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Playstation 3 Holiday Buying Guide: Top 5 Games to Gift

5. Assassin's Creed - Perfect for the Adventure enthusiast and Graphics whore, after all PS3 is the more powerful machine.
4. Motorstorm - Perfect for the Racing nut who likes to get down and dirty and enjoys a little more action over finesse in his racing.
3. Rock Band - Perfect for the whole family. Read our review about this MUST BUY game.
2. Rachet & Clank: Future Tools of Destruction- I haven't played this particular Ratchet, but have played all the others. They are solid games that deliver on their gameplay and humor. Always enjoyable for all ages, plus they're great platformers.
1. Uncharted: Drakes Fortune - Made by Naughty Dog, one of the premiere Sony developers since PS1 (Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter) they always seem to create a new trilogy for a new Playstation. This game looks to be a fantastic adventure with spectacular animation and a variety of run/gun and platforming gameplay.

Rock Band Review

Simply put, Rock Band IS the Best Music Game Ever. Here's why: It's Fun!

Gameplay: 10/10
Pros: 3 Unique Experiences in the Drums, Guitar/Bass, and Singing
Band World Tour mode IS phenomenal and a true step in music game "campaign mode"
The Guitar Hero gameplay that Harmonix pioneered works great and is slightly tweaked for the better and across the other instruments.
Very approachable gameplay allows ANYONE to find an instrument and enjoy
Cons: Difficulty of the Drums is extremely steep compared to the other instruments
Band World Tour should allow you to complete the game (play all the challenges) on every difficulty rather than require you to play on Hard or above to unlock certain things...This results in you kicking some of your friends out of the band to beat certain challenges and thus taking away from the whole play with 3 of your friends aspect.

Graphics: 10/10
Pros: Fantastic Animation, Great lip-syncing, tons of venues, great effect filters and different choreography for each song make this the best looking Music game I've ever seen. The create a rocker mode is deep enough to offer tons of variety, but casual enough to create a character in a few minutes. The User Interface is also way better during gameplay, less intrusive and slicker looking. There are no complaints here in the graphics department.

Sound/Music: 9/10
Pros: Nearly all the songs are performed by the artist...and boy is that better than having covers. Tons of tracks span many decades and there's a much better mix of songs. There aren't the slew of "hard metal tracks that suck but are really hard to play" like there were in the final venues of Guitar Hero II. 45 Tracks with 13 Bonus Tracks shipped with the game and there are already a ton of downloadable tracks online that integrate perfectly into every mode.
Cons: The 58 tracks don't compare to the 80ish that are in Guitar Hero III. However, each track does give you more since you can play it for 4 instruments. Some may complain about the downloadable content (why didn't they include it if it was ready on day 1?) but ultimately it's Great to be able to shell out $1.99 for specific songs you really like and the best part is that they seamless integrate into every facet of the game.

Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Pros: The Band World Tour mode can last forever! I've put in over 20 hours probably and still have little "NEW" indicators by a bunch of cities. Then there's still all the more traditional solo careers...only about halfway through medium guitar, 6 songs into Easy Drums, and 20 songs of easy Microphone...The gameplay is great and there's always something new to strive for in Rock Band. All the above work has only netted me 90 achievement points...yikes!
Cons: Band World Tour is currently only Local Play...supposedly there will be a patch which will really cause this game to explode.

Average: 97.5%
Tilt: +0.5%

The fact that I played till 1:30am the first day I got it and then took the following day off to play it some more is a real indication of how great this game is...then over the weekend I had several different sets of friends (some who don' t even like Video Games) come over and enjoy the game is a testament to how good Rock Band is. The "Band" Co-op gameplay is well worth the $170 price tag and blows the competition out of the water (sorry GH3).

Verdict: 98%

Xbox 360 Holiday Buying Guide - The Top 5 Games

5. Assassins Creed - Perfect for the Adventure Fan who loves gorgeous graphics and animations.

4. Call of Duty 4 - Perfect for the Action Nut who wants to solve political problems with bullets rather than words.

3. Mass Effect - Perfect for the SciFi Nut and RPG nerd, but approachable for others. Mass Effect has an incredibly engrossing story and has gameplay that offers some broader appeal than the typical RPG.

2. Rock Band - Perfect for the whole family! Rock Band is an amazing achievement. I have only had it for a week and have found that the game is approachable to everyone from young kids, to gamers, to adults, even to the skeptical female who hates games. With 3 different instruments to master and multiple difficulty levels, everyone can find something they can handle/enjoy in Rock Band.

1. Halo 3 - The perfect gift for anyone with an Xbox 360. Simply put this game is a must have, an instant classic, and insanely fun to play.

Undertow Live Arcade Mini Review

In short, Undertow is a steal at 800 MS points so enjoy and download away!

3 Different Races, 4 different units
Interesting Single Player Campaign/Story
Gorgeous Graphics
16 Player Multiplayer (with bots)
Co-Op Story mode online and split screen
Easy to learn Controls
Deep Strategy
Fantastic Balance and Map Design

Campaign is too short
Can't Play as Alien Race (yet?)
Ranked Matches can be hard to find (Player matches much easier)

Undertow is one of the best looking games to come out on Xbox Live Arcade yet. I'm pretty sure it is the first one with ingame cinematics and voice acting as well. Undertow's gameplay is simple on the surface...think Geometry wars...but offers 4 different classes, 3 upgrades for each class and cleverly designed levels that all bring out the deeper strategies of the submerged, chaotic gameplay. The key strategies in this game revolve around the 4 classes of units, how you upgrade them through the course of a match, and how you dynamically change classes/use them in different situations. I wont' go into all the units, but basically there is a versatile, quick scuba diver, a slower, stronger powersuit, a quick submarine, and a slow lumbering underwater tank. The vehicles are good in the open waters where as the divers and powersuit units are best for the underwater caverns and tunnels. The game is an absolute steal at 800 points and puts a lot of the other Live Arcade titles to shame. It offers a complete package with single player, co-op campaign, and a very addictive multiplayer experience in a beautiful, Unreal (literally) package. Download the Demo and you'll see what I mean.

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound/Music: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10

Verdict: 90%

Thanksgiving Update

Well, hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. Here's some news & things coming during the Holiday season...

Rock Band Review - Playing it like is fantastic...but how fantastic?
Undertow Review
Mass Effect Review
Holiday Buying Guides: Top 5 Xbox 360 games, PS3 games, Wii Games, and of course how those fall into the Top 5 purchases overall.

As for Graduate Games news...
Sorry, but I forgot to remind everyone that Storked was available on Game du Jour yesterday. Many people took advantage and bought the game on sale. Storked is also one of the top 10 indie games of November on Perhaps more exciting is that we have 2 games in development. I hope to have 1 released by Spring/Summer 08 but we'll see how progress goes on both of them. Keep a look out for more on these games...

Showcase: Video Game Thanksgiving

Mass Effect, Rock Band, and Undertow all release next week in time for Turkey Day. They join other AAA titles such as Assassin's Creed and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune making for a plethora of great gaming choices over the holidays.

Storked reviewed on OUT OF EIGHT

James Allen released his review of Storked today and it's a pretty positive review. Here are some highlights, the complete review is here:

"The levels in the game are designed to take advantage of the penguins’ attributes and there are definitely some interesting solutions to figure out."

"Having all four of these penguins at your disposal can make for some pleasingly complex puzzles"

"The levels in the game are designed to take advantage of the penguins’ attributes and there are definitely some interesting solutions to figure out."

"While Storked is not the most visually impressive game to come out this year, it is playable and you don’t have to worry about camera angles."

"I suspect puzzle fans will have some fun with the game and its editor "

His Verdict:
"The Good: Varied abilities, straightforward controls, informative tutorial, numerous obstacles and levels, level editor
The Not So Good: Sluggish pace, usually only one solution
What say you? A puzzle game with diverse designs, effortless controls, and tons of objects, but it’s too linear and played at an arduous pace: 5/8"

It's a fair review and his main issue with the game is a fair one: the game does have a very deliberate pace. That pace can be tough/tedious on hardcore gamers used to the Halos, God of Wars, etc. of the world but is relaxing and welcome to a lot of people out there who aren't good at twitch gaming and timing. The key thing we were trying to do with Storked! was make a very easy game to play with simple controls and a lot of diverse things to do. It seems we succeeded at that and while I would argue that many puzzles have more than 1 solution, I can't attest to how difficult figuring the puzzles out can be since I already know all the solutions. Take the time to read the whole review here:

Hilarious Video Game Quote: Bad Dudes (NES)

This pretty much speaks for itself.
It's from Bad Dudes on NES.

Top 5 Best Video Game Systems EVER

5. Xbox 360 – Modern Graphics, Awesome Online, and the current next-gen console with the most and best games.

4. Playstation 2 – While PSone came out of nowhere and took command of the market, PS2 took the Sony to new heights. Nearly every great next-gen franchise (GTA, DMC, RE, MGS, etc) started on Playstation 1 or 2 and since PS2 has backward compatibility and sold a whole lot of consoles (~120 million rivaling Gameboy)…it’s better.

3. Gameboy – One Word: Tetris. If that’s not enough, this puppy is still the most sold game system of all time and it created the handheld market.

2. Genesis – I am going to go on the record and say the 16-bit era of gaming was one of the best eras ever (with some of the greatest controllers ever). Never have the 2 prevailing systems been so close with graphics/sounds and quality of games. The 16-bit era also lasted among the longest (6 years from the release of Genesis to Saturn vs. 4 years from NES to Genesis). The Genesis saw the proliferation of classic franchises such as Madden, Sonic, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter II. Some games where features on both Sega and SNES, but which was better was of constant debate. Genesis and SNES created the term “console wars” and saw the closest competition to date (approx 49 million to 29 million)

1. SNES – since this guy was the champion of the 16-bit era, it is king. While some may fuss that NES started it all and is the better system, I say this, go play Metroid and then play Super Metroid, go play SMB and then SMB World, go play ??? then play Mario Kart or Star Fox. SNES stands the test of time. The Graphics are more tolerable than PSone (if you ask me) and the gameplay is better than comparable NES titles. SNES probably has the most games featured on best games of all time lists. Look at many of the games on LIVE Arcade and Nintendo’s Wii channel. Many of the great classics are from the 16-bit era of gaming and have stood the test of time.

Stuntman: Ignition Review

Stuntman for the original PS2 was a favorite of mine, despite its many flaws. The difficulty built in a lot of challenge and longevity into the experience and I kept playing in order to unlock the next movie trailer. The sequel, Stuntman Ignition, is still challenging, but a lot more forgiving (no load times on restarts! THANK YOU!) and adds a very addictive Tony Hawk-esque Combo Scoring System.

Graphics: 9/10
Pros: Fantastic visuals, great animation and action sequences. Gorgeous replays.
Cons: FMV for movie trailers (mixing with ingame graphics) aren't necessary anymore. They should have used the ingame engine to do the movie trailers to make it look less disjointed.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Pros: The gameplay & scoring system is vastly improved. No load times for restarts, serious driving skills required, and a variety of movies, commercials, stunt shows, and cars to fool around with.
Cons: Levels still require a lot of trial and error to figure out what's going on. No real way to beat a level on your first try. Instead of confusing sketches during the load screens, they should give you a map with all the stunts on it that you can look through prior to your stunt run.

Sound/Music: 8/10
Pros: The voicework for the directors/characters is all really well done. There are definitely a few good impersonations and charicatures of directors currently out there. Sound effects do the job well.
Cons: Standard music and score detract from the epic orchestral scores we hear in the movies

Lasting Appeal: 6/10
Pros: There's online multiplayer with several different modes, stunt shows, commercials, and quite a few movies to shoot through. There's also the challenge of stringing (comboing) every single movie scene to get full stars on each stage and unlock everything for the build your own stunt arena...which offers quite a few thrills itself.
Cons: NO ONE plays online...guess this game didn't sell very well or everyone is just caught up with Halo 3, Gears of War, etc. It is really annoying being forced to replay levels again to get higher stars to unlock the next movie...if you beat all the should unlock the next level. I didnt' have the patience to go back and replay the levels again to unlock the final movie, since I had to play some others over to unlock the movie I had just completed.

Average: 78.75%
Tilt: -0.75%

Stuntman: Ignition lacks some of the charm the original had. I still remember the orginal as having some of the best graphics on PS2...Ignition doesn't leave the same impression as far as graphics go for PS3 or Xbox 360. The movies aren't as diversified either and there isn't the same sense of working your way up from a small indie film to the big budget blockbuster...they all sort of seem like blockbusters...which ups the action but reduces the charm. It's still a good sequel and a pretty engrossing experience though.

Verdict: 78%

this review is bases on the xbox 360 version Launches

Graduate Games is proud to announce the launch of their casual games satellite site: Features a whole bunch of games to download and try. They are all pretty family friendly as well. Give it a look and be sure to take advantage of the 2 free games option.

Top 5 Best Power-Ups of all Time

5. Red Turtle Shell (Mario Kart) – while some may argue that some of the newer power-ups usurp the red turtle shell, nothing beat it back in the original Mario Kart. It was the prized possession in nearly every race and battle. In fact, Battle Mode in the original Mario Kart was little more than a race to get Red Turtle Shells.

4. Rings (Sonic) – How great was Sonic the first time you played it? The only way you could die was to get hit without any rings! Sonic’s Iconic Rings (unlike Marios Coins) gave you more than just an extra life, they provided protection, allowed you to reach Bonus Stages, and ultimately lead to Sonic’s true potential: Super Sonic.

3. Super Pellet (Pac-Man) – Game Changer, that’s how you describe the Pac Man Pellet. Once Pac-Man got a hold of this power-up the game changed from defense to offense. Now the tables had turned and the Ghosts were afraid of YOU!

2. Super Mushroom (Mario Bros.) – For many, this is the very first power-up they ever received in a video game. The super mushroom actually changed your appearance on screen and allowed you to break blocks and kill enemies. You feel defenseless without it in SMB. One of the most iconic power-ups available, this one has to be near the top.
1. The 1-Up – By far the most common power-up, this old guy was found in nearly every game until the 32 bit era when game saves became standard. It still is found in some games to this day. Truly the greatest power-up of all time, 1-ups give you everything from an extra couple minutes on an old coin-op to that extra chance you need in Contra or Ninja Gaiden.

Discuss this list in our forum

The Simpsons Game Review

The Simpson's Game is yet another game starring America's beloved dysfunctional family. It is a licensed game that features all the voice actors (there's over 8,000 original lines for the game or something ridiculously high) and some animated segments/shorts. Basically, it's a really long episode of the Simpsons, as an episode it's a game, it's short.

Gameplay: 6/10
Pros: Each family member has a different skill set, the levels offer a great variety and reference many classic episodes.
Cons: Gameplay is a heavy copycat of 3rd person platformers and even includes a troublesome camera and resulting frustration.

Graphics: 8/10
Pros: Playing this game is like playing the TV show. The game captures Springfield and the look of the show better than any other Simpsons game before it.
Cons: The cartoon / cel-shaded look definitely doesn't push the PS3 or Xbox360 or is all that impressive up to other next gen games.

Sound/Music: 9.5/10
Pros: The Voicework and effort of the actual cast in this game pays off. The story is great and the quips during gameplay to the actual script itself is fantastic and hysterical.

Lasting Appeal: 3/10
Pros: You'll absolutely want to play through the story and enjoy the script/writing and humor. If you really care about collecting things...there's PLENTY of that.
Cons: I beat the main game in about 3 days and 8 hours (Great rental - terrible buy). Now that I've seen the story, the gameplay, collectibles, achievements, etc. will not bring me back to the game. I don't care about collecting Homer's bottle caps, Bart's posters, etc. (though the Video game cliche's are pretty funnY). I'm done and it was fun while it lasted...just not $60 of fun.

Average: 66.25%
Tilt: -1.25%

As a game, the Simpson's Game isn't very good. It is an amazing Simpsons Episode with a phenomenal script, excellent voicework and decent gameplay to get you through it all. It's a great licensed game, but unfortunately if this game wasn't the Simpson's and didn't have the money and quality voice work and humor, it would probably drop an additional 10 pts or so. If your a fan of the Simpsons, you gotta rent it. If you're only a gamer, forget it.

Verdict: 65%

Showcase: Undertow is given a Release Date

Undertow is one of the more high profile Xbox Live Arcade Titles out there. I am defintely anticipating it and have been yearning for a release date. Well, a new trailer has surfaced announcing a release date of Nov 21st, 2007. While it's great that a Live release actually gets a release date before say the Monday the week of, It sort of sucks that Mass Effect, Rock Band AND Undertow all come out the same week. Hopefully with the holiday, I'll be able to get to them all.