Charlie Murder dares to ask “Why just shoot or stab a zombie when you can rip its arms off and use them to slap other zombies in the face?” Well played, Charlie Murder. Well played. Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim proved there is still an audience for the quarter-munching brawlers of the 90s, but those games exist in a world of innocent, prancing unicorns that piss rainbows with kaleidoscopic landscapes straight from a Saturday morning cartoon. Charlie Murder rips the head off that unicorn, scrapes out its brains, and eats cereal from the hollowed skull.
It’s not exactly subtle, but damn, does it ever have style. Loud, angry, style.
Charlie Murder takes the punk rock, monster-movie style of The Dishwasher series and brings it to the brawler stage. Imagine if Streets of Rage took place inside Night of the Living Dead, and then crashed a White Zombie video. It’s full of outlandish, gory violence that is just cartoony enough to maintain a solid sense of humor. Film grain muddies up the visuals, the soundtrack sounds like punk rock from hell, and eyeballs have the nasty habit of being propelled from their sockets at a high velocity in slow motion. Oh, and you can definitely rip out hearts and eat them. Because hearts are yummy.
It’s rare to find a game that seems like it tried to work in literally every idea discussed during brainstorming, but Arkedo’s Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit feels like a shining example of that phenomenon. The production value is high, tons of effort went into the writing and the gameplay is relatively unique. But in bringing so many individual elements together, the game as a whole somehow manages to be nearly devoid of fun.
Things are as off-the-wall as they can be in Hell Yeah. You’re the Prince of Hell — a dead rabbit who rides around in a saw-blade hovercraft — and your mission is to recover scandalous pictures of you and your rubber duck, which would somehow undermine the validity of your claim to the throne. Or something like that. The unapologetically random nature of the game’s core concept extends to everything else in the game, from enemy design to level settings, so don’t expect fire and brimstone here — Dante’s vision this is not. There are casinos, futuristic dance clubs and what can only be described as Jerry Garcia’s wet dream, among a bunch of other areas. The game’s spastic, sugar-coated ADD-inducing presentation might appeal to high school students who spend their parents’ money at Hot Topic, but it’s truthfully nothing more than a bunch of incoherent nonsense that’s random for the sake of being random. Read more
When someone thought up the name “Happy Wars”, they must have been smoking an “oxymoron” controlled substance…or so I thought. With a name like Happy Wars it has to be a fun filled romp through the flowers right? You’ll just have to watch the video and find out. You know you wanna…
There’s no denying that Wayforward has solidified themselves as one of the go-to development studios when it comes to higher profile, retro-styled 2D games. Some of their projects have turned out to be fantastic, like the wonderful Mighty Switch Force on the Nintendo 3DS. Others, like Bloodrayne Betrayal, are a bit behind on the quality curve. Double Dragon Neon is their latest effort to recapture the shine of decades-gone-by. Any reservations the studio’s varying quality may have caused should be dismissed — this is a great revival of a truly influential property.
Neon is about as over-the-top as a game based on an established property can be. It feels like a caricature of the late 1980s in many ways. The Dragon Twins — Billy and Jimmy — are a couple of carefree, wisecracking karate experts. The amount of puns that come out of their mouths, clever or embarrassing, recall the spirit of a quartet of fighting reptile siblings. The villain is in the running for my favorite enemy of 2012, and while he feels like he’d be more at home on Eternia he seems to fit in almost perfectly here as well. Read more
We’ve all had hopes of being recognized for our hard work, being able to make a sustainable living from it, and have others appreciate it. For developer Humble Hearts, and lead man Dean Dodrill, he’s living that dream. Initially an employee of a Triple-A team, Dodrill would later go indie and enter Microsoft’s annual Dream.Build.Play competition. He would submit Dust: An Elysian Tail and win in 2009. After winning the promotion Dodrill earned a coveted spot on Microsoft’s XBLA service, where him and the team at Humble Hearts have been working effortlessly since winning. What would ensue can only be described as a beautiful culmination of gameplay and art.
Dust solidifies itself as one of the most aesthetically pleasing games on XBLA, if not on the Xbox 360 as a whole. Still frames don’t do it justice, as it is an absolute visual pleasure to behold in motion. Beautiful, hand-drawn characters match the quality of a Disney production, as do the lush environments, ripe with flowing water, fauna weaving with the wind, and dynamic weather effects. At one moment I could find myself exploring a village brimming with sunlight, only to have it begin raining on me the next.
As a kid, I grew up with the Nintendo Entertainment System in the living room. My gaming diet was a steady blast of classics like Super Mario Bros. and Ninja Gaiden. One of my first experiences in a post-NES world was at a cousin’s house, where I played the Sega CD version of Prince of Persia. I found that I hated it, and upon looking back I can tell you why. It stood in stark contrast to everything else I had experienced up to that point in one important area: the controls. Other classic games failed to resonate with me due to the same issue, namely Flashback and Out of this World. Now, I can play those games today. Hell, I even enjoy them. But I’m still not a huge fan of the controls. Tequila Works’ Deadlight feels like one of these games, though it’s linear and more cinematic. It was a relatively enjoyable experience, but it felt like the controls wanted to ruin things the entire time.
A new Sonic game always brings a level of uncertainty with it. Sega’s mascot has seen more highs and lows than a bipolar roller coaster, something of which fans are acutely aware. There’s a level of trepidation one must enter a modern Sonic title with — that way the potential disappointment stings less. Dimps and Sonic Team have addressed a few of the flaws found in the first episode of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, making the second a bit more fun to play through. It’s a far cry from the Genesis entries, but it’s enjoyable regardless.
One of the biggest complaints in Episode One was the physics, and they’ve mostly been fixed. Sonic no longer stops on a dime in mid air if you take your thumb off the analog stick and you can no longer walk up walls like Spider-Man. The ball-rolling still seems to be slower than running when going downhill, making spin-dashing nearly useless, but hey, two out of three isn’t bad. The truth is this game controls pretty well, approaching levels folks might consider “good”. Read more
It’s doubtful that there will ever be an Xbox Live Arcade game as anticipated as Polytron’s FEZ. I wondered how the game would fare against years of previews and hype when I pressed start for the first time, but it wasn’t until sometime after completing the game that I found my answer. FEZ is a complicated nut to crack, but what waits inside is worth the effort.
Saying FEZ is ‘complicated’ is actually a disservice to the work put in by Polytron. The cliche of “a puzzle, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in an enigma” is all-too applicable here. Puzzles are so intricately weaved through the game that they only begin to make sense several hours in, or during a second playthrough in some cases. Taking actual pen and paper notes is a necessity to solve some of the greater challenges. The air of mystery surrounding just about everything can feel suffocating, so much so that I wasn’t sure I was enjoying my time with FEZ early on. It turns out that sticking with it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Read more