Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (2001)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1-6 | Developer: BioWare

The official add-on to Baldur's Gate II, it adds a few new locations (including a massive dungeon) to "Shadows of Amn" (hereafter referred as "SOA"), and a big quest happening a few weeks after the end of SOA.  A quest that could lead you to godhood... or damnation.

The whole cast of NPCs from BGII is back, plus one massive surprise, on a new game.  First problem: being a standalone, you're cut from all the other towns previously visited, and from your base.  Say goodbye to anything that wasn't in your inventory, although most of the NPC come equipped with top notch stuff.

Yet this add-on has one big problem.  It’s linear.  Of course you choose in which order you'll do the dungeons, but that's pretty much it.  Much less side quests, and often related to the main one.  It would have been better if the player still had been somewhat able to get out of the area, or if he had been given a little more liberty in how to deal with some of the quests.  That's a big bummer after two games where you could in some occasions literally bullshit your way out of a fight.  Here, it's a splendid example of the D&D archetype: Door-Monster-Treasure-Side quest leading to more doors-etc, etc. bummer.

Other than that... new enemies, new items (including a fun feature to create very nasty little things by combining stuff. fun and useful.), new dungeons and new sights.  Although the environments are far from being as beautiful as in SOA.  All in all, good but not great.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC, Mac, and

3½ "I'll stick my poleaxe in your bottom and turn you into a battering ram!!"

Nutted by Docrate1 (If he comes at you with a poleaxe... abandon all hope.)

Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1-6 | Developer: BioWare

The game begins a few months after the ending of the first game. Abducted by a crazy wizard, you are about to embark on a journey to discover even more about your past and yourself.  And make yourself new enemies.  Lots of new enemies.
Heck, it seems all the bad stuff happening on the sword coast is falling on one poor schmuck: you.

BG2 takes on the strengths of its predecessor, and enhances them tenfold.  Better graphics, much better environments, lots of new items, classes (which open the way to class quests, a fun thing that sets you on a few quest available only if you play a certain class of character.  The reward is reaaaally worth the crap the game will throw at you).  That and the game is huge.  I'd say twice of three times as long as the first one coupled with its add-on.  Lots of new places and literally hundreds of side-quests, and secrets to find.  I've played this game for close to 10 years now and I still discover secrets.

The game still has flaws, but many corrections have been applied since the first one.  First, it's easier to survive.  The AI of NPCs and enemies is much better, and easier to customize.  Then, lots of NPCs to choose from to assemble your team, with more versatility than in the first one.  Third, it's easier to find protective objects, which were really rare in the first.  And fourth... hell... it's supposed to be a challenge.  Forget the first one.  Compared to this, Baldur's Gate was a warm up.  On top of that it's still available.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC, Mac, and

5 "This time I'll shove my mace up your bum & turn you into a popsicle!!" out of 5.

Nutted by Docrate1 (If he comes at you with a mace... run faster than before.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Baldur's Gate (1998)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1 - 6 (multiplayer available) | Developer: BioWare

Set in Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms, you play a young orphan with mysterious abilities, hunted down by a mysterious organization, for mysterious reasons and who goes on to become one big pain in the ass for said organization.  Seriously, no way to sum up the plot without spoiling like a madman.

Back when Baldur's gate was released, it was one of the first games in that new generation of computer medieval fantastic RPG / Hack'n'Slash games, with Diablo and a few others.  BG offered a freedom of action completely new at the time, with choices that had real impacts on the story, along with great graphics, a compelling story and beautiful music.  Drawbacks were the AI of both your companions and enemies, and the overall difficulty, as it was quite easy to get killed multiple times in the first 2 hours.  The game was hard.  Really hard.  And boy was that a challenge.

An extension was released afterward ("Tales of the Sword Coast"), with new quests, new stuff and new shitheads to kill.  A great game, still available, and an HD remake seems to be in the works.

4½ "I'll stick that sword up your ass and turn you into a brochette" out of 5.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC, Mac, and

Nutted by Docrate1 (If he comes at you with a sword ... run.)

Corpse Party (2011)

Genre:  Survival Horror | Players: 1 | Developer: Team GrisGris, 5pb

Corpse Party is a horror title game with the most humble of beginnings. While most games, even niche titles, have a large development team and a hefty budget, Corpse Party was originally created using RPG Maker software. The title was such a success that it was given a high quality remake, and was later remade again for the PSP. While full voice acting, new music, and CGs have all been added into the game, it retains its simplistic, SNES level graphics.

At the start of Corpse Party, characters are transported into a strange, hellish school building from which their appears to be no escape. In every room there are new horrors, with scares ranging from the obvious (ghosts jumping out at you) to slightly more subtle (cabinets filled with hair). One of the biggest impacts are the various corpses that line the school. Every corpse can be examined for a name tag, and many contain a little note that lets you know what they went through before they died. While this is fairly creepy, it's also quite heartbreaking, especially when you come across the bodies of elementary schoolers.

There are no battles to be found in Corpse Party, and the only gameplay consists of exploration, solving puzzles, and running away. In spite of this, it's surprisingly challenging. There were a couple of scenes I had to play over and over again in order to successfully evade death. None of the puzzles are frustratingly hard, and as long as you save frequently and don't get too scared to explore certain rooms, you should be able to make it through without many problems.

Corpse Party's biggest strength and biggest failing is its story. I was gripped by the tale from start to finish, and while I saw some of its twists coming, others took me completely by surprise. Unfortunately, even the game's best ending isn't that satisfying. The story is continued in a sequel, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, but the game has yet to be translated, meaning that English speaking gamers may be left frustrated.

Corpse Party offers an incredible amount of content for its price tag. There are a massive amount of endings and additional content that can be unlocked, and it's the sort of title I can see myself going back to again and again. If the sequel does get an English release, it's a game I'll be able to recommend wholeheartedly.

Buyer’s Guide:
If you'd like to play Corpse Party in English, your only option is to download the title via PSN.There is a PC version of the title, and I sincerely hope XSEED releases it on Steam in the future. This is a terrific title, and I'd love to see it attract an audience beyond PSP owners.

4 eyeballs turned to soup out of 5

[PS3] Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland (2010)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: Gust

Atelier Totori is a rare sort of sequel. It feels familiar, while simultaneously feeling fresh and new, and manages to improve on an already great game in almost every way. Totori is set 5 years after Atelier Rorona, and puts players in the role of Totooria Helmold, a 12 year old girl who is the only person who has managed to learn alchemy from the scatterbrained Rorona.

Alchemy is obviously a big part of the title, but it's not Totori's primary goal. Instead, her dream is to become an adventurer and learn what became of her missing mother. Totori obtains an adventurer's license, and must gain points in order to "rank up" as an adventurer. These points can be obtained in a number of ways, from exploring to taking on dangerous monsters to crafting items. For a goal oriented gamer, the point system is incredibly fulfilling. There's always something to work towards, and always something to check off your list. The battle system is still a basic turn based one, but the alchemy system has become more complex, and crafting items is more exciting than ever. I probably wasted weeks of in-game time just building the most perfect bombs I could.

While Rorona's game was more about the characters than the plot, Totori's title has a simple, but genuinely intriguing story. It takes a lot of work to learn what happened to Totori's mother, but the answers are satisfying, especially if you put in the effort needed to obtain the true ending. Most of Rorona's main cast returns, and while they've all grown, they're still the same lovable, goofball characters they were in the last title. Sterk in particular is a delight, and a couple of his scenes had me laughing so hard I was in tears.

Totori is the second game in a trilogy, but players who've never played an Atelier title should be able to play this with minimal problems. Any important information is recapped for players, and the only thing players will really miss out on is appreciation of some of the jokes and character moments. While I'd recommend playing Rorona first, Totori is an excellent game and a great place to start.

Buyer’s Guide:
If you spot a used copy of this title at your local game shop, snatch it up. Gamestop sells it for about $20, and copies are pricier just about everywhere else. Your next best bet would be to purchase the game through the NISA store, which has it for $39.99 with free shipping.

4.5 bottles of liquor made with alchemy out of 5.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Justice League Heroes (2006)

Genre: Action / RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: Snowblind Studios

This is a review of the DS version of Justice League Heroes only, NOT the home console versions.

After an awesome opening scene that left my jaw a few inches lower than usual, and had me wondering how they made something look so good on such a small screen, the game began. My jaw fell even further in disbelief. How could they turn something with such promise into something so piss poor? It takes a real anti-talent to fuck up such an amazing licence.

You play as either The Flash or Wonder Woman as you battle robotic enemies that are hell-bent on stumbling around and killing you from afar. It’s like Double Dragon from a not-quite-top-down perspective. As you progress (i.e. endure) you’ll unlock new shitty abilities and be given new ‘Heroes’ to control. There are seven in all, with a further eight unlockables. The choice of ‘Heroes’ is well-chosen, if only they weren't so pitiful and useless.

I admit I gave up long before the game's end. The repetitive button bashing , the slowdown when more than three enemies were onscreen at the same time, and the poor response of the touch-screen all took a very real toll on me. Even at my age (old enough to know better) I can take great joy in pretending to be Batman, and …er… Wonder Woman. However, I can’t take joy from a poorly made failure of a game that utterly wasted a licence.

Buyers Guide:
Don’t. If you do your friends will poke fun at you; that's what friends are for.

0 post-title scene enjoyment out of 5

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mega Man Powered Up (2006)

Genre: Platformer | Players: 1 | Developer: Capcom

Mega Man Powered Up does exactly what any good remake should. It graphically updates the original game AND reimagines it. In the Old Style mode, the game is as difficult as it ever was, while tweaking the few small problems it had and fixing several instances of brokenness that were actually in your favor. In the New Style mode, the game is fleshed out with the addition of two new robot masters (bringing the total up to the standard 8), a collection system, a level editor, and the ability to play as the robot masters if you are able to beat them on Hard, buster only.

Time Man and Oil Man debut here to mostly great effect. Time Man is able to slow time (a fitting precursor to the ability to stop time completely later in the series) and Oil Man stylishly surfs on puddles of oil to cut through Mega Man and other enemies. Using the robot masters’ unique abilities and Mega Man’s unlockable slide and charge shot, you can collect item packs to use in the level editor. Even if you have no Little Big Planet-esque inclination to create levels and share them over PSN (like me), collecting these packs still stands as an enjoyable MetroidVania challenge worth tackling.

Playing as the robot masters for the very most part is an absolute blast, as they have enhanced abilities in addition to the ones they bestow on Mega Man. The only irksome member of the team is Oil Man, as he can only fire one shot of oil at a time. If you consistently hit enemies you can fire in rapid sucession. If not, you have to jump on the drop and slide on it, or wait for it to disappear before you can attack again. I’m all for challenge, but this feels like complete neutering if you aren’t a crack shot. I’m not one to deduct in any major way for elements of a game that are purely bonus-like in nature, however, and Powered Up goes out of its way to take all the right steps, otherwise.

What’s that? There’s an elephant in the room? Look, if you honestly have a problem with the cutesy, chibi-fied personalities given to all the characters, so be it. Just know that you are missing out on a fantastic game over a trivial aversion.

Buyer’s Guide:
Unfortunately this is a PSP exclusive. However, as it is available packaged with its fellow, stellar remake Maverick Hunter X, Mega Man fans who enjoy both series should snap it up as Powered Up has a staggering amount of replayability and even more unlockables than mentioned here.

4½ “Shut up, Roll”s out of 5

Nutted by NEG

Friday, May 18, 2012

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)

Genre: First Person Shooter | Players: 1, Multi | Developer: Infinity Ward

Infinity Ward revamps the Call of Duty franchise by naturally pulling it out of the well-worn World War 2 setting into an action packed near future story from the viewpoints of several protagonists. Players mostly assume the roles of new SAS recruit "Soap" McTavish and US Marine Sgt. Paul Jackson in the unraveling of a terrorist plot and an invasion of an unspecified middle eastern country respectively.

There are several weapons to choose from, but gameplay is less focused on shooting then it is on gaining ground. Players will find it more to their advantage to strategically push forward rather than just sit on a perch and pick off enemies as they will seemingly spawn endlessly unless players go forward. Though shooting is still a major part of the game and there are many choices of modern weapons to choose from to suit all play-styles from automatic shotguns and sub-machine guns to sniper rifles and heavy machine guns. Play style becomes increasingly important in multiplayer as players can outfit their classes with custom weapons, attachments and perks which are abilities that enhance your skills like extra penetration, more health and stopping power among several others. Added on top of the super fast paced action makes it quite exhilarating.

One downside is the limited map sizes. Several seem to get crowded with just 8 players which is a far cry from some older Call of Duty titles with maps that comfortably fit 40+ players. While the single player story is nothing particularly original, it is done competently with some genuine "holy shit" moments and some likeable characters. Teammate AI also switches from super soldier to helpless retard at a whim, but the important ones are also invincible so it is mostly just an inconvenience. And for better or worse, it is the template for almost all shooters that follow it and not just Call of Duty games.

Buyer's Guide:
Widely available on multiple platforms though the PC version has one advantage in that they didn't remove the "lean" function. That's the only difference I could find between versions that aren't the Wii version. Can be bought off Steam for $19.99.

Dogs tearing out your throat out of 5

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Star Wars Episode 1 Racer (1999)

Genre: Racing  |  Players: 1 - 2  |  Developer: LucasArts

SW Ep1 Racer, at its heart, is a basic racer (with NO STORY) that anyone can pick up and get good at with a little practice. The control is steady and easy to adapt to. It doesn’t send you into a wall with the lightest stroke of the joystick. Hitting walls causes damage but you can try to repair it while driving. If you hit a wall hard enough you’ll blow up but don’t worry, you respawn. If you want a more authentic controlling experience, in the list of cheat codes there is one that you can enter to utilize 2 controllers at the same time.

Tournament, free play, and time attack are the 3 play modes. You get 4 save profiles that will carry into any mode. There are 25 courses, several of them are the same place just with variations in the tracks. You can choose any course in free play and time attack along with the option to mirror them, although that is a locked feature in tournament mode. Tournament mode allows you to earn money and modify your podracer. Before races, there is a trick that lets you see the drivers taunting each other. Sadly, they all only have one line to say for themselves. If you pick Anakin, all you will ever hear is “I can run faster than your podracer.”

The tracks go from ‘easily learned’ to ‘may cause motion sickness’. The swamps, mines, and underwater tracks all have dark backgrounds contrasting with the sky, snow, and desert tracks which are bright. The speed makes things different in this game. Podracers are fast and the scenery goes by even faster. It takes many runs to memorize a track.

And you better get used to Duel of the Fates… It’s the only music in the game.

If you wish to play this game in all its glory then you’ll need an expansion pack. The expansion pack is basically an extra bit of ram allowing for higher resolution. Not many games took advantage of using the expansion pack but the ones that do look great. Without one for this game, the graphics are muddy and the cinematics are cut short, but with one it looks wonderfully crisp for an N64 game.

4½ Jake Lloyd’s bad racing taunts out of 5

Nutted by Little Perturbed Blue Ducky!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Yakuza: Dead Souls (2011)

aka: Yakuza of the End

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Sega

Dead Souls is a spin-off from the main Yakuza series but takes place after the events of Yakuza 4, so play 4 first if you can. It's once again set in the (not so) fictional Kamurocho. You're still Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, the Yakuza with a heart (and a fist to the face if you step out of line), but the plot is less complex than usual, being less concerned about Yakuza politics and more about ridiculous over the top events.

The series always had guns but not like this: the brawling is out and it's guns for everyone. I feared it would be a shitty third person shooter, but it isn't. It's Yakuza through and through, just with guns.

Oh, and zombies. The undead have taken over Kamurocho and it's up to Kazuma and a few other cast members to clean up the (Pink) streets. If you know the map, you can run and gun without stopping from the Kamurocho Hills to Don Quijote. But if you're new to the series you'll likely be spending a lot of time on the map screen plotting the quickest route, getting frustrated about roadblocks and wondering who the hell everyone is.

Yakuza veterans will already know it's one of the finest underappreciated gems of the gaming world. It's consistently good. I've not encountered a glitch in any of the titles, which is rare for an 'open world' game. For a series that uses the same location repeatedly, it's managed to keep things fresh by adding new elements.

The story structure is similar to the previous title in that you control one character at a time until his part has ended; they're on the box art, so that isn't spoiler. Shun Akiyama returns and is his usual lazy self. Better than that, you get to play as Mad Dog Goro Majima. Holy Mother of Fuck! Being Majima is every bit as exciting as I'd always imagined it would be. He's a demon.

The sub-stories are all in place; many of which will have you popping in and out of the quarantine zone to help some poor sap who's lost his wife, or similar. The hostess bars, restaurants, playing pool, darts, table tennis, baseball, getting drunk, gambling, weapon/armour upgrades, etc, are the same as always. It's the Yakuza we've come to love. Once again, Premium Adventure is unlocked, so don't stress over those unfound sub-stories.

5 Shenmue Easter eggs out of 5