Clearing Out the Backlog March 2012: Duke Nukem Forever, Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom , Robin Hood: Twisted Fairy Tales & Tetris
Well, my column about March is coming in at the tail end of April. Why is this one so late? Well, in April alone I’ve written twenty articles. This is my twenty first and Mortal Kombat for the PS Vita will be my twenty-second, so as you can see I’ve been extremely busy. I haven’t even remotely touched my backlog this month, so there won’t be a “Clearing Out the Backlog” column in May. That said, I’m taking all of May off, so June should have a pretty long column – most likely filled with Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine and Skylanders. Both of which should have been played in March but…personal stuff happened and I ended up being up able to play any console games for most of March and April. Ah the adventures of a sick pet with a mystery disease half a dozen specialists can’t figure out.
Anyway, the good news is that I ended up getting four games out of my backlog in March in addition to the four video games, seven tabletop games, one anime series and three random articles I wrote about that month. Whew! So this month, we’ll be looking at two PS3 games and two Kindle Fire games. Let’s see how they fared.
Let’s get this little factoid out of the way first: I hate first person shooters. FPS titles, along with platformers, are my least favorite genres and so I tend to be more hypercritical of those games than most because their flaws will irk me faster and more intensely than other gamers. Now that doesn’t mean I hate ALL FPS, just most, and generally when I like one (or at least don’t hate one), my friends and fellow staff take notice. Like when I picked up Borderlands: GOTY Edition, guys like Matt were really curious to see what I would think of it. I thought it was….okay. Didn’t hate it, but didn’t care for it. I thought the DLC content had more interesting storylines and preferred those to the main game. Other FPS titles I haven’t minded over the past few years have included Doom III, XIII and Dead Man’s Hand. Knowing all this, you’re probably surprised I picked up Duke Nukem Forever. Well, there were three reasons behind this.
The first is that received early demo access since I picked up Borderlands, and I surprisingly didn’t hate the demo. I actually had a bit of fun with it. I even wrote an article about how it felt like a bare bones old school FPS game and I found it kind of quaint. The second reason was that when the game actually came out, it received TERRIBLE reviews. I mean, the game was ripped to shreds. Even Mark gave the game a shockingly low score and I found myself wondering how I could like the demo so much but that actual FPS fans were hating this. Was it like Castlevania: Harmony of Despair where the demo was a lot better than the real thing? The third reason was I have a particular morbid desire to play truly terrible games. ..and then usually inflict them on my friends. Ask Mark about The Ring: Terror’s Realm or Matt about Juggernaut. So when Best Buy had it new for a whopping four bucks, I thought “What the hell?” and picked it up. I mean four bucks, right? That’s the costs of a PSP Mini. Sadly I wish I had my four bucks back.
The game started off with the same level as the demo -= a game within a game where you blow up a giant Cyclops. It was much like I remembered from the demo. I was pleased with the graphics. John St. John sounded like his old self and a bit of me was just happy to see the game released. Then I earned a trophy for picking up a turd out of a toilet and playing with it. Now don’t get me wrong. I like my potty humour the same as the next guy. I helped produced Thankskilling 2 after all. I can get as lowbrow as the best of them. But this made me realize that…this was going to be a little cruder than I expected.
From there, things just went downhill and I could see the disconnect between the demo and the actual game. The Demo was just enough of the game that it wouldn’t grow old or insipid. It was just enough to reignite the nostalgia we gamers have for Duke Nukem while leaving out the alien rape, the alien abortion whack a mole game, the terrible mini games, the even worse driving of an R/C car, and the worst electronic pinball game I’ve ever played in my life. The FPS segments, on their own were…okay. Aiming could be wonky, it could be hard to do the platforming bits from the camera angles you had and the inability to carry more than two weapons at a time was annoying, but it was playable and more or less a generic FPS with Duke thrown in. Everything else though, from the story to the mini-games were just terribly done. I tend to finish most games that I start, even if I don’t 100%/platinum the games. This is mainly because whatever I play is something I have to review as a copy was sent to me by a publisher or publicist. Duke Nukem Forever was the first game in a long time I just said, “This sucks. I’m done.” and just stopped playing. After so many terrible games that I had to keep playing for review purposes, it felt SO GOOD to just take this out of my PS3, delete my save and install data and know that I never had to touch it again.
The sad thing was that Duke Nukem Forever STILL wasn’t the worst game from 2011 that I have played. It was better than Thor God of Thunder (Our eventual winner for the Worst Game of 2011), The Tiny Bang Theory, The Hidden, and Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion. That doesn’t let the Duke off the hook. It just means there were games that were that much worse in 2011. Does the game deserve the ire it has received? Of course it does. It’s a pretty bad game in all respects, but I guess Gearbox can take some comfort in that fact no one on staff here at Diehard GameFAN thought it was the WORST game of the year…or even a contender for that matter.
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: Poor Game!
I love Mahjong games, so when this came up as a free download thanks to my Playstation Plus membership, I snagged it along with all the DLC (also free). Unfortunately, due to all the reviews I was doing in 2011, March of 2012 was the first chance I had to play this and it wasn’t under the best of circumstances. My pet was hit with some weird respiratory illness causing him to spit up brown sludge and/or phlegm out of his nose and mouth. He then would have trouble breathing. He was in and out of the vet from March 9th until April 14th and I was at my wit’s end. When he was home, I pretty much sat with him giving him a cocktail of medicines every hour on the hour and getting little to no sleep and a lot of stress. When he wasn’t home, I was panicked, waiting for a phone call to say “He didn’t make it.” Well luckily he DID make it and as of writing, he’s gone fourteen days without an attack (the vets say if he makes it twenty-one, we’ll assume he’s 100% out of the woods). The only thing that really kept my mind of this little drama was playing Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom and I’d happily purchase the game as a thank you…except it won’t let me because hey, PS+ member. Oy.
Mahjong Tales Ancient Wisdom was not just relaxing, but it really engaged my brain as well, allowing me to concentrate on something other than the crisis at hand. I spent hours straight playing this while Mr. Chewie Biteums was staying at the vet. It was relaxing and soothing; just what I needed at that moment.
There are vary game variants in Mahjong Tales, but by far my favorite is story mode. Here you get snippets of various oriental legends before and after a mahjong table. There are five stories in all and I loved each one of them. They were beautifully illustrated and whimsical. Oh, the Mahjong was a lot of fun too. Other modes include Motion, which has a stream of styles going around the screen in addition to the main Mahjong board. The goal is to finish off the board before one of the stray tiles reaches an ancient dragon. This puts a whole new twist on the game as you not only have a time limit but you can match titles from the board to the outside moving set and vice versa. It really gives Mahjong a whole new face lift and I had a blast with that. Infinity is a never ending game of Mahjong and Multiplayer is playing with or against your friends. Not bad for a free game!
The graphics are beautiful, the music fits the game perfectly as it is mostly done by instruments like the guqin, konghou and the like. The free booster packs (free for PS+ members anyway…) include new layouts for the Infinity mode and a layout editor to boot so you can design your own mahjong games. I loved pretty much everything about this game and it was exactly what I needed at a time where an extremely violent game or angst-ridden JRPG wouldn’t have cut the mustard. Two only two things I would have changed would have been mouse support (which was supposedly added, but it didn’t work for me) and more folklore stories via DLC. Other than that, this has become a favorite of my wife and I.
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: Good Game!
Now I know what you are thinking. “Alex, surely you of all people have played Tetris before? How is this a backlog game? Well I have ineed played Tetris, but this particular version is the one Electronic Arts put out for the Kindle Fire. It was the free App of the day over on Amazon back on December 8th of 2011, so I grabbed it. Hey, It’s Tetris and a free three dollar app. Why wouldn’t I? Unfortunately, it just doesn’t play as well as the many console, PC and handheld versions I’ve encountered in the past.
The regular version of Tetris was…okay> It doesn’t translate very well to touch controls and getting the pieces to go where you wanted to or rotate them was far trickier than with a joystick. Someone things just didn’t respond and it felt like there was a bit of lag between inputting the commands and them being performed on the screen. This just wasn’t very good at all.
This new version also has something called “Magic Mode” which is meant to be touch screen based gimmick powers. This is not what I want from Tetris and according to most other reviews of the game, it’s not what anyone wanted. The powers either don’t work right, don’t respond properly to the input given or just make them game well…not feel like Tetris. If you want to play a game based on popping bubble wrap, there’s an app for that. Likewise, shaking your Fire to make pieces crumble is awkward and is not very Tetris-y. Before this game I didn’t think it was possible to ruin Tetris. After playing it, I still don’t feel the game does that, but it does make Tetris suck to play. Definitely skip this incarnation.
Control and Gameplay: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Bad
FINAL SCORE: Poor Game!
I really enjoy hidden object games. If you go through my review archive, you’ll see I’ve reviewed a lot of those for the site over the years. This little one for my Kindle Fire was originally released back in November of 2011. I picked it up when it was a free app of the day to give my brain a quick little workout when I didn’t feel like playing a video game where the object was to stick sharp things through soft things that scream and bleed.
This particular hidden object game is a “Spot the Difference” one. This means the screen is divided in half and you have to examine both images to see where subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences are between them. Pretty easy, right? They usually are save for one or two niggling things that you just can’t seem to find. I realize these are considered “casual” games, but so what? As long as you have fun with a game, that’s what matters.
What makes this particular “spot the difference” game so interesting is that it not only has a story line, but a lot of divergent paths and multiple endings. So each time you play, you can make different decisions which not only alter how the story unfolds, but also what puzzles you will get. This increases the replay value of this little app somewhat. It won’t take you more than a few hours at most to see every single outcome, but it’s pretty neat how the developers stepped up and gave this game a plotline and multiple endings. Usually “spot the difference” games are just random puzzles thrown together. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I don’t know if I’d pay two bucks for it, but as a freebie, this was much better than I expected it to be. Other than that, the game plays as one would expect it to. You tap the screen where you think there is a different. Get it right and you get some points. Chain several discoveries together for extra points. Get it wrong and lose some points. Repeat until done.
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Above Average
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: Above Average Game!
There you go, another month of 2012 done, and another four games are cleared from the backlog, Again, there won’t be a column in May as I didn’t clear any games out of my backlog in April, but at least you got over twenty articles from me instead, right? See you back in June.