Wednesday, 5 December 2012

1 through 50, a love letter to planet Pandora.

Right, lets do this...I've been putting off writing anything about Borderlands 2 for several weeks now, I comfortably wanted reach the angelic status of level 50 before I committed finger(s) to keyboard. Straight off the bat; Borderlands 2 is my G.O.T.Y 2012, NOTHING over the last 12 months has effected me the same way.  The World, the characters, the graphical style, the music, the writing oh.. and the Guns. So many many wonderful Guns. If the Mad Max universe were to have sex with South Park's dialogue whilst painting the prettiest picture of a lush Alien planet, you'd have an idea of how amazing this game is. I never did complete the original Borderlands back in 2009, I was probably at a point in my gaming life that a BIG open world title felt pretty daunting to me. I had never played Oblivion, Fallout 3 or New Vegas (I have now, Love 'em) so the idea of a playing a vast new portion of Pandora excited me. Skyrim came along at the end of 2011 and really nailed home that this type of open world genre is where I feel most comfortable, with its lush environments I felt part of the kingdom. It blew me away.
I had a run of average titles pass through my 360 in the months leading up to B'lands 2 (yep, nickname!) Darksiders 2 and Transformers F.O.C came and went in a flash, leaving behind a feeling of disappointment and an idea that the developers just wanted to rush through to the end and collect a paycheck. Sleeping dogs however did work for me, a short game but I enjoyed it nevertheless, and let's not even mention the staggeringly misjudged Assassin's Creed 3. Just, no Ubisoft, bad Ubisoft!

Its difficult to really pinpoint what I love about Borderlands 2, for me everything in that universe is perfect, I want to find fault in it and if I'm totally honest in the 100+ hours I've pumped into it its never crashed on me, frozen, kicked me out, glitched...nothing. It may be different on the multiplayer portion, slow-down or whatever but so far so good.

To be fair the humour is a good start; a game that makes me laugh has made a friend for life, each of the main characters have their own charm and personalities, warts 'n' all. I can't think of a stand-out favourite, It features a wide spectrum of lunatics: Claptrap's ramblings are insane, Scooter is THE quintessential inbred redneck, Jack's relentless bullshit and smack talking, Moxxxi's continual ability to make anything sound like sexual innuendo, Sir Hammerlock and his frequent 'go-kill-everything-for-research' requests and then there's Mr Torgue - the newest character on the block added via Gearbox's newest piece of DLC. Some of the funniest lines do actually come from him, they're soundbites when you purchase anything from one of his engine looking 'Weapon Vendors' he'll be heard shouting ' MOTHERFUCKING SEE YA!' or 'EXPLOOOOOOSION NOISE' It works better in-game, as the swearing is bleeped out..Gearbox, you do know how to write comedy.

When i first set out as a fresh faced level 1 Assassin AKA Zer0, I had no idea the sheer scale of the world that was about to open up to me, starting off in a glacial environment was a great juxtaposition to the original sandy starting point from the first game. Following Claptrap around as he dithers and bumps into things, chatting shit about being eaten by Bullymongs and such nonsense, I soon came across the first 'boss' - Knuckledragger - who had taken temporary ownership of Claptraps eye. I loved this introduction and had forgotten about Gearbox's unique way of splashing up a characters name with an off-the-cuff description of them.  Snatch style.
After KD went down in a hail of bullets I picked up my first real piece of loot, a VLADOF angry assault rifle. A lovely bit of kit, with great magazine size, reload speed along with decent accuracy it stayed with me for several hours during the baby-steps of my journey into the icy tundra.  I found the easiest way to approach a new situation would be (in a cowardly fashion) stick to the edge of the playing area and pick off bandits one by one, however this was thrown completely out the window after beefing up several levels. This is the beauty of Borderlands 2, its replay value.
To obtain the best loot in the game you can tussle it out with the games many 'Bosses' over and over to get that elusive orange tagged Legendary weapon - the ONLY one in the game I've managed to swipe from one of these hulking pricks is called 'Happy Rakk shooting' an extremely powerful shotgun (albeit difficult to hit anything because of it's random spread) 15322 x 5 in damage as well as a 5x stacking bonus, a skill tree perk. It can take most things down in 1 shot, but this piece is built for excellent crowd control.
I've been playing on and off over the last week; after finally hitting level 50, with a backpack full of top notch guns and grenades that would rival most Atomic bomb explosions, I waded in with both feet to an area before now had been fairly tricky to anyone on a lower level.
With all the grace of Godzilla and the relentless motion of a Terminator I smashed my way through Hoards of Hyperion loaders and puny human engineers. Melting 'bots left and right with my new kickass 'Corrosive Kitten' assault rifle I obtained through Moxxxi as a payout for a completed side mission, 36k damage a pop and that doesn't include the lingering corrosive spray that stacks up with additional damage. Nerd-gasm! Love this game!
Coming off the back of playing Darksiders 2, one if its redeeming features was the soundtrack - Jesper Kyd has become my favourite game composer.  Hitman, the Assassins Creed series, Borderlands and now he's back for more in this stonking sequel.
His unique style often features a blend of Orchestral strings and voice with electronic ambiance. Its lovely stuff.

The game does have some sort of plot, even though it's wafer thin the real meat and veg comes from the INSANELY huge collection of side missions that range from collecting Porn mags for a dirty mechanic through to shooting a mohawked bandit named Face McShooty, in his face! His request!
I found most of the juicy mods and weapons came from completing these side missions, not that you won't get the good stuff from the main story beats but it's absolutely worth sniffing out these side-show carnivals, tonnes more XP and loot.  The games masterstroke is introducing these extra missions whilst on route to your main objective, walk into a newly discovered area and you'll find a number of exclamation marks peppered around the local map. Gearbox delight in their attempt to make the player an ADD sufferer, grab this, no no no go here and kill these, wait go and collect some bullymong fur, hold up you need to blow that up first! Its a similar trait to other titles like Skyrim or Fallout but because of Borderlands 2's hyperactive gameplay and it's comic book meets sci-fi Steampunk visuals it feels more intense, skittish even.

Feelings of pure unadulterated joy come pouring out as I blast my way through B'lands 2, everything feels larger than life fighting off "Super Badass Varkids" or "Ultimate Raging Goliaths" is some of most exciting gun-play i have ever experienced in a videogame. Frantic and fast paced, i'll find myself giggling at how crazy it all becomes, controlled chaos?!  And I can honestly say I've never favoured a weapons manufacturer before, let alone a bunch completely fictional companies within a self contained game universe. Everything feels complete and fleshed out, a real place to pick your battles wisely or run in Rocket Launcher blazing, its a real testament to how much Gearbox listened to their adoring fans first time round.
Actually it's their attention to detail that has me most gripped, the hours and HOURS of Easter egg hunting, wandering through huge acid dipped caves, fighting giant sand worms, battling fire breathing Pirates...
its beginning to sound like I'm trying to sell it to you; I'm not and if you have read all of this and never played Borderlands 2 and you read it because your nice I thank you. Otherwise go get it, idiot....
My gushing is done. Game of the year for me no question about it, and the fun doesn't stop here we've got a couple more DLC's to go yet. Roll on Borderlands 3. Viva la Pandora!!        


As ever please read, do enjoi, comment
Much love
AKA Dr sanchez

Friday, 2 November 2012

Micro Review - Punch Quest IOS

Quick, grab that 80's action-star headband and make that mullet look good, wear that fedora, backwards baseball-cap or Gnome hat. Add some pink gloves, a horsehead and go PUNCH the shit out of anything that moves...GO, RUN!
The unholy alliance of "Rocketcat Games" and "MadGarden" would only have brought a great IOS game into the fold, with Punch Quest they delivered not only a great title but perhaps one of THE best to be released on the platform. I'll say it, PQ is one of the single most addictive games I've ever had the pleasure of  playing!
The retro feel graphics and amazing chiptune action-film inspired soundtrack adds even more then first imagined. The premise is simple, an endless runner where you punch and uppercut anything and everything in your way - Imps, Goblins, Bats, Skeletons, Giant skulls that shoot mini skulls, y'know the sweet sweet staple of fantasy films. You do this in order to get a bigger and bigger combo score, you never stop running completely and there are no time penalties in-game, just a fisticuffs free-for-all.

In PQ there is NO story to speak of and no real reason why our hero goes ape-shit on a punch-killing spree. I tell a lie there is, our hero begins his adventure asleep in a tree when an apple accidentally drops on his head he mistakes this as a an attack from a nearby Ogre and, well...sets off to kill! Mental, yes! Mentally perfect.. indeed

The game is chocked full of pop cultural references, power-ups that play on words (like the picture above) and a crazy level of character customization.  You earn 'punchos' as in game credit/rewards to spend on unlockables like the 100+ hats, faces and hair combos you can deck your hero out with. You can also edit the colour aspect of  all of these and your armour too. Most of this is purely aesthetic but some of the more expensive purchases can help with your running and punching power later on in the game. PQ also allows you to 'buy' new paths, each one harder than the last. Some may contain a butt-load of enemies or some have extra spike traps and big bosses. Other purchases include new special moves and ultra attacks, with names among them like 'Drillin' and grillin' Punch', 'Deadsplosion' and 'The Knuckle Circle' it's clear that you're in safe hands. There are some IAP's but to be honest if you're patient you can eventually get enough Punchos to buy everything in the store.  I honestly don't mind these IAP's especially when PQ is a FREE download, oh yeah I didn't mention that already, this game is friggin' free. A title this good HAS to be added to your collection.  I highly highly recommend this stunning IOS gem and I guarantee you'll be sucked into the epic timesink of the 'just-one-more-go' element that PQ captures perfectly.

..So stop reading this and get to the App store now, it's an essential purchase that will brighten anyone's day.
If you were in any doubt whether to pick this up, check out the image below - you get to ride a Laseraptor...I'll let that sink in for a minute...

Yep, Laseraptor!  fighting with floating Triceratops heads!

DONE! (holds hands up and walks away..)

As always, please enjoi and comment,
Much love,
Dr Sanchez AKA Marc

Friday, 19 October 2012

I'm sorry its a been a while but Borderlands 2 was released!

Good day to you fellow interwebbers, I must begin this short post with an apology.  I'm sorry, I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while (nearly a month in fact) because of life, because of Borderlands 2. I did state I wanted to get into a routine and write regular articles otherwise they'd never get written. Well I proved it to myself that this is the case, never-mind though eh?
Even as I type this I'm thinking about Borderlands, how I botched the of a end of mission last night. Without spoilers - lets just say I walked past a HUGE amount of loot and because my backpack was full I thought I just nip back.  Can't go back.  Door sealed up! SHIT!
Anyways....It's a good game and I'll be doing some writings on it after I've completed it AND done the DLC.

So, what else have I been up to, Blands 2 IS a time sink but I have playing other games - mostly IOS titles, mainly to pass the time. A couple that caught my eye was the recently released 'Burrito Bison' and the updated 'Super Monsters ate my Condo!' both 69p, both amazingly bonkers.   The new TV season has been taking up a lot of my time as well, those who read my last post would have noticed that I kind of enjoy the programmes that air during this point in the year. With the start of The Walking Dead, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire and now Arrow my evenings are taken up with multiple viewings of my favourite shows.  I'm certain once B'lands 2 is done and dusted I'll get 5 mins to write up a full 'review', saying that Assassin's Creed 3 is out in 13 days soooo....

Saturday, 29 September 2012

End of year TV explosion..

And relax .....
Not a grammaticality correct way to begin a sentence but in this instance I don't care, not when I'm talking about that one of my favourites parts of the year.  Ahhhhh (that's a sigh of relief)
Q4 is all about the return of the great fall US TV shows! From mid September to mid February my telly-box (via my Laptop most of the time) is filled with greatness, ranging from full belly laugh comedy, nail biting drama or heart wrenching tragedy.  However, this particular run of programmes are far more important this previous years, for some it signals the beginning of the end.  The Office, now on its 9th season will come to an end as 'Dunder Mifflin' finally closes its doors for the last time. Same goes for 30 Rock, as Liz and Jack will air their last episode of 'TGS' this season. Fringe division will solve their last case and due to the departure of show-runner Dan Harmon this season of Community could be it's last! BAD TIMES!!
Now, I don't regularly list a tonne of shows that I watch BUT this for this article, and in the spirit of Don't Be Panic's "We love sharing what we enjoy" vibe I believe it must be done -
(and yes, some see list making as lazy writing, don't care, there is more to come after this)

This is a mix of brand new shows and old favourites. I really hope you give these programmes a chance if you've never watched them. Honestly, they good'uns! All airtimes are available on IMDB

Bob's Burgers - great animated show on FOX about a family-owned restaurant featuring the ludicrously silky tones of H Jon Benjamin (ARCHER!!!)
Boardwalk Empire - a STAGGERINGLY brilliant epic based around the prohibition years of America, written by The Soprano's Terrence Winter and co produced by Martin Scorcese. Stunning Television.
Dexter - Michael C Hall's conflicted serial killer is back in season 7, perhaps the most important so far.
Alphas - We're early on in the 2nd season with this 'X-men in the real world' show, neat little programme that uses science to explain the actions of a team of superhuman enforcers.

Go-On - A brand new comedy produced by and starring Matthew 'Chandler Bing' Perry, has a similar feel to Community. After his wife dies, the office boss forces him to join a therapy group to help cope.  Odd ball character antics ensure, slow starter but worth sticking around for.
New Girl - The 2nd season of this quirky sitcom began last week, starring the utterly gorgeous Zooey Deschanel (in her secretary glasses!!) and the amazing Schmidt played by Max Greenfield.
South Park - Comedy Central aired its post season break episode last night with Matt and Trey showing no signs of slowing down.  Here's to another 3 years. Or so they say at CC
30 Rock - Hankies at the ready, this is going to be Tina Fey's swan song. 30 Rock after this, the 7th and final season is ENDING. NOOO i hear you cry. I guess Tracey will go back to his movies...
Up All Night - another slow starter but has paid off thanks to Christina Applegate's comedy chops and the delicious voice of Will Arnett. It's a comedy about a 'work-hard party-harder' couple whose life slows down to a crawl after they have a baby.

 The Office - Not sure how NBC are going to fill the gap after The Office shuts down after this 9th time around.  This juggernaut's steam has been running low since Steve Carrell left last year, but with a run of fresh Jim VS Dwight pranks to look forward to it should be a quality season.  CREED!
Parks and Recreation - Its all about Ron Swanson! A fly-on-the-wall mockumentary from the creators of the US Office watches the daily mis-steps of a government department in small town Pawnee Indiana. Now in it's 5th season, still going strong!
Modern Family - ABC came up trumps with this little comedy gem, season 4 has just started with a bang. Focused around the antics of a patriarch and his extended family, his gay son and his partner, and his daughter with a 2.4 kids get up, all the while being filmed for a 'documentary'. Slapstick central.
The Walking Dead - Anyone who has read the books knows the shit's about to get real, anyone who hasn't read the books...its all going work itself out nicely. SARCASM! The survivors have found themselves in the infamous prison this season while we await the arrival of 'The Governor'.
Community - Perhaps the last season for (the now fired) Dan Harmon's baby.  The new season doesn't start for another 2 weeks but anticipation is HIGH, will we see more Paint-ball or Dungeon and Dragon style episodes. One of the most pop cultural and self aware shows since Spaced. A sure-fire classic!
Touch - Kiefer Sutherland produces and stars in his first TV shot since blowing up the world in 24, playing a dad with a heavily autistic child who predicts world changing events before they happen. The 2nd season is yet to air. It's all about the numbers people!
Louie - Currently the best stand-up comedian on the planet is flying the comedy flag even higher with his hit show. Filmed with the same awkward and cringe inducing vibe as Curb Your Enthusiasm, it follows Louie through his everyday existence.  Fantastic TV cut with his club standup
Justified - My wife would kill me if I didn't include this! Deadwood's Timothy Olyphant produces and stars as tough lawman Raylan Givens in this brutal drama based in the deep south. Heavy action, great script and tight story structure.  A slow burner but totally worth it.
Fringe - Last season for Fringe division, for me this show should have ended a while back, but I'm a sucker for closure.  This time around Peter and his grown-up future daughter (yep!) are hot on the heels of the observers and the terrible future they have created.  Expect more freak-of-the-week action.

Other honourable mentions - Homeland, Breaking Bad, Star-wars Clone Wars and Wilfred.
Not to say these mentions are in anyway less important, there are just shows that either haven't aired yet or I just having caught up watching the latest seasons.
Wow looking back at this list, I really need to go outside once in a while eh? This really is one of my favourite times of the year, settling in with an old friend to watch their lives unfold. It's a simple pleasure and i can see know why people so involved with soap operas.  They have their fix, I have mine!
Hope this post has been informative and not too preachy, it's what we do at DBP, we love to share......

Dr Sanchez

As ever please read, comment, share and enjoi

Friday, 21 September 2012

Dust: A truly beautiful game

It took 3 and a half years to produce,  utilizing the patience and programming skills of just one man named Dean Dodrill! Apart from the music and voice acting, it was created entirely by Dean originally for the Xbox indie marketplace. After scoffing ALL the awards for the Dream.Build.Play competition it was clear that Humble Hearts's 'Dust: An Elysian Tail' (this years answer to 'Bastion') was a clear absolute winner and rightly deserved to be turned into a fully fledged  XBLA title. It combines amazing hand drawn art, masterful animation and a huge slice of silky 2D side-scrolling Metroidvania style gameplay. Oh and it's got loot!! On paper it's almost too perfect... and then you play it, and it IS perfect. 
Dust takes place in the world of Falana, inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. The beginning of the story sees Dust wake up with no memory of who he is.  Your only real weapon in the game you receive during the intro , a sentient sword, the Blade of Ahrah, powers up as you travel along. Fidget, the sword's guardian, acts as a companion for Dust and can shoot projectiles.  As Dust travels the world, you acquire power-ups that permanently alter gameplay, such as the ability to double jump or climb to previously unreachable areas. This is were the Metroidvania style gameplay comes in. Incorporating elements of base RPG's, Dust can gain experience points by mashing up enemies and levelling up. These can be used to raise various attributes, such as health, strength or magic. NPC's can be interacted with throughout the game's world to sell items or receive quests. "Watcha' buyin stranger?"
I've just finished the game and quite frankly got into it that much it was cleared in 3 sessions - totalling 16 hours! Now that's some sweet dedication.  I simply couldn't put it down, the characters are appealing with some real heart, the storyline is (for a game) fairly gripping, the loot, the combo system and that animation... sweet Jesus, its like playing an old Disney cartoon. Talk about fluid movement.  So lets talk a little about the combat shall we - fast and fluid, powerful combo and juggling heavy deliciousness. Throughout the playtime of Dust you will unlock different moves that add to your fighting prowess.  It stays fast and frantic till the very end, quick example of the crazyness - achievements are unlocked for your first 1000 and 2000 hit combo.  Keep those baddies up in the air! After playing through Darksiders 2 and Sleeping Dogs (both AAA titles, keep in mind) the last boss in both those titles were, for want of a better word -shit; so it's nice to experience a game that has a real bastard of a boss.  After keeping all or most of my health potions and revival stones during the 16 hour run through I ended up using them ALL during the last scrap with the Dust's chief arsehole General Gaius. Great boss, with a standard 3 stage attack pattern, ah .... reliving those 8-bit memories. 
Just one last word on the music, beautiful music to match beautiful visuals.  Created by Hyperduck Soundstudios the soundtrack features a sweeping score reminiscent of some top tier titles.  If you do play this game (and you should) listen out for the Map screen track, very nice!  
My only real criticism of Dust, and it was a pain when it happened; it crashed 3 times during some of the more chaotic fight sequences - no staggering or slowdown just shut off and booted me back to the dashboard. I hope this is an isolated incident otherwise a patch will be needed me thinks.  All in all I've really nothing negative to say about Dust, its nice and lengthy for its price and holds its value after completing it.  There is no New Game + but you are able to go back into the game and tidy up the loose ends.

As always, please enjoi, comment and share,
much love Dr Sanchez

Friday, 14 September 2012

Sleeping Dogs - a Kung-Fu review!

I love action films, try gritty kung-fu undercover cop films. If you've ever seen 2002's Infernal Affairs (re-made by Martin Scorsese as 'The Departed') then the plot of Sleeping Dogs wont be too far from your mind.  Apart from the mole in a cops uniform story angle its practically the same.
 But lets start at the beginning shall we, I never bothered playing the True crime games, poor GTA clones and besides when you own 'Vice City' and 'San Andreas' you don't need any other sandbox titles do you?  I'd heard about the troubled history that Sleeping Dogs has had, passed from pillar to post, cancelled by Activision and then picked up by SquareEnix to be published and finished by United Front Games.  It's had several name changes - True Crime Hong Kong - (just) True Crime and finally Sleeping Dogs, so when it reared it's fresh face out of development hell I was quite surprised.  It shot out of the gate a few weeks ago to mostly positive reviews so here I'am to chuck my boot in.
We'll go through a couple of points that I think will class this as a review (even though, we don't really do that here.) Firstly and most importantly I need to go all Malcolm Tucker on its length, lets get the elephant in the room out of the way - it has possibly one of the shortest sandbox main stories I've played  - clocking in at around just 13 hours, that includes most of the collectibles collected, cop cases closed, side missions done and the main story smashed. That's fairly piss-poor though isn't it. I'm keeping hold of it purely 'cos I like finding triad scum and kicking their teeth out! And Borderlands 2 isn't released for another week...

So now, because I started writing this shit sandwich review in reverse, I can talk about what I did like in sleepy doggies!
The characters are strong, BIG CAST, great set-pieces, nice fluid combat and the open world of Hong Kong is quite beautiful to look at.  The game had me pulled in from the off - Wei Shen is a compelling character and the game really throws you in at the deep end, you feel his every emotion as Wei's psychological state begins to break down over the course of the story. Tasked with the job of infiltrating The Water Street Gang a feared Hong Kong triad as well as having to report back to his superior officers pushes Wei to the extremes. There are two subplots within the main storyline: the first is Wei's personal struggle between completing his mission as a police officer, and having to commit crimes to prove his worth to the triad. This unique 'I'm a Cop / I'm a triad' game mechanic allows the player to exercise restraint or explore their crazy side respectively.  The skill tree is dependant on XP earned by driving carefully or mashing up some rival gangs Meat Clever style. I found this an interesting take on the normal levelling up scenario by playing both sides of the game.
Wei's assigned by the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau to go undercover and infiltrate the society called Sun On Yee (a parody on Sun Yee On) and take them down.  The other subplot consists of completing missions set out by a triad lieutenant, such as killing triad members who are loyal to competing lieutenants. The island is divided into four fictional districts which are named after real areas.

I love the driving in this game, as you earn HK dollars through missions you can buy some STUPIDLY quick bikes and cars this in-turn allows you to unlock different class levels of street racing. The vehicles are nimble and handle very much like an arcade racer, quick movements and a drift here and there can send you flying across the finishing line in no time!  The combat is smooth and well executed (although not as good as Batman) and by the time you've upgraded all your moves through training it's clear the local Triad's will have trouble keeping you down. I particularly enjoyed learning the 'break-leg' move that makes all enemies in your vicinity wince and cower with pain.

I couldn't get through this review without mentioned the sheer quality of the voice acting - it's stellar cast (Tom Wilkinson, Will Yun Lee, Emma Stone) keep the story ticking along nicely, like I mentioned , it's a testament to the cast that they get the emotional hooks in early on.  Brittle relationships are broken and new friendships blossom. A game like this lives or dies on the strength of it's story and main protagonist, and I'm happy to report I enjoyed playing this sordid undercover and violent tale alongside Wei. Last thing to mention before wrapping this up (it's gone on too long anyway) are the radio stations that are available.  As with all current sandbox titles (GTA, Saints Row etc) a eclectic mix of music is on offer -
Sagittarius FM, Ninja Tune Radio, Roadrunner Records, Warp Radio, H-Klub, Kerrang! Radio, Real FM, Boosey and Hawkes and Daptone Radio.  All the stations have something to offer and if you're like me and love the feeling of stealing a car and outrunning the cops whilst Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker March is playing or attempting a heist whilst Flying Lotus's Parisian Goldfish is blasting out from your super-bike then a jolly time will be had by all!

I did enjoy Sleeping Dogs, it's a pretty game with some nice combat touches, great story based set pieces and an excellent cast. It's on the short side for me and would have liked the main mission to last a wee bit longer. Oh well, cant have perfection....Assassins Creed 3 isn't out for 6 weeks!

Much love, Dr Sanchez


Please, enjoi, comment and share!!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Darksiders 2 - a 3 paragraph review!

31 hours ... That's the time it took me to finish Darksiders 2, the main story could have been finished in much less time but i like fannying around in games like this.  Collect that, grab this, go here, fetch me a key and so on. The side quests became a little repetitive but i persevered, awaiting a time that the 'ALL NEW' loot system would cough up that spanky new heavy damage hammer. (410-580+ don't you know!) I really enjoyed my time as the Pale rider, pimping him out is pretty cool, the new additions felt fresh and the combat is fast and extremely fluid, although its very cut and paste in terms of the original Darksiders there is no other game available that lets you mash shit up as Death! The early environments are lush and worth exploring, the skyline littered with giant monuments and stone statues. The game, like the original still borrows heavily from Zelda and God of War in terms of dungeon structure and action, at one point it even turns into 'Shadow of the Colossus' during one of the bigger boss fights.

25 hours ... That's when Darksiders 2 REALLY starting dragging it's feet.  Early on the enemies are plentiful and the environments are varied however, towards the end the outdoor maps are practically devoid of life and become increasingly dull. Almost as if Vigil got tired of designing baddies and just thought 'You know what, pop in a couple of bosses and skip to the end' Its a real sticking point as you can SEE the game running out of steam.  This, out of all the disappointing points of Darksiders 2 is by far the worst. Levelling up RPG style along with a skill-tree is nice to start with , but this element of the game doesn't work particularly well by the end.  You become so unbelievably strong by the time you're fighting Mr and Mrs Big, equipment that gives health per hit, general health and wrath regeneration along with earth crushingly powerful weapons ends up turning you into the all conquering SuperDeath (tm)
- SPOILER ALERT!!! - a quickside note

I was ready to scrap with the big old end boss, The avatar of Chaos - The Corruption himself, now take into account what I've just written about in the above paragraph,  the fight lasted a breath taking......4 mins!!!! 4 friggin' minutes.  I always thought end bosses were the shit, hard as nails, it's what the game leads you up to, this one my god, was pathetic.  In a game like this you'd think the big cheese would have levelled up with you and at least put up a fight, every slice from my scythes were taking HUGE chunks of energy of him. He collapsed in a heap and i didn't even break a sweat. A terrible ending to an otherwise entertaining addition to the expanding Darksiders universe, a let-down to be fair.
I don't know for the life of me how Fury and Strife's versions of the game will look, hopefully they'll mix it up a bit. Maybe throw in some multiplayer, I dunno... we'll need to wait another 18 months to find out I guess.

As ever comment, share etc
Love Dr Sanchez

Monday, 3 September 2012

RETRO MONDAY - "Streets of Rage 2"

Well well well, what's to be said about this beaut that has not been said already...Greatest side scrolling beat'em up ever! One of the best games of its generation, the 16-bit gem that spurned a tonne of copycat clones.  Anyway you look at it, IT IS still a superb title and for me, holds it's own against some of today's' shiny diamonds.  I'm quite comfortable in saying that in it's heyday myself along with my old high school friend Phil Ross finished this (probably every other day) on a 2 player run through, then went straight back and played through it again using different characters.
My favourite character to use, along with everyone who played it was Axel. The high kicking karate man with the sweet headband, tight jeans and a superb energy sapping special move.  Double tapping either left or right with B made Axel dash forward with a fiery uppercut along the his now infamous sound-bite - "RET-A-TAR" (Grand Upper) finishing off a boss this way in slo-mo was THE BEST.  Especially the first end of level boss, with the rain pounding down around you, pure magic!!
I rarely used 'Skate' Hunter and Blaze, but Max Thunder (yep, nineties game names, aces eh!) the other new addiction to the roster was a badass wrestler with a penchant for throwing people around.  He could easily get the job done with his spinning lariats and large muscles (not gay.) Who ever you played it with, a fight would normally break out as to who gets to use Axel.
A testament to how much this game has stuck with me over the years, I hadn't played it for a while (after purchasing it on the XBLA marketplace) and due to nothing more than muscle memory I walked behind the truck at the opening of the first level and picked up the extra life. Straight off the bat, without thinking about it. Another trick of the trade remembered - when your character is being thrown by a 'friend' or an enemy AI keep UP and the JUMP button pressed and you'll land on your feet. Most impressive! That is when you know a game is under your skin for life! Remember pausing the game to see up Blaze's skirt during her flying kick...yeah you do.

One element of the game I wasn't really into was the DUEL, a player vs player arena match.  I always enjoyed working with someone to help clean the streets of "Mr X" and his goons instead of fighting against them, and perhaps I never was very good at it (True!)

Streets of Rage 2, known in Japan as Bare Knuckle II: Shitō he no Chinkonka  "Bare Knuckle II: The Requiem of the Deadly Battle" 

Now because most of the early nineties games of this genre haled from Japan, the box-art was always something to be desired.  The art in the above picture is a classic example of  'is that...' syndrome, Blaze looks like an extra from Conan the Barbarian, Axel looks like Van Damme that the Arnie himself looming in the background with a huge red face!  I love these retro game boxes, usually horrendous art with completely over the top images. Ahh bless the nineties eh!
There is NO way we can discuss Streets of Rage 2 without chatting about the music.  The iconic chiptune soundtrack was composed by Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima, still one of my favourite OSTs.  The soundtrack was influenced by electronic dance music, specifically housetechnohardcore techno, and breakbeat. The soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2 is considered "revolutionary" and ahead of its time, for its "blend of swaggering house synths," "dirtyelectro-funk and "trancey electronic textures that would feel as comfortable in 'club' as it would in a video game."  If you listen to the background music for the stadium level, it bares a REAL striking resemblance to 1991's The shamen's Move any Mountain.  I really love this soundtrack!!  

This isn't a review of any type, Retro Monday doesn't do that,  it's a look back at what we loved all that time ago.  This is my first proper one since writing for Gainboy and I'm surprised I haven't done it before today.  If you are reading this and haven't played Streets of Rage 2, 1) your an idiot 2) get it now.  I highly highly recommend anyone play this, it's a slice of fried retro gold and it deserves it's place in the 16-bit hall of fame. Get it on your phone or home consoles NOW!

Sega-Vintage-Collection-Streets-of-Rage - XBOX Marketplace, all 3 Streets of Rage titles for only 800 MS - App Store 

As always, please comment, follow and enjoy!!
Much love,
Marc aka Dr Sanchez

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Micro review - "Puzzle Craft" IOS

"Some villagers have started a new settlement and they've put you in charge. In Puzzle Craft you take control of an entire populace and must help them grow their settlement into a bustling city! To do this you will need to farm, mine, collect taxes, hire workers and more. Blending two forms of gameplay for the first time, Puzzle Craft is as unique as it is addicting."

I'm a bit of a sucker for match-3 games, bejewelled and such.  It's easy money really and the games are ten a penny, just swap the jewels for animals or even robots and I'm sold.  They're the ultimate time sucking 'casual' genre and I make no bones by the fact that I love a little time sucking now and again. A new title by mobile kings Chillingo has this evil factor and more in spades. Not only content with the match-3 element the cheeky monkeys add a second level of a time management / character upgrade system.  This combination is like some dark chimera that's sprouted extra heads.
At first glance the game looks like a cartoony, social farm building sim, but its more of an economy simulator that's powered by tile matching. You control every aspect of this haven you're trying to build, responsible for your little town from both the top level, choosing what to build and where to build it, and the very bottom rung, harvesting the grain and mining the stone to keep things running.  This is where the tile matching comes in, the items you match during these mini games are added as 'stock' when you complete each line. Wheat for bread, chickens, Carrots and coal from your mine all contribute to helping your village prosper into a town and beyond.  Watch out for that Wolf!

Retaining a decent bank balance can be tricky as buying cottages for your workers or erecting a new windmill can COST the earth if you don't have the right materials to build with in the first place.  I found on several occasions when trying to connect to the in game 'shop' to buy more coins it didn't work, stuttered and kicked me out of the game.  If I am to gripe this is my only real criticism for Puzzle Craft, this, and the fact that IT TAKES AGES TO MAKE A TOWN! Probably my play-style to be honest,  blow your load on lots of materials early on f*&k the consequences.  Still great little time waster and not bad for 69p....

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Return of RetroMonday - "The N.E.S"

So, I've been a bit cheeky this week and have poached this little post from my old site.  While I prepare for a fresh review today, I just wanted to reprise this for an old school Retro:RETRO Monday. 

This comes as no surprise,I decided to talk today about perhaps my favourite console of all time. The original and best, the 8-bit monster - The Nintendo Entertainment System. A CLASSIC !
Originally released in Europe and Australia in 1987, I received mine quite late on in 1990 for my tenth Christmas. The main reason I'm writing this is the warmth I feel every time I think of playing the old dear titles. Amazing games like Mario bros 3, Zelda and Duck Tales. My fondest gaming memories all took place whilst burning away the wee hours hooked up to this genius piece of kit.

I can honestly say the single reason why I'm such a game freak now; is because of this machine, as I'd got it late on the wealth of cartridges that were available to buy was HUGE. Well to a ten year old, I'd say so.

As one of the best presents I had received came all sealed up bundled with Mario bros, Double Dragon, Duck hunt and the Zapper i was literally beside myself. I'd been buying (well, my mum had, as i said i was 10) as many game magazines around winter as i could in anticipation in what Father Christmas could be bringing, it was too much, I had to know everything about the Console, titles released, new games coming out, graphics, everything. I attribute that OCD behavior and quest for game knowledge in every console and every title I've played or heard about since. It's made me how I'am today, always seeking info, the next nugget of news, scanning sites such as IGN and Kotaku everyday. Listening to hours of podcasts from the Gamespot team or the U.S Hotspot. Other people will be just like me on this front, they'll all have similar stories and fond memories about their first love.

BINGO, their it is, my first love, that's why i chose the N.E.S to write about today, it kickstarted my official geekdom. It was the first machine, my first machine.
xx Nintendo xx
Check out this American advert for the full NES Rob the Robot pak. Cheesy but timeless...

Boxart for the OG zelda, still good....

So what kept me glued to this machine, every night after school and every weekend for YEARS. I'll tell you; no, I'll list them for you... this is a blog site after all and i do love lists.

My top 8 NES titles:

NO.8 - Double Dragon 2

I spent MANY a play-through's with a buddy on this wee beastie. I can still remember arguing with my friend about who would be Jimmy Lee and who would be Billy Lee. As their moves where identical and they looked just the same (was a NES remember) i guess it came down to playing the guy with the blue shirt or the guy with the red shirt.

NO.7 - Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers

Oh gooood times spent on this mad-cap platform game, as a BIG TIME fan of the show i loved the fact i could play as all the characters. I'm humming the theme in my head as i write this. An underrated classic.

NO.6 - Mega Man 2

Officially one of the HARDEST games ever made. I never finished it. I did spend godless hours trying to hone my platforming skills on it though. As tough-as-they-come monster that became a NES poster child for smashed up pads everywhere. Curse you Dr.Wily. Loved it !!

NO.5 - Ducktales

Another TV game adap, this one featured Scrooge McDuck and the pint size trio Huey, Duey and Looie. A classic platformer where i'd spend half the game time on foot and the other half bouncing on Scrooge's cane. It was a masterclass in capturing a brilliantly designed world with it's TV counterpart. Everybody - "Ducktales, woohoo"

NO.4 -Kickle Cubicle

Sublime level based 1 screen puzzler, mixing action and ice. I spent so long trying to finish this one, eventually i broke through to the final level. My tale doesn't have a good ending because in the midst of doing so, i leapt of my chair knocking my NES and freezing my game in the process. It didn't register my save and I'd lost everything... i should have written down that damn level code.

NO.3 - Legend of Zelda
What's to be said about this game that hasn't before...
A timeless piece of work that introduced us to the kingdom of hyrule. Will always be in my top 5.

NO.2 - The Adventure of link

What! Top down action, and now this. Side scrolling too. Amazing stuff, for the first time i felt at home with my new genre of choice. Action RPG. Splitting the games view' into 2 modes was genius and a great use for a hub world, infact that leads me nicely to my number one spot...

NO.1 - Super Mario Bros 3

The king of platformers, one of the greats and my personal favourite game of ALL TIME.
Never to be toppled in my eyes. It left an echo so loud that every other Mario game since has borrowed from it, the overview map, the choice to store power-ups, the suits.

Punch out!



So, the NES, in a nutshell the machine that made me, me.

Loving the sites and smells of the old-school.

Peace and Love
Dr Lucian Sanchez (aka Marc)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Micro review: "10000000" IOS

A nice wee blog to get us started yes? Ok.....
To quote Mark William's shed based character on "The Fast Show", this week I've mostly been playing games on my iPhone.  The little ditty that caught my eye this time around was '100000000' released a few weeks ago on the App Store.

“10000000 is a Dungeon Crawling RPG Matching Game. Run the dungeon and match to handle the things you encounter. Upgrade your castle, improve your gear, train skills and brew potions

10000000 is one of a current trend of games that has been fitted out with a pixel art finish, naff 8-bit  graphics to the untrained eye. Utilizing a drag-and-match system, these elements are mixed well with an endless dungeon crawl which has kept me attacking this for hours.  Think Henry Hatsworth on the DS via a C64.  You have specific 'missions' to conquer through each run of the dungeon, chain 5 attacks, block 5 successful strikes etc all culminating in you obtaining the elusive 10000000 score in order to escape your fate (finish it yeah!) 

The block pieces/puzzles are simple enough - match swords together, you attack, keys you'll unlock doors and so on.  At the same time, you also get to collect goodies and open treasure boxes. Your character does all the running himself but if needs to defend himself in a fight or open treasure chests, you will have to match three or more corresponding tiles. 
Dying in this game isn't a big deal, however, as you are always on a time limit the tiny corridor you're in will slowly move left cutting you off the screen entirely if one isn't quick enough to match the blocks. As soon as you kick the bucket you wake up in bed ready to go again. As there are no visible penalties in dying this almost instant restart is a nice addition, and acts very similar to 'Trial Evolutions' crack induced just-one-more-go feel. I still haven't finished this game as actually getting to the mental score of 10000000 is pretty enduring but worth every penny of its measly £1.49!  For fans of quick to play, accessible puzzle games... go get it!

Welcome back....

Well now, it's been a while hasn't it.  Over 12 months have passed since I last graced the pages of the Interweb to blog, review or generally moan about the 'stuff', our interactive world has changed and I thought it was time to ride that horse back online!
The last post I worked on '' is still open to be read and enjoyed but to keep this fresh and current I need structure.  I've decided to keep this updated 3 times a week including random posts over twitter. I loved the "Retro Monday" feature on my last blog so we'll be keeping that, a review of a more recent title on a Wednesday and at the end of the week, a round up of things from around the web. I have a few ideas planned for future blogs including a BIG TV feature on new shows that are starting in the fall/winter things like new Dexter, Boardwalk Empire and Parks and Recreation. Also and a first for me - a tweet by tweet playthrough review of some of Q4's biggest games.

Plus all the normal fluff about Games, TV and Movies.

Hope this is something you can get behind, I'd love to here what you all thing about the new page - get me on Twitter @dr_lucian and on Facebook - Marc Lonsdale. Comments on all posts are welcome.