Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of games I play.

Bioshock Infinite Review

Perhaps this is a bit late—Bioshock Infinite was released back in 2013—but I only just finished it, and let me just say, all the hype surrounding it was totally warranted. For my final blog post I would like to discuss this amazing game and hopefully make you interested enough to try it out for yourself, if you haven’t already.

If you’ve ever played a Bioshock game before, you pretty much know what you’re going to get: a story-driven, linear, first-person shooter with political undertones and a mind-blowing ending. This is what game designer and Vassar (my school!) alumnus Ken Levine is known for, and he and his studio Irrational Games have never failed to impress.

However, while Bioshock and its sequel Bioshock 2 both took place in the underwater dystopia Rapture, Bioshock Infinite shakes up the setting considerably by taking place above the clouds, in the floating city of Columbia. Columbia was founded by self-proclaimed prophet Zachary Comstock, who convinced many Americans to join his cause for American exceptionalism. Stars and stripes abound, and likenesses of the Founding Fathers depict them almost as gods. You play Booker DeWitt, a man hired to complete a task for the Pinkertons, a wealthy and influential family. Your only directive: “Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.” Initially you have no idea about Booker’s background or this debt he owes, only that you need to find this girl. Burned onto the back of your hand are the letters AD, and to your dismay, signs you pass by proclaim whoever has this mark is the “false prophet” and must be stopped.

For God And Country

Connecting the many floating airships that Columbia is built upon are Skylines, rails that you can attach to using a Skyhook to quickly get to where you need to go. It is a fun mechanic that allows for more open exploration and combat, in stark contrast to the cramped, enclosed spaces that made up Rapture. It is extremely satisfying to jump to a Skyline, shoot at oncoming enemies, and then leap down to strike someone on the ground.

Right off the bat you realize that something is very wrong in this seemingly utopic society. Some things seem out of place—even though it is 1912, somehow a barbershop quartet is singing a rendition of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” Later on you come across a man saying his new song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” will make him rich.

One of the first scenes in the game, and a very controversial one at that, is a raffle where whoever wins gets to throw the first stone at an interracial couple sentenced to death for not preserving racial purity. A major theme of the game is racial tension and white superiority, with white civilians in the wealthy upper class and black civilians and foreigners relegated to the serving class.

The raffle scene takes an abrupt and violent turn when you win, but when you are found out to be the “false prophet,” you bury your Skyhook in the organizer’s head. It is a harsh wake-up call for the player, a warning that you are not safe, and sets the tone for how brutal the rest of the game is going to be.

You then find Elizabeth, the girl you are supposed to take back with you, at the top of a tower where she is being held captive and studied. It soon becomes apparent that Elizabeth is exceptionally talented and is capable of things you previously thought impossible. She is able to open “Tears” in the world, or gateways to other times and dimensions. She is kept in her tower by a giant, partly robotic bird called the Songbird, which is very reminiscent of the Big Daddies in Bioshock.

Elizabeth Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a huge step forward for AI in games. If you’ve ever played a game where you had a partner controlled by AI who usually got in the way more than helped (Ashley in Resident Evil 4 comes to mind), you will be in awe of how amazing Elizabeth’s character is. The game tells you early on that she is no damsel in distress—she doesn’t need your protection and can take care of herself, and in fact comes to your aid quite a lot. In combat, she will toss you helpful ammo and health packs to keep you alive, and open Tears to activate friendly turrets or skyhooks. When you’re just walking around with her, she seems to do things of her own accord, like listen in on people’s conversations or look at interesting scenery. Pay close attention to the beach scene, and you will be amazed at how intricate her character is.

Gameplay is similar to past Bioshock games: you fight enemies with a combination of guns and psychokinetic powers that you get by drinking Vigors. While the Vigors did seem a bit out of place compared to how well they fit with Rapture, they still made combat much more enjoyable than just simply shooting. The original Bioshock made great strides in telling story through gameplay, and Infinite continues that tradition with Voxophones, or characters’ recorded diaries. Through them, and your interactions with Elizabeth, you find out more about Columbia’s background, and the backstories of its inhabitants.

At the risk of spoiling any of the story, I will stop my review here. This is a game that you need to experience for yourself. Though you may be tempted to simply run-and-gun your way through it and ignore the story, take it from me—stop and look around at the beautiful world Irrational Games has created, and you will uncover many rewarding bits of story that will make the ending even more mind-blowing. This was one of those rare games that left me scratching my head for days, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire Review: Blast from the Past

Though they’re looked back on now as the oddball, waterlogged entries of the Pokemon series, Ruby & Sapphire are still my favorites. They hold a special, nostalgic place in my heart, so naturally I had high hopes for the remakes, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire for Nintendo 3DS. They mostly do the originals justice—Game Freak has yet to make a bad Pokemon game. However, there are still a few gripes that I have with it, which I will elaborate on later, that mainly have to do with a trend that Pokemon games have been following lately. But overall, they are fantastic games that I highly recommend for fans of the series.

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Monument Valley Review: Escher’s Paradise

Monument Valley, a game for iOS and Android by developer usTwo Games, is by far the most gorgeous, elegantly designed mobile game I have ever played. Granted, the only mobile games I really ever play are Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, and Pixel People, but even so, I’m especially picky about the mobile games I play, and this one makes the cut and then some. Hardcore gamers often make fun of anyone who plays mobile games, calling them “casuals” and the games themselves not “real” games. This game alone should silence those people, while at the same time be another example of how games are art.

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Gone Home Review

Gone Home, a computer game from The Fullbright Company, is the latest in a recent trend of first-person walking-simulator story exploration adventure games (wow that’s a mouthful), like Dear Esther or the upcoming Firewatch. In it, you play as a college student who’s just come home from studying abroad, only to find that you’ve come home to an empty house. You explore the vast mansion, reading notes left behind by your family, listening to journal entries by your younger sister, Samantha, and picking up and examining objects for clues. Those are really the only mechanics in the game: walking around and picking things up. If you’ve played Dear Esther, which has even less mechanics (just walking around), you may already be used to this. But I must warn you that this is not really a “fun” game. This isn’t a game I would play if I wanted to let off some steam and relax. This game is more like a short story, the plot points of which you unravel as you make your way through the mansion.

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Pokemon X/Y Review

I finally did it. After receiving Pokemon Y from my host family in Japan, having to buy a Japanese 3DS because the 3DS is region-locked, and a failed attempt at playing the game in Japanese, I beat it. I’ve been playing Pokemon since Gold/Silver when I was in 3rd grade, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Pokemon is still my favorite video game franchise. Needless to say, each new game holds a special place in my heart. So let’s get right into it!

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Little Inferno Review

Little Inferno may be the strangest game I have ever played. It is many things, and at the same time, nothing. It’s hard to explain. I don’t even think I had fun playing it, and yet I still enjoyed it. Or maybe appreciate is the better word for it. It is definitely an art game, and difficult to recommend. If you’re looking for something distinctly game-y, like Tomorrow Corporation’s previous work (World of Goo), you will be disappointed. If however you are not looking for anything, you need to play this game.  Continue reading Little Inferno Review

BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien Review

That’s a mouthful.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any games. That’s mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve actually finished any games. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is pretty much the only game I’ve been playing, and I probably won’t be done with it for quite some time. But I played this game every now and then until I finally just beat it.

Runner2 is the sequel to Gaijin Games’ BIT.TRIP Runner, part of their successful and critically acclaimed BIT.TRIP franchise. I played the original and loved it for its retro graphics, catchy music, and grueling difficulty. There are a lot of auto-runners out there, especially for mobile, but this one is definitely the best I have ever played.  Continue reading BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien Review