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Elizabeth

Elizabeth

First of all – I apologize for being so absent for so long! It’s been the final semester at University, but now it’s coming to an end I have more time to write things for here! And I have quite a few articles in the pipeline, so keep your eyes peeled!

My first returning article though, has to be on Bioshock Infinite. Now I haven’t finished it, so I can’t comment on whether the end point is any good, but I am a decent way through. The game is based on a guy, Booker, who lands on a city in the sky, Columbia, in order to find an interesting girl named Elizabeth for some guys he is in debt to.

This is one addictive game. From the very beginning, the intrigue over the city in the sky, and Elizabeth’s story, carries you from one level to the next. In fact, the whole game seems to be created in a way that demands you keep playing. The quests in general are fairly short, and so you instantly get wrapped up in the “just one more” mindset that stops you putting it away. This is also helped by the handy quest arrow, meaning you can get straight to where you need to be if you felt like it, and the fact that when you die you just pop up back where you were – minus a few pennies.

The dialogue between Booker and Elizabeth as you traverse Columbia keeps enough actual information away from you to force you to continue to find out more about her. Especially as she is the highlight of the game. Her character design is beautiful and her animation makes you fully believe her characterisation – her look fits her voice, and this altogether fits the way she interacts. She is not an annoying AI character, in fact she is rarely in the way and her health packs in particular are handy life savers. Although I may have liked her to do slightly more than lean on walls and reveal cover, that you could find elsewhere. But we’ll come to that later.

Then there are the visuals. The game as a whole is stunning, and the way the whole theme of the game is weaved together makes it beautiful to look at. You really feel like you are seeing this whole new world for the first time like Booker is, and the contrast of this to the gunfights and violence makes an interesting clash, but one that works.

Overall, this game runs a very clever ship. It is a delight to play, and as I say – addictive. But there are problems underneath. The gameplay makes you turn a blind eye to the crux of the game itself – and all it’s lacking. The fighting is repetitive, but the volume of the battles and the change of scenery means you do not realise this. The battles basically revolve, mainly, around plowing enemies with bullets until you either kill them all or die enough times to eventually work your way through them. There is skill involved with the small fry, hiding behind boxes or up balconies and using your vigours (special Booker powers) to help you. But the problem comes with the big fry, like the Patriot robots. These guys basically run like Terminators, coming at you relentlessly with a crank gun, and this is not fun. Handymen and the Firemen work in a similar way – relentlessly pounding you in an unescapably. This creates lack of tactics, where the only thing you can do is fill them with bullets point blank and see who dies first. Which, in most cases, is Booker – but then you just resurrect and continue where you left off.

This in general is the main problem with Infinite. The lack of tactics and thinking things through design wise becomes noticeable the further you get. The skyrail, which sounds like a key game component, basically acts like little more than an elevator taking you from A to B. The vigours, whilst fun and interesting, get to a point where you forget to use them as plowing the bullets is easier. Elizabeth’s tear ability is fascinating and so very intriguing, but is next to useless most of the time, even though you continue to use it. It is not carried into the gameplay the way you initially hope it will. All in all the game makes you lazy.

But it is still immensely addictive and even now I cannot wait to get back on it, and to eventually play the first games in the series. The story alone is strong enough to carry you through, especially paired with the visuals, and the characterisation makes you turn a blind eye to the battle gameplay itself. Well played, Bioshock, well played. I take my hat off to you.

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A new reveal trailer has been released for the Deadpool game, being released this year on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii U. See it here:

I am so excited about this game! I hated what they did to the Merc with a Mouth back in the Wolverine film, and this game looks like they are bringing him back to his psychotic (and hilarious) personality.

The trailer looks great – just enough gameplay to keep us interesting without really revealing anything about what the game story is about. Apart from shooting people and Cable.

But the shining thing in the trailer is certainly Deadpool’s personality, which is as right as it should be. The trailer is cleverly crafted from Deadpool’s point of view, and I love how they included the conversations with himself which is what sets him apart in the actual comic. It also makes a refreshing break from the serious game trailers and the game-sold-as-movie-style-thingy we see so frequently today. A particular highlight for me was the gun noises in the shooting scenes (“pew pew”) and the interaction between weight-of-the-world Cable and Deadpool should be great – and I hope this means other characters might make appearances somewhere.

Seeing as I will be graduated when this comes out, this is a pre-warning for somebody to buy this for me. Seriously.

The first trailer, released last year, is also here:

Where on earth did Angry Birds come from? One day I was a happy 14-year-old playing Bloons on Bebo… and then something else came along and stole the internet game throne. In case you’ve been kidnapped by green pigs for the last few years, Angry Birds – at its basic – is levels of firing (angry) birds of different varieties at structures and barricades made by green pigs. The aim is to basically hit the pigs and destroy them, whilst making as much destruction as possible to gain more points.

It’s a very strange game concept, but is now so huge there is now a Star Wars version out. Which I am currently addicted to. I downloaded mine for Windows 8 for £3.49, but can be found cheaper on most other platforms (although I think at lower prices extra levels are paid for later at additional cost).

Han Solo and Chewbacca feature in the game

I had my doubts, but the game is actually worth the price. It feels well thought out and the game is in depth and will certainly take up your time. What works best for the theme is the added extras to give it the Star Wars edge. All the birds have particular moves to fit their character that mainly are not featured on other versions – such as a lightsaber attack from Luke, use of the Force from Obi Wan and Han Solo with a laser gun. Oh, and the piggies have guns too. You gain extra characters as you progress further, and R2-D2 and C3PO start off in the bonus levels.

But what makes the game interesting, and decidedly harder, is the level formats. Mainly the introduction of orbits in space. This is where you fire you bird and it enters an orbit, circling around until either gravity or an obstacle forces it to crash into the middle. Some of these orbit levels have very particular tactics that need working out, and if you just can’t get that line of fire right then you are stuck…! There is also the Darth Vader pigs, which add a further element through having to destroy Vader to deactivate his force and release hovering items, most of the time landing on explosive boxes (which is handy). These levels do not make it easy to get to Darth Vader most of time, and require a lot of trial and error to find the perfect strategy.

Overall, the game is addictive and as light-hearted as the rest of them, but I really enjoyed the added Star Wars features. One niggly thing is the lack of zooming out, which I like to do, and Luke makes an annoying noise when you fire him – but apart from that the gameplay is great. The trickier levels make the game last its worth and time, whilst the easier levels don’t make you lose faith in the game. Hopefully the upgrades will continue to bring out more sets of levels, which will add to the lasting appeal overall. The extra thought and detail to bring the Star Wars elements in fully fill out the game and the gameplay experience. The theme has been considered and not just thrown in for the cash-in, which I really like.

I would recommend this game, even if it’s just to waste time on a train journey – I couldn’t think of a better way to waste it than firing an R2-D2 shaped bird and electrocuting some smirking pigs.

Just lately, I have had a bit of a thing over Pokémon again. You might say to me, “but of course! The latest game was out this month!” And I would have to admit to you – I am currently playing my first ever Pokémon game, the Platinum version. I am a disgrace. But hear me out as we divulge down memory lane…

Jolteon graphic. Made by Rhiannon Szulc. I do not own the character

As a child of the 90’s era I am one amongst many victims of the massive Pokémon craze. Saturday mornings would not have been the same without getting up early for the latest episode and Ant and Dec’s Poke-rap on SM:TV. It was a very happy childhood. Memories of regularly trading and comparing Pokémon cards over the fence to the lad next door (the only time in my life I have really spoken to him), or drawing many pictures of various Pokémon things and saving them all in my Pikachu folder. Which I still have. Evidence:

My drawing of Charmander, Vulpix and Squirtle. Aged about 10.

Just a sample of my Pokémon collection from childhood

As you can see, my artistic talents blossomed early. I could have put in a picture involving people (my made up battle scenes a particular highlight) but I truly belive no other human being should have to witness that.

I still own all of my childhood memorabilia, it’s just buried in the depths of my cupboard. A fully functioning alarm clock, board game (both pictured above), a Pokémon index book, Pokémon Yahtzee, enough stationary to set up my own shop and Ponyta, Eeevee and Flareon wooden pictures my mum made are particular highlights. I think it will never be possible to realise how important this actually was to me when growing up. Alongside Digimon, Cardcaptors and Sailor Moon of course.

Then the games were released and initially I did all I could to boycott them. For me, Pokémon will always be the original 150 and nothing will change that and that time was when it was beginning to shift further into more than the 150. Maybe it was just bad timing, but I refuse to fully accept the new Pokémon – I will always hold firm on this. I think part of the fun was to be able to name them all, and when it gets to 600 odd you’d have to be a genius to do that.

However, about a week or so ago I decided to give the games a go, and I have to admit I am really enjoying it. I have started on the Platinum version and currently own one gym badge and four Pokémon – including a Starly named Peebles and a Zubat named Billy. I have no regrets.

Now I am in no way going back on my initial thoughts – I would still much rather play a game with the Pokémon I grew up with (and thus ones I could recite from heart) and it still stabs my heart a little when there is a Pokémon I do not recognise. It makes me feel old and neglectful. But the games are highly entertaining – I love building my little army and unleashing it on unsuspecting trainers who dare to challenge me. The game is a pure delight to play, the concept is simple but still effective, the gameplay is easy to use but still offers plenty of opportunities, and the characters make you feel happy and fuzzy when they chat all jolly to you. With so many “serious” and “epic” games out there, it’s ones like these that are the gems. These games put a smile on your face after a hard day, when you just can’t be bothered with proper video gaming. Taking a trip down memory lane, and getting away with it as a 20-year-old, is very refreshing and these games are a wonderful place to do it.

I think we should all revisit what made our childhood selves happy and recapture that. So does anyone out there have some Pokemon memories? Share them!

Vulpix – my favourite as a child. Graphic made by Rhiannon Szulc. I do not own the character.

Final Fantasy VII came out in 1997, when I was just a wee 5 years old. I could not play it, but my mum could. Whilst I spent my childhood years playing Crash Bandicoot and Mary-Kate and Ashley games, I also spent them watching my mum play the “grown up” games – including Final Fantasy VII and VIII.

Cloud from FFVII, graphic created by Rhiannon Szulc. I do not own the character.

Which means my view of these classic (and arguably the best) FF games are… peculiar. I love the games, especially VII, and agree with the majority of the gaming world in the fact that VII defined the RPG genre. The FF series exploded onto the scene with that game and brought something the Playstation may not have really seen before. I agree with all these opinions – and I haven’t even played it.

Don’t get me wrong, I did try. At the age of about 11 I attempted it myself but only got a few measly levels in before getting horribly stuck. I put it down to inexperience. Although I do indeed love FFX and X-2, where I can safely say I have played both… despite getting stuck near the endings. But that’s besides the point. I have dabbled in other, less memorable, FF games and have now started XIII since I have my PS3. I have also played the Kingdom Hearts games (these being my favourite video games) where classic FF characters were once again introduced back to me.

But I always feel like a fraud. People discuss FFVII and I join in emphatically – “yes! The best FF game! FF was all downhill from there! You can’t beat the classics!” Maybe the warm gushy feelings are just because the game was a key part of my childhood – I do not know. And since my mother eventually traded the game back at the game store (something me and my brother consider a great sin nowadays), I never got to play it later in life and find out.  It honestly hurts not to be able to say “I love Final Fantasy” with more gravitas than just childhood memories of drawing the characters.

Aerith, from FFVII. Graphic created by Rhiannon Szulc, I do not own the character.

Until now. Having just downloaded it for my PC, I can re-enter the world of Cloud and discover the game for myself. I am not very far in at all yet, but instantly you can see the achievements of the game for its time. The world that is created to play in is vast (considering the era) and thoroughly considered, and the graphics are way ahead of its time. But what stands out for me is the characters. If there’s anything that Final Fantasy does best it is its characters, and you find yourself yearning for a modern-day version with voice-overs and 3D graphics to truly bring these original people to life. You can fully see this standing its own against the likes of Skyrim if it was first released tomorrow. It is such a shame that the newer Final Fantasy games do not seem to capture the wit, ambition and overall charm of the older classics.

When I get further with the game do expect a tearful post on the terrible fate of Aerith. That haunted my young mind for years after.

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*NOTE: All graphics that are in posts & header are created by Rhiannon Szulc (i.e me!) unless stated otherwise*

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