Over the years, I’ve freelanced for a half-dozen publications including OXM, GamesRadar, PC Gamer and Mac|Life. Here’s the best of what remains online from those ventures!
NEED FOR SPEED: RIVALS REVIEW
Need for Speed is what I like to call EA’s most well known “hot-potato” franchise. Every few years it jumps to a new developer–from EA’s own Black Box, to former Burnout developer Criterion Games, to a short stint with Slightly Mad Studios. Ghost Games, the latest inheritors of the NFS series, may not have reinvented the wheel while making this year’s white-knuckle racer, but it has equipped Need for Speed: Rivals with all the right parts to make it a serviceable–and enjoyable–game.
You won’t find ample engine customizations screens here, but you will get to enjoy some slick, easy-to-pick-up controls and one of the most populated environments you’ll ever see in a racing game–a good thing, considering it features an expansive open world. Taking place in the California Coast-inspired county of Redview, Rivals has dozens of events, races, and rivals (Need for Speed’s name for other lawless racers) scattered across its stunning landscape. This all works to its advantage; I enjoyed always having something different to see and do each time I got behind the wheel.
The simple act of driving around is a blast. You’ll drift around bends with a pull of the e-brake, careen off half-hidden jumps, fly through speed traps, and ultimately enjoy every minutia of the overloaded landscape. Need for Speed fans: Redview could potentially be your Skyrim. It’s a world stuck in a constant state of change with events popping up where you least expect them, and the returning Autolog feature making it hard to call it quits when there’s just one more challenge to attempt. Just don’t hit pause. A world this full of interwoven events slows down for no one–even those who need a bathroom break.
Thanks to EA’s powerful Frostbite 3 engine, ever-changing weather and lighting patterns help make each race feel different, even ones that reside in areas of the world you’ve already explored. But don’t think weather will always work in your favor. A rainstorm may mean the difference between first and last in a race, and a harsh bit of sunlight may make you wreck where you otherwise wouldn’t. This touch of real-life racing may irritate some, but I found it to be one of Rivals more endearing surprises.
Final verdict: Need for Speed: Rivals is a wholly enjoyable open-world racer. The driving is solid, its streets are a joy to explore, and its racing assignments–though a bit repetitive at times–are incentive enough to keep you coming back for more.
Read the full review on GamesRadar’s website!
ONE PIECE: ROMANCE DAWN REVIEW
One Piece: Romance Dawn is a lot like a pirate without a peg leg, eye-patch, or bottle of rum. It’s just…well, lame. This RPG is a confusing, bare bones adventure that’s slightly more enjoyable than getting stranded at sea. It eschews much of what makes the anime so beloved and attempts to fill that void with bland gameplay systems and dialogue that’s difficult to parse. Considering the wealth of source material, Romance Dawn feels like a major misfire.
Where did it all go wrong? To start, the story is told mostly through in-game vignettes that overlay text bubbles onto stills from the much-loved anime. These are long, drawn-out affairs that confusingly pull from parts of the show, and because the narrative isn’t grounded by any voice-acting, it’s never 100 percent clear who’s saying what. The scatterbrained presentation makes it difficult to wrap your head around what’s going on even if you’re paying attention.
Once you’re through the awful dialogue sequences, though, you’re just in the eye of the storm. Romance Dawn attempts to work in a half-baked RPG system and make the 3D action more than just a turn-based slugfest. It doesn’t entirely succeed. Battling involves taking up to three of your crew into the fray and pitting them against the varying scalliwags you’ll encounter. As with most JRPGs, you can attack, use abilities or items, guard against incoming damage, or run. You get a set number of action points–the combat’s way of telling you how many moves in a combo you can string together–to use per turn, and by stringing enough combos together you gain TP that unlock special attacks. The system is never explained all that well (whether or not the three dozen “tips” count as a tutorial is your call) and action points are easily squandered while you’re trying to figure the combat system out.
At best, Romance Dawn is a no-frills JRPG that relies on an almost photographic memory of the anime to enjoy. At worst, it’s a boring, monotonous slog through a universe you never feel like you belong to. If I hadn’t already sunk 20 hours into this adventure and were given the choice to do it all over again or take a long walk off a short plank, I’d take my chances at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker. Do yourself a favor and watch the anime instead.
Read the full review on GamesRadar’s website!
Pokémon X/Y alternatives you can play on your PC right now
For Pokémon fans around the world, this weekend’s introduction of the sixth generation of games, Pokémon X and Y, was big. But just because Nintendo handheld owners got two new Pokémon games doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to wallow in the shadows while they soak up the sun—we’re PC gamers! We have dozens of monster-culling options that capture the feel of Game Freak’s prodigious franchise, and it doesn’t take a Pokémon Professor to see that you don’t need a console to catch ’em all.
Without further Bidoof, here‘s 10 games you can play to get that Pokémon experience without ever having to leave your keyboard and mouse behind.
Skyrim (DJSuperGenius’ Pokémon in Skyrim Mod)
Some slick coding by DJSuperGenius satiates that sick urge we’ve had since our youth, finally allowing us to catch Charizard-hued dragons and Pikachu-tone Skeevers and release them into an unwitting town. You can catch up to six minions at a time using a unique summoning spell and, once your Nintendo-inspired beasts start running low on health, you can return them to their red-and-white colored homes. Though the mod only sports 13 of the reimagined monsters, it’s an actually entertaining—if somewhat short-lived—batch of content.
How much does it cost? It’s free! (But a few too many glitches means you get what you pay for.)
UnovaRPG is basically Pokémon Online, but without all of the fantastic visuals, tender training tutorials, and feel-good storyline. You can find dozens of these knock-offs in the dark reaches of the internet (MonsterMMORPG, PokéMMO, DelugeRPG, just to name a few). Direct copyright infringement is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
UnovaRPG and its half-dozen clones aren’t for the uninitiated in Pokéballs and monster battles—this is a bare bones version of Game Freak’s fiscal nest egg that has been built from the bottom up for a hardcore crowd and lacks a certain, uh, finesse, that its handheld progenitor has. Still, there’s no better way to get a quick fix of Nintendo’s monster-infested franchise.
How much does it cost? Free with registration.
Pokémon Trading Card Game Online
If you only try one game on this list, make it Pokémon Trading Card Game Online. This surprisingly brisk card battling game, based off those ’90s-era relics collecting dust in your attic, is a wildly entertaining strategy CCG that rivals Magic 2014 in its ability to engage and delight.
My only real qualms with the nostalgia-inducing card battler revolve around the lack of available modes for non-paying players and lack of diversity to the game’s starting decks, which realistically, I’m hard-pressed to disqualify the game for. If you have a younger brother/sister /son/daughter lying around who plays CCGs, PTCGO might be a great gateway for them into PC gaming.
How much does it cost? It’s free to try, but cards are obtained from real-world booster packs that cost $4.99 each.
Why Mystic Guardians? ‘Cause it wouldn’t be a list of offshoots for the ’90s’ most fiscally profitable game if it didn’t include one Facebook cash-in attempt. That said, Mystic Guardians is the best micro-transaction fueled rip-off this side of the iPhone’s Tiny Monsters. You’ll train “Guardians” (read: Pokémon), go to “Guardian Centers” (Read: Pokémon Centers), “collect badges from local gym leaders” (Read: Wait. Seriously?), all while enduring the friends’ and peers’ judgment when your Mystic Guardians activity pops up on their news feeds.
This level of blatant plagiarism and complete disregard for another developer’s work is impressive. I tip my hat to you, Mystic Guardians. Now where’d I leave my wallet?
How much does it cost? Nothing! (Other than your dignity.)
It’s time we admit it: Pokémon won the great monster war of the ’90s. But just because Pokémon gets a new game every two years and Digimon hasn’t been relevant since before Black Eyed Peas was “the next big thing” doesn’t mean you should count it out.
And, thanks to Korean developer Joymax, the series based around building bonds of friendship, rooting for the underdog, and whatever the hell this thing is, will keep fighting the good fight. You’ll tame monsters, form parties, and generally lose your life to the Digimon-skinned version of World of Warcraft. Just don’t play it so much that you turn into <a href=”http://digimon.wikia.com/wiki/Numemon”one of these.
How much does it cost? Free-to-play
Read the full article on PC Gamer!