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    Apr 28th, 2011 at 01:24:38     -    Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 (Wii)

    Rayman Raving Rabbids 2

    Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 (hereafter referred to as RRR2) is a party game for the Wii. It features many mini-games that can support up to four players. It is a sequel to the first Rayman: Raving Rabbids, but unlike its predecessor, there is little to no framing story and a much stronger emphasis is placed on multiplayer at the expense of the single-player option. However, the mini-games are better designed to support simultaneous play, as opposed to the first game’s mini-games, which typically involved players taking turns, and the characteristic zaniness that made the first game so memorable has been intensified.

    Gameplay
    Like most Wii games, the Wii-mote’s motion sensing capabilities are an integral part of gameplay. In various mini-games, players will tilt, spin, shake, or swing the Wii-mote and Nunchuck extension. The Nunchuck is not required to play the game, but without it gameplay is much more simplified. The two modes of gameplay are “Free Play” and “Trips.” “Free Play” allows players to select any mini-game from any area, separated into different sections of the world such as Asia or Europe. “Trips” allows players to play through all the mini-games of one particular area in sequential order.

    Play Session 1
    The first play session occurred in early April at a friend’s house. It was I and about five other friends, all of varying levels of gaming experience, but all had played RRR2 before. We took turns with the four controllers, changing players between rounds, which consisted of four mini-games in “Free Play.”

    We played about five rounds total with a wide variety of mini-games. In general, the more experienced gamers came in first because they had better reflexes, but there were instances when the non-gamers in the group would win a game or two. Since the rhythm-type mini-games, where each player is an instrument in a band and must swing the Wii-mote to the beat, are a favorite of ours, we played those fairly often. The Wii-motes can be too sensitive for those kind of mini-games and can occasionally register a tiny hand motion as a “beat,” causing you to lose your note streak. This meant that a lot of concentration was required…which of course meant that all the players were doing their best to distract the others. We ended our play session when we decided to move on to other video games, and overall we had a lot of fun playing RRR2.

    Play Session 2
    The second play session occurred on April 18th, during the in-class game demonstration. I and three other students played through a handful of mini-games in front of the class. Some of the players had never played RRR2 before, but all players were able to pick up on the controls for the various mini-games quickly, thanks to the on-screen explanations at the start of each mini-game.

    We played mini-games that showed off the key characteristics of RRR2, including one where you swing your Wii-mote to hit misbehaving children and one where players race against each other in teams of two in shopping carts. This play session ended at the end of the presentation.

    Overall
    RRR2 is a very fun game to play with friends, but it is boring to play on your own. This game is an excellent choice when playing in a group that includes non-gamers who get discouraged by more difficult games. However, many of the mini-games are challenging enough to provide an excellent competition for all player skill levels of player, and the quirky humor and general silliness of the game keep everyone laughing and having a good time.

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    Mar 29th, 2011 at 10:50:31     -    Kingdom Hearts (PS2)

    Kingdom Hearts (Playstation 2)
    Kingdom Hearts is an action RPG released for the Playstation 2 in 2002. In the game, the player assumes the role of Sora, a teenage boy whose world is consumed by darkness and evil creatures called Heartless. Sora is able to wield the legendary Keyblade, which will allow him to defeat the Heartless and restore the destroyed worlds. Along the way he teams up with the Disney characters Donald and Goofy as he travels to different worlds based off Disney movies in search of his friends, Kairi and Riku.

    Story
    In addition to Sora’s quest to find his friends, he is in the middle of a battle between good and evil. Heartless are trying to consume every world by attacking the heart of the world, accessible via a Keyhole. However, Sora can lock those portals using his Keyblade, so he must find the Keyholes before the Heartless do. In addition, Maleficent, following Ansem’s orders, is searching for the seven Princesses of Hearts, maidens whose hearts will allow her to open Kingdom Hearts, the heart of all worlds. Sora’s friend Riku sides with Maleficent because he believes it will help save their friend Kairi, which further complicates matters for Sora.

    Gameplay
    The player controls Sora who is able to use both the Keyblade as a melee weapon and magic. Sora is able to run, jump, and occasionally swim and fly. The player can also set very basic tactics for his other party members, such as “use offensive magic often” or “only use healing items in an emergency.” The game is segmented into different worlds that must be cleared before new worlds can be reached. Each world is populated by enemies called Heartless. There are different varieties of Heartless that increase in difficulty through the game. Each world also features a final boss that frequently has two or more forms. There are several side-quests the player can complete, such as the additional tournaments in the Olympus Coliseum and helping restore Winnie the Pooh’s book. Additionally, the player travels between worlds using the Gummi Ship in a rail shooter mini-game.

    Play Session 1
    I played Kingdom Hearts with a handful of girlfriends, taking turns playing various worlds or sections of worlds. Kingdom Hearts has no multiplayer options, but we wanted to finish the game as a group. This also allowed me to see how someone inexperienced with video games might handle a game, as one player, Laura, had never played the game before and had extremely limited experience playing video games. A second player, Sara, was new to Kingdom Hearts but had experience with other games while the other two players, myself and Emily, were familiar and experienced with the video game.

    For this play session, we decided to tackle the second tournament in Olympus Coliseum. That section of the game is not part of the plotline, but it is an intense test of one’s fighting skills. Sara took it on as a personal mission and managed to defeat the first few rounds with ease. The higher rounds featured stronger enemies, and Sara struggled, largely due to her inability to quickly use magic, accessible via hotkeys. However, she managed to pull through to face the final round, a battle against Leon and Yuffie. In short, she got owned. Undeterred, Sara tried two more times before we decided we needed to level up more.

    Therefore we set out for our next world in the plot, Monstro, from Pinocchio. Emily started the world, but since she was working on a solo-playthrough in her free time, she decided to allow Laura to play about half-way through. Despite falling from ledges and ended up in earlier sections of the world multiple times, she managed to plug along until she got to the boss, the Parasite Cage. Since she was unable to effectively use magic for attacks or healing because she refused to use the hotkeys, the boss wiped the floor with her twice. Afterwards, she handed the controller to me, and I defeated the boss and the rest of the world. Once we left Monstro, Sara attempted another shot at the Coliseum, but again was bested by Leon and Yuffie. We then decided to end this play session.

    Play Session 2
    Our second play session occurred a few weeks later. We set out for our next world in the plot, Atlantica, based off of The Little Mermaid. Laura initially manned the controller for this world, and she adapted to the new dimension in gameplay surprisingly quickly. In Atlantica, the player is given full 3-dimensional movement because Sora becomes a merman and is able to swim about the world. About halfway through the world, the player is confronted with a giant shark. I had warned Laura about this beforehand, but when it appeared on-screen, I was promptly thrown the controller and left to deal with it on my own. The boss of that world was Ursula. It was a long battle, but it wasn’t very intense. Mostly I just did a lot of swimming around, waiting for her to attack before wailing on her with magic or my Keyblade. Other bosses were more difficult and interesting. Ursula’s second form was more challenging, but fairly standard giant-boss “get behind it and beat the crap out of it” fare.

    Afterward Sara, more determined than ever, went back to the Coliseum. At my encouragement, she tried using the magic hotkeys more, though she struggled with keeping up with these more complicated controls. This caused her to lose to Leon and Yuffie yet again, but she immediately started the tournament over. More familiar with the hotkeys, Sara had a much easier time passing the early rounds. When she got to Leon and Yuffie, it was a long, difficult battle, but it was very fun for both player and audience. Sara’s perseverance proved successful, because she won!

    We moved on to the next world in the storyline, Halloween Town, from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Because it is my favorite world, I insisted on playing for that section. The enemies were easy, but I had forgotten how to solve the puzzles of the world. It took us awhile to get through some portions of the world because of this and Laura’s often baffling advice. I was reminded once again how many things “make sense” to experienced gamers that are completely unknown to newbies. The boss battle against Oogie-Boogie, was much more entertaining and challenging. For his second form, I let Laura play. This was where we all learned just how inexperienced Laura was, because when she finally tried to use the hotkeys, she resorted to a complicated maneuver where she held down the right trigger with her left hand so she could continue running. Yeah. It took quite some time, but when she eventually defeated Oogie-Boogie, we decided to call it a night.

    Overall
    Kingdom Hearts is a very fun game with endearing characters in a fascinating universe. It seems like a ridiculous premise: Final Fantasy crossed with Disney, but is a stellar game thanks to a rich storyline and excellent gameplay. While it can be a little complicated for inexperienced gamers, its learning curve is balanced enough to allow anyone to pick up and play while still giving more experienced players a challenge in certain areas.

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    Jan 27th, 2011 at 01:53:31     -    Murder in the Dark (Other)

    Murder in the Dark is a popular children’s game that is a derivative of tag.

    _Players_
    The minimum number of characters for the game is three, and there is no maximum. However, the optimal number of players is between five and fifteen for an average-sized house. I played the first game with eight people and the second with ten.

    At the start of each game, each player selects a slip of paper from a hat or other container. One slip designates a player as the cop, one designates the murderer, and the others are civilians. The contents of the paper must be kept secret from all other players, and they are returned to the hat before the start of play.

    _Gameplay_
    There are two factions of players. The cop and the civilians are on one side, and the murderer is on the other. The cop and the civilians want to discover the identity of the murderer. Additionally, the cop wants to avoid being killed at all cost because if he is the murderer automatically wins. The murderer wants to avoid being caught and to kill as many people as possible in the hopes that one of his victims is the cop.

    When the game starts, all lights are turned off, and the players start to move around the house. Since the murderer does not want to arouse the suspicions of the other players and the cop doesn’t want the murderer to target him, all players behave like civilians, either sneaking around or hiding.

    Once the murderer feels it is safe to do so, he begins looking for good opportunities to kill people. He does this by sliding his hand across their necks. Victims are not allowed the struggle against him or shout, and after they are killed they slide to the ground and must remain silent and motionless. The only exceptions are when the murderer forces them to move to another location or if someone asks them if they are alive.

    When someone finds a dead body, he yells, “Murder in the dark!” and everyone turns on the nearest light. The murderer is allowed to kill people as long as the lights are off, so it is important to get the lights on quickly to avoid being killed.

    Once the lights are on, any dead people are allowed to go into the main base with everyone else, but they cannot take part in the discussion and voting and can’t play for the rest of the game.

    All living players, including the unknown murderer and cop, then discuss who they think is the murderer, and everyone votes on a single person. During the voting, all players become vigilantes and kill the suspect, meaning he is also out of the game. The suspect then reveals if he is or is not the murderer, and if the cop was killed he reveals his identity. If the murderer or the cop is killed by anyone, the game is over. Otherwise, the lights are turned off again, and the remaining players continue until the murderer kills the cop or they catch the real murderer.

    Players may include their own house rules to increase or decrease difficulty. I and my friends limit games to fifteen minutes and forbid people from sticking together in groups for safety, but we also allow a minute or two at the start of each game to allow people to adjust to the darkness and find hiding places before the murderer can start killing.

    _Set-Up_
    Darkness is the most important element of the game. The play area, typically someone’s house, must be as dark as possible. Windows and blinds must be shut, TVs and computer screens must be turned off or covered, and all lights must be turned off. Adequate hiding places are also important. Any fragile or dangerous objects should also be put away to prevent anyone hurting themselves stumbling around in the dark. One central play area, such as a living room or kitchen, acts as a base where players will convene to discuss the identity of the murderer and find out their roles for the round. That room’s light does not get shut off until real play begins.

    _Game Sessions_
    Game 1:
    At the start of the round, each player drew their roles from the hat. I was a civilian. Once everyone indicated they were ready to begin, the living room light was shut off. All players were familiar with both the game and the house, and several people quickly settled into their favorite hiding places. People usually altered between hiding and walking around, trying to find people behaving suspiciously and checking to make sure the people in hiding places were still alive.

    I knew that the area beside the refrigerator was well-shadowed and would give me a decent hiding place before everyone’s eyes adjusted fully. It would allow me to observe the other players while still staying in a place that was too wide open and centrally located for the murderer to feel comfortable killing me there. I almost gave my friend a heart attack when I finally stood up. I thought he had seen me, but clearly he hadn’t! After abandoning the kitchen, I made my rounds around the house, searching out people hiding and checking to see if they were still alive.

    After about five minutes, my friend Sara shouted, “Murder in the dark!” and everyone quickly moved to turn on the nearest lightswitch. Bruce had been slain! We all convened in the living room and voted on our suspect. We decided to kill Danny, who revealed he was not the murderer. Neither one was the cop, either. Down two players, we resumed gameplay.

    This time I decided to hide. I settled in at the back of the laundry room, feeling secure in my very dark spot. Unfortunately, the murderer must have been following me, because no sooner did I settle in did I feel a hand sliding across my neck. It was Sara! She had been the one to “discover” Bruce’s body! Feeling annoyed at falling for her clever trick, I spent the next five minutes on the floor, hoping that someone would find me in my obscure hiding place. No such luck, but thankfully another body was found elsewhere in the house, and I could get up. Sara had made quick work of the others, and now only three people remained alive. Unfortunately, one of the people killed was the cop, which meant Sara won the game.

    Game 2:
    The second game was played immediately afterward, with the addition of two more players. Again I was a civilian. Determined to catch this round’s murderer in the act, I decided to follow people around. This ended up backfiring because every time someone spotted me sneaking around, we ended up warily dancing in circles around each other, each suspecting the other was the murderer and unwilling to turn our backs on each other. Changing tactics, I instead found a hiding place that would allow me to see into the master bedroom, where I was hoping to catch the murderer in action.

    I watched several people go through the room, but everyone left alive. After several uneventful minutes, someone started to approach me. I hopped up, hoping to get away in time, but I was cornered and murdered by Morgan.

    Unlike methodical Sara, Morgan didn’t hesitate after he made his first kill. He went on a killing spree, hoping to get as many people as he could before anyone discovered a body. From my spot, I could tell that the house was growing very quiet and worried that Morgan would end up killing everyone and winning the game.

    Luckily, Danny had other plans. Knowing that Austin was well-hidden in the living room, Danny did his best to lure the murderer in there as well. The murderer would think he was alone with Danny and would take the opportunity to kill him, while Austin secretly watched all the action. It was a risk, since he wasn’t sure if Austin was the real murderer, but in the end it was a success. Danny was murdered, and Austin called, “Murder in the dark!” and flicked on the lights. With an eyewitness report, the remaining players quickly decided to off Morgan, and the civilians won the round!

    _Opinion_
    Murderer in the Dark is a very fun game to play with friends. It is accessible to most ages and all skill levels. While it is similar to hide-and-seek or tag, the dark, creepy environment and the threat of being “murdered” create an air of urgency and excitement. The game changes with each group of people because everyone has their own play style and schemes, and even within the same group people are always switching up tactics. I really enjoy the game, but I do suggest putting a fifteen or twenty minute time limit on games, because it can get tedious waiting up to ten minutes for a hesitant murderer to finally start killing.

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