Category Archives: first hour review

The first hour of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch spirits you away

NiNoKuni1 first hour review

So, I made some time this weekend and played a wee bit of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, covering the first hour of gameplay for, naturally, The First Hour. Click that link to find out how everything went.

Since then, I’ve gotten to give Studio Ghibli/Level-5’s JRPG about two more hours of my time, and it’s been pretty dang delightful. The story is nothing astounding, but it plays by many of the same rules as fairy tales do, naming the key players and letting magic live without scrutiny. Running around the world is an experience that is very hard to describe, as it is both videogame-like and surreal, with all credit to Studio Ghibli for the way everything looks and moves. Oliver and Drippy’s animations are charismatically fluid, and the way the game breaks down every system shows the level (pun intended) of deepness one can fall into. Evidently, there will be alchemy. Oh yes. That said, I’m still having some trouble either getting into the combat or understanding it completely, and it’s mix of menu managing, character swapping, and moving around the battlefield in real time is something that I’m going to have to quickly master if I’m ever to take on a real boss or more than three enemies at a time.

So, I’ll be back later on with more thoughts as Oliver progresses forward on his journey to save his mother.

The first hour of Stacking will not blow your stack

I know the gaming industry is currently bloated and over-saturated with games based on hopping into Russian stacking matryoshka dolls and plots hanging on oppressive child labor and puzzles solved by flatulence, but if you could find it in your heart and busy schedule…please check out my coverage of Stacking‘s first hour. It’s a fun time. The game and the review.

I actually wrote that coverage some weeks back, and since then I’ve come to beat the game as a whole. That means I can speak a bit more about what happens after the “emphatic yes” answer to that oh-so-critical question at the end of the post. It’s not a terribly long game experience, but I padded Stacking out a bit by searching for special dolls, different answers to puzzles, performing hijinks, and generally just exploring the levels and looking at all the adorable details instead of immediately moving on with the storyline. There’s a lot to see and experiment with, and that’s part of the charm, that it is paced to your liking. Between this and Costume Quest, Double Fine has created some great “introductory” videogames for friends and family members that you might want to get interested in playing a game. They are safe and still quite rewarding.

Overall, story in Stacking is more about style than telling, which is a small slight. It’s predictable but acceptable, with a beginning, middle, and end, but it’s how it is presented via silent film style that really keeps you watching. Little Charles Blackmore meets a wide range of dolls, and the larger they are, the more intimidating. I think my favorite is Cromwell the Terrible, capable of giving anyone and nearly anything a royal wedgie. The final fights switch things up, requiring you to have previously paid attention to doll powers, as well as know how to play rock, paper, scissors. Nothing too challenging.

I do have another complaint to add though, one that is really only discovered in the later levels. Well, honestly, they are too big. Not in the sense that you can get easily lost, but when you have to traipse back to the beginning part to find one specific doll…it can really feel like a sojourn instead of a skip.

At some point, I’m gonna hop back in to clean up some Achievement-related tasks and give the DLC The Lost Hobo King a try. I am expecting more of the same–which is fine–but if the gameplay of “solve X puzzles to complete level” gets mixed up even the tiniest of bits…well, that’d be a great surprise. I’ll be sure to let y’all know.

The Sea Will Claim Everything in its first hour of clicking

My dream goal would be to cover all the games that came grouped in Bundle in a Box‘s first package for The First Hour, but my time and sanity are running lower and lower with each new day in June that comes to pass. It really is amazing that I’m typing these words here at Grinding Down at all. If anything, I’m happy to report I played an hour (and then some more) of The Sea Will Claim Everything, a unique-looking point-and-click adventure game set in the fantastical realm known as the Lands of Dreams. Click that previously linked sentence to see how the sixty minutes went.

The sad news is that I dragged my feet with this review and the bundle is now over; The Sea Will Claim Everything will not be available for a little bit until Jonas Kyratzes can set up a webshop. So, if you are interested in it and didn’t purchase a bundle, you’ll have to now wait. Sorry, little dreamers.

But stay tuned, as I am going to continue to play The Sea Will Claim Everything and will let you know how it all turns out.

The Annals of Halgren slaughter goblins for an hour in Icewind Dale II

Well, now I can say I’ve played two Forgotten Realms videogames, and both turned out pretty uninspiring in my eyes. Which is strange, given the wide berth of fiction and fantasy they can draw from. I just don’t know. Maybe if I had played Icewind Dale II when it actually came out in 2002, back when I was eating up Diablo II and Commander & Conquer: Red Alert by the handful in my college dorm deep into early hours of the morning, I might have fallen madly in love with its high levels of customization and general openness. But it was not meant to be.

Anyways, click this very sentence to see how the first hour of Icewind Dale II panned out for me and my adventuring band.

At some point, I’ll be trying out The Temple of Elemental Evil, too…since it came free with my purchase of the game at hand. So long as there is less goblin-slaughtering in the first sixty minutes, I’ll be pleased.

HALF-HOUR REVIEW – Pushmo

Filling the puzzle void left by polishing off Picross 3D last summer is a little piece of 3DSWare called Pushmo (or Pullmo if you’re from Europe), a game that tasks a young, wobbly Mallo with pushing and pulling colored blocks to rescue children trapped in them. It’s not the most exciting first thirty minutes of a game, with a chunk of it stuck in tutorials, but I can confirm that it gets better.

I’m now on the level two puzzles–I think No. 68 to be exact–and the difficulty has ramped up to the point of stumping me constantly. That’s a good, my dears. Many of the mural puzzles, the ones that look like fruit or animals or famous videogame faces, are actually quite simple, structured to be pleasing to the eyes and nothing more than fluff to the brain. However, a recent viewing of GiantBomb‘s Quick Look for Pushmo forecasts that the size of the puzzle grids are going to get bigger, and bigger, and then bigger again. Whoo boy. Those will be some doozies, for sure.

I’m just pleased to have a time-killer again. Picross 3D was perfect in that if I had five minutes or so between something, like waiting for Tara to get ready, I could do a puzzle. That same theory applies now to Pushmo. I mostly do my puzzling while waiting for artwork to be scanned and Photoshop to open on my slow-as-slow Macbook. If I’m good enough, I can get through two or three before it’s time to get back to making them comics. But yeah, it’s pretty good, and if you have a 3DS, well, it’s a no-brainer to get it, even if you feel like $7.00 is too high a price, it’s not. Not at all.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2011

I did this type of list last year–and by last year, I mean 2010–and to say that it was well received is me being honestly humble; The Top 10 Games I Didn’t Get to Play in 2010 ended up gracing the home page of WordPress.com for a week and change, meaning that anyone and everyone visiting the site saw an adorable puppy with sad eyes drawing them into a post about missing out on a bunch of popular videogames. And it got looked at. A lot. Around 15,200 views and over 140 comments in just a few days, a high majority of them from really nice commenters, too. Thanks, WordPress people! We’ll see if I can bottle magic for a second time.

10. Batman: Arkham City

He may be the hope that flies through the night sky in black, but he’s also unplayed. Same with the previous game Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game(s) seem really cool, with a mix of action, stealth, and as many cameos the devs can squeeze in, but I’ve somehow managed to avoid all things batty. Not on purpose. I like Batman much more than Superman (but less than Spider-Man). Maybe I’ll grab one of these in 2012 to help get in the mood for The Dark Knight Rises.

9. STACKING

 

I like weird games, mostly because weird games take chances, thus earning the adjective of being weird. Stacking seems like a weird game, which is why it is intriguing to me. Plus, the way the characters hop around the world reminds me a little of how I design my Supertown and All of Westeros characters, even though those in Stacking do have arms, legs, noses, and ears. Good for them. The price tag (1200 MS Points) for this downloadable has always kept me at bay so I’m hoping for a sale sometime soon.

8. Aliens: Infestation

Here’s probably the first (and last) Aliens game I’m interested in. The goal is shooting alien creatures without remorse, and this objective plays out in a Metroidvania way, with a unique hook of main characters being totally and completely killable. You literally have X number of lives to beat the game, I guess. There’s some gorgeous spritework here, and the level design is ripe for exploration. Alas, I don’t know much about the source material, as I’ve only ever seen one film from the franchise, and I couldn’t tell you if it was Alien or Aliens, but it did have a robot at the end bleeding milk all over the place, but I’m a sucker for anything that shows its love for side-scrolling pilgrimages and does it well.

7. Alice: Madness Returns

I have a strange relationship with American McGee’s Alice; that’s a game that I actually played co-op with a girlfriend even though it was not a co-op game. She controlled the moving of Alice, and I used items and weapons from the other side of the keyboard. It was a disastrous time, and we rarely worked well together, but it was one of the few games she ever became interested in, and was adamant about us playing it together. Ah, young love affection. What a farce.

And so that game has been stuck in my being ever since, evoking a time I’d like to not go back to. However, Alice’s next journey in Alice: Madness Returns looks like fun, maybe even darker than before if that’s possible. The game got mediocre reviews, but I’m more interested in just going at it all by my lonesome.

6. Red Dead Redemption

Here’s a game that was also on my 2010 list, meaning a whole year went by and I’ve still not been able to ride a horse, skin a bear, and shoot a unruly vagrant. I want to, I really do, and I was close to purchasing the Game of the Year edition, which nicely collects all the many DLC packs into one package, but instead went with Mass Effect 2. I still don’t love Grand Theft Auto IV, but I named L.A. Noire as my game of the year, and have hopes that Red Dead Redemption is more like the latter and less like the former. Yeah, yeah, I know people refer to it as Grand Theft Horse, but maybe there’s more to it than that. Or maybe you’ll see this title on yet another edition of this list come the end of 2012.

5. Terraria

This year, I was able to give Minecraft a spin thanks to a free, limited-time copy with the purchase of one of the Humble Indie Bundles. I struggled at first, both with what the point of the game was and then also surviving the darkness, but that was enough for me until it comes out on the Xbox 360. Terraria is seemingly Minecraft’s cousin, but it only works on a PC, and since I use a Mac…well, you do the math. The graphics and slower gameplay seem more appealing to me than that in Minecraft, but it’ll have to wait until I can get a new pooter.

4. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

True fact: I totally skipped Assassin’s Creed II and went straight to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and I’m totally at peace with that. Why? Well, AC:B turned out to be simply fantastic. A strong story, lots to do in a well-designed setting, and a unique take on online multiplayer stabbing. Though Ubisoft might be spitting out these games a little too fast, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations seems to be more of AC:B, and I’ve heard that the changes to online multiplayer are significant. I’ve held back because I’ve heard that for a game with revelations in its title, there is actually little to that point. Going to wait until the price drops down to $30 or so, me thinks.

3. Portal 2

So, 2011 was the year that I caught up with the world and played–and beat with minimal walkthrough assistance–Portal. Yeah, go me. However, I did struggle with a few puzzles, almost to the point of blunt frustration, and that’s been the biggest roadblock for Portal 2; I’m interested in the story and learning more about Aperture Science and their ultimate plans, but not having to deal with the mind-benders and brain-twisters to get there. Sure, I could read a wiki or watch videos online, but that’s just silly. Alas, I kinda doubt I’ll ever get to this one.

2. Kirby Mass Attack

Without a doubt, Kirby is Nintendo’s lab experiment. When they want to try something new or risky or off-the-wall, they just use Kirby as the flagship. Over the years, he’s been turned into yarn, forced to ride a rainbow, and also enter air kart races. His latest adventure on the DS (not the 3DS, mind you) involves clones. Kirby Mass Attack retains the look of those classic Kirby game, but throws in new puzzles solvable with multiple Kirby copies, and it’s all controlled with the touchscreen. This one was released right around the same time as Professor Layton and the Last Specter, and I only had enough funds to get one or the other, and so it’ll have to wait for a later date.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The last great game for the Nintendo Wii. At least that’s what journalistic people are saying about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and I’m sure they are right as there definitely doesn’t seem to be anything else in the pipeline before the dumbly-named Wii U drops. And there’s always reason to be excited for a new Zelda game, but I still struggle with the idea of actually playing this on a Wii, with a Wii controller, doing Wii-like things. Visually, it’s so pretty. Like a painting come to life. It also sounds like a mighty slow crawl for those first few hours. Going to hold off for now and wait until it drops in price, but who knows how long that could take.

Well, I think that’s it.

Other contenders that I didn’t play and didn’t make this list include Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, Dead Island, Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, Lost in Shadow, and Rayman: Origins. Yeah, I got some things to catch up on. We’ll get there, surely. But what about you, dear readers? What games from 2011 did you miss out on? Speak up below in the comments.

FIRST HOUR REVIEW – Suikoden III

Hey, remember when I drank a bunch of Felix Felicis and found a copy of Suikoden III recently? And then remember when I told the world how scared I was to even play it? Well, I finally did it. Play, that is. For sixty minutes and then some. Even took notes. You can read all about discolored used game discs, getting lost in the smallest village ever, and duck soldiers over at The First Hour.

I’ve played past Suikoden III‘s first hour, too. Thanks to Sergeant Joe, Hugo was able to schedule a meeting with the people doing business in Vinay del Zexay’s council building, but we have to wait at least a day; until then, the capital is ours for the exploring, and it’s a pretty big place, with lots of shops and citizens to speak with. Alas, Hugo’s not rich, so there’s not much to do. I’m guessing at some point I’ll sleep at an inn and go back for that meeting. At some point…

But yeah. Again, please check out my coverage of Suikoden III‘s first hour from Hugo’s chapters.