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Bargain Exchange: Steam Summer Sale Day 1

Steam Logo for Bargain Exchange of Steam Summer Sale on Gaming Advance

The Steam Summer Sale needs little introduction. Every year, for the past three, Steam have delivered some incredible sales. The format is relatively simple. A massive selection from their enormous catalogue will be reduced in price, with a smaller selection of nine titles reduced even more as ‘Today’s Deals’. This year sees an addition to this daily deal – the Flash Sales.

The Flash Sales collect an even smaller number of titles than anything in Today’s Deals. Furthermore, these titles are also on sale for a shorter period of time than the Daily Deals. This means that users will have to check even more regularly for new sales. This covers even more ground than the previous sales. I won’t be looking at Flash Sales, as they get outdated far too fast; however, each day I will be writing a brief article for each daily deal which will explain the titles on sale and link the reader to a review or first impression of that title – should there be one available.

Total War Shogun 2 Header on Steam for Bargain Exchange of Steam Summer Sale on Gaming Advance

Today’s Deals include Total War SHOGUN 2, published by SEGA and developed by The Creative Assembly; Shogun 2 is the latest in the popular Total War franchise comprised of very high quality Real-Time Strategy games. The title itself is 75% off, but you can get the game and both expansion packs in a collection at 67% off the already discounted price. Shogun 2 is a game I absolutely adore. It’s beautiful, it’s very well crafted, and it has tons to do. It’s well worth the price. I heavily suggest getting this game.

Terraria Header on Steam for Bargain Exchange of Steam Summer Sale on Gaming Advance

Next on my most noticeable list is Terraria, a side scrolling platformer with treasure hunting and building game developed by indie developer Re-Logic. A personal favourite, Terraria is selling at a 75% discount leading me to state that if you haven’t already purchased this game then do so now. In the UK, the discounted price is a measly £1.50. It’s dirt cheap, and well worth it. I managed to rack a good eighty hours in the game.

Portal 2 Header on Steam for Bargain Exchange of Steam Summer Sale on Gaming Advance

Not to be ignored, both Valve-developed Portal titles are on offer for 75% off. A game with little need for introduction amongst gamers, Portal has spawned countless memes and took the gaming world by storm. Both Portals are physics-based puzzle games which involve the player placing portals to reach the exit for each test. The game is fantastic, even for those not usually interested in puzzle games. That being said, it still shares the same frustrations as well. We actually have our own Portal 2 review.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Header on Steam for Bargain Exchange of Steam Summer Sale on Gaming Advance

Probably the most popular video game title to be released, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 is on sale for 50% off. Developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t fail to live up to expectations. The expectations that it’s the same game as the previous lot. If you enjoyed it, you’ve probably already picked it up. If you haven’t gotten the game yet, I would avoid picking it up for now. A 50% discount is good, but it’s relatively poor in a Steam sale. Bide your time more. It will get cheaper yet.

Crusader Kings II Header on Steam for Bargain Exchange of Steam Summer Sale on Gaming Advance

We also have Crusader Kings II by Paradox Interactive. Whilst a game I have yet to pick up and will not pick up this time, my excuse is that I have a heavily limited budget for the sale this year. It’s a strategy game that is meant to be incredibly good, but of course this information is second hand.

Legend of Grimrock Header on Steam for Bargain Exchange of Steam Summer Sale on Gaming Advance

The last noticeable thing, as far as I’m concerned, is Almost Human Games’ title: The Legend of Grimrock. Grimrock sees a return to the old-school approach to the first-person Role-Playing Game genre. I’ve just picked the title up, so I can’t really comment on how well it plays but it’s praised as an absolutely fantastic and brilliant game. If you have any interest in the RPG genre, this game is one you should pick up, apparently. That was enough for me. 

Might and Magic Heroes VI Header on Steam for Bargain Exchange of Steam Summer Sale on Gaming Advance

That’s really it for any mentions I feel compelled to make. Ridge Racer Unbounded looks like it could be fun, but severely lacks content and I still feel it’s unlikely to be worth the 50% discount. Might and Magic Heroes VI is also widely considered a disappointing title and so I’ve been given the word to avoid it. I intend to share this advice with you guys. Avoid it.

The final title in Today’s Deals happens to be an indie bundle. The only title included in the bundle that I would absolutely recommend would be Cave Story+. Still, in the UK the bundle goes for £7 and includes five games. I’d still reckon that’s worth picking up if you enjoy indie games. There’s not really any real excuse there.

Review: Portal 2

You wake up in that familiar room once again, requested to do your exercises to ensure that you are in top condition. The room is inside the Aperture Science labs, deep underground. You are a test subject, but have not been awoken in years. However many years, you are unsure. This time, however, the room is a mess. The lights are out, and everything is everywhere. Someone knocks on your door. An unfamiliar voice.

It turns out to be an AI named Wheatley, who tries to help you escape. After making your way passed what remains of your enemy, GLaDOS, you accompany Wheatley down stairs to try and open up an exit. He activates her. GLaDOS awakens, and she is angry. But it’s okay. She’s going to put everything behind her, for science. You monster.

Chell and GLaDOS return in Portal 2, and GLaDOS is more antagonistic than ever. Every trial is also an attempt to kill you, but you have no choice but to move forward. Portal 2 is the sequel to Portal, a popular and famous game for its quirky, humour and unique puzzle mechanic. Unfortunately, the original was practically just a tech demo. Portal 2 is an attempt to make the title a truly complete game, and what it accomplishes is nothing short.

Publisher: Valve
Developers: Valve
Release Date: 21st April 2011
Rated: 12 (PEGI)
Platforms:  PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, Windows, OSX

Upon my initial play through of Portal 2, I was instantly stunned by the incredibly structured narrative. For a sequel to a title that completely lacked it, Portal 2 is particularly impressive. Whilst the story is still essentially just Chell being put through scientific tests (for an unknown purpose) and trying to escape, the execution is incredible.

The humour is more frequent, and a lot more funny. Portal’s sense of humour can be hit-or-miss, as I know people that also severely dislike it. That being said, the numbers of people that dislike it are far and few between, but it seems to me that you either love the game’s sense of humour … or loathe it.

Not a single line of dialogue in the game is wasted, either used for the humour or for character development. The characters themselves are very strong. Chell is still rather mute and bland, but GLaDOS is still absolutely rich in personality. Accompanying the cast of the previous title is Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant, who does an incredible job as the little personality core. Both GLaDOS and Wheatley have their own arcs, as well as the initial act of the game serving as to establish the characters.

Despite being AI, these characters grow and progress through-out the game as they experience situations beyond their purpose or expectations. I don’t want to spoil anything, but both characters feel very real, unique, and are, simply, just very strong characters. It is very rare to be confronted with such incredibly strong characters within a video game, with such real development.

The game is split into three acts. The first act serves as a re-establishment of the cast and setting, as well as the introduction to new characters. The second act develops the relationship between Chell and GLaDOS, GLaDOS herself, and gives closure on Aperture Science’s wacky history. The third, and final, act covers the end of Wheatley’s development, while concluding the story for both titles.

While the second act is possibly the strongest narratively, it is also the weakest for gameplay. The game has a rather repetitive formula, with Chell entering a room, successfully solving the puzzle, and then taking the elevator to the next room. The game avoids making this boring by changing things up frequently, but upon entering the second act the different trials of the game become longer and more tedious.

Each particular series of chambers focus on a specific mechanic. Upon beating these chambers, the player is tasked with solving puzzles with another mechanic. Some examples are beams of light that one can walk on (called Hard Light Surfaces), firing lasers into the appropriate place or an Excursion Funnel that beams you in one direction. Meanwhile, the second act involves the use of three different kind of gels (jumping properties, momentum increasing properties, and “stick-Portal-anywhere” properties). These gels can make the gameplay very fun, but feel very misplaced as the main focus of a test. As this also feels like the longest section, it becomes to get tedious nearer to the end of the act.

The game also features a wider variety of environments than the previous title. The facility begins in ruin and slowly gets fixed back to the clinical appearance of the original, but then things are changed as the player is forced into the underground section. The player also gets to explore more of the facility outside of the chambers as well. Graphically, the game looks better than the first too, despite using the same engine. It looks great and plays great.

Portal 2 is also an audible improvement upon the previous title. The voice acting is just as good, if not better, and the soundtrack is even more memorable. I actually spent time within one puzzle trying to stay on the red gel (for momentum) simply for the track that plays as you speed up. As per the previous title, Portal 2 also sports a humorous ending track. The track, titled “Want You Gone”, isn’t quite as quotable as the previous “Still Alive”, but it sounds and plays better.

Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant, is a loveable moron new to the franchise.
With a lifespan of five to seven hours on the campaign alone, Portal 2 lasts long enough for a standard first-person campaign run; however, it also comes accompanied with a co-op mode with its own unique story and humour. Co-op stems over five different courses, each with a purpose. The co-op also contains some funny gestures for the two protagonists: P-body and Atlus (both robots). While it is about as strong, narratively, as the previous title, it makes up for this by having the more complex and challenging puzzles of the game. The standard lifespan for the co-op mode is about four hours.

Furthermore, Valve plan to continue to release new updates and maps for the game to enhance replayability even more. As an added bonus, players on the PS3 or PC edition are able to play with each other online thanks to Steam crossing over with PSN.

While Portal 2 isn’t as groundbreaking as the original, it is everything that the original should have been. It is a complete package and an unforgettable experience. The game deserves a retail purchase from anyone. This title is a great addition to anyone’s library and highly recommended; however, it is not for those who dislike  the concept of physics-based puzzles (perhaps due to the complexity involved) or for those who dislike the humour, as it would become frustrating.

As such, Portal 2 earns a solid 9/10. It’s an amazing title that should not be missed. It has been refined and polished so neatly, and is absolutely unforgettable. A brilliant experience to be had by all.

Preview: Catherine

Nightmare Screenshot of Catherine for Gaming Advance Preview.

As a title that has interested me for a while, Catherine hasn’t failed in keeping me entertained so far. The game seems rich in substance, with seemingly strong underlying themes behind the gameplay. In Catherine, developed by Atlus, you play as Vincent as he finds himself entangled in a mess when his long-time partner, Katherine, becomes pregnant. Meanwhile he finds himself cheating on her with the beautiful blonde Catherine.

The title itself is a puzzle platformer. The player must re-arrange various blocks to climb the tower. Whilst simple in theory, it’s designed well enough to be quite challenging and can require various different creative approaches to the task. Each stage also has a boss phase at the end, where the player must outrun the enemy who will be on the attack.
Outside of the platforming sections, the player gets to interact with NPC’s to explore their own tale to help push them to survive the nightmares in which the platforming takes place. The player may also interact with Katherine and Catherine via texts while being able to modify each sentence to affect Vincent’s attitude towards them. 
The story itself seems to feature a good sense of humour in how it handles the awkward and difficult scenarios that Vincent is put through, while developing the characters enough to like him despite his affair. There are scenes where Vincent changes how he acts based upon how you’ve approached his situation so far, but I’ve yet to experience the differences myself. 
The game is so far quite fun, and makes time fly by (a bit too fast, I might add). There’s a multiplayer component I’ve yet to try out too, but so far the game has been pretty fantastic and I’m looking forward to seeing how the tale ends. 

Conference Round-up: Sony

Sony Logo for E3 Conference Round Up on Gaming Advance

The Sony conference was a mixed bag. Whilst it was certainly a poor conference, it did have far more meaningful titles and news to show off than the majority of previous conferences. To sum it up: Sony actually showed off some neat gameplay demos for almost everything they were presenting, with the exception of the only true unveiling.

As a publisher of whom is often capable of announcing exclusive new IP’s or, at the very least, sequels to recent exclusive IP’s, their conference can’t help but make me feel disappointed at the outcome. The only real unveiling was Beyond: Two Souls, which was a cinematic trailer and revealed nothing in regards to gameplay at all. Whilst this is undoubtedly going to be another quick-time event based game much like Heavy Rain, it still tells me nothing worth getting excited over. The only impressive aspect shown off was the graphics, which is honestly at a level I expected after Quantic Dream’s recent CGI movie. One can argue that it’s impressive because it’s gameplay, but considering that the entire game could very easily be pre-rendered, that’s just not an incredible feat. The sad part was that this was still one of the highlights of the show for me.

Sony seemed to have focused on a shorter presentation. I actually wish they didn’t. I don’t mind their long presentations because they normally have stuff to show off, but they literally omitted some of their most vital components that was expected from the conference. The Vita had nothing to show, and it sorely needs the support right now. Yes, Tretton announced after the presentation that the Vita would have sixty titles, but that wasn’t actually during their presentation. Instead, they spent fifteen minutes on Wonderbook.

Wonderbook is a title that, whilst I have no issues with children getting games with this as I actually feel this was a good thing, it just felt like it should have been shown off at a toy convention or something. At the very least, fifteen minutes on Wonderbook was a minimum of ten minutes wasted; although some would argue that it wasted all fifteen minutes.

The best thing that came from the conference, without a doubt, is from the demo of The Last of Us – an exclusive and brand new IP for the PlayStation platform. The Last of Us looks different, and sounds different. And for those complaining, it doesn’t look that scripted at all. It reminds me of Uncharted 3 in how it handles all the contextual fighting and the like. It also looks like it’s the first survival game done right in quite some time, although I may be forgetting something with that statement.

Overall, Sony delivered barely enough to make the presentation worth witnessing. Next time Sony, remember to show off your support for your brand new system. I’d hate to see the PlayStation 4 announced with no titles. It’s a pattern you need to give up some day.

Bargain Exchange: Indie Gala 6

Indie Gala Logo for Bargain Exchange Feature on Gaming Advance

This is slightly old news, but I thought it was worth addressing all the same. Especially when we have six days remaining. That’s more than enough time to take advantage of this bundle. Yup, that’s right! Bargain Exchange is back so soon, and round two brings you the sixth Indie Gala bundle.

The Indie Gala is a bundle where you may pay however much you want from a minimum of one dollar. Those who choose to pay more than the average also get bonus titles, which serves to encourage higher donations. And yes, I said donations. The money that you purchase the bundle with supports charity. Of course, it will also serve as to support the developer and you can even give a tip towards the indie gala organisers. The entire system is pretty identical to the Humble Bundle.

The sixth bundle comes complete with Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, Commandos: Beyond the Call of Duty, and The Void. Paying more than the average can also bag you Commandos 2: Men of Courage, Commandos 3: Destination Berlin, Cargo! The Quest for Gravity, Air Conflicts: Secret Wars, Ion Assault and Trauma – all of which are available on Steam.

All of the Commandos titles, all of which are developed by Pyro Studios, are real-time strategy games set during the second world war with a pretty damn good aesthetic. The Void, developed by Ice-Pick Lodge, is a first person adventure game that comes across very ‘arty’. You’re lingering in the void, the realm before death, where the most important but exhausted resource is colour. Speaking of colour, that brings me to Ion Assault.

Ion Assault is by Coreplay GmbH an incredibly colourful and seizure-inducing shooter that’s very arcade-esque and has a similar flashy style to it as Beat Hazard. It’s flashy and crazy, and it definitely looks very fun.

In keeping with the world war theme that half of the bundle comprises of, Air Conflicts by Games Farm is a flight simulator where the player must survive a number of scenarios whilst fighting a variety of enemy units – which includes infantry, tanks, ships, trains, you name it. It does look pretty fantastic.

Cargo is another title developed by Ice-pick Lodge, and it’s completely different in tone to the relatively dark ‘The Void’. The game revolves around a creepy looking race named ‘Buddies’ who just want to have fun. There’s a pretty interesting crafting component to the game, according to the trailer, in which you can create crafts to fly in and so on.

Last, but not least, is Trauma, developed by Krystian Majewski. Trauma is an adventure title that uses photographic visuals, where you experience the dreams of a recovering survivor of a car accident where she subconsciously deals with the tragedy and her trauma.

So there we have it, Indie Gala VI. It looks like a mighty fine bundle. Currently, the minimum price to receive all the titles lands on $6.24. I’d say that’s a perfectly reasonable price for all that it offers. I will admit this, though. I wasn’t really that interested in the bundle until I really took a look at what was available. The games all look pretty fun, and each have something that interests me. And let’s also remember that this is for charity too. I definitely support this bundle.

Indie Gala – Indie Gala VI

Bargain Exchange: Summer Bundle

Indie Royale Logo for Bargain Exchange feature on Gaming Advance Website

I’m starting up a new (currently irregular) feature today – The Bargain Exchange! Here we will be looking at any fantastic offers or bundles going on the internet, and what better way to start this feature than with the latest Indie Royale Bundle. We’re going to be taking a brief look at the Summer Bundle currently available for purchase over at the Indie Royale website.

The Indie Royale is a webpage put together by the founders of Desura, a digital distribution client for gamers similar to Steam, and is the location of a number of great bundles which feature heavily discounted indie video games. This is their seventeenth bundle release and also happens to be their biggest yet as it currently sports nine titles.

The first title is the real-time strategy game published by Oxeye Game Studio, named Harvest: Massive Encounter. Coming second place in the Swedish Game Awards in 2007, the title involves the player attempting to harvest materials from the planet while fending off an alien attack. This game will be available for Desura, Steam and will also be downloadable completely DRM free. It may also be played on Windows, Mac and Linux, so it’s certainly portable!

Our second title is The Journey Down: Chapter One, is an episodic adventure game developed by Skygoblin, available for Linux, Mac and Windows via DRM free download or Desura. Bwana and Kito are falling behind on bills as they work at a run-down gas station before they find themselves hunting a lost journal that leads to the sercret Underland. The other chapters have yet to be released.

Serious Sam 2 is the third title and should need little introduction, but for those unaware of it – Serious Sam 2 is a fantastic arcade-esque first person shooter developed by Croteam and published by Devolver Digital. Unfortunately, it lacks the portability of the previous two titles being that it remains available only on Steam for Windows, but it’s absolutely worth getting.

Next on our list are the three Gundemonium Collection titles developed by Rockin’ Android and featuring particularly fantastic soundtracks and crazy side-scrolling bullet hell styled gameplay. The games are all available for Steam, Desura and DRM free download, exclusively for Windows. Set in an alternative history during the 18th century, humanity is at war with hell as a result of experimentation with Alchemy. Each game has it’s own quirks, and serves to continue the storyline but deliver an alternative experience to your chaotic shooting.

Acceleration of Suguri X-Edition is another computer game that anime fans will appreciate the graphical style of. Suguri X-Edition is a curious blend of both bullet hell shooters and fighting games, also developed by Rockin’ Android and is available on Windows for Desura, Steam and is also available for a DRM free download.

Dino Run SE is the Special Edition of the platformer and flash game, ‘Dino Run’, developed by pixeljam. The game involves the player assuming the role of a dinosaur as you must outrun your death in a game that looks like it’s from the Atari age for that retro feeling. This title is available on the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms for Desura or DRM free download.

Lastly, we have the action-strategy game Airmech by Carbon Games, featuring transformable robots. Although the game is free-to-play for Chrome, this title serves as a bonus in the Summer Bundle. Anyone who purchases the Summer Bundle will get the beta key for this game on Steam. It is also available for download and through Desura.

So there we have it, the Summer Bundle. There are certainly a number of gems in there, but be quick! The earlier you purchase the bundle, the cheaper it will be. Of course, if you’re lucky, maybe someone will pay a large sum resulting in the price dropping.

Indie Royale - Summer Bundle

E3 Conference Roundup: Ubisoft

Ubisoft Logo for E3 Conference

Notorious for their DRM and punishing consumers to combat piracy, the infamous Ubisoft actually had the most surprising conference out of the bunch. Bundled with their expected display of Assassin’s Creed III, and Far Cry 3. They also gave us a splendid display of Rayman Legends, which I’ll be undoubtedly touting as the next coming of Christ.

What initially surprised me was how much support Ubisoft were giving Nintendo’s Wii U, but given that it’s a new platform that will need support then it makes perfect sense. It’s always good to see a publisher support a brand new system. Some people seem to find issues with that, but I don’t understand why. Should they just ignore the new system or just port their older games onto it? I’d rather see them try to make use of the system’s features early in the console’s cycle.  It needs support to be worth buying.

The big unveiling came at the end with the surprise announcement of Watch_Dogs. The game looks intriguing, and has potential to be absolutely fantastic. Even just walking down the streets at the start of the gameplay demonstration, it was obvious that something was different. Of course, at the same time, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with Rockstar’s RAGE Engine. The way the animations worked, the way the city and UI looked, the way the cover and shooting looked. It all reminded me of Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto IV and LA Noire at the same time. But despite all that, it looked like it was doing something relatively unique. At the very least, you could be a far better assassin than you were in Assassin’s Creed.

Ubisoft made significant guest appearances at everyone else’s conference, with the exception of EA. They showed off the most surprising and interesting title. And, putting aside their awful hosts, they also focused the most on video games. They were the best at E3.