Monday, March 24, 2008

Taste the Glowing End of Justice!

The Definitive Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law (PSP) Review:

I'll be honest: before poppin' this UMD into my system, I wasn't much of a fan of the show. In fact, I can't recall a single time where I've sat and watched even an entire episode of it on Adult Swim/Cartoon Network. However, after guiding Harvey through the case-scenarios presented in the game, I think that's something I'm going to have to change as soon as possible.

With the show's signature wacky humor and dialogue intact, Harvey Birdman unequivocally shines as the best use of a cartoon license yet; fans will recognize their favorite characters from the show, while newcomers may be caught off-guard by its random sense of jokes and foul play as they share the experience with everyone's favorite third-rate lawyer of Sebben & Sebben. There are five different scenarios to tackle in the game, each playing like an interactive episode from the series: Harvey will question possible witnesses, collect and present evidence from familiar locations, and of course, cross-examine in court to his heart's content. Bridging the gaps between these elements are animated cut scenes that are simply superb - crisp and clean, it truly feels like you are part of a bona fide episode from the much-lauded TV show.

While you'll find yourself spending some time collecting new pieces of evidence to convict or defend your client, the real meat of the game is spent in the court room where you must flex Harvey's legal skills to win the case. The whole process works in a formulaic matter: defendants and plaintiffs give their account of the case, with the player having the option of pressing them for more information. Choosing which statement to press will yield the right chances for presenting a particular piece of evidence. Representing your reputation and dignity in court are a starting set of five Birdman Crests, or gravitas, that'll literally be blasted, taken, or stolen from you if you pick the wrong pieces of evidence to present. Lose all five, and its game over; however, with ways of gaining extra Crests through certain dialogue branches, losing your "life" shouldn't be too much of a concern. The process repeats until you are able to solve the case. While there is nothing entirely innovative in all of this, it perfectly fits the game's subject matter, and is much better than, say, exploring the world in a 3D manner that would ruin the authenticity of the show - a la the Family Guy or South Park video games.

However, since game reviews are supposed to turn a critical eye on the game mechanics itself, this is where the review turns ugly: Harvey Birdman, let me just say, is not a bad game. Not by any definition of the word. But it is quite limited. Using a graphical interface to navigate the world with such options as "Talk", "Examine", "Move", etc., the game is basically a very pretty point-and-click adventure on the PSP. Since the game play is rather straightforward, Harvey Birdman lacks that particular depth, comparatively, to a Phoneix Wright/Ace Attorney title, and thus can be finished all told in just a few hours. There isn't much motivation to revisit certain cases after you're done with them - unless you want to see new scenes that unlock the few extras within the game, you're practically done.

To be fair, Harvey Birdman is hardly a title that was meant to innovate the genre or stand out as a piece of triple-A software on Sony's handheld - you'd be too busy smiling and laughing your ass off to even begin to notice these minor shortcomings anyway. The game is meant to be enjoyed as an extension of the television series, and to that end, it completely satisfies its goal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not so great Update

I know, I know.

You all got hot and bothered from my last post, didn't you? Well, I hate to be a tease, but looks like the follow-up feature is pushed for this weekend instead of the mid-week posting I was counting on doing.

The reason? Oh, just something pesky called Finals week : /

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Nature of Exclusivity, Preface

Just how relevant are video game exclusives today?

Fire up the topic in any one of your favorite local search engines and you are sure to come across hundreds upon hundreds of pages worth of articles and comments alike. From passionate debates about evaluating the current console wars, to hearing the cries of thousands of fanboys as news break of a title or company switching console allegiances, exclusive games are obviously a hot topic for the hardcore gamer. This point is only emphasized by the large price differences in gaming today - will you purchase the $500 Playstation 3, the $400 XBox 360 (excluding its "core" packs) or opt for accessible gaming with the hard-to-find $250 Wii? With such discrepancies, more and more people are relying on console-specific games to define these systems and ultimately decide which to spend their hard-earned money on.

After all, there's a reason why Halo 3 became one of the biggest video game releases that the industry has ever seen: since the original title in the series put Microsoft's rookie XBox system on the map, it has become synonymous with the brand and has undoubtedly helped propel the console to the #2 spot in the console wars (alas, Nintendo's mighty dominance with the Wii is for another day). If we can take away anything from this recent phenomenon, it's that console-exclusive titles hold incredibly powerful influences among the gaming masses; indeed, as in previous console generations, exclusives are seen as essentially "defining" the systems they are built for.

However, with the extremely high costs of development for the current console generation, are exclusive game titles even a viable business option for game developers anymore? Is it fair and accurate to define a console simply through its exclusive games alone?

In an effort to come to terms with those questions - as I'm sure many others wish to do, too - this three part feature will focus on the strengths of the upcoming console exclusives, or at least, those that have been announced as of their posting. Each week, starting with the Playstation 3, I will focus on major console exclusive titles and evaluate the games based on a certain set of criteria (outlined below) to see if they have the potential to strengthen their system lineup or merely fall by the wayside in the process. The purpose is not to find the next "killer app" for each system insomuch as it is used to gain insight on what these exclusive games tell us about a particular console, and whether or not they should be worth your precious time and gaming dollars.


Hype: What type of prerelease attention has it been getting from the press and message boards?

Developers: Have they had prior success on the console before? Is a well-known game designer attached to the project?

Potential: Is the game part of an already-established franchise? Does it intend to introduce anything "innovative" to the genre? Pushes the technological envelope? Does it add or detract from the existing library of exclusive games to that console?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

PSP Overload

Thanks in part to some kind of oversight on Gamefly - an online video game rental service similar to the likes of Netflix, for those who don't know - I've now received yet another PSP game on my list despite my subscription to only two. Now, I'm far from complaining about that, except for the fact that it couldn't have happened at a worse time: next week is finals week for me already, and on top of that, I still have two more papers to do before Monday rolls along! As you can imagine, the temptation to play these games is difficult, if not down right impossible to resist....

- Silent Hill Origins (the one I recently received)
- God of War (!)
- Harvey Birdman
- And of course, trekking my way through Patapon


Monday, March 10, 2008

Patapon Impressions

Another bite-sized update:

Now that the full game is in my possession - the main reason why I scrapped impressions on the demo that I originally planned - Patapon is shaping up to be quite the hypnotic title, packed to the brim with catchy song chants and dangerously addicting battles that rival and even surpass the depth of many other games. Certainly unlike any other PSP game you've played before, Patapon stands on a league of its own with rhythmic-based game play that encourages your on screen warriors to move, defend, or attack. Simple button combinations serve as the basis of the mighty drum that you, the Mighty Patapon god, possess, with each chant provoking a different response from your formidable army: If you follow the beat, the Patapons become a force to reckon with; falter, and your enemies will quickly overwhelm you.

Like any good old strategy game, there can be a lot of micromanaging going on as you can equip new shields, weapons (such as bows, swords and spears), and even riding mounts like horses and birds. Along the way, different types of Patapons will integrate with your army: among one of the more amusing species I've ran across lately is a troll-like "Dekapon" that, at first, swings a large club at its foes - its HP is top notch, but its weak defenses means its for offensive use only. There are others scattered across the game (with some I haven't even found yet) but when organizing your pata-troops for battle, the player is limited to 3 squads, or types of soldiers at a time. Thus you must take into account the types of missions you're about to face before deploying the Patapons into battle.

Think of it like the illegitimate child of Parappa the Rappa and Final Fantasy Tactics: however absurd that idea may seem, it is perhaps the closest approximation one could use in words to describe the game - you simply have to experience it for yourself. Stay tuned for the final review.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Quick n' Dirty (Just the way your Mother likes it!)

My god, has it been 3 weeks already, with no hints of updates to show for it? Well, here's the skinny so far:

1.) As always school has been a swift kick to the nuts.
2.) The first review, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, is nearly complete. Still undecided about the "scoring" format, however.
3.) In case you can't tell from the pic above, I'm currently playing Harvey Birdman for the PSP, based off of the quirky Adult Swim show. Look for this review later down the road.
4.) Pata-Pata-Pata Pon! ; )

That is all.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The perfect gift for Valentines is...

A Patapon demo! (wait, wha-?)

That's right! Toss away the cards and the candy and bust out your PSP for this one, as according to the Official Playstation Blog, the demo originally only available as a preorder bonus at Gamestop will be online on the PC Playstation store and the PS3 starting February 14. Actually, it should be up by the time you read this.


Oh, and impressions to follow soon thereafter.