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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames Review

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is the highly anticipated sequel to Pandemic's Mercenaries. Too bad, Mercenaries 2 disappoints in a big way. In fact, I was left wondering if Mercs 1 was really as good as I remembered it.

Gameplay: 7/10
Pros: The much touted destructable environment is pretty sweet. The controls are good, blasting things are fun, and the new hijacking minigames are cool.
Cons: So Repetitive! Idiotic AI and missions that are way too spread out.

Graphics: 8/10
Pros: The graphics are pretty good with lush jungle environments, and good detail. The draw distance is also very good and blowing up buildings looks fantastic. Framerate holds steady.
Cons: The cutscenes look horrendous. Animations can be stiff and the character models are subpar.

Sound: 7/10
Pros: The sound effects are all good and standard issue. Voice acting of the 3 main mercs is good.
Cons: Forgettable music, repetitive voice work kill anything that would differentiate the music in this game from any other military game out there.

Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Pros: Online Co Op is a good edition and there's a lot of missions and ground to cover...
Cons: It's just that its all repetitive and the Co-Op is limiting (players have to stay withing proximity of one another)

Average: 72.50%
Tilt: -2.50%

I was really looking forward to this game and it really let me down (I'm thankful I rented it first). The destructible environments are great, but ultimately open world games come down to the diversity of things to do in missions and sidequests... a whole game built around gunning down enemies and blowing up buildings needs to at least offer competent enemies. The game is a top-notch destructible playground, but I need more for my $60.

Final Verdict: 70%

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Castle Crashers XBLA Review

Castle Crashers finally arrived in late August and has been surrounded by controversy. First, there was the alleged rumored price of $22.50 that caused the internet to erupt in worries though, the game is only $15. Then there were the 2 heinous bugs that caused the Behemoth's devlog and Castle Crashers site to crash. I have actually suffered both bugs.... 1 bug being that I cannot play online at all and the other being that my Level 28 knight, unlockables, and save file were erased on me right when I got to the Marsh level. Despite these bugs, I'm still a huge fan of Castle Crashers and have happily surpassed the point of first game erasure.

Castle Crashers exudes tremendous personality. Dan Paladin's hand drawn graphics are superb and there is a ton of humor and extra animation work that create mostly great moments (thief washing scrubbing clothes in the river, Ice/Barbarian Boss taking the time to laugh at you, Barbarian punching knocked down gray knight) and some not so funny ones (Thieves Forest animal crapping is just too much...Owl ok...deer & bear excessive). The sheer amount of work, animations, characters, levels, etc that went into this game is incredibly commendable.

Let's get to the particulars. I've already talked about the great graphics and animations, the story is thin... 4 knights have their 4 chicks stolen, but all the animated sequences (there's no dialogue) put together an interesting, if shallow story. The music is very catchy especially the shop theme and suits the eccentricity and theme of the title very well. The gameplay recreates the arcade co-op beat-em-up gameplay perfectly. It's instantly playable, and the leveling system gives the game depth. Leveling up unlocks deeper combos and magic abilities. There's also an immense amount of content to unlock from weapons, animal orbs, secret characters, etc.

It is a very big letdown that Online has been completely unplayable (I got about 30 secs of all you can quaff online once) but the Behemoth has assured its fans that a title update and downloadable content is on the way. I have played the game splitscreen and it is way more fun with a friend, even if a little less challenging. The major negatives for me have been the bugs (erasing my save was especially infuriating) and the annoying enemies that stand off the stage and shoot projectiles at you. All in all though this game is superb, utterly unique, and a must buy on XBLA. Hopefully, the online issues will be fixed and we'll all be questing online in the coming weeks.

Orange Knight Rules!

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound/Music: 9/10
Lasting Appeal 9.5/10

Average: 93.75%
Tilt: -0.75% (sorry gotta take some off for the bugs)

Verdict: 93%

Braid Review

Braid is a very commendable and entralling independent game by Jonathan Blow. First let me start off by saying that screenshots do not do this game justice. While the game is not pushing the graphical power of the Xbox, David Hellman's art for the game is simply fantastic. The game has a unique water color look to it and the swirling colors and especially the parralax backgrounds can astonish and fit perfectly into this surreal sort of fairy tale. The story of braid is interesting and has a pretty good twist of an ending. It's certainly one of the best XBLA stories out there. Since it's all presented in text form, it does lose something that other full priced games have. Let's get to it though, the best thing about Braid is the gameplay. It is a puzzle platform game revolving around time manipulation. This time manipulation reduces frustration (since if you die, you just rewind) and changes in each world keeping things very fresh.

Braid is doing everything right so far, but it does stumble. Braid is incredibly short and has little in the way of replay value (a speed achievement). While the shortness is refreshing (I really like that I've beaten the game, enjoyed it, experienced it and can now move on), 1 more world of puzzles with 1 more mechanic would have gone a long way to flesh out the package. The game is about $5 more expensive than a lot of the other XBLA games out there, but let's be honest, this game deserves to have you $15 and was made by an indie studio rather than Capcom or some other uber developer. Still, I can see people's complaints about price (as spoiled as they are) especially with the brevity of the game. My only other complaint about the game is the lack of different enemies/hazards (c'mon 2 enemies?) and a lack of graphical diversity (the opening stage looks to cool! why are all the levels sprawling green hills?).

Bottom line is that this game is not for everybody, but is a very delightful and engaging little title. It is a very unique game that is definitely worth your time and money. I downloaded the trial game and unlocked the full version before I was even finished with the trial. Give it a try, support an indie game developer, and discover the clever story twist.

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Music: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 6/10

Average: 82.5%
Tilt: + 4.50%

Verdict: 87%

Soul Calibur 4 Review

Soul Calibur IV is the 4th installment in Namco's (superior) fighting series. The differences betweent the Xbox 360 and PS3 revolve around the Star Wars Characters present. Xbox is good and has Yoda and apparently the Playstation is evil and has Darth Vader. The PS3 wins in the end because it has the ability to install the game on the hard drive which VASTLY reduces (as in almost eliminates) load times. Supposedly, the Xbox will get this at a later date so don't fret.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Pros: The game has approachable controls, and good pick up and play appeal. The combat system is robust and deep, tons of characters to learn, great single player modes, amazing create a character mode, and excellent online
Cons: Many characters have been greatly altered. I find the combos to feel stiff and overly reduces button mashing yes, but it feels robotic. The fluidity of sword strikes/combos is somewhat lost.

Graphics: 9/10
Pros: The graphics, particle effects, animation and characters are all top-notch. Online plays extremely well with no noticeable lag in animations, movement, etc.
Cons: The arenas look great, but are small and boring (almost always square/rectangular). Perhaps DOA has set expectations for arenas and interactivity too high. The graphics aren't pushing the PS3's power.

Sound/Music: 9/10
Pros: During a match the sound effects and music is perfect and all AAA. Most character voices are good with decent sayings.
Cons: The narrator is very similar to past titles and can be a little much sometimes. It's more the script and some of the ridiculous introductions to battles than his performance.

Lasting Appeal: 8.5/10
Pros: Fighting fans will have very little to complain about and plenty to keep them busy. The character creator mode is incredibly versatile and there are pics all over the net of classic fighting game characters (M. Bison being particularly spot-on) placed into Soul Calibur 4 by using the creator's versatility. The online multiplayer is fantastic and the single player gives you plenty to do.
Cons: I found the amount of characters and stiff new fighting mechanics a little daunting. With all the multiplayer games out there, simple 1 on 1 fighting games don't offer the same appeal of the higher player count multiplayer games out there.

Average: 87.5%
tilt: -0.05%

There's nothing I can definitively point at fault in SCIV, but I haven't been compelled to play it in a few weeks. There's something to be said for that.

Verdict: 87%