The Cave: A conundrum of missed opportunity

The Cave is a side-scrolling platformer that focuses heavily on puzzles. Much like Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert’s other works, its story elements are dark and twisted, including but not limited to children poisoning their parents’ food. Yeah, it’s like that. Looking at screenshots of the game alone is deceptive, because The Cave is not about running and lightning-quick reflexes -it takes thinking, experimenting and some timing to get through.

Before starting your adventure through The Cave, you are prompted to choose 3 out of 7 characters and from start to finish you will be stuck with these characters. From there, you will have to alternate and position the characters in order to do things such as set traps, hit switches and open doors to move forward. There are also moments where characters will break off as individuals to finish areas.

The best character in the game is the setting itself, The Cave. Throughout the game, The Cave speaks and narrates with lots of humor and some clever jabs to boot. I’m not sure whether to laugh or be angry when I am constantly being killed and The Cave wonders aloud if I’m purposely trying to die. Bastard.

On the other hand, the cast of 7 characters aren’t fleshed out as much as desired. You learn a bit from them through collectible pictures and their individual areas, but more would have been nice. They are all radically different characters, such as a caveman, a set of evil twins and a female version of Indiana Jones, and it’s a disservice to not hear as much from them as we do from The Cave.

the cave sega

The characters are intriguing, voice-over is great and the puzzles are fun and challenging. However, the game suffers very much from a technical standpoint. First, there is a consistent framerate drop when moving through different rooms and areas and it’s disruptive enough to throw off a jump or something else that takes timing. Another nuisance is some of the ledge grabbing and ladder climbing that happen when you don’t want them to. There is a hefty amount of backtracking and exploring in The Cave in order to solve a puzzle and these issues make advancing feel like a pesky chore; it makes you appreciate point-and-click adventures over this.

Replayability is encouraged after your initial playthrough. The 3 characters you have chosen each have a unique ability that opens up areas inaccessible by anyone else, such as teleportation or a supply of air to stay underwater for a longer period of time. Since all 7 of the playable characters have their own tailor-made areas to discover, you really get the urge to see what off-the-wall scenarios you’ll be put into playing with a different set of characters.

Since the game is played with 3 characters at a time, the game does offer 3-player local multiplayer. Unfortunately, this feature is no better than having to share one controller. While playing, you can press the “pass camera” button and simply let the next player take control of the game. Simply put, it’s a throwaway feature.

At the end of the day, The Cave is a great puzzle game that is practically ruined by being a platformer. Being a platformer instead of a point-and-click title like many other puzzle games is what sets The Cave apart and its poor execution is its downfall. Too much time is used walking back and forth and it’s a bothersome experience.

The Cave
The Cave
Genre: Platform-Adventure
Platform: Xbox 360 also available on PS3 and PC
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: January 23, 2013 
Rating:

5.5 / 10

Dust begins to settle from THQ fire sale: To Ubisoft, Sega, 2K Sports, Crytek & Koch go the spoils

After over 20 years, THQ closed down its doors and hosted a piecemeal, asset auction this week – the latter a result of a failed attempt to sell the company as a single business.

Ubisoft acquired THQ Montreal, the company’s development division which opened up in 2010. The dev team will merge into Ubisoft’s existing dev team, a 6,000+ member team working in 26 studios and spanning 19 countries. Ubisoft also picked up South Park: The Stick of Truth for its licensed development team.

Koch Media/Deep Silver came away with the Saints Row franchise, famed for its absurdly lewd and wild gameplay, as well as Metro. Volition, THQ’s Chicago-based development studio, was also acquired.

Crytek, renowned for Far Cry and Crysis, bought the rights to Homefront, one of the titles many attributed to THQ’s financial downfall. A sequel to Homefront is already in development by the studio.

Perhaps one of the best buys was Sega’s purchase of Relic Entertainment. After a recent downsizing, it appeared that Sega would primarily focus on Sonic and family games. Relic gives Sega access to the popular Warhammer 40,000 series as well as Homeworld and Company of War. We can potentially look forward to Sega staking a claim in the RTS and Shooter arena with this new acquisition.

Take Two picked up rights to Turtle Rock Studios’ Evolve project, while 2K Sports bought the rights to publish WWE titles – a smart move on the part of 2K Sports, which dominates the Basketball genre. With 2K Sports latest acquisition, it will now control both wrestling and basketball.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed – a smorgasbord of kart racing fun on PS Vita

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed takes the iconic (and some not so iconic) Sega characters – including Sonic, Nights and Alex Kidd – and pits them against each other on the racetrack. For the sake of getting this out of the way early, compared to Mario Kart, Sonic Transformed matches up quite nicely. As a follow up to 2010’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing, the big twist with Sonic Transformed is the inclusion of boat and plane modes. The karts not only drive on solid ground, but change on the fly to race in the sky and on water. It even has a Transformers-esque sound effect as your kart morphs into an entirely different vehicle.

The game welcomes you with Career Mode that includes World Tour, Grand Prix, Time Attack and Single Race modes. World Tour includes various missions to conquer, such as placing in a top spot during a race or executing a successful succession of drifts. Grand Prix, like in many other racers, demands consistency through multiple races. And the other racing standards, Time Attack and Single Race are self-explanatory. Playing through any of these modes helps level up whichever character you use and unlocks mods for their vehicle. Here is also where you unlock other characters.

The first thing noticed with Sonic Transformed upon playing is that it starts off as an ordinary kart racer with solid controls. Handling is responsive and you will understand that you’re losing a lead, because of your own bad play. Drifting is also included for sharp turns and holding onto a drift long enough offers up mini speed boosts for the more advanced players. That’s already good enough for any kart racer, but there are also changes of terrain marked by a blue rings throughout each course and driving through them suddenly puts you in a situation where you need to adjust to a different form of handling.

As you’re driving on water, waves crashing into your speed boat are to be considered as well as preparing for wide turns. Being in the air allows you to dip and rise, which offers the ability to drive in more directions than just left and right. At first it seems like a tacked on gimmick that will have you showing favoritism for some terrains over others, but all of them feel exceptionally great. Each driving mechanic feels different enough to bring variety to any track, but not too much where your natural kart racing instincts can’t pick up on almost immediately.

Tracks in Sonic Transformed are not your usual 3 laps around the same places. Each track goes around a closed loop, but as the laps go by, different areas open up that lead to entirely different parts of said loop. An example with this is The House of the Dead track, “Graveyard Gig” where you first enter a mansion and drive through the course two times. Then by the third lap, the ramp that was there upon entering the mansion the first two times has mysteriously dropped and you now have to race through an unfamiliar part of the track. Most of these track changes are cleverly implemented and it makes racing through courses in Sonic Transformed a lot less of a repetitive experience.

Weapons are a big part of any fun filled kart racer and Sonic Transformed includes a healthy batch. Rockets, speed boosts and even a defensive catcher’s mitt are included in the random assortment of weapons as you pick up “?” marks. There is also a timed “All-Star” pick-up that makes you untouchable as well as having an unlimited supply of a special move. Each character’s special move is different and discovering them is an enjoyable part of choosing different mascots.

Graphically, Sonic Transformed looks wonderful on the PS Vita; sacrifices made from its console counterpart are not very noticeable. Some details look ugly upon further inspection, but are invisible as you whizz past the scenery. The game runs smooth with minimal dips in framerate and effects look dynamite, such as the dizzying speeds and shimmering water. The music in Sonic Transformed is also noteworthy for having some really obscure themes that hardcore fans can really appreciate. I thought I was going crazy, but it turns out there are some instances of Sonic R themes being played. Definitely look out for that and other pieces of fan service throughout.

Creaming the computer is cool, but the most satisfying aspect of any party game like Sonic Transformed is the multiplayer. There’s just something about beating a human controlled racer that is unmatched, especially in Arena mode where the goal is to destroy your opponents with weapons. Online and offline multiplayer runs well and online matchmaking also includes a ranking system that awards more rating points for the better you do after each Race or Arena match.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a very good kart racer with lots of variety that is matched with equally as good gameplay. Aside from the overlookable hiccups in graphics and missing the much desired split-screen action the console versions provide, Sonic Transformed for PS Vita fulfills all the requirements desired from a handheld kart racer. It is one of the best PS Vita games in a while and that is telling of how lackluster this handheld’s lineup has been of late.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Genre: Kart Racer
Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sumo Digital
Release Date: Dec 18, 2012

Rating:

8.5 / 10

Are You For ‘Spartacus’ Rebels or The Republic: ‘Total War: Rome II’ Announced

Whether we’re talking Spartacus: Gods of the Arena or Spartacus: Vengeance, it’s widely known that the BuzzFocus team is a huge fan of the historic war in Rome. Can you be a fan of war? Why not!

2013 marks the final season of Spartacus. And while we’ll be waiving goodbye to some of our favorite gladiators, 2013 will also usher in a new kind war in Rome.

Sega has just announced the return of the Total War franchise to dynasty that made the Colosseum infamous.

Total War: Rome II will allow gamers to decide Rome’s future through the franchises famed turn-based strategy gameplay. In addition to battles on land and sea, you’ll have a chance to dive into the duplicitous world of the Republic, while choosing which innocent (or not so innocent) Romans to sacrifice in the process.

Total War: Rome 2 launches next year for PC. Sorry Mac and Console owners, you’ll need to shed your cool gear for something a little more powerful if you want to get on this historic adventure.

E3 2012: ‘Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition’ Leads Lackluster Wii U Game Launch

nintendo wii u game pad

Now that Nintendo has stepped up with a more serious gaming console, here comes the games. Titles that avoided the Wii’s inferior graphics and awkward controls, welcomed the challenge to incorporate second-screen technology, HD graphics, and more ambitious gameplay. The biggest score is Batman: Arkham City, but unfortunately it won’t be a whole new experience.

Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition will feature all of the great gameplay from Arkham City with all of the available downloadable content but introduces Battle Armored Tech (B.A.T.) mode and new battalion suits for Batman and Catwoman. What do these new suits do? Batman and Catwoman can earn additional power-up because they can build kinetic energy during combat. Once activated each player enters “B.A.T.” mode with more power than what was previously given to them in earlier versions of the game.

“The new controller allows for a different twist on the Batman: Arkham City game,” Reid Schneider, Vice President and Executive Producer, WB Games Montréal said. “As players now have the power of the Batcomputer and gadgets in the palm of their hands.”

How will the Wii U Game Pad be used? Batman now has a wrist-mounted computer that users can access without having to interrupt their flow of the game, or have a friend work the Game Pad. The modified controls will allow the game pad to be used to “choose their gadget, track forensic evidence, upgrade their gear, detonate explosive gel, and more, all while remaining immersed in the action. Additionally, all gadgets have been reimagined to utilize the power of the GamePad, offering an unprecedented level of accuracy when using the Batarang and scanning for clues.”

Wow, I just had a thought… I can just see all of the gamers racing to be a “Game Pad Bitch.” Well, either that or gamers are going to find ways to mount that giant Game Pad to their wrist.

Other third-party games announced:

Sadly, there was no great first party games announced. It was the classic Nintendo catalogue re-imagined for the Wii U. Nintendo’s Shigery Miyamoto came out to present at E3 2012, rolling out the expected New Super Mario Bros. U where players can play as their Mii characters in addition to new evolutions of Mario. There’s a new game mode called Boost Mode to add blocks, avoid enemies and allow multiple players to work together.

Other first-party Nintendo Wii U games:

Pimkin 3 – The Wii U GamePad creates real-time strategy by reinventing the control scheme and challenging players in exciting new ways. Pikmin 3 also takes advantage of the HD capabilities of Wii U to more elaborately depict the rich nature landscapes, various creatures and the lovable Pikmin.

SiNG (working title) – An interactive musical performance game for everyone at the party involved in the music. With dozens of popular songs to choose from, everyone from novice singers and dancers to budding stars can join in on the fun. The main performer holds the GamePad while others in the room sing, dance and clap along with the music. It’s not bad enough people think they can sing like Black Eyed Peas, now they can act like them too.

Wii Fit U – In addition to using the existing Wii Balance Board, and Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus owners can transfer their existing workout data. There’s a new Fit Meter, which is an advanced activity monitor that will be packaged with the game and enables users to track fitness activities throughout the day and upload that data back into Wii Fit U. Is anyone else creeped out by sweat and electronics?

In LEGO City: Undercover As Chase McCain, an undercover detective who uses disguises to run, drive and even fly through the city. The Wii U GamePad is used as a map, communicator and indispensable crime scanner. Nintendo claims that this is the first time that the LEGO City play sets have come to life on a gaming platform.

Meh.

Um, where’s Zelda? Kid Icarus? Mario Party? Duck Hunt? Excite Bike? Where’s Tiger Woods’ Golf? I was really expecting more games, even if they were classic Nintendo licenses. The most exciting Wii U games are still the ones from Ubisoft, and our roundup of their presentation can be read here. Rayman Legends looks to be the head of the class so far, but Nintendo will have to bring something new, something truly original to blow our lids off. I’m sure a great deal of their attention was given to the hardware but right now my arms are still folded. Third party games are great, and thanks to Ubisoft the future Wii U investors may have something great to play, but this first wave of games, especially by Nintendo, left us very underwhelmed.

Aliens: Colonial Marines: Sega Blesses Gamestop Shoppers with Exclusive Movie Characters

If you were hoping to pre-order your copy of Sega and Gearbox Software’s Aliens: Colonial Marines from Amazon.com, you may want to reconsider.

Sega has just announced that they are giving Gamestop shoppers an exclusive deal that trumps a potential discount from Amazon.com. If you preorder from Gamestop, you will get access to playable characters from the 1986 Aliens movie, including: Private Hudson (Bill Paxton), Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), Private Drake (Mark Rolston) and Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews). Although the announcement doesn’t include key characters like Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Bishop (Lance Henriksen) and everyone’s favorite Pvt Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), you will get access to Ripley’s Flamethrower in the Collector’s Edition.

Other Collector’s Edition bonuses include:
Additional Marines Character Customization Options
· Ripley’s Flamethrower
· Exclusive Multiplayer Weapons
– Sonic Electronic Ball Breakers
– Phase Plasma Rifle
· Exclusive Game Level
– USCM Academy Firing Range
· USCM Dossier
– Mission Brief
– USS Sephora Schematic
– Recruitment Card
– LV-426 Recon Photo
– USCM Iron-on Badges
– USCM Graduation Certificate

Aliens: Colonial Marines hits shelves February 12, 2013 on Xbox 360 and PS3. In this latest Aliens game, players will engage in a 4-player cooperative campaign in 1st person shooter combat as a member of the United States Colonial Marines or in third person combat as a Xenomorph. Fingers crossed that this game is as awesome as it sounds because I’ll be playing as a Xenomorph.

New ‘Yakuza Dead Souls’ Trailer Shows off Organized Violence (Video)

Typically, when you think of zombies you think of mass chaos. However, when you are a member of Japan’s Yakuza crime syndicate, it’s just another enemy on a different day.

In this latest trailer for Yakuza Dead Souls, you can see partnered action with previously unplayable characters Ryuji Goda and Goro Majima. These organized gangsters keep their white suits and shoes neat and tidy as they use massive automatic weapons to lay waste to legions of zombies.

Watch the trailer below:

Yakuza Dead Souls hits the PS3 exclusively this March. Preorder now:

Xbox 360 Review: Sonic Generations – A Delightful Addition to the Hedgehog Library

Remember Sonic and the Black Knight? How about when Sonic transformed into a werehog in a very “leashed” game? The past several years were a Dark Age of sorts for everyone’s favorite hedgehog. It seemed like developers were struggling to keep Sonic relevant, but forgetting all the great things that made Sonic great. Sonic Generations is a return to everything that was great about the Sonic franchise. The gameplay mixes 2D and forward, moving 3D gameplay to satisfy Sonic gamers young and old. The action is fast-paced and its mixed with just enough humor in cut scenes to remind you of the Sonic’s past animated series. While boss battles run thin, the level design is sure to draw you into this excellent new installment of the Sonic franchise. This is the Sonic game most gamers have been waiting for since the fond but forgotten days of Sega Dreamcast.

Sonic Generations starts off by immediately taking players back in time to Sonic’s 2D roots. A shorter, lighter and pudgier Sonic races through a re-imagined Green Hill Zone. We then find the taller, marine blue Sonic walking into a surprise birthday party thrown by all of his friends. Just when Sonic is about to enjoy his birthday presents, a purple-black cloud kidnaps all of Sonic’s friends. Now, it’s time to take on the Green Hill Zone in the more contemporary 3D forward racing design. Although you’re theoretically racing through the same board, the level design in the 3D world is so in-depth that it feels like a totally different board. Yet, you are always reminded of the 2D environment you just sped through with Classic Sonic.

Soon, you meet up with Tails, Classic Sonic and Classic Tails. Sonic and his past counterpart must team up to restore balance to the world. Gamers navigate through a white map that shows off three zones and a boss area. Each zone has two acts. The first act is the classic Genesis 2D Sonic action. You gather speed, rev up as a ball or do jumping spin attacks to make your way through the 2D platforming adventure. These boards are usually shorter than the 3D boards, but are fun nonetheless. The 3D boards (denoted Act 2) are a smart mix of forward moving Sonic action and 2D areas. Although you can play Act 1 and Act 2 in any order, it is better to play through Act 1 first. Going from Act 2 to Act 1 feels like a bit of a let down since Act 1 is so much shorter and less difficult.

Most zones are re-imagined worlds from Sonic’s Genesis and Dreamcast days. The characters quirkily make references to this fact during the cut scenes, where classic Sonic, who can’t talk, emotes his responses. As you complete zones, each white zone will be filled in with color. You can actually jump around and explore the map to get to each of these challenge zones, which is a nice touch reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy. After you complete three zones, you will unlock several challenge boards. These boards add a lot of variety to the gameplay. Generations forces you to play through a few of them so that you see what you are missing out on by not playing through all of them. Challenge zones may require you to get assistance from one of Sonic’s friends, race against them or take on more challenging enemies.

The boss battles are the one downfall of Generations. There are not that many of them. I can’t say that Sonic boss battles have ever truly been memorable. For me, it’s always been about the levels, which Generations delivers on in abundance. It’s great racing on skateboards, zipping through the sky on rockets, shifting back-and-forth between rails or just avoiding giant runaway trucks. The only problem comes when shifting back-and-forth between Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic. Several times, I would play the Classic sidescrolling Sonic board hoping to use Modern Sonic’s targeting ability. No such luck. Classic Sonic is just that—Classic Sonic.

Sonic Generations is a delightful addition to the Sonic Library. It’s a reminder of the “awesomeness” that is Sonic and should cleanse your memory of several lackluster games released over the last several years. Hopefully, the Sonic Team can release more excellent games like this, with meaty 3D/2D levels and at least four or five more boss battles. The design team did such a great job with some of the 2D to 3D battles that it makes you wonder why they didn’t just add in more.

Sonic Generations
Sonic Generations
Genre: 3D/2D Platformer
Platform: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3)
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Release Date: November 1, 2011

Rating:

8.7 / 10

New Video Game Releases: Week of Nov 22, 2011

We’ve got 10 new games to check out for the Week of Nov 22, 2011, and one Black Friday PS3 Bundle featuring LittleBigPlanet 2 Special Edition and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.

Starting off the week is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, perhaps the best Zelda game since Ocarina of Time (feel free to contradict). Next up, wrestling fans will want to check out WWE ’12 for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, as well as WWE All Stars on 3DS. We were big fans of the original WWE All Stars so this should be a good one for handheld gamers. Other 3DS gamers will want to get on the Sonic Generations bandwagon, as SG hits the 3DS this week.

Casual gamers and gleeks should look out for Glee Revolution Glee: Volume 3. You can also check out Power Rangers Samurai if you want to get a head start on holiday shopping for your children.

Fans of the fighting genre get two time-tested titles this week: Tekken Hybrid and The King of Fighters XIII.

Check out the full list of games below, including DLC for The Sims Medieval and Batman: Arkham City. What games and DLC are you checking out this week?

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with Music CD
Wii

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with Music CD

WWE ’12
Xbox 360/PS3/Wii

wwe 12

Sonic Generations
3DS

Sonic Generations

Batman: Arkham City – Robin Bundle Pack
Xbox 360/PS3

Batman: Arkham City - Robin Bundle Pack

The Sims Medieval Deluxe Edition
Xbox 360/PS3/Wii

The Sims Medieval Deluxe Edition

Power Rangers Samurai
Wii/DS

Power Rangers Samurai

WWE All Stars 3DS
3DS

WWE All Stars 3DS

Tekken Hybrid
PS3

Tekken Hybrid

The King of Fighters XIII
Xbox 360/PS3/Wii

The King of Fighters XIII

Karaoke Revolution Glee: Volume 3
Xbox 360/Wii

Karaoke Revolution Glee: Volume 3

Black Friday 2011 Bundle: LittleBigPlanet 2 Special Edition and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
PS3

LittleBigPlanet 2 Special Edition and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One