video games

Touch my Katamari Review (PS Vita)

The king talks about a “hobo stew” later on.

The King of the Cosmos is back in Touch my Katamari from Namco on the PlayStation Vita, but this time he’s all about breaking the fourth wall and talking about how fans are upset with the more recent games in the Katamari series. It’s a nice setup. However it is not exactly welcome when this game doesn’t make up for six weak sequels.

So much of Katamari’s status was due to the original game’s surprisingly fun and original gameplay. When I first bought the Playstation 2 game I had no idea what to expect, my local retailer had only one copy and they were surprised anyone was going to buy it. But I’d caught word that it was something special. Not much has changed since then despite sequels for every platform. Rolling up every object in sight into a huge ball is still your overall objective.

The few unique levels in the game don’t really stand out, but there is a new gameplay element that is actually kind of fun. Or it would be, if there were more opportunities to use it while playing. For the first time you can stretch or squish the Katamari using the front or rear touch screens while rolling to fit into places the regular ball-shaped Katamari couldn’t.

Like the game’s few unique levels, this touch feature is underutilized. The most time you’ll spend using it is during the tutorial. Sure you could use it during regular gameplay, but there aren’t enough situations to do so. I’d hate to be forced to use touch features, but it’s almost worse that Namco actually came up with a good idea and then didn’t use it.

I wouldn’t really mind the lack of innovation in this iteration if there were more stages to play in. This is really the crippling blow to the game. I saw everything there was to see in a little over an hour.

That’s OK when there’s some kind of amazing narrative or replayability, both of which are missing from this game.

Katamari games have always had this great colorful texture palette that is a nice change from most every other game out there. It’s combined with fairly simple graphics which is why it’s a surprise when the game can get a little choppy in the frame rate department while you’re rolling your Katamari on the larger levels.

I had a few laughs at the King’s expense and enjoyed what I played, but I just wish there was more of it. Katamari games have never been super challenging, and they shouldn’t be so all the game really needs is more stages. I’m usually hesitant to equate gameplay hours to money, but in this case it’s impossible to ignore. King of the Namcos, lets put a little bit more effort in next time.

3 out of 5 Calamaris

video games

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare Review

There have already been two downloadable add-ons for the original Alan Wake. In Alan Wake’s American Nightmare you’ve got a standalone story mode and a half-dozen or so survival mode levels added to the mix as well.

I wasn’t really sure what was in American Nightmare until coverage for the game started picking up prior to the release.

Alan Wake’s story was kind of like Twin Peaks. Alan and Alice Wake, his wife, visit a sleepy northwestern town for a vacation and mystery ensues. Alice’s wife is trapped by “The Dark Presence, ” Alan rescues her only to find himself trapped with the same “darkness” that has been controlling the townsfolk and causing them to turn against him.

In American Nightmare’s the “darkness” is a villainous parallel version of Wake, Mr. Scratch. Each level is presented like an episode of The Twilight Zone, featuring decent Rod Serling-esque narration and a campy plot. The story is engaging and has enough going on to keep you interested until the exciting conclusion. I was definitely surprised a few times at what the developers were willing to do outside of a disc-based retail game.

It sounds awful when you find out that you’re going to play the same three levels three times. The developers have understood how terrible that might play out and instead change each level with each visit. Initially you’re seeing almost everything a stage has to offer, but on repeat playthroughs you’re getting the gist while the developers put in twists for Alan.

Once you’ve completed the game you’ve got Arcade Mode still to play. Nowhere is it more clear that Alan Wake is Max Payne’s literate cousin than in this wave-based survival mode. With ten minutes on the clock Alan has to stay alive until sunrise.  Weapons are more automatic than the previous game, and is still the unique blend of third-person shooting where you’ve got to weaken enemies by illuminating them with your flashlight before lead can do them in. The slow-mo effect from Max Payne is back whenever you’ve cleared a set of enemies. This camera effect also occurs when a foe is about to sneak up on Alan, pulling back to give the player a second to react. The camera can be a little frustratingly inconsistent in giving the player this glimpse of danger. Sometimes you’ll be left wondering why you’ve lost your score multiplier due to a hit that could have been avoided if only the monsters were a little less subtle.

Though entertaining, American Nightmare is short. Despite returning to the same locations over again I only got about 4 hours out of the story mode. This isn’t too little, instead it feels just about right for what I expect from a $15 side-story from the original Alan Wake.

If you haven’t played the first game, I can’t recommend this one. The original game is referenced through manuscript page collectibles strewn around the game but there isn’t any reason why you wouldn’t want to play it when it can be had for about $20.

Speaking of manuscript-page collectibles, one addition to the game is really nifty. Each area in the game has a TV with a short FMV sequence featuring Alan’s nemesis indulging in some of the finest b-grade movie villainy witnessed on the small screen.

One final note, If you do decide to purchase American Nightmare on Xbox Live Arcade, please make sure to switch the HUD to “fading” on the options menu. Otherwise the HUD will obscure your view for far too long.

I loved Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and it is one of the best games to be released on the 360’s downloadable service. While the story-mode content could have made more sense as DLC for the original game, the arcade mode is fun enough to justify the price. Get the original if you haven’t played it, and then have a Nightmare.

video games

Game Dev Story Review

Game Dev Story is a business simulation about choices.

What genre, what platform, and what theme do you want for your game?

Is the game cute and simple or realistic and innovative?

Do you want to use an in-house art, story, and audio folks or outsource assets and writing?

There are quite a few choices and you’ve got the freedom to make larger decisions about advertising campaigns and which development path to focus on.

Nothing is free, you’ve got to pay platform holders for devkits, employees their salaries, and fees for everything and everyone in the studio. Game developers won’t choose to grow on their own, you’ve got to prod them forward with research data gathered during development. Once they’re more talented their salary has to rise too. Though at least the game doesn’t simulate headhunters to recruit your developers out from under you.

apple video games

Free iPhone Games and More Reviews!

mgs_touchMetal Gear Solid Touch is going to be released on Thursday, I’m extremely happy about this and hope it lives up to the Metal Gear Solid legacy of awesomeness.

In the meantime I’m giving away a few copies of Black Shades for the iPhone over the official TimeDoctor Dot Org twitter feed today and tomorrow.

This is a game I really love because I originally worked on the Linux and Mac OS X ports with my good buddies over at Hopefully some day it will see a modern update.

Just keep following the feed for some free goodies to redeem in iTunes and also check out my latest set of reviews of iPhone games over at! Here are the games I reviewed for this edition of the iGame Squadron:


  • WordFu
  • Chess with Friends
  • iDracula
  • Ancient Frog

If you do win a code, please let everyone know in the comments so they don’t have to try to redeem them after you have 😉