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The Land Before Time Collection (Game Boy Advance)

By Riamus on August 26, 2015

Executive Suite (PC Booter)

Fun game with little replayability

The Good
There is a wide variety of things that can happen in the game as you work your way through many different types of jobs. From the mail room to the Vice President of Marketing, or any number of other jobs, you must do the right things in order to be considered for promotion.

The large number of jobs and types of jobs adds a decent amount of variety to the choices you must make in the game. Will you support the management, or will you support the union? Will you risk everything by having an assistant get you vital information so that there is no delay, or will you accept a delay with a client in order to make sure you have the correct information? Everything hinges on your choices.

The Bad
The only thing I didn't really like was the low replayability of the game. Once you have done one of the jobs in the game, you will know the right choices to make the next time you do that job. Even if you have problems getting to the top of the corporate ladder at first, once you learn what to do at each job, your task will be simple. There is still some replayability as you can avoid doing the same jobs each time around, but eventually you will do every job and then there will be nothing new for you.

The Bottom Line
This is a fun game to play for a few times until you start learning what choices to make at every job. If you want a game that is fun for a few times through, try this game out. If you want something that you will enjoy playing for a long time, you should find a different game to play.

By Riamus on December 9, 2014

Snood (Game Boy Advance)

By Riamus on November 4, 2014

Dragon Age II (Windows)

Not quite the same, but still a good sequel

The Good
This game has a good story that builds off of your previous game's choices if you have a saved game from the first Dragon Age. This lets you feel like your choices have had an effect on the world as you start playing the sequel. The story itself may not be unique, but it is interesting and can keep you wanting to see more.

The graphics are very well done as you can usually expect from BioWare. High graphics settings work very well and look great even on lesser graphics cards. It shows how well you can do graphically without forcing players to get the absolute best graphics cards to experience it.

The dialogs are great and can be humorous. The character interactions are as enjoyable as in the original. It is very easy to learn to love or hate your companions and that is very important in a roleplaying game.

As in the original, you have a lot of control over how your character looks. It's always nice to have such control even if you don't see a whole lot of your character's face in the game.

The Bad
One very minor issue I have with this sequel is the choice of voice actors. I did not compare the credits with the original game, but some of the voices sounded the same even though the character was different. It is disorienting to hear the voice from a previous character used for a new character. They would have been better off having some more variety in the voice acting from that of the original, except with repeated characters (such as the return of HER -- if you played the game, you know who I mean).

I also miss the ability to put entire sets of armor on your companions. It isn't a huge concern, but when you have a pack full of different kinds of armor and can't let your companions use the majority of it, it takes away a lot from the game and is a large step backwards from most RPGs.

The achievements that you get are now on a "ribbon" that you move across. The original game had them in rows that allowed many to be displayed at once and made it easy to navigate. Now, you can see only a few at once and it's a pain to get a quick view of how many are left to unlock. It's definitely not game-breaking because you're not looking at that often, but it is worse than the original.

Character talents or skills are another thing that has gotten worse. In the original, they were in an easy to see format. Yes, they were more linear than they are now, but not by all that much. Now, you have to click on each category to see what is available and trying to see what requirements are needed to get the later skills takes more effort. They could have done a much better job laying out the skills than they did. Again, this is a minor issue, but it is another thing that went downhill.

The Bottom Line
This game is different from the original and that can be both good and bad depending on who you ask. The original was very well done and this game removed a number of things that made the original so much fun. Even so, if you're willing to take the time to get used to the differences, you will find that this sequel is still a great game.

Combat takes some getting used to after playing the original, but it doesn't take too long to no longer mind the differences. Gameplay itself is pretty much the same otherwise.

It looks from what I wrote above that there is more wrong with the game than right with it. That's really not true, though. Yes, the game isn't necessarily as good as the original because of some changes that really shouldn't have been made. However, none of these things are serious problems. They really only look bad when compared to the original. If you compare this game to different games, these issues really aren't issues anymore.

This game is a great game. The day I picked up my copy of the Signature edition, I started playing once I got home from work around 5:30 or 6:00pm. I played non-stop until about 11:15pm without realizing the passage of time. I hadn't even eaten dinner or had anything to drink. Few games draw me into them that well. I can play many games for that long without a problem, but I still notice the time. This game was just that engrossing.

Some of the changes may have been ill-advised, but it certainly is worth playing. If you enjoyed the original, you will enjoy this sequel. Just don't try holding it to the standards of the original, or at least be willing to get used to the differences.

By Riamus on March 17, 2011

Wii Sports Resort (Wii)

By Riamus on December 31, 2009

Divinity II: Ego Draconis (Windows)

Somewhat unusual, but in a good way

The Good
Ok, I'll admit that I didn't really get into this game at first. It took quite a bit of getting used to. However, it grew on me as I went along. It probably didn't help that I was playing Dragon Age: Origins at the same time, which outshines this game, but even so, I did end up getting hooked on the game.

The game is a pretty standard RPG, but focuses on a single main character without party members. At first, that distracted me from the game as it made things that should be easy more of a pain at the beginning of the game. But, as you progress, you do gain the ability to summon a "homemade" necromantic creature that you can continually upgrade with new body parts (head, torso, arms, and legs). Although weak to begin with, it does become a very valuable "party member." You can also summon temporary creatures (ghosts, demons, etc) to help out and they can make a real difference in the outcome of many fights. So, even though you don't have a real party, you can create a temporary one whenever you want, even charming the enemy to help out. I've decided that I think this is a good thing for the game, but it was hard won... I prefer having a party to help out.

The story is pretty much what you would expect from a medieval RPG. There is some limited lore in books that helps progress the story and a lot of side quests that are almost required just to level up enough to handle the fights. Nothing too unique here and not really spectacular either. That said, the story is good and there are some interesting plot twists to help keep the story flowing smoothly.

One somewhat unique aspect of the game is the ability to read the minds of anyone you meet. Doing so can get you better prices at vendors, extra skill or stat points, extra items, etc. The price of doing so is experience, which is a good way to handle it in one sense, but ends up making it become just a "Meet new character, Save game, Mindread character, If character's mindread gives something useful continue playing otherwise reload and skip mindread." That's not really a good thing to happen to any feature of a game. Even so, the mindreading is intriguing and you can hear some unexpected things from some characters, such as how the blacksmith lost the key to his basement while in the stables with his wife and how he thought it was worth it. So it definitely adds to the interest of the story and characters in the game.

The conversations you have with various characters can be engaging and sometimes funny. From the doctor who wears a weird metal hat that blocks mindreading, to ZixZax, the Almost Wise who calls you "Soon To Be Wise," you'll find some very unique characters to talk to.

Once you can turn into a dragon, the game really gets good as fighting while a dragon is actually quite enjoyable and controls are really well done. The only downside is that you can't see enemies that are on the ground while in dragon form. That means that you can't swoop down and clear the road, then land and run down it. If you want to run down the road, you'll have to kill everything on it while on foot. I suppose that keeps the game from becoming too easy, but it was a bit of a let down... I would have loved to swoop down on unsuspecting goblins and fry them up!

When you have your Battle Tower, you can send some guys out to hunt for more herbs and ores so you don't have to find everything yourself. That can make it easier to keep your potion or enchantment stock full and to find those rare ingredients. This is free to do, but if you want better results, you need to pay for armor and weapon upgrades (and healing) for them. You can't just give them armor you find... you'll have to actually pay for each person.

Another useful ability once you have the Battle Tower is that you can send items you loot/collect to the Battle Tower without traveling there, making it difficult to run out of space. You can also choose to teleport back to it at any time and then return to where you were, making it very easy to upgrade, sell, or buy things even if you are way down deep in a cave.

The Bad
What has to be the most annoying thing for me in the game is how the characters move when they talk to you. I have no idea what they were thinking when they animated the characters in this game. For some reason, every single characters acts as though they have no spine when talking to you. Their heads bob around like crazy and their arms are constantly moving. Very unrealistic and definitely distracts from the game. Not really a game killer, but definitely knocks it down a few pegs compared to most other games with regards to character animation.

Experience quickly becomes a problem in this game and makes the beginning of the game really painful, which is why it took me time to start really liking it. If you don't do almost every single side quest, you won't level up enough to move on to the next area. At least, not unless you max out Wisdom (bonus experience). I normally do most side quests, but not always in order. That quickly became a problem because I'd try going off to some area where a side quest was and everything would be 2-3 levels higher than me and in groups of 3-4 that you can't lure away individually. I'd have to look around to find that one area that was a little lower level and work that area first until I leveled up enough. The problem being that the maps aren't really all that linear in how the enemy levels are set up. It quickly became a back and forth battle as I try one part of the map, then back away and try another and keep repeating until I find what I can handle. It really made the beginning of the game a pain. I don't mind a challenge, but this wasn't a challenge so much as a real annoyance.

Trying to look around for areas that you can handle becomes more challenging because some enemies in the groups are extremely strong and you usually don't know that until you're in the middle and getting your butt kicked, it became almost unbearable. For example, you can't really target enemies while outside of range to see if anyone is a stronger character (a captain, epic, etc) and those usually look almost the same as the others around them. Then, when you get into the battle thinking you can do alright, they hit you for a third of your total health with each hit... not counting the damage you are taking from the others in the group. This is definitely a game where you want to save frequently and in multiple spots (especially because in some areas, once you enter, you can't leave and if the enemies are too much for you to handle, you're stuck).

If they had added more side quests, it might not have been such a big deal, but there seems to be just barely enough as you go along, which makes the side quests no longer optional and you might as well consider them to be main quests.

The pause ability that should let you work on tactics doesn't allow you to really do much of anything, making it almost pointless. I end up almost never touching it, though a real pause feature similar to most other "realtime w/ pause" RPG games would greatly improve my experience.

For the first large part of the game, you're just a human and you have absolutely no storage, yet you're expected to gather a ton of herbs, ores, and scrolls explaining how to make potions or enchantments as you go along. Your bag is a decent size, but it very quickly fills up with all those ingredients that you can't really make much use of until you get your Battle Tower (many hours into the game). There is a "hidden" herbalist right at the start and an enchanter that you can't get to much before you go to take the Battle Tower due to where he's located with higher level enemies around him that can make use of the herbs and ores, but only certain ones... you'll still have a huge number of them sitting in your bags taking up space. They do stack to 50 per bag slot, but there are so many kinds that it's just too much without some way to store them. Once you have the Battle Tower, you do have a storage chest that has 400 slots, which is way more than you can hold (even with endurance skill upgrades that increase bag space... though there are more important skills that make spending points on bag space uncomfortable). So if you can survive long enough without storage until then, you'll be fine afterwards. It is just a pain until then.

Controls and targeting aren't really set up well... unless you lock onto a target by pressing the target lock key, it's hard to keep yourself facing the enemy you're fighting while in melee. Your character is set up to do jumps and rolls to help make it hard on the enemy to hit you. Unfortunately, this also means your characters tends to jump around a bit while just attacking and you end up facing the wrong way and missing. The downside of target lock is that you have very little control of who you attack without cycling through targets similar to how you would in a flight combat game. Although cycling works in flight combat, it doesn't work in melee combat. More often than not, I skip targeting and just do my best to keep facing the enemy.

The Bottom Line
Well, that sure seems to make it look like there is more bad than good about the game, but that's not exactly true. The game is a good game and enjoyable to play once you get past the issues I mentioned. Most of those issues are only really a problem at the beginning of the game and once you get your Battle Tower they either disappear altogether or are more manageable.

This is one of those games that are hard to rate because there is a definite enjoyment curve (low to start, but high after you're 15+ levels into it). I think it's worth playing and I really enjoy it, but if you're not someone who can work through a poorly handled beginning of the game, you may not make it far enough to start really enjoying it.

If you want to play just one RPG this year on PC, get Dragon Age as it's a much more polished game. However, if you want to play multiple RPGs this year and are willing to have a slow, painful start to the game, I'd recommend trying this as well. Where Dragon Age is really an interactive RPG, this one is more of a hack and slash RPG. It really is a better game that it sounds from this review, but it's hard to really describe why that is.

By Riamus on December 14, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins (Windows)

One of the best RPG games to come out in years

The Good
One of the best things about the game are the character personalities. The characters in your party chat back and forth every so often with interesting things to say, similar to Planescape's characters. They each have their own personality and the interactions between them really draws you in. Few games really make use of that interaction, but it is one of the most successful ways to make a RPG game great. You can also improve your relationship with each character in your party by making dialog choices they like and giving them gifts. Eventually, you can even get some romantic dialogs with them. That's been seen in a variety of games, but it's still a great addition to the game.

Another nice quality in the game are the NPC characters. They all have really good voiceovers and I haven't yet seen the same face among the named NPCs, which helps to make them all unique. The variety in the voices was really done well and helps to make it feel realistic.

The graphics are very well done and there are many "cutscenes" where the graphics take on an almost movie quality while still using the characters from your party, including what they are currently wearing (minus any helmets). The cutscenes, if you want to call them that, are usually not too long yet they help to fill out the story really well.

The story is perhaps the best part of the game, though so much comes together to make it great that it's hard to really choose one quality. So far, I have only played as one character (a dwarf noble warrior). As that character, I went through a very interesting and somewhat unique introduction storyline that got me out into the world. Each of the characters you choose from have their own unique introduction and I'm looking forward to trying them all even if I may not play through them all once I get past the introduction story. What makes the story so good is how well it is put together. Everything including the side quests seems to fit together seamlessly without gaps and holes that you often see in large worlds like this one. Even when you decide to go to another location before finishing one you're working on, it all still seems to go together nicely.

The game uses a codex system for storing information about the game that you can then look up again later. This helps so you don't have to keep notes or remember everything that you see. It shows information about every creature or enemy you come across, notes and books that fill in story background or quest background, and even information about any special spell combinations that you find in the game.

There is a tactics section for your party that helps you to create a way for each of your party members to react on their own so they do what you want them to without your guidance. It is set up really well and lets you create a limited number of tactics for each character, such as change between ranged or melee weapons based on what weapons are being used against them, automatically healing a character when their health gets so low, or shapeshifting when surrounded by a certain number of enemies. There are a lot of different kinds of tactics you can set up based on your play style or what you're currently fighting against. You get a certain number of tactics slots automatically and gain more by spending skill points and leveling up. I recommend not increasing tactics slots too much on your main character that you always control as you won't generally need them. I made that mistake without realizing what I was doing until later on. It helps to read the manual before playing, I suppose. Heh.

The character classes each offer some useful additions to your party and a nice variety in how you play them. It might be difficult finding the "right" main character to round out your party the way you want, but you also can't really choose a "wrong" character class either. One thing to note when choosing your classes is that the Mage is also your healer and the Rogue can really be useful for locked chests and doors. You will get both a rogue and mage not too far into the game, but won't have them to begin with.

The Bad
There really isn't anything that I'd consider bad about the game. That said, be careful about leaving the starting areas of the game. I was unable to complete some things within the Wilds because I didn't finish it before the large battle happened and it won't let me return there now. I'm sure the same is true for the other characters you can play. Most other places do let you return later, but the starting areas seem to be locked after you leave them. Whether or not that changes later in the game, I'm not sure.

Some encounters do become very difficult even at Normal difficulty and make you either use "boring" strategies (such as running in circles while the rest of your party uses ranged attacks) or else leave to another area and then come back later after leveling up some more. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does sometimes get frustrating. Of course, some of those difficult situations are made much easier by taking direct control of all characters in your party and using certain combinations of spells and skills.

One thing to keep in mind about the party AI is that it won't do everything for you unless you really work on the tactics for each character. Default tactics are okay for most easy fights, but for the harder fights, you'll have to either handle each character manually or else take time to set up the tactics really well. It won't just do the best attacks for you like some games. I'm not sure that is really a bad thing about the game, but if you expect it to do it for you, you're going to consider the AI to be bad.

The Bottom Line
Overall, if you like games like Planescape, Baldur's Gate, and Neverwinter Nights while having more control of the camera similar to a game like Morrowind or Oblivion, you will probably really enjoy this game. It is a huge game offering hours and hours of enjoyment even before considering playing as another character. I definitely recommend the game to all RPG fans as a must-have game. I rarely make such a recommendation for games, but this is one of the best as far as I'm concerned. It seems to take the best qualities of the different RPG games out there and include them all into one great game. And beyond the main game, you can also download additional content for the game that adds new areas as well as new items. Keep in mind that some of those downloadable items won't be available in the game until you get further into it. And if you haven't downloaded them yet, you will see it in the conversation dialog when you come across a quest that is for those new areas.

By Riamus on November 18, 2009

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (Windows)

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Tasty Planet (Windows)

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Pat Sajak's Trivia Gems (Windows)

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World of WarCraft: The Burning Crusade (Windows)

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Windows)

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Carrie the Caregiver: Episode 1 - Infancy (Windows)

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Diner Dash: Flo on the Go (Windows)

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Butterfly Escape (Windows)

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Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 (Game Boy Advance)

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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team (Game Boy Advance)

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Summon Night: Swordcraft Story (Game Boy Advance)

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Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave (Windows)

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Secret Files: Tunguska (Windows)

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Don't Get Angry! 2 (Windows)

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Chuzzle: Deluxe (Windows)

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Delicious: Deluxe (Windows)

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The Movies: Stunts & Effects (Windows)

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City of Villains (Windows)

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