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Tertiary administrator, video game blogger.

Location:Gold Coast, Australia

stories by Tristan Damen

Sleeping Dogs Review (PS3): Undercover Gangster’s Paradise

There comes a time when I think I have every video game genre pegged. First person shooters more than anything else, I guess – but, yeah, sometimes I’m almost certain of what I’ll find when I boot up a game like Sleeping Dogs. Fast cars, awkward cover-shooting, a foul-mouthed supporting cast and a seemingly endless run of extremely-violent situations — some of which are either mandatory or optional to experience — were all I expected to find lining the streets of Hong Kong, but thankfully, there were more than a few surprises lurking in the ports, markets and alleyways of this neon city.

The high-horse audit: Top 5 games of 2012 (so far)

Time is money. This old adage has meant more to me this year than it ever has. A new job, a longer commute, and a growing family means that time for gaming is becoming scarce and all the more precious. It's not like I regret any of the choices that I've made, but the sad fact of the matter is that I'll never have all the time to do/play everything that I want to (let alone write about these ventures in great detail). What all of this ultimately means is that writing a list of the best games I've played in a calendar year becomes a little easier, as the amount of games I've played is somewhat diminished. 

Prototype 2 Review (PS3): A bloody good time

I love sandbox action games. Now that I've moved away from my hometown and don't have any readily-available friends for local play, I dare say that the genre has eclipsed fighters as my favourite. There's something so powerful about the fully-realised worlds and mechanics found in the genres greatest champions — Grand Theft Auto IV, Just Cause 2 and Red Dead Redemption off the top of my head — that allows me (and most probably others) to tune out from reality and forget about the troubles of modern life. Great story and characterisation aren't a pre-requisite for enjoyment with these games, and that may just be the reason that Prototype 2 succeeds.

Rayman Origins will teach my niece how to game

My niece, Arabelle, is about six months old, but I'm fairly sure that she'll end up a nerd like her father, her uncle, and her aunty. In terms of learning to love fantasy and the opportunities that come with a strong sense of imagination, Dad has her covered. When it comes to literacy and worshipping the written word, Aunty Carly will be a mentor without equal. What can I give my beloved niece, her potential siblings and cousins? I could show them the value of hard work, the benefits of networking, how to write maybe?

Journey into past anxiety

To me, Journey is not only a poignant representation of the circle of life. It's a beautiful game that evoked some anxiety-laden memories. The more obvious themes of the title inevitably forced me to reflect on those that I love, that I've lost, and those that I've yet to meet, but it was the music from the initial stages that brought up some very specific memories.

Journey Review (PS3): The meaning of life

Despite my best efforts, I've so far been unmoved by thatgamecompany's previous efforts, flOw and Flower. I couldn't adapt to the former's Sixaxis controls, while Flower proved to be a little too abstract for me to want to follow it through to its end. Journey appeared to be in a similar vein: more art than game. I thought this would've been appealing at first, but my need for some indication of success, progress and — to be entirely honest — excitement would have me rushing for the nearest shooter or fighting game. Much to my surprise, Journey excites, it teases and tugs at the heart strings, and it had me hooked from beginning to end.

Download these 5 PSP games onto your PlayStation Vita

Recently, Sony released a list of PlayStation Portable titles that are compatible with the incoming PlayStation Vita. There were some notable omissions (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories) and the promise of further additions down the line. While some of my favorites didn't make the cut, here are five PSP games that will help Vita early adopters stave off the post-launch blues.

Soul Calibur V Review (PS3): The soul giveth and the sword taketh away

It was a bright Saturday afternoon when I'd first realised that I didn't like the direction that the Soul Calibur series had taken. I'd just finished an hour long session against a skilled opponent who'd bested me five times straight with Edge Master's feminine duplicate, Elysium. Cycling through a series of move sets – both old and new- and coupled with a near-unblockable Critical Edge attack, I had found my match for the day. I persisted, however: another five fights until a breakthrough – and not to mention, painfully-close – fifth round win. In spite of this achievement, I felt nothing but apathy for a series that I'd loved since my final years of High School.  

Temple Run Review (iOS): Success is paid for, not earned

I'm still not a convert to iOS gaming, or the mobile scene at large. There are a few exceptions: addictive, though ultimately-shallow experiences that keep me hooked for a few hours but – in most cases – fail to deliver the responsive controls and sumptuous visuals typical of games found on dedicated gaming consoles. When I play an iOS game, it's often because it's been recommended to me by a friend, or – in the case of Temple Run – a game journalist I follow on Twitter. Imangi Studios delivered this strikingly-ugly app towards the end of 2011 and it's already enjoyed a great deal of success. Does Temple Run live up to Dan Ryckert's claim that it is "Jetpack Joyride done right"?

Gotham City Impostors Beta Impressions (PS3): Soar like a chubby eagle

Who would have thought that a first person shooter loosely based on the Batman license would have been any good? Despite my lack of faith, Gotham City Impostors may just be the surprise of the year. You can dismiss this as hyperbole – it is early February after all – but the time that I've spent with the beta trial has me buzzing. Try this on for size: Impostors has so far been more enjoyable than the entirety of Batman: Arkham City.

Couch your feelings

Tonight will be the last night that I spend on this couch. The "leather" has started peeling, there's hair from creatures of various species tucked between each cushion, and the armrests have started to cave in. I've never liked this couch, but my word have I had some memories on it. Some I won't share because, quite frankly, I don't know who's reading this; and others I'll gladly share… because I don't know who's reading this.  

The Circle Pad Pro is a knee-jerk reaction to a design flaw

This past week, Nintendo finally brought their 3DS eShop into the modern era by offering downloadable demos for Resident Evil: Revelations and Cooking Mama 4. Outrage at the limited use of said demos aside, 3DS owners are now allowed hands-on time with a game that will (presumably) be better with the upcoming Circle Pad Pro: an add-on that affords 3DS owners an extra analogue stick and shoulder button. The ugly peripheral doesn't arrive until the end of the month, but I was suprised to see how functional Revelations was without an extra few inches of tacky plastic.

RAAM’s Shadow Review (Gears of War 3 DLC – X360): That’s no school… it’s a space station

Growing up with games like  Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, I mourn for the days where the expansion pack reigned supreme. Add-ons like Mysteries of the Sith and Beyond the Dark Portal offered fully-fledged single player campaigns AND additional content for multiplayer. The modern equivalent – downloadable content or DLC – is a poor substitute as it's often overpriced and always under delivers. Developers also have a tendency to focus on multiplayer with their DLC efforts, which is puzzling as anything undercooked doesn't stand a chance against FPS stalwarts like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. We have seen some exceptions to this rule, with worthwhile solo expansions to games like Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption and Bioshock 2. Epic have thankfully shrugged the map and skins model of DLC to produce RAAM's Shadow, a brief campaign that catalogues the trials of Zeta Squad "shortly" after Emergence Day.

Mario Kart 7 Review (3DS): Vengeance is a dish best served cold

I've always had mixed feelings towards the Mario Kart series. I haven't played every instalment, but when I pick one up I often find that I have a visually-pleasing racer with woefully-scaled difficulty levels, belligerent AI and addictive mechanics that provide satisfaction and tear-inducing frustration in equal measure. I'll play these game over the course of weeks, months, even years, and not grow tired of being repeatedly screwed over by the shells of various colours, or many other power-ups that are inspired by the diverse cast of characters. Will Mario Kart 7 prove to be any different from its predecessors, or am I just playing these games for the sake of comfort and familiarity?

Saints Row: The Third Review (X360): I’m an idiot, I’m a hero, I’m a zombie

Saints Row – a series that is equal parts essential and disposable. The first instalment providing the Grand Theft Auto patch that Xbox 360 early adopters craved, with enough personality, flair, and humour to be considered essential. The sequel returned to a familiar space but took the vulgarity and nihilism hinted at in the first game to near-unacceptable levels. It also felt like an unpolished turd after GTA IV's release just months earlier, which featured a polished game world that felt alive. Saints Row: The Third gets the f#@k outta dodge with a new setting, and a set of missions and activities that makes its predecessors look sober by comparison.