Welcome back to Level Up…this week we take a look at Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate and BioShock Infinite, an early game of the year candidate.
IN STORES THIS WEEK
Injustice: Gods Among Us (Warner Bros) Rated T PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a Fighting game that blends classic Arcade style gameplay mechanics with an intriguing storyline that pits classic DC Comics characters against each other in unique combinations (hero vs. hero, villain vs. villain, etc.). The game is developed by NetherRealm Studios, and Ed Boon, of Mortal Kombat fame. Players can expect over-the-top action that is suitable for players of most ages, and a single-player storyline that provides the background for the unique character match-ups possible. Addition features include: more than 20 DC Comics heroes and villains, a variety of different attack levels, unique attacks for each character, multiplayer support, and more.
View larger What If Our Greatest Heroes Became Our Greatest Threat?
Injustice: Gods Among Us debuts as a bold new fighting game franchise that introduces a deep, original story featuring more than 20 fan favorite, and other less well-known, DC Comics icons such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Harley Quinn, Solomon Grundy, Nightwing, Cyborg and others. Set in a world where the lines between good and evil are are blurred, players will experience heroes and villains engaging in epic battles on a massive scale.
Developed by NetherRealm Studios, under Ed Boon of Mortal Kombat fame, Injustice: Gods Among Us is developed with gamers of all skill levels in mind. The playable characters are separated into roughly two categories: power based fighters such as Superman, and gadget based fighters such as Batman. In the interactive environments of the game a power character like Superman might use his super strength to lift and throw an object such as a car at an opponent, while a gadget character like Batman might maneuver an opponent close to the same car, then blow it up with a tossable explosive. Characters like Wonder Woman Woman and Nightwing have hybrid abilities that they can toggle between. Regardless of the characters used, varied abilities makes each a possible match for the other, with their attacks broken down into heavy, medium and light varieties, and each also having a specific move that can be unleashed when the power meter that they grow throughout combat, is full. In addition, players can engage in "wager battles" in which portions of the opposing character's power can be won as a prize for victory. Taken together these mechanics promise action that is simple to pick up but challenging to master, and and which adds a distinct gameplay feel.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (Atlus) Rated M 3DS
In a society originated from a bizarre marriage of technology and demonology, an unleashed evil—borne of an inconvenient truth—threatens to bring an end not just to the deceptive harmony, but to mankind itself.
A first-person sci-fi RPG epic, Soul Hackers tells of a city held up as a beacon of humanity’s triumph of technology, but with an infernal secret. In this would-be utopia, a group of hackers takes on a centuries-old mystic society, and a battle for control over humanity’s fate is about to begin.
Never before released in North America, this long-awaited entry in the acclaimed Devil Summoner series takes players into a future in which technology and otherworldy forces meet in a macabre fusion of cyberpunk futurism and gothic horror. Soul Hackers comes with enhanced and remastered visual and aural presentation, bringing the game world with a crisper and even more realistic 3-D form to the player. Fans of the game will be delighted to hear that there are over 30 new demons to negotiate, fuse, and level up.
Pandora’s Tower (Xseed Games) Rated T Wii
Pandora's Tower tells a haunting tale about a cursed young woman's slow transformation into a hideous beast, and the lengths to which the man she loves will go in order to save her. Aeron must brave the Thirteen Towers, which are suspended in the middle of a valley by chains connected to surrounding cliffs, and use his magical Oraclos Chain weapon to retrieve "master flesh," the flesh of the giant monsters that reside within each tower, which he must feed to Elena in order to reverse her transformation. Aeron's interactions with Elena during their time together have a direct impact on the story, as the strength of their bond will determine which of the multiple endings is achieved.
BioShock Infinite (2K Games) PS3, Xbox 360 Rated M
Bioshock Infinite has been one of the most anticipated games since first being introduced at the 2011 E3 show and it’s finally here and more than worth the two year wait. The third entry in the BioShock series, Infinite seems like a completely new game. Gone are the stuffy, claustrophobic confines of the undersea city of Rapture and enter Columbia, a magnificent floating city and the air has never tasted so good. The freedom of the open air environment makes for a stark and refreshing contrast to the first two games, as good as those two games were.
This magnificent city is among the most vividly living, breathing environments ever presented in a videogame. Columbia is a fully realized Steampunk city set in 1912 America as airships travel about and people hustle and bustle about its streets. Columbia revels in its national pride having seceded from the United States. Despite its grandeur Columbia has a dark underbelly. It is in the midst of a civil war between its ruling class known as The Founders an ultraconservative and nationalist group, and the rebellious Vox Populi (voice of the people) who wants to make Columbia available to all people. The city has not only been ravaged by war but also by disruptions in the fabric of space-time.
Into this scene comes Booker DeWitt, a former agent of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Booker is your prototype flawed hero. He was fired from the agency and now is looking for, but not counting on finding redemption. DeWitt is hired to rescue a mysterious woman named Elizabeth from Columbia. Elizabeth has been held captive for years and has her own supernatural powers. DeWitt will rescue Elizabeth and go on the run from her robotic guard known as Songbird.
DeWitt will utilize both standard weapons like various guns but also can utilize things called Vigors. Vigors are essentially the same as the plasmids from the previous BioShock games. These give DeWitt a variety of powers like telekinesis, electricity manipulation, and animal control. Vigors require salt which is this game’s version of EVE. The vigor abilities can also be upgraded over the course of the game once again utilizing vending machines. You can also utilize various types of great that can boost strength and defensive capabilities.
Elizabeth requires no constant babysitting on your part. To the contrary, Elizabeth proves herself to be a most helpful companion. Elizabeth scours the area for important items like salt, money, ammo, and health packs and tosses them to DeWitt. She also uses her abilities to change the layout of an area to assist you. This adds a layer to combat that was missing in the first two games and is especially crucial when battling boss characters as choice in battle greatly affects the outcome.
BioShock Infinite has no shortage of colorful enemies. Chief among these is Zachary Comstock, a religious nut and leader of The Founders. Comstock is a kind of nazi-esque figure who is racist and sexist and uses his power to lay the authoritarian hammer down on any that oppose him. Backing him up are various robotic/mechanical foes like Songbird, the Heavy Hitters, The Handymen, and The Boys of Silence.
Movement about Columbia is one of the most impressive parts of the game. Throughout the city there are numerous roller-coaster tracks. Booker is able to hook on to these rails via his Skyhook gauntlet and zip around the city to his heart’s desire. Travelling about this way offers an incredible view of the city and it’s all in your control. The fact that moving about this way is unscripted presents a great way to explore the city and see its many unique areas.
BioShock Infinite’s themes are certainly a bit controversial but games have been playing it safe for too long and it’s nice to see a game take on more adult themes and ideas. BioShock Infinite lives up to its hype with amazing visuals, lifelike characters, and intuitive gameplay. It’s only April but we may have our game of the year already. Grade A
Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate (Capcom) Nintendo 3DS
Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive sequel to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The story is set 25 years after the events of the previous game and focuses on the descendants of Gabriel as they each follow their own destiny. You’ll traverse the game as one of three main characters: Trevor Belmont, who is the son of Gabriel; Simon Belmont, the son of Trevor; and the mysterious Alucard. Right off the bat though there are issues with the way Mirror of Fate is presented as it’s story goes back in time instead of forward, somewhat muddling the events along the way but at least delivering some fresh character development.
Like most Castlevania games, particularly some of the earlier games in the series, platforming and hack-n-slash action are the major gameplay elements. While each of the characters have some of their own unique skills and abilities all wield a type of whip and ultimately are fairly similar in battle. Your whip also comes in handy for getting across chasms or lowering/climbing. There are bits of magical items you’ll have access to but honestly you will rarely need them and this gets to the crux of the issue with Mirror of Fate.
The castle is sparsely populated by enemies. When you combine that with powerful weapons, a vast amount of save check points, and a re-spawning system that is about as overly generous as you will ever find, the game simply doesn’t present much of a challenge. This is abundantly clear in the boss battles that allow you to respawn when you die with full energy while the boss does not. So basically you can just keep hammering away with little need to figure out any strategic plan of attack. The insidious means used to present some semblance of a challenge comes with many dreaded quick-time events in boss battles that rankle the nerves as they constantly re-set if you hit the wrong button or don’t hit it quick enough. Note to game developers…quick-time events are NOT strategy points! These only serve to frustrate the player and take away from the fun of a game. Quick-time events are fine in small doses but when they represent much of the core gameplay as they do here, it really hurts the overall tone and pace of the game.
Besides the platforming and battles, you’ll also encounter your fair share of puzzles throughout your castle exploration and some of these are both fun and challenging and help to change things up. While there are some moderate RPG elements that help you build upon your skills throughout the game these are minimal and often not needed to get through the game anyway. This also makes thorough exploration fairly useless as there isn’t much of interest or that benefits you in the long run.
Outside of some truly gorgeous backgrounds, most of the visuals in Mirror of Fate are as muddled as the gameplay. It fails to capture the exquisite dark, gothic beauty of many of the other entries in the series. While it was nice to have a Castlevania game exclusive to the 3DS, developer Mercury Steam had delivered a game that simply doesn’t live up to its many predecessors. Grade: C-