same appeal for me. With the exceptions of a few very innovative titles like Braid or Limbo I for the most part don’t seek these games out. However, there was one that I was hearing quite a good deal about and saw a lot of my friends playing it. It was the new game from Behemoth Studios: BattleBlock Theater. So being the credible and respectable game critic that I am (false), I knuckled under and gave it a shot.

The general jist of the story is you (the player character) and your friends go on a sailing trip on a “friend-ship” seeking adventure with best friend to one and all: Hatty Hattington. On the trip the boat is caught in a storm and is shipwrecked on a seemingly abandoned island. All of your friends are taken captive by the inhabiting cats, and Hatty is given a possessed top hat that takes control of him. In order to survive and escape, you are put through the many fatal trials of Battle Block Theater for the amusement of the cats.

Like most platformers, the objective is to get from point A to point B.  To unlock the exit you need to collect at least 3 gems and there are up to 7 gems and a ball of yarn in each level. The faster you complete it and collect everything the better your rank is. Most of the levels are pretty tightly contained, and I found myself breezing through the beginning stages of it. But as you play through, more and more block types are introduced throughout. Some of them bounce you like a pinball, some of them make you slide, some explode under you, some shoot lasers, some disappear for a few seconds.

Rage Quitter - BattleBlock Theater - Time Trial

But what I liked the most about it and probably the big selling point for me from a gameplay stance is the emphasis on perfection and speed. Needing to tear through levels at breakneck pace and solve puzzles as you do it made the game a very entertaining experience for me. The first few levels you just rip through but as the game’s layouts get more complex you really need to take a second to plan a few jumps ahead or it quickly becomes a mess of trial and error. But that fun kind of trial and error where you go. “Well shit, that didn’t work, maybe if go about it this way….”

Perhaps the best thing though, is the absolutely hilarious narration that takes place during the game. Our unnamed narrator in between stages delivers a form of paper cut out puppet show that explains the story and history of Battleblock Theater. It’s so sporatic and off the wall that it pretty much got me to laugh every time. During gameplay he will also make sarcastic comments at you while you play and collect things. He also has a very  “Still Alive” moment after you complete the game that I thoroughly enjoyed. The trailer {See below} features a song I loved so much its probably the main reason I purchased the game (and also made a ringtone of it).

There is also a series of co-op and multiplayer maps as well.  I didn’t get the opportunity to play the co-op maps but I have been told that the puzzles change to requires two people to complete them, a la Portal 2 for example. There is also a handful of vs modes like basketball, king of the hill, capture the horse (flag), and a classic beat em up to name a few. All of these can produce extra gems for you collect which you can use to purchase new heads for your player character, and there are a lot of them.

Rage Quitter - BattleBlock Theater - Boomshakalaka

If I had to complain about anything, I would say the games length is a bit short. Butit’s a 1200 point arcade game so I wasn’t exactly expecting an 80 hour adventure. There is also a level editor you can create for your friends and throw out online, but frankly that kind of feature is just way over my head. I didn’t use it in Little Big Planet and I can’t imaging myself using it here.

BattleBlock Theater I feel is one of the blueprints to a perfect platformer. Its got the right level of humor, fast paced levels, fun to play, and has some decent replay value to it. I would say it was absolutely worth the 1200 microsoft points so if you have the points to spend, grab a friend and give it a shot.

Buckle your pants, and check out the full review at Rage Quitter

#Quickie: Bioshock Infinite

I really shouldn’t be reviewing a first person shooter. I find most of them to be exactly the same from every other one that comes out. However, there are a handful excellent examples of them that break my incredibly jaded exterior and provide a enjoyable experience. The original Bioshock is one of those examples. Bioshock 2 was not and was so poor that I didn’t want to play any more of the series.  However, the reviews this game have been so stellar I felt it could not be ignored. So with a bit of hesitation I redbox’d, knuckled down, and played through Bioshock Infinite.

One of my biggest selling points in the original Bioshock was its atmosphere. Scary setting, creepy enemies, excellent use of darkness and pacing. Infinite manages to flub on almost all of these points right out of the gate. Instead of the dark collapsing atmosphere of Rapture, we have the perpetually bright and sunny yet outwardly racist streets of Colombia. Instead of the terrifying creepy Splicers or the monstrous Big Daddies, we have 1920’s well dressed assholes with guns, and giant Mecha-Washington or the Handymen (which are just some asshole in a robot suit with a big glowing weakness on his chest). Sorry, other people with guns are uninteresting and get a big red X from me.

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/PgD7dpAz4eI

I felt they messed up with the equipment as well. In the original you got 8 or 9 weapons varying from boring old machine gun to fun weapons like the chemical thrower. In addition to having multiple weapon choices, you also had various types of ammo you could use for each weapon which had different effectiveness to different enemies. Bioshock Infinite instead decided it would bet better to fall in line with every other shooter and only allow you to carry two guns at a time with only one ammo type. Some people think its exciting to constantly be interchanging weapons. I do not, I don’t want to be stuck with a sniper rifle when I’m only sparsely in situations where it would even be useful.

Tacking on with disappointment of the guns, the Vigor’s of Infinite weren’t really as up to snuff as the Plasmids of the original. There are a handful of cool ones like sending a murder of crows after someone or the ability to send a ghost after machines and people, but after I maxed out my Shock Jock and Devils Kiss (read Electro Bolt and Incinerate) all of the other vigors I could use were useless or ineffective. It felt like I had less options too since some of the effects of the older plasmids were condensed to a single vigor. Useful maybe but I liked the variety better, these you at least get to switch between all of them whenever you want unlike the weapons.

I will say there were two points in this game that I really did like. First off, Booker (the protagonist) and Elizabeth (the support character) make for an incredibly likable pair. Booker isn’t a silent protagonist like in the previous Bioshock games so it allows him to have some very good character building moments and with a pretty deep backstory allows him to grow as the game progresses. Elizabeth is a great support character because she is competent and confident without being aggressive or arrogant.  She also helps while you fight by finding ammo, restoring your health or salts (for vigors), and she even digs up money as you are exploring.  She really does get you to fall for her right off, and she seems to have this understanding that something big is going on around her.

 http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/31-NAkq8YEY

Because these characters are so strong, it goes a long way in helping the storytelling. Bioshock Infinite easily has one of the best stories in the series by far. It does have a bit of a slow beginning to it, but without spoiling just after half way the story goes batshit crazy and completely alters the dynamic of the story with a very sci-fi concept. And while the climax was disappointing with a lack of any real boss fight, the storytelling was beyond exceptional with a very incredible ending to the tale that left a lot of people with their jaw on the floor. It may be a little cliche given the introduced concept but it was executed so well I was willing to over look it.

So then, recommendation? How can I put this….  Well, I guess the best way to say is I’m glad I didn’t buy it, but glad I got to play it. From a strictly technical gameplay standpoint, they completely watered down the well established Bioshock gameplay aspects to make it fall in line with the every other 1st person shooter released in the past few years. It was boring to me in that regard. But the game weaves such an exceptional tale that it would be worth your time to at least see the game through to the end, either through purchase or rental. I don’t think it merits the near perfect scores its getting, but its a solid play.

Would you kindly see my full review on Rage Quitter?

Minecraft: The Story of Mojang

Tomorrow will be the premiere of the 2 Player Production documentary Minecraft: The Story of Mojang exclusively on the Xbox 360, and I know this shouldn’t bother me because the following day it will be available for purchase via download and dvd, but it is the fact that the loyal fan base of Minecraft is primarily on the PC and that it wouldn’t make viewable in some sort of Pay Per View fashion online. What really got me was the tweet posted below about the Xbox premiere.

Making a documentary about an internet phenomena and then exclusively releasing it on a different platform is like having the ability to invite the entire world to a huge party, but choosing not too.

That being said I am still very excited about this film and I look forward to purchasing it on December 23rd.

via 2 Player Productions

UPDATE:

They have released the film on The Pirate Bay courtesy of the producers… That might be the coolest thing in the world. What better way to invited the entire world!

via The Verge
Download It Here

The Next Xbox, A Powerhouse in Console Standards.

The next Xbox is rumored to be sporting a quad-core processor, 8gb of Ram, and a blu-ray player. Also it sounds like they are taking a page out of Apple’s book and will be ditching the adding of additional numbers to its title and will be dubbed “Xbox.” Which is much cleaner than the Xbox 720. I recently got rid of my Xbox 360, but this next iteration is looking promising and in conjunction with Xbox Smart Glass its looks like its going to be an all around entertainment system. Now lets just bring a Youtube app and clean up that store front and then we will be talking!

Via: Report: The Next Xbox Will Have a Quad-Core Processor, 8GB Ram, Blu-Ray, Kinect 2.0 and More.