Super Mario Maker


Two dimensional Mario games are a sure way to earn some money while maintaining the faith in quality as well as refurbishing the same old thing for God-knows how many times. Nintendo is as guilty of rehashing ideas that have yielded great success as any other developer out there. Though not everything is as we had hoped.

Some stylistic choices are immortal, they don’t come close to ever being made outdated. Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario World are such examples. Their gameplay/style could be made indefinitely until the end of time itself, no one would complain. The fact that the style of Super Mario World was quickly phased out bugs me, the handheld days could have been fruitful in that regard. Do not want to be stuck in the past? Great, but those aren’t old ideas, they’re gold ideas.

Super Mario Maker actually tries to cater to those who have tried to further their fix on 2-D Mario for as long as the internet was something of a fertile ground for original ideas that wouldn’t have a chance in the mainstream. Softwares were designed to create brand new stages of classic games like Super Mario World and such. Some people went as far as creating whole new worlds to offer a complete experience.

Now Nintendo takes the basic creation aspect that games like Minecraft have brought into the industry to something more the liking of old-seasoned gamers. It’s simple really, you have the general aesthetic of such games as Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. and give players the opportunity to create and share levels.

You have a built-in engine emulating those games workable in Super Mario Maker, whatever the gameplay was like in determined game it will be maintained in whatever level played for that game. For example, in the first Mario you couldn’t grab shells, so you can’t grab shells when playing levels made in the style of the first NES games, the others allow Mario to perform that.

Stuff found in newer games are only possible in the levels that play like New Super Mario Bro. like the wall-kicking trick. While creating a level you can interchange the style of the games but be aware that if your level uses wall-kicking to allow beating then you’d be facing an unbeatable level in any other Mario engine, unless you offer some kind of work-around trick.

You even have a few added-in levels built by the creator but they won’t last long, what’s actually juicy here the the full possibility of connecting to the Mario community as a whole and play courses made from people all around the world for all the different regions this games is available to be played at.

The difficulty of these levels go from levels that you don’t even have to press any button to beat — the the so called-ed automaton courses — to levels that only a handful of people from the thousands upon thousands who have attempted actually managed to beat them. One thing is certain, if a level exists in the system it can be completed, how hard it is stands as the real question.

There are four difficulty levels that take differing difficult sub-settings and present the player. In the first difficulty you only have to beat 8 levels in order to complete the cycle. In higher difficulties you have to beat 16 levels. To do that you have 100 lives, which might sound like a lot, but in higher difficulty settings they will be extinguished faster than you imagine.

By beating 100-lives challenges you unlock new skins for level design. The actual requirement for unlocking stuff for different designs — like the engines of other games like Super Mario World — is simply spend time on the course creating screen and dealing with its structure. Creating levels is super simple and intuitive, you simply choose what you want to add and manually do so using the tablet-controller. Everything is as simple as touching the grid screen while selecting the aspect you desire.

This type of games are meant to be peer to peer, sharing and all that stuff; though if you never want to create anything and just aspire to have a limitless Mario source you’re bound to find Super Mario Maker with open arms just waiting to start the marathon. It’s basically impossible to run out of courses to play. Granted, not all of them offer a good experience, in fact the majority are complete crap, but still, among the incredible bad design ranging from cheap tricks to courses that only require the player to run/walk to the finish lines you might find some golden challenges that are worth your time.

Whenever a course is uploaded it starts tracking the first person to ever beat it and the world record time. You have highlights with some of the best creations in any given week, the latest additions for those willing to delve into the newer, fresher stuff, and even some event courses designed by some popular people or for some kind of championship. It’s true that most of these popular guys are Japanese gaming news icons and are basically unknown by westerners, but still.

There are many things that could be said about the system regarding how the levels are chosen for each new marathon, though you don’t have to actually cope with terrible design if you decide so. When facing a 100-lives marathon and you run out of hope of beating or having any fun at all with any course you can simply hold the “-” button to skip it.

The community built over it isn’t all too connected to tell the truth. Nintendo is still stuck in the past when it comes to building an online system that actually welcomes the players, though it serves the basic purpose of delivering new courses at a rate never imaginable. Who would have thought this could be possible in the old days of 1992 for example that such a feat of limitless Mario could be even imaginable? Not many people I’m sure.

When you play a course and you decide it should be rewarded you can give the creator a star. Getting more starts will earn you more popularity but that about it. The popularity built around famous creators is pretty much set in stone by now. Some features that were available at launch aren’t really functional anymore because of the changes made on the Nintendo’s Miiverse. Ever since it came down the commentaries left when people died have been whipped out, remaining only a sound X bubble to tell its history of once having been there. Not actually a huge loss though it offered some good comments here and there.

The game as a whole is pretty bare, like it is stripped down to its basics of level sharing and playing endless streams of stages created by other players. There’s nothing really missing in that one aspect, though nothing beyond this is offered, nor even hinted at. The simple premise of replaying some of the the classic and even the recent engines of Mario until the end of times is sufficient to make up any mind about whether or not this should be an instant buy or something unworldly unthinkable.

2D Mario players should be enthusiastic about this. You might not spend hundreds of hours because at some point you realize that nothing will ever beat the perfection that game design was in the original games, but it’s certainly more worth it than another New Super Mario experience or some random recreation of the classic games over the internet. It’s amazing for what it is.


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild


I’ve said it before in 2004, it doesn’t matter whether or not this is too classic to be messed with, it doesn’t matter if it’s Nintendo most serious game and when people buy it — and they’ll buy it if the box clearly states that there is nothing inside, just a blank disc with the Zelda logo printed in order to drive fanboys crazy. They misunderstood Zelda, it is not something made to be carved in stone, this was always meant to walk alone with its own legs, with its own merits.

The life after Ocarina has been a drama about when or how will the next Ocarina arrive. People lost their minds when Wind Waker was announced and it turned out to be one of the best ideas Nintendo ever had, certainly the last great Zelda was back in 2004. Now Zelda once again tries something new, something people weren’t expecting, like the 3-day cicle in Majora, like the cartoon style in Wind Waker, like none of the recent Zelda had the guts to offer.

People like always have complained, they have a right to do so, but the grand majesty of this game offers something to behold and an adventure that can be called even better than Ocarina. I’m not judging Ocarina of Time as simply a game that had its ups and downs, I’m referring to how groundbreaking it was, how it often gets chosen as one of, if not the best game ever. I can agree with that or I don’t, that’s my own choice.

Nintendo is not known for open-world, sandbox style games. They often have a set of gameplay mechanics that work around a completely optimized experience. The general product can be so solid that revising it doesn’t even feel old. This level of freedom is seldom something in Nintendo’s agenda.

Zelda Breath of the Wild gets any kind of reminiscence from the past and throws it off the window. Now-classic Zelda aspects like using bottles to store liquid, getting them during the adventure and having a finite set of them for example is lost. The general consensus of improving Link through use of different tunics and getting stronger shields/swords that follow a linear pattern, also gone.

Be ready to expect something different from Zelda, something you might find weird that a company that in the eyes of many have trouble moving on from ideas that proved resourceful, milking it to the last drop, they have now provided a grand and absolutely fresh experience.

Zelda’s story might be one of the least memorable ones in all video-game’s history. It’s so convoluted, so hurriedly put together just for the sake of giving compulsory continuation nuts happy that it feels cheap. It’s the same old guys with a sword trying to save the princess, not unlike Mario, except the sword. If you thought Link’s arsenal also lacked an ability to jump you should think again because now he can not only jump but climb mountains to fully explore the vast world he’s inserted in.

The old system where you optioned for some kind of item set through the custom button system is scratched. Now Link has a few powers in store to fight evil which includes the ability of telekinesis and stop-time to store kinetic energy for a full release after it goes back to normal. Even bombs are some kind of materialized exploding material that Link simply have access through the use of his special item.

The special item is some type of long-lost Sheikah artifact that can only be used by the chosen hero that acts as some kind of super-powered smart-phone, the same thing that allows Link to move objects through the air allows him to record a map and take photos. Through the use of this Sheikah amulet Link can access the several “shrines” around Hyrule. These are the main primary side-quests of Breath of the Wild since they’re the stage-grounds that require the player to do something in order to receive a soul-orb of some kind. These soul-orbs actually improve Link’s health (hearts) and stamina.

Secondary side-quests are the standard help someone out by doing something pretty mundane like cooking some kind of meal, that kind of stuff. Cooking plays a big part in this game because it’s simply too easy to lose hearts. Gone are the days where people rushed through Zelda games trying to beat it with only 3 hearts. You’d be playing a one-hit kill in Breath of the Wild. Some enemies, and not even the bosses or sub-bosses, can easily chop off dozens of hearts from Link if their strongest attacks are yielded. Cooking has some complicated mechanics which includes different results for many, many different ingredients and classes of ingredients found all around.

The story is pretty good, even better if taken in consideration it’s a Zelda game. In the past you had Link, Zelda and four other “champions” that maneuvered gigantic machines called Divine Beasts. Once Ganon spread its power he conquered these beasts and killed the champions. In a last-minute resource Zelda, Impa and other two elder characters put Link to sleep so he could one day awaken and bring peace to Hyrule. Princess Zelda was locked inside the Hyrule Castle while she tried to keep Calamity Ganon (basically the new fancy way to refer to Ganon) at bay.

One hundred years passed and the hero was reborn with no memory of the past, now he has to take controls of the relics from the past, the four Divine Beasts to have a chance against Ganon, who is almost prevailing over the now weakened Zelda. What’s interesting is that you live the world that knows of a hero downed in battle 100 years ago, and yet, you’re the one and only.

The story unfolds pretty nicely, something new for Nintendo as well, and the four different paths can be taken in any order you’d like. To tell the truth, much of what you really need to go through the game is given to you in the first two hours, the rest is better swords, shields, bows and ingredients.

What’s been topic of hot debate and intense criticism is the weapon damage system. Any weapon you use takes self damage and could break at any moment. You’ll get a signal that the weapon you’re using is about to break but what caused the uproar was the fact that they don’t really hold much fight in them. Some weaker stuff might last for 2 or 3 swings before they’re sent down to oblivion. Other might take longer but most of them will break between 6-10 hits. When they break you have to choose another one which is bothersome but the action doesn’t simply roll on.

Some other gameplay mechanics were added, like damage taken from altitude. higher altitudes generally mean harsher, colder climates and if you’re not suited up for those situations with thick furry coats, good boots and breeches you’ll take damage in time. The same goes for Death Mountain or the desert where you’ll have to have clothes that support the extreme heat. Another solution would be brewing special potions that let you endure the extreme weather for a period.

Not everything is laid down on the table as you start the adventure, you might feel like a 10 year-old exploring the expanses of Super Mario World and feeling like getting to Donut Plains to be quite a feat. Weather will kill you; limited stamina limits your movement climbing wall of stones; new abilities aren’t exactly easy to grasp, especially when you’re expecting typical Zelda stuff; Enemies take a truck-load of damage; some enemies are not even beatable in the beginning. The vast land of Hyrule is as menacing as it is beautiful.

To go with the flow of a deserted land filled with chaos and condemned to doom you get a simplistic soundtrack which might sound completely absent at first, but ends up fitting perfectly with the general feel of the game. I actually checked to see if the music was enabled and searched online about it to make sure.

This Zelda is a 180 degree shift from the Zelda we’re accustomed to, anyone looking to have their share of typical Zelda experience might leave frustrated with this one. This changes so many aspects of the game that it’s actually a miracle that Nintendo chose to shift the direction it took so much. It takes some inspiration in modern gaming like Skyrim (big explorable world) and Assassin’s Creed (climbing and navigating vertically), but also brings back some cool ideas from past game like Wind Waker (taking pictures and cataloging stuff). It’s truly one of the best games ever developed, a worthy holder of the Zelda title, which was never meant to suffice with the lack of prestige from recent installments.

Super Mario Kart


Back in the Super Nintendo days graphics weren’t what we expect them to be these days, and yet we were so easily impressed with anything beyond the ordinary it’s not even funny. It was such a gap going from 16-bit days to machines like the Nintendo 64 which were quite capable of reproducing 3D environments. By today’s standards Super Mario 64 still looks incredible. Maybe we will never see such a revolution is gaming as those days.

Super Mario Kart was a change of direction because we were used to platformers or top-down adventure games, but a racing game? How would that even work beyond the fair but still embryonic attempts, some child might have thought in the early 90’s. There has been games with the kind of realism expected from such endeavor but console gamers, especially Nintendo gamers weren’t too keen on grasping the whole concept of a cartoonish game-maker like Nintendo in such a competitive environment.

Nintendo broke a few unsaid rules with Super Mario Kart, not only it cemented the very idea of a Mario spin-off but it also gave new grounds of possibilities from which they could be implemented and used to craft some new, imaginative racing style that would encompass all Nintendo elements and still seem something so completely different, so out of the ordinary for a company like Nintendo.

One can easily say that this burst of enthusiastic has its rots on the famous Mode 7, a graphical capability of the Super Nintendo which allowed for a transitional rotating effect on the background, creating an apparent 3D style though it all was simply ingenious use of height/depth texture management in two dimensions. Whatever it may be, Super Mario Kart offered an amazing control scheme full of depth and handing over to the player complete controle of his kart.

In fact, that so Nintendo, while others might choose muscle cars to emulate the idealization of what you can’t have, they simply put you in control of animated characters driving karts in ever crazier tracks. Some had pits which required Lakity to go over and pull you back into the track.

What made this so far apart from any kind of competitor on its day was the addition of items. Basically you could run over some yellow “?” button and receive a random items that could be used in your favor to thwart the plans of someone ahead of you or simply wreak havoc making the course always more dangerous. The worst you had been doing in the race the better items you’d get. Rays that transformed everyone in tiny racers allowing you to pass over them and stomp them, stars to make you invincible for a little while.

Super Mario Kart, and the series in general was never meant to be a core racer game, the best skilled racer might not always win and whoever’s last place might get a couple of incredibly good items and reach first place in one final lap. It’s the definition of a party game where playing with friends in the same room without any spirit of stark competitiveness is the ideal scenario.

Some other modes like the battle mode were glorious from the start, refined in later installments of the series, yes, but even Super Mario Kart seemed to have it down pretty well by the time it was released. Basically everyone starts with three balloons attached to their karts and every time the person got hit by an item one of the balloons would go away. Whoever survived in the end with whichever number of balloons was the winner. Simple multiplayer fun that allowed so much enjoyment.

You could also try you best in time attack sessions for a more hardcore type of challenge without the need of opponents or items. To this day communities of hardcore karters race to get the best times in each of the many courses. They became so iconic that every new Mario Kart released recently almost needs to have classic tracks for nostalgia purposes; and I should say that in most cases you realize that the courses from former games are the better ones anyway.

The fact you can race with some of the most beloved characters in the Mario universe, even villains, is enough to make this an incredible selling point. Each of them functions slightly different and should respond in distinct ways on the field. Characters like Donkey Kong Jr. and Bowser are heavy, bulky and have the best top speed. It’s easy to say that whenever a lighter kart in in front of them and they collide, the lighter car will be pushed aside.

The lighter karts like Yoshi and Peach have better acceleration and can recover much easier from any items that completely stops them. Their aerial time is also slightly better for some shortcuts. Everything is divided in four championships at three different motor speeds — also known as difficulty levels — and overall it offers a pretty good challenge for players especially in later difficulties and the last cup.

Super Mario Kart is one of the most legendary video-games in existence. Its legacy goes beyond racing games, it goes beyond Mario spin-offs; it’s a testament of genial game design and freshness reigning over established saturated formulas. It taught a thing or two to basically anyone in the industry on how to make a game memorable, absolutely essential.

Luigi’s Mansion

luigis mansion

Launch line-ups are a curious sort of deal. You’re far too early in development lifetime to demand any kind of expertise from creators and yet the jump provided by the gap invokes a certain level of amazement from the slightest visual improvement to the seemingly natural experience of a new controller. Newer gamers might not grasp this weird feeling as starkly as generations past have but one can always count on the next best thing to be exciting.

Mario sure had its moment when the Nintendo 64 was released when the red-clothed brother was rightfully chosen to be the face of a new generation, the one pixelated gaming individual to suddenly appear out of a pipe in all three-dimensional glory. If any one character was bound to have this honor no better choice could have been made.

When the GameCube was released Super Smash Bros was the cool kid on the block, everyone wanted to see what the hype was all about, and much like Super Mario 64 did for 3D movements when it unleashed it sheer power and gave full control to the player, Melee had done basically the same, perhaps in a whole different approach. To this day it’s regarded as having one of the most advanced, deep controls mechanics for a Nintendo game.

Luigi’s Mansion wasn’t Mario, it wasn’t a full-fledged adventure, it wasn’t meant to be memorable or shake up the game’s industry. It came to life mainly because Mario wasn’t ready to run the show yet and Melee was too big of a hit to compete with heavy-hitters like a Super Mario 64 sequel. Luigi’s Mansion was a B-video-game at heart from a B- character in the Mario universe. Who knows, maybe Luigi would cut the cord and shine a light on his own terms.

A light-hearted adventure was crafted, well-established and managed to set the kick off to a career for the green-clothed plumber. By now a worthy sequel has made it onto the Nintendo 3DS and Luigi even received a DLC-kind of treatment for a Super Mario Bros. Wii U. Hes featured as a main playable character in both Super Mario 3D Land/World. It’s pretty clear at this point that Luigi has enough charisma to endure titles on his own, and Luigi’s Mansion started it all.

Armed with only a lantern and a vacuum cleaner he’s out to clear a haunted mansion he inherited from ghosts. To aid in his quest there’s the Professor Elvin Gadd, who investigates the strange occurrences in the vicinity and is always more than ready to make the poor frail Luigi face the dangers of the house while he stays comfortably in his laboratory just studying whatever the main character founds.

Luigi’s fearful nature comes into play, opposed to the bravely Mario, and adds a certain comedic charm to the whole thing. The battle system is quite intriguing, you need to shed light onto the ghost to freeze him for a couple of seconds and then use the vacuum to capture it. The ghost won’t go easy in and will struggle around the room to avoid being captured so you need to press the C-stick to the opposed direction the ghost is trying to escape otherwise he will escape indeed.

The game is brief, divided into four chapters and each chapter has a boss that require different strategies than from regular ghosts. Capturing ghosts and using the vacuum cleaner around the mansion also hands out treasure which is used to rank how well the player has done in the end. If you get a lot of money you’ll get a fancy makeover on the property and the end result will be a painting of a colossal abode, if now, you’ll get a simple residence. in a nutshell, money only works as a final game ranking system.

Capturing different types of ghosts, however, can complete a gallery that Professor Gadd once had before the main antagonist came up and freed them to haunt the house. Capturing the ghosts in one go can earn golden frames while having more than one try might hand out silver or bronze. Aside from that there’s not much to do when it comes to collectibles or side-quests.

The adventure is short but sweet, full of funny moments in most of the many conversations between Luigi and the professor using some kind of modified Game Boy communicator. It features a memorable location — the Mansion — because of the intense back-tracking from finding keys and side-routes around the residence. You’ll get to know it pretty deeply.

Of course the GameCube would show its true colors shortly after with the amazing titles that succeeded the launch line-up clearly focused on Super Smash Bros Melee, but this gem should never be overlooked or forgotten by those who, like me, acknowledge the incredible library of game the GameCube has got. Luigis Mansion might now be the shiniest of them all, but it’s certainly a jewel on its own.


Resident Evil 6


On the third main title after rebooting the series into a more action-oriented third person shooter with horror  elements Resident Evil seems to have forgotten lessons learned with the fourth and fifth iterations as well as the minimal necessary to make a Resident Evil. While Resident Evil 4 was still the series we all learned to love, Resident Evil 5 was more of a “great game, mediocre RE”. This time there’s absolutely no excuse, Resident Evil 6 isn’t a good game by any sort of standard.

Capcom chose Resident Evil to be their larger-than-life franchise, somehow that happened. A game that started minimalistic in nature, boasting large focus on exploration and puzzle-solving became a Michael Bay movie. Actually, Michael Bay could learn a thing or two about silliness after playing Resident Evil 6.

Basically every trick in the book of cringy action was used, sometimes in a matter of moments apart. Car chases, jumps over helicopters using motorcycles, avalanche run-aways, bullets flying, explosions everywhere. Lara Croft got it easy with her falls and constant moaning, these guys take a beat and won’t even shed a drop of blood.

Everything is blown way out of proportion, like it was a matter of life and death to make the most unrealistic, action-packed piece of incoherent gimmicks, mashed together just for the sake of showing off. The dialog didn’t help either, from the egotistical jibber-jabber so often uttered by Jake (the new character), to Leon’s usual cocky style. The writing takes lesson with the rest of the team, every single overused catchphrase in existence made it way into the final product. It’s so silly that it’s funny.

Another major annoyance is the omnipresence of Quick-time-events. QTE are special moments, generally in cutscenes but not always, that require the player to press one of more buttons at the right moment or move the analog stick in some distinct manner. Resident Evil 4 had those but they were somewhat rare, like escaping a boulder that otherwise would kill you or the famous Krauser fight. Resident Evil 5 brought that back and was a bit more bothersome. Resident Evil 6 on the other hand makes it almost unbearable.

What I can’t still wrap my head around is how they managed to take a step back gameplay-wise. Resident Evil 5 had taken all the right choices at least when it came to controls. You might not like the third-person control scheme but there’s no denying that if the series is bound to follow that path, the fifth installment was the best Capcom had to offer. This time the field of view is minimal, the camera is somehow stuck right behind the character model which blocks half of the screen.

The problems was so serious that Capcom had to release a free update to cater to that, so much the player-base was complaining. I had the unpleasant experience of playing through two of the main campaigns before the update and I must say that the game nauseated me in a few moments, the screen wiggled way too much and the movements felt absolutely unnatural, even for someone who played a whole bunch of the previous two installments. Something was off and while the update made things much better, widening the field of view, it’s still a step back.

There are three different campaigns you can play, somewhat similar to what the scenarios were in the first games. It’s actually superior because, at least the first three chapter are pretty unique in each. In the last two chapters the plots start to intertwine and so much that seemed to have happened out of sheer luck in previous campaigns finally get a reason behind it all.

Though the way they handled the stories is pretty satisfying, they managed to take another step back. The chapters are amazingly big, some of them might take up to two hours in the first play-through and highers difficulties.. Resident Evil 5 had broken the chapters in smaller sections and it was fine the way it was. They ranged from 5 to 45 minutes depending on whether it was your first time or not. It worked, why mess up something that worked? After huge community backlash, the free update added the option to start a chapter during different moments, like it was in Resident Evil 5 (1-1, 1-2, 1-3…).

Now they added a whole bunch of checkpoints that don’t actually save the game, instead, they just reload you in case you die. This is a much worse issue than it sounds. If you decide to stop playing at any time you need to get to the next save point, not checkpoint. I lost a few good improvements early in the game because I just couldn’t understand it. Sometimes, after you died, it would appear a typewriter (classic Resident Evil save mechanism) saying it had been saved, but it just wasn’t the case, I had to reach probably another cutscene for, who knows, get to stop playing without having to redo the last 20 minutes of gameplay.

In a chapter you might get like three or four save points while having like 20-25 checkpoints. The saving system is absolutely abysmal. At least the game doesn’t require any sort of exploration from your part, you simply walk straight and you’ll bump into the right path. Which reminds me of another issue. Capcom added a GPS system that tells you exactly where you need to go and where exactly is the item you need to get or lever you need to pull. I didn’t really want them to have this leash in me in such a linear endeavor so I disabled it, it turns out that when you disable the GPS you also disable the HUD. Really, Capcom?

One thing I thought was pretty cool in Resident Evil — or any game that features it for that matter — is how well you have your statistics laid out for you. Everything, from shots fired with each weapon to how many of each enemy you’ve killed is displayed in the record menu. You can even find how long you’ve traveled running, dashing or walking, or aboard any of the vehicles included in the game. Can’t get any better than stats.

It doesn’t feature any sort of competitive multiplayer — thank God — but it does feature one of Resident Evil 5’s best selling points, the co-op. Every one of the three campaigns is played by two characters which can be played with another person instead of the AI. The AI will pretty much hold its own and not get much in the way of what you need to do so it’s a problem at all to play this alone. It’s better than having Sheeva/Chris as partner in the fifth one, at least.

There’s also a fourth bonus campaign that was made for solo playing, after the big free update it could be played in co-op as well. I can’t stress how much of a must have this update is. It also added another difficulty setting called “No Hope”, to meet fans’ demands for a true difficult experience. It basically disables the add-ons you’re able to purchase and equip for your character while ramping up a few features like not recovering your health after dying.

Several techniques can be bought from collecting bonus points in the game, like damage reduction, better scope for the sniper rifle or superior odds of an enemy dropping items. Only three of them can be equipped at a time and some even have different levels within them, like three levels of damage reduction, each level costs much more but yields more favorable results.

In Resident Evil 4 the series started a trend of slowly losing its survival-horror soul. Though this game might have some creepy locations and a few moments which the atmosphere reminds the good old days, as a whole this is an action game, A Gears of War with a worse cover and evade system.

To cover you need to press a whole bunch of buttons and keep the shoulder pressed. To go off cover and shoot is weird since having only the laser sight you only get to know where you’re aiming when you’re unprotected. The added aiming system might halp if you haven’t disabled it like me, but it’s still to wide to be of any use other than finding the enemy’s general direction.

Evading is another pain. Why they chose to make reloading a single press of a button while using the evasive jump it’s required to ready-up the battle stance. Again, both situations in Gears of War are much more intuitive, the cover slide is awesome, you can’t simply stay in cover without having to hold any button and the evasive maneuver is performed by simply pressing a button and the direction you’re willing to go. If you want make a Gears of War at least make it right.

Two other modes aside from the main one are available. One of them is the now recurrent Mercenaries which hasn’t changed much. You still have to fight your way through hordes of enemies trying to score high and get more time to do so. The other one is actually interesting, it’s called Agent Hunt and you get to join random people’s games as the enemy. It seems that even first timers can have people joining their game if they chose to enable it in the mane before the game starts, which can cause trouble.

Resident Evil is one gigantic mess of a game, not entirely bad because it’s not completely broken, just a hassle to play while having the two previous games in mind. The level os silliness is unbearable, the controls have taken a major hit and while Capcom moved fast to offer a free update that solved at least a few of its more technical problems, the problems regarding the game itself are beyond fixing. A sad moment for one of the best series video-games has to offer.

Gears of War: Judgement

Right from the get-go you realize why this is called “Judgment”. Somehow, Damon Baird, one of the original four in the group since the first Gears, is being judged in a rather trumped-up trial. The form in which the charges are presented and how the seemingly superior ranked official storms on them makes everything seem conspicuously biased. Still, all of them are given the chance to speak and give his version of what had happened.

They take turns unfolding the story and each time you control a different character rebuilding their narrative in real time. Apparently they weren’t supposed to had done something that they did, why? Because they disobeyed direct orders. Not unlike what Marcus Fenix had been doing throughout the series up to that point, but still, let the tribunal hear and the official would give his final and unquestionable verdict.

The first few minutes might have more meaningful storytelling than all the other 3 Gears of War games combined. Not that it ultimately matters, you basically go from action sequence to action sequence shooting down gruesome enemies that seem much enraged as you are, in a battle that it’s never really clear when or why it began in the first place.

The fact the narrative works better this time around might have to do with the fact that Damon Baird is a better developed character than Marcus Fenix. Gears of War dropped a lot of the raucous macho attitude in favor of a more harmonious relationship between the four characters.

There’s also the addition of a woman character, Sofia Hendrik, who surprisingly doesn’t look like a masculinized modern day feminist. She stands as the the voice of reason in a group of air-heads. She still fights though, and is quite good at that. Along with Damon Baird, the other member of the secondary group in the original trilogy is also present, Augustus Cole. The fourth member is another friend of Damon, a guy named Garron Paduk, who is much more aligned with Gears’s type of taciturn, scarred manly men who prefers to shoot first and never ask any question.

This is typical Gears, episodic, full of action and explosions. They actually took down a notch in the noble task of introducing newer enemy variants at every few seconds. Gears of War 3 was basically one gigantic puzzle on how each enemy behaved and could be beaten.

The most important new feature are the Declassified Missions. Picture it this way, during the re-telling of the events in the game there will be a strange foggy Gears symbol attached to a wall right before some action sequences, if you inspect it you’re given the option to change the occurrences to a more extreme version. Of course you’re going to have to play that more extreme version so it’s up to you to accept or not this new “path”.

Some of them simply state that at that moment a fog had come down on them and the visibility was weakened. You’re going to have to deal with the fog during the whole sequence. Some of them state that a poisonous gas was released so they had a limited time to reach their destination, if you missed the time, you were dead.

Some extras are tougher than others so you can try to beat it and change your mind if you somehow are having trouble with it. The bonus for enduring this higher challenge is that you get more stars at the end of each episode. Depending on how well you did you might receive up to three stars which can unlock new stuff for both single and multiplayer.

The most important thing you can unlock by getting stars is the Aftermath chapter, which is not exactly related to the events of Judgement and in fact sheds a light on some of the events that took place in Gears of War 3 but wasn’t part of the Marcus/Dominic storyline. It features the length of pretty much a regular chapter and the very presence of it might be due to the fact that Judgement might leave the impression of being a DLC thrown in together in full package for revenue.

Another important change was made to how controls work, and the changes are excellent! You no longer need to count on the unresponsive digital pad of the Xbox 360 controller to change weapons. You simply press Y to change to your secondary. To throw grenades you no longer need to equip them, they used the left bumper to throw nades. By tapping it you’ll do a quick throw, if you hold then the trajectory will be shown. The left bumper used to be used for telling the objective and no one really needed that, Gears of War has always been a corridor and what you needed to do was to shoot anything that moved.

My take on this is that Judgement is solid as a stand-alone full-length release, it just doesn’t follow the main storyline, but it’s certainly within the reaches of Gears. The fact that it features nothing new in terms of gameplay wasn’t an argument not to release both sequels to the first installment. Let’s be fair here, Gears didn’t try to redefine gaming, action, or third-person shooters in any way; not in the beginning, not now.

The multiplayer might as well be the best you can play in all four games. The usual deathmatch to see who scores big and kills the most is still the main meal. The latest addition is a mode called OverRun. This is pretty much a take on Gears if it were a team-based shooter. It works so well that it would be a shame if this mode doesn’t become a constant recurrent in later iterations.

In OverRun you get to play as both the COG (good guys) and the Locust (bad guys). Your objective as the COG is to prevent the Locust to completely damage the entrance to the Emergency Hole, denying them the advance in the course. If somehow you fail twice they will reach the last of a three-part round in which their task will be to destroy the generator.

If the COG successfully defends the advance of the Locust they immediately win the round. The roles are then changed and whoever was defending now has to attack. Whichever team gets farther wins the game. If both teams manages to reach the generator and destroy it then the team that did it fastest will be the winner.

To do that you assume the role of four classes in the COG and 8 different types of Locust. As the COG you simply change your role. You can be the engineer and repair the defenses, a soldier who inflicts damage and restores ammunition, a medic who deals damage and can revive downed team-mates or the scout who snipes from afar and can reach higher places in the maps for better vision.

As the Locust you need to start with one of the four regular, weaker grubs, while gaining score points. If you earn enough points you can become a much stronger enemy, like the Serapede (a giant centipede imune to front attacks) or a Corpser (the big shielded guys). Controlling the opposition — not only in multiplayer with human-like controls — and getting to control monsters like the Corpser is an amazing feeling. Some might be overpowered, but still, whoever manages to do better will win the round and some always have to win anyway.

The co-op is solid as well. The four characters are always together so it doesn’t feature different paths like it did in previous Gears. Playing with 3 other people online, especially if you know them, is pretty satisfying and the whole game was build from ground up for this very purpose.

So Gears of War: Judgement might be the black sheep of the family in Gears, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. The OverRun multiplayer by itself is one of the best multiplayer mode I’ve played in a while and the campaign is good old Gears. There’s not much not to like except the fact that the main team of protagonists aren’t featured. I actually thought it was a plus, but to each his own opinions.

Toki Tori

Some games can easily fool you into thinking they’re something else. Take Terraria for example, one might think it’s just a stylish platformer about going from point A to point B when it’s so much more than that. Toki Tori might be a cutesy, simplistic feat at first glance, but in fact it’s a pretty brutal puzzle experience.

The levels are basic and the movements aren’t that fancy either. Most monsters just go right and left endlessly until something happens that chances their direction. You have to take them in consideration as much as any other aspect of the stage. Something stands there just for the sake of being there? Chances are it’s got some important role in which you haven’t gotten the grasp of yet.

The movements are precise but they’re profoundly limited. You occupy one square unit of existence, per say, and when you move any direction you notice you moved half the distance away from this initial territory, by repressing the same direction you had pressed before you’ll be in the adjacent block. This helps the developer create very specific puzzles that need to be absolute the only way to pass the level. It’s easy to replicate because you don’t have much room for imprecision.

To succeed in this game you just have to go around a levels and collect all the eggs for Toki Tori. After reaching the last one of them you get warped and finish the level. If it sounds simple it’s because it really is. The problem is, getting these eggs might become impossible in just simply by getting one of the eggs too early for example. A chain of events happen and you won’t notice the level has become impossible until you reach the end.

If you had to restart each time you screw up in something it could become tedious, so they implemented a system of backtracking in time. It may sound cheap at first but when later levels are reached you finally understand why this is such a big deal. Made a move you regret? just hit backspace to rewind the game and redo whatever you did wrong. Want to rewind until the movement you spawn right in the beginning? No problem. You just can’t redo time that was overwritten, whatever you did after agreeing on time-travelling back will be lost. It shouldn’t be a problem because if you’re back-tracking it basically means something went terribly wrong and you need to redo, no questions asked.

To help the player out during the quest you have stuff like platforms, blocks or freezing guns at disposal. Depending on the world you’re in some special ability might be available, like in the water levels which you can become a bubble and float around, while in the sewer you might have a slimy-sucking weapon to get rid of some nasty snails that roam these waste-filled depths.

At first whatever ability that is presented to the player might be used at will, but right next to this demo level you will instantly face what this game does best. It severely limits the usage of whatever skill you have. I’m not talking a magazine of bullets to dispose of 3 enemies; I’m talking three bullets expecting three headshots. Some levels are ingeniously crafted to trick you into making the hasty decision, the easy move. Always doubt what’s too clear, it probably isn’t, this game has taught me that.

You’re basically trying to find all the places you absolutely need to spend resources in to proceed, if you reached a dead end and there’s still 2 eggs to go, you might need to rethink your last couple of moves, you might have to rethink a move you made in the beginning, you might need to completely rethink your route. It makes some later stages absolutely hell compared to the easy “just walk and beat the level” of the first few stages.

Toki Tori is also a lovable character, always doing funny stuff in-game when you suddenly feel the need to stop and start using your brain to crack that nut, weaving at you, taking off his underwater goggles while still underwater to clean them up and putting them back on like nothing happened. Toki Tori is awesome and it invokes the attention of kids. Though Toki Tori might please easily, the very nature of this game is absolutely brutal. Breeze through the first world and face the real danger of later stages so you get a real impression of how hard this seemingly lighthearted adventure can become.

Yes, it’s a hard game, everyone should have gotten that by now, but is it the kind of challenge we can get something out of? Absolutely. There’s a certain joy in finishing a harder level by realizing what you were doing wrong all along. There’s also a certain dose of frustration when you give in and notice you wouldn’t have noticed that even if you played for 300 years straight. Some challenges just have an overwhelming number of possibilities.

Hidden inside this cute cover, easy bulky controls and incredibly charismatic main character lies a morbid core indeed, and is it hard! Toki Tori is a puzzle game made possible with 2-dimensional platforming, but this is not platforming, at least not in general terms. When you think about it, it’s made of two very distinct characteristics that could easily become a problem for the uninitiated. It’s a cute game with a harsh gameplay. Generally you have stuff like cute/fun or core/challenging. The only difference here is that the cover hides what you’re actually getting completely, be aware.