Reviews Archive

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Pneuma: Breath of Life review (Xbox One)

Pneuma: Breath of Life was developed and published by Deco Digital and Bevel Studios. It was released on Xbox One on February 27, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

Pneuma Breath of Life review for Xbox One

If I learned anything from The Road to El Dorado, it’s that it’s tough to be a god. Sure, being worshipped and all-powerful is great and all, but you’ve got to live up to some high expectations. The prospect of being a god is the main conflict in Pneuma: Breath of Life, offering a unique perspective on being an all-powerful deity.

It’s important to emphasize that this isn’t your usual god game. You’re not an omnipresent spirit hovering over society, controlling life forms and building habitats, nor are you slaughtering your fellow divine beings. Pneuma is a first-person puzzler, putting you in the hypothetical shoes of Pneuma. As the creator of a brand new universe, you set out to explore your work and discover your powers. While the set-up may sound captivating, the game doesn’t quite reach god-like quality.

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Pillar review (Xbox Live Indie Game)

Pillar was developed and published on Xbox 360 Indie Games by MichaelArts. It was released on February 17, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided by MichaelArts for review purposes.

Pillar Pause Screen

Pillar is a perplexing assortment of puzzling mini-games by Michael Hicks of MichaelArts and was released with trophies on PlayStation 4 and as an indie game on Xbox 360. Hicks was responsible for the game’s design, programming, score and other components. In fact, only one other person, Gonçalo Antunes (art), is credited with working on the game in a role other than tester. As a game that was largely created by one person, the attention to detail is significant, and the player can feel the developer’s passion. Hicks also seems to be very sentimental about his work and appreciative of his family, friends and the community. If you have any interest in Pillar, you may want to take a look at this blog post at some point. It’s pretty heart warming.

As for the game itself, it abruptly starts off with a screen asking, “Who Are You?” and then follows with one inquiring “What Are You?” You are then thrown into the game with no rhyme or reason. In fact, you don’t even see a semblance of a title screen until you press pause. While it’s tempting to cut some slack for a lack of features due to the incredibly small team of people behind Pillar, I’ll be treating the title like any other game. Unfortunately, Pillar‘s seeming lack of direction hampers the potential that it could have.

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Blue Estate review (Xbox One)

Blue Estate was developed and published on Xbox One by HESAW. It will be released on February 18, 2015 for $12.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

Blue Estate

Four letters can easily sum up my thoughts about Blue Estate: “YMMV.” It’s an acronym used in many internet forums to shorthand the phrase, “Your Mileage May Vary.” Little other explanation is needed for anyone who understands that phrase. Truly, it’s been a long time since I’ve played a game that I had such a hard time commenting on and has also left me both indifferent and satisfied at the same time. Blue Estate is a dark humor rail shooter based on the Eisner Award-nominated Blue Estate comic books from Viktor Kalvachev. While I don’t know the storyline or details within the comic, I can kind of imagine them after playing through this game.

There is one easy way to tell if you’ll like this game or not, and that’s watching a gameplay trailer. After about two or three minutes, you’ll have a good idea whether or not you’ll like the gameplay and can tolerate the humor. If you like rail shooters, chances are you’ll enjoy this game. If you don’t like rail shooters, Blue Estate won’t win you over. Blue Estate never strays far from its core concept throughout the entire game. The game objectifies women, goes through many racial stereotypes and essentially makes fun of everyone and everything. It also doesn’t take itself very seriously, so why should you? As a game that presents itself as humorous, it is very hit or miss.

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Hand of Fate Review (Xbox One)

Hand of Fate was developed and published on Xbox One by Defiant Development. It will be released on February 17, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided by Defiant Development for review purposes.

Hand of Fate start screen

Hand of Fate is a unique game containing rogue-like elements in its gameplay and storytelling by way of playing cards. Because some of you are likely wondering, this game is completely unrelated to the 1966 movie Manos: The Hands of Fate. One of the first things that came to mind while playing was that this game is probably the closest thing we’ll get to a Munchkin video game for a long time. To me, this game came out of nowhere and is a fresh breath of air from most of the games that have released recently.

I have to admit, I had to play this game for about a week before I could come to a consensus on my thoughts. On some days, Hand of Fate is amazingly addicting, spawning thoughts like “let me push to defeat one more boss” or “please let me complete more subquests and make progress in unlocking everything.” On other days, this game was a very unpleasant game in which I would curse its existence due to unfair random luck, unfair scenario cards or a random assortment of strange frame rate issues (which luckily have all but disappeared in the last few days). Hand of Fate is a gambler’s paradise.

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Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords review (Xbox One)

Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords was developed and published on Xbox One and Xbox 360 by Telltale Games. It was released February 4, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided by Telltale for review purposes.

telltale game of thrones 3

In my review of Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron From Ice, I mentioned that whilst things were being set up rather nicely for the series ahead, the episode in isolation was a little uneventful. Thankfully, The Lost Lords goes some way to correcting this and features more action, more opportunity for intrigue and at least one twist which I certainly did not see coming.

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The Escapists review (Xbox One)

The Escapists was developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and will be published on Xbox One by Team 17 Digital. It is set for release on February 13, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

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The Escapists positions itself as a kind of craft-em-up roguelike set across a number of fiendishly designed secure facilities including prisons and POW camps. Think of it as somewhere between Terraria, Monaco and any number of top down action-RPGs. The main difference is that in order for you to be successful, The Escapists demands significantly more time and patience than almost any other game I’ve played — and what’s more, it’s perfectly suited to being a cute 8-bit indie title.

With only a very small number of simple core mechanics to rely upon, The Escapists turns the table on the typical sandbox approach taken by similar games. Instead, players are literally forced to adhere to a strict regimen of roll calls, mealtimes, break-times and work whilst simultaneously plotting their escape. It’s an inspired system that asks an awful lot from players and results in the rewards being all the sweeter.

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Life is Strange Episode 1: Chrysalis review (Xbox One)

Life is Strange: Chrysalis was developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published on Xbox One and Xbox 360 by Square Enix. It was released January 30, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided by Square Enix for review purposes.

Life is Strange Chrysalis review for Xbox One

“It’s like Gone Home,” my roommate tells his curious D&D buddies of the game I’m playing for review. A cursory glance at the screen would lead you to believe that he wasn’t wrong, either. The game in question, Life is Strange: Chrysalis from Dontnod Entertainment and Square Enix, does feature a similar protagonist. Main character Max Caulfield is a young, confused girl looking for answers about the disappearance of another girl. After five years away in Seattle she’s returned to her small hometown of Arcadia Bay, OR to attend a prestigious boarding school. Chrysalis‘ setting puts Max in classes, at the school dormitories and at an old friend’s home. She’s not literally alone like Kaitlin Greenbriar in Gone Home, but as the shy kid in the back of the class, Max often feels like it.

If you stopped reading this review after that first paragraph, no one would blame you for describing Life is Strange as that game that’s “like Gone Home.” The two titles have one big difference, however: Gone Home is about solving puzzles, while Life is Strange is about solving conversations. And whereas video game puzzles usually only have one correct solution, conversations have room for many possible options to carry a game forward.

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Life is Strange review hub

Life is Strange for Xbox One

Welcome to the Life is Strange review hub. Here we’ll collect our reviews for the individual episodes of the series as they are released. Once the series is complete, we’ll update this page to have a full review of the entire season. Check out the reviews for the currently available episode(s) below.

  • Episode 1: Chrysalis — “Life is Strange is about solving conversations.”
  • Episode 2: Out of Time (coming soon)
  • Episode 3: Chaos Theory (coming soon)
  • Episode 4: Dark Room (coming soon)
  • Episode 5: Polarized (coming soon)

Life is Strange is Dontnod Entertainment’s first stab at an episodic game. It tells the story of lead character Max Caulfield reuniting with childhood friend Chloe Price and their investigation of a missing girl in a small Oregon town. Max quickly learns that she somehow has the ability to rewind time and, armed with knowledge from the future of how certain decisions play out, change her past actions.

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Riptide GP2 review (Xbox One)

Riptide GP2 was developed and published by Vector Unit. It was released on Xbox One on January 23, 2015 for $4.99. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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In Riptide GP2 you take control of a hydro jet and take to the waterways to put your racing skills to the test against AI, your local friends and/or the Xbox leaderboards. The better your racing skills are, the faster you will rake in the winnings and progress to the next set of challenges. You can use the money you’ve won to upgrade your current hydro jet or purchase one of 10 others that unlock as you progress higher in rank. With over 25 stunts at your disposal, and with doing stunts being the main way to increase your boost, finding the right line to hit a jump at max speed will take some time and patience but will ultimately help you win events.

Even before playing Riptide GP2, the mere mention of its developer, Vector Unit, immediately made me think of Hydro Thunder Hurricane (HTH), an Xbox Live Arcade game released in 2010. Hydro Thunder Hurricane is also made by Vector Unit. Unfortunately, Riptide GP2 is so similar to HTH that it feels more like an updated port or unreleased HTH downloadable content than a complete game in itself, which is what it should feel like.

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Unmechanical: Extended Edition review (Xbox One)

Unmechanical: Extended Edition was developed and published on Xbox One by Grip Games as an improvement to Talawa Games’ and Teotl Studios’s Unmechanical. It will release on January 30, 2015 for $9.99. A copy was provided by Talawa Games for review purposes.

U:EE Title Screen

Up until January 21, 2015, I didn’t even know this game existed until I happened to come across an achievement list for the Xbox One version. The game peaked my interest, and I’m glad I saw that achievement list. Unmechanical was originally released on Steam and Android in 2012 and has been rereleased to home consoles with a new extra side level called “Extended”.

Unmechanical: Extended Edition claims itself as a simple game with a variety of puzzles. After starting the game and looking at the controls, it was definitely simple. The left or right stick can move the character and every button and trigger besides the Y button was a tractor beam. That’s it. What can a simple game bring to the table?

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