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At the beginning of April I wrote a blog covering my thoughts about all the games I played from the first three months of the year. I'm excited to bring you the second edition of my Quick Reviews blog series that covers the games released from April through June. I think the format of the first edition worked really well so I'm going to continue with it for the second edition. I hope you enjoy it.
(As always I will not discuss spoilers for any of the games, so read on without fear!)
Guacamelee! (PSN Cross Buy with PS3 and Vita)
Guacamelee is a different take on the classic 2D Metroid-type games because instead of following a gun wielding soldier you are placed in the shoes of a masked wrestler named Juan. Although he doesn't have long ranged attacks, Juan thankfully has a growing number of wrestling moves to engage the hordes of enemies in his path. Like the best Metroid-type games, the items you get don't just expand the exploration gameplay, but they also open up new combat abilities. I played most of the game in single player before switching to the drop-in, drop-out co-op for the rest. Both styles of play are really fun, although the platforming gets too tricky at the end for two players on the same screen. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the awesome music and mostly excellent humor of the game which helped keep a smile on my face throughout.
Verdict - Guacamelee's exploration and deep combat constantly evolve at a satisfying rate all the way to end. If you are looking for a strong Metroid-type game be sure to give Guacamelee a shot.
Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon (XBLA, PSN, PC)
I absolutely adored Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon thanks to its hilarious tone and satisfying open-world gameplay. Set in the year 2007, when the apocalypse has had an apocalypse, Sergeant Rex Power Colt must face an evil cyborg army to save the world. Rex is an awesome character to root for thanks to Terminator and Aliens actor Michael Beihn's enthusiasm for the role. The personality of the world and its characters are central to its appeal, but Blood Dragon also streamlines the Far Cry 3 formula to great effect. There may only be one island in Blood Dragon, but it is concentrated with interesting missions that can be approached from any angle. I was surprised that the linear story missions are actually way better paced than the original Far Cry 3. Even though some gameplay elements lose their complexity (hunting, crafting, and skill trees) the upside is that you are looking at menus less which keeps you focused on the action.
Verdict - Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon successfully streamlines the Far Cry 3 formula to create a more satisfying and focused experience. The humor and personality combined with the great gameplay makes Blood Dragon a must play.
Animal Crossing New Leaf (3DS)
I almost skipped Animal Crossing New Leaf because I felt it would just be a repeat of Wild World. While it is true that you are still doing a ton of fishing and bug catching to build a bigger and better house, reducing the game to that loop doesn't really capture what New Leaf is about. New Leaf places you in the role of the mayor of your town and while your actual mayoral duties are limited (you can set laws and start public works projects) you ultimately do shape and build your entire town as you continue to play. The increased scope really does make the experience more engaging than ever and thanks to all of the subtle improvements (like better inventory management and more reliable money making strategies) the game is even easier to enjoy.
Verdict - New Leaf's new focus on watching your personalized town expand before you breathes new life into the series. The many subtle improvements really makes the game more accessible and enjoyable.
The Last of Us (PS3)
The Last of Us definitely lives up to Naughty Dog's incredible legacy by not compromising on its bleak vision of the apocalypse in both its story and gameplay. Perhaps the best thing about The Last of Us is how it upsets your expectations. You can call some story beats a mile away, but there were a large number of events where I was genuinely surprised by how they unfolded. Once I was hooked halfway through the game, I couldn't stop playing until the amazing conclusion. The characters at the center of this story are probably two of the most effectively portrayed in video games thanks to the strong performances of the actors that are not impacted by any technological constraints (The faces of the characters, particularly their eyes, are really life-like). If I have one regret with my playthrough it's that I decided to play on normal which totally removed the tension in combat. Perhaps it was also because I always used stealth whenever possible, but I felt overly prepared for any situation.
Verdict - You should play The Last of Us as soon as possible. It is a truly excellent adventure that must be experienced.
New Super Luigi U (Wii U DLC, physical release on August 25th)
I probably won't review DLC all that often, but I'll make an exception with New Super Luigi U. Essentially, New Super Luigi U is the second quest for New Super Mario Bros U. If you are a fan of the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2 for its intense challenge, New Super Luigi U is a must play. The 80+ new levels (which feature all new geography and a strict 100 second time limit) significantly ups the difficulty of the game especially if you always go for the star coins like I do. Oddly enough I found the game got easier as it went on. Perhaps it was because I became increasingly more comfortable with Luigi's unique physics and extra jump height, but it does seem to lose focus at the end. Aside from one particularly nasty level in World 9 (that I absolutely loved beating!), I think most Mario veterans will still be able to finish the game and have a great time exploring Luigi's new gameplay. My only complaint is that all of the boss battles are exactly the same as the base game which is pretty lame.
Verdict - New Super Luigi U offers a ton of awesome new content for a great price. This is DLC done right.
Game and Wario (Wii U) - I finished Game and Wario in about 2 hours, but it is proving to have legs beyond the credits. Gamer, Patchwork, and Pirates are my favorites of the twelve single player games, while Sketch (an awesome Pictionary game) and Fruit are great multiplayer games. The rest of the games are sadly quickly forgettable. If you want to explore what the Gamepad is capable of and would enjoy sharing it with friends Game and Wario will be a good purchase. The game is priced fairly at $40 and only requires the Gamepad even for multiplayer which is smart.
Pandora's Tower (Wii) - I'm not far into the Wii's final adventure, but I'm definitely interested to see it through. The combat seems a little weak so far, but still seems serviceable. The premise of the game is definitely working because a lot of the story events and concepts are as gross as they should be and I feel engaged in the central conflict even though I'm conflicted in my feelings about the characters.
Project X Zone (3DS) - Project X Zone isn't exactly a great strategy game per se because it pretends to have depth that it doesn't have. All characters unfortunately have the same moves even though the animations are different. This makes the game quite repetitive, but it's somehow still enjoyable thanks to its flashy and fun atmosphere. I was surprised by the story because even though it's terrible like most massive cross over games are, it still succeeds because of the great writing in the characters' banter.
Thanks for reading my latest blog, I hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on the games you've been playing recently. Also what games are you looking forward to in the second half of the year?