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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Saints Row: The Third (2011)

Genre: Sandbox  |  Players: 1 / Co-op / Multi (online) | Developer: Volition Inc

Once upon a time Saints Row was the poor man’s GTA, but as time went on things changed. Saints Row is now the leader of the pack and GTA is left playing Betty, alone and teary-eyed.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first mission in SR III takes place in a similar location to the best mission in GTA IV. The entire SR game is a fist in the ass of IV and its humourless mirror to realism. Volition know you don’t have to sacrifice fun to create something immersive. There are no boring rags to riches stories here—there’s actually very little story, but it excels in other ways.

It’s a third-person action game with wicked humour that keeps it from being just another sandbox clone. It’s as if they took everything that sucked about GTA IV and did the opposite: the world is colourful, the cars have a more arcade style handling, the comedy is full force, the character customisation is extensive and the music is better; all that adds up to a better game. It’s also a shorter game, but if you do all the side missions there's easily 30+ hours of entertainment. Each Act has two options to choose from to end it, so that gives replay value.

SR is pure, unabashed, guilty fun. What other game lets you dress as a transvestite cosplay Wonder Woman and wield a three foot flexible purple dildo-bat that you can use to beat a grown man in a bunny suit? There are none. Its absurdity sets it apart from similar titles. Volition made gaming fun again.

4 pony carriages out of 5

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (2007)

Genre: Mystery / Puzzle  | Players: 1 | Developer: Cing 

In this interactive mystery novel you control Kyle Hyde, a down on his luck ex-New York cop on the road to nowhere, that is until he spends a night in Hotel Dusk's room 215. The NDS game opens with Hyde dreaming of his past life as a detective and the life-changing event which led him to his current position, a salesman for Red Crown. Beneath the guise of door-to-door peddler he also recovers lost items on the side for his boss.

His next excursion brings him to Nevada on the last dregs of '79. As he makes his way towards his destination we get an eyeful of the unique art direction, best described as a nod to 80's band A-ha's music video for "Take On Me" as characters are mainly seen as sketchy outlines. A handful of animations for each comprise their movement. An easygoing tune fills the air as we also get an earful of the mood-setting music which pervades the games notable OST.

Gameplay is made up of touch screen interactions which range from something as simple as piecing together a children's jigsaw puzzle to picking a lock, but what really moves the story along is using Hyde's detective intuitions to reveal other characters' secrets through key conversations. These prompt multiple choice answers and if you choose correctly, each person's truth will lead Hyde closer to his own. It's as if the guests of Hotel Dusk are all just tumblers in a lock, waiting for you to line them up.

With minor plot holes and a thought-provoking ending, the game compensates with the option to replay from the beginning on your save file. Certain events and interactions will be different and it allows you to continue to deduce the multi-layered plot. While not the most exciting ride, players should enjoy Hotel Dusk: Room 215 for what it really is: a well concocted mystery.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on Nintendo DS only.

5 painful confessions out of 5

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Super Scribblenauts (2010)

Genre: Puzzle  | Players: 1 | Developer: 5th Cell

You’ll have to walk your brain outside the box if you’re to enjoy Super Scribblenauts. It’s described as an ‘emergent action puzzle game’. What that means in practical terms is a licence to do magic with the stylus; i.e. conjure things in real time simply by spelling them. Use the stylus to input words and watch as the game creates the object(s) on-screen: Ninjas. Velociraptors. Trout. Almost any non-trademarked object you can imagine can be rendered. Almost… it’s kid friendly, so no shark-toothed vaginas or armour-clad knobs.

You can even attribute adjectives to your creations. The majority of the time the creature/object will behave according to it’s nature. Things may get out of hand if you create opposites, or carnivores and tasty humans in the same play park.

Leaving that aside, the gameplay revolves around Maxwell. You move him either with the D-pad or the stylus. The stylus is used for moving your creations around on-screen, so it’s simpler to control Maxwell via the D-pad.

Maxwell collects starite, one of which is awarded for each of the 120 levels completed successfully. You’ll need to analyse a situation, then create an object that will solve a dilemma or enable Maxwell to get from point A to point B safely. Once the starite is won you move onto the next puzzle. It’s structured as a set of tutorials that'll help you gradually understand the mechanics of the game.

There's almost always more than one way to proceed, but admittedly some of the solutions are tenuously related to the problem. Sometimes the obvious, most rational solution will fail to solve the equation with no explanation why. It can get frustrating. When that happened I drifted off into toy box mode again, and fun was had with a jetpack and a flamethrower. Pyromaniacs will get their jollies.

As a game, it’s too short and too arbitrary to give full marks to. As a toybox/sandbox simulator it has almost endless possibilities provided you have a sufficiently fertile imagination to tap into. The middle ground between the two aspects is an amazingly simple idea married to a densely packed creation tool.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on Nintendo DS only.

3½ homicidal scribbles out of 5

Friday, October 19, 2012

Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysteries of Little Riddle – Episode 1 (2010)

Genre: Mystery / Puzzle | Players: 1 - 4  | Developer: Relentless Software

A downloadable episodic whodunit for up to four players. Although, you can play it alone if you have no fiends. The friends you don’t have will thank you.

You begin by picking an investigator from a line-up of four British stereotypes before being dropped off via train in Little Riddle, a quaint, backward little town full of quainter, more backward, lazier British stereotypes. I unashamedly find stereotypes hilarious, but the residents of Little Riddle managed to infuriate even me. They're turds and I wanted to hurt them. The only one remotely entertaining was the Basil Fawlty-esque hotel owner.

You’re given a number of differently staged puzzles that you must solve in order to advance the story: logic puzzles, visual puzzles, word puzzles, etc. Also, pay attention to your surroundings, because sooner or later you’ll be tasked with inane questions about your toil. Make it to the end and you'll be required to finger the culprit; that sounds more erotic than it really is.

I enjoy having my brain hurt and welcome a challenge. Little Riddle went one step further by making my soul hurt and challenging my endurance. The worst aspect was that the cut scenes, even on a second viewing, can’t be skipped.

Buyer’s Guide:
The game is available for PS3 and PC. It’s split over six chapters, with each chapter having its own mystery to solve. Should you wish to punish yourself further you can buy the remainder of the episodes individually or save money and get them all at once. Or save even more money and get none at all. Wahey!

1½ buy Prof Layton instead out of 5