Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Update: Noodle's Blog Reaches its Second Year Running!

31st of January 2010. Two years ago today, at the time I post this. It was on that oh-so special day that I kick-started the journalistic legacy I call Noodle's Blog with a very minor bang in the form of two admittedly poor-quality posts. One was an introductory piece, announcing the sort of things I'd be writing and posting on this site. The other was the first game review I ever wrote. Both of these pieces were admittedly rather embarrassing when I look back on them. They quite literally scream poor grammar, pathetic spelling and unbearably bad overall quality. What a way to start was is now a well-received, and apparently well-written place in which I post my journalism, eh? It's become apparent that I've clearly made a significant improvement when it comes to writing over the past two years, and it certainly seems to have paid off in terms of the statistics this blog receives. 34 followers may not seem like a lot in comparison to other sites, but you can trust me in saying that I never expected to get more than quite literally a few when I first started out. This site has also amassed a fairly ridiculous 11,511 views and counting, far more than I would've expected to get in a whole decade, let alone two years! So yeah, it's safe to say that I'm pretty glad I started out this semi-career in non-profit writing and it has definitely been nothing but a success in terms of the praise I receive for doing so, but you ain't seen nothing yet. This party's just getting started...

You'll discover my final verdict on Skyward Sword very soon in the form of a review, but what position will it grab in my Top Ten Favourite Games Feature, if any? I'm not spoiling anything...
What do I mean by this, you ask? Well, good sir-stroke-madam, what I'm implying with this cheesy statement is that you and hopefully many others are going to see some big things posted here on the blog in the gargantuan year that is 2012. Some I've mentioned before, some I haven't and am planning on mentioning within the next few sentences of this oh-so special update. First off, let's talk Features. Obviously, two big ones I have planned are My Top Ten Personal Favourite Games and My Top 25 No More Heroes Bosses, the latter of which is still very much in the works, slowly. Don't let this get you down, though. The piece I've promised for just over a whole year (again, I'm sorry about the delays, but I felt I needed more practice at writing before working on such a massive feature) will be posted in two parts this year, the first of which you'll definitely be able to read within the next few months. Controversial as it is, the topic of my ten favourite games will also be posted within that time-frame, although it's still in the process of planning at this moment in time. Without a doubt, this is the hardest list I could possibly put together, but that doesn't mean I'm not trying! Something I haven't discussed previously in the form of a Feature is yet another countdown, namely my personal list of the Top Ten Best Monsters in Monster Hunter Tri (unless I rename it to something slightly more creative, that is). The title of this Feature pretty much speaks for itself, and again, it will definitely be posted later in the year. Finally, you'll find that My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2012 will have been posted within the next few days, like some kind of annual tradition here on the blog.

I simply can't deny the fact that PS2 RPG Persona 4 has practically taken over my life. You'll see a review of it here on the blog in good time!

Moving on to the subject of reviews. I've gotten a bit ahead of myself when it comes to this category, I won't lie. On top of the review I promised a little while ago, detailing my opinion of the absolutely magical Wii title that goes by the name of none other than The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, you'll be seeing at least a further five reviews from my perspective over the course of the year, all of which I can announce right now. In case you hadn't realised the obvious fact that all of my top ten favourite games won't be exclusive to Nintendo systems, the blog is going multi-platform, and I've got two fantastic Playstation 2 games set to be reviewed very soon. The first of these is Persona 4, a little-known PS2 RPG that has pretty much taken over my life since November of last year (not literally). The quality of this game is extremely high, and I promise with all my heart that I'll begin reviewing it as soon as I've hit the end credits. The other non-Nintendo game I plan on reviewing very soon is one I already finished in the summer holidays of last year: Kingdom Hearts 2. I can say that this one game made my six weeks off last year, and it should be fun to boot it up once more and unleash my opinion of it in the form of a review. Back to Nintendo games, I have some kind of 3DS Mario double-whammy incoming. When you read the words '3DS' and 'Mario', if you didn't think of the games Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land, well, some thing's going on in that brain of yours. Both of these titles are some of the best you can find on Nintendo's latest handheld, as is Resident Evil Revelations, the game I've praised time and time again on this blog. You'll be seeing my final word-based opinion of it soon. I'm saying 'soon' quite a lot, aren't I? Perhaps you'd like more specific times? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but I'm going to have to refuse. And this, my trusted readers, is where I shall take my leave. Before I stop writing and get this update posted, however, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine. Well, not you specifically, more the people who didn't bother reading the last two paragraphs. In the 'Incoming Posts Round-Up', you'll find all the things I announced in this update packed into one confined space. Convenient, no? Expect to see it in future updates, too...

Incoming Posts Round-Up
Top 25 No More Heroes Bosses [Parts 1 and 2]
My Top Ten Personal Favourite Games
Top Ten Best Monsters in Monster Hunter Tri
Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Review: Persona 4
Review: Kingdom Hearts 2
Review: Resident Evil Revelations
Review: Super Mario 3D Land
Review: Mario Kart 7

...And that's pretty much everything! My word, that's a lot of reviews, ain't it? I won't have to do another update for quite a while, that's for sure. Anyhow, look forward to all these lovely posts and more, keep reading, and feel free to follow if you haven't already and are interested in my work!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Preview: Will Resident Evil Revelations be the First Stellar Game of 2012?

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll no doubt know that I'm a big Resident Evil fan. Resident Evil: Revelations is without a doubt one of my most anticipated games at this moment in time, and with just a week to go until the title is unleashed on UK shelves, my anticipation levels have piqued. We've known about this game for quite a long time, a hefty year and a half to be more precise, and honestly a lot of this time waiting for Revelations from my point of view has involved high levels of caution. Like an anti-bioterror operative cautiously opening a door slowly with hopes of not finding a disgusting, mutated creature upon entry, I've been waiting for the next big Resident Evil title without getting my hopes up, and for good reason. While you should know that I thoroughly enjoyed the series' last instalment on 3DS, The Mercenaries 3D, judging from my review late last year, there's absolutely no getting past the fact that from a development standpoint that escapade was handled rather poorly. And it's for this reason that I've been anticipating Revelations with caution, hoping that the game wouldn't end up as messy as the guts of a virus-infected sea monster. Luckily, judging from both reviews and the recent demo version made available to 3DS owners across the world, Revelations is anything but a flop or any other negative description you can think of. What the next game in the horror mediums biggest franchise is truly set to be is an absolutely fantastic release, and potentially the first stellar game of the new year.

Seeing as we'll be waiting under 168 hours (that's one whole week, kids) for the release Resident Evil: Revelations here in the UK, I've decided to write up one final preview post on the game before moving on to a possible First Impressions piece and again, a possible review. This preview will be taking a look at three separate things; The recently released demo which gave us a chance to try out a small segment of the final game, as well as all of the stuff we haven't played in the form of the game's campaign and extra Raid Mode. So, how about we get this started?

Resident Evil Revelations: The Best Resi Since 4?
Resident Evil: Revelations, in terms of the main story mode, is set to be somewhat of a return to the classic Resident Evil style albeit in a modern Resi 4 and beyond-esque shell. What I mean by this is that, while action is still evident in the game, scares and horror have more of a focus in this title than any of the more recent titles like the fourth and fifth games. After my 3DS took about two hours to download the demo of the game, I finally had a chance to try it out for myself and my, oh my, has it improved since that 'Pilot Version' we saw in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. There's a lot to talk about regarding this demo, so let's cut straight to the punch: You, as Jill Valentine, have just awoken on a bed with little memory of how you ended up there, with only words such as "What" and "Where" to describe how you feel. I've already mentioned the Matt Berry lookalike we know as Parker Luciani when talking about the game in past posts, so it's nice to see the guy make a vocal appearance almost straight away in the demo through calling the awoken Jill, telling her that they've got to re-group. All while this call is taking place, you're free to wonder around the room, taking in the gorgeous visuals that impress so much more than Mercenaries 3D, making it clear that a less action-orientated approach has major benefits in the graphics department.

Slightly blurry screenshot aside, Revelations is an absolute stunner. I'd go as far as saying that this game is the best looking game to see release on Nintendo's handheld so far, which is an impressive feat on Capcom's behalf.
As it turns out Jill has found herself, locked-in no less, in the guest cabin of the Queen Zenobia cruise ship in which the main bulk of Revelations takes place. Trust me though, this is anything but a luxury cruise liner, that's for sure. After solving a quick puzzle to find a screwdriver that will help you escape from the room, the first scare comes into play in the form of an introduction to the game's main enemy design. This disgusting beast leaps out of a wardrobe in the guest room, leaving you with no option other than to neutralise it with the only weapon you have; a feeble handgun. The enemies in Revelations appear to have a vaguely aquatic feel to them, which fits in with the underwater-style theme. This particular enemy tries to suck out Jill's blood by extending an eel-like creature out of what can only be described as its mouth and latching onto the protagonist's neck, not to mention the fact that when defeated, it sinks into the ground like when that witch from The Wizard of Oz melts, bar a cheesy "I'm melting!" to ease the tension. Many have been calling the enemy designs lazy, but honestly, they're no less innovative than the regular old zombies or virus-infected humans from past Resident Evil games. On top of this, the aquatic Ooze, as they're apparently called, aren't the only enemies we'll be seeing in Revelations despite them being the only ones you'll find in the demo.

Meet BSAA operatives Quint and Keith. I'm fairly certain one of these guys is voiced by the same man who does the male celebrity impersonations on South Park.
The game itself plays great, if not a whole lot differently from Mercenaries 3D. However, a number of new features have been implemented into this title exclusively, such as a nifty if difficult to pull off dodge mechanic and the interesting Supply Scanner tool. I'll start off with the former; By quickly swerving the circle pad in a semi-circular motion just after an enemy begins to attack, Jill proceeds to perform a slick and suave dodge around the enemy's back where she's safe from turning into fish food for a number of seconds. While this quirk requires pitch-perfect timing and a certain degree of luck, it's wholly satisfying to pull off and looks like it'll be extremely useful in tight situations. Now, there's the matter of the Supply Scanner, a gadget that can be equipped in order to find hidden items through scanning certain areas of a room. It's a nice addition that is entirely optional, but oh-so useful. This device can also be used to scan the many enemies you come across, in turn adding to a percentage that grants you an extra Green Herb when 100% is reached. The Scanner looks like it'll add just a little bit more lifespan into Revelations, and again, for the sort of people who hate the idea of scouring rooms for nothing other than extra ammo and herbs (which definitely isn't me, might I add), it's nice to see that it's not a requirement. Something else that looks like it'll add to the bulk of the game may not sound very exciting, but if the unlockable 'Hell Mode' on the demo is anything to go by then it'll be worth playing on higher difficulties in the final game. Why is this? Because both differentiated item and weapon placement as well as varying enemies help change up the experience just a little, of course, giving you incentive to play through again if only to try out some new guns and of course, more of a challenge difficulty-wise.

"Are we in Hell?" asked Matt. "Yes, they call it Reynholm Industries," replied Jessica. Mr. Berry proceeded to go mad.
At the demo's climax, Jill is reunited with Parker and a cutscene complete with an exciting cliffhanger follows at the bridge of the Queen Zenobia. It's a great demo that shows-off so much in such a small segment of the game, and if you have a 3DS you should probably think about downloading it. Of course, we've got a full game to look forward to, so I reckon I'll begin discussing that before moving on to the exciting extra game mode found in Resident Evil: Revelations. Even after witnessing every last trailer for the series' next 3DS instalment, I still don't really understand the story at all. All we can gather for now is that the story of the game revolves not around the aforementioned cruise ship, but instead a city called Terragrigia. As I mentioned earlier, the main bulk of the game takes place at sea, but there are some chapters that involve you taking control of characters other than Jill with different partners and different settings. At times you'll be playing as Matt Ber- I mean, Parker Luciani, accompanied by Jessica Sherawat in what appears to be a flashback to a massive tower block in the centre of Terragrigia, complete with the original Resident Evil's deadly Hunters. In other instances you'll take control of series vetaran Chris Redfield, also accompanied by Jessica, in a snowy European mountain range. These extra segments look to shake up the game a fair bit, halting the player from sinking into boredom from trawling around the Queen Zenobia constantly. These segments also look a lot more fast-paced and action-based than the core survival horror experience that Jill's sections are going for. While we don't quite fully understand the story of Revelations, we certainly know what the gameplay is going to be like and quite frankly it looks rather fantastic. The journalists who've actually played the game seem to love the game, too, with 90+ scores all around when taking a glance at this brilliant-looking title's Metacritic page. Now, before I wrap up this preview, let's take a look at what Revelations has to offer outside of the campaign mode...

Raid Mode: The New Mercenaries?
The unlockable Mercenaries Mode of Resident Evils 4 and 5 was a stunning extra in my opinion, but with the excellent minigame released as a standalone retail release on 3DS last year, I and many others couldn't do anything but highly doubt the possibility of the mode making an appearance in Revelations. As expected, it doesn't, but luckily something else does: Raid Mode. The basic premise of this extra is similar to that of our celebrated Resident Evil minigame of past titles, but with a number of new twists that look to keep it fresh. Much fresher than the stale corpse of a Mercenaries rip-off, at least. This co-operative, action-based minigame sees you and a partner (controlled by either the AI or a friend either online or locally) quite literally raid, loot and escape a scenario from the main game in an attempt not to score points, but to perform as well as possible in a number of ways for the highest possible rank when the level ends. The looming time limit of Mercenaries is no more, as are seemingly endless amounts of respawing enemies, and while this may seem like a step back from the previous celebrated minigame found in past Resident Evils, fear not as it looks like Raid Mode could potentially be the successor to the extra we knew and loved in the fourth and fifth main series instalments. As I mentioned, you won't be playing for a high score in this mode. What you're playing for is unlockables, namely upgrades for guns as well as weapons themselves. Some of these guns are fairly ridiculous, too, much more different than your standard shooter fare's arsenal. Take for example the Masamune, a sniper rifle that is quite literally a lengthy katana with a bent handle. You can also upgrade your weapons with bonus parts collected from both Raids and Revelations' campaign. These attachable perks are very much comparable to The Mercenaries 3D's Skills system, albeit the fact that they upgrade weapons of your choice, rather than characters.

Here, Raymond and another mysterious unindentified individual battle a particularly gargantuan Hunter. Health bars look to be a great way to measure the capabilities of your customised weapons in Raid Mode.
Speaking of characters, Raid mode is packed full of 'em. While you won't be seeing any characters who don't make an appearance in the Revelations story, pretty much all the folks you do see in the main game can be played as in the extra mode. Seven characters have been confirmed thus far, namely Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Jessica Sherawat, Parker Luciani, Quint and Keith, the illusive Rachel and mysterious Raymond, as well as another unidentified grey-haired character seen in a screenshot. Much like Mercenaries 3D before it, each character in Raid Mode also has at least one supposedly unlockable alternative costume. Too add even more into the bargain, StreetPass features are also incorporated into Raid Mode. With a whole campaign to play through on top of this exciting sounding minigame, Revelations is already looking better than the disappointing Mercenaries 3D of last year. Before this post ends up far too lengthy for human brain consumption, I bid you readers adieu. Keep an eye out for my Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2012 before the year ends!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

First Impressions: DJ Hero and DJ Hero 2

I can't deny that I've always been a big fan of games that fit under the genre we call rhythm-action. When playing these music-themed titles, I usually find myself becoming absorbed in the gameplay and make myself want to perfect a virtual performance, constantly restarting whenever I miss one of those ever-important notes or whatever they may be, depending on the game in question. Due to me receiving a fair bit of cash for Christmas last year, I decided to get my hands on not one, but two games both from the same franchise. DJ Hero may have been officially canned alongside its more popular brother Guitar Hero a year or so ago, as publishers Activision prefer to invest their efforts into a certain other franchise that is ever so popular these days (and in case you're wondering, there's no prizes for guessing which series of games I'm on about because the answer is just plain obvious). Still, having played both DJ Hero instalments in the past and thoroughly enjoying them, I practically jumped at the chance to invest in one of the best deals around when it comes down to it, at least in the medium of videogames. Both DJ Hero and DJ Hero 2 along with the turntable controller required to play the games are available on the Amazon website for a cheap as chips £10-£20 (as long as you're buying ten to twenty pounds worth of chips, that is). With an initial RRP of around £100 back in the day, this is a deal that anyone into these sort of games certainly shouldn't miss out on, as I didn't.

Today then, as one of my first journalistic acts of the oh-so big year for gaming that is 2012, I'll be writing a First Impressions post on not one, but two games, namely both instalments in the DJ Hero franchise in case you somehow didn't realise that from the last paragraph or indeed the post title. Since the two games aren't drastically different enough to write two whole First Impressions posts on, I've done the slightly more honourable thing and jammed my opinions on both titles into the same post. This is also a good way to make comparisons between the two, because I'm doubtful that if I get round to reviewing both of these games they will undoubtedly be published in separate posts. So, let's get on with it!

Both DJ Hero and its sequel are in my eyes much more accomplished games than the series they originated from: The ever-popular but now erased out of the picture Guitar Hero games. What I mean by this is that oh-so much more effort has been put into creating the two disc-jockey simulators. Each 'mix' you play has been made specifically for use in the games. While the two songs that make up these mash-ups may not be originally intended for use in this form, at least it's on a much higher level than Guitar Hero which only had unoriginal tracks shoved in there with no alterations. The mixes aren't anything other than professional, either. The first game sees a fair few mixes devised by none other than Grandmaster Flash, the apparent creator of DJing (if that's even a real phrase) alongside others like Daft Punk, all with their own playable avatars. The second game also has some famous faces who work in the medium, such as Tiƫsto, RZA and the astonishing Deadmau5 (as well as the atrocious David Guetta who I refuse to credit in any way for his appearance in the game) again with their own avatars, which particularly helps the latter mentioned Deadmau5, who comes complete with his trademark robotic detachable mouse head. While I'm literally just copying and pasting the names of these famous DJs from Wikipedia, their names will mean a lot more to fans of the medium, and the fact that they all put work into creating original music for a video game is rather amazing. I'm willing to assume they upped their effort after Activision presented them with the bags of money at the doors of Activison headquarters. Moving on...

The gameplay of both titles is pretty much identical, and rather similar to the aforementioned Guitar Hero series that DJ Hero spins-off. The quality Turntable controller often bundled with the titles is required to play, and has you performing different actions using the plastic replica vinyl record with 3 buttons within it, as well as the cross-fader. As icons representing the Turntable's three buttons travel down the 'Highway' on-screen, pressing the required button (red, green or blue) at the right time will score you points. Scratches will also appear on screen, requiring you to hold down the button and move the plastic record back and forth to get it right. Cross-fading is what truly sets DJ Hero apart from other music games, having you switch between the two songs when need be. Overall playing DJ Hero is a lot more clinical than Guitar Hero's maniacal 'rocking-out', and personally I enjoy it a lot more (probably because I'm awful at the latter game). Both DJ Hero titles include a large number of superb mixes, but all in all when it comes down to it one question needs to be asked: Which is better? There's only one way to find out... I'll tell you. The original DJ Hero, when taking into account my personal music taste, has superior tracks to the second game. However, the setlist of the sequel on the other hand, while consisting of more chart-based tunes, is a lot more enjoyable to play than the first despite both games' similarities. I couldn't recommend one of the DJ Hero titles over the other seeing as the second game is bundled by default with the first anyway, so if you're thinking of purchasing one of these titles get yourself on Amazon where you'll find the best deal and get your mitts around DJ Hero 2. Unfortunately, this is all we have time for, ladies and gentlemen. Closing off my first post of 2012, this is me out!