Game Reviews | fizmarble

Archive for Game Reviews

KickBeat for Xbox One–Impressions

KickBeat logo SE thumb KickBeat for Xbox One–Impressions

Kickbeat is a unique entry into the rhythm/music genre.  Developed by Zen Studios, it fuses elements of Guitar Hero/Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution, and every fighting game ever made.  The result is a rhythm game where you press buttons in time with the music, and each successful button press lands an attack on a swarm of enemies.  These enemies just love to get punched and kicked to the music, because they all get into position just in time to get whacked.  I’ll try to explain how it works…

Gameplay

The gameplay area is a circle with your character standing in the middle, ready to kick people to the beat of the music.  The music starts and the enemies start to circle you.  As they circle towards one of the cardinal directions, they land on one of the face buttons. (in the case of the Xbox One version, XYBA)  You press the associated button in time with the beat and the enemy on that button gets a vicious attack knocking him out of the fight. 

Faster songs have more enemies to defeat and with higher frequencies.  There are a couple variations to the formula, including; blue enemies who attack in off-beat patterns like up beats, red enemies who attack in pairs (meaning you’ll press two buttons like X and Y), and enemies who are tied together with a yellow streak whom you defeat by pressing and holding on the first enemy and releasing on the second.

Some enemies will have a floating icon over their head with a range of powerups.  Double tapping their corresponding button will give you the knockout and the powerup.  Powerups vary between score multipliers, extra points, health, chi and more.  Then you have the option to fire off your collected chi or shield move to either double points or save yourself from a difficult section.

Difficulty

There is an old saying, “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought.”  The saying is in reference to being prideful and treating others as if they are less than ourselves.  But I am going to use it in the context of, “just because you can beat every Guitar Hero game on Expert and love rhythm games, don’t think that you should start KickBeat on anything above Normal.”

I have a confession to make.  When I first fired up KickBeat and completed the training, I figured I was prepared for the higher difficulties.  I was sorely mistaken.  KickBeat was, at this moment, “get your face Kicked in to the beat”.  Normal is challenging enough, you should start there.

Graphics and Sounds

Graphics are hardly the focus of a rhythm game so I won’t spend much time on them, but I will say I had trouble at times identifying the colors of the enemies.  Some times it was too late before I realized that the two enemies were red and would be attacking simultaneously.  Another issue I had, though also mild and infrequent, was the enemies occasionally becoming obscured by the player character due to the odd camera angle.

Sound is a completely different story here.  Sound is key to KickBeat’s gameplay.  The sound effects are few and unimportant beyond the sound of fist meeting face.  The music however, is the reason behind the (thin) story and what engages the player.  As you get better at KickBeat, similar to Rock Band, it will begin to feel like you are playing these songs.  But instead of playing the songs with instruments, you play with your punches and kicks.  Each blow delivered to your enemies is in perfect sync with the beat, guitar riffs, vocal lines or other musical accents.

The soundtrack that you will beat enemies up to is energetic but varied.  Rap songs, metal tracks, and electronic dance tunes are available.  And the set list seems to get better as you work through the story mode.

Better late than never

KickBeat has been out on other platforms for a while, but I came late to the party.  Xbox One owners who are fans of rhythm games should rejoice at this fun fusion of fighting and music.  It’s got its quirks, but the soundtrack is hard-hitting and the game shows off it’s excellent design at the higher difficulties.

Zombie Driver: Ultimate Edition Review

My Great Capture Screen Shot 2014 07 19 07 04 25 thumb Zombie Driver: Ultimate Edition Review

Note: This is an updated review of Zombie Driver HD for Xbox 360, but based on the newly released Zombie Driver: Ultimate Edition for Xbox One.  Review is based on a copy of the game given to us by Exor Studios.

There may be some time in the future (whether near or far, no one knows for sure) where it will be boring to face wave after wave of various types of zombies, smashing them into pieces with your car and watching their mangled torsos roll off of the hood of your car.  Now is not that time.

While many people may be bothered by use of zombies in…everything, driving your car into innocents isn’t as accepted as it may have been when video games were less mainstream.  Most folks are ok with killing zombies, so we won’t likely see the end of the zombie killing simulator soon.  And that’s ok, because it means we get fun, if flawed, diversions like EXOR Studios’ Zombie Driver HD.

Read more

Xbox One Stereo Headset Review

WP 20140307 003 1024x575 Xbox One Stereo Headset Review

Today I received my Microsoft Xbox One Stereo Headset.
Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter

In the box

First off, very cool packaging.  The box opens up to reveal the headphones in a foam wrapping, but well presented.  Underneath the headphones are the Micro USB cable and the headphone adapter.

Read more

Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition – Review

gameplay Screen Shot 2014 02 10 07 17 32 thumb Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition   Review

Last year, Crystal Dynamics created one of my favorite games of the year, Tomb Raider.  A reboot of a franchise that I am very familiar with, since it’s initial release.  The new Tomb Raider looked great, even on the aging hardware of the last console generation.  And though console gamers didn’t get the fancy TressFX and high resolutions that the PC release saw, the gameplay and story showed up in a major way and Lara became fresh again, if naïve and vulnerable.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Tomb Raider last year, I wasn’t thrilled about the announcement of a new and improved “Definitive Edition” on new gen consoles.  Was this just a gussied up rereleased cash-in?  Was there enough here to warrant the infamous “double dip”?

Read more

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review

 gameplay Screen Shot 2013 12 22 04 17 36 1024x576 Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review    A review of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood from Press Play, on Xbox One, Xbox 360

When Max comes home to find his little brother, Felix, playing (rather aggressively) with Max’s toys, Max reaches his last straw and decides to run a web search on “How to make your brother disappear!”  He finds an incantation that, when recited, summons a portal and seconds later Felix is gone.

Max has a rather instantaneous change of heart and jumps in after Felix and his monster captor.  This brief cutscene is all you get before jumping into Max’s beautiful adventure.  The gameplay starts soon after and has you control Max in an effort to bravely acquire Felix from the evil kidnapper that has claimed him, the mustachioed Mustacho. Read more

CastleStorm Review

CastleStorm gameplay 2013 05 25 04 48 48 thumb CastleStorm Review

As a gamer, it’s nice to have developers that you can count on for creating great games and content.  Quite often, developers become known for a certain game series or genre.  And so it becomes easy to think of DICE as “the Battlefield guys”, or Bethesda as “the action/adventure RPG guys”.  Likewise, it would have been easy to think of Zen Studios as “the pinball guys”.  And sure, their most notable work, at least the most prolific, has been Pinball FX and it’s spawn.  But today, Zen Studios carves a new notch into its development record with 2D physics-destruction tower defense action game (it’s hard to put this one into a specific genre) CastleStorm.

CastleStorm has several modes of play including Versus multiplayer and Co-op modes.  I suggest playing through the campaign first as a sort of tutorial and to unlock other modes and features.

Read more

Star Wars Pinball Review – Two Lightsabers Up!

Star Wars Pinball Logo 300x300 Star Wars Pinball Review   Two Lightsabers Up!Star Wars Pinball Review

I am not the Star Wars geek that many (most) of my friends are, but I do respect the characters and the franchise as a whole, plus I had the O.G. Star Wars bed sheets when I was a kid.  My own kids use them now, so we are still a Star Wars family to a degree.  When I first learned of the Star Wars Pinball tables, I got pretty excited.  But now that the first pack of tables is here, is it worth your credits?

Read more

Party of Sin Review

PoSLogoSinsSmall thumb Party of Sin Review

Every once in a while, a game comes along that relies heavily on religious iconography for its story telling.  Usually, these games also come bundled with some degree of controversy (whether intentional or not), and they run the risk of scaring off gamers who see the use of their beloved beliefs as nothing more than mythological fantasy exploited for entertainment purposes.  Party of Sin doesn’t appear to have an anti-religious agenda behind it.  More likely, it seeks to marry old school platformers with the modern gaming conventions we have come to expect from action puzzlers.

There is both some good and bad to report about Party of Sin.  The controls are stiff and combat is simplistic and boring.  Fortunately there is a whole lot of interesting puzzle gameplay that redeems Party of Sin from the Hell it would otherwise deserve.

Read more

Pinball FX2 Zen Classics Impressions

Zen Classics PFX2 key art thumb Pinball FX2 Zen Classics Impressions

Zen Studios has given us a steady stream of high quality, fun, and varied pinball tables over the last couple of years.  Over time, the quality of design of the tables has improved greatly, which makes the recent (re)release of these classic tables a touch bittersweet.

The Zen Classics tables originally appeared as part of Zen Pinball on the PS3, making this their first appearance on the Xbox 360.  Because these tables are remakes, albeit with improved graphics and physics, they don’t quite display the quality, flair, and balance that the more recently developed tables do.  On the other hand, all four tables bring a retro vibe that fans of the early 90’s pinball era should be stoked for.

Whereas the more modern styled tables typically include a 3D model of a character or two, these classic tables are more “realistic” and you really get the sense that there are physical mechanisms at work here.  The included tables are:

Read more

Marvel Civil War – Pinball FX2 table review

Civil War Battle thumb Marvel Civil War   Pinball FX2 table review

Pinball FX2 is inarguably one of the finest Pinball simulations ever made.  Both the physics and graphics engine behind the tables are very well done.  It’s then up to developers Zen Studios to produce tables that utilize the FX2 engine artfully to ensure that pinball fans have a variety of themes and skill levels to choose from.  These tables are released as downloadable expansions to the base game.  This is a review of one of these expansions.

The Marvel license has been good to the Pinball FX franchise.  Digital pinball wizards have an assortment of Marvel tables featuring some great characters and “storylines”.  The story in the Marvel Civil War table unsurprisingly follows the Civil War storyline in the comics.  This storyline follows the tragic incident at Stamford, Connecticut where super villain Nitro killed more than 600 people with his mutant powers.

This event causes the government to enact the Superhuman Registration Act in an effort to catalog and track superpeople worldwide.  Iron Man agrees to help round up the superhumans whereas Captain America refuses, seeing it as an infringement on civil liberties.  This disagreement between two prominent superheroes results in a “civil war”.  Both sides of the issue rally for support of other mutants as the war gets bigger and and deadlier. Read more