Metacritic’s Best Games of January 2016

The Best Games of January 2016

Game reviews and scores aren’t the only way to determine if a game is right for you. You could find a trusted site or reviewer and get their insights, but most of us prefer our family and friends’ recommendations. That being said, I’m always interested in reading what the “critics” have to say about media. I regularly visit Rotten Tomatoes for summaries of movie & TV reviews. In some cases, it might influence my viewing decisions, but usually I’m just curious what people are saying about a movie or show I’ve already seen or am planning to see.

The same thing applies to games. While review scores shouldn’t be the only factor in a purchase decision, there are some positive things to garner from reading reviews. What are the major gaming outlets saying? What games have I ignored that might be worth looking into?

MetacriticMetacritic takes a collection of scores from a wide variety of outlets and assigns each game a score average. Does that mean that a game with a Metacritic rating of 80 is a better game than one with a 70 rating? Maybe – but not necessarily. In my experience, however, I tend to agree (within 10-15 points or so) with most Metacritic scores.

When they released their list of top movies, music, and games for January 2016, there were a few surprises. Let’s take a look at what the top 5 games were for each platform in the month of January! Continue reading “Metacritic’s Best Games of January 2016”

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Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China Review

Just Misses The Mark (of the Ninja)

See what I did there? The obvious comparison for Ubisoft’s side-scrolling stealth-action game is 2012’s Mark of the Ninja from Klei Entertainment. Unfortunately for Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, this comparison sets the bar way too high – out of reach, actually. Check out some of the reviews for Mark of the Ninja on Metacritic to get an idea of how well-regarded it is.)

Before you start thinking that this is bad game, however,  Continue reading “Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China Review”

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Reviewing The Uncharted Collection – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

As far as I’m concerned, the Uncharted games were brand new experiences since I completely skipped out on the PS3 (listen to our opening podcast episode to find out why). The first two games were so good, and I couldn’t wait to fire up the 3rd entry, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Feel free to check out my thoughts on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as well!

How does it stack up? Read on…

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

The bar has been set ridiculously high, thanks to the masterful execution of Uncharted 2. How could a sequel improve on the story, characters, and gameplay that were already top-notch? As it turns out, they didn’t really Continue reading “Reviewing The Uncharted Collection – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception”

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Why We Need Games Like “The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter”

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

This past weekend, there was a Flash Sale on the Playstation Store, so I grabbed a few games – most notably, “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” for $8.00. I thought it would be a cool little story with puzzle akin to a TellTale Studios game.

I had no idea how incredible and unique this game experience would be.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Most games I play are fast, loud, and dynamic experiences: open world adventure games, action games and shooters, action-adventure games with large set pieces.  I don’t typically slow down for a contemplative mystery game, but in this case, I’m really thankful that I did.

We need games like this. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter doesn’t hold your hand with a tutorial or a mini-map with objective markers. It provides you with just enough to get started, and then it leaves you to figure it out. It challenges our perception of a what a “game” is, and Continue reading “Why We Need Games Like “The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter””

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Reviewing The Uncharted Collection – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Since I completely skipped out on the PS3 (listen to our opening podcast episode to find out why), I’ve been able to enjoy the Uncharted series as a completely fresh game experience. Playing through these games felt like binge-watching a show on Netflix. I didn’t have to wait until the next season to find out what happens next!

These games really are unique from each other, so I’m breaking down my thoughts on each of them in separate posts. Check out my Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune reaction here. 

Now, let’s see how Among Thieves holds up…

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Nathan Drake has returned, and this time, he brought more variety to the gameplay! Uncharted 2 takes the formula established by its predecessor and improves on it in every way.

Continue reading “Reviewing The Uncharted Collection – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”

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Reviewing The Uncharted Collection – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

During the last generation of game consoles, I focused my time on the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. I completely skipped out on the PS3 (listen to our opening podcast episode to find out why).

Here we are in 2016, and I finally own a Sony console again. I’m thrilled with the PS4, and I’m glad to see games from last generation get another shot at life on this system. I spent some time this holiday season playing through the widely-acclaimed Uncharted series, and it exceeded my expectations in nearly every way. Since each entry is a separate experience, let’s break it down game-by-game:

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

The first question I want to answer is this: Does it still hold up today? The short answer is: Yes… mostly.

Continue reading “Reviewing The Uncharted Collection – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune”

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What I’m Playing – Aaru’s Awakening

A rough night’s sleep.

Aaru's Awakening PS4

Aaru’s Awakening is a beautiful game. The developers used hand-drawn visuals to create a stunning experience. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t meet the high standards set by the impressive imagery. It’s a very challenging game rendered nearly impossible by a control scheme that never feels quite right. I love the concept behind the teleport ability, and it makes for some very creative level design. As the game progresses, it demands such precise aim and movement that the controls become a hindrance. Perhaps it’s the way I’ve been trained to play games for the past 28 years, but the left shoulder button is not the ideal input for jumping.

Aaru's Awakening PS4

The weak-willed need not apply.

If you have PS Plus, you can get this game for free until the end of April. If you don’t, this one is worth a look if you see it for a discounted price. Keep in mind: the difficulty is real. I was reminded of games like OlliOlli and Trials when I played this game. For those who are up for a challenging puzzle-platformer, this might be for you. For the rest of you… Just look at the pretty screen shots and then move on.

Aaru's Awakening PS4

Aaru's Awakening PS4

Aaru's Awakening PS4

Head over to Bruised Thumbs for my full review of Aaru’s Awakening.

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What I’m Playing – CounterSpy

Stealth Action Goodness.

I should preface this by saying I love stealth games. There have been some great additions to the list of 2-D stealth games in particular. Mark of the Ninja, Stealth Inc., and Gunpoint were some of my favorites in recent memory. When I saw that CounterSpy was a Playstation Plus freebie, I downloaded it right away. Little did I know that it was one of the slickest games I’ve seen in a while.

CounterSpy PS4

The game looks really nice from a distance. Good news: a lot of the game is played from a distance. It’s a side-scrolling 2-D stealth game, and it looks the part. The guards smoothly patrol from side to side, and when they spot you, they quickly find cover and start firing and lobbing grenades. It all looks very slick…until it zooms in. The angles of the polygons don’t work as well up close. A good portion of the game is spent behind cover, so you’ll be zooming in quite often. To be fair there were only a few moments that looked flat-out ugly (the guards faces just look… wrong), but it took a little something away from the cool vibe this game has.

CounterSpy PS4

Continue reading “What I’m Playing – CounterSpy”

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What I’m Playing – Knack

Knack is underrated.

Knack is NOT an amazing game. Some of the criticism it has received about its simplistic and repetitive combat is warranted (if not over-emphasized). Despite its flaws, Knack holds up as a solid action-adventure title.

Knack - PS4
“Say something about my simple combat again. To my face.”

 Visuals

From the opening scene, it’s evident that this game couldn’t run on a last-gen system. It looks like a Pixar or Dreamworks movie brought to life, and it maintains a steady frame rate throughout. On more than one occasion I found myself pausing to enjoy the use of vibrant colors and creative character design.

Continue reading “What I’m Playing – Knack”

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What I’m Playing – Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Valiant Hearts 1

A real war story

A young husband is a new dad, and he living in peace on a farm owned by his father-in-law. That imagery is instantly shattered by the arrival of German soldiers who forcefully enlist him into service. His wife screams and reaches for him as he is pulled away – the cries of his newborn son echo as he disappears from view. The father-in-law does his best to comfort his daughter and grandson, but he receives word that he has also been called to serve in the war… Continue reading “What I’m Playing – Valiant Hearts: The Great War”

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