Dots

“Eventually, everything connects.” – Charles Eames

This is what Dots is all about – as long as you only move vertically or horizontally, diagonals are not welcome. I was introduced to this game while in a waiting room that I would spend two weeks sitting in. I’m not saying it made things easier, but it did make things bearable. The game is quick and simple. Once you get the hang of it you will be addicted. The mechanics are intuitive, couple that with some competitive leaderboards with friends and you’ve got a good time.

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What I love about Dots, and what I search for in a lot of games and apps these days is the ability to play for free but have payments to enhance the experience rather than become a necessity. With dots, you can use the dots you earn from playing to buy power-ups. If you don’t want to play to amass dots then you can pay for dots. It encourages you to play and spend time getting more skilled at the game to earn your power ups. If you lead a busy life then you can pay for them. It works either way.

It’s fun to play and just so damn pretty I’d like to think that maybe Charles Eames would have it on his iPad were he still around today.

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Journey

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You are stranded in a desert, the white hot sun blares in your eyes and drags sweat from every one of your pores. You trudge up sand dunes hoping the beacon you move towards on the horizon isn’t a mirage. Suddenly a fellow traveller appears at your side and you are immediately filled with confidence that you are not alone on this journey that is only going to test your strength every step of the way.

This is what playing Journey on the Playstation 3 is like. Unlike other online games, the chance of you actually playing with other players is completely random. There is only a rudimentary form of communication between players in the form of whistling or singing. You can choose to travel together, explore the open world together or go your separate ways. This is a new form of online gaming that is not only original but blends together seamlessly with the entire atmosphere of the game.

Beautiful is a weak word to describe this game. Everything in Journey is gorgeous. The art direction, the graphical style and particularly the sound design are all outstanding. The storytelling is masterfully done and even though a single play through the game is short, I was almost immediately ready to dive back in, begin another journey and hope there was something more to discover in this world. Perhaps there were secrets I missed. Regardless, Journey is not a game. It is not something to simply entertain you while time passes. It is an experience I recommend to anyone with an adventurous spirit and wide imagination.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep

The Kingdom Hearts Series combines the universe of Final Fantasy and the world of Disney. Everyone was shocked and disturbed when the original game was announced because of it was such an odd combination. However like Peanut Butter and Jam, the strangest pairings are often the best. Kingdom Hearts is no exception to that rule.

Here we are at the prequel to the original game. While fans of the series are waiting for the third (and final?) installment of the main series they are being abated with a number of spin offs. After a lackluster attempt on the Nintendo DS, skepticism was thick for the PSP title. I myself was worried I would be a bit disappointed again by another Kingdom Hearts spin-off game. The series creator and champion, Tetsuya Nomura assured fans that Birth By Sleep is “Chapter 0” rather than a spin off. After spending nearly 40 hours on the game, I am inclined to agree with the man.

You choose to play through the game’s story as one of three characters – Terra, Aqua or Ventus. In order get a full understanding of the story you have to play though all three characters. I was immediately worried at the thought of playing through the game three times over, since Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days on the DS was comprised of playing mission after mission in the same areas over and over again. I was pleasantly surprised that I can count the repeated sections for each character on one hand. Even though you visit the same worlds with each character, there is are different areas, allies or enemies to be discovered.

The three character structure also makes the story telling richer and and more involving. After playing through the story with one character, I immediately started into the next. I was eager to fill in the gaps, investigate the crossed paths and alternate angles with each character. As far as I’m concerned this installment in the Kingdom Hearts series has the best story. It is simple and easy to follow, yet fairly captivating at the same time. It is amazing that the creators have managed to set up the next chapter in the main series, (as yet unannounced) Kingdom Hearts 3 with a prequel story.

Enough of the wishy washy stuff, what of the action? Well the gameplay is classic Kingdom Hearts fare, bashing enemies on the head with your keyblade, as well as casting magical spells with aesthetically pleasing graphical effects. It is an Action RPG, but definitely on the lighter side of the genre. The action will be repetitive to some, however it is very gratifying to unleash a flurry of attacks, combos and spells and watch your enemies explode into health spheres and munny (the currency of the Kingdom Hearts World.)

For those familar to Kingdom Hearts, the gameplay is nothing revolutionary and those who are new to the series should be prepared for the fact it isn’t the most deep battle system. However bosses are fun to play against and the camera isn’t a troublesome as it has been in previous chapters. Platforming is on the light side, so there isn’t any irritation there either.

Birth By Sleep is definitely the strongest title outside of the main series. It should be regarded as Kingdom Hearts 0. Any fan of the series cannot afford to miss this title and anyone on the lookout for a strong PSP title shouldn’t ignore it.

Plants vs. Zombies

This week on Awesome Geek – it’s Video Games

You read that title right. This is a game where plants are pitted against their eternal mortal enemy. No, it’s not slugs or greenfly – it’s Zombies. Don’t go thinking for a second that when the Zombie apocalypse strikes that the undead will ignore mother natures children. The zombies will chomp through as much grass and petals as they need to in order to reach your delicious juicy brains. However your plants love you. You water them, you weed them and you talk to them. It helps them grow. Therefore your plants have no problem taking up arms against the Zombie invasion and ensuring you survive without a single scratch on your cranium.

This is the premise of Plants vs. Zombies. I shouldn’t have to convince anymore to get this game in your life but I will because I love this gem and it just gets better and better. Plants vs Zombies is a tower defense game. This usually means there are waves of enemies trying to invade your base, it is your job to place defenses along your enemy’s path that blow them up, ensuring your base is safe. PvZ simplifies this a bit by placing your base (your house) on the left of the screen and has your enemies (the zombies) enter from the right along one of 6 lane ways.

You spend your time planting various plants which range from pea shooters to cherry bombs along the lanes. A simple mechanic becomes easy to pick up, difficult to put down and also filled with a plethora of different strategies for defeating the walking dead. Like most games by PopCap, PvZ will have you playing into the wee hours of the morning and I promise it will be an enjoyable ride. The game is not repetitive but intuitive and fun it has a sense of humour that will have you giggling while you dispatch your creeping foes with solar powered justice.

The game is available for PC and Mac, as well as iPhone OS. I highly recommend it, the awesome geek loves a bit of tower defense and zombies any day of the week and Plants vs. Zombies is definitely one of the best of both out there.

Bayonetta

This Week on Awesome Geek – it’s Video Games!

I won’t blame you for believing that Bayonetta is a game aimed sqaurely at the boys. It’s got an incredible, overtly sexual protagonist with proportions that are straight out of a dirty magazine. It’s got blood, violence and cursing. It’s got an outrageous soundtrack with a pop version of “Fly Me to the Moon” as one of the main themes. It’s got dance numbers and a big camp adventure. What sort of boys is this game aimed at again?

Bayonetta is a big camp action romp of a game and I adore it. At first the game seemed to be trying too hard to push sex in order to sell copies, however a few hours into Bayonetta one finds that the title is less on the Megan Fox side of things and sits more comfortably with Kylie on her Showgirls Tour. Now this is not to say that the game is a big gay adventure – instead it pushes the boundaries what is expected when it comes to a beat em up action game.

The battle system in this game is one of the best out there. Being the spiritual successor to the Devil May Cry series Bayonetta has strong roots. The number of combos, weapons and magical attacks is staggering. You flit and fly around the screen delivering sexy witch justice upon your heavenly enemies with just a few button presses. My favourite mechanic is witch time, which is activated when you dodge an enemy attack at the very last second. Time slows, and you are free to unleash a flurry of pain upon your opponent.

The game is quick and fun to play. It provides a challenge without being frustrating – a mark of a well balanced title. The graphics and animations are easy on the eyes and are full of variety throughout your play experience.

I enjoy how unlike anything else Bayonetta is. It flirts with stereotypes, while ignoring them completely, enough to get you interested and keep you hooked for the ten to twelve hours it takes to play through the main story. However if you are anything like me, you won’t stay away for long and keep coming back for more.

The World Ends With You

This Week on Awesome Geek – it’s Video Games!

This game isn’t New Super Mario Bros. This game isn’t Nintendogs. This game isn’t Imagine Babiez. This game is unlike any other game I’ve ever played and will consistently make my personal top five forever. The World Ends With You is a little title on the DS that was critically acclaimed but I do not believe will earn a sequel. In a way this annoys a fan of the game like myself but on the other hand I adore the fact that the game stands alone and remains untouched or possibly spoiled, by a sequel.

The game is the brainchild of Tetsuya Nomura, the golden boy of Square-Enix. Being the lead character designer of nearly every Final Fantasy since VII, he is well known and highly regarded among gamers. If one was to sum up his style into one single game it would be The World Ends With You.

The game has three things about it that make it an essential part of any gamers collection as well as entirely unique – the game mechanics, the story and the design.

The game mechanics were what first drew me to the title – no other game takes advantage of the two screens on the Nintendo DS like TWEWY. You control two characters at once during the battle scenes of the game. You control the character on the bottom touch screen with the stylus. On the top screen you use the directional pad or buttons depending on what hand you’re using for the stylus. In each battle you fight using both characters at the same time. It sounds mind boggling but it is something you get acquainted with eventually, and it quickly becomes second nature. This battles are fervent, exciting and fun – something which has become the norm for current Role-playing games, but is already fairly perfect in TWEWY.

The story is set in an alternative modern Tokyo. Your characters are players in “The Game”, trapped in a parallel limbo where they must survive seven days of puzzles, enemies and challenges in order to be set free and granted one wish. What begins as a stereotypical Japanese drama fodder, escalates into a epic that is full of twists, surprises and memorable characters that will keep you coming back for more.

The game looks like a cross between tokyo fashion, anime, graffiti and tribal tattoos. The eponymous Nomura style is omnipresent in the game with players emblasoned with his signature belts and zips – but within this world they fit perfectly. The art of this world will be just one of the many things leave you wanting to replay and make the characters your desktop wallpaper. You need to play this game. The Awesome Geek already knows and loves The World Ends With You – and you should too.