The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a pretty tough story to screw up. The book was written as a simple children's adventure tale told from a singular point of view, and that is what it is loved for. Peter Jackson doesn't seem to understand what he's trying to do with the film adaptation. The movie struggles just to figure out what it is trying to do and tries so hard to pad itself with irrelevant Tolkien lore that it eventually starts to fall apart cinematically.
Not content to simply tell the first-person (well, technically "second person") account of Bilbo Baggins' adventure to The Lonely Mountain and back again, this Hobbit film tries to incorporate other plot threads from the complex tapestry of Tolkien's extended Middle-Earth lore. This creates two problems:
- The story loses its narrative focus and suffers cinematically from poor pacing and confusing scene transitions,
- The movie's tone shifts wildly from light-hearted fantasy to overly-serious forebodence.
If only you hadn't been blinded by your fanboyism, Stephen; you could have warned us!
This review was originally published 06/29/2010 on Game Observer. It has been republished here for archival purposes.
The marriage of Wild-West theme with open-world gameplay is a great idea, but Red Dead falls just short of "genius."
I was very impressed with Grand Theft Auto IV. Before the game had come out, I worried that the formula would be stale, and that Rockstar would just throw so much content into the game that it would overwhelm the player (San Andreas was a ridiculously complex game, although not in a bad way). The successfulness of Grand Theft Auto IV had me very excited about Red Dead Redemption, even though I hated its predecessor Red Dead Revolver.
The release of this game also made me realize how strangely devoid the gaming world is of Westerns. I guess game developers just didn’t feel the genre would be very popular with the younger audience. But Red Dead Redemption just might change that. The marriage of a Western theme and an open-world sandbox style of gameplay is a combination that seems absolutely genius. Red Dead Redemption, however, does not quite reach the level of "genius."
Don't let Red Dead's expansive environment and minimalist soundtrack fool you into thinking that it will have the almost-depressingly-desolate brilliance of Shadow of the Colossus. There's a lot more than just birds and lizards in New Austin, and they'll pop out of the grass to eat you alive sooner than you can spit.
This review was originally published 03/13/2011 on Game Observer. It has been republished here for archival purposes.
Beenox combines several different styles of gameplay and visuals into a fairly enjoyable but very short, disjointed, and sometimes unstable Spider-Man adventure.
I’m so glad that the last few Spider-Man games have not been constrained to follow a movie’s plot. Even though the Spider-Man 2 movie game was arguably the best Spider-Man game since the first one on the PS1, I really want to see developers try something a little more creative with the Spidey character. I’m one of the people who thoroughly enjoyed Web of Shadows and was really hoping to see further development with that game’s fantastically tight controls and combat mechanics. But Beenox had different ideas for a Spidey game – much more ambitious and creative ideas. They scrapped the free-roaming open New York and web-swinging mechanics that have become a staple of Spider-Man games since the second movie game in favor of a dimension-hopping beat-em-up. It’s actually a nice change of pace.
This battle against the Sandman early in the game is one of several exceptional action set-pieces.
This review was originally published 09/14/2010 on Game Observer. It has been republished here for archival purposes.
An artistically inspired, very fun, but rough-around-the-edges game.
The Saboteur is a very novel game. For one thing, it is a fresh and appealing take on the stagnant genre of World War II-themed games. Essentially GTA in Nazi-occupied France, this game is pretty to look at and a lot of fun to play, even though its features aren’t as fleshed-out as one would like. The game is also surprisingly risqué by EA standards, offering actual nudity, plenty of F-bombs, and loads of gratuitous violence. While I don’t mind seeing more adult content in a game, it is disappointing that Pandemic didn’t find interesting gameplay functions for it. Instead, it’s all just for show.
Franz Liebkind disapproves!
The big draw for this game is going to be its unique art style. Areas of Paris that are under the control of the Nazis are rendered in black and white, with yellow, red, and occasionally blue highlights and complete with rain clouds and thunder and lightning. Areas that are under the control of the Resistance are rendered in full pastel color, in full sunlight and with birds singing. It’s a cool effect, and adds a bit of variety to the game’s otherwise uninteresting visuals. However, the colored areas of the city don’t look nearly as interesting as the black-and-white areas, and it’s almost a shame you have to free the city from the Nazis. On the other side of the spectrum, the black-and-white areas are just too dark at the recommended brightness level, and make it hard to see where you are going. But it’s nothing some tweaks to the game’s or TV’s settings can’t fix.
Your base of operations is in a secret room in the back of a strip club, complete with peep-hole.
F.T.L. ("Faster Than Light") is an indie game developed by Matthew Davis (programmer) and Justin Ma (artist) and released on Steam and GOG.com in September of 2012. It is a fast-paced starship strategy sim in which you manage a crew of rebels attempting to smuggle secret tactical information across the galaxy before an intergalactic Alliance can stop you and defeat the rebellion.
You use your F.T.L. drive to jump from warp beacon to warp beacon across randomly-generated sectors of space with the Alliance fleet in constant pursuit and must defend yourself from Alliance scouts, pirates, alien species, and the occasional non-conflict dilemma.
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The bulk of the game consists of combat with hostile ships.