Although it's exciting to see so many great games start popping up in the fourth quarter... there are too many great games popping up in the fourth quarter.
I've had my hands absolutely full with more stuff than any one man can handle, and then on top of that, I'm still trying to wrap up the edits on my book, plugging away at the good old day job, and spending as much quality time with the family as possible… it's pretty fair to say that "leisure time" isn't a phrase that exists in my vocabulary right now.
Anyway, getting back to the games, within the span of a week (more or less) we got Dishonored, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, The Walking Dead Episode 4, DLC for Borderlands 2 (if you're into that sort of thing) and a lot of smaller stuff like Derrick the Deathfin and Unfinished Swan on PSN, DLC for Trials: Evolution and A World of Keflings on 360, Blood of the Zombies and DLC for Elder Sign: Omens on iOS, and a bunch of other things that have slipped my mind at the moment.
Seriously, all of this? Practically at once?
I'd love to take my time and do a full review for nearly everything that just came out, but it's impossible to get to more than one or two in a "timely" manner, and the real shame is that so many of these projects are so deserving. As far as I'm concerned, 2012 has been a pretty outstanding year for gamers, and the hits just keep on coming.
I get that it's sort of a good problem to have as a player (and even as a reviewer) since having a wealth of quality content is always welcome, but I feel bad for the developers who have put so much time and effort into turning out these great games—so much depends on publicity, mindshare, and word-of-mouth from the review sphere. It's an absolute shame when something worthwhile gets buried in an avalanche of releases like the one we are getting hit with now…
That said, there's only so much that can be done.
Speaking of worthwhile things getting buried, I just completed The Testament of Sherlock Holmes on 360. Haven't heard of it? Didn't know it was out? Not too surprising—see above.
Developed by Frogwares and put out by Atlus, it's a great point-and-click detective game that's very true to the character and a wonderful change of pace if you're in the mood for something slower and cerebral.
I'm just about to submit my review, but without really spoiling anything, it's safe to say that it will be a very positive one. There are some interesting aspects to the design and writing, and I can't remember the last title of this sort that I not only enjoyed, but enjoyed and finished.
Look for my review at GameCritics coming soon, and if you want to hear a little more about it now, I made a guest appearance on Josh and Jay's Excellent Podcast. Jay is as much of a fan of this game as I am—maybe even more—and we spend about an hour discussing various aspects of it. Give a listen if you like, and if nothing else, at least know that this game is out there. Maybe once the holiday season is over and all of the "must buys" have been bought, you might be in the mood for something a little different.
Here are a bunch of other game-related bits, rapid-fire and in no particular order:
@GC_Danny's Resident Evil 6 review is now up. It's pretty epic and very detailed, and he also takes a slightly different tack towards the material than most other reviewers did. You can check it out here, but if nothing else, know that he recommends everyone plays the game in the Jake, Chris, Leon order. According to Dan, playing it any other way really hurts the game's buildup and storytelling.
I tried the demo for Silent Hill: Book of Memories on Vita (it's available for download now) and I have to say, I thought it was shockingly cool. In a radical departure for the series, the game is a top-down dungeon crawler with customizable characters and sidequests. I know this approach sounds a little insane considering the source material, but you know, I felt like it worked. The play mechanics felt solid and well-fitting for a handheld, and there was a nice level of tension, if not the same sort of scares that the other iterations may offer.
The Last Express is now available on iOS, and after hearing about this classic for years and years and years, I bought it on the spot and give it a whirl. I quit about a half an hour later. To make a long story short, the game very much feels like a product of its time… navigation was awkward and tedious, there were no subtitles offered even though there is an absolute ton of spoken dialogue, and I constantly got the sense that I might have been very impressed with it back in 1997. In 2012, it just felt very old and outdated.
I'm a huge fan of I Am Alive (look for it on my top ten in December) and I was glad to see it finally arrive on the download services since it was well known that this particular game had a very troubled history. However, I had no idea exactly how troubled it was… According to this story on The Game Effect, it was akin to being a living nightmare.
We at GameCritics have been saying for years that games don't need to be fun, and it finally seems like more and more people are coming around to that way of thinking. Extra Credits has done a video on this very same topic, and they did a great job of explaining the idea that games can deliver all sorts of experiences—sad, romantic, harrowing, soulful—without the requirement that they be "fun" at the same time.
Here are a couple of awesome resources for indie developers… If you're in the business of making games and you don't have a lock on your PR side, then you will soon find yourself out of the business of making games. Seriously, it shocks me to meet so many indie developers who really don't put much effort into networking, advertising, and getting the word out there. Take a look at these two things, and it'll help.
Deep Silver needs your feedback on what should be included for the upcoming Collector's Edition of Dead Island: Riptide. Tell them what you want right here.
I made an offer on this blog a while ago to help anyone who was getting involved with Greenlight on Steam, and I was contacted about 1953: KGB Unleashed. I have not played the game myself, nor do I have any stake in it, but an offer is an offer so here's a heads up that it exists and wants your votes.
...Whew! Deep breath...
Before I go on a rant here, let me give a quick shout-out to Lost Girl on SyFy. The wife discovered it randomly searching through iTunes and we gave it a shot just because, and I've got to say, we were pleasantly surprised.
The gist is that the main character is a succubus who doesn't know who or what she is. She knows she's not human since she sucks the life energy out of people at random intervals, but otherwise, she's clueless. Eventually she bumps into other members of the Fae world, and events slowly unfold from there.
We are pretty early in the first season at the moment, but despite having an aversion to fairy-themed things, this show is hitting all the right notes. The writing is smart, often adult-oriented and has a good sense of humor. It comes off like a slightly-darker Buffy, at times.
The action in the show comes in two forms: combat and sexual. In both respects, it's ultra refreshing to watch a female lead character who doesn't shrink back from either, and who shows no qualms about getting things done, whether it's killing oncoming enemies or seducing someone who's got information. The protagonist, Bo, is a strong, bold woman who stands up for herself, and I think that's pretty awesome.
I'm hoping that the rest of the first season is as good as the episodes we've already seen, but we added this one to our regular rotation right off the bat. For whatever reason it seems to be flying pretty low under the radar at the moment, but give it a shot if anything I've described sounds even remotely interesting.
Okay, so that rant... I'm a little overdue with this, but Doctor Who ran its midseason finale recently. It's no secret that I haven't been a fan of Moffatt's run on the show for various reasons, but one of the biggest is that I've never liked Amy Pond.
I thought the first episode of the re-reboot starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan started off wonderfully and the story featuring young Amy was great. It inspired a lot of confidence in me at the time, and I felt as though the show was going to continue on in fine form. That opinion changed rapidly.
I quickly grew to despise Amy. She never clicked, or became likable. She was irritating, obnoxious, had too much attitude, and seemed to become too comfortable with interstellar adventuring too soon. And don't get me wrong—it's got nothing to do with the fact that she was a "strong woman" or whatnot. My favorite run of the entire show was the Donna arc.
In my opinion, Donna has been the best companion of the entire reboot, with her character being a great counterpoint to Tennant's Doctor, humanizing him and keeping him in check. Amy's relationship to Smith's Doctor just doesn't fit in my mind. He seems to bumble around and act confused, and she gets bossy and is generally unhappy with things. This dynamic just doesn't work for me.
As the show went on, I got the sense that Moffatt was either infatuated with her character, or simply couldn't come up with any other ideas besides making the last two and half years all about Amy. I mean, honestly, instead of calling it Doctor Who, it could have been retitled "The Amy & River Show" and that would've made more sense.
(And don't get me started on River... she's just as annoying as Amy, and makes even less sense as a character.)
In any event, last week's episode was the goodbye to Amy (and Rory, sadly) and I'm happy to see her go. The plot itself had a few interesting points, but I haven't enjoyed seeing the Angels as often as we have, and the story overall felt half-baked. The ultimate resolution and departure of the Ponds was much like the last 2 1/2 years have been—full of plot holes, poorly-explained story points, and largely unsatisfying. Even so, I'm glad that we can finally say goodbye to Amy, the quality of the writing notwithstanding. In fact, I'm tempted to say that the next companion can't possibly be worse, but that would be a level of jinx that I'm not prepared to commit to right now…
My thoughts on that final episode aside, I've been listening to the Lonely Tardis podcast over the last week or so, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who's interested in Whovian chitchat. Two of the three cast members are definitely bigger fans of the re-reboot than I am, but they all have interesting viewpoints and frequently raise issues and facets of the show that are great to chew on. You can check it out right here, and tell them that I sent you.