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    Apr 20th, 2009 at 21:59:04     -    Portal (360)

    ** Overview **

    The game is an innovative mix of FPS and puzzle. The main point of the game is to get to the exit gate, by any means necessary. Your primary "weapon" is a portal gun that shoots either orange or blue portals, that are linked to each other, and allow the player and any other objects to pass through them. In many levels, you also have a "companion cube" which you use to weigh down switches, jump on, block fire balls, etc... Throughout all the levels, GLaDOS is your "guide," until you reach past level 19, and she turns into the antagonist.

    ** Story **

    You are a test subject in the Aperture Science Laboratory, that is being subjected to several tests with the Portal Gun. According to outside sources, you find out that Aperture Science was somehow born through Black Mesa, which is a large part of the story in the Half-Life series. However, the full story isn't quite clear simply by playing through Portal. One must be familiar with the Half-Life Series, as well as outside research before it becomes clear.

    ** Graphics and Sound **

    The graphics are outstanding, even compared to other Xbox 360 games. The sounds are all original and well thought out, and actually did stand out to me during game play. They are interesting, original, and creative sounds.

    ** Gameplay **

    The gameplay is very fun. You begin the game, and the first 19 levels each teach you a new method to beat a level. You must use several tactics other than using the portal gun to beat some of the levels. For instance, there are doors that are only opened by stepping on a switch, and you must use a your "companion cube" to beat most of the levels. Another tactic to beating the level is of course to use the portal gun, however, there are many different ways to use it, and usually many ways to beat a specific challenge. Many times you must use your velocity to reach out of the way areas. The portals conserve your momentum, while changing your direction. This allows you to place a portal on the wall, place a corresponding portal on the floor, then fall through the portal on the floor, causing you to fall back down, into the portal again, then flying further than last time. There are several other tactics, including activating moving platforms, "directing" the plasma balls into their activators, and other creative tactics. Many times, the solution isn't immediately obvious. The game creates conflict through changing the alignment of GLaDOS at the end of level 19. Once it becomes clear that she's trying to kill you, and that you won't cooperate with her killing you, she begins to set the levels against you. The game had a very clear flow, very linear. While there was sometimes a variety of ways to beat each individual parts of the level, the parts of the level can in a linear fashion.

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    Mar 6th, 2009 at 09:57:42     -    XKCD The Game (PC)

    **Overview**

    The game is a hodgepodge of various modes of play, from a shmup, to a racing game, to a side scrolling game, to an arcade game. The first game mode, shmup, requires you to click 10 of the spiders before time runs out. With not the best click detection, this actually proves to be fairly difficult. Following the 10 spider clicks, you must then correctly answer a quiz question. This repeats itself for another go, except you must then click on a flying superhero guy. The next stage is a racing game. You must race the computer, which is invulnerable to the spiders, which slow your character down. On my first play-through, I actually got stuck on one of the spiders while I was on the grass (which slows you way down), and had to restart. Despite all these difficulties, at the end, you realize this isn't a racing game, you simply have to finish to win. The next stage is a side-scrolling sword game. You must successfully fend off ninjas, velociraptors, and other enemies. The final stage is the most fun, as it is a tower defense type game. The four different towers, normal, big ball, ice, and super laser all add a very balanced aspect to the game. (Though, it's too hard to lose.) I believe this level was the most enjoyable to play.

    ** Thoughts **

    The game has very little replay value, and the second time through was fairly boring, with the exception of the tower defense stage. It's architecture of each level being in a completely different genre, while consistent with the XKCD universe, doesn't really make for a good game. While this approach may be novel, I don't think that's how games should be designed.

    ** Level Design **

    When looking at each level as a completely separate entity, they are very well designed. They are all beatable, with the exception of the Ron Paul race, which doesn't matter anyways. For the length of the assignment, each level was the appropriate length.

    ** Technical aspects **

    The game's graphics, though only stick figures, looks very well done. The game never glitched or froze, and loaded up just fine. The sound added alot to the game, and was well selected.

    ** Other Thoughts **

    There is no reward system in place, other than win or lose. There is no scoring system for which to base your skill increase from play to play. The racing level has the worst design, because its intentional slowing of the player on grass, and the players inability to get past the slow spiders simply is frustrating. The tower defense level is the most fun and best designed, but of course, no points for original design.

    ** Overall **

    Overall, this was a fun little game to play. It has limited replay value, though I might play it again just to get to the last level. The story arc throughout the game adds an interesting aspect to the game that none of the other games seemed to have. The technical aspects of the game, sound, graphics, and lack of bugs made the game fun to play.

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    Jan 18th, 2009 at 12:07:06     -    Uno (Other)

    The classic Uno is a fascinatingly simple game, yet has room for so many dynamics. The game's rules themselves are remarkably simple to learn, but when you sit down to actually play the game, complex strategies begin to evolve.

    -RULES

    The rules of the game are simple: Place a card from your hand onto the discard pile that either, a) matches the color of the card on top of the discard pile, or matches the number or directions (i.e. a 9 card, or a Reverse card). When you are down to your last card, you must declare "Uno!" or else if another player catches you without having declared "Uno," you must draw 4 cards. The winner is the first to discard all his cards. If ever you find yourself without a card to play on the discard pile, you must draw from the draw pile, until you can play your turn, sometimes making you rack up many cards in your hand.

    -Special Cards

    As well as having red, blue, green, and yellow numbered cards (0-9), there are several special cards that make strategy ever so important.
    -Wild
    This standard wild card allows the player to decide what color is played next, by the next player. The only way the next player can override this decision, is by also placing another wild card.
    -Wild (Draw Four)
    This wild card has the same effect as the standard wild card, but also requires the next player to draw 4 cards from the draw pile.
    -Reverse
    Assuming play was going in a clockwise direction, play will now go in a counter-clockwise direction.
    -Skip
    The player who was next in line to play, instead forfeits his turn, and play moves to the next player. (Note that in a two player game, Reverse and Skip effectively do the same thing)
    -Draw Two
    The next player must draw two cards, then resume his turn as normal.

    -Gameplay

    For our game, there were only two players, which makes the game a bit less interesting. The first game lasted a while, due to the fact that each time we would call uno, the remaining card in hand was not compatible with the card at the top of the discard pile, and lots of drawing was required. After several minutes of continued play, and after claiming 15 or so cards to my hand, I lost.

    For the second game, I ended up coming out victorious. After several foiled "Uno" attempts, my opponent finally called "Uno" for the last time and I laid down a standard wild card, giving me roughly a 1/4 chance of foiling her. Luckily, I not only chose a color that she didn't have, but also a color that was not anywhere near the top of the draw pile, causing her to accumulate a large hand of cards, and giving me a chance to discard all of my cards.

    -Overall

    Shoddy shuffling can completely ruin the game, and having only two players makes the game a bit less interesting. Strategy does have a place in this simple game, and the dynamics are fairly incredible, going from only having one card, to having to accumulate 20. While more complex variations of the game exist, the standard Uno game has been played by many, and loved by most.

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    1Portal (360)Playing
    2Uno (Other)Finished playing
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