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    Jan 27th, 2008 at 16:41:06     -    Chrono Trigger (SNES)

    Summary: The game is a top-down 2D RPG which follows the adventures of Crono, a seemingly normal enough person as he uses his friend Lucca's time machine to travel through time and help prevent an appocolyptic future.

    The control scheme is relatively simple, and the game uses most common RPG conventions (IE equipable weapons, items, magic spells). The gameplay is unique because of the time travel function. It lets you see the same area of the world in several different time periods.

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    Jan 14th, 2008 at 04:04:12     -    Silent Hill: Origins (PSP)

    GAMEPLAY:

    I feel like a lot what I write will only be relevant to veterans of the series, as the Silent Hill series is very unique. Most of the games make sense in the context of the game that preceeded it. That is to say the second game has some elements explained by what happenned in the first, and vice versa. As a result, this series has sort of ventured towards this phenomena of where they are generally regarded by fans firstly by how well they go on to add on/clear up what we as fans already know about the central storyline. It is because of this that certain improvements never really get the credit or notice they deserve.

    For example, lets look at the combat system. I know I mentioned earlier that I wasn't a big fan of it, but as I continue to play, I notice more it grows on me. The large variety of meelee weapons allows for different ways to kill monsters and to approach each situation. There is also a wide variety of firearms that, strangely enough, behave very realistically. You cannot hit anything if you fire more than 2 or 3 shots at a time with the assault rifle. The shotgun has a fairly short range. All in all, the combat system takes on a very infant feel, that is almost appropriate given the lack of combat training for the protagonist. If he could acurately hit targets from 100 yards away, then this isn't silent hill anymore, its Rambo.

    The boss battles in this game are terrible. All bosses in this game, and the series for that matter, suffer from the same problems. They are all slow-moving, have a lov variety of attacks, and can be killed by standing in one place, shooting, going to the menu to reload, and repeating. After just finishing off the third boss in this game, I can affirmatively say that nothing has changed.

    jUst another example of the atmospheric beauty in this game. I'm traveling along the ground floor of the alternate world theatre. All around me, I can hear shrieking metal, akin with the blood, rust, and metal creating the environment around me. The music is foreboding, the lighting is low, and the environment is hellish. This game is truly an artistic experience.

    Quickly, I want to take a quick second to explain the alternate realm. In Silent Hill, most of the levels at some point have the player cross over into another dimension, where he layout of the level stays almost identical, however everything else changes. Instead of floor, you could be walking on a bloody, rusty, metal mesh. The walls can be replaced with bloody, pulsating "flesh-sacs" (for lack of a better term). Basically, the environment "goes to hell."

    DESIGN:

    Overall, this game has some excellent level design. There are some flaws, such as there is a high occurence of doors that are "broken" or "blocked." This is an obvious flaw of the design in that it would obviously be too time and space consuming to model every room in an entire mental hospital. That being said, I would say most levels are still mostly explorable (~70-80% so).

    That being said, the levels are MASSIVE, and very realistically designed. When I walked through the sanitarium, I literally thought that it could have been a real sanitarium somewhere. That it was located high on a hill and fairly isolated was a cliche that did NOT detract from the overall believability to the situation.

    I've mentioned before about the alternate reality. I just want to take this chance to say how truly well done the alternate worlds are. I've never felt so surrounded by evil as when I was wondering through the alternate sanitarium, playing my PSP in a completely dark room with noise cancelling, bass amplifying headphones. I felt like I could feel the bass of the hellfire boiling.

    After having played this game now for around 4 hours, I have realized why it is I find it enjoyable. The gameplay itself is fairly average, and does not do much thats special. Instead, its the experience, as well as the sheer creativity and horror of the environments. Playing this game is less like playing a game, and more like listening to a CD or staring at a piece of art. it invokes a feeling that stays with you even after you are done. It is that feeling, plus the amazing story that is fleshed out very nicely that ultimately makes this game an enjoyable experience. Perhaps this explains why the series has grown to be popular, but never beyond into mainstream success.

    And that, ironically, is the reward system for this game. Deal with this somewhat unoriginal gameplay, and cumbersome combat system, and you get to watch the cutscene's, learn the story, and explore some more of the amazing environments crafted around you. I feel like if the series had ever brought something more original to the genre, something more creative, it would have taken off a lot more. The amazing atmosphere, story, and design are held back by merely "average" gameplay.



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    Jan 14th, 2008 at 00:59:55     -    Silent Hill: Origins (PSP)

    As an avid fan of the Silent Hill series, it was a no brainer for me to pick up origins. It had been hyped as a 'return of form' of sorts for the series, as the last game to be released, Silent Hill 4, was for many, a dissapointment.

    This game, as do all other Silent Hill games, focuses on constantly surrounding the player with a sense of psychological dread and fear, and makes extensive use of atmosphere to do so. Every area has a distinct, tailor-made sountrack created by series veteran Akira Yamaoka. Yamaoka's sountrack and sound-effects excellence has a distinct Japanese horror essense commonly associate with movies such as Ringu and even The Grudge for those more in-tuned to Americanized Japanese horror (oxymoron?).

    Getting back to the atmosphere, it is incredibly well-executed in Origins. I had my doubts due to the constraints of a hand-held platform, but the opening screen's recomendations of a dark room and headphones really does the trick.
    I can feel myself getting lost in the world of Silent Hill, as well as my heart rate escalating and the adrenaline flowing. Origins, a game that will be rated very much on its ability to provide a "required" amount of fan-service as well as bring something new to the series succeeds very much so in the former. By that, I mean it faithfully recreates what fans have come to expect from the Silent Hill dimension, and its alternate. Not to say fans are
    demanding stagnation, but that fans are demanding something that recreates that
    same psychological dread that is present in the other games.

    I just finished a puzzle, and felt the need to give it praise for how very "Silent-Hill" it is. (That's a phrase that I catch myself using a lot while playing this game, and for some reason, the more I say it, the more positive my experience while playing the game is). While in the alternate reality of one of the levels, a Sanitarium, you come across a series of patient isolation rooms. Inside each room is different evidence of a different type of deranged person that resides in it. E.G. in one room there
    are bloody razors, in other there is piles of food, and a scale that looks 'well used' and in another there are women's clothes, as well as a design mannequine and perfume. Outside of the rooms, is a list the corresponds different medications with each room number. After leaving the isolation wing and exploring for a short while, you come accross a storage room that contains 5 dolls, each created to look creepily like a resident of those rooms, and it is up to the player to use the list, to match room number with doll with medication. The mechanic in the puzzle is literally putting different pills in these deranged dolls' mouths! To me, it was a moment that captured the psychological horror and essense of the series, in one of its other hallmarks -- puzzles.

    Another very well executed element in this game is the story. Revealed through cut-scenese, documents procured through in-game searching, as well as other creepy motifs found throughout the game (EG. A women's shower in the sanitarium has, written in thick blood letters, BRING ME MY SON on the floor). Travis Grady, the protagonist is in Silent Hill purely through an accident. Therefore the revealing of other plot details makes his back-story that much more interesting. Without revealing plot-spoilers, it can be safely said that Origins returns a mechanic that was present in Silent Hill 2, widely considered to be the best game in the series. Everything in Silent Hill is symbolic of something from the protagonists past. Few games ever have this much depth in character and story development. This is what makes Silent Hill unique. It is at its base a survival horror game, but escalates much beyond the simple "go here, shoot that thing, run, find key," mechanics found in many other games within the genre. It becomes less about surviving and more about learning the dark history of the town, or even of your own character. That is not to say it is merely a well-dressed novel with some interactivity -- Silent Hill's atmosphere succeeds because you, as the player, have to walk through
    it and experience it.

    However, as amazing and immersive as the atmosphere and story are, the game does have some negatives I keep coming accross repeatedly. As do all other Silent Hill games, combat is not executed very well. One reason why this game is so scary is that the controls are not responsive, and a simple monster encounter can mean death, as the interface is very "picky" when it comes to executing attacks. There are often long delays between pressing buttons, and seeing the actions on screen. Combat overall feels "laggy." This actually makes the game scarier, as it is easier to die, but at the same time, less-enjoyable, because I feel that the amazing attention to monster design in this game could be taken advantage of better if the character was forced to fight more, as opposed to being encouraged to run away due to a below-average combat system.

    The combat system has improved since previous games. For example, there are several different meelee weapons that can be used, and they have added a breakability factor to these weapons. You can pick up things like TV's, irons, drip stands, batons, toasters, etc. and use them as weapons. It's a small touch that does help to encourage combat, which I see as a step in the right direction for the series.

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    Jan 14th, 2008 at 00:42:59     -    Silent Hill: Origins (PSP)

    Summary:

    Silent Hill: Origins is a third-person survival horror for the Sony PSP. It is a prequel to the series and attempts to
    answer many long-standing questions in the series' plotline. The goal is to help Travis Grady, the protagonist, survive as
    well as discover the mystery of the town, Silent Hill, and its evil alternate reality.

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