SpongeBob’s Boating Bash Review

SpongeBob – surely everyone’s heard of him. The animated series has enjoyed huge success in the long years of their existence, and like with most other popular TV shows, that success lead to the creation of an entire merchandise, including over a dozen video games of all genres (and qualities). SpongeBob’s Boating Bash is yet another game in the SpongeBob line, this time featuring a racing theme.

Gameplay

In SpongeBob’s Boating Bash, you get to play as nine different characters from the series, including Patrick, Sandy, Squidward, and of course SpongeBob himself. There’s even a simple backstory to the game, involving SpongeBob attempting to get his driver’s license, but ultimately failing as he picked the wrong school. All of the characters have been represented true to their originals, and each comes with its own uniquely-designed car.

The game is very hectic and fast-paced, with traditional elements from arcade racing games. The AI has been developed especially well, always offering you a challenge even on the easier modes of play (which we’re not sure is that good of a thing, actually). If you’re playing on the Wii, you can use the Steering Wheel controller with SpongeBob’s Boating Bash, as it’s fully supported and compatible.

Graphics and System Requirements

We wouldn’t call SpongeBob’s Boating Bash exactly spectacular in its graphics – it’s a common problem for games designed after cartoon shows to look odd and slightly distorted, as animated characters never truly fit in a 3D environment, no matter how much the developers may try. This is valid for this title as well, though it’s also evident that the devs have been sweating hard over bringing the characters as close as possible to the originals.

The Nintendo DS version has been reported for having some odd issues such as long loading times, but nothing game-breaking or too serious, so it shouldn’t deter you from trying it out in any case. The artistic style of the levels is varied enough and each can be instantly recognized if you’ve played the game for a few times.

Other

There’s a multiplayer component to SpongeBob’s Boating Bash, but at the beginning you won’t have access to absolutely everything – you’ll have to complete the singleplayer campaign fully before every option is made available to you for online play. It shouldn’t take you that long though, and if you’re having problems with the AI you can always “cheat” and turn down the difficulty (which, as we mentioned above, does surprisingly little in this game, but the difference is still noticeable).

Conclusion

Fans of SpongeBob will either love this, or choose to ignore it given the abundance of SpongeBob-branded games in recent times. Even if you’re not a follower of the franchise though, the game should still give you a few entertaining hours as a racer title.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth Review

The Ace Attorney series by Capcom has managed to gather quite a respectable fanbase, and the newest one – counting at number five – “Miles Edgeworth” – has so far lived up to the success of its predecessors. It doesn’t directly follow the story from where the previous game left off as you might expect though – actually, it reveals what happened between the third game, “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations” and the fourth, “Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney”.

Gameplay

The player controls the character of Miles Edgeworth, and the game is played similarly to the others in the series – it’s a rather simplistic adventure with a point-and-click interface, where you have to go around the various scenes, collect items, and figure out how to use them in combination with other items. When investigating crimes, you have to figure out the three basic aspects between them – suspect, method of execution and the motive behind it. The dialog is very well-written and varies depending on your choices – and the characters are developed quite well, too.

The cross-examination from the previous games is gone – there are now “rebuttal” phases, which will be combined with the regular investigation phases for every crime you’re solving, forcing you to think differently in both situations. Don’t worry though, rebuttals aren’t that different from how cross-examinations worked, and in them you’ll simply have to talk to various characters in a direct manner, presenting them with the results of your work on the investigation so far. If you’re good enough and have collected sufficient evidence for the crime, you may be able to get out a confession early on – though it takes some practice and experience to get that right.

Graphics and System Requirements

For an adventure, AAI:ME’s graphics are more or less fine – they’re nothing outstanding, but fans of Japanese art will surely enjoy the various scenes, especially some of the dialog parts. In some cases, to give an extra dramatic edge to a scene, the game may use still images instead of the standard animation, and we’d say it works out quite nicely to set the overall atmosphere for those special scenes.

For an NDS game, it pulls off great framerates, and despite the relatively small screens, you should be able to see plenty of detail in all of the scenes you’ll be exploring.

Other

The game suffers from some control difficulties, and you may have to get used to the odd control scheme if you’re a newcomer to the series. Using the touchscreen to move the character around is definitely an art of its own, but once you’ve gotten used to it, you shouldn’t feel so negative about the choice of controls.

Conclusion

The new installment in the Ace Attorney series is an absolute gem in every aspect – a varied game with enough dialog to keep you thinking, and a learning curve that gradually rises, enough to let you learn smoothly.

All Points Bulletin Review

Ever wanted to play GTA online? No, we’re not talking about those unofficial mods that let you gather up with a few of your friends and chase each other on motorcycles. You’ve probably wished for it at some point – a full-blown online GTA, with hundreds of other players in the town, and perhaps a MMO system to make the world persistent? Say no more! All Points Bulletin, the next big thing from Realtime Worlds, has been developed with that kind of gameplay in mind exactly!

Gameplay

We already said that APB is pretty much a MMORPG version of GTA, and it really is just that – though with lots of improvements over GTA’s gameplay in order to cope with the massively multiplayer world. You can choose to join various sides which are constantly in wars, customize your character in a completely unique way, even forming gangs of similarly-styled soldiers (one of the trailers for example shows a gang of punks versus a trio of guys that looked like they just came back from shooting up some cops in “Reservoir Dogs”). Of course, there’s a great emphasis on vehicle action, and just like in GTA you can hijack random vehicles from the streets, engage in drive-bys and adrenaline-pumping chase scenes.

The combat system is very flexible, and you’ll have to think out of the box to be successful in APB – forget about ducking behind a crate and popping up only to empty your magazine – in APB, this is only effective until someone decides to ram their truck in said box – which, we assure you, will happen before you’ve even considered it as an option. The streets are chaotic, and with over 100 players in a single town you can have some massive shootouts, even playing on the side of the police if you wanted. The total world consists of over 100,000 players split into towns, so you can imagine the overall feeling the game produces.

Graphics and System Requirements

Yet another title on the Unreal Engine 3, Realtime Worlds have made numerous modifications to the engine to help it handle the large worlds better. It performs very well in drawing the huge cities and the various detailed vehicles and players with all their customization options. The city skyline looks beautiful as you’re cruising around with your gang in another stolen vehicle, and of course the combat parts of the game see the most attention to detail, with large explosions and lots of special effects.

Other

The game sadly requires a monthly fee to play – your initial purchase of the game itself only gives you about 50 free hours, after which you’ll have to pay up and subscribe. But seriously, there’s no room for even wondering here – no other game can offer you a similar experience right now, so the price is more than justified.

Conclusion

APB should definitely see lots of success. It’s already proving to be highly popular among players, and some of the innovations it brought to the genre will surely become a staple of it.

Anno 1404 Review

Starting with Anno 1602, the Anno series has been a highly successful one, spanning over several games so far. They tend to be popular mainly among fans of the genre though, so if you don’t play city building games often, you may not be familiar with the franchise.

The Anno series is all about designing a successful empire, while attempting to keep peace with (or eradicate) the other nations around you. Each Anno game has been set in a different time period, visible in the title – and Anno 1404 is the “oldest” one so far.

Gameplay

For a city building strategy game, Anno 1404 offers a remarkably interesting plot, which we’d spoil by touching even on the surface – but it would suffice to say that you’ll encounter mysterious plots and conspiracies, things which you don’t normally see in games of this genre. The city building element prevails through the majority of the game, as you’ll have to expand your colonies and develop newer and better technology.

Initially, you’ll only have access to technology needed to move your cities forward – however, at some point you’ll be able to start building combat technology, which is where things get serious – you’ll have to decide which of your neighbours are your friends and which should be dealt with, and manage your strategy accordingly.

The game features a very fine element of balance in this regard, as the player’s choices of alliance early on in the game can have a huge impact on the final outcome of the scene at hand – this adds an extra layer of replayability, as you’re always left to wonder what would’ve happened if you had wiped out that guy you considered a threat instead of siding with him.

Graphics and System Requirements

Anno 1404 offers some beautiful graphics – the cities have some impressively detailed buildings, the style of architecture is very neat, and the natural parts of the environment look really great as well – you can see some small bits of detail if you just look around the mountains and hills. The overall Oriental theme of the game gives it a unique setting, and as with the previous Annos, it feels like a completely new experience just because of that.

Despite being able to run on just 1GB of RAM and a DX9-capable video card with at least 128 MB of memory, Anno 1404 still requires a fairly capable CPU for some reason – you’ll need at least 3GHz of processing power to run it smoothly, especially when you get to the combat part which can put extra strain on the CPU due to the heavy use of particle effects and such.

Other

Anno 1404 still offers no multiplayer, which has been a commonly requested feature by fans of the series. Still, the single player should keep you well interested for long enough, and even after you’re finished with the campaign you’ll probably have a good desire to come back and do it once again, this time trying out different things.

Conclusion

Another solid installment in the Anno series, Anno 1404 proves that its developers are far from running out of ideas and should keep fans of the series satisfied for a good while.

Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines Review

Assassin’s Creed was received very positively when it came out, mainly due to its original premise. The game follows a modern-day experiment on the mind of a person alleged to be the ancestor of a famous historic assassin, in an attempt by scientists to recover the assassin’s memories and find out how certain events happened in humanity’s timeline.

In a gameplay somewhat similar to the infamous Hitman series, only set in a medieval setting, Assassin’s Creed was universally loved by gamers. Bloodlines brings the game to the PSP, and continues its story shortly after the events of the first game left off.

Gameplay

The player once again follows the exploits of Altair, tasked with eliminating various figures in his time. Those of you who’ve played the original Assassin’s Creed will probably be familiar with the premise of the gameplay. You’ll have to first identify your target (often by seeking them out in a busy crowd), then stealthily make your way to them, execute them and get out without getting caught. Of course, it’s never as easy as it sounds, as the game does its best to stop you from completing your goals, by throwing devious AI mercenaries in your way.

The gameplay mechanics have been changed from the last installment in the series, “Altair’s Chronicles”, and are much more similar to how the first game was played. You’re no longer restricted to a linear gameplay, instead given the freedom to explore the game’s world as you see fit, and approach your targets from original directions. You can once again take cover in various everyday objects, such as diving in a stack of hay to avoid getting detected by a passing group of soldiers.

Graphics and System Requirements

Bloodlines improves Altair’s looks somewhat, at least to the extent that a portable console allows the developers to – the character has received a new dose of details, mainly on the clothing, and his animations now look more fluid (which is an achievement in itself, considering the original AC was praised specifically for the thousands of different animations the character used). The world is as large as ever, and the game draws it very far away – the engine isn’t limited to a short rendering distance as most PSP games are.

The smaller screen may give you a few problems when you’re trying to identify your target in a crowded area, but the “aura” skill makes it a lot easier – you’ll just have to find out where the glow is coming from. All of the important objects have been detailed extensively and stand out from the rest of the environment at one glance.

Other

If you own a PS3, make sure you connect your PSP to it at some point. This will give you access to several new unlockable weapons, which can only be found in this manner.

Conclusion

A decent continuation to a great game, Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines could only use some improvement in its plot and short gameplay time, and it would be a perfect game.

My experience with DO is very bad.

Administrator can ban you from chat or user forum for more days without any warning or noticing just because of two letters in name e.g. (in my case BA= Bratislava) or for copying one Wikipedia page at user forum (30day ban) when arguing about that “BIG” should be added to The Rules, so users can recognize, it’s a “crucial personal information”, they cannot mention in chat (or 7days ban).

Administrators (CZ/SK) use sweard words in replies to users i.e. “an*l alpinism” or “as*-crawler”, etc. If user asks to get any explanation of The Rules admins often ignore him or block him on user’s forum.

In chat (even in “prime-time” 8:00-11:00PM) is often a rude language, abuse and insulting seen. Children can join this “trash talk” without any problems.

Ambiguous or faulty rules are hard to find from the main screen (but you’ll find game features easily). There’s no list of penalties mentioned in The Rules, so it’s a pure administrator’s “free-style”.

So if you’re calm, asking for nothing just paying for Uridium, everything is fine. But if you are at the top with ship equipment (no much further fees expected?) or mention any technical problems with your ship in chat, troubles begin (jeer, ban, blocking, ignoring…). My advice is, be very carefull, if your consider to start with Dark Orbit!!!

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

Games based on the Batman series have been hit-and-miss, as is the case with most movie/comic book-based video games. The newest one, Arkham Asylum though, immediately made an impression even before it was released – the amount of polish that was thrown in the game’s pre-release media made it obvious that this one has been designed a bit more carefully and sensibly. Batman fans and video game fans alike were, naturally, very excited about the upcoming release of the title.

Gameplay

Batman: Arkham Asylum puts the player in the feet of our favorite comic book character, who’s on the trail of his arch nemesis the Joker yet again. The game is played from a third person perspective, and is a combination of action and stealth – there are scenes where you’ll be mopping the floor with your enemies, reliving your favorite scene from a Batman movie in your head, but at some other points of the game, you’ll be forced to lay low and sneak behind your enemies’ backs if you are to survive.

It wouldn’t have a true Batman feeling if it wasn’t packed full of gadgets though – Batman: Arkham Asylum gives you access to a small arsenal of unique high-tech toys made by Batman himself, including the all-famous Batarang. The Riddler makes a cameo in several places as well, leaving the player clues to guide them through the levels. You’ll have to solve some puzzles from time to time, though nothing too challenging – and the main focus is on the action and stealth elements. Also, you have access to a “Detective Mode”, which is sometimes required in order to progress through a specific area.

Graphics and System Requirements

The developers have utilized the latest Unreal Engine 3.5, spicing it up with some PhysX support (those of you who’ve got a PhysX component in their computer should enjoy a lot more eye candy and better framerates). The game looks terrific, mimicking the noir feeling of the movies and comic books almost perfectly. The asylum has been designed with lots of imagination – even though it’s a cliched, beaten-to-death setting for creepy games, it still feels fresh in this one.

Arm yourself with at least a 2.8 GHZ dual core processor and 3 GB of RAM, plus an ATi HD 4770 or better if you want to fully enjoy this game though – it is quite heavy on the computer and will make it cringe in the heavier scenes if you’re not prepared accordingly.

Other

If you’re playing on a console and not on the PC, you sadly won’t get to enjoy the PhysX effects, as they’re PC-exclusive. You won’t be missing out on that much though, mostly small details like leaves floating around, pieces of clothing getting torn apart realistically, etc – certainly nothing that’s absolutely necessary to experience the game in its fullest.

Conclusion

Batman fans who haven’t played this yet better take a few days off and hit the couch with the joystick – because once you’ve started up Batman: Arkham Asylum for the first time, it can be pretty damn hard to let go.

Battlefield: Heroes Review

If you’re a fan of shooters, you’ve most likely played at least one Battlefield title in your lifetime – the games are known for providing intense warfare-style action, with each being set in a unique time period. The first BF took place in World War 2, followed by Battlefield: Vietnam and then Battlefield 2 which took the game to our current times making references to the war in Iraq.

Many fans were wondering where the series was headed for next, and certainly very few people expected this – Battlefield: Heroes is completely different from the previous ones in every way you can imagine.

Gameplay

The first thing you’re going to notice is the art style – the game is no longer realistically-themed like its predecessors, instead featuring a bright cartoony look – more on that in detail below. Another drastic change is that it’s completely free to play – it came out in roughly the same period as id Software’s Quake Live, another free-to-play title, and provided some healthy competition for it.

In BFH, you can create an account and start shooting up the place without having to pay a cent – however, if you want to get access to some of the cool-looking character customization parts, you’ll have to buy some “BattleFunds”, which cost real money.

Don’t worry though – cosmetic attributes are pretty much all money can get you, and they don’t give you any in-game advantage. The other thing you can spend your cash on are stronger variants of some of the weapons, but those can be bought with “Valor Points” as well, which you earn for free by just playing – the only difference is that buying them with BF frees you from having to play a certain number of hours a week in order to earn enough VP to keep them.

Graphics and System Requirements

Battlefield: Heroes is extremely stylized, featuring a vibrant and colorful art style. Some criticized it for looking too similar to Valve’s Team Fortress 2, but just a few looks at media from both games is enough for anyone to see the obvious difference – besides looking cartoony, the two have nothing in common and their styles are very unique. Battlefield: Heroes is a lot more cheerful and less serious than TF2, offering such items for customization like pirate and ninja clothes, stylish suits, jetpacks (cosmetic only) and even shoulder parrots.

Even though the game makes a heavy reference to World War 2 (for example, the two main sides are the Royals, who resemble the Allies very much, and the Nationals, who’re an obvious reference to the Nazis), its action takes place in a fictional setting, allowing the designers to include lots of items that don’t tie in with the WW2 period at all. The engine is extremely lightweight and the game runs at high framerates even on a notebook – which, combined with the fact that it’s free, makes it extremely available and in turn very popular.

Other

If you find BFH enjoyable and decide to stick around (which isn’t that hard, believe us), make sure you keep an eye out for special promotional codes which are distributed in various outlets (for example, gaming magazines) – they give you access to exclusive, limited items that can’t be obtained by any other means – make your friends jealous!

Conclusion

You literally have nothing to lose by giving Battlefield: Heroes a try, but be careful – just a few hours of comically crashing airplanes into enemy tanks can be enough to make you pull out your wallet and play dress-up with your soldier!

ArmA 2 Review

ArmA 2 is the sequel to ArmA: Armed Assault, and for those of you who haven’t heard of the title, it’s a military shooter that puts a strong accent on realism. The new game in the series raises the bar even further when it comes to realistically depicting the situation on a battlefield, and gives the player even more freedom of choice for completing the missions.

Gameplay

The single player campaign takes place in a fictional country with a modern-day setting, and spans over a small number of missions that can be completed in several hours by more experienced players. Most of the enjoyment from this title comes from its online play, which has been emphasized on very heavily. The game is very varied and realistic, offering more than 70-80 different weapons, each replicas of their real-life counterparts almost down to the bolt. Their behavior is simulated on a very good level as well, with bullets losing their speed over a long trajectory, forcing the player to “lead” their shots over distance.

There are also lots of vehicles available to the player at any time as well, ranging from civilian ones to military vehicles like tanks and jeeps, and even airplanes at some points. This may sound too similar to the Battlefield series for some, but you must play with ArmA 2′s vehicles to see what realism in a military game really means – the way they’re depicted is really impressive.

Graphics and System Requirements

The Real Virtuality 3 engine used isn’t very popular with developers, and there are only a handful of games using it. Still, it offers great graphics quality, especially when it comes to rendering particle effects, support for textures of very high resolutions and various grades of depth mapping, and also high-polygon models that give a sense of realism to everything.

The engine is highly optimized too, able to run on some older machines that would normally struggle with games of this age – if you lower your graphics settings appropriately, of course. The major bottleneck here seems to be the processor, which the engine is very demanding on – so if you want to get the most out of it and enjoy it with good, stable framerates, maybe you should consider investing in a better processor if your current one isn’t up to par.

Other

Those of you who enjoy mods (modifications for games) should find ArmA 2 to be quite delightful in this aspect, as it gives a great degree of freedom to modders, and the community is constantly coming out with new content for it, which attributes to the game’s longevity to a great extent and in case you get bored with the regular modes of play, you can just hop in a random mod and experience the game in a different manner.

Conclusion

Military shooters are quite numerous today – and some of the new ones seem to just tread on the same old roads, trying to milk gamers of their money by adding several new weapons and calling it a new game – and in that situation, ArmA 2 really shines with its uniqueness.

Bionic Commando Review

The newest Bionic Commando revives the series through a multitude of changes and improvements to the gameplay, the most notable of which was dropping the 2D sidescrolling premise and developing the game entirely in 3D. The final result is quite pleasing, as the game offers a delightful mix of action, adventure and exploration, while keeping the good, old-school platformer feeling despite no longer being confined to two dimensions.

Gameplay

Bionic Commando is played in 3D, with the character having various abilities that allow him to traverse the terrain with ease – the most notable of which is his “bionic arm”, which is primarily used for attacking but can also serve various other nifty purposes. To keep with the platformer style of play, falling damage has been completely removed, which has been explained by the character’s specialized boots. Some of the levels’ elements are designed to keep you moving along the main path, as otherwise the game could’ve become too non-linear, which wouldn’t have fit its style that well.

The storyline is a major aspect of Bionic Commando, and it’s been developed very deeply and intricately, managing to keep you guessing until the very end. The end of the game (we wouldn’t really count this as a spoiler) hints at a possible sequel, but nothing has been officially confirmed by the developers yet – so we guess we’ll have to wait and see about that, but if they manage to continue the story in an interesting enough way, they have our thumbs up for this.

Graphics and System Requirements

The game runs on the company’s own engine, called Diesel Engine – so far it’s only been featured in a handful of games, and Bionic Commando seems to represent it best so far – the advanced graphic effects can draw you to the screen with ease, and the level designers have really done their jobs well – the environments are rich and believable, and you feel truly immersed in the world that surrounds you, unlike what some other games achieve when they go for a linear plot.

In order to handle all this eye candy properly though, you’ll need the proper equipment if you’re a PC gamer – a relatively good computer is required to run Bionic Commando smoothly, and the engine isn’t particularly well-optimized for low-end hardware, so even though you can change a few graphics settings, you’ll still be left with mostly low framerates if your machine is a few years old.

Other

Be sure to give the multiplayer a go – it includes some of the classic game modes, like free for all deathmatch and team-based modes, and if you get bored after you’re done with the single player campaign, this should keep you interested for a good while afterwards.

Conclusion

Some of you may be a bit disappointed that they’re losing the sidescrolling aspect of the game – others will surely welcome the change and the innovations to the gameplay. Regardless of how you see the new style of gameplay, make sure you give Bionic Commando a try.