November 2010

There are two ways rumors get started. The first is simple: people involved leak the information or accidentally post it in public places. The second? Analyst and general media celebrity Michael Pachter. He says things, and apparently this makes them viable rumors. This week we’ve decided to come up with our own baseless speculation, Pachter-style.

Current score

Andrew Passafiume: +340

Graham Russell: +109

Eric Schabel: +65

Shawn Vermette: +185


Successor to Wii, PS3 or 360 revealed by or at E3 2011

I mean, it could happen, right? Seems like it’s about time. We haven’t heard anything about production at any plants, talks with chip manufacturers or the other things we could have gotten wind of. Nope, we just think this could transpire.

Andrew: I think this is partly true. I think we’ll be hearing about a new console from Nintendo relatively soon, but I think the earliest we’ll hear from Microsoft and Sony is 2012. Normally it wouldn’t be like this, but I think this console generation is a lot different. Developers are still trying to get the hand of these current systems. 15%

Graham: It seems like the antics of last year’s E3 were those of a late-system market, with peripherals dominating the conversation. If one of them fails (and it seems like that may be the case now), I’d think it’d be time to take your ball and go home, living to fight another generation. We should also keep in mind that the 360 is the oldest of the three out there. Of course, there’s not much potential left in the Wii, either: what do they do now, release a fourth Mario game? There may not be much left in the pipeline for them, but they haven’t lost steam in the marketplace. An early indicator with that: watch to see how much Wii-3DS connectivity there is. If there’s a big push, we have six more weeks of winter.  60%

Shawn: I think there’s a strong likelihood that Nintendo will introduce their next console by then, though I strongly doubt Microsoft or Sony does. Nintendo has known, or should have known, since they released the Wii that it would have a shorter lifespan than the 360 or PS3. Considering that they’ll have finished rolling out the 3DS by then, I can see them stealing the show with a new console.70%


OnLive to shut down by end of 2011

The MicroConsole has just released, and we’re already talking about its demise? Yep. Because it totally could happen.

Andrew: So far, it seems like OnLive isn’t doing that great. Most people seem to think the service isn’t too great, and I personally never saw the point of it. Seeing it shut down next year really wouldn’t surprise me. 75%

Graham: The company has existed through years of no income, and now they’re finally making some. It may not be very much, but I think it definitely has some potential in areas of low income but solid infrastructure, such as urban areas in developing countries. There’s one thing that could totally turn them around, though: a solid exclusive. 50% 

Shawn: Well, I’ve been a member of OnLive since it launched, and I’ve yet to see any reason to actually use it. Sure, it would allow me to play PC games I otherwise couldn’t play on my weak laptop, but without a serious discount on prices, I see no reason to actually spend money there. Why pay just as much for what is arguably a rental service as I could to own the game through Steam or Gamestop? Going out of business seems like an inevitability for OnLive, I just don’t know it if will happen in 2011 or 2012. 65% 

New NBA Jam game to release in 2011

We here like NBA Jam. EA likes making games into annual franchises. That’s about as far as we thought this through.

Andrew: I don’t think NBA Jam will sell nearly as well to warrant a sequel on any of the major platforms. It’s good they brought it back, but I doubt we’ll ever see another NBA Jam for quite some time. I’m sure EA would rather focus on their second try at Elite anyway. 30%

Graham: I think that, had EA not totally bungled the launch of this year’s game, it’s entirely possible that it could have gotten the momentum to get the standard EA “we could release a roster patch but that wouldn’t make us as much money so let’s make another full game” approach. Now it’s tough to say. But yes, I would buy it. 50% 

Shawn: I don’t see it happening as a stand alone product again, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new PSN or XBLA version of NBA Jam next year, especially if EA continues to have issues with their NBA Live/Elite/whatever-they-are-going-to-call-it-next series. 60% 

Game no one remembers naming Game of the Year to get a Game of the Year edition in 2011

How many games can be Game of the Year at the same time, anyway?

Andrew: “Game of the Year” editions of games usually only happen with games that have sold incredibly well and have a decent amount of DLC support. It’s kind of unclear whether a game we’ll collectively forget will actually get a re-release like this. 50%

Graham: I just did a quick count, and I can find ten games in the past three years that had “Game of the Year” editions. That seems like seven too many, doesn’t it? I mean, anyone can dig up a site somewhere that’ll name it Game of the Year, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Call it “Ultimate Edition” or “Platinum Edition” or whatever, but calling it “Game of the Year edition” means there’s some sort of consensus. 50% 

Shawn: There’s so many places that give out ‘Game of the Year” awards lately, that I’d be really surprised if a game that ‘no one’ has awarded that title to, had enough DLC and sales to get a Game of the year edition…though now that I think about it, Dragon Age 2 comes out next year… 30% 

We know this weekend is devoted to crazy amounts of shopping, so we thought this was a good time to remind you that you can support Snackbar by clicking one of our affiliate links before shopping at Amazon. This weekend they’ve got some great prices on games, so check out Amazon’s deals and we get a small percentage to help stay online! Win-win.

The Assassin’s Creed series is one that, while not perfect, has provided many very entertaining moments. Although the first game was flawed, the sequel managed to step above and beyond all expectations many people had for it. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the third installment in the highly successful series, and it adds some interesting twists on a very familiar formula. While it feels very similar to last year’s game, it still offers plenty of new things for veterans of the series while allowing new players to jump in and join the fun.

The story picks up literally a few seconds after Assassin’s Creed II ended, and continues with the first game’s protagonist, Ezio Auditore, just as he finds the mystical Apple of Eden. It isn’t long until all hell breaks loose and Ezio is faced against a new enemy, the Borgia, Templars who are once again after the Apple and will do anything to get it. Ezio’s story is strong, but not nearly as compelling as it was in the previous entry. Players also take control of Desmond once again as he attempts to locate where Ezio hid the Apple to retrieve it before the Templars discover its location. Desmond’s story isn’t as impactful as it was in the first two games, but it does give us an unexpected twist at the end of the story that nobody will see coming. The story as a whole is rather disappointing, with Ezio’s journey in particular ending as predictably as it started.

The game is gorgeous, and Rome is an absolutely incredible setting. While this is the only city available to you in the game, unlike the previous two, it is a lot larger and has a nice variety of areas to explore. While you do spend the majority of the game here, you often come across new and interesting landmarks to discover.

Not only is the city large in scope, the game has many things to do and collect. Opening your map at first can be quite overwhelming, as you will find many icons directing you towards story missions, side quests, collectibles, things to buy, and much more. The variety in this game is astounding, and completionists will be kept plenty busy doing every little thing this game has to offer. There are also challenges for combat and free running available, allowing you to hone your skills at both. 

You can recruit other assassins to aid you in your assignments at any time. Whenever you see an enemy, you can press LB and call one or two assassins to quickly execute the closest enemies near you and assist you in battle. You will be able to hire up to ten, and the more you have, the more that can help you during missions. Also, you will be able to send these recruits on separate assignments outside of Rome to gain experience and earn you money.

The gameplay is relatively similar otherwise. The free running remains exactly the same, so if you are familiar with how it worked in the last game you will be jumping across rooftops in no time. When it works, it really works, as you find yourself going from building to building with ease, able to outrun anybody. 

On the other hand, it can be rather touchy, with one wrong move veering you in the wrong direction and possibly making you jump right off of what you were climbing in the first place. When on particularly tall buildings or structures, this could mean the loss of a lot of life or even death. This has always been a problem with the series, and one that is rather love or hate; some think it’s absolutely perfect, while others often encounter these problems. The controls can be rather finicky at times too, often leading to missteps that can be very troublesome, especially during stealth missions.

Aside from these complaints, the campaign is very solid. The combat is still excellent, with new options opening up the combat to more strategy. You now can instantly kill enemies shortly after executing someone by simply pressing the attack button and holding the analog stick in the direction of an opponent. This works well, but it’s not something you can abuse as you will almost always find yourself surrounded by enemies eager to attack. 

Finally, there’s the multiplayer, the big new addition to the game. Surprisingly enough, it is a lot of fun and offers a nice alternative to the story driven single player. You are thrown into an environment and given a target to assassinate, and you must do so quickly before someone else gets to them. The key to it is to try and not appear as a human controlled character, which means to blend in as much as possible, as there will be other players trying to kill you as well.

The multiplayer is not deep, but it can be a blast to play with the right group of people. You really never know when someone will leap out of nowhere and strike as you try and track down your own target. Those looking for a fun alternative to the more popular multiplayer options out there, look no further than this.

While it is a much different experience than I expected, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood delivers. It not only offers a robust single player campaign, it gives us a multiplayer component that, while unnecessary, is still a lot of fun to play. Despite the complaints, this is easily the best Assassin’s Creed yet and a definite purchase for fans of the series. 

Pros: Rome is beautiful and very fun to explore; expanded combat options opens new strategies; massive amount of content; multiplayer is surprisingly fun

Cons: Free running still doesn’t work at times; disappointing story; controls can be finicky


Knights in the Nightmare

November 24, 2010

Everything about Knights in the Nightmare seems to deviate from the normal conventions of strategy RPGs. For starters, the genre of “strategy RPG” cannot begin to cover it. “Bullet-hell-meets-real-time-strategy-meets-RPG” starts to get there. To fully describe the game’s mechanics could take as long as going through the large amount of tutorials it has, but this necessarily is not a bad thing. Once you get over the learning curve, the game picks up and becomes much faster and streamlined.

You play as the Wisp, an amnesiac lost soul who can raise the scores of dead knights in the game’s kingdom to fight for you. Each map is grid-based, like a classic strategy RPG such as Disgaea. The enemies you fight move around randomly on these maps while you position your own recruited knights. Only two of the seven classes actually move, thus making the bulk of them stationary. Each of these characters you recruit can be leveled up, the weapons they use can be fused and upgraded, and strength is stat-based.

The execution plays more like a real-time strategy game though. Each turn of battle has two steps: set up, then go into action. As you set up and execute attacks in real time, enemies will also attack in real time. The difference is that the player activates their knights to hit enemies, while the enemies spam bullet-based attacks a’la Ikaruga to hit the player and deplete your available time. A turn ends when you run out of time, and if you cannot achieve your objective in a certain number of turns you lose the battle.

All of this barely scratches the surface of the complexity of the game. It does take a bit to get through the tutorials and learn how everything works, but once you get the fundamentals down, the game becomes streamlined and like a second nature. In other words, it’s an acquired taste.

Controls have been updated since the DS original, removing the dual screen and touch support in favor of a more streamlined user interface with several touch screen functions mapped to various buttons for the better. In the prior version, you could accidentally activate knights at times while trying to shift from the Law phase to the Chaos phase, and while in the PSP version a button press does this for you. Another change for the better is the actual movement of the Wisp. Whereas in the DS version you’d move with the touch screen and stylus, precision has been added with the use of the analog stick on the PSP.

On top of all of this, Knights in the Nightmare presents detailed visuals, including great character sprites, an excellent audio presentation, and an incredible amount of replayability with major differences for your second and third playthroughs.  

Overall, Knights in the Nightmare takes a bit to get used to, but ends up shining as an incredible deviation from its core genre’s norm. Learning the game takes a while and might deter a player at first, but if you persevere you’ll be rewarded.

Pros: Wildly original take on the genre, plot leaves you asking for more

Cons: Lengthy tutorials can be a major deterrent, recruitable characters don’t have much depth



November 24, 2010

EA Bright Light’s new title, Create, is not what it is billed as being: a sandbox world of endless customization and creativity. What it is, though, is a physics-based puzzler with a Scribblenauts feel. That sounds pretty good to us, though, so they could have just advertised it that way.

In Create, players take on challenges of random nature, though they typically involve getting an object from one point to another. The way to do this is to place items, such as ramps, balloons and toasters (yes, toasters) in a sequence to that the chain reactions accomplish what you intend. Depending on the challenge, it could be a puzzle-style use-the-fewest-items thing or a be-as-ridiculous-as-possible one with scores for crazy combos. You can create vehicles out of wheels, girders and blocks, launch washers through teleporters and hit an object by making a phone call.

It’s all fairly whimsical, and results in a great family game that’s fun to watch others play. Unfortunately, most of the simple challenges are made a little more obvious by the restriction of items used to the two or three needed for the challenge. With more items, more solutions could have been made and it’s a puzzle game, so I understand the restriction, but a few red herring items added into each would make things more interesting.

Thankfully, you’ll probably be able to find levels that work for you, since the game features a robust sharing function. Players can upload their own puzzles, download others and remix them if they’d like. The result is an interesting little diversion that could be amazing if it gets embraced wholeheartedly by the community.

While the game is available for all consoles and PC/Mac, the team did what it could to support platform-specific features. On the PS3 version we reviewed, the game featured support for the PlayStation Move motion controller. This implementation was probably fairly easy, since the interface would be similar to the Wii’s, and it works for the most part. (We wish developers would stop trying to use the Move as a pointer, though. It’s made best for detecting wrist movements, and its pointing capability just doesn’t stack up to the Wii or, better yet, a mouse.) 

The game doesn’t push the system graphically, but everything seems polished enough that it won’t be bothersome. The music can be a bit repetitive, but the sound effects are pleasant.

Create isn’t the game it was supposed to be, but the game it ended up being is still a blast to play. Created levels increase the replay value if people keep making them, and hopefully the community will work a little harder to make solutions less obvious. Don’t come in expecting the world, and it will make a world of difference.

Pros: Limited options mean creative solutions (sometimes), great to sit around with a group

Cons: Some “creation” unnecessary, Move pointing can be a chore