Monday, May 31, 2010

"Real Men Play Hannah Montana"

The above should be the official Achievement Whore motto.

Which of the following activities have you always wanted to do in a video game:
A. Make a pop star pose and dance around during a concert
B. Buy a variety of dresses and accessories, then customize them with designs
C. Ride a horse and make it jump over hay bales (note: horse may handle more like a fighter plane than an actual animal)
D. Flirt with boy in cowboy hat by helping him build a chicken coop.
E. All of the above

If you answered E, then holy shit do I have the game for you. It's Hannah Montana: The Movie. Uh, The Game. Except I'd barely even call it a game, so maybe more like The Tedious and Short Lived Experience.

Going into Hannah Montana as a person who knows nothing about her, her music, her TV show or her movie, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I figured there'd be some music, and maybe some mini-games, but beyond that I couldn't guess. Video games are generally driven by conflict of some kind, and the type of high school/pop star conflict that drives Hannah's life doesn't seem like it would translate.

Which, to tip my hand, it doesn't. Hannah Montana isn't a poorly made video game by any stretch. It's just incredibly limited and not at all fun. Even if you were a crazed mark for Miley Cyrus and her alter ego, I can't see how you'd enjoy this title.

To emphasize my point, let me go over the sum total of activities in the game:

1. Concerts: Over the course of the game, Hannah gives several performances of her various songs. Your job is to perform little mini-games to keep the crowd excited. You use the thumbsticks to strike poses, tap buttons to play the drums and guitar, catch falling notes to play the keyboard, and play a timing game to sing. This is as close to game content as you're going to get.

2. Mini-games: There are only four of these - the aforementioned horse riding game and three carnival style attractions. Two of the carnival games have atrocious controls, though the third, knocking over soda cans with bean bags, was as close to fun as this game ever got for me.

3. Dress up: If you've ever wanted to dress a virtual Hannah Montana in various outfits, this is your big chance. In terms of actual gameplay, you can largely (and thankfully) ignore this.

4. Faffing about: Not to steal from Yahtzee, but the majority of this game (80%+) is spent wandering around talking to people and looking for poorly hidden objects. It's excruciatingly dull, in large part thanks to Hannah's snail-like walking pace (my kingdom for a run button) and the painfully lame dialogue. Like it or no, this is what you'll mostly be doing.

One might hope that the game would at least have an interesting plot given the paucity of gameplay, but prepare for disappointment. Miley's small podunk town in Tennessee (which somehow has a fairground, a petting zoo, and a university) has attracted the interest of a real estate developer, who wants to build apartment complexes and a mall. For some bizarre reason, everyone in town agrees that this is terrible and will ruin the town. (By the way, this includes the mayor...are elected town officials generally this opposed to what would represent an economic boon for their constituency?)

Anyway, the plan is for Hannah Montana to give a benefit concert, which is odd because it's right there in town and attended pretty much just by the townspeople...the same townspeople who couldn't afford to keep the developer out in the first place. Maybe the 360 hardware couldn't render the throngs of out-of-towners who came to the concert?

Meanwhile, Miley is trying to keep her secret that she's Hannah Montana and score a date with a slow-witted boy (man? it's not clear) named Travis. This leads to an awkward scene in which she's supposed to be attending a mayor's welcome event as Hannah and a date with Travis as Miley at the same time, with Three's Company style results. Oh, and there's a running subplot that goes nowhere in which some tabloid reporter is trying to discover the identity of Hannah Montana. And there's some crap about her retarded brother missing a college deadline (they must have very low standards) and her dad (Billy Ray THAT'S star power!) trying to woo some other woman while keeping Travis away from Miley. If all this sounds like it would work better as a TV show, you've appraised it well.

All told, Hannah Montana is about three hours long...pitiful for a retail release and yet still more than enough for me. I can't recommend this title to anyone. Even hardcore Hannah Montana fans should stick to her music and television show, because there isn't anything to find entertaining about this game.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WAA - Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode One

We go from a crappy retail game last week to a very solid arcade title this week. I've already reviewed the first Penny Arcade game, but that doesn't sate my need to pick apart the Achievement set for your amusement.

Let there be...WAA!

The "One With Combat"Award: “Stray Cat”
You will receive this Achievement automatically when T. Kemper, the lovable housecat, joins your team at the beginning of the game.

The "Mile High Club" Award: “Silent, But Deadly”
This one is difficult, but the proper strategy can make it a lot easier. You have to beat the game's final boss without using a single healing item. Obviously it helps to be at max level and weapon power before you attempt the fight, as well as having a full complement of items and all your special helpers (e.g. T. Kemper) charged and ready. The key to winning this fight without sustaining a lot of damage is to take advantage of the fact that enemies can't attack if one of your characters is executing a move of any kind. So while one of your allies is charging an attack, have the rest of the team use damage items like dynamite to prevent the boss from taking a turn. If you're ever stuck in a spot where none of your characters can do anything, send one of your helpers to distract him. It also helps if you use the item that decreases your opponent's attack power in case he gets an attack in here and there.

The "Seriously..." Award: "Pack Rat"
For this one, you have to find all the collectibles. Unfortuantely, collectibles can be hidden in essentially any item you can click on, meaning you'll have to run around the environment selecting everything you see. Or use a guide...there's always that.

The "Little Rocket Man" Award: "Nine Lives"
This Achievement is amusing because you have to kill an enemy using T. Kemper's special attack, which only does one damage. Obviously the best way to do this is to whittle down an enemy's health to almost nothing and then let the cat finish it.

The Scientist Gone Gamer Award: "Steel Devils"
If I told you it was called a "Fruit Fucker", would you wonder why?

Achievement Set Rating - 4
Though I loved the game, I have to admit that the Achievement set was a bit lackluster in Penny Arcade Episode One. For a game based off of a webcomic, the icons are surprisingly disappointing. As for the goals, there's a fair bit of grind here (hunt down every enemy, find every collectible, hit max level) and not much in the way of unique ideas.

Achievement Difficulty Rating - 5
Most of the Achievements can be earned by thoroughly searching every nook and cranny of the game. However, getting through the entire story without having a character ever fall in battle and beating the final boss without healing are both pretty challenging.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Review - Viking: Battle for Asgard

It's about time I got something on this blog other than Achievement awards!

Viking is a game that got a pretty tepid reception from most reviewers. It's metacritic score (68/100) is decidedly mediocre and it didn't do much volume in sales. So maybe I'm tipping my hand here a bit, but this review is partly a defense of a game that I think is a bit of a hidden gem. I liked Viking. In fact, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

Viking is a third person action/hack-and-slash game set (obviously) in the world of Norse myth. You play as Skarin (pronounced Scar-in), a Viking warrior felled in battle by demonic forces who is chosen by a goddess to stem the tide of evil. Over the course of the game, you'll travel to three different islands, free imprisoned warriors to fight beside you, and drive hordes of enemies from the Viking homelands.

Now, that's a pretty basic setup - kill the baddies and free the good guys. Sprinkle in some Norse mythology with about the same depth as a Thor comic book and that's most of the story. However, I was surprised to discover that there's a fascinating undercurrent to the plot. You spend the game fighting as the champion for the beautiful goddess Freya and against the forces of the evil goddess Hel. While that seems pretty straightforward, you slowly learn over the course of the game that everything is not as it seems. I don't want to give away a bunch of spoilers, but I will say that Norse gods (much like the mythos of the Greeks and the Romans) make for interesting characters precisely because they share the same foibles, shortcomings, and penchants for jackassery as their human counterparts. Best of all, the game provides a pretty satisfactory ending (though not the one I was hoping for) that wraps up the loose ends. These days they usually end games with cliffhangers to set up sequels that may or may not ever get made.

It wasn't just the story that was a pleasant surprise. Gameplay consists of roaming freely across maps and finding enemy encampments to attack. I wouldn't exactly call this open world gaming in the vein of Grand Theft Auto, as you often have to perform tasks in specific order to advance. Still, there's a strong exploration element that rewards the player with money and allies to further Skarin's goals.

At its heart, Viking is a hack-and-slash'll definitely be stomping the skulls of a LOT of Hel's forces. The battle system in Viking is solid, with a number of combat moves to employ (and you can learn more in the battle arena for a price, though what ancient spirits of dead warriors want with cash is unclear). What's interesting about Viking is that there are a number of enemy types, and specific combat moves work better on some than others. You could get through the game spamming nothing but the basic attack, but some enemies would be awfully difficult to defeat. It's a system that encourages the player to learn a few different combat options so they'll be ready for anything.

And you'd better be ready, because Viking does not kid around about throwing you into the fire. Hel's forces are honestly not so hot in the fighting department, but they make up for it in sheer volume. The game is not bashful about sending a dozen or more enemies after you at the same time, especially if you rush blindly into danger. The game also features massive battles between your Viking army and enemy legions. These are a sight to behold, as soldiers clash in combat and tamed dragons assist you from the skies. The only bad news is that the larger battles can tax the Xbox 360 hardware, causing some stuttering and other graphical issues (burning the game to your hard drive helps).

If all that wasn't enough, Viking features a cleverly integrated stealth component that comes in quite handy. As long as you haven't been seen by an enemy, Skarin creeps along to show that he's in stealth mode. If you sneak up on an enemy, you can perform a stealth kill with a single button press. This ability is absolutely vital during sections where you need to skulk through an enemy stronghold to accomplish some task. The reason I love this system is that there's no "stealth mode" vs. "combat mode"'s all seamless.

As for gripes, there are some legitimate ones. Like almost any hack-and-slash game, Viking gets pretty repetitive after a while. The pattern for liberating each island is virtually identical, so by the third and final island you'll probably have had enough Viking-themed fun. That's particularly true because the game stops throwing new enemy types at you and focuses on pitting you against more enemies, which just has the effect of making each battle longer. I could have used one less island and more story elements, particularly about the gods. And I suppose I should beat one of my favorite dead horses when it comes to third person action titles - the camera. To be fair, the one in Viking isn't terrible, but it still loves to play tricks on you at inopportune times. Things like lurching around the screen at a key moment or reorienting itself so that you can't see enemies that are attacking you. There are even a few caves/dungeons with instant death pits (why???) that would be obvious to a person walking around but can be near invisible given the camera angle.

Those issues aside, Viking was definitely a pleasant surprise. It isn't a long game and doesn't require much of a time investment for people willing to give it a shot. Given it's repetitive nature you may prefer it as a rental or at a bargain price, but it's definitely worth a look.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WAA - Blitz: The League

Posting has been sparse here lately, but work has been keeping me busy. Still, I can't let a Wednesday slide by without some Achievement awards.

This week I'm handing out WAA to one of my all-time most hated Xbox 360 games - Blitz: The League. I had some (decidedly uncharitable) comments about Blitz in a prior mini-review, but let me reiterate what a turd of a game this is. It has terrible controls, it's riddled with glitches, and it features some of the dumbest AI I've ever encountered. But hey, at least it's built on a solid foundation of toilet humor and shitty graphics.

Still, can it at least appeal to Achievement fans? Read on to find out! (hint: NO)

The "One With Combat"Award: “Sticky Fingers”
For this one, you need to gain 200 receiving yards in a game with one of your players. If you play through season mode, I guarantee you'll get this because Blitz is all about the passing game. Running is not an effective strategy, particularly once you join the higher Divisions. Just continue to air it out when you have possession and this award is yours.

The "Mile High Club" Award: “Bling Bling”
I can't believe this one is only worth 25 points. To get this award, you have to buy every piece of bonus equipment in the game. To do that, you first need to unlock all the bonus gear by completing every secondary challenge throughout the campaign (if you miss a single one, forget it) and then you need to somehow accumulate over 3 million in cash just to afford it all. For 25 points? It's definitely not worth it.

The "Seriously..." Award: "Pwnage"
Winning 25 online games doesn't sound that bad, right? Well let me set you straight. First of all, this game is ancient and terrible, so nobody plays it online. Also the online servers are so unstable that you'll be dropped before completing a game unless your opponent is very close by...possibly even in the same household. Unfortunately, asking someone with whom you live to play Blitz just so you can get some Achievements is the moral equivalent of domestic abuse, so I wouldn't advise it.

The "Little Rocket Man" Award: "Tables Turn"
This one is a spoiler but it's actually kind of clever, so I'll use it anyway. Once you hit Division One (the toughest league), a Lawrence Taylor look-alike named Quentin Sands will purposely injure your star player in the first game of the season, forcing you to go without him for much of the year. In the championship game, you will face off against Quentin's team. To get this Achievement, you have to use your rookie to injure Sands and get your revenge.

The Scientist Gone Gamer Award: "Blind"
Blitz uses negative Achievements - i.e. awards for doing something wrong. They're like badges of shame, though I just find them to be annoying. All that said, Blitz does feature some interesting icons, particularly for the negative awards. Throw five or more interceptions in a game and you can pick up this little gem.

Achievement Set Rating - 5
This set covers a wide variety of goals, plus features above average icons and Achievement titles. However, there's a bunch of negative awards and the set is a serious grind. Throw in the awards that focus on the broken online play and I can't call this anything better than an average list.

Achievement Difficulty Rating - 9
Some of the Achievements are difficult, but it's the sheer time commitment that clinches this score. Win a game with every team? Play through season mode three times? Win a bunch of online games while battling their glitchy servers? I don't know how anyone could stomach that much Blitz.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


No, I'm not shouting "UNO RUSH" at you. My caps lock is not broken. Unfortunately, the game's original designers thought that an all-capital-letters name was clever, and they're sticking with that notion despite all evidence to the contrary.

But enough analysis of the game's's time to turn my magnifying glass to the Achievement set. And you know what that means - WAA! UNO RUSH is an Arcade title that takes the classic (if simplistic) game UNO and adds a timed component. It allows you to lay as many cards down in a turn as you can, but within a very short time period. The idea is to arrange your hand so that you can create a chain of cards that can be played in sequence. Of course, your opponents will be doing everything they can to impede your strategy, so it helps to be able to react quickly.

Here are the awards:

The "One With Combat"Award: “Graduation Party”
UNO RUSH is known for being one of the easier Achievement sets to finish on the Arcade, so there are plenty of options here. I went with finishing the tutorial, as it's very easy and probably a good idea for people familiar with the original game but not used to the new rules.

The "Mile High Club" Award: “Party Decorations”
For this one, you have to change the color of the discard pile five times in the same turn. So if the card at the top of the pile is a yellow 7, and you lay a red 7 followed by a red 4 followed by a blue 4, then you've changed the color twice. As you can imagine, it's going to require a long chain of cards to make this one happen, so I recommend a House Rules game with the maximum number of cards to begin the game. That way you'll have plenty of options.

The "Seriously..." Award: "Life of the Party"
Not much grind to UNO RUSH, though it does feature the typical "Win X games on Live" Achievement. In this case (much like with Roman numerals), X is 10.

The "Little Rocket Man" Award: "Party Planner"
You need to discard a chain of nine or more cards in one turn. Forming long chains of discards is the draw (no pun intended) of UNO RUSH.

The Scientist Gone Gamer Award: "Surprise Party"
UNO is not a game that inspires great Achievement icons. With that in mind, the designers actually did a pretty good job here, with colorful, cartoonish tiles that do an adequate job of emulating the game's style.

Achievement Set Rating - 7
A reasonably high score, not so much for any specific innovation but because they did the best they could with what was available. UNO RUSH is fun but very limited in scope. Still, the designers did a pretty good job of creating a varied set of Achievement goals. Plus, bonus points are in order for quality icons and the fact that they worked the word "Party" into every single Achievement title.

Achievement Difficulty Rating - 2
Party Decorations and Party Planner take a bit of skill/luck, but for the most part this set is very easy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Episodic Content - Pros and Cons

I talked a bit about "episodic content" in my last batch of mini-reviews (specifically concerning the Penny Arcade Adventures series). It's a business model that's really catching on in the video game world, so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about the positives and negatives inherent to this system.

For the uninitiated, episodic content is the release of shorter, more focused games that build on each other to form an overarching narrative. If a full retail game is like a 3 hour epic movie, then episodic games are like a television miniseries. The episodic style originated on the PC, where downloading smaller games over a network and storing them on a hard drive was a feasible alternative to buying them in a store. However, the shift in console gaming to an "online all the time" model has opened that possibility for the Xbox 360 and PS3 as well.

Episodic gaming has distinct advantages over the full retail model:

It's cheaper for gamers - A retail game is usually 60 dollars. But if you broke the game into four episodes and only charged 10 bucks each, the customer saves substantially. Plus they feel like they got four games for less than the price of one. On top of all that, a gamer can use the first episode like an extended demo. If you buy the 60 dollar game and decide you hate it after a couple hours, there's not much you can do about it. But if you hate Episode One, you just don't buy any more. Now you're only out 10 bucks!

It's more flexible for developers - Again, the 60 dollar game has to be all-encompassing. It needs all the code to run the game, all the graphics drawn, all the story written, all the voice-acting finished, etc. If something is done wrong, or fans complain that some part of the game doesn't work well, all the developers can do is try harder for the sequel. With episodic gaming, the code to run the game is largely finished for the first episode. But after that, the developers can lean on that code for future installments, allowing them to focus on storytelling and presentation. Does the fanbase hate some part of the game? You can probably change or eliminate it in future episodes. Is the game super popular? Then do six episodes instead of three as you originally planned. As long as people are buying them, what's to stop the developer from cranking out more games in the series and printing money forever?

However, episodic gaming has its dark side as well. Here are some of the cons:

Narrative momentum is an issue - Braveheart is certainly an epic tale. But imagine if Braveheart was broken into 10 little episodes and you had to wait six months, a year, or maybe even longer between each one. I'm willing to bet that it would really change how people felt about the movie. Whatever suspense was built in one episode would have long dissipated by the time the next was available. It's the same way with games. One of the long running jokes in the video game industry these days is about Valve and their endless quest to avoid making Half Life Episode 3. Understand that I LOVED the first two episodes, and yet by this point I can barely remember what happened in them. That's the risk you take when you wait for years to give the conclusion to a story, no matter how interesting it might be.

Story structure needs to be altered - For episodic gaming to work, each game in the series needs to be largely self-contained. Much like a TV show, each episode needs to work on its own or else people will feel like they're being coerced into experiencing future content. But again, that changes the way a story is told. The plot needs to be written in such a way that there can be a beginning, middle, and climax to each episode (almost like vignettes). Despite that, you don't want your customers to get the impression that you're telling boring little mini-stories, so there will probably be a larger overarching plot to tie everything together. After all, that's what keeps them coming back for more. But that leads to the biggest problem...

The video game industry is not terribly stable - It seems like such a good idea at the time. "Hey, rather than doing one big game, let's do episodic games so we can keep the story going for years and years!" Great, but is your company even going to exist in a couple years? Who will be running it then? The current CEO might love your series of games, but will he work there forever. What if you get bought by a larger company, or at least get tied to a big time publisher? What I'm getting at here is, will you be able to finish what you started? I really enjoyed the first two Penny Arcade games. Solid gameplay with some new tweaks, great art style, engaging story, and tons of humor...what's not to like? But now it's been announced that there won't be any more, and I find myself two games into a series that just croaked, invested in a story that will likely never be finished. Now, I don't blame the developers (or the guys who do Penny Arcade). This is a business and they shouldn't be forced to make games that aren't selling. But it makes one wonder whether episodic gaming is a trustworthy business model in the first place. If enough people get burned halfway into a series, will they swear off these games forever? Once you buy your Mass Effect disc, you can play it beginning to end as much as you want.

I know that episodic gaming appeals to developers and publishers because it offers flexibility (as well as a way to cut retailers, renters, and the used games market out of the picture), but it will be interesting to see how it develops over the coming years.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WAA - Dante's Inferno

If you missed the review, look here. Now it's time to review the Achievements from Dante's Inferno by handing out some WAA.

The "One With Combat"Award: “Holy Warrior”
Kill 30 minions? You'll need to kill hundreds before you complete this game. Dante annihilates 30 minions while he's taking his afternoon nap.

The "Mile High Club" Award: “Poetry in Motion”
This Achievement requires you to build up a 666 hit combo. Your combo meter goes up every time you hit an enemy and resets any time you don't strike a foe for a couple seconds. So obviously, you need to get into an area with LOTS of enemies and then hammer away without getting knocked on the ground or otherwise incapacitated. The best spot to get this one is on the first stage of Malebolg (Infinite Magic) near the end of the game.

The "Seriously..." Award: "Gates of Hell"
Mild spoiler: After you beat the game, you unlock Gates of Hell mode, which is a combat-only mode with increasingly difficult opponents spread over 50 identical rooms. You need to make it all the way to the end to get this Achievement. It's not terribly difficult if you use your super-powerful character from Story mode, but it can be a bit dull given the lack of plot or dialogue.

The "Little Rocket Man" Award: "Bad Nanny"
I can't help it...I just love that they went there even if it's SO SO wrong!

The Scientist Gone Gamer Award: "Like Father Like Son"
THIS is what an icon set should be! A variety of tiles, each appropriate for the given award, and with a cohesive artistic style that complements the game perfectly...kudos to you Visceral Games!

Achievement Set Rating - 9
This is a top notch set of Achievements in every respect. Great icons. Clever titles. An assortment of requirements that cover all the different activities in the game. Some are easy and some take more dedication. My only nitpick is that there are quite a few collection Achievements, but nothing too outlandish.

Achievement Difficulty Rating - 3
The beauty of this set is that you can get all the Achievements on any difficulty setting you choose, thus making them as easy or challenging as you want them to be.
I recommend playing through the game twice (it's not terribly long) - once just to enjoy the story, and once with a guide to find all the artifacts and Judas coins you missed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mini-reviews: Arcade edition

Mini-reviews represent the perfect format for Arcade titles, which don't stand up well to the nit-picking I do for retail games. Since Arcade games are only priced between five and fifteen dollars, it's more about value than depth. So here are three Arcade titles that I've finished recently:

A Kingdom For Keflings
In A Kingdom for Keflings, you play as your Xbox Live avatar (or a generic one if you don't have an Avatar) who has been tasked with assisting a group of tiny people (Keflings) in constructing a kingdom. You start the game with just a couple small structures and four Kefling helpers, but over time you can build castles, cathedrals, and armies of Kefling minions.

The mechanics of KfK couldn't be simpler. Need some wood to build a house? Grab a Kefling and set him or her down next to a forest. He'll make like a lumberjack and you'll have the lumber you need. Once you assign a Kefling to a job they'll keep doing it until you tell them to stop, so there's no need to micromange each of your followers at all times.

What makes KfK so enjoyable is that, unlike a lot of video games, it's a relaxing game that you can play at your own pace. It's a bit like SimCity, except without all the spoiled citizens bitching about their petty problems the whole time. There's no real conflict in KfK, so it's just a matter of building your kingdom as you see fit. Some people would be bored with the experience, but I found it refreshing.

Other positives include:
- A real artistic can arrange your buildings and color them as you choose.
- Multiplayer options to co-build a city with up to four people at once.
- A really nice (if slightly repetitive) acoustic folk guitar soundtrack

Duke Nukem 3D
This is a remake of the classic PC title. It's essentially a spot on port, which like most classic games is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, there's a reason this game is remembered fondly in the annals of FPS titles. The action is fast and furious. Duke has access to a nice arsenal of weapons that each serve a distinct purpose. And of course, they couldn't rely on fancy graphics back then, so the designers went with a sardonic sense of humor instead. If you're a fan of South Park and aren't easily offended, you'll likely get a kick out of Duke Nukem.

(As an aside, kudos to the designers for leaving everything intact in the 360 version. I would imagine that they may have been under a bit of pressure to tone things down for a console release, but the game was ported unscathed.)

As for the negative, it's the same as all classic games - this title looks and sounds really dated. Now I'm a gameplay over graphics type myself, but do realize going in that the Duke's game doesn't hold up well compared to modern standards. The aliens make these grating metallic shrieks that probably seemed a lot cooler on a sound card from the '90s.

However, if you can get past the graphics and sound, there's a lot of solid gameplay to be found in Duke Nukem 3D at a fraction the cost of a retail game. And as a huge bonus, the 360 version features a rewind feature so if you die, you can try again from any point within the level (see screenshot).

Penny Arcade: Episode 2

I've already reviewed the first episode of Penny Arcade. I finally got around to playing the second one, and all my comments from the first are appropriate again. The game features an interesting RPG battle system with real-time elements, a varied cast of entertaining characters, and an art style that mimics the comic beautifully. I was excited to continue the story and definitely wasn't disappointed...there's equal measure of humor and plot to keep the player engaged throughout the relatively short adventure.

That's why I was quite disappointed to learn that this will likely be the last Penny Arcade game (at least in this series). Apparently the second episode didn't sell well, and the design team that had been making them picked up a new property on which they wanted to focus. Mike and Jerry (the creators of Penny Arcade) decided to pull the plug rather than becoming the redheaded stepchildren of that team. I understand their decision, but it's disappointing to discover that I won't be able to find out how the story finishes (there are several cliffhangers that will now be unresolved). Supposedly they might finish it in comic form, though I'm not sure that will be quite the same. Perhaps later this week I'll do a post about episodic gaming while this is fresh in my mind.

Despite the fact that the story will never be complete, I still recommend Penny Arcade: Episode 2 to fans of the series (but play Episode 1 first!). The game is sufficiently self-contained that it's still an enjoyable experience.

It occurs to me that these reviews are a lot more positive than my last set of mini-reviews. Maybe I should stick to arcade titles rather than renting low budget retail games that seem to disappoint me so often...