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February 24, 2014

Notice...

Hello people! Due to some issues outside the blog, I need to take a week off to resolve them. I don't think I can go on like this without being burned out.

In the meantime, I think that I'll stick to Content Rundowns for now. They are a lot less work and they will have to do, at least until I'm able to get back to reviewing again.

Thanks for your patience! :)

February 21, 2014

Blog Journal Volume 28: Deja Vu?

Yeah, so this happened at the beginning of the week. Why again now?

Well, I've recently decided upon a schedule change, instead posting the Blog Journal on Fridays as a preview of what to expect next week. Oh, and the Pre-Review? It will be posted on Mondays.

This will be the FINAL schedule. 2014 will be the year where everything is focused only on reviewing and not on constant changes! 

Bully: This game seems to be my review choice for next week. Bullying is a very sensitive subject, and I want to see how the game handles it. Coming soon...

StarCraft II Wings of Liberty: Yeah, so my South African internet is really being a pest, and it's interfering with this review. It will come eventually!

Half Life 2: A blog reader recently reminded me to review this game, as I promised, to whom I thank for reminding me. It's just that my internet is really slow and it takes a frustrating amount of time to update on Steam. But a promise is a promise, and I'll uphold it. :)

Batman Arkham City: Same thing here. It's closed to finishing it's download, thank God, so this might be the first one to get a review. A ReMix Review to be exact, but it can just as well be a new review because I'm rewriting it from the ground up.

Thief: So I ruled out buying the game based on some content which I personally think is offensive, but a Content Rundown is still in the cards. And don't worry, I'll be as objective as possible. No judging!

February 19, 2014

Papers, Please Full Review


(NOTE: Due to issues with my work, I have to change the schedule once again. Not to worry, though, this will be the final change. Tune in Friday for the new details. Sorry for the inconvenience, people!)

*** 

A simple stamp can mean the difference between life and death......or a couple of bucks to spend on your family's food, water and rent. 

Sorry, sick guy, my son needs mercy more than you do.

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg (Head Writer)

Verdict: Caution Advised (For Optional Non-Sexual Nudity, Infrequent Strong Language and Mature Themes)


Release Date: August 2013

Developer: Lucas Pope

Publisher: Steam Greenlight

Platforms: Linux, OS X, PC

Genre: Puzzle/Simulation


February 18, 2014

Pre-Review: Papers, Please


Note: This is not the full review of the game in question. Tune in tomorrow for the whole shebang!

Review Status: Nearly Done

Type: Full Review

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg

Genre: Simulation

Content Rundown:

Violence: Heavy (Shock Value)

Sex/Nudity: Very Heavy (References, Shock Value)

Language: Very Heavy (Grittiness)

Spiritual Content: Nothing

Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking: Moderate (References, Justified)

Morality: Good (Shades of Grey) 

Verdict: 16+


For Optional Non-Sexual Nudity, Infrequent Strong Language and Mature Themes

February 17, 2014

Blog Journal Volume 27: Give me them Papers, Please!

Papers, Please: To complement my playthrough of the aforementioned game, I've decided to post a review of it this Wednesday. It's a brilliant game with some content issues, but it shouldn't stop mature gamers from being able to play it.

StarCraft II Wings of Liberty: After finishing Papers, Please I'll shift my focus over to conquering this strategy game. The weird thing is that I've actually only ever finished ONE strategy game campaign in my entire life, so this will be a milestone.

Friday Article: This week will not feature another Level Review, since I decided to take more time to make them complete and in-depth, making it more useful and entertaining for you guys. I had to rush out the previous one, and I want to avoid that. So only Friday will not have a post this week.

Guilt Based Gaming: The Community Question format will be a once a month special near the beginning of said month. I want to give people enough time to answer things at their own pace. The rest of the month? Guilt Based Gaming, a collection of several stories where gaming made you feel remorse for your actions.

Pre-Review: I think the Pre-Review concept is a great one, but I want to try something more in-depth with it soon, like maybe a short review card which you can spread around for quick viewing. But for now, the Pre-Review concept is here to stay.

February 14, 2014

Level Review: Swamp Fever (Left 4 Dead 2)


You got a date with the swamp creatures, boys!

Level Chronology: Third Level (Excluding DLC).

Difficulty: Fair to Crushing

Length: 15 minutes per stage, excluding retries.

Overview:

Stage 1:

After the craziness that was Dark Carnival, players start the level off in a train car shortly after shooting their chopper pilot, the only evidence to support his existence being a column of smoke behind the train cars.

Immediately apparent is the descent into less civilised environments, if the name didn't tip you off. While the previous two levels weren't exactly futuristic landscapes, they were at least somewhat connected to modern culture. Not here, though. This is the SWAMP, boys, and you're getting the FEVER! 

(Ugh, that was disgusting. My profuse apologies.) When you arrive at the shanty town, or whatever you're supposed to call it, you'll be surprised to find surprising amounts of explosive ammunition. These folks were packing!

Just outside of the town is a sideways elevator thingy (I have no idea what it's called). Once you pull the lever, Infected come running like you're dripping with candy out of every pore. Once you get in the sideways elevator thingy, you have a surprising amount of silence before the main attraction, The Swamp.

Stage 2: Swamp

Very creative naming there, Valve. We wouldn't have guessed it was the swamp if it weren't for the stage being named "Swamp". I mean, the name of the entire level was confusing enough, but if it weren't for your expert clarification, none of us could have figured out the location type by ourselves.

Gotcha! I was being sarcastic! You never would've guessed, right? Anyways...

The level introduces a brand new annoying Uncommon Infected in the form of the Mud Man, who is covered in mud. Another genius level deduction by yours truly! The Mud Men are slightly stronger than Common Infected and splatter your screen with mud when they attack you.

The level also features a stand-off inside and on the wing of a crashed airliner. *Insert joke about Lost here*

*Which doesn't really make sense since Lost didn't feature a stand-off inside and outside a crashed airliner against hordes of Infected with dual-wielded pistols.*

Stage 3: Shanty Town

So we arrive at another shanty town. Filled with caravans and poorly built living arrangements. Nice place for a vacation!

The level doesn't really contain any standout sections, but it does feature some surprisingly difficult moments. Yours truly shot a suspiciously fat zombie and had a horde of infected on his behind in less than 2 seconds.

Hunters are also very hugsy in this level, and quite a few of them were hopping around the place like overly friendly crickets. After that, you arrive at a rather shanty safe-house and end the level.

Stage 4: Plantation

The beginning of the swampy end. Players finally make their way out of the swamp and into a small town. The sun finally broke over the horizon and everything looks fine and dandy.

Except that it isn't. Things are about to get hellishly crimson. The first part of the level isn't that bad. You go through the town, eliminate Infected and arrive at an abandoned mansion of sorts. Oh, wait, a "plantation house".

You radio for a rescue boat. Yep. You radio for a rescue boat. And you stand and wait. For it to arrive. So that you can evacuate. To get to safety. From Infected. Yep.

Except that a BOATload of Infected DOCK with your destination and threaten to SINK your escape plan like the TITANIC and go OVERBOARD with their attacks until you've hit the OCEAN FLOOR.

Good gosh, I never want to hear a boat pun in my life again after that atrocious paragraph!

After a fight with two tanks and several hundred Infected mobs, the boat finally arrives and it's a mad dash to the finish before you can finally call it a day. Phew, now that was difficult...

Replayability/Memorability:

I'm starting to see the levels as the three act structure of storytelling. For those who don't know, the three act structure is the prototypical model all stories follow. The first act is the introduction, showing the protagonist his/her goal, introducing us to the antagonist and the world in which the story is set.

Once the goal has been set, the second act ushers in, which is known as the progression phase. This is where the story gains momentum, leading our protagonist in his fight against the antagonist as several hurdles are thrown at him.

When the big confrontation between protagonist and antagonist is about to occur, this is known as the third act, where the entire story comes together for the big finish. All of the preceding acts are pushing towards this final stage, the big finale.

And every campaign of Left 4 Dead 2 follows this example to a tee. It's not just one act that makes a story, it's all three working together. That's why the last act of each campaign, the grand finale, is the most memorable. It's because all of the preceding stages have been leading up to it.

It's the defining moment of every story, the moment where all the conflict comes together for the big climax and resolution, the ending. The ending and the beginning are always the most important aspects of the story because they define the rest of the story.

With that in mind, it would make sense that the finale of each chapter is the most memorable. The finale part of Swamp Fever is set in a plantation house and features a showdown against several Infected, including two tanks.

It was one of the most challenging sequences I've ever played. When you finally get on the boat, it felt like a major accomplishment. And it was.


Outro:

So that will be it for me this week! Enjoy the weekend. Please don't wake up in a ditch with a hangover and a million dollars in debt to the "Don" if you catch my drift. After that, it's back to five posts every day of the week. I guess you can say that I'm going to be SWAMPED!

...Yeah, I'll show myself out now.

February 13, 2014

Community Question Volume 1: Unintentional Gaming Guilt?




We made it. We finally reached the safe house. Which wasn't nearly that hard considering I was playing it on easy, but okay.

My teammates hobbled in the door and stood inside idly, faces blank with artificial consternation. I was about to set foot inside when the devil starting pecking at my ear.

"Kill your friends."

Now, I'll be honest, I went through two very crappy friends at the time and really wanted to kill them as a result, but that would not have gotten me anywhere beyond prison. Besides, it would've been too messy.

"Kill your video game friends."

...Okay then. So never mind the now awkward previous paragraph, apparently he just wanted me to kill my in-game friends whom I had survived an apocalypse with. No problem!

Rochelle swung her head around at me and stared at me like an innocent five year old looking for a goodnight kiss from daddy. I gave her a kiss. By the look on her face, the chrome plated kiss of an automatic shotgun was not exactly what she was hoping for.

She looked at me with with a heartbroken expression and let out a simple cry of disappointment. "Hey, why did you do that?" I felt horrible. My heart was heavy with despair. I felt like I had looked a kitten in the eye and squashed it.

But my mission was to terminate all friends, so I had to put my inhibitions at bay and accomplish my goal. My fire ax greeted Coach's pudgy face with a sickening crack. He didn't even respond beyond a groan, but those eyes, the hurt in those eyes cut straight through my soul.

Swallowing my emotions, I swung it again. And again. And again. He fell over with a cry that was dripping with desperation and shock. Nick walked over to Coach and selflessly helped him up. With an evil smile, I proceeded to floor Coach again.

I swear that the second time Nick helped Coach up, all of my team members shot me disapproving glares, a single echo of disappointment. I let my ax drop to the floor. (Yeah, yeah okay, I holstered it, but don't ruin my flow!) A red medkit in my hand, I tearfully patched Coach up. 

"Thanks, man." 

You're welcome, big fella. ;) 

***

So my Community Question of the week is this: Which gaming moment gave you a huge bout of guilt in a way that obviously wasn't intended by the game designers?

I'm not talking about games which actively try to guilt you, like Hotline Miami and Spec Ops: The Line, but games where you feel guilty for simply playing a game, even if that never was the intention by the developer.

February 11, 2014

Pre-Review: The Wolf Among Us (Episode 2)


Note: This is a simple preview of the full Content Rundown tomorrow. Tune in then for more details on the eponymous game.

Review Status: Near Complete
 
Type: Content Rundown 

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg

Genre: Adventure 

Content Rundown:

Violence: Very Heavy

Sex/Nudity: Very Heavy

Language: Extreme

Spiritual Content: Very Heavy

Drugs/Alcohol/Language: Heavy

Morality: So-So

Verdict: 18+

For Brief Heavy Suggestive Material, Frequent Strong Language and Bloody Violence 

February 10, 2014

Blog Journal Volume 26: Major Progress!

For the sake of not getting burnt out, I've decided to shake things up a little: On Tuesdays, we'll have a Pre-Review, a look at the upcoming review on Wednesday just to whet your appetite, and on Thursday, I'll have some community question posts.

Now, these are not the pesky "Answer Right Away or They Die" posts. They are always going to be open for comments and discussions, so even if you post an answer years from now, it shouldn't stop you from starting a conversation.

Review Progress:

The Wolf Among Us: (80%) Editing required. Wednesday deadline will surely be met.

StarCraft II Wings of Liberty: (20%) Poor internet hampering progress. Will resume reviewing soon.

Retro Review: (25%) Reluctance to play the next campaign setting in. Author will take up the task once previous reviews are finished.

Thief: Full Review very unlikely, Content Rundown has a very high chance of happening, almost definitely, once released.

Watch_Dogs: Full Review very likely once released, Content Rundown very likely.

Deus Ex: Review moderately likely, other reviews take priority.

Brothers in Arms Earned in Blood: Author states that the cover is "nice", but Review not likely. Not popular enough.

February 08, 2014

Quick Note

The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 Content Rundown has been taken down for editing. It will now be a Content Rundown of the entire season, updated periodically with every new release.

The post will go up again on Wednesday. Thank you for your extreme amount of patience with something that doesn't really require patience and I have no idea why I'm even thanking you for your patience since I'm sure you all understand.

February 07, 2014

Level Review: Dark Carnival (Left 4 Dead 2)


After conquering (or barely surviving) Dead Center, players arrive at the next big destination: Dark Carnival, filled to the brim with eerily happy music, merry-go-rounds, and clowns. 

I hate clowns.

Level Chronology: Second Level (Excluding DLC)

Difficulty: Fair to Crushing

Length: 5 stages, 10 minutes each, excluding retries.

Overview:

Stage 1: Highway

The level begins on a highway (hurr), littered with hundreds of abandoned cars, the first of which is your own. Your fancy blue stock car ran out of gas, and so now you have to travel the rest of the way on foot.

The Highway is very reminiscent of the first episode in the second season of The Walking Dead, where the survivors come across an abandoned highway filled with cars, except with less face-slapping stupidity on display.

Eventually the road curves over to the right, and players have to enter a motel area. The motel section also has a lot of Special Infected to contend with, like the occasional witch who always seems to block the way. Oops.

When players are through the motel, they descend into the swamps, where you have to strategically jump down a sharp declining hill to get to the bottom and not kill yourself on the way down. Through the swamp you go, but it has a noticeable downside; it slows you down significantly.

After ascending again, players finally get to the entrance of the eponymous Dark Carnival, known in-game as Whispering Oaks. A Horde Attack is likely to occur here. After you survive the aforementioned, players enter a trailer and move on to the next stage.

Stage 2: Fairground

The level starts off with, well, the entrance to the carnival! And what an entrance it is: In my playthrough whilst writing this post, Rochelle got grabbed by a Smoker, dragged into Spitter acid, and Coach got the heck knocked out of him by a Charger. All at the relatively small entrance.

After that, you pass through the food courts for a stretch and arrive at some stalls. Here you meet one of the more off-beat Uncommon Infected: The Clown. Shove them in the face and you get a "honk" noise from their noses. Actually kind of adorable, which makes it much sadder when you put a bullet in their non-existent brains.

Further ahead on the rooftops, you get some slides, which are super-cool to ride on whilst you're shooting Infected. It doesn't make sense to do that, but hey, you only live once, right?

Soon afterwards, you arrive at the merry-go-round. Now this is where things get interesting! As soon as you activate the ride, horde after horde of Infected set off in your direction. And I mean, hordes of 'em!

Right after plowing through them, you enter the Tunnel of Love!

...Yeah.

Stage 3: Coaster

So, in the Tunnel of Love (yeah), the first obvious change is that, while still linear, the section has many, vaguely maze-like twists, turns, and dead ends. The Survivors also joke with the whole setting, often ending sentences with "of love". For example: "Grabbing the shotgun, of love!", "Pushing the button, of love!", "Taking the pills, of love!", and so on (yeah).

After the nauseating displays of love (yeah), you arrive outside and hear a chopper. Hope = restored! Until you get to the Screaming Oak, a literal rollercoaster ride of chaos. You have to follow the rails of the ride until you arrive at your button pushing destination.

Let's just say that the journey to the button is often hilarious, frustrating, scary, and downright crazy until you finally slam the safe-house door closed. Phew!

Stage 4: Barns

So, after the craziness of Coaster, things cool down, just for a short bit, before getting crazy again as you travel through the Barns. Bumper Cars! 

Which don't move at all, but still, Bumper Cars! Okay, okay, moving on: After the Bumper Cars, you head out to find a couple of fun little distractions when Infected are not trying to gouge your eyes out, one being a test of strength which I never seem to get right, the other being a whack-a-mole spoof, and the other a firing gallery.

When you are done playing with the preceding distractions, you move on to a small corridor, with a gate you need to open first. The small corridor leads to another entrance, which is a safe-house. Simple enough, right?

No. Just, no.

Stage 5: Concert

After surviving the copious amounts of Infected in the previous section who seem to be coming out of a clown car (hurr), you make your way out through the backstage corridors of a concert stage, like the rockstars of the apocalypse. Except instead of mics and beards, you're wielding axes and chainsaws. Heck yeah!

Similar to Dead Center, most of the final stage takes place in one location. One heck of a final location. You are forced to start a rock concert and kill zombies to the tune of a discount ZZ Top known in-game as the Midnight Riders. Awesome!

When the concert comes to an explosive close, every single Infected and their mother, cousin, father, grandpa and brother swarm the place, just in time for the evac chopper. Players have to fend off a huge swarm one more time before finally making it to the finish.

Replayability/Memorability:

Well, as I've said before, the entrance had so many events happening that it's tough to forget. Poor Rochelle. Being dragged through acid by a sticky, long, gooey tongue and slowly dying of both hanging and being dissolved by acid. At least you weren't in a bathtub...

The rest of the level is a carnival ride from hell, but it's also just silly fun. It's hard to take this level seriously, and thankfully, Valve did not. There are so many areas where you can just goof off and have fun. And that makes it largely replayable. But strangely, the level is not that memorable.

Besides the groovy finale, there isn't much to the level I personally would like to revisit. In fact, nothing really sticks out in my head when it comes to this entire level.

Gameplay Tips:

The majority of the level is an endurance test. You have to stick together, else you're going to die. However, when it comes to the final stage, I can give you a few fun little tips.

For starters, spreading gas cans across the level is a really good strategy when the Tanks inevitably arrive for the big concert. Also, when facing the microphone, to your way right off-stage, is a forklift. When the tank arrives, STAY AWAY FROM THAT FORKLIFT!

Me and my oh-so-smart computer pals once bunched up near the forklift when an incredibly angry Tank came round and smashed it straight through the group, incapacitating all of us and ending the game within 2 seconds.

Otherwise, the best strategy is to stay on the stage and make a run for medpacks when there is a break in Infected numbers. When the chopper finally arrives, grab some Molotovs and burn the area behind you. Move in a close formation, firing at Infected until you reach the chopper.

Oh, and don't forget to save! Wait, no. Doesn't work here.

So that's it! I hope you guys liked my review of the second level. I'll see you guys next week with a new Content Rundown and Level Review!

February 05, 2014

Serena Full Review


...Wow...

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg

Verdict: (C) Caution Advised (For Some Sexual References and a Very Unsettling Nature).

Release Date: January 2014

Developer/Publisher: Senscape

Platforms: PC

Genre: Point and Click Mystery


February 03, 2014

Blog Journal Volume 25: Review on Short Notice

So straight off the bat, this week's review, and the game itself, surprised me. I didn't expect either of them to happen. But they both provided me with a review whereas last week I had no hope of having one.

StarCraft II Wings of Liberty: Oh my word! I had a huge urge to continue playing the game again before the weekend even started and then our internet had to be throttled down. Guess this one will have to wait a while...

Fallout 3: But thankfully Fallout 3 isn't full of pesky DRM, so this game can still be reviewed. However, as I said, it's a huge game and it will take some time to fully review.

Batman Arkham Asylum + City: Both of these games deserve freshly made reviews straight out of the KVR Gaming oven. Updates will follow!

Kyle van Rensburg: Speaking of "KVR", I've got an exam tomorrow and need some prayer from you guys. I think I did all my research right, but I just need some prayer that I'll pass regardless.

See you guys Wednesday with a brand new review!