Mini Crits: Downloadable Round Up, #1

Here’s a round up of downloadable games from PSN/XBLA/maybe-PC-in-the-future-perhaps.


What Shank realises is that the old ‘easy to learn hard to master’ adage that is the staple of side-scrolling beat ’em ups is all very well and good, but unless you can still look effortlessly cool randomly pounding the joypad with congealed ham-fists then what is the point? The first few moments of the game, where you’re given a couple of enemies and let loose with a chainsaw, pistol and, yes, shanks, are pure glee. Pretty soon you’ll be pouncing on an unsuspecting enemy and driving a chainsaw into his face before jumping off, grappling another and ramming a grenade through his mouth. It’s super responsive, ultra fluid, cartoonishly gory and over the top stuff.

With the controls geared toward effortlessly enabling balletic acts of carnage, the games difficulty lies with the enemies. Not in the traditional sense of throwing countless numbers on screen to overwhelm the player – although in the later levels their are plenty of bad guys to deal with – but by mixing up the combinations of enemy types. Gunners need to be dealt with early through a long range pounce move, burly bouncer types charge the  player requiring an accurately timed dodge and dogs… well dogs are just bastards. When the game throws all three at you in one go, along with a couple of standard melee guys, you’re required to do some advanced planning on how you’ll go about tackling them. Not because doing badly will hinder your progress, as health-replenishing booze is littered liberally around levels, but because a string of perfect kills just looks so damn good.

Fights are often broken up with platforming sections, which are less successful in their execution; the later ones requiring a little too much trial-and-error bullshit to fit comfortably with the fluidity of the rest of the game. Other criticisms are mere nitpicks; for instance, the game never quite comes up with anything as visually inventive as the first level bridge fight done entirely in silhouette. The length too might give some cause for concern – expect around 4 hours for the single player with a further 2-3 for the co-op prequel campaign (dependant on how quickly you tackle the genuinely tough co-op boss fights) – but when the finished product is so often as slick and entertaining as Shank is, it’s hard to feel disappointed.



There’s a notable problem with parody in gaming. To boil it down to its essence, the truism goes something along the lines of: ‘an escort mission is still shit even if there’s some ironic all-too-knowing dialogue about how shit escort missions are beforehand.’ Luckily for Deathspank, its instances of knowing asides and fourth wall breaking are more in service of gentle ribbing (and poo jokes… so many poo jokes) than heavy-handed lampooning, showing much fondness for the action RPG genre. Lucky because, mechanically, Deathspank is pretty traditional in its design.

By which I mean fetch quests. Pretty much every mission involves going somewhere, killing things on the way, collecting things and bringing them back (while killing more things.) Sometimes a mission will throw a puzzle at you. This will involve collecting two things and combining them – while killing and travelling some more. You will also collect loot, which the game pretty much handles for you by auto-equipping the best stuff. This loot will be largely ignored until you get a message saying your inventory is full, at which point you will need to use your inventory grinder to grind down the stuff you aren’t using for money… Grind it down. In your grinder. Grinding things. In an RPG. DO YOU SEE THE JOKE?

Despite what you might think from the last paragraph, Deathspank is far from terrible. It’s scaled down systems and intuitive combat – 4 weapons mapped to the face buttons/4 items mapped to d-pad/find the combination that works for you – and relative ease means, unlike most action RPGs, that Deathspank is perfectly geared for short bursts. It’s levelling/looting are throwaway enough to not work for mammoth multiple hour sessions, but compelling enough that you’ll pop back every now and again to grind out a few more missions and throw some more orphans in a bag.


Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

A review of Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 for people who have never played a Sonic The Hedgehog game:

Perfectly decent 2-D platformer. Some inventive ideas populate the 4 themed zones, each made up of 3 levels and a boss fight. Some nice use of multi-route risk and reward level design but, overall, nothing you won’t have seen in platformers before.


A review of Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 for people who have played all the 2D Sonic The Hedgehog games, and some of the shit 3D ones.

Oh God, I can’t do this. You know what’s stupid about the current generation of console fanboys? Their argument is bullshit. It makes no difference if you’ve got a 360 or PS3 because, largely, it’s the same fucking games. So these people are reduced to arguing over the competency of the anti-aliasing in Modern Warfare or some other such bollocks. Grow the fuck up. Back in the SNES/Mega Drive days it did matter. The games were completely different, and spearheading these games was a fat plumber on one side and a douchebag hedgehog (and his sycophantic deformed fox) on the other.

Point being, there is nothing on this Earth that can twang the nostalgia strings harder than sight of that hedgehog running back and forth a white background followed by a shitty electric recreation of someone singing “SEGA!” Which is exactly how Sonic 4 opens. They know what they’re doing that Sonic Team. Or do they? The initial excitement soon dissipated into, “oh, um… okay.” For a start the levels are homages to older games, with Sonic 1’s Green Hill and Labyrinth Zones and Sonic 2’s Casino Nights and Metropolis Zones essentially being the 4 areas on offer. Ignoring the fact that any Sonic level set underwater – take a bow Labyrinth – were complete shit, it would have been nice to see something new. After all, fan projects have been creating remixed versions of existing levels for years.

Then there are the things most people who’d never played an early Sonic game would never notice, like the glacial pace with which Sonic starts off from a standing position or the fact that he has no momentum in the air – let go of the direction button and he just drops. Like, what? Also the music is shit. I mean really, of all the things to get wrong the music? The music was the best part of the bloody games.

Still its not all bad, in fact as a game its probably far better than I had any right to expect. There are even times when I actually start to enjoy myself and, as much as it pains me to say it, I’m just happy to have the spiky bastard back.

41-76% – Depending on my mood.


2 Responses to “Mini Crits: Downloadable Round Up, #1”

  1. 1 Terry Wogan
    10/12/2010 at 02:21

    SHANK GO SHANK!!!!!!

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