Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fancy a shot at winning $200 in games? Then check out our affiliate's new contest!

It's always nice to give attention to SuperPhillip Central's friends (as seen in the affiliate section of the side bar of the site). Each site presents something unique. So, when regular commenter on SuperPhillip Central, CM30, contacted me to ask if I'd share a special contest that his site, Gaming Reinvented, is having, I couldn't help but accept.

As written on Gaming Reinvented, this is what the contest is all about:
Do you fancy yourself a video game journalist? Have a game or gaming event you really wish to give your opinion on, but have nowhere to post it? Want to potentially win 200 dollars in video games of your choice?If so, then you’re going to love the new writing contest at Gaming Reinvented. It’s pretty simple really; write a good article, and if it’s better than everyone else’s, you can win up to 200 dollars in video games of your choice. There’s no catch, no fees and nothing to worry about, it’s purely about who can write the best article on Gaming Reinvented.Here’s how it all works:
  1. You register on Gaming Reinvented via the forums. This gives you access to the article posting features on the main site.
  1. Once you’ve registered, you return to the site and post your article. It can be a standard article, a review, a walkthrough or an interview.
  1. The article then gets added to a list of other articles posted by contest entrants.
  1. This contest will then end on the 22nd September.
  1. Then, each article is scored by a group of judges (once of which is myself). These judges will rate the article based on the following factors:
  1. How unique or interesting the topic of the article is. Things you can’t easily find elsewhere will score well here, while bland top/bottom ten lists and clickbait will score low.
  1. The written quality of the article. Does it flow well? Has anyone proofread the thing, or is it filled with spelling and grammar errors?
  1. Once everything else is done, the winner will be contacted and the prizes sent out.
  1. And that’s it.
So what are you waiting for? Write your dream article today!
The prospect of having your own content not only being honored but awarded is really nice. To read more about this contest, such as a FAQ, look no further than this link! Good luck and have fun to all entrants!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cel Damage HD (PS4, XB1, PS3, Vita) Review

Earlier this week I reviewed a car combat game of a different type with Obliteracers. I didn't care for it too much. However, this game, a flashback from the early 2000s, is one that I actually liked. Funny that! Here is my review of Cel Damage HD for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 , PlayStation Vita (these have cross buy), and Xbox One.

One glaring omission might make this game a tough Cel... er-- sell.

Out of all the games from the sixth generation of consoles, and there were a lot of them, mostly thanks to the PlayStation 2, you expect a lot of the more fondly thought of games to get HD remasters. We've gotten games like God of War, the Ratchet & Clank series, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Kingdom Hearts, two Legend of Zelda games, and so many more. You probably don't think of what is seemingly a random third-party game with no real critical or financial success. However, that didn't stop developer Finish Line Games from bringing back Cel Damage to high definition form with Cel Damage HD. If you pondered the question "Who asked for this?", then you probably aren't alone in that line of thinking.

For those of you who haven't heard of Cel Damage before-- and it's quite all right if you haven't. I have slight memories of seeing screenshots of the game back in Game Informer and Nintendo Power-- Cel Damage is a cel-shaded (shock and awe) vehicular combat game. Like a cartoon Twisted Metal, if you will. The game has a more whimsical tone to it, however, than the gritty and darker Sony series, of course. That said, the humor skews more teenager-friendly and crude than anything for kids. With characters like Dominique Trix (har-har), a obscenity-spewing (always censored, though) Fowlmouth, and various stereotypes that are more distasteful and lazy than humorous and creative, Cel Damage skews more for older gamers.

While the characters are one-note, and really, that's okay since this is a car combat game and not aiming to be the next great video game epic, Cel Damage's gameplay happens to be rather enjoyable, featuring three unique modes each unlocked from the start. The most enjoyable of the three is the combat-focused Smack Attack, where opponents speed around the map, picking up weapons to smash and slash other opponents. Every attack is worth a handful of points here and there, but the real point collection comes, of course, from taking out other opponents.

Use this sledgehammer to smashing effect to get major points.
Meanwhile, Flag Rally pits players against one another, attempting to gather flags which casually saunter around maps. As you pick up flags-- as many as you think are safe to hold before your opponents feel the need to seriously start coming after you, attacking you to make you lose your carefully collected haul-- your goal is to then to drive to the drop off point on the map. The more flags you collect and turn in at once, the better point bonus you get.

Red arrows over opponents means that they currently hold at least one flag. Get 'em before they score!
Finally, Gate Relay rounds up the mode package of Cel Damage HD. This is a multi-lap Mario Kart-style race around levels through each checkpoint. This was my least favorite of the trio of modes in the game, as the levels aren't really built or suited for this type of play. There's a huge lack of viable shortcuts to be had, making races very one-note in feel.

Mario Kart this is not, but then again, what really is?
The sixteen maps plus one bonus map of Cel Damage HD, four in each locale (a Wild West area, a jungle area, a haunted area, and a space-themed area), are rather hit and miss. Thankfully, there are more hits than misses here. Some are pretty sprawling places, like the initial Wild West-themed map, which comes packed with a miniature Western town, a locomotive that churns right down the middle of the map, and surrounding canyon areas. Others are much smaller in scope, but offer enough quirks or a central themed gimmick that make them worthwhile. Some, however, aren't too interesting.

Of course, these maps would be nothing if they weren't fun to drive in. Fortunately, Cel Damage HD possesses tight responsive driving controls. Being able to turn quickly is a must for a game focused on combat, and here, Cel Damage HD does well. In addition to things like the ability to slide, you can side-slam into opponents to careen them off course. You can also flick the right analog stick to perform a front roll. In Gate Relay, this is a great trick, as not only does a roll (which can't be failed) give you a sudden jump of speed forward, but it also stores energy in your car's boost gauge. The only real drawback to controlling the vehicles in Cel Damage HD is that occasionally the physics can do unexpected things. These don't usually result in much of a problem, but they aren't perfect all the same.

Being a vehicular combat game, and a cartoon-y one at that, the expectation of solid, zany weaponry is justly there. Cel Damage HD delivers here as well with weapons both melee and ranged, including axes, baseball bats, chainsaws, machine guns, missile launchers, vacuums that suck up and spit out opponents, freeze rays, saw blades, javelins, and many more. Each character has their own special weapon as well that they can pick up, while when you've used up any of the weapons you collected, your character can do small chip damage to foes with throwable objects. The scope and variety of weaponry available in Cel Damage HD is very nice, offering a satisfying amount of impact when you connect a shot or hit.

Everything sounds good so far with Cel Damage HD, and it really is. However, the game's biggest downfall here is a notable one if you're lacking friends to play with locally. There is no online play whatsoever, a ridiculous omission in this day and age for a game like this not from Nintendo (and even Nintendo's been better about this in modern era). A lot of longevity could have come from online skirmishes with both faraway friends who can't always be around to play side by side with you, as well as total randoms. That said, the AI is quite capable and a lot of fun to play against, offering three difficulties, and the local multiplier is also enjoyable.

Four friends can face off in splitscreen multiplayer, the only type of mulitplayer featured in Cel Damage HD.
What longevity comes from Cel Damage HD will vary from player to player. Trophy and achievement hunters will find a dozen or so very easy trophies to collect and be done with most of what Cel Damage HD has to offer (you'll be unlocking the four secret characters in the process). Others who want more from the game can play multiple times as each character, unlocking both of their cutscenes (though these try to be funny and generally fail, but at least not embarrassingly so). The gameplay is indeed enough to pick up the game for a round or two when you get free time or for extended sessions. Either way, you're going to have fun.

For an HD remastering, the bare minimum went into updating Cel Damage from its Xbox roots. Everything is indeed in high definition, but that's really all that's changed outside of all modes being available right from launching the game. Still, I adore the cel-shaded art style, but then again I am a sucker for the visual style in general. The cartoon-y nature of the game is expressed well not just in the graphical style but small things like cars literally bending a bit out of proportion when they turn or boost. Cel Damage HD's sound is a mix of voice clips that can be easily ignored, competent sound effects, and some catchy music here and there.

The lack of online multiplayer for a game that is pretty much dependent for most players' enjoyment of a game of this type may soil the package of Cel Damage HD. For me, I ended up liking the gameplay against the AI and with a nearby friend to play with enough to really make for a swell time. Questionable humor (as in "who thought this was actually funny?") and sometimes off-kilter physics also hamper the package. Nonetheless, when you see Cel Damage HD on sale (and it happens fairly regularly), then definitely check this game out if its problems don't overly concern you.

[SPC Says: C+]

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2) Retro Review

If you know me and have been following me for a while now, then you no doubt know that Ratchet & Clank just happens to be my favorite PlayStation franchise. So, when I get a chance in my summer vacation to play a game from the series, I jump on it. That's exactly what I did here with this retro review of Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (no offense), the third entry in the illustrious franchise.

A game that both robots and squishies alike can enjoy.

I finally got to play the reboot of the Ratchet & Clank series earlier this month, and it made yearn to play some more of the series. I had already played the PlayStation 2 original games up to Deadlocked, as well as pretty much all of the PS3 entries apart from Full Frontal Assault. Though I own the latter, the negative fan feedback put me off of playing it. Regardless, I started a new file in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal a year ago on the PlayStation 3 as part of the Ratchet & Clank Collection. However, other more recent games got in the way of my playthrough. Long story short, playing the Ratchet & Clank reboot got me back to my old Up Your Arsenal save file to enjoy this third ever entry.

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal follows Ratchet and Clank enjoying what appears to be a game of galactic chess, though instead of kings, queens, rooks, and knights, they have Snargian Snagglebeasts and other in-universe monsters instead. Hearing word that a group of monsters known as the Tyhrranoids, is attacking Ratchet's home planet of Veldin, he and Clank travel across the galaxy to reach Veldin and support the troops, the Galactic Rangers, trying to fend off the Tyhrranoids. This action starts off a grand galactic adventure, seeing Ratchet and Clank travel to various locales, aiming to stop a villain connected to a certain character's past's grand plan on turning the universe's "squishies", as he calls all organic lifeforms, into robots. The story is engaging, the story sequences don't interrupt the flow of gameplay too often (these can also be skipped at will with a simple press of the Start button), and the humor of the game continues the series's fine line of funniness.

Compared to its predecessor, Going Commando, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal plays very similarly. The game is a 3D platformer with third-person shooting elements, though the latter is more prevalent and focused on than in Going Commando. Regardless, there's still a good amount of careful precision jumping on various platforms to be found here.

Ratchet and Clank have a grand adventure ahead of them in Up Your Arsenal.
The new additions to the gameplay of Up Your Arsenal include Galactic Ranger missions that are all focused on combat scenarios. You team up with a gang of AI robots to complete a certain objective. Most simply have you eliminating all enemies on the battleground, whether as Ratchet himself or him inside a combat spaceship, while other missions have you protecting a batch of Galactic Rangers as they fix a turret. The latter is far from an annoying protection mission, as it's quite simple, so no worries! Regardless, these more action-oriented scenes make for some nice pacing and freshness to the game. There are also five video game cartridges that tell the adventures of Captain Qwark through a charming 2D side-scrolling platformer that is a lot of fun to play as well.

Geronimo! Ratchet and the Galactic Rangers get a drop on the enemy forces in some missions.
Continuing with the action focus, there is also a battle arena, a coliseum, if you will, for Ratchet and Clank to face challenges in, known as Annihilation Nation. Here, special themed arena contests are held, with the rewards being vast amounts of bolts. Some contests need you to clear multiple round of enemies while dodging environmental hazards like spinning blades and fiery pits. Others give you a boss to tackle, force you to fight without taking damage, or have you using just one weapon to survive. These are enjoyable challenges to do, and yes, they further add to the value of Up Your Arsenal.

During the game, Ratchet and Clank will also sometimes split up, as they did in both the original R&C and Going Commando. Clank will have segments where he teams up with a monkey to get through hazard-laden areas. With Clank's banana gun, Clank can fire bananas as a means to get the monkey to certain spots, such as on a button to extend a bridge or in a spotlight that triggers a turret gun that would otherwise kill Clank instantly, but instead, the monkey distracts the turret so Clank can pass by. (No monkey was harmed in the playing of this game.) There are also times where Clank can control up to four miniature helper robots, tasking them with following, staying put, attacking foes, or entering little houses that when all the robots have gone inside, the way for Clank to proceed opens up.

Ratchet also has some fun by himself. In one portion of the game, he dons a Tyhrranoid outfit to sneak into the main villain's aquatic base, interacting with real Tyhrranoids through burping, odd movements, and belching. This is done with a Parappa the Rapper-style rhythm mini-game that doesn't outwear its welcome as it's used sparing, and adds to Up Your Arsenal's variety.

The Tyhrranoid outfit, or guise, is one of many gadgets that Ratchet and Clank come across in their planetary adventure. Another like the Hypershot, serves as a a gadget that can be used to cross chasms by linking to a hook-like contraption, and allowing Ratchet to sling across. Then there is the Hacker, which allows the opening of locked doors through playing a simple mini-game where you shoot around a circular field, blasting red lasers while tractor-beaming up green lasers to pass. Finally, things like the Gravity Boots that grant Ratchet the ability to walk up certain pieces of the environment, and the Refractor that reflects lasers to solve environmental puzzles, round out the gadget package in Up Your Arsenal.

Tyhrranosis is the home world of the Tyhrranoids. Ratchet, Clank, the Q-Force,
and the Galactic Rangers bring the fight straight to the enemy.
As Ratchet moves through levels, he can use either his standard melee weapon, a large wrench, or he can utilize a wide repertoire of high-powered weaponry, most of which is earned by buying them from vending stations placed throughout levels in the game with the Bolts (the currency of the Ratchet & Clank series) found from broken boxes and defeated enemies.

The first main planet Ratchet and Clank get to explore is the jungle planet of Florana.
Like Going Commando, through consistent use of a given weapon (and that weapon's shots must hit an enemy), guns and weapons gain experience, leveling up to grow stronger. Weapons can be leveled up initially up to four times, resulting in a version five of a given weapon. The Ratchet & Clank series is known for its wide array of clever and fun-to-use weapons, and Up Your Arsenal certainly is no different. Blasters, missile launchers, plasma whips, sniper rifles, laser shields, acid-spewing guns that infect enemies and confuse them into attacking their own side, and so much more are available for Ratchet to use throughout the game. As weapons level up, something like the portable death machines known as the Agents of Doom, that fight beside Ratchet in battle, in their fifth level, turn from four marching robots that fire weak lasers into hovering death bots, launching missiles at foes.

Once some guns get leveled up enough, they can become positively shocking!
When the initial game is beaten and the final boss has been made to eat Ratchet's dust, a new Challenge mode is available for players. Here, weapons that have been fully leveled up in the original campaign can have stronger version purchased from a Gadgetron vendor. These can then be leveled up a couple of more levels, becoming totally powerful in combat. In addition to that, a new bolt multiplier is available, increasing as Ratchet defeats enemies without taking damage, up to a 20 time bolt multiplier.

Big or small, Ratchet and Clank take out them all!
Bonus content in the form of well hidden Titanium Bolts, which can be used to buy character skins such as a tuxedo-wearing Ratchet, a ninja-guised lombax, or even a frosty snowman. Additionally, the series's usual skill points return. There are 30 in all, and these are essentially special tasks to do in levels that you wouldn't normally think of doing, such as shooting down innocent flying Pteradactyl on one planet, or defeating a boss with only Ratchet's wrench. These unlock fun cheats like a big head mode or mirroring the levels of the game completely.

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal doesn't shake up the established formula of the series too much, but instead it further refines it. Ratchet controls as tightly as ever, new weapons add new strategies to battle, the platforming is more finely honed, and additionally gameplay like Galactic Ranger missions, Qwark side-scrolling levels, and Clank solo sections add some variety. Some might not care for the more action-focused gameplay when compared to the previous two Ratchet & Clank games, but all in all, Up Your Arsenal delivers good variety, a great villain, and the same gameplay that makes so many of us return to the Ratchet & Clank series time and time again.

[SPC Says: A-] 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Worst Things About SuperPhillip Central's Favorite Games

The games that are my favorites are ones that have minimal or next to no faults in them. I'd be fooling myself if I said a game that I liked best was perfect. That's the purpose of this article: to try to delve into my favorite games, figuring out that one thing that isn't so perfect about them. Many of these may come off as nitpicks, and that's the nature of trying to come up with gripes, no matter how small, towards the games I adore most.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 3DS)

Let's start with my favorite video game ever created, the masterful Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It's really cliche, I guess, as a choice for favorite game ever made, but it's not like the game isn't one of the most revolutionary, well paced, or creatively designed out there. Thus, there's a reason many consider it the best of all time.

Regardless, especially in the Nintendo 64 version, a problem that plagued many games on the system, especially those with high caliber graphics, is the frame-rate. It can go to the low teens in an instant, particularly in more action-intense sequences as well as more open areas like Hyrule Field. 

Another issue with the Nintendo 64 version is no stranger to fans of the game, and even harsh critics. I'm talking about an element of the Water Temple. The dungeon itself isn't annoying. The need to constantly pause and unpause the game to equip the Iron Boots from the Gear menu, however, is. I'm embellishing here, but one may spend more time in the menus than in the actual Water Temple itself because of how much you have to equip and remove the Iron Boots!

With the Nintendo 3DS version, which is the definitive version, in my mind, both the frame-rate (though there are modest drops in the 3DS version) and the Iron Boots were fixed. For the Iron Boots, they became an equipment item, much like the Boomerang or Hookshot. You could simply tap the touch screen to equip them and remove them instantaneously. 

The 3DS version did bring a new problem into Ocarina of Time, and that's when you have the 3D slider on of the Nintendo 3DS. Dark areas presented a ghosting effect with colors and images bleeding over into the darkness for a sullied look. A very small gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.

Resident Evil 4 (Multi)

With a new version of Resident Evil 4 coming to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this season (making it the 101st official version across all platforms), it seems timely I talk about my favorite third-person shooter. And there's the rub. As a game to its lonesome, Resident Evil 4 is one of the most perfectly paced games ever devised. Its action is superior to most games, its design is superb, and it's absolutely dripping with macabre atmosphere. 

As part of the Resident Evil series, however, this game saw a shift in tone of the series. Future games acted more as third-person shooters with some horror elements instead of the pure survival horror gameplay longtime fans of the series had come to expect. It's only now that Resident Evil 7, announced at this past E3, seems to be taking the franchise back to its roots. 

I'm one of those whose first experience with the Resident Evil franchise was the fourth installment, hyping it up as the last big GameCube exclusive (we all know how that turned out). Thus, I didn't have as much at stake with the future of the franchise. Still, knowing where Resident Evil went after 4 and it disappointing so many fans is something that can be considered a flaw for Resident Evil 4. Seeing as that's the worst I can say about the game, that's mighty impressive.

Perfect Dark (N64, XBLA)

From a third-person shooter to a first-person shooter, I've always enjoyed objective-based FPS games like GoldenEye, TimeSplitters, and yes, Perfect Dark over games that focused more on running and gunning through either expansive levels or corridor-to-corridor design. Perfect Dark is a marvel of design with its many ways to clear a majority of missions, whether going in order or accomplishing each objective in the order you desire. 

A problem that haunts both versions really isn't too bad. That is that many of the missions in the game can take upwards of 15-30 minutes on Perfect Agent difficulty, the hardest difficulty in the game, sporting the most objectives, harder AI, greater damage, and no shields to add to Ms. Joanna Dark's defenses. One mistake can cost you those 15-30 minutes of progress thanks to the lack of checkpoints. 

Now, back when the game originally came out in 2000, one of my proudest gaming achievements (before Xbox and Microsoft made them an actual thing that people could earn for GamerScore) was beating all of the missions on Perfect Agent mode. It took a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of "dammit, I almost had it-s" to do that. So, yeah, I did "git gud", but at the same time, it's a viable complaint if I had to pick one.

However, the Nintendo 64 version also suffers from tremendous frame-rate drops, running sluggishly in the teens with great consistency. And don't even get me started on dropping a certain bomb that drops the frame-rate in single digits.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) 

We continue with this look at some of my favorite games of all time with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Generally, the motion control actions worked flawlessly. Now, even some longtime gamers couldn't adjust to the Wii's motion controls. I'm not referring to waggle as motion controls. Most of Super Mario Galaxy 2's functions were tilting the Wii Remote. 

That's exactly what one needs to do in the gliding sections of Super Mario Galaxy 2. This quest for a Power Star happens in two galaxies. The first isn't too bad at all. Not only does making it to the end of the course give you your much desired Power Star, but flying through five difficultly placed rings gives you a Comet Medal.

It's the second level late in the game that always gets my proverbial goat. Or, I guess bird would be the right word to use here. It's not so much making it to the end that's the problem. It's making it through all five rings, which are in some absurdly hard and fiendish locations. Twisting and tilting the Wii Remote to reach each can make you look like a contortionist. It's by far my least favorite part of Super Mario Galaxy 2, and even then, it's very much manageable.

Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)

Finishing off this first look at some of my favorite games of all time and their flaws (if you didn't guess, I plan to do more), Banjo-Kazooie takes center stage, my favorite 3D collect-a-thon style platformer. In the original game on the Nintendo 64, there were 100 musical notes scattered and hidden around each of the game's main worlds. If you died before collecting all 100, your top amount would be saved by the game. Dying wasn't usually too much of a scare for seasoned players, but one particular world of the game made death all too easy, Rusty Bucket Bay. I'm particular in talking about the engine room, where fans spin dangerously and platforms twist and turn constantly.

It's far too easy for a run at 100 musical notes to end in this section, making you have to start collecting them all over again on your next life. Thankfully, the Xbox Live Arcade HD port removed having to collect all 100 musical notes in one run. Instead, it saved every musical note you collected even after death. Thus, you just needed to go after missing notes if you for some reason bit the big one. So, then you have the Xbox 360 HD port fixing my one issue with the original Banjo-Kazooie. Well, maybe that final fight with Gruntilda is still a bit of a difficulty jump...

Yooka-Laylee (Multi) Gamescom 2016 Trailer

Tour the fantastical worlds of Yooka-Layle, a 3D platformer from the talents behind games like Donkey Kong Country and my personal favorite, Banjo-Kazooie! This all-new Gamescom trailer showcases some new areas, a new transformation for Yooka and Layle, and a lot more. Yooka-Layle is set to release early next year.


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