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Just a dude who likes to write about games


stories by Joseph Jordan

Moments of The Walking Dead

Just as a quick warning. This article will contain SPOILERS from any one of the five episodes. If you haven’t played through all of them I advise you not to read this!!! I love most things about The Walking Dead universe, maybe barring the second season of the tv show. So when I heard Telltale was making a game based on the comic book universe, I was cautiously optimistic. Telltale hadn’t had the best track record, and I certainly wasn’t an adventure game aficionado.  Despite this I bought the first episode of the game. It was cheap, and if I didn’t like it, no big deal. I loved it. I felt a very strong connection towards the game’s protagonist, Lee Everette. As for Clementine, finding her hiding in her tree house, then slowly unfolding her parents’ fate through phone recordings, I knew this character was going to be the players moral incentive, and it really worked. As for the rest of the cast, I immediately was running through in my head the people I thought I could trust, and the ones I should be weary about. Even though it was the first episode I immediately was invested in the characters and their fates, and the wait for episode two was excruciating. I downloaded episode two the day it was released and found myself loving the almost horror movie-esque vibe it gave off. It felt like its own self contained story and although it didn’t move the story along too much, it did set up for something much bigger than one would think. This episode also made me audibly gasp. Trying to revive an admittedly annoying member of the group, only for his head to be smashed in with a salt lick not only shocked, but gave me a genuine disdain for Kenny, the one who dropped the salt lick. This episode showed me how far Telltale was willing to go, and from there on out I knew that no one was safe. Episode three was depressing, lets just get that out of the way. The beginning started off with some light hearted detective time with Duck, another child in the group. After getting run out of the motel, some shit goes down. After pulling over, an argument breaks out. Out of nowhere, a character pulls out a gun and executes your potential love interest Carly, other that other dude Doug. It was at this moment a game, for the first time, has made me angry, panicked, and depressed all at the same time. Without thinking I immediately told Lily, the woman responsible, to hit the damn road. This was also the first time I actually wanted to restart an episode because of how distraught I was over what had just transpired. I didn’t want to play anymore, that’s never happened to me for a game I liked. But I drudged on, only to be hit in the heart again with the suicide of Katja, Kenny’s wife, and their son, Duck who, depending on your choice, could have been put out of his zombie induced misery by the player, or his own father. This was probably the highest low point of the series and I had to take a break from games for a week after playing it. Still, I was aptly looking forward to episode four. This is getting long so I will just say this about episode four. Episode four introduced a great character, again, depending on your choices, killed off a dumb one, an absolutely heartbreaking encounter with a walker child, and one HUGE moment at the end, your character Lee getting bitten by a zombie, and Clementine kidnapped by a mysterious man. Again, I felt panicky and was trying to make up all sorts of ways Lee could possibly survive and save Clementine, but it looked pretty hopeless. It was a great ending to this episode. Episode five started right where four left off, literally by taking whatever you said at the end of episode four, and be repeated by Lee at the beginning of this episode. I went alone on this one and trying to do anything I could for Lee to survive, had him cut his own arm off. The way Telltale made you move the cursor to Lee’s arm and click to slowly sawthe arm off, was absolutely brutal and, for me, actually hard to continue. After playing as an armless Lee for a little bit, you are reunited with your friends. Who have been locked up by a group of seemingly friendly people you meet in episode four. After a while you get into a situation in which a character who has been with you through it all, Kenny, is killed. Even though I didn’t think much of Kenny, I almost had a sense of loneliness now that one of the last familiar characters was gone. After a great zombie killing scene with Lee, you finally meet with the person behind thewalkie talkie. The man reveals that it was him and his family that owned the car you stole from all the way back in episode two. He proceeds the throw every big choice you had made in the game right in your face, forcing you to explain the actions you had taken to survive. All while talking to his wife’s head he had stuck in a bowling ball bag. After a short battle ending with either you, or Clementine killing him, you rub zombie guts on yourselves, and try to get out of town. Clem see’s her parents as zombies, and Lee passes out as a result of the bite. This was the moment for me. The moment that I shed tears in a video game, something I thought impossible. After Lee wakes up, and some stumbling to a chair in a police station, Lee finally directs Clementine one last time. After a scary scene with Clementine and a walker, Lee is finally ready to say his goodbyes. After a very emotional talk with Clem, the player is finally given the option to either have Clementine kill Lee, or leave him handcuffed (or not) to a radiator. I personally chose to be killed, as I felt it gave me more closure after everything Lee, and Clementine had been through. After the gunshot the credits immediately roll, signifying the end of Lee’s perspective. The song at the end of the credits couldn’t have been picked any more perfect and made me that much more emotional. At the end we see Clementine in a large field outside of town, where she spots two unknown people out in the distance, presumably setting up for season two. Well there you have, those were the moments that, in my opinion, defined why I loved The Walking Dead so much. I can only hope that season two can evoke these same emotions, good or bad. Thanks for reading.

Good controls for video games can go a long way

  No matter how hard I try to get into a game … if it doesn't have tight, responsive controls, then I just can't do it. I don't like being caught up in a session and then launching myself or someone else sky-high because the grenade button is in an unorthodox position.   When people talk about what makes a game immersive, you'll probably hear the usual bullet points: graphics, music, atmosphere, etc. While all of them are definitely imperative to the experience, one thing has always made a huge difference in whether a game totally immersed me or just detached me from it all: the controls.     Of course, my example above applies almost exclusively to first- or third-person shooters, which have been standardized to what I call the "Call of Duty control scheme." This standard is by no means bad since the input layout itself easy to pick up and learn. After a while, you almost forget that you have a controller in your hands.   Recently, I played through the Metal Gear Solid series. While the story was great and the gameplay was satisfying, I found myself constantly struggling with the wonky and outdated controls. It was hard to really get into the game and the character of Snake when the controls made me feel like less of an awesome, highly skilled solider and more like a clumsy buffoon who lucked his way out of most situations. The controls grew on me after some time, but they were still never as great as I wanted them to be.   If one genre relies the most on good controls, it's platformers. If you want to get past the challenge that a lot of these games offer, tight controls are an absolute must.   Nintendo was a pioneer in such controls for 2D platformers, and for a long time, they seemed to be the only company that could do it right. Of course, now we have games like Super Meat Boy, Rayman Orgins, and a plethora of others that offer great controls and solid gameplay.   Super Meat Boy is one that I played for a long time. Not only because my pride wouldn’t allow me to succumb to Meat Boy’s masochistic ways or because it was a download-only title so I couldn’t throw it out the window. I kept playing it because it was so easy to just pick up, play for a few hours, and leave for another month. The controls never get as complicated as run and jump.   Rayman Orgins was, in my opinion, 2011's game of the year. With great gameplay and even better controls, Orgins was easily one of the best retail platformers we have had in years.   Having good controls can make or break a game in the long run. Whether I am traversing huge landscapes or simply running to the right, I want the experience to be simple and smooth. The more I don’t realize that I'm holding a controller, the better.   And that doesn’t have to mean dancing in front of my TV.

The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition Review

The Witcher series, as many know, is ultimately a PC game. With this fact in mind I was weary picking this game up for the Xbox 360, but not having a competent PC, I had little choice. It is a choice that I do not regret, for this port is just as excellent as the PC version. With refinements and extra gameplay this port does good by the original, and the series as a whole You are Geralt, a deep, and surprisingly fleshed out character, something that has become a rarity in RPG's, using silent protagonists. Geralt is a witcher, one who hunts monsters. Witchers are more than just common folk, as Geralt repeats over much of the game, they are mutants. As a witcher, Geralt has many powers, and abilities he can put to use against the grotesque creatures terrorizing the land. But as you will quickly find out, monsters are but a small problem for a kingdom ravaged by war. The story is masterfully crafted, with many ways it could unfold, all depending on you. It was impressive the shear amount of choice the game gives you. Throughout my whole time with it I got the feeling that I was in for at least 2 or 3 more playthroughs if I wanted to get the full experience, which is definitely true. One decision in particular could change the whole second act of the game, it would be a huge disservice not to play through it twice. The decisions you do make in the game are much more than just black or white decisions, which gives Geralt much more complexity than just a good or bad guy, always having a reason for his actions, giving the choice much more impact than if you were to simply choose right or wrong. Much like its story, The Witcher 2's combat is just as deep and gratifying. You will not find yourself easily plowing through enemies, but instead treating each encounter as if it were a boss fight. The key to success in combat, especially on the harder difficulties, will be through the use of everything in Geralts arsenal. Bombs, traps, potions are a necessity when outnumbered or matched against tougher opponents. This made every encounter different and interesting as you must keep track of not only the number, but placements of enemies so as not to get surrounded or cornered. I felt as though the game was relying on more than just numbers, but skill, which was a refreshing change of paste from the run of the mill action rpg. The game does get much easier towards the end, which isn't exactly a shortcoming, but I was expecting much tougher, and thought out battles near the end, which didn't come.   Since this is a port of a PC orientated game, there are some drawbacks. The graphics obviously are not quite up to par with the PC, and there is some occasional pop-up which can be diminished, but not quelled, by installing the game. But many of the problems that the PC version had were fixed with this Enhanced Edition, which PC users also got for free. Even with these minor quirks the game still manages to live up to its PC counterpart in quality and should not be missed by console players. If great stories, and deep combat strike your fancy, I highly recommend this. 9.5/10

Spelunky is as Devious as it is Addicting

You have traversed two levels of the cavern, you have full health and a shotgun. Just as you are getting to the exit you notice a golden idol. Knowing it could be worth thousands you venture to pick it up. Once it's in your hands you feel a rumbling, two seconds later a boulder comes hurdling at you from above. Splat, you die. That is the type of game that, the former PC exclusive, Spelunky is, a truly unforgiving game. In Spelunky you take control of a small explorer, or spelunker. As this explorer you will adventure into many types of caverns, from the basic rock caves, to ice caves and foliage covered ones. Your main goal is to make it through the four randomly generated caverns to the ultimate treasure, and it isn't as easy as it sounds. Spelunky, while innocent looking, is very masochistic in its difficulty, which is a great thing for fans of games like Super Meat Boy or Trials, but for people who are maybe less informative, buying for the look of it, it could be quite the frustrating time. The actual gameplay is addicting and rewarding, with items like shotguns, jetpacks and climbing gear to be found, or bought, the game makes you want to play just one more level. The game won't make it easy on you though, with snakes, bats, cavemen, and many other things that are looking to make your spelunking frustrating, the game forces you to take your time, which for a game with such great controls, will take patience. Unfortunately the game, while having local 4 player co-op, has no online multiplayer, which seemed like a no brainer for a game like this, but it's definitely not needed to enjoy the game. The price is also a little steep for the content you're getting, especially since the game is also free on PC. Overall the game is a great time waster with a pretty big difficulty curve. I recommend anyone who is a fan of a challenge to buy the game. If you're on the ropes about you can always try it for free on the Spelunky website, and if you like it I'm sure the devs would love your support. 8.5/10

Do Japanese games still have a place in the West?

  Japan is an innovator in video games, that's something that everyone for the most part can agree on. If it wasn't for Nintendo and its star child Mario, video games may not be as popular or influential as they are today. There is no denying Japan's role in the mainstreaming of video games, but as technology gets better and ideals start changing, can Japan keep up? In an environment ravaged by first-person shooters and sequels, it seems as though you must conform in order to be successful. The vast majority of people want to play something they're familiar with. They don't want to take a $60 risk on a weird title like Catherine or have the patience to play through From Software's brutal fantasy epic Dark Souls. Why spend time with these games when you can enjoy what everyone else is playing? Games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3 rule the Western landscape, and when these franchises pump out sequels every year, how can a Japanese developer possibly compete?   In the last few years, Japanese releases have been on the decline here in the West. Even Japanese role-playing games have taken a backseat to the likes of the Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls series. Now don't get the wrong idea, there are bright spots. Nintendo's staple franchises continue to sell and have maintained their quality, but those games alone have not been enough to resurrect Japan's standing with Western consumers.

Community Discussion: Your favorite video game music

This is the discussion follow up to my video game music article I posted a few weeks ago. Basically I am interested in what some of the communities favorite OST's (Original Soundtracks) or single tracks in video games either old or new. I know for me personally I am a huge fan of Supergiant Game's Bastion, which combined old western sounding music, with soft and relaxing melodies. Chrono Cross' soundtrack also gets frequent playtime on my phone.

Why I haven’t given up on video game journalism

Its a harsh world out there. Some people say that its impossible to find a place to fit in, in this fast pace world. Others simply recommend not to even try. This is of course the world of video game journalism. Over the last few days I have e-mailed and talked to a few people to find out just what makes the intimidating land of game journalism so… Well intimidating. I got many different opinions on the subject, some said that its all about luck. While others said that it takes good writing and the ability to hustle and network. The general consensus though was that game journalism is a tough beast, that seems to take more then the average Joe to slay.