Category Archives: Reviews

Finally Beat “Abzu” on PS4

It didn’t take long to beat Abzu out of difficulty, but rather losing interest for quite a while. The visuals are beautiful, and it’s a fun experience, but there’s basically zero difficulty and no way to lose.

Overall I’d say it’s a mediocre game, and far less interesting than “Journey”, made by the same developer. And while I’d like to play Journey again, I don’t think I’ll be playing Abzu a second time.

Nonetheless, having found a deal on the PlayStation store to buy it for $5, I’d say it was well worth the money.

Java and Generics

I’ve been brushing up on Java a bit lately, and came across the topic of generics. While I’ve consumed generic classes, primary collections, I’ve only created a generic class a few times. It’s really quite fascinating, in particular when you get to the concept of upper and lower bounds for generic types.

Type erasure in Java is also quite intriguing… the end result being that the Java runtime knows nothing about generics.

I’m reading “Learning Java” 4th Edition, and while there might be a newer version, I still highly recommend it for reviewing generics.

The Wonderful PlayStation Vue

I dropped cable TV years ago and for some time survived on Netflix and/or Amazon Prime.
Maybe a year or two ago I tried out PlayStation Vue, a live channel streaming service. It’s just like cable TV without some of the local channels, all streamed over the internet with no connect/disconnect charges or contracts.

I love it, especially that I can keep it for 2-4 months then get rid of it if I become too busy, without having to return a cable box or pay fees.

Check it out at https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/

“Brave Dungeon” for 3DS

This cheap $5 hack and slash “RPG” provides plenty of fun if you just want to battle monsters and level up while advancing further through five different dungeons. Each floor of each dungeon has a boss to fight. The aesthetics are simple but pleasant, and the controls are very basic since it consists of turn-based battles only. There’s not much beyond that… while you can swap party members there’s really no reason to. There are some cool items that you collect while adventuring, and that’s the main upgrade path for the game. Worth $5 for sure!

Alchemic Dungeons – a New Awesome 3DS Digital Game

The 8-bit/pixelated graphics of “Alchemic Dungeons” definitely remind me of old DOS or NES games – but the colors seem more vibrant and the graphics more sophisticated.

You choose one of four classes (Fighter, Hunter, Dwarf, or Witch – I think the Hunter is the best class) and go on your way adventuring in a hack and slash sort of style. There are about a hundred items you can craft with materials you collect on your adventures.

I finished the first real stage (not counting the short tutorial), the “Phantom Forest”, after trying again and again – but I definitely learned the basic strategy of the gameplay, and I think later stages will be easier if strategy is applied.

The only real issue with this game is the music gets a bit repetitive… but other than that I highly recommend it!

UPDATE: I’ve since beaten the second stage, which was even more difficult. And an important note: this is a turn-based hack and slash, so you only get to do one thing, then the enemies move/attack, etc.

Game Review – “Assassin’s Creed II” for Xbox 360

Game Title: Assassin’s Creed II
Game System: Xbox 360

Rating
Graphics: 9 / 10
Gameplay: 9 / 10
Replay Value: 6 / 10
Difficulty: Average. Short challenging moments in between longer easier adventures.

Having only begun the first Assassin’s Creed after finishing the second, I can’t really do much of a comparison between the two. However, I think the sequel stands on its own as a genuinely fun, captivating game of mild difficulty – it seems easier than the first one.

Most of the gameplay revolves around avoiding the guards, parkour around the rooftops and eliminating certain targets, and it’s the kills which are the main anchors of the storyline (perhaps unsurprising given the game title). While there are open-world elements in that you can explore the environments (read: cities) that you visit, there is a clear path of how to move the story forwards. Your “next step” is generally made clear by blinking icons in the mini-map and full map, and between the maps and the compass it’s easy to find your next activity.

As the game progresses certain “meta-tasks” arise, that is, activities that span across multiple cities and parts of the game. The two most prominent examples of this are codex pages that you have to have deciphered, and certain locations that hold secret relics (which are hard to explain without revealing certain sub-plots).

The combat is fluid and fun, but due to the abundance of “medicine” that heals a significant part of your health, fighting is rarely much of a challenge, even when it’s many against one. As you progress, you get to buy better armor, which gives you more health, and better weapons that increase your attack speed and damage.

While the game is so easy that at times it almost feels like watching a movie rather than playing a game, the story and gameplay is continuously entertaining and I highly recommend it.

Retro Game Review – “Dragon Warrior” for NES

Game Title: Dragon Warrior
Game System: NES

Rating
Graphics: 7 / 10
Gameplay: 8 / 10
Replay Value: 4 / 10
Difficulty: This game is more a time investment than a difficult challenge

I finally beat this game a week or two ago. It’s one of my absolute favorite old RPGs, and was a fairly early hack and slash RPG. The premise is you’re a warrior tasked with defeating the dragonlord to basically save the world. You’ll spend most of your time leveling up to face more and more difficult dungeons and roaming monsters over the course of maybe 20 hours. You wander around an overworld map facing enemies that appear at random intervals, wandering from town to town and speaking to locals for clues to the fairly simple puzzles/hidden items spread throughout the game.

Gold, to buy better weapons, armor and items, as well as room and board at inns to restore health and magic points, is difficult to amass early in the game but is absurdly plentiful later on. As you level up and have increased stats, you face enemies that both provide more XP and more gold, making it possible to buy increasingly expensive and powerful weapons and armor.

The best part of the game is the monster fighting sequences. Each monster has a brightly colored image that pops up when you encounter the enemy. Some monsters are just variations of color or minor detail built upon other monster art, but there are many unique designs overall.

The most dangerous part of the game is questing too long and letting your health get so low that you can’t make it back home – but the entire time I played I only died a few times.

Overall a classic RPG for the NES that’s a blast to play once, but not so much a second time.

Warcraft, the Movie…

This past weekend I watched Warcraft… pretty disappointing. Poor acting, not much of a script and nothing too surprising or interesting.

I’ve never played World of Warcraft, but I did thoroughly enjoy Warcraft and Warcraft II, in the days when it was an RTS game not an RPG (I didn’t find Warcraft III as interesting as the first two). There were a few nostalgic references to those RTS games but that didn’t make the movie that much better.

Should have rented it before buying… oh well.

Retro Game Review – “Battle Chess” for NES

Game Title: Battle Chess
Game System: NES

Rating
Graphics: 7 / 10
Gameplay: 8 / 10
Replay Value: 8 / 10
Difficulty: For casual chess players, there is more than enough of a challenge here.

This chess game is solely responsible for my wanting a blue and red chess set, due to the colors of the two sides in the game. Sadly, such a chess set would be mostly for show, as I’m not terribly interested in chess – please keep in mind that I’m reviewing this game as a mildly interested beginner at chess.

The graphics offer 2D and 3D modes. The 2D mode has a quicker feel due to a lack of animations, and the chess pieces have a nice clean look. It’s the 3D look, however, that inspired my imagination playing this game as a kid. Every time a move is made the pieces slowly (and I do mean really slowly) walk to their new destination. If they take a piece as part of the move, a short 10-second animation is shown of them fighting one another.

These 3D fight scenes are cool, but the sluggish pace of moving pieces in the 3D setting can make you really, really want to switch to the 2D mode and its more responsive feel. There are a host of sounds that accompany the 3D mode and add some nice atmosphere generally lacking in chess games.

Due to my lack of chess skills I only play on the “novice” difficulty setting, and there are a number of levels beyond that. The NES’ humble processor performance is obvious when the computer will sometimes think for 5 or more seconds before making a move – but it’s generally not enough of a delay to become truly annoying. You can also play in a two-player mode instead of playing the computer.

Overall a fun chess game with more than enough difficulty for beginners and beyond.