Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

This past few days, I’ve had the Sly Collection, Enslaved, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood in my hands. I’ve been switching between the three at intervals. For the moment, I’m gonna talk about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

Enslaved is a bit of oddity. It’s another one of those games where the story takes precedent above all else. As a result, while the graphical fidelity, voice acting, and overall production values are all very good, but the gameplay suffers a little for it.

This all-important story revolves around two characters (and later three): Trip and Monkey. Trip is a beautiful, curvaceous young woman with some impressive tech skills (you don’t see too many of those these days). She probably failed a couple PE classes when she was younger. Monkey is large, musclebound dude who’s as agile as he is strong. He doesn’t have any relatives, or even a name (Monkey is a just a nickname some people call him after seeing his climbing skills), and drifts through the land aimlessly.

The story is set 150 years in the future, long after a global war ravaged the planet, leaving nothing but ruins and wastelands. Now, mechs roam the surface, killing or capturing any remaining humans that they encounter and carting them off to some destination in the west using flying slave ships.

Monkey and Trip are held aboard one such slave ship. Trip manages to escape using her hacking skills, and when an explosion dislodges his container, Monkey follows suit. Whatever Trip did to escape did a number on the ship, because it crashes in the remains of New York. But not before Trip and Monkey can get away in an escape pod. Monkey’s menacing demeanor apparently gave Trip the wrong impression however, because she fits a hacked slave headband onto his head after they land while he’s unconscious.

With the headband on, Trip can make voice commands that cause Monkey immeasurable pain and eventually death if he fails to heed them. Her request is simple: her home is a few hundred miles to the west; if Monkey can get her there in one piece, she’ll take the headband off. If she dies, the headband is coded to kill Monkey as well, so he has no choice but to accept. And thus the duo’s journey to the West gets off to a shaky start.

Prince of Persia (the ‘08 game) had a cool dynamic where you had two characters, one player controlled and the other computer-controlled, who had to work closely together to accomplish a goal. Along the way, they eventually developed a bond. Enslaved features a similar mechanic. As you might expect, Monkey and Trip’s relationship starts off pretty uncertain. Trip retains a sunny disposition toward Monkey for the most part, but he is (understandably) unable to reciprocate her efforts. However, the land is littered with mechs and other hazards, so they’ll need each other’s skills to stay alive.

Besides being able to get to many places Trip can’t using his expert climbing skills, Monkey uses his raw strength, an energy shield, and a staff for protection. He’s able to take the mechs head on, clearing the way for Trip. He has a good sense of survival, and is often the one to notice when there’s danger afoot. Trip is a tech wizard, able to hack just about anything to suit her needs. She’s a tad clumsy though, and frequently needs Monkey to help her cross gaps or throw her up to a ledge. Though at first Monkey sees her as little more than a burden, she shows her worth. Trip is able to upgrade Monkey’s equipment and abilities to increase his survivability (and, indeed her own in turn). She can also use a dragonfly camera to scout the area ahead for Monkey, letting him know of anything she spots, such as mechs and turrets. She can transmit relevant information directly into his headband, to better show Monkey where he needs to go, or what he needs to do, for them to progress. Trip can also distract the mechs with a holographic decoy, allowing Monkey to flank them.

These two will need each other’s skills to survive the journey, something that even Monkey realizes early on. And when he does, this is also when the two begin to develop something a bit more pleasant than animosity.

That’s enough about the story and background; let’s talk gameplay. Well, it really is just filler. The game is at its strongest when it’s either playing a cutscene or having the player work together closely with Trip. For example, you’ll often encounter areas that are under the watch of automated turrets. Monkey’s shield will withstand some punishment before he starts taking fire, but for him to get close enough to neutralize the turret, he’ll need Trip to distract the turret so he can get by safely. Likewise, sometimes Trip will need Monkey to distract turrets for her so that she can move safely. Cooperative movements such as these aren’t always that complex, either. For example, occasionally Monkey will toss Trip across a gap, only for her to not make it the whole way and grab onto the ledge, requiring the player to jump across and help her up before she falls.

Unfortunately, areas that require close coordination with Trip aren’t as common as I hoped they would be. More often than not, the two will have to momentarily part ways, with Trip either hanging behind on the computer, or taking the direct route, while Monkey either takes the scenic route or has to cover her by fending off assaulting mechs.

Which brings me to combat. Most of the game, the controls feel a bit sluggish to me, but during combat they’re more responsive. Though the game goes to some lengths to shake things up, the combat is mostly a simple affair. You have a light attack and a strong attack, and the ability to block. There are a few variations on the typical mooks that you’ll encounter, each requiring just a little bit more thought, but for the most part you can probably get by with just button mashing, to be honest. While I found the combat to be enjoyable, it still feels like filler content.

In terms of gameplay, the biggest problem I have with Enslaved is the same problem many other story-dominated games suffer from; hand-holding. When you’re climbing, each handhold is highlighted, telling you precisely where to go next. It’s often not even possible to fall to your death, whether you’re climbing up a wall or walking on your own two feet. Many interactions is explained with a giant bar across the screen, saying “press X to throw her up” or “press O to finish him/her off”. The gameplay doesn’t feel linear, per se, just shallow at times.

Back to the good stuff. The world of Enslaved is atypical of what you might have come to expect from the post-apocalyptic theme. With mankind near demolished, Mother Nature has retaken the planet. As a result, the world is a surprisingly bright place, saturated with color (most dominantly green). This came as a pleasant surprise, very refreshing. Unfortunately, the game almost never ran at a smooth framerate (save for cutscenes), with the visuals coasting right between smooth and jittery. I also noticed some visual glitches such as pop-in, slow-down, and objects (such as tech orbs) disappearing. During my playthrough the game never once froze, though. Furthermore, I wanted to give special mention to the animation, which is superb. The facial animation in particular is probably the best I’ve seen since Heavy Rain and Uncharted 2. There are often times in the game where characters are able to communicate believably just by contorting their faces; lesser games would have required spoken dialogue to get the same point across. The audio is also very good. The voice acting is a treat to listen to, and the BGMs serve their purpose well. As I said, the productions values are excellent.

Enslaved’s strength lies in its presentation and concept. The characters (what few of them there are) are all quite likable, and the overall plot is good. I was, however disappointed by the ending, but your mileage may vary. Not all of the developers ideas are as consistently well executed as I might have hoped, but when they do all come together, Enslaved shines very bright indeed. A 7.5/10.


My game intake has gone down a bit lately, as I patiently wait for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to come out. I’ve been taking this small break to catch up on some slightly older games. I tried Super Mario Galaxy 2 but man was that game boring. Suddenly all those 9.5+ reviews, even as a 1st-party, flagship Mario game, seem like a whole lotta fluff. But that’s me.

Anyway, I’ve had the demo for Bayonetta sitting on my PS3 since it first came up for download back in..January, was it? Why? Because I enjoyed it.

Do I still enjoy it now that I have the whole game..?
Eh. Not as much as I thought. But that’s not to say it’s bad.

First of all, Bayonetta is a very odd game. It is an action game in the same vein as Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry, but it’s wrapped around a number of quirky design choices, unique game elements, and a story that’s more trouble to follow than it’s probably worth.

Let’s start with the main character, depicted on the box art. Bayonetta is a witch. The last of her kind, in fact. The game takes place in a psuedo-real world setting. The background is this: a long, long time ago there were two factions: the Umbra Witches and the Lumen Sages (essentially witches and angels). These two factions warred with each other, and the Umbra Witches nearly won, if not for the interference of the humans, who worshipped the Lumen Sages. Thus began the notorious witch hunts, which ended with that faction being near-obliterated.

Back to Bayonetta. She’s a pretty eccentric person. Her outfit, though modest under normal circumstances, is made up mostly of her hair, which she uses when casting powerful spells. Thus, the more Bayonetta fights, the more of her hair she uses, and the more..ah, revealing her outfit becomes. At full power she’s pretty much nekkid, with convenient swirls blocking view of the delicates (sorta like Naruto’s sexy jutsu). Nearly everything Bayonetta does tends have some sexual connotations, from her love for lollipops, to her posture and style of movement (hoo boy), even to her choice of words, both in and out of battle. “Do you want to touch me?” she says during one of her taunts.

Somehow, this doesn’t really translate to awkward moments for the player; just amusement and sometimes downright hilarity. Like for example, when Bayonetta meets an enemy pretending to be her doppelganger, what’s her first reaction? A dance-off, complete with minor pyrotechnics, and camera angles where they probably shouldn’t be. Ohhh, yes. I have to say, Bayonetta’s probably one of the funnest characters I’ve seen in a while. It’s a little like playing as, say, Viewtiful Joe. But even Joe ain’t got nothing on Bayonetta when it comes to pure style and personality.

Though you’ll be able to pick up a handful of other weapons as you play through the game, Bayonetta’s armaments of choice are a set of four pistols. One for each hand, and one strapped to each heel. Using her feet as weapons, you know her fighting style is going to have an acrobatic flair to it. That’s not all, though. Her eccentricity translates into her attacks, such the move “Breakdance”, which has her rolling into a Windmill dance move, while continuously firing her feet guns.

Now let’s talk more about the combat system. Whatever your thoughts may be regarding the story, characters, or presentation, this is where the meat of the game is. There’s a tiny bit of puzzles and platforming, but in pretty much every new area you walk into, you can expect a fight. Enemies that used to be bosses become commonplace, often bringing their buddies with them, and often you’ll find yourself wondering “where the heck did all the mooks go?”. These guys are the mooks.

Though the combat elements are easy enough to understand, this is can be a pretty technical game if you want it to be. You have three attack buttons. Square is your guns. You can hold it down to shoot enemies from afar (this is a lot like how you could whip out your gun in DMC games to preserve combos). Triangle and Circle are your standard and slow attacks, respectively. I’ll be the first to say I’m really not that great at this game, so often my attacks just devolve into random button mashing. But for the seasoned there’s some options. You can finish out any combo with a hale of gunfire just by holding down the button you’re attacking with at the moment, and of course there are a vast number of combo strings available to you. Otherwise, Bayonetta finishes most combos by summoning a giant limb from Madame Butterfly (her demon sponsor..?) to smack enemies around. Come to think of it, it’s almost like having to memorize strings in a fighter! You can also buy more techniques from the ingame shop.

Bayonetta can’t block attacks, but she can dodge them. R2 is your dodge button. If you dodge an attack right before it hits you, you can activate Witch Time for a few moments, which slows down your enemies. When you pull it off consecutively, it feels great. Unfortunately, as you progress in the game, you’ll encounter enemies packing moves that won’t grant you Witch Time even if dodged (though you’ll still get a split-second of slow mo) correctly.

Like in any action game worth its salt, most enemies can also be finished off in a very cinematic fashion. For bosses this happens automatically once they reach a certain threshold. Usually it involves Bayonetta using her hair to summon demonic forces from the netherworld to beat the stuffing out of the weakened foe before dragging them to hell, or reducing them to chunks of meat. For everyone else, you have Torture Attacks, which can be executed with a full magic bar, gained from attacking enemies without getting hurt. Torture attacks are exactly what you might think they are. Bayonetta summons a medieval torture machine such as a guillotine or iron maiden, forces the enemy into the machine, and leaves it there for massive damage. One such attack is used on her afore-mentioned doppelganger. Bayonetta summons a giant wooden horse, and a whip, chains up the enemy in a rather..erotic fashion, plops her onto the horse, and slowly presses the poor gal into the horse with her heel before dealing the final blow. It’s great.

Unfortunately, the game isn’t very good looking, and suffers from laggy menus and frequent loading screens. I’ve heard this is pretty much exclusive to the PS3 version, and it was even worse before the patch which lets you install the game to ease the problem. Fortunately, at least the load screens are fully playable, letting you practice your moves.

Audio in this game is actually pretty good. The soundtrack is mostly composed of jazzy tunes you’d expect to maybe hear in a Sly Cooper game or something. The dialogue is amusing, to say the least, even when it doesn’t appear to make much sense.

Furthermore, this is a hard game. I’ve been playing through on normal, and the point I’m at I tend to die pretty much at every other boss battle. For casuals (like myself), there’s Easy and even Very Easy, both of which have varying amounts of automatic gameplay involved, and also supposedly some higher difficulties (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t beaten the game yet).

I’m not sure I explicitly mentioned it, but this game is over the top, and random at times. From the prologue, which begins with two women making a last stand against a hoard of angels, on top of a chunk of falling stone as it plummets to the bottom of a canyon, to such things as one character running from pursuing authorities, only to stop and flirt with a girl, fall over in the process, get up, continue flirting, and then run away, and another instance where Bayonetta escapes a raging wave of a lava by grabbing a nearby angel and surfing on top of it. And then there’s the random biking segment. Like I said, this is a pretty odd game.

Replay value is probably off the charts if you’re the sort who’s patient enough to sit down and really get to know the game’s combat system. This is a pretty long game, and you get a ranking not only at the end of each chapter, but at the end of nearly every fight. Plus there’s multiple difficulties, and a lot of unlockables. Again, it’s sorta like a fighting game, where the replay value is definitely there, but only for those who really enjoy this sort of thing.

Overall, a 7.5/10

Metroid: Other M

I’ve never been a huge fan of Metroid games. I liked Metroid Prime 3, and have played Fusion and and the first Metroid Prime..but, in those games, when it hit me how nonlinear they were, I found the scope of the games to be a little overwhelming.

But, as is part of its draw, Metroid: Other M is drastically different from the rest of the series. First of all, the game actually features a fully voiced story sitting front and center. Second, it’s quite linear. Two things that the Metroid series are definitely a stranger to.

Metroid: Other M’s story is that of Samus’s past. It starts right after Super Metroid (I think that’s the one?), featuring an epic CG cutscene of the baby Metroid sacrificing itself to give Samus the power to end Mother Brain. Returning to Galactic Federation headquarters, Samus reports the results of her mission, and then sets out once again. She receives a mysterious distress signal however, coming from what appears to be a giant, abandoned Galactic Federation research vessel known as the Bottle Ship. There she soon makes contact with a squad of GF marines, there on a mission of their own. The squad is led by Adam Malkovich, who was Samus’ commander during her days in the military.

While there is a story here full of foreshadowing, twists and turns, that’s all just an excuse to portray Samus’s interactions with Adam, which in turn allows the game to spend a lot of time talking her past, consequently fleshing her out as a character. Samus has always been seen as the stoic type, a hardened combatant who does what she needs to to get the job done. That persona is shed here, for better or for worse, revealing the person under the battle armor.

Other M is still mostly a Metroid game, though. Stages still range from natural alien environments (courtesy of advanced holo projectors) to dark, deserted space ship corridors. You’re still saving and having your health refilled exclusively at save/map stations. And you’re still eliminating alien monsters with extreme prejudice.

But there are a number of things different, too. First and foremost is view point. Most of the time the game is in 3rd person view, where you control the game via the Wiimote, held sideways. The camera is fixed, but moves on its own frequently to provide better (and definitely more cinematic) views of the action. Kinda like in Sonic Unleashed, the camera also often switches to a 2D perspective, which is pretty cool in my book.

In 3rd person, Samus auto-aims her cannon at the closest enemy she’s facing, which works well for the most part. But for those times when you want to aim at a specific part of an enemy’s body, or look around your environment for clues (which you’ll be forced to do occasionally), you can point the Wiimote’s IR sensor at the screen to go into 1st person mode. Depending on your position relative to that of the Sensor Bar, this can and will take getting used to doing on the fly, and even with practice it’s still not something you’ll feel comfortable doing in the heat of combat. Also, you can’t move while aiming.

Speaking of combat, it’s probably the highlight of the game. Combat in Metroid: Other M is a fairly simple affair, but it’s fast-paced and fluid. As mentioned previously, Samus will do the aiming for you in 3rd-person mode, so your focus is on keeping her out of danger, and finishing the enemies off. Samus can use her back thrusters to dodge attacks by tapping a direction right before one connects. This will usually activate a split-second of slow-mo, and also give you the opportunity to immediately loose off a fully-charged power beam shot, which normally takes several seconds to charge. Nearly every enemy in the game can function as a sub-boss; meaning they can kill you in a surprisingly small number of hits. So this dodge function is an integral part of staying alive. Most enemies can also be finished off with cinematic flair, once they hit a certain damage threshold. One such finisher has Samus tackling her foe, with the two them rolling across the ground ending with Samus on top pinning it, and loosing off a charged blast. Another involves Samus headlocking an enemy and finishing it from there. For once, full-fledged bosses aren’t the only ones that get cutscene-quality finishers. This is definitely a cool thing.

What’s not cool, however, is the way Samus acquires upgrades to her suit throughout the game. The game makes it clear that Adam is special to her, serving as a father figure of sorts. Which is why, out of respect for him and his team, Samus basically shuts off all of her weaponry acquired throughout Super Metroid except for her basic power beam and morph ball bomb. She only enables them once more as Adam gives her permission to. This is all fine and good I guess, until you get to some scenarios where you have to wonder how silly Samus’s devotion to this policy can be. The notorious example is where you first enter a gigantic cave filled with lava. The place is so hot that without her Varia Suit functions activated, Samus gradually loses health as she runs through it. Does Adam not care enough for her health to immediately grant her access to her Varia Suit’s heat shield? Does Samus not care enough about her health to grant herself access? Who knows? We all understand this was done for the sake of difficulty pacing and such, but sometimes it gets absurd.

When you’re not wrestling enemies to ground or listening to Samus reminisce about the past, you’re running toward your next objective. Though it doesn’t feel like this, you really are usually just running from point A to B, then when you reach B, the route to C is revealed, and you run towards that. And so it goes. Uncharacteristic of an adventure game, there’s not really much in the way of puzzles in Other M. The only things stopping you from getting somewhere are usually enemies, or a path that can only be traveled using equipment you aren’t yet authorized to use. Perhaps as result, this is a pretty short game. I don’t have any real statistics for you, but I beat it after one day and one evening of play, and that was with some hunting around for extra missiles and energy tanks. After you beat it, there’s not a whole lot of reason to back, except for the usual collectible upgrades. There is a neat video gallery though, where you can watch all of the cutscenes unlocked thus far, and also watch all of them compiled into a 2-hour movie presentation.

The voice acting in Metroid: Other M ranges from cheesy to so-so. Samus’s voice acting in particular isn’t..quite what I might have expected, but your mileage may vary. The BGMs are serviceable, and do help the environments achieve the mood they may be aiming for. Overall, the audio in Metroid: Other M is really nothing special, but certainly not a bad thing.

The graphics aren’t bad either, though most of the character models have a “pasty” design to them, with some looking like they were sculpted out of Play-Doh, or something. I dunno, I’m used to the graphics on PS3, 360 and PC, so it’s difficult to comment fairly on the quality of graphics in Wii games. Basically, the graphics don’t detract from the experience.

Overall, Metroid: Other M is an interesting game, and was very fun while it lasted. However, it did make me realize something. Samus has always been a cool character. The game’s promise to expand on her personality sounded cool on paper, but now I wonder if I may have preferred to continue on just thinking of her as the mysterious and stoic intergalactic bounty hunter she’s always previously been portrayed as. Food for thought. As for my rating of the game? A 7.5/10.

Resident Evil 5: Desperate Escape

The second of Resident Evil 5’s DLC levels, Desperate Escape, has just come out. And I’m going to go ahead and conclude that it’s not as good as Lost in Nightmares.
There is a distinction between the two I recall at least mentioning in my review for Lost in Nightmares. Whereas LiN had a heavier focus on exploration, horror, and puzzles, Desperate Escape is more action and explosions. Simply put, it’s more of RE5.
In Desperate Escape, you play as Jill and Josh (remember that guy that Sheva’s friendly with?). The game picks up right after Chris and Sheva leave to stop Wesker, leaving Jill to figure out an escape plan. Josh finds her, and together the two begin to work their way towards a comm tower, where they can catch a helicopter and go pick up Chris and Sheva. Of course, there’s a horde of zombies (or “uroboros”, as the game insists on calling them) standing between them and their destination.
Like LiN, Desperate Escape is split into a couple huge areas, culminating in a timed showdown on the roof of the comm tower. It’s surprisingly easy to get far separated from your partner, but it’s essential you stick together. As you progress, you’ll encounter just about every single sub-boss and special infected in the game (and if you’re playing on a higher difficulty, you’ll probably encounter them multiple times). Chainsaw majini, Executioner majini, Reaper bugs, Minigun-toting majini, and even those giant cave spiders return. You even encounter enemies manning mounted grenade launchers. Obviously, the level designers didn’t want you to make it out of this alive very easily, hence the “Desperate” part of the DLC name.
Jamming all those sub-bosses and special infected (alongside a horde of regular zombies) into just a couple areas makes the chapter just as hard you might think. Indeed, tight partner cooperation is once again not optional here, just for the sake of survival. Restorative herbs are rare, so playing with the computer (who burns through them) is simply not an option. I certainly can’t see myself beating this on Professional.
Like Lost in Nightmares, this DLC also adds a couple characters to Mercenaries Reunion, including Josh and Jill and Rebecca Chambers. This might be a boon if you’re real big on Mercenaries.
Even as a I played through Desperate Escape, I couldn’t help missing the gameplay style in Lost in Nightmares, however. The intense feeling of foreboding that chapter was able to generate was quite simply brilliant, and even the adrenaline rush I felt as me and my partner fought off the zombie horde at Desperate Escape’s conclusion could not match it. 7.5/10.

Sonic Unleashed

As most should know, I am a huge Sonic fan.  I like to pride myself in having a fairly vast knowledge of him and his games (though I admit I’ve become a bit rusty over the months).  When I first read about Sonic Unleashed, I was overjoyed.  I remember reading in article in Play magazine, and the screenshots were quite amazing.  Could this be Sonic’s revival?

Then I was introduced to Sonic the Werehog.  Really Sega (or rather, Sonic Team), what compels you to stick to gimmicks when it comes to Sonic games.  The reviews have said already;  this would have been an excellent game without the Werehog.
But anyway, I wanted to play this game anyway, for the daytime levels.  Indeed, it’s truly a mixed bag.
Sonic Unleashed opens with Eggman having a good laugh as his huge space fleet soars over the earth.  A far off explosion draws his attention, and..why, it’s none other than the blue blur himself!  After Sonic proves he’s more than a match for any number of Eggman’s grunt robots, the mad scientist goes out to fight in his mech.  He succeeds in capturing Sonic, only for the little guy to go Super and destroy his ride.  He makes a break for it, pursued closely by Super Sonic, running out to a floating structure on the outskirts of his fleet.  Seeming defeated, Eggman feigns remorse, and succeeds in fooling Super Sonic into fueling his Chaos Cannon.  The cannon rips the Chaos Emeralds from Sonic’s body and corrupts them, and its beam pierces the Earth below, splitting it into pieces, prematurely releasing Dark Gaia from the planet’s core.  These happenings apparently corrupt Sonic as well, as he develops lycanthropy, causing him to turn into a burly werehog at night.
Eggman ejects Sonic the Werehog into space, and he crash lands with a hard thud, apparently right on top of another little guy, later named Chip.  Chip has lost his memory (apparently because Sonic fell on him), and doesn’t seem to have anything better to do at the moment, so he accompanies Sonic, with the hope that he’ll regain his memory.  Thus the two set out to restore the Chaos Emeralds, and in turn restore the planet to its original state.
As its slogan “The difference is night and day” might imply, Sonic Unleashed is split into two types of stages:  daytime and nighttime stages.  During the day you’ll play as Sonic, zipping through stages at lightning speed and bashing aside Eggman’s robots.  During the night, he transforms into Sonic the Werehog, and the stages become much more combat-heavy, and focused on platforming gameplay.  To progress through the story, you’ll need to visit the temple of each locale and restore its associated Chaos Emerald, which will then push that continent back into place.  This is done by defeating the boss guarding that area; it’s either a Dark Gaia beast that you’ll take on as Sonic the Werehog, or a huge Eggman robot you’ll fight as Sonic the Hedgehog.  Stages are unlocked by gathering Sun or Moon medals to level up your respective Sun or Moon level.  For example, to access a level 4 Daytime stage, you’ll need to have collected enough Sun medals to reach Sun level 4.  The same goes for Nighttime stages and Moon medals.  Generally, there are significantly more Sun medals in Nighttime stages, and many more Moon medals in Daytime stages, often forcing you to replay Nighttime stages to unlock more Dayttime stages, and vice versa.
I’ll start with the Daytime stages, obviously the better part of the package here.  Anyone who’s played any regular Sonic game will know what to do in a Daytime stage;  just reach the end (or the goal) as quickly as possible, and preferrably with as much style as possible.  The key to getting an S rank in a daytime stage is simply to finish the stage as fast as possible.  Really, there’s not a lot to be explained.  There are some elements tossed in that make things interesting though.  You have a couple abilities at your disposal, and more to be unlocked.  Most noticeable is the Sonic Boost, which you will be familiar with if you’ve played Sonic Rush.  Collecting rings boosts your Ring Energy meter.  As long as there’s juice in that meter, at any time you can press square to blast forward at top speed, and hold it down for as long as you like.  While boosting, any enemies you hit will be instantly rammed forward and destroyed, provided they aren’t protected by a barrier or something.  With Sonic Boost you can instantly get to top speed from a stationary position.  You also have the Quick Step, which let’s you instantly side step any objects or walls that are coming up too fast to manually evade.  Another starting ability is Drift, which I’ve found to be very difficult to master.  By either using L2 or R2 or holding circle while trying to make a turn, Sonic will attempt to drift around it, with little to no sacrifice in speed.  Depending on how fast you are going, how early you start drifting, and how sharp the turn, you will either glide fantastically around the turn and keep going, or go sliding right off the edge or into a wall, which often proves fatal.  Fortunately, I haven’t encountered too many areas that make any use of the drift function.  At any time while running you can also hold circle to slide under low clearance barriers with very little loss in speed.  Boost panels and springs are also present, and occasionally you’ll hit a scripted jump which slows down time and presents you with a random button combination to press.  Complete it in time, and Sonic will do a trick and get extra lift, possibly flying through a hidden item or making it onto a shortcut (of which there are usually quite a few).  As Sonic Team promised, the game switches seamlessly (and commonly) between side scrolling and 3rd person view.  It works wonderfully, and the camera never posed a problem.
Sonic also gains a number of abilities during this adventure.  Wall jump of course gives him the ability to wall jump like Mario.  Air Boosts unlocks the ability to use Sonic Boost in mid air, allowing you jump to faraway places.  Lightspeed dash (You will be familiar with this if you’ve played Sonic adventure 2) let’s you use a path of rings to travel at lightspeed, reaching otherwise unreachable areas.  Those are just some of them.
The graphics during the daytime and CG sequences are also phenomenal.  Despite all the activity often going on, the framerate hardly ever dips even slightly.  The Hedgehog engine performs incredibly well, especially during the hub town stages, which are delightfully sunny and cheerful.  The character models are also superb.
Next are the Nighttime stages.  Now, I haven’t played such high profile hack and slash games as God of War, but I know a tacked on concept when I see one, and the Werehog concept is most definitely tacked on.  Don’t get me wrong;  Sonic the Werehog isn’t such a terrible fellow.  He’s just completely unnecessary, and feels totally out of place.  Sonic’s speed is the reason he’s so popular today.  Back in the 2d era, it was the sense of exhilaration that his side-scrollers provided compared to Mario’s slow platforming that excited people.  Sonic the Werehog is exactly the kind of slow paced gameplay that showed how cool in comparison Sonic the Hedgehog’s fast and zippy gameplay was.
As I mentioned before, Nighttime stages consist basically of two things: combat and platforming.  When you’re not mindlessly beating up fragments of Dark Gaia GoW style, you are swinging from poles, traversing precarious ledges, and jumping from platform to platform.  Smashing up enemies and environmental objects nets you energy that you can use to charge your Unleashed bar.  When filled sufficiently, you’ll be able to press R1 to become temporarily invincible and do significantly more damage.  None of this is a horrible experience, and might have made for a decent standalone game.  The combat is mildly fun, with some satisfying combos here and there, and some of the platforming is actually pretty fun.  But it just doesn’t feel right in a Sonic game, and I ultimately can’t help feeling repulsed by it, to be frank.
The other thing is, for some reason the Hedgehog Engine sorta falls apart during the Nighttime stages.  The framerate dips noticeably on a frequent basis, Sonic will commonly go through walls in the middle of a combo, and it just looks like the game is having trouble keeping up with your actions (strange, since it has no trouble keeping up with Sonic the Hedgehog).  Indeed, during the night, the planet might not be the only broken thing here.  Graphical quality also takes a huge dip too, with effects looking not unlike the sort of stuff I used to see in the original Unreal Tournament that came out in 1999.  Okay, maybe not that bad, but it’s bad in comparison to the Daytime stages.
Each enemy you defeat in either the Daytime or Nighttime stages will drop EXP you can pick up.  EXP can then be used to further various parameters of either regular Sonic or the Werehog.  Sonic the Hedgehog has only two parameters;  Speed and Ring Energy.  Neither of them are especially useful in my opinion, though it is handy to have extra Ring Energy for certain boss battles.  Sonic the Werehog has several parameters, though.  Among them, there’s Combat (unlocks new combos and abilities), Life (increases your life bar), Strength (improves how much damage you do), and Unleash (increases your Unleashed bar).
One final improved aspect of Sonic Unleashed is the music.  The series has (for the time being, at least) finally abandoned rock music and instead uses a very pleasant orchestral score.  Actually, I think most of the music is very catchy, especially the BGM for the opening scene.
Overall, the slogan is pretty much spot on, I guess.  On one hand, you have an excellent experience waiting for you in the daytime stages, but only if you’re ready to slog through the nighttime stages as well.  It’s easy to see that Sega made a genuine effort here, but it unfortunately fell short of the mark.  A 7.5/10.
–Another Take–

I beat the game today, and I have a couple more things to say.  First, what the hell.  Eggmanland is brutally difficult compared to the rest of the game.  Beware of the Eggmanland level guys, it’s no joke.  You’ll play as both the Hedgehog and the Werehog in it.  It might also not be a bad idea to take a moment to meditate before you start, to get that extra mental fortitude.  Because this level is LONG.  It’s longer than any Werehog level.  About 15-20 minutes in you’ll be wondering when the hell you’ll reach the end.  Also, I suggest you rid yourself of that “LET’S GOGOGO FASTER” mentality you’ll likely have developed playing as Sonic the Hedgehog.  You’ll likely die if you use Sonic Boost at all here.  Unless you have superhuman reflexes.
Seriously, this level is a step above all others.  In the Hedgehog parts, there are numerous paths and forks, paths that lead to more forks, which lead to another fork.  I’m sure they all lead to the same destination, but it can be overwhelming.  In the Werehog levels, enemy robots will swarm you (not that they didn’t before;  but powerups and rings are more scarce), and it gets really annoying.  Basically, all the challenges of the other levels are here and multiplied.  There’s even a bobsledding part like in Holoska, except this time there’s spikes, laser beams, and many more chasms to fall into.  And guess what?  Hate to spoil it, but you need to know.  At the end of the level, you get to face 3 club toting bosses (remember that big dude you first fought in Apatos to save Tails?).  First one’s easy, than you run into the next chamber and bam!  Two of them clambering around.  Yeah, you fight two of them.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal if there weren’t also healing mages around that immediately respawn if you kill them.  A high Strength stat is gonna be helpful here (as well as high Life and Shield, and even Unleashed), so you can deal enough damage to finish them with a QTE before the mages can help out.  And a tip: learn to block.  If you get knocked down by a shockwave, it’s likely you’ll be down for quite a while, as these guys spam the heck out of that move.
Go in to Eggmanland with no less than 20 lives.  You’ll do that and the final boss back to back, so the extra endurance will come in handy.
Also, it wasn’t until, bored out of my mind watching the credits, that I experimented with the XMB and found out that this game supports custom soundtracks.  The ingame soundtrack is good, like I already said, but do keep in mind that this DOES support custom soundtracks, so if you’ve got music on your Ps3, you can listen to it while playing this.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest

I’ve pretty much ignored LoTR, having seen only one of the movies (I can’t even remember which one it was), and stopped at that.  Just never caught my interest, I guess.  But apparently, the movies have some rather large scale battles.  Which is cool.  I dunno if any of the games have tried to recreate this, but Conquest most certainly does, with EA boasting that the game will be able to handle more than 200 characters duking it out onscreen.

If you’ve played Star Wars: Battlefront (or, more specifically, its sequel), Conquest will immediately feel familiar, as it plays rather similarly.  Each battle begins with a cutscene prologue, then you’re taken to a tactical map showing control points (or CP, for Battlefront veterans) and all units currently engaged in combat.  You choose your spawn point, then choose a character class, and jump into battle.  Just like Battlefront, you’re given an objective to do, one after the other, except this time its not always just about capturing CP.  Where Battlefront basically drops you into a huge battle and says “take over all the CP”, Conquest usually gives you a variety of objectives, from killing a major character, to defending an area, and back to taking CP.  As a result, the game feels much more linear than Battlefront.
Now mind you, I haven’t played Battlefront II (the game I have) in a while, but while the screen wasn’t exactly crowded, it did feel like an active warzone.  Conquest takes this even further.  Though at no point did it feel like there were 200 characters actively fighting (unless you count the massive armies at war outside the player boundaries of the Pelinnor Fields map).  Really, Dynasty Warriors probably does the quantity thing better.  But whereas in Dynasty Warriors  you’ve got crowds of retarded NPCs that just stand there, most of the AI controlled characters, both allies and enemies, take active roles in battle.  Archers will snipe others (to my annoyance), Warriors will actively seek out foes to beat down, and it is in fact very possible (and incredibly surprising) to get backstabbed by AI Scouts.
The choice of classes available to you is toned down from Battlefront though.  You have the Warrior, an armor clad fellow wielding a two handed broadsword.  As Warriors battle, their rage, or adrenaline meter fills up, allowing them to pull off devastating feats of fiery swordplay.  Basically, Warriors are your bread and butter.  They’re job is simply to kill the enemy, plain and simple.  Warriors are also equipped with throwing axes.
There’s also the Mage, a staff wielder that is capable of deflecting projectiles and healing both themselves and allies.  Thus, they can double as medics.  With their ground pound, Mages are capable close combat fighters, but they also have fireballs and lightning attacks at their disposal for mid range fighting.
Scouts are the Spec Ops of the crew.  Though you could say they are just as capable in an outright confrontation as any Warrior, they’re better suited to attacking from the shadows.  Scouts are easily the most annoying guys to fight, because of their backstab ability.  Scouts have the ability to cloak, turning them near invisible (you can see them if you really look, but its near impossible to notice one coming up behind you in the heat of battle).  While cloaked, you can come up behind an enemy and press R1 to one hit kill them.  This applies to all playable characters, including heroes and villains (haven’t tried on Sauron though), so its very satisfying to watch a lowly scout grab Gandalf from behind, throw him down, and stab him, instantly killing him.  Scouts also have satchel bombs for setting things on fire, as well as knocking foes down for a quick escape.
And finally there’s the Archer, who should be self-explanatory.  The Archer has a weak little kick move for close combat, but thats it, so keep your distance.  Archers can use explosive arrows, poison arrows, and fire multiple arrows.
While there’s the typical story campaign, there’s also the “Rise of Sauron” campaign, which is a what-if story that ends with  Sauron as the new lord of the Middle Ages.  So if you feel Sauron was totally dealt an unfair defeat, there you have it.
Both campaigns can be played through in splitscreen coop, and there’s also 16 player online (though I think you have to sign up for an EA nation account to play).  For versus modes, there’s Conquest, which is simply each team battling for control of CP, like in Battlefront, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Ring (I think that’s what it’s called), which is a tug of war kind of capture the flag where the One Ring is set down in the middle of the map, and you have to bring it to your opponent’s base.  These are all available in offline splitscreen, as well.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest, isn’t a bad game.  I did encounter a few graphical glitches here and there (like special effects basically not appearing anymore, and enemies freezing in place), but the gameplay isn’t bad.  But for all their boasting, the game isn’t better than Battlefront II.  In fact, I think Battlefront II was much funner.  This was a decent try though.  A 7.5/10.

PixelJunk Eden

So, I bought this game kind of on a whim, and because it was on sale. All I can say is, its a really unique game.

In PixelJunk Eden, you play as an organism that is bent on collecting Spectra to bring life to its own Eden. It goes about this task by visiting different worlds to fetch them. Its only tool is its ability to use a thread of silk to swing from soft surfaces. Once you start of PixelJunk, you’ll notice that the game is quite simplistic. Once you get past the first menu, most things are accessed during gameplay. Your little guy can latch onto nearly every structure in the game, most of which he can also swing from with his thread of silk.

Your primary goal is simply to find the given amount of Spectra in a level. From this goal branches two sub-goals: Find pollen to sprout seeds, and collect crystals to extend the amount of time you can stay there. On the bottom left portion of the screen sits a bar, that gradually depletes as you play. Once the bar reaches zero, you fail the world and have to try again. To replenish the bar’s energy, you have to collect crystals.

Spectra are generally very high up, or in places impossible to reach when you first enter a level. To “unlock” more of the level, you have to build your own path up by collecting pollen, which is dropped by Prowlers (floating enemies that come in a variety of shapes and sizes), and giving it to the dozens of seeds sitting around the level. Once a seed has collected enough pollen, you can touch it to sprout it, giving rapid birth to a new plant that you can climb up, allowing you to reach new heights, and consequently bringing you that much closer to grabbing the Spectra.

The graphics style of PixelJunk Eden is very colorful and interesting. Each world has a different palette and style, and though the game takes a while to grow on you, It will. Eventually I found myself looking forward to each new world to try, and couldn’t help smiling whenever I found innovative new ways to reach each Spectra. With each one you collect, a new piece of scenery will sprout forth in your Eden, allowing you to reach new worlds.

Overall, the game is very simple, yet fun at its core, and just a good way to pass the time. I think it was worth $5, but I wouldn’t have paid much more for it.

The game also has three player co-op multiplayer and trophies, but they are ridiculously difficult to obtain, with little payback. Grabbing every single spectra is one of the simpler tasks at hand. And since the game not only lacks a platinum trophy, but only has mostly bronze, with a couple silvers tossed in (no golds), I just don’t see much reward in it beyond bragging rights. A 7.5/10.