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PS3 Fanboy impressions: Agarest Senki demo

It's difficult to play games in a language you don't know. However, based on the nearly infinite well of RPG experience under our belts, we can make a few pretty obscure parallels to the recent demo of Agarest Senki that popped up on the Japanese PS Store this past week. If you're unaware of the title, it's a strategy RPG that harkens to the like of all those Nippon Ichi titles, except this one spans generations of characters that are born, fall in love, and breed according to your actions. It sounds fun on paper, but what happens in the demo is more confusing than biting into a donut to find it's filled with salad.

Continue reading PS3 Fanboy impressions: Agarest Senki demo

Joystiq plays with the PS Eye

We're still waiting for our Eye, but it looks like the cool kids at Joystiq have already had some quality time with their's. A few tidbits they've discovered:
  • The cord for the camera is about 6.5 feet in length.
  • Proper lighting is required for Eye of Judgment.
  • The camera is an improvement over the PS2 EyeToy with: "smoother frame rate and slightly crisper on-screen image, as well as a nice auto-focus capability."
  • Eye is not compatible with PS2 games and will not be recognized by the Xbox 360. A PC will detect the device, but appropriate drivers have not been released yet.
The Eye hits retail stores October 23rd by itself for $40, or included with Eye of Judgment for $70. To read Joystiq's complete hands-on and check out their pics, click here.

Hands-on: Clive Barker's Jericho demo

Clive Barker's Undying still haunts us to this very day, so you can imagine what our expectations are for Jericho, the latest creation from Clive Barker's demented mind. Jericho is billed as a supernatural horror FPS, which is pretty easy to understand if you've seen any screens or videos.

Thankfully, Codemasters released the demo on the PlayStation Network earlier in the week, and we've had a chance to see if it lives up to its potential. The demo takes place about halfway through the game in an ancient Middle Eastern town, where the seven-member Jericho squad has been split up after several members fell into a sewer.

When the demo starts, you control the group's leader Capt. Devin Ross, but you'll immediately realize he's not your ordinary protagonist. Capt. Ross was killed in action several years before, but his soul burns on to lead the team. That means you'll use Ross' spirit and his ability to revive his fallen comrades to control your three other squad mates, each of whom have their own unique supernatural powers.

Gallery: Clive Barker's Jericho

Jericho Pic 07_19_06Jericho Pic2 07_19_06Jericho Pic3 07_19_06Jericho Pic 04_19_07Jericho Pic2 04_19_07

Continue reading Hands-on: Clive Barker's Jericho demo

TGS07: Time Crisis 4 impressions

Click for high-res image.

The light gun genre may be a dying breed, but Time Crisis 4 ignores all warnings. In spite of some sloppy graphical and presentation issues, it's clear that Time Crisis 4 is the best, if not only, option for fans of the genre.

Right now, the game doesn't have that "next-gen polish" we've become so accustomed to on the PS3. Textures and character models don't really pop out. However, the framerate seems pretty solid, and the action flows at a brisk pace. At the very least, it looks better than the other light gun port, Ghost Squad on Wii.

The new FPS mode is where the game features the most potential, adding some depth to the arcade experience. Right now, the AI is fairly unintelligent, and the level design feels similar to the original on-rails mode. What may come as jarring for some is the lack of a gun model on-screen. FPS players have long been used to the gun being on screen, but because this game requires players to aim with the Guncon 3 (G-Con in the PAL territories), the indicator is unnecessary.

Right now, Time Crisis 4 looks like it needs some polish. However, Guncon 3 is an excellent peripheral that has us keeping high hopes for future light gun titles.

Gallery: Time Crisis 4

Continue reading TGS07: Time Crisis 4 impressions

TGS hands-on: echochrome

After its shocking E3 debut, we desperately wanted to play echochrome, the mind-bending Escher-inspired puzzle game that has players changing their perspective. Available on the PS3 as a downloadable title and as a PSP game, echochrome excited audiences with its truly innovative concept. But, how did the publicly playable PS3 demo play?

Well, it works exactly as you expect it to. The demonstration features an English-speaking monotone voice that seems a perfect match with the game's ultra-minimalist presentation. She'll explain the five rules of the game that control the way your perspective, the world, and your character, all interact with each other. Each sequence has players testing out a single new device, such as being able to block obstacles by hiding them from the player's vision. Through this brief tutorial, players will be gifted with the ability to start playing through the game's mind-destroying puzzles.

The single level available in the demonstration had us attempting to collect echoes, shadows situated in various points in the stage. As simple as that may sound, imagining the total destruction of object permanence is not something we're readily accustomed to. The on-screen avatar acts like a lemming, constantly going forward, even if it means certain doom for the character. This means players will have to act fast, and position the level correctly as the avatar makes its way forward. This is where we found that the camera rotates a bit too slowly for our tastes. We ended one of our lives trying to cover a hole, but couldn't rotate the level quickly enough to save our character. Thankfully, each echo that one walks into acts as a checkpoint, so that the level we played didn't become frustrating. However, we hope that Sony will make moving the camera a bit speedier.

echochrome is a simple, innovative, and more importantly, fun title that continues to deliver on the PlayStation Store's promise of offering gamers unique gameplay experiences. Although we didn't get to play much, it's clear that Sony has something truly special in their hands.

TGS hands-on: Metal Gear Solid 4

Imagine yourself, surrounded by hundreds, nay thousands of people, bustling about. A constant murmur rings in the background, as the sounds of endless explosions, gunfire, and bouncy anime music intertwine in a cacophony of disarray. Finally, come to the grasp that you must navigate a complex game in a language which you are completely unfamiliar with. It was under these extraneous circumstances that we've come to play Metal Gear Solid 4 on the Tokyo Game Show floor, having survived the hours-long wait for a brief time with Hideo Kojima's latest.

Simply thrown into the game was a daunting challenge, one that borders on insurmountable. Once again, Snake has an incredible variety of moves at his disposal -- and he must use them in order to survive the challenges at hand. Metal Gear Solid 4 is far from the most intuitive game we've played, and unguided play didn't lead to much success in the battlefield. It's clear that, in spite of its warlike setting, the game remains true to its "tactical espionage" roots. Stealth is highly rewarded, and bravado will usually lead to some trialling battles that undoubtedly end in death. For example, a tank will be able to gun down Old Snake in all but a few seconds: sneaking past the tank, and the troops that support it, is essential for mere survival. Navigating through the environments felt natural, and the context-sensitive icons that appear at the bottom of the screen are certainly a refreshing addition. Snake will be able to walk, crouch and crawl with relative ease, and with the improved camera, navigating the environment has become far easier. The box and barrel, in which Snake can hide, both appear in the TGS demo, and give Snake a few options in remaining hidden in the environment.

But, it's not like Snake will be helpless in the face of combat. Old Snake still has access to his CQC moves, and when faced with enemies one on one, they'll likely face a quick death. The gunplay has been improved, though. The game's over the shoulder mode feels natural, allowing Snake to move and shoot at the same time. The targeting reticule is surprisingly intelligent, indicating when objects and walls get in the course of your shot. Although some may be able to play MGS4 as a quasi-FPS game, the number of enemies will make that a daunting challenge.

Continue reading TGS hands-on: Metal Gear Solid 4

TGS hands-on: White Knight Story

White Knight Story is a game we've kept in our peripheral vision since we first saw its trailer at TGS last year. Today we got the chance to get a hands on with the game. The demo guides you through leading a giant ox creature, and its suspiciously Taru-Taru-like owner, down a road filled with dangers. The dangers come in the form of evil armoured humans and animated vegetation. Similar to Mandragoras. We're drawing a couple of parallels to Final Fantasy XI but, thankfully, the similarities stop there.

The slightly cel-shaded nature of the earlier trailer has been toned down a bit so that now the world looks more realistic, whilst still maintaining its obvious anime inspiration. The game dropped jaws with its incredible stylised JRPG graphics when it was revealed at TGS last year and is still graphically stunning.

The first thing we noticed when we started the first combat segment was what first appears to be an aiming circle. This is what we affectionately call the "Wait Circle", which has a loading bar elongate along its circumference. Once it finishes the circle you can perform your next action. The Wait Circle also helps you out with your combo timings.

Continue reading TGS hands-on: White Knight Story

TGS07: Uncharted hands-on

An updated build of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was on display at Sony's pre-TGS media briefing. The new demo comes a long way from its previous E3 presentation, which featured some serious technical glitches, and control issues. Almost immediately, players will see that the aiming has been far improved, feeling far more accurate and responsive than before. Thankfully, players will be able to fine-tune their control settings through adjustable control sensitivity, and invert options for horizontal and vertical controls.

To show off the new and improved controls, the demo featured some truly menacing levels. One level took place in a decaying courtyard, not unlike one that would be seen in Gears of War. Laser sights will aggressively pursue your character, as you hide behind cover. Grabbing a sniper rifle, the player must quickly try to kill his aggressor -- a single shot from the sniper's gun will mean instantaneous death (as we regrettably found out). The scope of your rifle focuses around whatever your vision is centered on: a nice touch that makes sniping much easier to manage.

The gunplay and hand-to-hand brawling all feel a lot better than before. But, that doesn't mean things are quite perfect. The camera never feels perfect, and the action lacks the visceral punch of Gears. Regardless, the platforming and puzzle solving on display certainly add a nice touch of variety to the game. The platforming feels satisfying, thanks to Nathan's natural animation. Each jump feels weighted down by real gravity, and seeing Nathan barely make a jump, only to hold on to a ledge, adds a sense of real danger to the environment. The puzzle solving takes a page from Folklore: Nathan must read the notes from Drake's diary to progress. In the demo we played, we had to do a simple statue rotation puzzle, but we see a lot of potential in the concept.

Overall, we're glad to see that Uncharted has made so much progress. PS3 gamers are thirsty for a good adventure game, and with a little bit more polish before its November release, it looks to fit the bill.

TGS07: LocoRoco Cocoreccho hands-on

LocoRoco Cocoreccho will arrive on the PlayStation Store this week, and we were able to get some time with it at Sony's pre-TGS media event. We're sad to say that this brand new PS3 sequel loses one of the most important aspects of the original: simplicity. LocoRoco on the PSP charmed gamers with its simple and intuitive play mechanic that could be understood from the moment one picks up the system.

One cannot say the same for Cocoreccho, the supposed "screensaver" game for PS3. There are too many different control mechanisms at play, creating a generally disparate experience. For example, the ability to tilt the world is surprisingly inconsistent: it can only occur during specific parts of each level. Players will have to rock the controller, pump it up and down, sway it left and right throughout each level -- in addition to having to move the analog stick to control the floating butterflies that motivate the LocoRocos to move along. The lengthy tutorial that's included with our demo worries us that the game is much too complicated for its own good.

Obviously, we need to spend more time with the title to fully understand the nuances of the "game" -- perhaps when slowly introduced to the experience, it becomes much more endearing. But in the very little we've seen, we were dismayed by the surprising complexity of this LocoRoco follow-up.

Warhawk early impressions -- say goodbye to your life

Warhawk hit the PlayStation Store yesterday and the positive reviews have been pouring in. Our review is coming as well, but in the meantime we wanted to post our early thoughts on Incognito's impressive shooter. Even after our relatively short play time (~five hours), we feel confident saying that this is one of the most addictive online experiences you can have on the PS3 -- or any console for that matter.

It's worth pointing out though, that as good as Warhawk is so far, our experience was initially tainted just by the difficulty of just downloading the game. True, we did download it right after it was released but it took nine tries for Sony to actually add money to our PlayStation Store wallet. During this time, we ran into multiple PS Store errors and timeouts, saw images fail to load and generally experienced weirdness while trying to navigate the store. It was incredibly frustrating but after about an hour of trying, we finally were able to purchase Warhawk and queue up the 800 MB download.

Continue reading Warhawk early impressions -- say goodbye to your life

New PlayStation Eye title spotted: Trials of Topoq

While at Sony's 3Rooms brand space in London today we had some hands-on time with Folklore and Eye of Judgment (more on those later today). We also saw a couple of things we didn't expect to see, including a PS3 attached to a PlayStation Eye running a game we haven't seen before. Trials of Topoq is a "run the ball through the level" game which reminded us of Kula World on the PS1.

The game requires you to move the ball around the different layers of each castle, breaking open cages as you go. Each level has a different task, including getting to the end within a time limit and breaking a certain amount of cages before reaching the finish line. Crossbows can be found around the levels which, when the ball is rolled into it, will shoot you to a hidden area of the level.

The ball is not moved via the analogue stick, nor the SIXAXIS. Instead, the floor of the castle shows an image of what the PlayStation Eye can see. By moving your arms (or any other part of you, really) you affect the height of the floor temporarily. The idea is to create slopes to guide the ball around and collect the items (or "smash the cages" as the game calls it) whilst making yourself look like a prat in the process.

We snapped a few photos of the game in action, check out the gallery below to see all three. There's no word on whether the game will come bundled with the PlayStation Eye, sold separately or be downloadable. No doubt we'll hear more at Leipzig.

Gallery: Trials of Topoq

Ratchet Week: Tools of Destruction hands-on

Ratchet's initial E3 showing didn't wow us. There simply wasn't anything "new" to talk about the game. However, we recently played an updated build of the game, showcasing some of the later levels in the game. We saw some original new ideas, fantastic SIXAXIS controls, and a level of humor that surpasses anything we've seen from the Ratchet series. With its famous good looks still intact, we can confidently say that Ratchet & Clank Future is going to be a solid addition to any PS3 owner's library when it comes out October 23rd.

The game is based upon four facets, according to the team at Insomniac: mystery, adventure, variety and spectacle. The mystery comes from looking into Ratchet's origins, and the mysterious new powers that Clank attains. The adventure comes through a "whole new galaxy" to explore, one that's promised to be the largest yet. Variety comes from brand-new mini-games, and a variety of new powers that Clank will take advantage of. Finally, the spectacle can be easily seen in these screenshots (check out our gallery for more): this game is pretty as heck. "We believe we're on par with computer animated movies," a representative from Insomniac said. In many ways, they're getting close. The world of Ratchet & Clank Future is incredibly rich in color, and we're glad to say that the game extends to worlds far beyond the Metropolis level we've seen. In the updated build, we saw an icy planet, a lush jungle swamp, and a space shooting segment, all running at a smooth framerate. The target, we're told, is a silky smooth 60 fps.

Beyond the visuals, we got a chance to play some of the later levels in the game -- and they are far more interesting than the beautiful, but simplistic, E3 presentation. In one level, we talked to an NPC that wanted us to collect Leviathan souls. In order to do so, we had to find and track down these giant beasts and obliterate them. We were thrown into an environment that was far bigger than anything we've seen in previous Ratchet games. Although Metropolis forced you down a clear, narrow path, Tools of Destruction felt much larger, giving the player a lot more places to explore.

Gallery: Ratchet and Clank Future

Continue reading Ratchet Week: Tools of Destruction hands-on

Penny Arcade becomes obsessed with Eye of Judgment

Upon seeing this Penny Arcade comic, our own Nick Doerr breathed a sigh of relief saying, "Awesome. I finally feel I'm not the only one strangely interested in the game." You're not alone Nick -- in fact, there's an increasing interest for this unique real and virtual card game. The synergistic qualities of Eye of Judgment give it a strange appeal.

The nerd-king Tycho explains in his blog: "The physicality of card placement and interaction has its own virtues. Cards are recognized in a second or less, so watching them transformed is actually a very interactive, exciting process. You don't actually need the PS3 to play it - the game can be played on a regular table without any electronic accompaniment. But you'll probably find, as we did, that having a perpetually available neutral arbiter who will track all numeric systems is pretty convenient."

We were impressed by our brief time with it at E3 ... and it looks like Penny Arcade is too. Slowly, but surely, it appears that positive word of mouth is spreading for this incredibly innovative and unique card game.


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