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    Apr 16th, 2013 at 13:22:07     -    The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (360)

    The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Played between February March 5 and April 9

    The Witcher 2 is a single player game that I played on the Xbox 360 video game console. It includes two gameplay modes: a story mode and a challenge arena mode. The main draw of the game is the intricate story. The story is based on a series of novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, which is both well written and entrancing. As a fan of the novels I was extremely excited for the release of the game. The game places the player in the shoes of Geralt, the titular witcher, and are tasked with clearing their name, as well as side quests throughout the game.


    = Players =

    In single player story the player is tasked with completing both compulsory and optional quests. Most quests consist of multiple stages, and can be viewed in the quest log. The quest log has much more detail than the game purveys, and reading through the logs can be a rewarding experience to anyone who is interested in the world of the Witcher saga.

    In single player arena challenge mode the player is tasked with defeating waves of enemies, and based on the points earned during a wave to purchase powerups to get further in the arena challenge.

    = The World =

    The game world in the Witcher 2 is divided into areas that the player is only allowed access during certain parts of the story. The detail and design of the areas match the style and mood of the game as well as the environment that the player is supposed to be in. The buildings all look as if they belong to the period in which this game is happening, and both the towns and the wilderness are both fantastical and realistic.

    The player is allowed to save at any time they are not partaking in battle or a cutscene. Quest markers are often used to inform the player of where to go next.

    The controls are fairly tight, although often it seems one can beat most enemies by just mashing buttons.

    The only quirk with the world is that oftentimes it is difficult to see in dark areas. The game often gives realistic lighting in places such as indoors, but as the lighting is provided by candles it is difficult to make out objects such as doors.

    = The Game =

    The game has a tutorial level in which the titular Witcher, Geralt, helps the army of King Foltest to defeat rebellious nobles. Afterwords, the king is killed and all the blame falls upon Geralt. The game tasks you with clearing Geralt's name by finding the real culprits, which turns out to be a group of rouge witchers.

    The witcher is helped along by multiple weapons, most notably two types of swords. Steel swords are effective against humans and silver swords are effective against monsters. Also the witcher is able to use alchemy to make elixers that grant him certain enhancements. Alongside the elixers the witcher is able to use Signs, a type of magic accessible to witchers. These Signs range from a Force Push, Aard, to Axii, a Sign that is very similar to a Jedi Mind Trick.

    Defeating enemies grants the player experience points, and when enough are gained the player is allowed to level up. Leveling up grants the player a skill point, which they are free to use in one of four branches of the witcher's skills to improve either battle skills, magic skills, alchemy, or other skills.

    If the player dies they are made to reload a save file and try again.

    Throughout the game there are boss battles. Though often epic, to me it seems that without knowing the pattern, and having precise timing, these bosses are next to impossible. I often had to try in excess of five times to just beat one boss.

    Once the story in an area is complete the witcher is moved to the next area to continue the story quest.


    = Game Play =

    I played this game over multiple days, sometimes taking a couple days off in between playing.

    When I started the game I was surprised to see that the Witcher was fighting for King Foltest, as it does not seem to fit with the supposed neutrality that witchers are often known to hold.

    The tutorial area was very simple, although I was disappointed that I was mostly fighting humans, as killing monsters is a large part of the witcher's profession.

    After I was framed for the murder of the king, and escaped the prison I was pleased to see that Geralt is still able to take contracts to kill monsters bothering citizens, just as he often does in the books I have read. In fact the first main objective of the game is to kill a giant monster (basically a Kraken). This was the game's first real boss, and it was fairly difficult for me to defeat. After much trial and error I finally was able to defeat this beast.

    After going further in the story I finally got to face one of the witchers that framed Geralt: Letho. Letho was no joke. Letho IS no joke. Letho is extremely overpowered compared to Geralt. In fact Letho shows how powerful Geralt will become throughout the game. After hours of trying to defeat Letho, I was finally able to do so. Except the game then went into a cutscene where it was shown that in fact Geralt lost and Letho spared his life. I was not pleased with this. If I was supposed to lose anyways, why make me fight this behemoth?

    The game continued with amazing story developments, and often it branched into split paths, that although similar, do offer replay value.

    = Overall =

    The Witcher 2 is an amazing Western RPG developed. The story stays true to the style of the novels I read, and charmed me as well as those novels. Although large parts of the game seemed to be completable with just mashing buttons, the bosses were difficult and added some challenge to the game. One thing I disliked was the limitation of drinking elixers only during meditation, and not during battle, although this does stay in line with how the Geralt uses his elixers in the novels. I have not beat it yet, but as soon as I have free time to spare, I definately will. Perhaps Geralt has cast the Axii Sign on me, and if so, I do not mind one bit.

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    Feb 28th, 2013 at 10:09:09     -    Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

    Donkey Kong Country: Played between February 19 and February 28

    Donkey Kong Country is a mainly single player game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It also includes two different two player co-op modes: a cooperative mode where the second player controls the second character when the first player gets hit, and a mode where players complete each level separately to compare scores at the end. Donkey Kong Country puts the player(s) in the "shoes" of Donkey Kong, a gorilla who's banana stash was taken by an evil crocodile, and Diddy Kong the young monkey sidekick. The game tasks the player(s) to complete levels and challenges to get back Donkey Kong's(From here on referred to as DK) banana stash.

    = Players =

    In single player and competitive two player mode each player is given control of DK and Diddy. At the start the player only controls DK, but if a barel is found then Diddy starts running behind DK. If DK is hit he goes away and the player controls Diddy. If another barel is found then DK comes back. At any time both apes are present the player can switch between the two. If only one ape is present and the player gets hit, it is game over.

    Both apes are slightly different to play as. DK is slow but when he throws barels he can throw them further. Diddy on the other hand is fast and can jump higher to reach different areas.

    In co-op mode player one controls DK, and player two controls Diddy. Only one player is in control at any given time. If DK is hit the game slightly pauses to let player two get ready, and as soon as player two hits any button on the SNES controller the game resumes with the second player controlling Diddy. Also the players can choose to switch at any time by hitting Y on the SNES controller. This can be done to reach areas and power ups that the other player cannot.

    = The World =

    The game world is divided into differently themed areas which consist of multiple levels. At the end of each area there is a boss, a large, difficult enemy that requires multiple hits to defeat. The first area is themed after a jungle, and the second is themed after mines. There are also lava and ice themed areas as well as water levels. The levels are all slightly different with many hidden areas that contain bonuses. On the world map the player can access save points, "teleport" points that let you go back to a previous world faster, and tip points where the player can purchase hints.

    The controls are tight and do not seem to have any lag. This helps the game rely on player skill instead of using cheap deaths.
    The graphics are extremely good for the SNES and set the mood well. The music also adds to both the graphics and the game play. I was extremely impressed with the game look and feel.

    = The Game =

    The game drops the player in a jungle and tasks the player to get to the end of each level, usually requiring the player to run to the right. There are enemies that can be defeated by throwing barels or jumping on their heads, though some enemies damage the player if the enemy is jumped on. If the player loses all their apes they lose a life. Once all lives are lost it is Game Over, and the player can start from the beginning or the last save point.

    There are many items to collect throughout the game. Most common is a banana, which if the player collects one hundred of they receive another life. If the player collects the letters spread throughout each level that spell out KONG(in any order) the player receives another life. If the player collects a balloon they receive another life. Also there are animal statues spread throughout the levels. The statues are of a fish, ostrich, and frog. If the player collects three statues of one kind they are taken to a bonus level that is filled with bananas. The player is tasked with collecting as many bananas as possible within a time limit.

    When the player reaches the end of an area they are tasked with defeating a boss. The boss usually has a predictable pattern and takes multiple hits to defeat. After beating the boss the player is allowed passage into the next area. After clearing all the levels and all the areas as well as all the bosses the player beats the game.

    = Game Play =

    I played continuous sessions throughout the week. First I tried playing the game solo, and then I had a friend join me for a co-op attempt.

    Solo Session: I played Donkey Kong Country in solo mode first. I played it on the SNES using the stock SNES controller to be able to use controls as they were originally designed.

    After the game dropped me off on the first level it took me some time to get used to the controls. There was a roll that was an attack, jumping was to navigate platforms as well as to attack some enemies. There was also an ability to pick up barels to get Diddy as well as to use the barels to attack enemies.

    On the first level most of the enemies were the same, crocodiles. Dealing was fairly easy, and became even easier when I discovered a rhino power-up that let me ride a rhino that auto attacked any enemies that I encountered.

    After trying playing as both characters, I discovered that I preferred the way that DK controlled, seemed more one to one than when playing as Diddy.

    The first few levels were fairly simple, though the armadillo enemy gave me issues.

    A couple levels later there was an enemy that you could not kill: giant bees. This was an enemy I learned to avoid and just jump over. This became difficult when the mechanic of firing DK between moving barels was introduced. The barels moved quickly and so did the bees, therefore timing the shots was fairly difficult. I died multiple times on this level, yet thanks to the bananas I had collected up to that point kept me from running out of lives.

    The first boss fight was with a giant mouse. It was very easy and I beat him without dying even once.

    The second area came after that and was in the mines. The environment was very dark, and sometimes it was difficult to see the edges of platforms even with the lights off, and therefore I died a couple of times.

    I had no issues other than that in this world until I reached a level which I can only describe as the mine cart level. In this level DK and Diddy were riding in a mine cart. The task at hand was to jump over enemies on other carts, as well as jumping over gaps in the tracks. The speed and layout of this level was so difficult I could not beat it, even after I went back to the first level of the game and played it over and over to get a large amount of extra lives. I attempted the mine-cart level over multiple days and I could not beat it. So I decided to bring in some help.

    Co-Op Session: As I could not beat the mine cart level alone I decided to get a friend, John, to come over and play the game in co-op with me. We breezed through the first area fairly easily. I remembered most of the levels, and the things I had difficulties with John's faster reflexes got us through much faster and easier than when I was going through the game alone. The game was much more enjoyable and less stressful when playing with a friend. Now when I died instead of getting angry we just made fun of each other and had a laugh. When we got to the mine-cart level we went back to the first level to hoard lives. After we had 20 extra lives we decided to attempt that dreadful level.

    When we began the level I let John take control of the game. He was actually able to get us further than when I played solo. We got to a checkpoint, which let us begin from there every time we start the level. Yet no matter how much we tried we could not get past that forsaken level. Whenever we finally made a jump that was difficult an enemy would come out of nowhere and kill us. We decided to give up after trying for 2 hours. This is as far as I was able to get in the game.

    = Overall =

    Donkey Kong Country is a fast paced platformer from the days when platformers ruled the video game market. It is fun yet difficult. Often the difficulty is to the point of frustration, which I can honestly say is because of lack of skill on the player side instead of cheap tricks. Eventually I hope to beat that mine cart level, and I can't wait to experience the rest of this amazing game.

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    Feb 5th, 2013 at 10:09:11     -    Durak(Idiot) (Other)

    Durak(Idiot) Games 1 and 2. Played January 16th.

    Durak(Translates from Russian approximately to Idiot) is a competitive 2 to 4 player card game. The goal of the game is to get rid of all the cards in the deck, and then your hand, while at the same time attempting to make your opponents take in as many cards as possible. The loser is declared Durak (Idiot).

    =Players=

    There have to be at least 2 and at most 4 players to play idiot. The more players there are the shorter the game usually lasts due to the constant size of the game deck. Usually the person providing the deck is the initial Dealer, and the winner of a game is usually declared as the new dealer.

    =The Deck=

    The game is played with a standard Russian deck of cards. Often when cards are bought in the Ex-Soviet Union the deck comes with cards of 4 suits: Club, Hearts, Diamonds, and Spades, and with cards going from 6 to Ace.

    =The Game=

    The deck is shuffled. The dealer initially deals six cards to each player. After the cards are dealt, the top card on the deck is removed and flipped and placed under the deck with part of it sticking out. The suit of the card is the Kozir(translated to something along the lines of a Trump suit). The player with the lowest value of trump card goes first and places a card down. If they have two of the same value they are allowed to place two cards. The person to the right is then to defeat these cards with either a card of the same suit of a higher value, or a trump suit card (even a trump 6 can beat a regular ace, yet trump cards can only be beaten with trump cards of a higher value). If the person that went has a card that the previous cards were defeated with they can then place them down to make the person to the right beat them again. If the person who was "attacked" cannot beat any of the cards they were "attacked" with they are to take the cards they were attacked with in addition to the cards they defended with. If they defeat the cards they were attacked with the cards are sent to Otboi(Knock out). If after the turn any player has less than six cards they are to draw from the deck until they own six cards if the number of cards in the deck allows it. The turn then goes to the player on the right of the attacker. The player that gets rid of all their cards first wins the game.

    =Game Play=

    First Session:
    We played with 4 people for the first session, 3 long time players and a new player. After explaining the rules to the new player and playing a test game we played for some tokens, we used bottle caps in place of money.

    I was named the dealer since I brought the card deck with me to the game session. I dealt the cards to all the players, myself last, and then flipped the top card to determine that Diamonds was the trump suit for this game. I happened to have a 7 of diamonds, which turned out to be the lowest trump, so I went first. The newbie player was the one who was defending, and ended up defeating my single card fairly easily, though she did have to sacrifice a higher value club to defeat my measly 8 of clubs.

    After a few turns one of the older players was choosing to not defeat cards they were attacked with and as a result hoarding a large amount of cards. This is a common strategy I have often used that allows you after a chosen point, often when there are no cards left to draw from the deck, to start attacking with pairs and triples of cards and tossing in cards of same value as ones defended with. This can often overwhelm a player towards the end of the game since they have used most of their trumps and higher value cards. It is a risky maneuver since a player can defeat all your cards and exit the game and win, with you left with a large amount of cards as the loser.

    The newbie player did not realize this strategy, and fell into the older players trap. The older player ended up using all their cards and forcing the newbie to take in all those cards. After that 3 of us were left to decide who was second. I had been hoarding trump cards, and was left with only them. This is another strategy I have seen throughout the years I have played this game, and mostly depends on luck of the draw to get a large amount of trump cards. I went with just the trump cards, and since they cannot be defeated with anything other than higher value trump cards, I quickly exited the game and was declared second place winner. The two other players were labeled Durak(Idiot).

    Both of these strategies used by the older player and myself show the definite lean of this game towards experienced players, even when luck is such a big part of the game. I have seen a newbie win before, based on luck alone, but it is not common. There are many strategies that players come up with after having experience with the game.

    Second Session:
    The second game was played right after the end of the first game, this time just between the experienced player that won the first game and me. A two player game is usually more intense and longer since the cards in the deck do not get exhausted as quickly. The other player was the dealer since he won the previous game. The trump suit came out to be Hearts.

    Since the player and I have both been playing the game for at least 10 years, the game was leaning even more on strategy than luck of the draw. Neither of us used the hoarding techniques we used in the previous game. There was a balance of attacking with too many cards and attempting to defend unsuccessfully since it showed the other player the cards you would have. I tried very hard to remember every card that I had seen that the other player had. In the end the player outwitted my by baiting my trump cards with his high value cards such as Kings and Queens. He then proceeded to make me pick up cards by going with first his high cards, and then trump cards in ascending order to not give me a chance to defend his future attacks with cards he made me pick up. Needless to say I lost and was labeled Durak.

    This game displayed the need strategy even more. It demonstrated a strategy of being careful of what cards you let the opponent pick up to defend yourself in the future, as well as a memory of what cards the opponent has picked up. This is usually seen more in 2 player games, as well as games with experienced players. Luck has even less of an influence on an outcome when its two experienced players playing a pre-decided strategy.

    =Overall=

    Durak is a fun and fairly simple card game, even though strategy is often used by experienced players. It is heavily unbalanced towards experienced players, and often requires many sessions to understand all the nuances and strategies used in the game. This game has been played for many years in many Eastern European countries and is a blast when playing with friends, even if just for the chance to label them Idiot.

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