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The Walking Dead

Box Art The Walking Dead Video GameIn this popular era of zombie apocalypse games, we’re playing high-action, fast-paced, blood’n’guts shoot ‘em ups were we want the highest score and to be as competitive as we can. But for the video game The Walking Dead, the developer Telltale Games (which I might add, is very appropriate), have crafted a beautiful, emotional, impacting and rememberable adventure and will go down in history as one of the most genuinely statuesque gaming experiences you may ever play.

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Adventure//Point-and-Click, Horror
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC (Reviewed), Mac OSX, iOS
Release Date: April 24th, 2012 — November 20th, 2012
Rating:  18 (PEGI)

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Review: Slender [Scariest video game ever?]

Slender Video Game Review

The Slender Man is perhaps one of the most famously unknown and terrifying stalkers talked about throughout fictional history and now thanks to the work of a single man he’s gotten a little more exposure. But first, a little backstory on who — or what — the Slender Man actually is.

The Slender Man was created at the Something Awful Forums in a thread entitled “Create Paranormal Images.” He is seen as wearing a black suit, a tuxedo, and as the name suggests he is extremely thin and is able to stretch his limbs and torso to inhuman lengths in order to induce fear and ensnare his victims — children. Once his arms are outstretched his victims are put into something of a hypnotised state, this is where they are completely helpless to The Slender Man’s evil-doings. He is also able to create tendrils from his fingers and back that he uses to walk on in a similar fashion to Doc Ock, the Spider Man villain in the Marvel Universe. The superhuman stretching ability can also be seen as a similarity between himself and Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. Whether he absorbs, kills, or mearly takes his victims to an undisclosed location or dimension is also unknown as there are never any bodies or evidence left behind in his wake to deduce a definite conclusion.

The game Slender, created by Parsec Productions (a one-many army) places the player in the midst of a dark, spooky forest in the middle of nowhere. The player assumes the role of a female child where you are immediately instructed to collect eight pages, which are found scattered intelligently random throughout the forest. There is no tutorial, there is no prologue, there is no introduction to the game. Much like in real-life you hear yourself climb the fence and flick your flashlight on. You are now completely alone and defenceless, well, The Slender Man will be sure to keep you comforted in your journey.

Continuing on, it’s incredibly easy to learn the controls and mechanics of the game. Left-click is the action button (which is pretty much to collect pieces of paper), right-click is your flashlight, left shift is to sprint and buttons Q and E are used to zoom in and out respectively, with an appropriate lens-zoom sound effect as they are held down. Finding and collecting the first page initiates the first stage of ambient music: an off-in-the-distance drum echoing that will continue playing from now on. Now for every two additional pages you find, the next stage of ambient sounds will layer on top of each other, progressively becoming more chilling and intimidating. It’s a very effective, but simple, technique to ensue paranoia and fear.

Your flashlight will eventually run out!

Without spoiling, the pages can be found around landmarks in the forest; so you’re not going to find a page randomly on the floor in the middle of a bunch of trees; however, there is some level of consistency and visual clues as to where they can be. Also, at the beginning of each session of play, the pages’ locations are randomly generated in specific “hot spots” so you will not always find the same page at the same spot every single time. Now, picking up from before about music, the first stage of ambient sound is an audio cue to tell you that The Slender Man is on to you. There is no message that appears to break the immersion and tell you that you’re being stalked. Everything is naturally integrated in to the gameplay itself. The author of this game was definitely aiming for the most immersive and frightening video game experienc, by keeping the screen HUDless and replacing user interface elements with both an adaptive mix of visual and audio.

With this in mind, I found myself constantly looking around my surroundings, especially outside; expecting The Slender Man to appear right in-front of my eyes. As a matter of speaking, he has the ability to teleport anywhere on the map to where-ever you’re not looking at, but I learned that pretty quickly after finding my first page. With he continuation of the building-up ambient music along with the fear of seeing The Slender Man appearing right behind me with the classic “DUNN!” B-movie horror sound effect, my hands were physically sweating and my mouth was open the entire time I was playing; just waiting to be scared. I feel Slender is a self-selling game that makes you question your own psyche subconsciously. It was my own fear that that was keeping me motivated to play. I wasn’t sure if seeing or not seeing The Slender Man was for the better or not because it could mean he was going to either appear before my eyes any second, or if I did see him, then I would have just got scared by seeing him! This is what I mean when I say it is a self-selling game, I, myself, the player, was scared no matter what I did because of the tension that I created.

Is Slender the scariest video game ever made? Maybe…. It’s certainly the scariest video game I’ve ever played. Its efficient and simple style of gameplay makes up for a very convincing and addicting atmosphere. The realisation that you are indeed alone and helpless, and that all you can do is dig yourself a deeper grave, is spectacular. Its casual approach makes it open to all and any type of person to play, even if you don’t like to play video games, there is a strange addiction and compulsion to keep going and keep playing until the bitter end, a “so close yet so far” philosophy.

Slender was finished multiple times with a total of 5/8 pages, played on version 0.9.5 beta. For those who regard score as an important factor to a review, Slender receives a 10/10. It’s simply one of the most scary experiences you will have whilst playing video games, maybe even in your life, and should be played by everybody.

Guru Meditation is a regular author for GamingAdvance. You may contact Guru Meditation through the email address: gurumeditation@gamingadvance.com.

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.