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Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse NA Version (JP & EU use the same photo)

      Mickey, Goofy, & Donald are playing catch with Pluto, when Pluto chases a ball into the forest. Goofy goes to look for him, and when he doesn’t return, Mickey goes after both of them. I guess Donald (shown only in silhouette) was happy to let you all die. He’s written out of the script except for that cameo in the beginning cinematic.

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      Taking control of Mickey, you learn the controls before running into a Wizard’s house who tells you he saw Pluto taken away by Emperor Pete’s forces. He tells you to give up looking for your dog, but when you refuse, he decides to help you by spreading helpful boxes across the land. He will also give you some powerful costumes later.

      Control wise, you can jump on enemies and make then dizzy. While dazed, you can pick them up and chuck them like a Koopa shell to take out more enemies, and you don’t have to worry about it hurting you if it bounces back. You can also pick up blocks and toss them the same way, but you must be facing the right or left of the block to grab it; it won’t work if you are above or below it. You can’t hold enemies or blocks out in front of you to prevent damage, either; all enemies and projectiles go through it and hit you, so you have to throw them. You also need to pay attention to which blocks you need to jump on so you don’t accidentally remove a platform you need, otherwise you have to walk about 3 screens back then return to get the block to reappear. You can pluck fruit seeds from the background and throw them, then they suddenly develop wings and fly up. You have a brief window to jump up and hold onto them before they take off. Once you grab hold, it flies diagonally upward in the direction you are facing.

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Mickey flies through the air, waiting for the flying chickens to run into him.

      Coins can be used to buy items at the item shop. The shop has hearts to refill your life, an extra life, energy for your costumes, items that cut the costume meter in half, and a heart container that allows you to get hit one more time for the rest of the game. You can also collect some items for a score, but the score does nothing in the game since you have unlimited continues.

      As the 2nd level begins, you are given a magic turban. Select the Turban icon with the L or R button (the game doesn’t pause) and then change into it with A. Mickey goes behind a curtain, then comes out changed and ready to do battle. Your turban allows you to swim underwater easier and faster, and also fires energy shots, but you have a meter for it that makes it’s use limited. You can also charge the shot for up to 4 different blasts. You can eventually buy an item at the shop to be able to use it twice as much, but it’s so expensive it will be a while before you can afford it.

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At the beginning of the 3rd level, you get the Firefighter costume. This allows you to shoot water from your hose. In addition to hitting enemies, it can also put out fires (which only happens in level 3) and move blocks (even blocks in the air) to get into holes or jump to other platforms.

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In the 4th level, you get the Climber’s Outfit. This is a grappling hook that allows you to swing along the ceiling and even pull yourself up onto any platform above you. It has no meter and can be used indefinitely. You can pull enemies and blocks to you, also. When you die, your meter for all your costumes goes back to full.

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      Mickey’s Magical Quest is a very easy game, but that’s understandable since it stars Mickey Mouse, a character for younger children. Also, it doesn’t penalize you for anything, which is good. You have unlimited continues to start at each sub-level, your meter goes back to full after every life, and you don’t lose any of your coins when you die.

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Mickey Vs Emperor Pete

      The bosses are pretty large and also very fun. The most annoying battle was a giant bird, as you had to sense when it would fly at the screen, then quickly dodge the enemies on the ground and jump up and hold onto a ring. If you failed, it was an instant death. The toughest part of the main game came in Level 1-2, where you must run on top of a falling ball to prevent yourself from falling into spikes. However the ball changes in speed constantly, so sometimes you’re trying to keep up with it, only to run off it as it slows and you fall into the chasm below. Easily the most annoying part of the game, but luckily it only happens once.

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You have to grab one of the two floating blocks by quickly switching into your Climber’s Gear,
or else it’s instant death for you.

      After each boss, a ghost of Pete flies away, indicating he was controlling them. Finally, you face Emperor Pete, who is extremely large. You don’t want to touch him at all, or use the Firefighter Outfit, as Pete responds by using an attack that is harder to dodge. In just about 2-3 hours, my first adventure with Mickey was already over. There were a few parts here and there where you die a few times before just using trial and error to solve it, but with unlimited continues, it’s hard to complain of any difficulty.

      One of the most wasteful opportunities are the enemies. A few of them only show up 3-4 times on one screen total, and then never again. Why bother making an entirely new enemy just to only have it appear for a few seconds? They should have used them more or created a few more levels for more of them?

      That’s all there is to the game. There isn’t much else to describe.

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      Challenge: 9 out of 10
This was made to be simple, but there are a few times that the design made it obvious they forgot to dial it back, such as the ball run and instant death boss above. They also have a hidden heart container you can only get to with the Climber’s Gear, but it requires precision on something that’s hard to use swinging across a ceiling with no floor (so lot’s of instant death).

      Story: 3 out of 10
Sorry, but the Super Nintendo had been out for a bit now, and the story is very bare and just an excuse to play the game. They all least have the Wizard talking helpful exposition at the beginning of the game, but otherwise, he shows up to give you a costume, Goofy shows up to give you the Climber’s gear, and then you get an ending.

      Fun: 20 out of 20
Despite being easy in most parts, it’s still enjoyable to play. The use of throwing blocks and using the costumes makes for some variety to make it stand out from most other platforming games.

      Control: 9 out of 10
The game is really easy to learn. The only thing that is difficult to learn the controls for is the Climber’s Gear.

      Music: 7 out of 10
The music is very cheery and engaging, but only slightly below the quality that would want me to listen to it’s soundtrack on my own.

      Graphics: 10 out of 10
Everything looks bright and colorful. Every boss is very large and detailed. The backgrounds are well done and all enemies have many animation sets.

      Replay Value: 5 out of 10
The game is quick to play through. Because it’s over so quickly, you’ll most likely forget most of it and play it again some time later. Since the game doesn’t force you to play through it to the point of repetition and boredom, I can see it being picked up again and again.

      Extras: 2 out of 10
There is a cheat code to get every coin, heart, and costume at the very beginning, plus 990 seconds on the timer for every level.

Total Points: 65 out of 90

This is the shortest and easiest review I’ve written because there isn’t much to describe. Ultimately, Mickey’s Magical Quest is a game for younger kids, but also for those who just want a quick, one-night game that provides some fun and relaxation.

For the entire year, I stored all my video games I bought in one corner, then did a quick video 6 months later, and another at the end of the year. I was actually surprised to see I had bought so much stuff. Randomly buying I also came to realize that I buy a game more if it has Time Travel or Dinosaurs in it. Hopefully seeing everything for one year will help me buy less the next year.

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Granstream Saga – North American Cover

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Japanese Version (the Euro version just has more logos blocking the art)

      Grandstream Saga is an exciting action/adventure game with some RPG elements.

      In the world of Grandstream, there was a war between the Imperial Wizardry (evil) and Allied Spirit Army (good). The Imperial Wizardry used a weapon both sides had agreed not to use, but weapon was miscalculated, and it shifted the axis of the world, causing the ice caps to be on the equator, melt, and flood the world. Before the world was destroyed, 4 Wise Men created 4 gems and created 4 flying continents. Every few decades, these gems must be recharged or the continents slowly sink toward the water below.

      It is now 100 years later, and the wise men’s descendants are missing. Your home continent of Shilf is slowing descending toward the water. Your father is cutting off parts of the flying island to slow its decent. However, Eon (you) spots a bird’s nest on the falling piece of land and risks his life to save it.

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I was busy risking my life to save baby birds so the player knows I’m pure of heart.

      What later starts out as a search for a missing boy leads you to discover your powers to recreate items from scraps with a magic bracelet you’ve had since you were born. It never displayed any magic until now. From there, you learn the Imperial Wizardry never truly died. They have kidnapped the wise man’s descendant, Arcia. You smuggle yourself about a pirate ship that’s going to trade with them to try and rescue her. It is there you meet Laramee and her spirit bird Korby. Laramee helps you board the Imperial ship, as she is inspired by your heroism to save someone you’ve never even met. It is on this mission the stakes are raised, as you learn you must seek out a magic verse for Arcia to sing at each continent to recharge the magic of the continents to keep them afloat before all of humanity is extinguished forever.

      But first, in the middle of that story, something rare happen (for American video games of this time). You are smuggled into a treasure chest placed in Laramee’s room, and you open it up to see this:

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There is no nipple, so it’s not nudity.

      I don’t know how this was approved during translation. But, the game is really G rated, with only some serious themes popping up at the very end, but they made sure you knew this scene was there; it’s even on the back of the game box.

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      The characters have fun interactions together. Kobry the spirit has a fun antagonist relationship with Laramee, and he has many comedic conversations with Eon (especially if you try to search through a bonfire for secret items). The tone is very good at mixing a light-hearted feel between the characters with serious disastrous events going on (the storyline about the religious cult on the 2nd island being my favorite story). The last dungeon quickly gets very serious, and not every character walks away from this game alive.

      You have an overhead map screen. You can rotate the map in any of the 8 compass directions. I usually just keep it pointing straight North. Your character actually walks relatively fast, so I already like that I don’t have to take forever to get anywhere.

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      You can wander around towns and talk to people, and sometimes you need to talk to a particular person to progress the plot. In addition, there are items shops which you can use to buy herbs to heal your Life Points, and Magic to increase your Magic Points (both are always slightly random, but you learn to figure out the average the more you use them). You heal and save games in churches, and healing yourself is free. There are weapon shops, but for some reason, something always prevents you from buying items at them in each town. The reason for this is because you have to find all the weapons in the game yourself, so they pretty much just exist to screw with you and your RPG expectations.

      The is an action game. When you run into an enemy on screen, you quickly go into a battle screen (it is only 1 second by the way—-no long loading times). The screen expands for battle, but it adds some black barriers to prevent you from going too far away (you can never run away from battles; one of you has to die). You hit Circle to block, and you can block attacks and take no damage. However, if an enemy’s weapon starts to glow purple, they can break through your block; you need to dodge or attack them quickly to interrupt them.

      Another fun and helpful ability is that when you block, your character automatically faces the villain no matter where he goes on the screen. If you aren’t blocking, the enemy can move left and you will still be staring at a wall unless you turn around.

      Your movements are slower now in battle compared to when you were walking. Luckily, you can tap the control stick in any direction to make a fast dash out of the way. Sometimes you can dash a few times to get behind an enemy who is blocking to attack them where they are unprotected.

      You hit Square to cast magic and X to attack with your weapon. You can chose between a dagger (low damage, fast speed), a sword (average damage, average speed), and an axe (high damage, slow speed). Along the way, each weapon will obtain 3 different secret buttom move combinations that must be input with 3 button input on the control stick followed by the attack button (but enemies can still block it). It makes your sword glow purple followed by a 2 or 3 prong attack. It is really useful to use these to save time when fighting enemies with really large heath bars, as each enemy (and you) have multiple EP bars, which each represent a full Life Bar. When one life bar is gone, you lose one EP and another full Life Bar appears. Luckily, if you only have 5 hit points left in your life bar, and are dealt 100 hit points of damage, you will only lose 5 Hit Points; the damage doesn’t carry over to the next EP bar. The only exception to this when you attack the enemy with YOUR super move (so, a trade-off for them being able to block your super-moves).

      Some enemies have a shield like you do, preventing all damage with a block (they even block your super moves, which you can’t do). Luckily, after a few swings, you can knock an enemies’ shield off, but you have to be quick to stand between them and the shield. If the enemy is near the border of the screen, the shield will just fall right under them and they will pick it up immediately, so it’s best to lure them near the center of the battlefield.

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You really start to hate all enemies with shields (yes, I know he doesn’t have one).

      You have to learn each enemies’ weakness. For instance, in the first dungeon, the metal guards should be attacked with the dagger, because you can kill them without getting hit because you’re too fast for them. But with later guards in that level, you should never use an axe because they are too fast to ever land in a hit.

      You can also run…at the enemy. If you run directly at the enemy, you can temporarily stun him, even if they have their shields up. However, you have to back up quite a bit, which will prompt them to use their long range attack. You have to study their movements and wait for the right opportunity to use this. This is the most useful skill in the game in my opinion.

      The game is very challenging, too. I was always low on healing herbs and magic replenishment. It felt tense not knowing when the end was, and if you had enough energy or herbs for the enemy battles. Each battle is a risk, especially when you don’t know their movements and weaknesses for the weapons or how big the dungeon is. Money is also scarce, so you can’t go battling creatures for money because money is rare (which makes you struggle with what to buy at the shops)

      However, one thing I hated was a dungeon you teleport to that you can never go back into. I forgot a sword there that I can never get again. I actually reset the game and replayed the first 3 hours to get it because it gave me 3 attacks at once instead of 2, and I didn’t feel like playing through the game on a harder difficulty.

      My most hated enemy (in the first dungeon, by the way) was the turtle-like creatures with blades for hands. Not only are they faster than you and anyone else in the game, they have twice the range, charge at you with spinning blades, and jump over you when you’re about to attack. They take a long time and are very annoying. Luckily, I can shoot them with fire three to kill them (when I actually have some magic power).

      You will get magic throughout the game, but you have to actively seek it out, and some are purchased at a shop by buying a mysterious stone. You have spells for outside battle such as teleporting back to the front of the dungeon, healing, and freezing an enemy so you can move by them. You also have battle magic, which is the normal fire, ice, and lighting type attacks, but you also get spells to temporarily increase your defense and attack power. However, some enemies later in the game block spells as easily as regular attacks, but luckily the early enemies can’t so well.

      Another odd departure from traditional RPGs is that you don’t level up after a certain number of battle victories, but at certain parts of the game. There is no need to fight everything in sight. The game can be much shorter if you do this.

      Interestingly, no one has faces. Their character models have really detailed clothes, but they have no facial features, those are left to the anime portraits that appear when some of them talk. This game was apparently one of the first video game to use fully polygonal backgrounds (instead of 2D backgrounds) Also, anime cutscenes are shown at many parts of the game. I really enjoyed these.

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Notice how no one has a face on their character models.

      The game rewards exploration. You must look everywhere to find better weapons. Usually, you’ll be fighting tough enemies, and finally, 75% of the way through the dungeon, you’ll find a fire sword that makes fighting the ice enemies in that dungeon much easier. Getting to defeat them in less time after taking a long time to defeat them previously feels very satisfying.

      Music: 10 out of 10

The music from the first level stuck in my head after the game. As I played further, I realized I actually wanted the soundtrack to this game. The music changes to match the tone of each level (for the towns and the dungeons).

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

It’s a medium challenging action adventure, and feels that way pretty much from beginning to end. It never really spikes to too easy or hard.

      Fun: 20 out of 20

I was pretty addicted to this game. The battles were fun and challenging, making every single enemies a challenge rather than a ‘Tap A To Attack And Win’ fight.

      Control: 10 out of 10

The controls are simple, and being able to use your dash in any direction really helps in battles. The three weapon types all have their own feel to them, as does each magic spell. I never had any problem with the controls interfere with my enjoyment.

      Graphics: 8 out of 10

The graphics are really bright and everything stands out very well. Everything is

      Extras: 0 out of 10

There are 2 secrets. One is finding the hidden shopkeeper who will only sell you things in Bronze, Silver, or Gold (items you get from treasure chests throughout the game), but he can give you better weapons when you need them. The 2nd secret is one I hated. You see, I forgot one important part of the game that I skipped in the actual game. When you defeat an enemy without getting hit and without using magic, you get a Specter Force. If you open it, it’s a weak item. But, if you chose to copy it, you then can try and defeat the next enemy without getting hit. Hidden this way are 6 Spirit Cards

I gave up on this after an hour or so of frustration. You have to do this 8 times to get the last card. However, getting any of the other 5 cards is random. If you unlock the 5th Scepter Force, for instance, you get one of 5 items, only one of which COULD contain the card for the 5th time. Most enemies are impossible to fight without getting hit at least once or twice, even with better weapons and armor. Luckily, you can skip this, and it does nothing to hinder you in the game.

      Replay Value: 2 out of 10

Unfortunately, this is where the game struggles. After you’ve beaten the game, you’ve played all there is and there are no real side quests. Granted, it’s about 30 – 35 hours, but this is one of those games you play once, and then maybe you’ll play it again in 5 years once you’ve forgotten how cool it was.

      Bonus:

      +10 Anime Cut Scenes

I really liked the anime cutscenes. They brought more life into the characters and showed them with more emotions than the text could. Not to mention adding energy to some high-intensity scenes.

Total Score: 70 out of 90

      One thing I have to mention, though, is it’s focus on story. There is a lot of dialogue in the game. So much so that I felt that I only participated in battles about 50% of the game. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. The characters are interesting, but their interactions with each other are what is actually the fun part of the game. I thought the story was different than most RPG’s I had played before, and in the end, the game even takes a dramatic twist that you didn’t see coming (but it makes sense in retrospect given some of the plot and character backgrounds that have been spliced into the story up to that point). I was satisfied with both endings (but liked one better) once I finally defeated the boss and overall enjoyed the game enough that I would recommend it. It wasn’t very popular over here upon release, so it is very cheap (under $10.00) when you can find it.


Slayzer: The Stupid Brother Of Laramee

      I hate Slayzer. He is an idiot. He destroys 3 of the 4 orbs needed to power the flying islands because he thinks I’m going to use the power for control, even though he OVERHEARD OUR ENTIRE CONVERSATION about the continents falling into the sea and that the orbs are needed to kep them (and all humans everywhere) afloat. You find much later he wanted them destroyed so that the balance of the world could return to normal, but, seriously, there is no normal and it couldn’t be again; all 4 islands would go under the sea, everyone would die, and there would be no humanity or land. This is where I would put curse words if I could.

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*This review tied for 1st place in VideoGameGeek’s monthly video game review contest for June 2013. The theme was Over 18.*

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      Hydrophobia was released on the PC, and later for the Playstation 3 with an enhanced version. This is a review of the Playstation 3 Version (it is digital only, and has no physical edition). Note: This game was not used with a Motion Controller.

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Start Menu

      Hydrophobia takes place in a city where you are an engineer with the night off. The world is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Queen of the World (a giant ship that houses an entire city), with advertisements of NanoTech in the background (a group who wants to make food for everyone). This immediately reminded me of Journeyman Project, where you roam around your room before a big event, only for a huge catastrophe to happen. Of course, said catastrophe does happen.

      You play as Kate Wilson. You start in your apartment and can explore as much as you like, and even find some hidden objects. All are useless for the game, but they all have a story, which lets you learn more about the character before you begin, such as a picture of her graduation, a letter from her dad, as well as a book with a brief summary of this future world. Your character’s electronics suddenly stop working, so you set out to see your co-worker, Scoot, and fix the problem, only for an explosion to happen while you are on an elevator. You find nothing but chaos on the floors below; everything is damaged, and you find terrorists (Malthusians) have invaded. The story of who they are and the world you are in itself is actually really clever, and is more exciting in the game to experience as they unfold (even though, technically, your character knows this already).

      The game starts out with you running around a ship’s deck in 3rd person, and your co-worker Scoot will talk to you to tell you where you need to head to get out alive and where to manually alter some doors (someone on the inside gave the terrorist’s the computer codes and they have all been reset). There is a 3 dimensional map to help you find your way. This map can be flipped in every single direction and zoomed in and out to find the path you need to take. You can also convert it into a ¾ perspective map.

      The explosions around the area have unleashed water around you; the visuals of the water are the best I have seen from any game, and the mechanics of this are very well designed, also. Sometimes, you will open a door, which will only partially flood the room. Then, another door will flood the room entirely. The water even leaves the room if you open a door to a room which held no water in it. The water effects and the reality of it make for a very fun game, but also terrorize you, because you never know when, at any moment, the entire room will flood while you try to find the exit.

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The room is only partial flooded here, enough to leave flammable gas vents to tend with.

      Once the room is flooded, you have 15 seconds to find an exit, or you will drown. What is great about it is, before the water comes, there will be music, and sound effects of creaking pipes and electrical problems; but once the water engulfs you, you hear it all stop, and the only thing you can hear is your arms swimming through water and the ship creaking. This immerses you into the game, immediately tells you something is wrong, and you start to associate the complete removal of all those sound effects and music with “Oh crap; I need to find an exit before I drown. Where is it? Where is it!” It gets creepier; as you drown, it gets harder and harder to see where you are going , and you start to hear voices toward the end which sound like a little kid calling for help. This is made to make you panic and realize you are about to die, and you feel very relieved when you find land just a few seconds before death.

      Because of what I stated above, the game really draws you into the experience and makes you a part of the game. This is all your doing for an hour or two; no enemies in sight. Eventually, you find the terrorists and have to hide.

      Then, you find a gun, and the 2nd part of the game begins. This gun is a force gun, and pushes the enemies away. A few light blasts and the enemy falls over unconscious. If you charge it, however, you can unleash a large blast that can stun an enemy unconscious instantly. Shoot them while they are down and you will kill them (as they can get back up shortly). At times, you will be going from room to room, killing enemies. Also, you will be swimming in the water, killing enemies while under the water and trying not to drown (They will normally have underwater gear; you won’t). Luckily, your gun works the same under water as much as it does above it.

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Quick, hide behind the…glass?

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A better hiding place

      Later, you will find other weapons, but your default weapon is much better. The only things you will want to use are the grenades. The grenades that attach to the enemy and count down from 10 before exploding are really fun to use. You can ONLY use weapons, as Kate has no experience in hand-to-hand combat. To avoid enemy fire, you have a cover system to hide behind a wall, then release a button to appear briefly out in the open to take shots.

      Throughout the game, you will need to pull our your computer table (that is see-through) and use it to find hidden keycodes on the walls to get into other areas. In addition, the philosophical works of the terrorists’ inspiration are also hidden on the walls as well, and are just for world-building and getting 100% completion.

      Finally, you combine with a virus that doesn’t kill you, and it gives you complete control over water. This starts the 3rd and final part for the game. You can cause water to rise very high, and lift boxes with it. Yes, this means puzzles attempts; you must bring a box over electrified water so you don’t die of electrocution, for example. But, it is also useful for pushing back the enemies, and you can also slam boxes and explosives at them.

      There is a downside to your powers; the virus is slowly killing you. Occasionally, you must collect inoculations to keep the virus at bay; you suddenly become very sick and can only walk, the screen covering up with the virus to prevent you from figuring out where to go. You must find the inoculation quickly or die. Luckily, these are in exact scripted locations, and not on a timer, otherwise you’d be trying to speed through the game the whole time.

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Kate Wilson after being infected with the nanotech virus

      Unfortunately, I feel this part of the game is over too quickly, and I wanted to play more with these powers. There is a mini-game you unlock after beating the game where you are in a watery arena below and a metal grate upper level around the corners, and you must complete different challenges with your water-based powers. It’s a fun diversion after the game is over; though it can be frustrating until you learn a trick you can use on the AI. While on the catwalk, simply use your water-based powers to bring a box toward you near the corner and block one direction of the walkway completely off. Then bring another box to block the view below so no one can see and fire at you, leaving a medium sized hole on the other corner. Now, there is only 1 direction most enemies can fire at you, and you have a hidey hole should combat not go your way (as you will still need to go out and find the enemies sometimes due to the time limit).

      Another aspect of the game is hacking. This is done by putting your computer tablet (that doesn’t ever stop working from all the water) near a door and playing a mini-game. Here, you can the control the left axis to increase or shrink a wavelengths size, and the right button to change it’s distance between waves. You must make an exact match of the wavelength already on the screen. It’s not a bad mini-game, actually, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

      Along with the same tablet you carry, you can see the world on a different frequency; the backgrounds look a different color, and there are words and graffiti from the terrorists, as well as arrows you can follow to the key you need. You can even find the entire teachings of the man that the terrorists follow. In addition, there are arrows and hidden key codes written on the wall. This serves two objectives, a way to find keys, and a way to show through the story that this was an inside job to leave clues for the terrorists once they got on board (a pretty good combo, I’d say).

      The game is mostly linear, and has a pick up and play at anytime feel to it, as all you have to do is see where you have to go on the map (if it wasn’t there, you could spend a long time backtracking the entire game for no reason).

      The only problem I had with the game were all the hidden items; and they were mostly memos (I found a bottle of depression pills I couldn’t use for some reason). I like the house items, as it reveals most of the character and is optionality if people want to skip it. However, the problem I have is looking for small hidden objects in a game that is hugely immerse and life-threatening at any moment. These collection items can completely kill the mood and bring you back to reality. When I realized I was running around an entire wall and every single computer to look for memos, I had broken out of the experience and just stopped collecting the items altogether.

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      Story: 10 out of 10

The story is told in pieces as you uncover it, through your characters room, the memos left my other employees and the terrorist themselves, books on the history of your world, the ship, and the terrorists, plus the hidden keys that actually tie into the plot of the game. The world around you is introduced slowly so it feels surprising. It gets more points not just for the original story, but for how it’s told.

      Graphics: 8 out of 10

This is an independent game, with pretty decent graphics. The water is the best part. However, since you are on a ship for most of the game, I was surprised at how different each room was from the other; with only 1 room being a copy of another. Also, the water tosses on your screen as you move, as if your TV was a real video camera in the water.

      Music: 10 out of 10

I don’t remember the music. Do you know what I do remember? The sound of nothing as I scourge a ship looking for survival from explosions, electricity, and fire as they all crackle around me. The sounds of my feet trashing through the water, the slowing down as I try to silently sneak up on someone, hoping they don’t heard my footsteps. The total abrupt silence of nothing but the ship creaking around me while I drown, my breath getting quicker and quicker the more my character thinks they will die, the screen getting brighter and thicker as my mind enters a hazy fog of death. No, it’s not just the music, it’s the combination of music absence, and sound effects, and how they are used, that make this work.

      Challenge: 8 out of 10

This game is really hard in some places on the Hard difficulty. On Normal, it is also fairly difficult. There is one part near the end that I think many people could have a problem with; the 2 symmetrical large rooms (separated by a middle underwater hallway). You have to contend with around 20+ people underwater shooting at you, and people on the balcony (who can hide in cover) shooting at you, twice.

      Fun: 18 out of 20

I enjoyed the hell out of this game.

      Controls: 9 out of 10

You scale pipes to climb to higher places. You pull out a gun to shoot at people. You also have some fun grenades you can throw at people. To switch guns or select grenades, you have to pause the game. Though I found that even in hard mode the Force Gun is still the best weapon.

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Climbing up pipes to get to a room on the floor above you; never has a video game done this before.

      Replay Value: 7 out of 10

Aside from going through the game again for the collectibles and medals/trophies, the game is still fun, but might lose some of the immersion when you know what’s coming and what to do.

      Extras: 3 out of 10

There is mini-game where you use your water control powers in a challenge room. It’s fun and frustrating.

      Bonus Points:

      + 2 / – 2 – Collectibles

I’m torn here, because on one hand, the collectibles really add to the world of the game, but on the other, they ruin the sense of immersion that this game is good at producing.

      +10 Immersion

Seriously, how often do you really feel a part of the game. You always feel like you’re going to drown, you’re on edge from falling and fighting enemies.

Total Points: 83 out of 90

      Hydrophobia: Prophecy, is a very entertaining game, and can be yours for a very cheap price. It’s also not very long and doesn’t need that much of a time commitment. I recommend it for people who want to know what it’s like to feel really immersed in a game.

      I really hope that Episodes 2 & 3 in the planned trilogy actually getting made.

      It’s hard to do the game justice with still pictures, even with a trailer here; you should skip to the 1 minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZceJsTwdcg

*This review won third place in VideoGameGeek.com’s monthly video game review contest (in which I got beat my by other review–Hydrophobia). The theme was any game rated M or above.*

Metal Gear Solid VR Mission

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Metal Gear Solid VR Missions – US Cover (The EU version is just zoomed in 25%)

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Back Cover

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Japanese Cover


      Metal Gear Solid had some VR missions being built around the game, but the designers had more ideas than would fit on the disc and decided to create a separate product for the VR missions. Thus, we have this.

      Inside, there is no instruction manual, just a small art paper that unfolds for TV warnings. Booting up the disc shows you a small movie with Solid Snake (the character you play) doing many of the VR missions you are about to experience (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmzUgBZZAe4).

      VR Missions is set up into 4 categories: Sneaking Mode, Weapon Mode, Advanced Mode, & Special Mode.

Weapon Mode & Advanced Mode

      In Weapon Mode, you are given only one of the weapons (of 8 total) along with a limited amount of ammo. You then must play through 5 levels for each gun and destroy all the targets (most of which move around). After you complete these levels, you can then complete for the fastest time in getting the level completed, where any extra ammo you have on you subtracts from your total time.

      Weapon Mode can be hard on occasion because you actually have to follow targets and watch their patterns. Only knowing where they will be at certain times will make it easier to plan when and where to shoot them so you can get them all destroyed quickly. Also, just because you have that weapon, doesn’t mean you can’t still use your hands.

      The format for Advanced Mode is the same as above, only now you fight against real people. To me, however, these humans made it easier than the targets to get the best time. For instance, on the Stinger level, the Targets come from all angles and you have to turn not only 360 degrees, but also look up and all around as the Targets fly all around the level, but the humans are on the same plane as you. Also, since Advanced Mode is people, you will get 3 seconds removed from your time if you complete the level without being seen. I will now describe each weapon and how they play for both sections since they are so similar.

SOCOM

      One of the more challenging weapons to use. You Hold the Circle button to have the gun auto-aim in front of you, then release it to fire a shot. To get the best times, you have to learn how to use this because every bullet counts, and if you misfire even 1, you can lose out on 1st place. Most targets take 3 shots, but I occasionally kept shooting 4, having to reply the level again. I don’t feel this weapon was made with timed attacks in mind. However, once I got to the human levels, I found it just a little bit easier.

C4

      You have a C4 Explosive that you can lay on the ground, and can then detonate later. Both the Target & Human levels of this are really fun and only slightly challenging.

FAMAS

      My most hated weapon in this game. It’s basically a machine gun that has no aim at all. You tap the Square button to fire, and hold it for rapid fire. You can auto-target automatically, just make sure to use the control stick and not the directional controls. It was the only human mission where I died before I could even get to the time trial.

      I really hate this weapon. It took me the longest to get that best times here. You basically have to cheat to win these levels. When the level starts, keep the X button held. You will now run while holding your weapon, and can fire, also. Just don’t release the X button and hit it again or you will go into a crawl position, immediately ruining your chances of a good time. I don’t understand why run and crawl were not separate buttons.

Grenades

      The Target levels are Medium to Hard and really need you to think and strategize how to plan the grenades and their explosions (as it takes 5 seconds after you throw it before it explodes). Oddly, these levels have the biggest gap between your score and 1st place, as I constantly found ways to improve the 1st place score by nearly a minute.

      Oh, but then you get to the Humans. This is the only level where the Human level is harder than the Target level. You sort of have to cheat, too, by preparing to throw a grenade, allowing yourself to get knocked to the ground. Why? When you are knocked down, you are temporarily invincible, so the grenades explosion won’t hurt you, but it can take out lots of enemies.

Claymore

      Place the Claymore mines on the ground (which are hidden from your view) so Humans and Targets explode when they get in front of it. If you have the mine detector (sometimes hidden in the stage) you can see the mines and what direction they are facing. You can also place them on the ground in front of you to have them explode the enemy instantly, but if a stray bullet moves you even slightly, or you tap the directional pad at all, you will walk in front it and explode, too. Though it is amusing that the AI doesn’t feel the need to move when they see you placing a mine. Both the Modes are really fun for this one, and not all that challenging (expect for the final Target level).

Nikita

      This is a missile that, once fired, you then control with the control pad. If it faces any direction for more than 2 seconds, it goes that direction as super-speed. You can also control it in first person, as well as make it explode whenever you want (useful when the target is just slightly out of reach).

      Next to the FAMAS, these levels are the most frustrating, especially the levels with corridors you have to navigate through. It’s hard to control to avoid the super-speed, so you end of wiggiling the rocket (which looks weird on screen) just to prevent an instant explosion into the wall, and in 1st person, it can be hard to tell if you’re too close to a corner.

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You must guide the missile up ramps to blow up the red box targets.

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      This is a sniper rifle that you must use in 1st person mode. Both modes are challenging, but not to hard. The Targets still require planning ahead to know where they will be.

Stinger

      This is one of the easiest weapons to use in both modes. You have a rocket launcher that is operated in 1st person, and it has an auto-target. Once the target locks, and you fire, you don’t have to watch the rocket hit your target, and you can immediately go to the next target.

Sneaking Mode

      There is also a Sneaking Mode, one I enjoyed a lot. It is split into 15 levels. You must do each level twice, once with No Weapon, and another with the SOCOM (both are timed). When in SOCOM, you must kill every enemy before the exit appears, but being seen instantly ends the mission. With No Weapon, the exit is already there, and you must get to it without being seen or the mission instantly ends (you don’t have to kill anyone, you can just hide and run to the goal).

      It’s a little hard, but not too difficult. Plus, you can cheat a little here too. You can throw a guard onto the ground, and still have 3 seconds before he gets up, and by then you could already be at the exit. Plus, it doesn’t count as being seen. This feels like cheating, but I feel the developers knew people would use this, as the times I got were only slightly near 1st place when doing things like this.

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Level 1 & Level 15 of Sneaking Mode

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Can you sneak past these 5 guards without being seen?;
Also, in Weapon Mode, you have to kill them all silently before the goal will appear.

Special Mode

      You have to unlock this mode by getting a certain number of the game complete. These levels are all really fun and have many different game types to play. Every missions is timed, except Mystery and 1 Minute Battles.

Mystery

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      Through 10 levels, you have to figure out the murderer in each one by looking at 1 of 3 suspects, and choosing the right culprit and dragging him to the exit. For instance, in one, a murderer has lost his glasses at the crime scene. You have to drag each suspect away from their standing position, and whichever one walks into the wall on his way back and knocks himself down is the killer.

Puzzle

      Ten (10) Puzzle based missions. These can be a tad frustrating. Some are hilarious, such as the one where you knock a guard so that he keeps knocking into all the other guards like dominoes, each falling off a ledge in the process. Some require thinking differently than you have been (or finding ways to abuse the game mechanics). The hardest was figuring out you have to plant C4 on the ground, then on a human. You have to explode it so he flies north, and once in the air, you have to explode the other grenade so it takes out the camera.

NG Selection

      Eight (8) completely random and strange missions, all of which are really fun and unusual, such as World’s Smallest Stage where you have to kill 1 soldier in a small 3 x 4 grid without being seen and fighting a UFO with a rocket launcher.

Variety

      Ten (10) completely different missions, such as throwing grenades and people into holes, punch-killing invisible soldiers, and fighting giant sized guards.

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You heard that last sentence right; giant guards. Not pictured: UFO battles.

1 Minute Battles

      You have 1 level for each Weapon I’ve stated before, as well as No Weapon, with each of these having two levels; 1 for Targets, 1 for People. The goal is to kill as many Targets or People within 1 minute to get first place.

Vs 12

      You start with a completely different weapon set and limited ammo for each level (You are only given 3 max of each weapon except for rare instances with the SOCOM), and must kill 12 people within a time limit. This is really hard to figure out as each weapon usually causes an alarm. One of the most frustrating categories.

VR Mission

      You have to complete 10 levels, back to back. You have to incorporate everything you’ve learned into these 10 missions and beat them all in 7 minutes to get first place. Having a few more combination missions like this would have been really fun.

Ninja

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As the Ninja, you can take all 3 of these guys out in 1 second

      These are 3 really fun levels where you control the Ninja and slice and dice your way through guadrs. The only thing that’s missing is that this would have been a lot more fun with just a few more levels.

     

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Final Breakdown

      Story: N/A

There isn’t one.

      Music: 2 out of 10

The music is repetitive, as you will hear the same background music for each individual mission, and the same sound effects at the beginning and start of each mission.

      Graphics: 5 out of 10

The graphics are just grid based for most of the levels. The only exception is a mystery level or two which takes place in a fully decorated room. Most graphics are just used from the main game, with nothing new really added. However, the graphics do look decent for what they are.

      Fun: 18 out of 20

This game is made just to test your reflexes and brain, and it’s really fun to do the main levels, and though occasionally frustrating to get the best times, is still worth the playthrough. I found myself liking the Special & Sneaking levels more than the ones with the weapons.

      Extra: 10 out of 10

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This is seriously a special feature; taking pictures of polygon girls.
The rumor of this game is that it’s only rated “M” because you can take a picture of her panties

Unlockables include, strangely, photography rooms. You have 3 rooms where you can photograph a girl at her desk, a girl standing, & another girl standing. You can get closer to her the more you play the game. I don’t really understand the point of this, especially since a picture takes up an entire block of memory (not to mention just being creepy).

Also, you have 3 trailers that Konami made for Metal Gear Solid shown in 1997 before the game was released. Also, there’s the intro movie at the start, and a demo movie with the programmers beating missions certain ways to give you hints, if you wait at the starting screen long enough.

      Controls: 9 out of 10

The controls are simple, you move with the directional pad, duck with X, run with X if you hold it, hold R2 to access your weapons, and hold R1 to access items. However, once you pick up a weapon, each one has a different control scheme (see Weapons above) with a different button used to fire it (and in some cases, a 1st person perspective). This gives more variety to the game.

The most frustrating thing is trying to choke a guard. You have to be perfectly still, or hardly moving (making it hard to choke moving guards). If you are moving at a walk or run, you instantly flip the guard. The annoying thing to control is crawling, because the controls change depending on what direction you are facing, but luckily, you don’t need to do it often.

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

God yes is this game challenging. If you liked Metal Gear Solid’s weapons and wanted to play them in more bite-sized levels, this game will give you a fix. Just know it will take you many, many hours to master and complete the game 100% with the fastest times possible.

      Replay: 5 out of 10

The replay is built into the game’s structure. You can complete the level (finally, after many tries) only to find you didn’t get the 1st place time score. Guess you’ll want to keep playing until you get it. However, once I was done with the game fully, I don’t really have a reason to play it again for another decade.

      Bonus Points

      Level Design +10

The levels are designed exceptionally well, and require some thinking to proceed. Some even include false areas to make you think that it’s a better place to go and accomplish the objective. It took some thought to plan and program these levels correctly.

Total Points: 69 out of 80

      The entire game is fun if you are just playing to play through each mission (except for any FAMAS and Nikita level) and having no story, is easy to pick and play whenever you want. But, if you are going to try and get the best times, it will get a little frustrating on the Weapons Mode (Targets), and with some levels on Advanced Mode (People). Overall, I enjoyed it, as it caused me to think and experiment with different ways to do things to get a better score.

      For help, I recommend watching this YouTube walkthrough http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=A30E52E32C3ACE16 as someone did a whole walkthrough getting 1st place for everything; useful on occasion when you can’t figure out how to get a faster time.

      Sometimes a game jumps out on the shelf and into your eyes saying, “Look at me, don’t I look awesome?” This game was not one of them. However, this games’ cover was amusing. I mean, just look at it!

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North American Cover

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The disc, since I have no foreign cover to show you.

      So, despite by better judgment with the poor proportions and NO pictures of what the game even looked like, I bought it for $1.00 because…why not.

      Get Medieval is a PC Game from 1998 from Monolith. I put it in, not really expecting much of anything, and get a bad menu screen. The design isn’t bad, it’s just that whenever you leave a menu, the music from the previous menu is still playing even though it loads a new theme, resulting in 2 songs playing at once.

      Next, I watched the opening movie/cutscene. This wasn’t like any cutscene I’d seen before. Based on the video, a dragon burns a village , four heroes pose, then they go together into the dragon’s castle to stop him. However, if you listen to the audio, people are cracking jokes at what they see. At first (since the menu had problems) I thought that the game messed up and played a different audio track, or a gag reel. Then, it cuts to the four warriors, and one voice mentions what they are doing in that scene It was then I realized that the voices were trying to be regular people role-playing their characters in an RPG or video game. Maybe they thought the opening was too generic? The game tries for comedy, and in-game it works, but in the opening scene it does not. The actors constantly talk over each other on occasion, but it sounds like they were all recorded together, but they never actually talk to each other, so maybe the editor made it look like they were all playing together. Also, it sounds like it was all done in one take. It is really odd. See for yourself.

      I check the menu link to find that the link still works, and the company that made this game later created FEAR, the only game I’ve heard of, but never played. At the end of the game, when the credits role by, the screenplay for the opening and closing cutscenes role by in it’s entirely. That is pretty interesting.

      Ok, time to stop the anticipation and actually play the game, not knowing at all what I’m getting into. I start by choosing a warrior. There is a muscle-bound warrior with a helmet that talks like Arnold, a sexy mage, an elven archer, and a female knight. Each of them has little sound bites when you click on them, telling you why you should pick them. I chose the sexy mage to play as the magician.

      Then, the game starts on an overhead dungeon perspective. I am near monsters, treasure chests, gold on the ground, monster generators, and my health of 999 starts ticking down. I then realize I am playing an updated version of Gauntlet.

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Can you figure out what everything on the screen is just based on my review?

      I walk around and collect gold and attack some spiders. You can fire in any of the 8 directions, along with 2 types of barriers; those you can shoot through, and those you cannot (the same goes for the enemy). You also have a spell which turns every enemy into a rat which runs away (but you can still kill them). Spells are powered by scrolls, but these are rare. There is also a disc you can activate under your character, but it appears to do nothing.

      There are also weapon and shield upgrades. And you will need them. When I first got to the boss (bosses appear every 5 levels in the level itself) I was so underpowered I couldn’t win, but when I came back, I could beat him in 15 seconds with rapid fire. You must seek out the Shield icon to increase your defense, and a double Sword icon to increase your weapons power. However, they don’t work automatically; collecting 5 silver of each icon before your Defense and Strength levels up, but collect the gold icons to go to the next level instantly. You can only have a max of Level 5 for both Shield & Strength, but it will always be taken away from you at some point. There is a very fast thief hidden in various parts of different levels and in treasure chests. When he touches you, you revert back to level 1 for both Strength & Shield. You then have only a few seconds to kill the thief and get it all back or else he teleports away, never to return. In a way, this sucks because it punishes you for exploring, but it does keep the game balanced. I wonder why they just didn’t reset your power after every level, or have less of the power-ups around, for you keep all your massive power and defense from level to level, resulting in you finding many worthless power-ups.

      Also, you have to be careful where you aim. If you shoot and hit a power-up, health, key (yes, trapping yourself in the level), and treasure chest, it will flicker in and out for 2-3 seconds before disappearing. You can still get the items or open the chest if you run over to it quick enough. If you fail to get it, a voice will tell you “Destroyed” or your character will say, “That was a stupid thing to do.” The only thing you can’t accidentally destroy is the gold.

      There is gold everywhere in this game. You don’t buy anything with it. Instead, it’s your score that also plays into your actual Level (independent of the Strength and Shield levels). I don’t actually know what leveling up does, though, as the Shield & Sword have such a huge, noticeable impact on the game already, so at first I thought it might just be an arbitrary score level. The manual never mentions this, but the score does give you extra lives when you go beyond a certain amount, so that is the only reason to level up and get gold.

      You can also get many Cursed items. One makes pressing up move you down, and left move you right. There is a Mask of Evil item (the most common special item), in which all the enemies run away from you so you can kill them without worry. Invisibility make you unseen to enemies, but they can still hurt you if they touch you. Odder curses are “Player now moves like the Bishop / Pawn.” This means you can only move diagonally / vertical & horizontally. The game is really hard to play like this for the 2 minutes you have to endure it. There is also the obvious invincibility item late in the game where nothing that touches you can hurt you, but you still have to fire at the enemy to kill them. The worst curse, however, is the Timer Curse: if you don’t find a health powerup in 30 seconds, you die instantly.

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Flee, evil creatures, from my MASK OF EVIL!

      There are bronze, silver, & gold keys; with Gold keys opening most doors and treasure chests, and silver being reserved for more searchable keys and doors. There is also the Skeleton Key. The Skeleton key counts down from 45 seconds, and you must reach the door with the Skeleton lock before time runs out. However, in that time, you can also open every single treasure chest and door without using the keys you already have. The worst placement of these keys is after a boss. You have to collect it to walk through the passage after you kill the boss, and must navigate a maze to find where to use the key. If you don’t make it in time, you can see all the treasure and powers you could have had to start the next level (but you can still beat the level). You must also avoid traps; there are electric tiles that turn on and off you have to avoid, and most are usually everywhere in a boss fight to make it harder. Slime exists to slow you down to half speed.

      The hit detection is exact, meaning it can be bad when your weapon is small. It’s annoying when it flies right by them, only for them to get in range of you and throw their weapons. You can only ever move fast enough to dodge when they throw it from ¾ of the screen away or more. You had better not collect all the health and leave some for later, as items never disappear (unless you shoot them).

      The worst way to die is being overwhelmed. If you are touched by an enemy for about 3 seconds, you are dead. Each touch drains your health considerably. You and the enemy don’t move, flash, or bounce; you walk through each other and take damage. It’s getting away quickly that can be the problem. Also, touching a boss is an instant death. After playing an entire level, you fight the boss right after. If you die, you still have 2 lives left, and 4 continues (In a four player game, everyone has 3 lives and 1 continue—it’s the same number of lives and continues for each number of players).

      The enemies are challenging, too. I’ve had to play through many of the floors again. The enemies that throw things will hit you all the time unless you hide around corners, but good luck since as you wait, more come out of their generators. The last 5 levels have the fastest enemy generators (flying dragons), and you need to be quick to get through these final levels. The bosses are hard unless you have leveled up your Shield & Sword, so you normally have to go through the entire level not collecting them, then going back once you’ve cleared the whole floor so you can be sure no thief will steal your stats on the way to the boss, or just learn where they are and hope you kill them before they reach you. Don’t worry; you will die and have to repeat the level a lot, so I’m sure you will remember where the thieves are.

There are also terrain traps. There are electrical squares that hurt you when charged for 3 seconds, but they also have 3 seconds of deactivation where you can pass through them. However, it’s hard to maneuver through them sometimes when enemies are chasing after you, and they put these tiles everywhere on boss battles. There is also black sludge’s that slows your walking down, and red fire blobs; they are the only enemy that cannot be killed because they aren’t technically enemies (they don’t move), but each time you hit them, you lose 300 Hit Points.

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One of the early bosses. Run and only fire once before running again if you want to survive.

      You can also trap yourself in the level if you try to explore, as your health will lower as you do. There are no hidden walls, but there are hidden portals that are disguised as a regular floor in various places. You can also trap yourself from ever exiting the level if you go crazy with your keys and use them to open every single treasure chest without using them on doors (gold are used for doors and Treasure chests).

      You can save, but only at the beginning of each level. I had to replay a few levels trying not to die often since you only have a limited number of lives to beat the 40 levels of the game, as saving saves all your lives AND continues. So you will have to replay some levels to get better at them if you ever want to reach the end.

      One thing that is amusing is your character. They make comments on everything, and luckily they say a lot of different things so it doesn’t get repetitive and boring. My sorcerer complains if I go too long without killing something, and often gets exciting when killing multiple enemies at once in different ways. Also, it’s fun to get the enemies to kill each other. If you walk along a door without unlocking it, if they are ranged enemies, they will throw their weapon at you, killing the enemy next to them. You can do this until only 1 remains.

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Every blood splat here are all bodies killed by the enemy while I simply move up and down

      The game include Local & Online Co-op. I doubt there is anyone online playing it at all (as the game couldn’t connect to anything). You can play the game with two people in your living room, with each person using a different side of the keyboard. In addition, you can play a random, computer-made dungeon anytime you wish. The game says there is a Dungeon Creator, but I could never find it to make my own levels, and I tried searching through the entire CD’s files. I could not, oddly, find the options to create fan-made levels in the menu.

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      Story: 3 out of 10

Did Gauntlet have a story? This one doesn’t either. However, it does have a CG opening and intro, so there is that. Also, the dialogue it funny in the game, so I will give it a little bump.

      Controls: 10 out of 10

Everything is very simple. Press arrow buttons to move in any of the 8 directions. Press 1 button to shot forward. Press 1 button to ignite your magic bomb. Press a 3rd button to attack close range (but you will never use this).

      Graphics: 7 out of 10

After every 5 levels, the dungeon design changes (all doors, walls, and enemies get a new design, even though they mostly act the same way. The old enemies come back mixed with them, but it looks different and avoids looking at the same thing over and over again. All the bosses are gigantic, too. You can tell effort was put into this game.

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The blue circles are monster (blob) generators, whereas the golden circles are teleport pads.

      Fun: 13 out of 20

Despite the fact that the programmers are being a dick to you on many occasions, such as the skeleton maze key after a boss and placing multiple pathways where going the wrong way wastes the item you just got, I had fun playing it, but got frustrated a lot, enough so that I would quit the game and not come back for another month or so. It can also get repetitive if you try to play through the entire game in a few weeks.

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

The game is tough. You will die multiple times trying to figure out the design of each level, and having to learn where to backtrack so you won’t die instantly in a giant enemy rush.

      Music: 6 out of 10

The music is fun to listen to. It’s not memorable, but it does work with the game.

      Replay: 10 out of 10
I would play this game again with someone else, as it would be fun to try and tackle the game that way, though we would probably need to use some cheats to avoid getting agitated playing the same level over and over again.

      Extras: 10 out of 10

Included on the disc is a demo of Claw, a 2D platformer that looks like a cartoon. You are a pirate cat and it looks like your goal is to collect every single item in the level, for at the end, it tells you all the items you found out of how many. The sprites are very big in this game. There is also a trailer for Get Medieval, Claw, Rage of Mages, & Shogo (a mech game). However, the main bonus is the random dungeon generator and the level creator. You can play a new level all the time, and create your own, as well.

      Bonus Points:

+5 Design-Your-Own-Levels

Though I couldn’t find it, that fact that you can design your own levels and upload them anywhere for anyone to play through the main game itself is a really awesome idea, and very rare for a game made in 1998.

Total Points: 75 out of 90

Overall, an easy time waster. Plus, since the game saves at the beginning of each level, and there is nothing complicated to remember, you can easily play this game at your own pace by coming back to play it when it suits you. A fun diversion, and worth the $1.00 I spent on it.

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Oh no! Bats, Spiders, & Rat Creature! What will I do?

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Turn them all into rats!

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And watch your enemies flee in terror.

I’ve written short films and comic books, and now I can add music videos to that list. I helped write the music video for artist Freaky The Legacy for his song “Popular”. The music video is below and already has over 2 million views! Enjoy.

Donkey Kong Land

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US Cover (the Japan & European covers all use this image, but with different text).

      Donkey Kong County was a huge hit on the Super Nintendo. It utilized impressive graphics that made it appear 3 dimensional in its 2D world. With the success of that game, not only did sequels follow, but also a Game Boy spinoff.

      The Game Boy game, Donkey Kong Land, is an entirely new game built for the system. However, there isn’t really anything new in it. Everything from the previous game is here; all the backgrounds and enemies are taken from the Super Nintendo game. But, you will be impressed at the graphics, as it looks like they somehow got the 3D look for the characters on the game boy (well, 3D white, black, & green, but still 3D!).

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Super Nintendo on the left, the Game Boy (Super Game Boy version) on the right.

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Game Boy Color version (released after Land), and the Game Boy again (No Super Game Boy).

      You can play as Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong. When you die, the other character comes out to replace you (as both characters can’t be on the screen at once). Both characters can jump on enemies, run by holding the A button, and spin when pushing the B button. Luckily, like the Super Nintendo game, you can still roll off the ledge and then magically jump in mid-air to reach places further away. Donkey Kong doesn’t have his slapping-the-ground move, but it wasn’t really helpful in the regular game anyway.

      Each level is a 2D sidescrolling and platforming level where you must get to the Exit on the other end of the screen. You will find a few Checkpoints along the way. All the enemies from the previous game are here, such as running, jumping, and stationary lizards, dangerous bees, and chomping lizards that you can’t roll into. New enemies for this game include flying pigs that travel in horizontal lines, and a sea creature that moves vertically very quickly. The enemies that are most annoying are the rolling barrels that turn into stationary snake generators, as they can never be destroyed and caused me lots of deaths when trying to jump over them or jump across a platform. Once you destroy an enemy, they are gone for good (unless you die, of course) and no amount of running 4-5 screens over and back will resurrect them; you will just have to forget bouncing off of them to travel along the trees for now.

      The enemies aren’t the only thing that returns; all the backgrounds from the previous game– pyramids, jungle, factory, ships, caves, and more–return also, as if they were ported to the Game Boy and just had the color removed. Even many of the songs appears in Game Boy form and are still fun to listen to. There are some original songs, but they aren’t as engaging.

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Seen here is familiar territory–snow levels and underwater chase levels.

      Other things that return are barrel blasting levels, swimming away from a sea creature that’s chasing you, and rope levels where you magically go up or down quickly while holding onto them. There is no mine cart level, but it wouldn’t work here: the screen is very small, and you are a little large, so sometimes it can be hard to see that an enemy just entered on screen until it is too late when you are running. If you are walking, you will be fine. The new level type is a moving platform that moves a different direction ever time you jump on it. This level is the most annoying, as anytime you try to land, the thing has already moved, and you’re trying to calibrate your landing on the small platform to compensate for it’s movement, you sometimes walk off into death pits instead. Plus, if you try to jump on enemies that block your path, you will propel yourself upward so quickly, the screen quickly jerks with you, meaning you just lost where the platform went, as well as the entire screen you were just on. And then you fall back down and hope you know where the platform is.

      You start out on a map screen, and select the level you want to play. Once you beat the level, you return to the map to select the next one. Every level must be completed expect for 2-3 of them. At certain places you will get an explosive barrel at the end of the stage, and you can use it on 1 of 2 rocks, each leading to a different level.

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You can use an explosive at the end of a certain level to chose a path. Also, here’s Rambi.

      You will want to collect the letters K, O, N, & G that are in each level. Whereas in the original game, they were only an extra life, here you need to collect them to save your game after each level.

      You can also collect bananas, with every 100 giving you an extra life. There are also 1-up balloons. The new addition is Donkey Kong coins. Every so often, you will enter a secret room with a barrel in the sky moving left to right, and a button on the ground. You have to jump in the air and land on the button, which makes the barrel shoot out a coin in one of 5 directions. You have to collect it quickly before it goes through he walls or floor, and if you do, you get an extra life. Rambi the rhino returns for you to ride to charge into enemies. Espresso the ostrich returns to help you glide, but he is only available in bonus stages.

      There are 1 to 2 secrets in each level (though none in underwater stages). You will know if you entered every secret area when an exclamation mark appears near the stage on the map screen. Secrets are found by looking for secret barrels to jump into and jumping on holes in the ground to summon magic ropes. Oddly, there is only one secret where you destroy a wall like in the Super Nintendo game (in the first level).

      As with any game, there are 4 bosses that must be beaten, and all of them are original. The first is a flying manna ray that moves faster with each hit. The second is a clam that shoots pearls at you underwater, and you have to make sure he hits you where the reflecting item is. The third is a mole that comes out of 1 of 3 holes who throws his hat; simply jump over it and land on his head. Finally, King K. Rool returns, and you have to hit him 12 times. He throws his hat just like in the first game, but after 6 hits, he will start randomly throwing, running faster, and start bell-flopping, with rolling under him being the only safe options.

      After you beat the game, you only get the credits. There was no story in the beginning, so I wasn’t expecting anything, but I also got 100% of the game completed, and there was no reward for that either.

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The Super Game Boy version looks great, unfortunately,
the rest of the game doesn’t look like this and is only monochrome.

      Story: 3 out of 10

The story exists only in the manual. The game itself has nothing, not even after you beat the game. The game happens because Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong bet Cranky Kong they could still have a fun adventure without amazing graphics and sound. The story in a little amusing in the book.

      Sound: 10 out of 10

The Game Boy is playing the Super Nintendo music through it’s speakers. The songs are still addicting here.

      Graphics: 10 out of 10
The graphics all match the Super Nintendo, only they are black and white. Even with a black-and-white pseudo 3D look, you can normally see where you are going (unless you run at full speed), and nothing blends into the background

      Controls: 10 out of 10
I mentioned every control above. The controls are simple to use and never interfere with you enjoying the game.

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

The game is moderately challenging, but what makes it harder is having to collect the KONG letters in every level just so you can save. This forces you to try out areas that might be secrets (or death) and do more challenging things than you normally would. Luckily, every loaded game starts you out at 6 lives.

      Fun: 15 out of 20

This game was fun, as it was pretty much Donkey Kong Country on Game Boy; you can’t really go wrong here. I just had some problems with the quickly popping-up enemies and the annoying screen cut that happens when you jump off someone into the sky.

      Replay: 5 out of 10

The replay happens while you are playing the game. See, if you don’t collect all the KONG letters, you can’t save. And it’s usually easier to go into the level you know than to start an entirely new level where you don’t know what to expect. In addition, you will replay levels to find all the secret entrances. As such, you won’t want to replay it again, as you will already have done so.

      Extras: 2 out of 10

There are no extra features or special things in Donkey Kong. The only extra I count is the bonus game and the coins you collect for it to earn extra lives. The other is because it’s Super Game Boy compatible. The title screen is impressive, showing yellow, red, and brown all at once, but once you start playing, you can only play in monochrome. Annoying, every time you enter a special room, the color resets to the defaults, but luckily you can just hit X to turn it back to your preference.

      Bonus Points:

None

Total Points: 65 out of 90

This is definitely worth a play on your Game Boy. It’s a simple sidescroller where you just jump on people, jump over platforms, and occasionally do some more variety than just jump on enemies heads. That, combined with the fact you can save on every level (if you find the KONG letters) means you can pick it up and play anytime without having to defeat entire worlds before you can save.

Review Also At:
      VideoGameGeek / RetroWareTV / GameFAQS

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Jaws was the first video game I ever played.  I remember it fondly from when I was around 5-6 years old, and I describe that story in the video.  I run through briefly the game mechanics and how my friend and I experienced this game at the time, then pick it up for the first time since 1986 and see if I can figure it out and beat it now that my brain has developed more intelligence and many decades worth of video game reflexes.  In addition, I will take you through the other 5 Jaws games that were made.


BlipTV / YouTube / Vimeo

Viking - Cover
Cover For All Countries / Watch the Trailer Here

      In Viking: Battle For Asgard, you are a Viking warrior who is nearly killed by undead Vikings, only to be saved by Freya (Goddess of beauty and love) from near death to be her Avatar. Hel (Goddess of the Underworld) has raised an undead Viking army to take over Midgard and free Fenrir (the wolf god) from his chains. This will start Ragnarok, which will destroy the gods and cause a long winter over the Earth; for the first god to set Ragnorak in motion will be the only god that lives to rule over what is left.

Viking - Hel
Hel seeks to conquer all of Midgard & Asgard with her undead horde.

      The opening prologues for each world have dark and gritty comic book inspired panels with a very good voice over. They are entertaining to watch, and two describe the back-story of Drakan (Hel’s Avator) and Hel herself.

Viking - Comic Panel
Prologue to the game

      You start off in your own village, having brought about the end of the zombie siege on your town. One thing you’ll notice, is how lively the area is; there are people fighting with a group of other watching & various people will occasionally stop and sit on the ground to rest. There are around 50 people or more in this town, and you can only talk to 5 of them; you only talk to who is necessary. In later areas, with larger towns and a group of 200 or more people, random people will tell you where the important people are (so you don’t get lost; or, maybe you don’t know how to read a radar), but these people are never on your radar.

      Your radar in the upper right hand corner actually has a story purpose. It is a glowing amulet from Freya that allows you to see what is important near you (such as people), and if you select a place on the map, it will allow it to become a dot on your radar so you can find it without pausing to check the map all the time.

      The best thing about the map is that every time you find a settlement, town, cave, or important event, it will be marked on your map so you can always find it; which is a really good idea. In addition, the symbol will become blue when you haven’t finished that ‘level’, and red once you have conquered it. Sometimes, these levels need requirements, such as freeing two towns before you can attack the castle.

Viking - Map
Here you can check all your objectives and your current position.

      The world outside the town is large, and you want to search everywhere for captured Vikings, as this will increase your army. You see, in Viking, there are 3 type of things you do; attack, sneak, and go to war.

Viking - Battle
WAR!

      In the beginning, you will find some random undead that you need to kill that charge at you. Every time you attack, that enemy makes the sound of sword cutting bone, immersing you into the battle. In addition, when you attack an enemy long enough, they will get a Square above their head. This indicates they are dying, and if you let them die, you will get 1 pink enemy to fill your elemental attacks. But, if you kill them quickly before they fully die, you will get a slow-motion cinematic kill, along with 3 red energy balls. Each cinematic attack varies so it never gets old. Plus, you won’t be doing it all the time, as in large groups, doing this will most likely get you stabbed in the back; enemies do not wait in line to attack you.

      Regarding the combat, you had better pick your fights carefully; it is hard to run away. If you run from a battle, every 3 seconds you will be attacked in the back because the enemies runs faster than you do. This is also why stealth plays a large element in the game.

      In the first captured settlement, stealth is figuring out that attacking lone warriors when they walk away from their captured human will limit the number of enemies by half. When you attack an enemy, every enemy near them within a certain radius automatically knows where you are, and when they know, they create their own radius, resulting in a quick death as they all charge and pile upon you. You can take out only around 4 enemies at once in the beginning, but by the end, with the variety of attacks you can purchase and the fast movement, I was able to take up to at least 10 at once.

Viking - Cut
If you select ‘X’ your character will perform an instant kill; but this only happens
when the enemy hasn’t discovered you, or they are dying

      The game gets more fun once you purchase the stealth kill. The best part about it is, you don’t have to be really close to an enemy to use it, but make sure that no enemy has spotted you. Later in the game, you will find large patrols of marching guards. You will need to be in a good place so they don’t spot you while roaming the land. After the first island, it gets harder, because most groups will always have a horn blower that, if he spots you, will call every undead near and far to come and attack. In addition, there are 5 cities that must be snuck into to do a secret objective. These towns have hundreds of undead Vikings, and you must study their movements, know when you can attack, and find out how to sneak around, or you will die quickly by alerting the entire city.

      Your health regenerates, but only in open areas, and never when a single enemy is still looking at you. You must run away (if you can) or kill everything on the screen before you can heal again, which is why choosing your battles is important. I like this mechanic, as it forces you to be smart about when you engage the enemy.

      The attacks in the game seem simple. You press X to attack quick, and Square to attack hard. Square you can hold down for more damage. You can also press Square after X for a combo. Later, you will buy attacks such as X, X, Square, and selecting X while in the air to attack from the sky.

      Every time you connect with the enemy, you will receive a small disc shape under your life bar. You can have up to 5. Now, you can hold L1, and chose to attack with X or Square, and your attacks are now more powerful (if you have bought them), but depending on what move you use, you will extinguish 1, 2 or 3 discs, then have to use normal attacks again to build it up again. This is a very interesting idea. It keeps you from being overpowering all the time, and gives you nearly double the additional attacks when fighting the enemy. Plus, since you are using only a few new moves at a time, you are given time to learn each move as the game progresses (and you can practice using each specific move in the arena). Your move set by the end of the game is so large you will learn to fight and improve better, despite the fact your character never gets any stronger or gains any Experience Points; it is you who is getting better.

Viking - Behead
Cinematic Kill With Bone Crushing Sound Effects

      Later, you can buy elemental attacks (which has a power bar that fills when you collect red energy from fallen enemies). When you chose to activate an element, it becomes imbued to your sword and you can attack with Fire, Lightning, or Ice. Fire and Lighting make you cause more damage, but Ice will actually freeze enemies in place, and if you attack them again, they shatter; this feels much more powerful than the other elements, since it even works on shield and armor grunts if you bypass their defense. You can also chose to use an extremely large amount of energy for a massive attack, but I never found it helpful for Fire and Ice (Ice & Fire always missed, even when I was surround by people). Only Lightning is useful, as it target locks on 1 foes; but only 1 foe; it’s wasted on most regular enemies unless they have shields, or are wearing spiked armor. In addition, you can use your elemental powers near your army, and every troop in certain radius will also get elemental sword attacks.

      Finally, is the war. Along the way, you can find and free captured Vikings. When the war finally begins, you will have a large army, and you will want to empower them with your elemental attacks. The map will show you things only you can do to turn the tide of battle. It actually feels like a massive battle (there is never any slowdown), and knowing it’s coming and increasing your army to decimate the enemy is incredibly fun.

      Later, you will unlock dragons to aid you in the war effort. When you kill a boss on the battlefield, you will get a dragon medallion (you can only ever have 3 at one time). You can then summon the dragon as an air strike to attack a boss (for 2 dragon medallions) or a group of archers that your army can’t get to quickly, or at all (for 1 dragon medallion).

Viking - Dragon Strike 1
Dragon Strike

Viking - Dragon Strike 2
Dragon Owned

      There are some video games that make you think just a small tweak here and there would make you not annoyed or angry. Viking seems to have addressed all of those minor problems that current video games still do not on occasion. I noticed these:

1) You start over at the beginning of the settlement when you die. You can do each one in less than 5-15 minutes, so there should be no complaining, as you should be smart enough to sneak around on occasion.
2) All Vases, Treasure Bags, & Chests glow; you can even see them in darkness and far, far away.
3) Every vase you destroy automatically places the money in your inventory; you don’t have to let the gold fall to the ground, then wander to pick it up.
4) Every single piece of treasure (no matter how minor) is auto-saved, so that even when you restart a mission, you don’t have to collect all the treasure in one play session.
5) Every conversation you’ve had is saved so you know what your missions and objectives are.
6) Once you talk to someone; that’s it, you can’t physically talk to them again (except with a few exceptions). This is easier because after a major event, you don’t have to worry about talking to everyone just to make sure something else has opened up.

Viking - Impale

      Story: 10 out of 10

You never speak a single line of dialogue. This brings back the older ways of video games where they make the character not talk so you can put your own feeling into the game. Freya starts off in a loving and nurturing tone, but as the game progresses, she get more and more angry at different sights that have been conquered and destroyed, that she commands you to destroy the undead army sa if their veyr presence is an insult. you slowly realize you are just a tool for her, and nothing more.

Story Cons: The one story flaw is that I predicted the twist (not in the story, but in your heritage) in the first 5 minutes of the game; this is because the first person I talked to (a shaman with visions) stated too much of a hint. Another is Draken’s back story. You get it in the beginning of World 2, then he taunts you in the middle of the game. But, when you finally meet him, you go straight to the fight with no dialogue; and nothing happens after the fight; he vanishes forever. This is missing buildup and tension; this was a missed story opportunity.

      Music: 8 out of 10

I don’t really remember the music too much, but the one thing I love, is that I don’t need a single subtitle. Every word is vocally recognizable, and nowhere does the music make it hard to hear what anyone is saying.

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

The mix of hardcore battle attacks, logical stealth, and massive wars make a polished game that is also not too hard (I only played Normal mode so far). You have unlimited tries at each settlement. I also seemed to make the challenge on myself harder. If you free the Vikings from their cages, they will fight the undead with you, but any lone undead too far from the battle will simply disappear. I would make it a point to kill every enemy myself before opening the cages.

      Fun: 20 out of 20

Nothing prevented me from playing this game, and only this game, until I completed it.

      Control: 10 out of 10

The controls are varied, but they start small and build up; plus, you can practice all of them and get a feel for how they work. Nothing ever felt off or unbalanced about the controls.

      Graphics: 6 out of 10

Eh, what do I say. The graphics look good outside, but you’ll be looking at a lot of the same characters again and again; even the end boss, though she looks different, has the same attack as most of Giants you encountered.

Viking - Giant
Hi. I’m the Giant you will fight so much that I will cease to be a Sub-Boss and become just a
common enemy because you’ll have memorized by attack patterns.

      Extras: 0 out of 10

Sadly, there are no extras to this game, not even any codes. There were some hidden skulls in 3 towns that you are forced to sneak into that are hidden as to make the stealth hard, but they don’t register. In fact, there are no trophies on the PS3 version of the game even though the XBOX game had Achievements.

      Bonus Points:

      + 5 Making Video Game Mechanics / Cliches Actual Story Point

The vases you destroy with gold in them are the villagers that escaped before the undead Vikings attacked, and hoped that one day they would return home to start their life anew. The radar is actually an amulet given to you by Freya to find your way, in addition to pinpointing important people to talk to, treasure, and major locations. The undead Vikings still hoard gold even though they cannot use it because their greed follows them into the afterlife.

      +10 Making Stealth Work

The game isn’t entirely stealth based, but the times it is, it feels realistic and it isn’t out of place. You wouldn’t go straight into the enemies front door and fight 100 enemies by yourself would you? You can try.

      -2 Forgotten Game Mechanic

At one point you will find yourself stuck and unable to progress (at just the first world, no less). It is not stated anywhere in the game or in the manual, but you can actually climb vines that are covering a wall.

      Total Points: 76 out of 90

Nothing else to say. I think this game has been vastly underrated and not given enough chance. I would love to see a sequel, or at least a spiritual sequel.

Fun Glitches

There are a few small glitches here and there, but they never do anything and are mainly just fun to seek out. Once, I waited for a traveling group of 60 undead to wander into town at the exact moment I freed my captured Viking breather. However, the Vikings went straight into standing and walking mode and did not help me fight; I was immediately killed. On my next life, I found that you only had to free the city for the entire group to just disappear.

Another glitch is rare, but you can make it happen. When an enemy is dying if you wait until he is about to disappear, and attack him with the death kill as some of him is still on screen (right before the Square button vanishes) you will initiate a slow-motion cinematic death attack against absolutely nothing.

Viking - Freya Profile
Freya

Viking - Hel Profile 2
Hel – You can tell she’s evil because she has less clothes

Here, watch another trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBPM-iqAzxQ