Tag Archives: Gaming

OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood Review

Platforms: PS4, Playstation Vita
Release Date: March 3, 2015

The first OlliOlli was the perfect arcadey skating game. Plain and simple.

Nailing kickflips and crooked grinds was a sublime way to pass the time before bed or while pooping. A long list of increasingly difficult challenges and huge array of tricks allowed this game to have replay value, but in small chunks to fit the platform it was made for, being the Playstation Vita.

OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood is the follow-up coming only a year and change later, sporting a slick new look and promising a multitude of added features. Piling on bullet-point worthy features may sound like a boastful press release, but they each improve a game with an already incredible foundation.

The pure art of OlliOlli 2 is how it forces the player to step their game up. There are no upgrades. There are no skill points. The more you play, the better you will eventually get at extending combos and destroying your old high scores. Timing, patience, and skill are encouraged with progression, and so is that rewarding fuzzy feeling of mastering something that once stood as a challenge. In a world where experience bars dominate each release, it’s refreshing to see an experience bar that is a bit more intrinsic.

Points are important though, because they make up the whole crux of the game. Achieving lengthy combos is possible through linking tricks together and finding ways to add to the almighty point multiplier. In the first OlliOlli, this was only possible through chaining grinds in between tricks. Once you stuck the landing, your combo ended, which limited how you could rack up millions of points.

I hear the ancient Mayans would also nosegrind back in the day.
I hear the ancient Mayans would also nosegrind back in the day.

OlliOlli 2 adds some new basic tricks, but manuals, reverts, and grind switching all open up combo-extending possibilities and subsequently provides a wealth of new strategies. Manuals and reverts (which can be linked) yield ways to add to the multiplier on the ground, which gives more choice and opens up the level design. Worlds no longer have to have endless grind rails because these new moves give more ways to link combos together that don’t require a grindable surface.

Grind switching, which allows the player to switch grind mid-rail, is a smaller addition, but a great one nonetheless because it widens the set of available skills and is another way to increase the multiplier. Including manuals, reverts, and grind switching may seem small, however they add an exponential amount of depth because each new skill becomes yet another tool to master.

Here's an exclusive look at Pacific Rim 2, although sadly this sequel has no Ron Perlman or Charlie Day.
Here’s an exclusive look at Pacific Rim 2, although sadly this sequel has no Ron Perlman or Charlie Day.

The depth will showcase to players willing to put in the time to see it, which is an easy given considering the amount of content OlliOlli 2 has. In addition to the score-heavy Daily Grinds and Spots, there are five worlds with five normal levels and five hard levels apiece. Once all challenges are completed, RAD mode is unlocked, which is a super hard mode for the Tony Hawk-iest of Tony Hawks. On paper, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but knocking out challenges one by one takes multiple runs through levels that already have splitting paths. The variability of the gameplay and the dozens upon dozens of challenges gives OlliOlli 2 plenty of replay value for those willing to seek it.

I say “seek it” because most levels need to be unlocked through achieving certain hard tasks. OlliOlli 2 is a difficult game, yet never frustrating. Sure, some levels require clairvoyance and path memorization, though the extremely quick restart timer alleviates any possible aggravation. You don’t even have time to get mad because you’ll already be rolling on your next run.

Fun fact: cowboys would often settle duels at high noon by doing laserflips and darkside grinds.
Fun fact: cowboys would often settle duels at high noon by doing laserflips and darkside grinds.

No matter the trial or world, OlliOlli 2’s funky fresh visuals pack heat. Simplicity carries the visual style since it is only made up of a few colors, however the brightness pairs well with game’s inventive fantastical worlds. I didn’t expect to be skating through a zombie roller-coaster or a Pacific Rim-esque graveyard, yet I was delighted that these unique world ideas allow for some clever visual change-ups from the usual Earthy locales. The soundtrack is also a highlight, featuring smooth tunes that feel right at home in a skateboarding game. It’s a kind of soundtrack that you can sit back and, say, write a review to.

OlliOlli 2 is just about as good as it can be. Striking that balance between keeping what works, streamlining what is there, and adding new content is tricky, but developer Roll7 did exactly what needed to be done to ensure OlliOlli 2 was the definitive OlliOlli experience. The tiny additions like ramps and a new graphical style deserve props but reverts and manuals drastically better the game by adding an abundance of new strategies. OlliOlli 2’s best features are being simple, deep, and replay-able, which make it a fantastic arcade-y skateboarding game, and the ultimate portable experience. Tony Hawk should be jealous.

Perfect!:

+Girthy amount of content
+Intuitive trick system is easy to immediately grasp but has layers of depth for differing skillsets
+Pretty, minimalistic visual style and catchy soundtrack

Sketchy:

-Some levels require some memorization

olliolli2 score

Club Nintendo announces new rewards before service closes

Mourning the loss of Club Nintendo, with exclusive items from the program on display. Photo/Graphic by Caty McCarthy.

Club Nintendo is a U.S.-based rewards program by gaming giant Nintendo, offering digital and physical prizes in exchange for coins earned from registering first-party Nintendo games and filling out surveys. After its seven years of service, Club Nintendo is coming to an end on June 30, 2015, but not without some final prizes to offer members.

I’ve been a member of the joyous rewards program for as long as I can remember (I cannot recall anything in my life prior to 2008, apparently). I’ve redeemed prizes, hoarded coins, shaken my fist at the screen when I didn’t have enough for that rare gold nunchuk, used my Club Nintendo-exclusive Pikmin tote bag whenever a situation required it, for like, shopping and stuff. There were various instances where before purchasing a game I asked, “But can I register this game on Club Nintendo???” I even got the delightful invitation to attend the Wii U Experience at Fort Mason for being a Club Nintendo member, where myself and friends were able to play the Wii U before anyone else. We drank blue-tinted Jones soda and ate cookies that said #WiiU, and posed with Nintendo-related props for pictures. I love Club Nintendo and all it has to offer, and that’s why when Nintendo announced its closure a fortnight ago I got really sad.

On February 2, however, President of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aimé parted the figurative clouds of Club Nintendo, revealing a staggering slew of new rewards. It’s their way of saying “spend your coins or you’ll regret it.” A host of 117 games total, including Earthbound, Super Metroid, Game & Wario, Super Mario 3D Land, and The Wonderful 101, and 13 new physical rewards are now available to Club Nintendo members. Among the most enticing of the physical rewards include exclusive posters, a classy 2016 calendar, adorable pastel-hued Animal Crossing playing cards, a Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask messenger bag, and even a Majora’s Mask jigsaw puzzle.

The final day to register games for coins is March 31, and the last day to redeem coins for rewards is June 30. On July 1, Club Nintendo will shut down for good to be eventually replaced by an as-of-yet unannounced new rewards program by Nintendo.

Alas, Club Nintendo is nearly dead and buried, and what a sad thing that is. But at least they’re going out with a bang.

The Gaming Guild @ SF State

Members of Gaming Guild play a demo of the new Super Smash Bros. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)
Members of Gaming Guild play Super Smash Bros Melee (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)

Walking down the halls of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) building on a late Monday afternoon in September, you do not expect to hear much beside the typical shuffling of feet and professors lecturing to a group of tired students who very well might be regretting their decision to take a night course. But then you hear something familiar – a “yahoo!” coming out of an animated sounding Italian accent, followed by a cartoon-like, almost pop-y punching sound, a “pee-kay-fire!” coming from a different voice, followed by what sounds like something getting electrocuted.

You then hear what you think the sound of someone falling off a cliff would sound like, of course, jogging the memory of your children Saturday morning cartoon escapades. Instead of it being a frightful sound, it brings back happy thoughts and is followed by cheers coming out of the next room. As you enter the classroom, you see fifty to sixty chairs packed with students, ten of which are plunked in front of a small television screen with Super Smash Brothers Melee playing off of a Nintendo Gamecube as mixed sounds come from those gathered around the game.

  • Aaron Gomez (left) and Anton Shcherbakon look at what cards to put down in a game of Cards Against Humanity during a Gaming Guild meeting on Sept. 22, 2014. Photo by Lorisa Salvatin

  • GGSFSU
  • Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 6.35.31 PM

  • Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 6.37.24 PM
  • Aaron Gomez (left) and Anton Shcherbakon look at what cards to put down in a game of Cards Against Humanity during a Gaming Guild meeting on Sept. 22, 2014. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)
  • Samantha Vu cheers after placing the last piece of the suspending pile of bars in a game of Suspend. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)
  • Langston Hill (left) and Izy Xiong talk about "Five Nights at Freddy's" during a Gaming Guild meeting on Sept. 22, 2014. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)
  • In their unlikely meeting place, the Gaming Guild get together in the HSS building to play everything from video games to card games. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)

The rest of the room has seemed to transform into different groups; one, fixated on a game of Cards Against Humanity, another with portable gaming devices alike in their hands, huddled together into a large gathering, another focused on the strategy card game MAGIC, and a smaller group of about ten people in the last corner of their room on their laptops. The air of the space is friendly and light, but focused.

This is the scene at a weekly meeting at the Gaming Guild at SF State (GGSFSU).
“Honestly, I just want to help a group of people on campus connect with each other,” says Alicia Jun, president of GGSFSU. “It’s so easy to stay in your room and play games by yourself each week, but I hope that with having a weekly meeting can further increase the social aspect of gaming and hopefully create some awesome friendships through common interests.”

GGSFSU is simply a club created by who play games to connect with other people who like to play games. It was formed last semester by a group of student gamers looking to socialize and meet others who enjoy playing games of all sorts and have similar interests at SF State.
Treasurer Sierra Eaton explain how she got involved in video game clubs with another group at City College of San Francisco before transferring to SF State. “Joining the Gamer’s Gathering at CCSF changed my life, and I hope people coming here to the Gaming Guild can have that experience, too.”

The club’s predecessor, Crtl Alt Elite, never really gained traction on campus, unlike GGSFSU, which now has over three hundred members on its Facebook group page. It was also recently recognized by Associated Students Incorporated (ASI) as an official club on campus.
“There aren’t really any costs associated with the club,” says Eaton.
Because they do not officially have a school-provided allowance, everything at the meetings is brought in by the students. According to Florey, one week, one of the members said they would bring in their Gamecube and now it is a little tradition to play Super Smash Brothers every week since.

Word of mouth is this group’s ally in recruiting new members.

“I asked her what she was doing tonight and she said she was coming to this meeting and that I should come,” says Langston Hill, freshman, of his friend Isabelle Xiong. “I think it’s really cool.”

Many in the group seem to agree that it can be tough making friends with similar interests if you are into gaming. “If they weren’t here, they would be at home or in their dorm by themselves. Instead, we’re creating a community,” says Maddy Florey, vice president of the Gaming Guild.

GGSFSU meets once a week on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., a time that was voted on by the members, in Humanities 111 unless otherwise specified. All officers are volunteers and all time put into the club is purely them putting in the energy to make GGSFSU expand. Each meeting begins with a discussion led by the officers, asking members what they want to see in the future. Ideas are shared for future activities and events, but it is mainly just a freeform of ideas.

“The best way to get involved is to come and hang out,” says Jun. “We’ve always got room for people who wish to play a game or even introduce a new game!”
If you would like to find out more about GGSFSU or are thinking about joining the club, request to become a member on their Facebook page here, go and talk to them in person when they table on Mondays in Malcom X Plaza, or show up for a weekly meeting on Mondays.

The Teardown: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Average Scores: 67, 70, 69

I spiked my controller to the ground at least twice while playing Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. That is the joy of having wireless controllers; you get the ability – nay, the privilege – of throwing them in a bout of frustration.

I was at the final boss fight. I was dying over and over again. I had been playing this game for far too long. I had had it up here with all the bullshit in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. So, after about forty minutes of getting pounded into ninja-flavored pulp, I snapped. Lightly, but a snap nonetheless.

It felt both terrible and great to throw my controller. Terrible because fixing a controller is tedious; I have had to do it a couple times already – probably to that same exact controller. But it felt good, cathartic even, because I finally got whoop some ass in something while Razor’s Edge was burning in on my television screen. I was not kicking ass in Razor’s Edge, but close enough.

Tossing the plastic hunk of buttons was a build-up of hours of frustration that stemmed from the trashy, tedious combat. The original Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Ninja Gaiden Sigma II are some of gaming’s essential swordplay combat games. They still, to this day, remain the fastest, most satisfying melee combat games around. Conquering any of them was not only fun but also a badge of honor since beating that final boss was an earned achievement.

To even endure fifteen minutes of Razor’s Edge is an achievement because the game starts off on the stupidest foot. The once-pristine way in which Ryu, the main character, would cut down ninja has been neutered, devolving into a generic sludgy mess that it never recovers from. Every move, from attacking to the ever-important dodging, felt like it was on some sort of time delay, which is not too great if you have a red-cloaked master ninja trying to cut you into confetti. Or when you are trying to fight German Shepherds that can somehow dive bomb you. That is actually quite impressive. I cannot even get my parents’ German Shepherds to not poop in the garage – and these dogs are fighting ninja. I need to hire a dog whisperer or something.

The stories in the past titles were always bad. When people say that video games have bad stories, they are basically talking about the Ninja Gaiden games. The stories were always forgettable but the action was memorable. They were porno games. The horrendous narratives with terrible acting only punctuated the action, which was the main attraction. Ninja Gaiden even has the huge-breasted, objectified women in every scene, but Razor’s Edge goes beyond that.

If a scene has a woman in it, you can move her boobs by by jiggling the controller. I am of two minds on this. It is stupid that the developers over at Team Ninja think this objectification is somehow attractive. Maybe it is a culture thing although that does not excuse it. On the other hand, it is so over-the-top and stupid, that I sort of found it funny to make the silicon valleys look like they were trying escape their prison within each woman’s inflated chest. The awful, cringe-inducing drama only got somewhat entertaining when I could make the breasts comically gyrate around. It did not salvage the story by a long shot though. Just some unintended comic relief.

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But nothing could relieve me from actually playing Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, mainly because I had already played its other iteration, simply called Ninja Gaiden 3. That was such a failure that it warranted a re-release here in the form of Razor’s Edge. How lame is that? Team Ninja got two steps up to the plate and horribly struck out both times. The game’s repulsive art style, awful combat, and abysmal narrative make this game unpleasurable to all of the senses. I bet the disc even tastes like generic trash. I am never going to play another new Ninja Gaiden game again. I am just going to stick to the first two in the series, which are the only ones that have actual care put into them.

The Teardown: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Average Scores: 52, 52, 48

Upon inserting the disc of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, this is the first thing that greets the player:
reorc

What is that? A fetus? A zombie fetus? My ultrasound pictures? The answer never arises, nor will it ever. After admitting that the game had “flaws” and then completely closing a bit after launch, developer Slant Six’s last big game does not inspire confidence to anyone looking at the title with intentions to have fun. That is why most games are played, right? After playing through the entirety of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, I am not too sure that is a correct theory anymore.

After scrounging through the four or five hours it takes to complete RE: ORC, I could not find the aforementioned “fun” in any of the corners of the game. I even went out of my way to look for it too. I tried diving around using the pathetic dodge move. I tried watching others dive around. I tried… just about everything the game could, which is wherein lies the problem in this shallow pool of trash.

For a game that was once sixty full American dollars, there is almost nothing to do but shoot zombies for a handful of hours with a couple of suckers on the Internet. They are not even cool zombies either. No clown zombies. No stripper zombies. Nope. Just the plain Jane zombies over and over and over and over again. You shoot them for far too long and you move on as you curse at the video game gods. Because those zombies get the release of death. You, on the other hand, have to keep enduring the stench of Operation Raccoon City‘s bland shooting.

Or you just move on without most of the shooty parts. The game is short already but more so when you just sprint past most fights because the game lets you in most situations… and that is usually the best strategy. You read that right: The best way to play is to not play it when you get the chance. Mission objectives become an Olympic dash to the finish line. A finish line of sadness… and bad shooting.

More stupid shooting. Ugh.
More stupid shooting. Ugh.

A few situations mandate murdering the onslaught of zombies, but, much like those zombies, no thought has been fed into these encounters. It is like the combat designers just said, “yeah. Fuck it. Throw all the zombies in that arena so we can go get high and watch Star Trek.” The lame shooting gallery of the walking dead is mind-numbingly banal especially when you factor in the inaccurate, pathetic-sounding firearms. Shooting confetti would hold more impact since it would at least give the environments some color.

Some games usually get berated for being a wash of browns and grays—that makes sense. Seeing a scenery filled with browns can get monotonous. I have seen a wider color palette in piles of vomit than I have in Operation Raccoon City. Ugly gray and brown zombies fuse into ugly gray and brown backgrounds. It becomes visual gumbo pot of all different forms of sewer water. Nothing gives your eyes a break unless you close them and imagine something better. Anything.

These are possibly the lamest characters ever.
These are possibly the lamest characters ever.

Besides the awful, forced cooperative play, there is competitive multiplayer as well. It is a good mode because you can pinpoint the poor souls who still play terrible games years after launch. That is your cue to never talk to or interact with those people ever again. People who voluntarily play this game instead of doing literally anything else are not people you need in your life period.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City left me speechless and, obviously, not in a good way. Most bad games make a spectacle of their inferior quality, becoming mere marvels in their extreme mediocrity. But RE: ORC does not do that. Do not misunderstand: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is still very much a horrendous game, but it is so barren in content that it is almost hard to continue to find aspects to harp on. It is almost as if this brief reflection must reflect how anemic the game is. Short or not, I do not want to think about RE: ORC ever again; that is probably the most damning thing I can say. If given the chance, I would throw this raccoon down the stairs… forever.

The Teardown: The Bi-Weekly Gaming Column

Well, hello there. My name is Michael Leri and I will be writing and making videos every two weeks about video games. But not just any video games. I already do that here.

I am picking the slop of the crop, the crap of the stack, the shit of the… something that rhymes with shit. I will be playing and tearing apart some of the worst games that I can get my hands on, hence the name of the column. None of these games will get scores either because they will pretty much all be terrible piles of street trash that you should not touch.

Playing the good games is easy and, honestly, can get a tad monotonous since singing praises is not the best way to flex the ole noodle. The thing with terrible games is that they are usually bad in all sorts of fascinating ways, giving both the reader and the writer room to explore different concepts.

First up in this column is Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Without spoiling anything, let me just say that it fits the direction of this series perfectly.