Reviews Archive

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Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams – Director’s Cut review (Xbox One)

Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams – Director’s Cut was developed and published by Black Forest Games on the Xbox One. It was released on December 12, 2014 for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

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The Giana Sisters started off in a title known as The Great Giana Sisters which was released in 1987 on the Commodore 64. The title caused many controversies as the game’s design was incredibly similar to another popular platformer released at that time, Super Mario Bros. As a result, the brand went quiet for many years. Fast forward to 2012, Black Forest Games was successfully funded by a Kickstarter campaign for a project known as Project Giana. After more time passed, Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360 on March 20, 2013. Moving ahead to current times, Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams – Director’s Cut was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox One on December 12, 2014.

When I first got a hold of Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams – Director’s Cut, I thought to myself, this is going to be great. Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams for the Xbox 360 was a blast and I’m excited to see the new improvements and extra content that is included in the Director’s Cut. After playing through the game extensively to provide a quality review, I’m at a loss for words to describe my experience. Then I found it. Let me show you below.

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Pinball FX2: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 review (Xbox One DLC)

Pinball FX2 was developed by Zen Studios and published on the Xbox One by Microsoft Game Studios. Pinball FX2 is a free download with individual tables priced from $2.99 and under and collections of tables priced at $9.99. A retail copy was purchased by XBLA Fans for review purposes.

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On December 4, 2014 an old evil villain was re-awoken in Tokyo when the Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (NGS2) table was released for Pinball FX2 on the Xbox One. You play as Ryu and team up with three other teammates to confront this evil and attempt to “jump” your way to defeat it. Not having played the actual NGS2 game (a PlayStation 3 exclusive title), I at first felt a disconnection with this table. I was “going though the motions” while beginning to play it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still make for one exciting table. The last couple tables that have released for Pinball FX2 (South Park and The Walking Dead) have had intricate, detailed missions to attempt with multiple ramps to try and consistently hit.

In contrast to those examples, the NGS2 table, originally made for Zen Pinball on the PlayStation 3, and it shows. There is a large open middle section in the table where the ball will pick up a lot of speed. With only three short ramps to hit, a much quicker response or more precise timing is required on the flippers to hit them. The NGS2 table also brings a new platform jumping mechanic that is unique to this table and a fresh new aspect and challenge to a game that I have been playing for many, many years.

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Kalimba review (Xbox One)

Kalimba was developed and published by Press Play on Xbox One. It was released on December 17, 2014 for $9.99. A copy was provided by Press Play for review purposes.

Kalimba Xbox Cover Art

A funny thing happens while playing Kalimba, Press Play’s new puzzle-platformer for Xbox One. Your brain will shut off and you will go into auto-pilot. It might happen on your first attempt at a colorful new level, or it might happen during your 60th try at said level. But the stars will inevitably align, and the next thing you know, you’ll have made it to a new checkpoint that you had previously thought impossible to reach.

Kalimba has you controlling two totem pieces in tandem as you use both sides of your brain — and some really clever power-ups — to maneuver your way past enemies and through traps and puzzles. It’s not the first game I’ve seen in which you have to control two characters at once, but I think it just might be the best.

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JUJU review (XBLA)

JUJU was developed by Flying Wild Hog and published on Xbox 360 by Nordic Games. It was released December 9, 2014 for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

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So what is JUJU? I’m not able to tell you that. I completed the game, and I have no idea if JUJU is the main character’s name, or the world it lives in, or the totems you need to collect. What I do know is that JUJU is an increasingly rare XBLA title, and it has a terrible name for which to use in a Google search.

JUJU is a happy-go-lucky side-scrolling platformer that’s all about the colorful visuals. The game looks like a toddler’s fever dream, filled with giant toys and smiling unnaturally colored animals. It’s about as kid-friendly as kid-friendly gets, even going so far as to have a main menu that only uses pictures. Unfortunately, the game has a severe case of style over substance, as its core gameplay is not as fun and whimsical as you might expect. JUJU feels like an uninspired re-skin of similar titles, and attempting to finish it quickly becomes a chore.

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Chivalry: Medieval Warfare review (Xbox 360)

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare was developed by Torn Banner Studios and published by Activision for Xbox 360. It was released December 3, 2014 for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

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Within the first five minutes of booting up Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, I was absolutely certain that I would hate it. After a year packed full of dazzling next-generation titles delivered via the might of Xbox One, I was ill-prepared for Chivalry‘s low-res textures and clunky combat; in fact, the whole thing repulsed me. Regardless, I ploughed grimly forward like one of the stoic feudal knights to whom Chivalry pays homage, chopping, hacking and bludgeoning my way through one foe after another – and as the body count mounted, so did my respect for this brutal, bloody title.

Battles take place between the rival forces of the Mason Order (bad/red) and the Agatha Knights (good/blue) as they vie for control of their fictional kingdom. Whilst it is possible to play against up to seven AI bots, the real fun can be found in multiplayer battles featuring 12 human combatants. Each player chooses a class from the four available, including an archer and three melee fighters ranging from light through to heavy in terms of their weaponry and armour. More on that later, though; let’s cut right to the bone and find out if Chivalry is worth your hard-earned cash.

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Boom Ball for Kinect review (Xbox One)

Boom Ball for Kinect was developed and published by Virtual Air Guitar Company on Xbox One. It was released on November 28, 2014 for $9.99. A copy was provided by Virtual Air Guitar Company for review purposes.

Boom Ball For Kinect

Raise your hand if your favorite Kinect-based experience was the “Rally Ball” game in the original Kinect Adventures on Xbox 360. Me too! Well, good news — now we’ve got that same idea expanded into a full ID@Xbox game in the form of Boom Ball for Kinect.

If you’re like me, the idea of a first-person, 3D, motion-controlled Brick Breaker sounds like an absolute blast. Indie studio Virtual Air Guitar Company seems to agree and created 55 levels of brick breaking to satisfy that craving. The only question: is it any good?

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Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron from Ice review (Xbox One)

Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice was developed and published on Xbox One and Xbox 360 by Telltale Games. It was released December 3, 2014 for $4.99. A copy was provided by Telltale for review purposes.

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Having recently played through the first episode of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones, I’m pretty thankful for XBLA Fans’ new approach to reviewing episodic games. No doubt you’re wondering why, and the answer is simple – because whilst this episode shows a lot of promise for the rest of the season, it is generally uneventful in isolation and scoring it as a standalone game would be quite a challenge.

The season begins during the Red Wedding and introduces us to a new family in the form of House Forrester. These loyal followers of House Stark are immediately thrown into a difficult position both at home and away because of their allegiance. This first episode does a decent job as the introduction that it aims to be by placing us in the shoes of Lord Ethan, his sister Mira and the house squire Gared. Thankfully, Telltale has created a generally likable cast of heroes in this trio. Lord Ethan is suitably believable as our main character, stepping into his father’s shoes following the outcome of the Red Wedding. His sister Mira occupies an interesting and entirely different position as the handmaid of Queen-in-waiting Margaery Tyrell, whilst the final character is the house squire, Gerad.

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Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum review (XBLA)

Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum was developed by Telltale Games and published on Xbox 360 and Xbox One by 2K Games. It was released November 26, 2014 for $4.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

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Have you ever tried chocolate and bacon together? You know how combining those two great things sounds gross, but turns out to be amazing? That’s the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands. It’s chocolate-covered bacon.

Zero Sum proves Telltale’s patented formula has flexibility and that making decisions can be fun instead of torture. The episode is essentially a heist story, told from the perspective of two very different characters. Playing as Rhys and Fiona, you make the decisions as they tell their side of the story. Despite not being gun-wielding tanks, they’re still true Borderlands anti-heroes: likeable scumbags trying to get paid. Getting to tell their stories is a blast; you get dialogue trees full of wit and sarcasm, and some major choices just turn out to be jokes in disguise. Going through the events that brought them together, you get a more intimate look at Pandora; one that is a little more calm with humor more refined. It’s still a Telltale game; you’ll build relationships with the game’s great supporting cast and do some terrible things, but you’ll be smiling all the way through.

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Threes and Limbo quick impressions (Xbox One)

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December 5 is the official release date of Playdead’s Limbo ($9.99) and Sirvo’s Threes! ($6.99) on the Xbox One Store.

Microsoft brings to Xbox One gamers an instant classic in Limbo, which was originally released on XBLA in July of 2010. With the Xbox One release, Limbo has been updated to 1080P and 60FPS. Limbo is a 2D side-scrolling game done only in black and white tones where players control a nameless character in search of his missing sister. Along the way players will come across numerous puzzles requiring some serious trial and error. Don’t fret though, this was one of the intents of the developer and will try your patience more then once.

That said, if you haven’t played Limbo before,where have you been the last four years? Since its initial release, Limbo has been ported to almost every platform. Its unique style and tricky puzzles are something every gamer should experience at least once. A lucky group of day one purchasers of the Xbox One (North America) were gifted codes for Limbo as a thank you.

Unfortunately if you have played Limbo on one of those other platforms, I see no reason to recommend you make another purchase just to experience it in 1080p and 60fps. I went back and played Limbo on the Xbox 360 before playing the Xbox One version and saw no noticeable difference in the graphics. All the controls and puzzles are the exact same on both consoles, which made solving the puzzles very easy removing the best part of originally playing Limbo.

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Thomas Was Alone review (Xbox One)

Thomas Was Alone was developed by Mike Bithell and published on Xbox One by Curve Studios. It was released on November 21, 2014 for $10.99. A copy was provided by Curve for review purposes.

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Thomas Was Alone is a game that released at precisely the right time in history. Originally debuting on PC in 2012 before finding its way to Xbox One, Thomas Was Alone perfectly captures today’s zeitgeist. Using nothing more than colored squares and rectangles that are seen and heard about but rarely heard from, developer Mike Bithell has assembled one of gaming’s most interesting and diverse casts of playable characters.

In Thomas Was Alone you play as artificial intelligences that have, as the result of a glitch in an experimental lab, become self-aware. Yes, this is a setup similar to ones we’ve seen countless times in popular media, but Bithell has breathed new life into it. AI Thomas, represented on screen by a red rectangle, is companionless and confused upon achieving self-awareness. He starts moving “up and to the right,” as the game’s delightful narrator makes a point of frequently noting, in a desperate bid to find friends and answers. It’s not long before Thomas begins encountering both, and he and his new friends endeavor to reach the awe-inspiring “fountain of wisdom” (internet connection). The staggering amount of information Thomas sees there convinces him that the AIs must work in sync towards the goal of escaping the system and entering the greater world beyond. Each AI is different in appearance and ability, and the way they learn to accept this diversity and use it to their advantage is nothing short of inspiring.

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