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Adam West, the man who played Batman on TV in the 1960s, will be a voice in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced on the game’s official Twitter feed.

The picture accompanying the tweet leads us to believe that West has been cast as a Lego-fied version of himself and will only make a small cameo. For many Batman fans, though, his inclusion on any scale is a welcome nod to the character’s storied past.

West portrayed Batman in 120 half-hour episodes of what was a smash hit for ABC from 1966-1968, plus a full-length feature film that came out between the first and second seasons of the TV show’s run. Warner Bros. just announced the entire TV series will be released on DVD/Blu-ray for the first time this November. In recent years, West has seen a resurgence in popularity, in large part due to his role as “Mayor West” in FOX’s Family Guy, and got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in April of 2012.

He joins an ever-expanding cast of accomplished actors/voice actors, led by Troy Baker as Batman and Dee Bradley Baker as Brainiac. West will also be a part of the Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham panel being held at San Diego ComicCon next week.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is coming out sometime this fall on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, 3DS, and PS Vita.

 

Off the rails

When I first think of rail shooters, arcade experiences usually pop to mind, but every now and again, these games provide a refreshing change of shooter pace on home consoles as well. In fact, some of my favorite experiences on the last generation of consoles included The House of the Dead: Overkill and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles for that very reason. Now that we’ve got a new generation of consoles, I wondered if there was anything they’d provide that could help freshen up the genre.

Enter Blue Estate, a prequel to a 12-issue comic book of the same name from a few years back that tries to insert players into that world’s tongue-in-cheek noir crime drama. Instead of playing as the comic’s bumbling detective protagonist, however, players are inserted into the shoes of Tony Luciano, the incompetent son of a Mafia Don, and Clarence, the handsomely paid ex-Navy SEAL who’s often following after Tony to clean up his messes.

The best thing Blue Estate does is circumvent the need for a PS Move by instead using the gyroscope built directly into the DualShock 4. While this does make aiming a tad less accurate, the game compensates with an aim-assist feature and the ability to recenter your cursor at any time, no matter the controller position, with just a tap of the L1 button. Surprisingly, the controls are rather intuitive because of this, and I saw myself mowing down rival mobsters with no issues whatsoever. The game even finds a way to make the touchpad useful with touch-sensitive prompts for melee and opening doors.

Once you get past the controls, though, there’s really very little to be excited about with Blue Estate. The premise is straightforward, but at no point do you get enough from the story to make you care about the characters or the ridiculous situations they’re in. And beyond the occasional chuckle, there’s really nothing funny about this self-described “dark comedy,” either. Throw in some of the most canned, stereotypical dialogue you’d expect, and the entire script should’ve never seen the light of day.

Besides its miserable excuse for a story, the game is also tremendously short, especially for its $19.99 price tag. It has seven levels, the first six of which should take you only three hours to complete. To lengthen the experience, the last level then sees a ridiculous difficulty spike that may cost you another hour or two. To help illustrate this: In the first six levels of the game, I died four times. In the last level alone, I failed 18 times.

Because of the boring story, the gameplay monotony becomes startlingly evident, even for a rail shooter. All seven levels are full of the same carbon-copy thugs who all go down with a simple headshot or nutshot (heh, the game says “nuts” a lot…so funny, right?). There’s no enemy variety whatsoever, except for the game’s three bosses. They don’t offer much of a challenge either, though, except as an exercise in trying to keep awake. They’ve got lifebars that are ridiculously long, yet their AI is so simple that you’ll repeat the same pattern a dozen times without taking a hit before they finally drop.

Even Blue Estate’s guns–a make-or-break element of these types of shooters–leave something to be desired. You have a simple pistol with infinite ammo, and come across another weapon in each level. Some, like the assault rifle, make the game too simple, as you’ll find yourself racking up 200- and 300-kill combos in no time. Others, like the shotgun and the Magnum, have too short a range, making distant enemies impossible to hit. That means you’ll likely spend most of your time sticking with your default pistol, which only adds to the frustration.

Blue Estate also includes a couple of other features that you’d expect from any rail shooter to help try to salvage this trainwreck. Local co-op is available if you want to play with a friend, and two DualShock 4-controlled crosshairs work just as well as one. Global leaderboards are also present if you feel like replaying the game over and over to try and get a high score.

The only issue with that? I can’t imagine people wanting to play this game once, never mind multiple times. Blue Estate should’ve been satisfied staying a mediocre comic book, because it only makes a crappy video game.

Developer: HeSaw • Publisher: Focus Home Interactive • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 06.24.14
3.5
Utilizing the DualShock 4’s gyroscope and light sensor is a great gimmick, and it’s a concept I hope other rail shooters implement. Beyond that, though, Blue Estate is a boring shell full of cheap, unfunny stereotypes that isn’t worth a single playthrough.
The Good Uses the DualShock 4’s gyroscope for targeting.
The Bad Sad attempts at humor, dialogue, and character development.
The Ugly Just another example in my war against prequels of any kind.
Blue Estate is currently a PS4 exclusive. Review code was provided by Focus Home Interactive for the benefit of this review.

Ubisoft Quebec, Ubisoft Montreal’s sister studio, is ready to step out of its older sibling’s shadow by taking on an Assassin’s Creed all it’s own, Ubisoft announced on the company’s official blog this morning.

Ubisoft Montreal has spearheaded every Assassin’s Creed thus far, often with help from various members of Ubisoft’s global network of developers. But with Ubisoft Quebec’s recent $28 million dollar investment, $4 million of which is going to a brand new workspace designed specifically for triple-A game development, the studio is ready to spread its eagle wings and show off what they can do.

“We have the confidence of the brand team and also from Ubisoft to take leadership of an upcoming Assassin’s Creed title,” Ubisoft Quebec managing director Nicolas Rioux said. “The team is ready for the next big step.”

Ubisoft Quebec is very familiar with the franchise, of course, having helped out on every entry since Brotherhood and even spearheading The Tyranny of King Washington and Freedom Cry DLC for AC III and AC IV. The next big step for them now is bolstering their work force. Already 350 people work at Ubisoft Quebec (including some starting the groundwork for this new project), and the studio plans to reach 425 people by 2017.

With multiple studios helping out Assassin’s Creed on an annual basis (including as many as 10 for Unity), it only makes sense that at some point another studio would just take the reigns completely themselves for a title, much like how Activision has a three-studio rotation with Call of Duty.  What Quebec’s Assassin’s Creed will entail is anybody’s guess, but it only cements the fact that Assassin’s Creed has plans to stick around for quite some time.

As for this year, Assassin’s Creed Unity launches on Windows PC, PS4, and Xbox One on October 28.

Swing and a miss

Like many others who grew up with R.B.I. Baseball, I was thrilled when I found out it would be making a return on modern platforms after two decades of dormancy. As a pioneer of baseball on consoles, R.B.I. Baseball obtained the license from the MLB Players Association to be the first game to feature actual player names back in the 1980s. Now, 20 years after the last game to bear the name—with this new title developed by Major League Baseball itself—R.B.I Baseball looks to reignite a passion in arcade-style sports games that has been snuffed out by the barrage of simulation games over the past couple of decades.

Unfortunately, it seems that the inexperience Major League Baseball has in actually making videogames is an issue. R.B.I. Baseball 14 is one of the biggest wastes of time and money I’ve ever had the displeasure of putting on one of my home consoles.

R.B.I. Baseball 14 has only three modes: Exhibition to play a single game, Season to play a full 162-game schedule (with options for shorter seasons), and Playoffs to jump right to October with your favorite team. As a baseball junkie, I jumped into a full Season mode and felt I’d get enough of a sense of the game. After eight games as my beloved New York Yankees, I never want to pick my controller up for the sake of this game ever again.

Let’s start by looking at the presentation. Once you’re past the colorful opening screen and get into an actual game, you’ll quickly grow weary of looking at the same three player models over and over again. Each stadium at least has a bit more character to it, with familiar landmarks etched out behind outfield walls, but you only get brief glimpses of them on long flyballs or home runs. You’re then met with the same repetitive scoreboard between innings, no matter the stadium, and the most annoyingly wretched jingle outside of your local doctor office’s elevators.

Also, while I’m fully aware that this is an arcade-style game and that stats aren’t stressed here, I can’t stand the fact that when a player comes to bat, his 2013 stats are shown every time. If you’re going to make that big of a deal about old numbers, you should update them for how well I do in the game—or nix them altogether.

I could deal with some lackluster visuals, however, if the gameplay provided a worthwhile experience. It doesn’t. The worst aspect? The defense. Every flyball is an adventure, because the game offers no indication whatsoever of where the ball will land. Cans of corn turn into inside-the-park home runs, infield flies into doubles, and every foul ball into another opportunity for the batter to punish you for not being able to judge virtual depth from a bird’s-eye view of the field.

Pitching is the next shortcoming. While R.B.I. Baseball 14’s pitching mechanics are a throwback to those versions we played on the NES, with every pitcher having a screwball, a fastball, and a really hard fastball that you can move around while the ball is in motion, the idea of managing pitching is completely lost. Every starting pitcher can only go four to six innings before becoming too tired to continue effectively in most instances. But there’s only one actual relief pitcher in your bullpen, so you’re often just rotating starters for other starters because the invisible stamina meters for the pitchers are out of whack.

At least hitting and baserunning are fairly straightforward, relying mostly on timing and not having to worry about a power swing versus a normal swing or matching up overlays with both analog sticks or anything too insane. It’s such a simple mechanic that even R.B.I. Baseball 14 couldn’t find a way to mess it up.

This doesn’t mean things get better outside of the batters box and the bases, though. The computer AI is atrocious, and remember those tired pitchers I mentioned before? Sometimes the computer forgets to adjust to the slower velocity you have. I struck out the side in three of the last four innings I pitched with Masahiro Tanaka after he was “exhausted” throwing 62 mph “fastballs.” The computer kept swinging early as if I were still throwing 93 mph.

The AI also has as much difficulty fielding as you do, often just standing still as slow groundballs find their way to the outfield while the first baseman and second baseman stare blankly at each other. Sometimes the computer will make up for this, though, and magically teleport the ball into a fielder’s glove. They don’t even have to be on the same side of the field!

Really, the only good part of R.B.I. Baseball 14 is the mercy rule: If you’re ahead by more than 10 runs past the 5th inning, the game is over. I was able to institute that in a couple of my games, and I was grateful: The game mercifully, for me, came to an early end.

In all seriousness, Major League Baseball should be as embarrassed about R.B.I. Baseball 14 as they were about the 1994 strike and the steroid scandals. This game is an abomination, and it’s not a worthy representation of the sport. Don’t even look this game’s way—or you risk losing your baseball-loving soul.

Developer: MLB Advanced Media • Publisher: MLB.com • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 06.24.14
2.0
R.B.I. Baseball 14 features horrible presentation, broken AI, and lacks so many features that no one with any love for the sport of baseball will be able to stomach playing the game.
The Good Mercy rules added to the basic baseball parameters.
The Bad Computer AI; the presentation; the defensive aspects of the game.
The Ugly Every single stadium and player model.
R.B.I. Baseball 14 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, iOS, Android. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Sony for the benefit of this review.

Extinguishing the spark

Back in 2010, High Moon Studios did the unthinkable: They delivered an awesome Transformers videogame. Many thought it couldn’t be done, and yet High Moon not only delivered a great game in War for Cybertron but also a solid sequel with Fall of Cybertron. They even developed some decent standalone movie titles in between.

When Activision tapped Edge of Reality to work on the next Transformers game instead, to say there was a little trepidation among fans of the Robots in Disguise would be an understatement. Unfortunately, those fears were justified.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark tries to marry the original storyline created by High Moon Studios with the abominable canon that Michael Bay’s movies have provided, producing a horrendous patchwork plot. Half the game takes place in a flashback between War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron to provide the origin of the Dark Spark, a relic of unfathomable power that Megatron wants so he can turn the Autobots permanently into rust. The Autobots catch wind of this, however, so they take a break from building the Ark, the ship that will eventually take them to Earth, to put a stop to the Decepticons’ plans.

Moving back to the present day, as with everything that comes off Cybertron, the Dark Spark finds its way to Earth (no spoilers!). Lockdown, a Cybertronian mercenary who plays an integral role in the Age of Extinction movie, arrives hot on its trail and will fight Optimus Prime and company to own its power for himself.

As soon as the game gets to Earth, everything takes a sour turn. The quality of the levels there pale in comparison to those that take place on Cybertron. While repetitive design plagues most of the game’s chapters, it becomes far more evident in the Earth levels when you run around through the same bland-looking open urban environments over and over again—as opposed to the visually interesting segments you play through on Cybertron, such as Megatron’s main base, Kaon, with crumbling bridges on its approach and the prison in its underbelly, or the ancient Cybertronian ruins surrounded by a lava lake and the red desert you need to work your way across upon your exit.

The story also jumps over a cliff once you hit Earth. Lockdown’s motivations make no sense for the character, whether you’re familiar with him from his G1 story, or if you’ve been unfortunate enough to watch Age of Extinction and you’re using the game as it was intended—to learn why Lockdown came to Earth—since these provide direct contradictions to each other. Grimlock also shows up, for no rhyme or reason, and the worst part is he has the design from Age of Extinction, which makes him look more like Dinobot from Beast Wars and not the colorful tribute to the action figures and cartoons High Moon crafted in Fall of Cybertron.

If Rise of the Dark Spark had just been an interquel between High Moon’s two original games and the Earth levels and forced tie-ins to Age of Extinction weren’t included, this could’ve been a salvageable project. That’s because a few of Edge of Reality’s design decisions do have some potential. For example, they simply took the core mechanics from High Moon’s games and copied them over. From a third-person-shooter standpoint, the gameplay feels like it’s been lifted straight from Fall of Cybertron. Transforming from robot to vehicle is just as smooth as in the previous games, meaning that veterans of the more recent Transformers games will feel right at home.

On top of this, the game features a new leveling system where you earn XP from kills or completing challenges. By finishing each challenge or reaching a new XP perch, you can earn Gearboxes, which can then be opened up for characters to use in Escalation or items to be used in the campaign.

Besides the shoddy level design and weak plot, Rise of the Dark Spark also includes technical shortcomings galore. Glitches see your characters get stuck in walls or enemies melt through floors at least once per level. Mid-stage loading screens take place in the middle of a firefight countless times, decimating the game’s pacing. Of course, your friendly AI is also completely useless, which causes you to restart several sections. One particularly frustrating instance came as I was playing Drift and had Bumblebee by my side as an AI. We had to race away from a pursuing Titan mercenary and instead, Bumblebee drove toward the indestructible foe, instantly dying, and causing me to restart from the last checkpoint.

Speaking of the robots that join you on missions, the most mind-boggling decisions about Rise of the Dark Spark come from the lack of choice the game gives you. If there are multiple Transformers on each level, why not bring back the ability to choose which Transformer you play, like War for Cybertron did, or at least give us campaign co-op?

Instead of campaign co-op, though, all we get back is Escalation. This is the returning Transformers take on Horde mode, with 15 levels of enemies coming after you and three friends. While it’s still a solid take on the mode, I wish there had been a local option, and I miss Fall of Cybertron’s ability to customize my own Autobots and Decepticons. Along with this, all of competitive multiplayer has been sent to the scrap heap, too.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark feels like half of a good game. At times, the magic from High Moon’s efforts is captured here by Edge of Reality, but these moments are few and far between. You can’t help but feel that the forced bridge between High Moon’s series and Michael Bay’s movies rushed the project, leading to the obvious design mistakes. When you consider how many features have been cut on top of all that, Rise of the Dark Spark is nothing short of a throwback to when Transformers games were awful. In the end, this fails to deliver the type of game that fans have come to expect.

Developer: Edge of Reality • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 06.24.14
5.0
Some solid action can’t cover up the fact that Rise of the Dark Spark feels horribly rushed, with massive splotches of shoddy design and a poor plot evident from the opening cinematic to the end credits.
The Good Action feels as good as it did in High Moon’s games; new leveling-up system.
The Bad Lazy, incoherent storytelling; boring level design; no competitive multiplayer.
The Ugly Grimlock’s movie design being used instead of High Moon’s.
Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review.

Another Mighty No. 9 update came out this weekend on Comcept USA’s corresponding Kickstarter page, giving everyone a fresh glimpse at the game as well as detailing some changes that are coming to Beck’s partner, Call.

The bulk of the update came in the form of another gameplay video (embedded above) that sees Beck work his way through Mighty No. 2 and 5’s stages. While the bosses themselves are only briefly featured towards the end of the footage, you see key gameplay features again on display, like Beck’s various horizontal and vertical dash abilities.

The update also showed off a minor redesign of Call, Beck’s robotic assistant. Call became a playable character when the Kickstarter for Mighty No. 9 reached its $2,750,000 stretch goal, and because of this, some early animations of her running and crawling were also shown off. Since Call can’t perform a crouching dash like Beck, she resorts to crawling through tight  spaces, which is just one of the ways the two robots differ from each other.

The update also mentions that Keiji Inafune will be part of a panel at Anime Expo this weekend in Los Angeles, suggesting some more “mighty” information might come out of it.

Mighty No. 9 is currently slated for a spring 2015 release on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Linux, PS Vita, and Nintendo 3DS.

No quarters necessary

For many gamers, arcades are a thing of the past. Aside from certain chain restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese’s or Dave & Buster’s, it’s damn near impossible to find a place with row upon row of arcade cabinets in America anymore.

But as soon as you start up Sixty Second Shooter Prime, you’ll feel like you’ve fallen through a vortex that puts you 30 years in the past. While bombastic colors wash over the background, the foreground is made up of a field that looks like it’s been plucked straight from Asteroids as it tries to channel everything that was great about that now-bygone era.

This follow-up to the Vita’s Sixty Second Shooter Deluxe sees players once again take control of a small spaceship (let’s be honest—it’s just a pyramid). Your lone objective? Pilot your way down through innumerable levels in “space,” all in the hopes of acquiring a higher score to move up the competitive leaderboards.

The big catch here is, as the title implies, that your life lasts only 60 fragile seconds. You can extend it by picking up special power-ups that slow down the world around you in the game’s standard mode or add seconds when playing “Infinite” mode—which, due to the time additions, means the game could theoretically last forever. You’re not guaranteed the full length of your fruit fly–esque existence, however, since enemies (most of them are just big cubes) try to prevent you from reaching each level’s goal by relentlessly pursuing and firing at you themselves. Much like how you can add or slow down time to fight the clock, though, you can also protect your little ship from your limitless enemies by picking up power-ups like missiles, bombs, invincibility shields, or gun upgrades that temporarily let you fire in eight directions at once—and you can laugh as your foes explode in a white-hot fireworks display worthy of next week’s Independence Day.

In the realm of twin-stick shooters, Sixty Second Shooter Prime is as easy to pick up and play as the best of them. You simply use the dual joysticks to move and shoot and press a button for your missiles. The issue that arises, however, is that it’s also an easy game to master. After only a few playthroughs, you’ll have unlocked all the possible power-ups, alternate game modes, different psychedelic background colors, and the ability to start from level 5 instead of the first level in the hopes of facing more enemies sooner and building up those combo multipliers for your score.

There’s also the issue where a glitch spawns you directly on top of an enemy, instantly killing you as soon as the game starts. It happened to me probably one in every 10 lives I had. If that happened in the arcade, you’d demand your quarters back. Here, it’s a little embarrassing to see that you didn’t survive more than a fraction of a second (which the game quickly points out), but at least you just have to press Start again, and you’re back to flying around in circles, blasting away at countless death cubes with only a few seconds wasted.

Here’s the major question you have to ask yourself when looking at Sixty Second Shooter Prime: How likely are you to become addicted to trying to constantly one-up your scores or your friends’ accomplishments? Thirty years ago, that would’ve been more than enough to turn this into a classic quarter-gobbler. Now, even in our ADD-addled world, 60 seconds isn’t long enough for players to really embrace a game, and I think many gamers will probably become tired of it after only an hour or two.

The good news, at least, is that it’s only $5 (20 quarters, in arcadespeak), so even if the game does last no more than two hours, you’ll probably still be getting your money’s worth if you have even the tiniest of old-school arcade itches that need scratching.

Developer: Happion Laboratories • Publisher: Happion Laboratories • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 06.18.14
7.0

Sixty Second Shooter Prime is a great throwback to the arcade machines of yesteryear, but it lacks the depth and difficulty needed for an old-school twin-stick shooter to appeal to most modern gamers.

The Good Easy to pick up and play…
The Bad …and even easier to master.
The Ugly The accidental psychedelic trance I put myself in after changing the background colors too many times.
Sixty Second Shooter Prime is an Xbox One exclusive. Microsoft provided a retail code for the benefit of this review.

Concerning a new Bad Company installment, it’s not a matter of DICE ignoring their fanbase, they’re just unsure what made Bad Company so popular, CEO Karl-Magnus Troedsson explained in a recent interview with Eurogamer.

“Some people say they found the multiplayer controls faster and more direct,” Troedsson told Eurogamer. “Some people liked the single-player and the characters and the humor. People love different things about it. It’s starting to almost get to that place where, if we were to make a sequel to Bad Company, what would than even imply?

“It’s scary to go back and try to remake an old fan favorite when actually no-one can really put their finger on what it is people love. Bringing back the characters and creating a great single-player out of that, sure, I can understand that.

“But some people say this: the Bad Company 2 multiplayer is the best you’ve ever done. Okay, why is that? It’s hard for people to articulate what that is, which is actually hard for us. It would be hard to remake something like that. Can we do it? Of course. We have our theories when it comes to the multiplayer.”

It sounds to me—and you can call my crazy here, Karl—that both the single-player and multiplayer were so good that the Bad Company games offered different things to a multitude of players. Maybe the reason you can’t put your finger on what made it great and people keep giving you different answers is that you appealed to such a wide audience, for once, that a lot of different people found something to love. Definitely not something that can be said for Battlefield 3 or 4.

Troedsson closed by offering Bad Company fans the faintest glimmer of hope, saying the sub-brand is not dead and it can be revived—but unless it’s suddenly revealed that Preston, Sweetwater, Haggard, and Sarge have suddenly become the funniest boys in blue since Steve Gutenberg and gang in Police Academy—those fans will definitely have to wait at least a little while longer.

A monster mash

With all the power of PCs and new-gen hardware, it’s easy to get lost in the allure of modern amenities when it comes to videogames. But what really matters, and what keeps us coming back for more, has always been the gameplay itself. So, for me, it’s always a joy when someone decides to buck the trend and bring us a 2D platformer, hearkening back to a genre that served as a cornerstone of the industry for so long. The latest title that wants to remind us of the importance of substance over style? An indie game called Blood of the Werewolf.

Selena is one of the last living werewolves in existence. She and her husband have done their best to hide their bestial natures from the world around them and raise their son, the last hope for the werewolves, in seclusion. Some friends from the old country named Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein aren’t too keen on that idea, however, and they slay Selena’s husband when she’s not home and kidnap their child. Unfortunately for them, they decided to do this on the night of the full moon. Unleashing the monster within, Selena’s now in a race against time to get her son back and taste vengeance for her slain husband.

After playing through only a couple of levels as Selena, you’ll immediately flash back to the “good old days” of platforming where each stage is chock-full of pummeling pistons, crumbling shelves, and some purposefully placed bad guys as you work your way through the game’s 10 stages and five boss fights in the form of classic monsters Mr. Hyde, Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster.

One instance in particular that screamed “old-school” for me was when I had to jump down a shaft that seemed to go on forever while automated pistons fired just above my head as I fell. If I adjusted the wrong way in mid-air, I was turned into a bloody paste. After what felt like several agonizing minutes (it was probably only a few seconds in reality), and a few heart (and body) crushing deaths later, I successfully made it to the bottom of the chasm and the end of the stage. However, Blood of the Werewolf does adjust a tad for modern audiences. While difficult traps like the one described above are present throughout, there’s no limit on lives, and generous checkpoints are scattered throughout each stage.

Coupled with the tight platforming is some solid action. Since Selena’s a werewolf, you’d be right in thinking she’d have all the powers of one—and then some. The twist here, though, is she can only use her wolf form when she’s directly touched by the moonlight. This means that for a lot of the game’s interior levels, Selena has to use other means, specifically a crossbow, to work her way closer to her lost son.

Each form has its own benefits. Selena’s attack range in human form reaches across the screen with the crossbow. She can also burn opponents when she unlocks fire arrows and when you consider many of her enemies are undead, fire can be a huge boon. Her werewolf form, however, has a double-jump, which has obvious benefits in a platformer. While the range of her claws is very limited, they can often kill most enemies in one hit.

Though I enjoyed the idea of not being in wolf form all the time and appreciate that both the crossbow and wolf forms can be upgraded by finding hidden relics scattered throughout each world, I wish I would’ve had a choice over whether or not I could enact the change in Selena, instead of having it dictated by the a level’s design or motif. The wolf is far more powerful than Selena’s human form—understandably so—and it made me miss those abilities when I was forced to remain as a human for long stretches of the game. A meter of some kind would’ve satisfied my longing for better balance between the two forms.

Speaking of better balance, the stages themselves can be brutally difficult at times, but that makes it feel invigorating when you finish each one. The boss battles, on the other hand, feel more like a break from the rest of the game instead of continuing the pulse-pounding action that builds up to the confrontation with these classic horror characters. Their patterns are easy to recognize and even easier to avoid. That’s a bit of a letdown, even if it’s fun to see each character was reimagined here.

Now, when this game was first released on PC last year, a major issue some folks had was the replayability. While the campaign’s enjoyable enough and lasts about six hours depending upon your skill level, there’s not a lot to bring you back to it. The Xbox 360 version (as well as an upgraded PC release) solves this issue with two additional gameplay options.

The first is Endless mode, which sees how far Selena can go in a single life as she takes on 100 different rooms not seen in the main game. Thankfully, your upgrades from the campaign carry over here, giving you a reason to go back to the story mode and find collectibles you might’ve missed the first time around. The second inclusion is Score Attack mode, which features a timer that counts down to test how fast you can work your way through each non-boss stage, earning points and extra seconds for collecting items and killing enemies. Plus, each mode has a global leaderboard, to help appeal to your competitive side.

Blood of the Werewolf exudes a vintage charm that cannot be denied. With its spot-on controls and interesting premise, there’s more than enough content here to warrant the cheap price of $6.99 on XBLA. Because of this, it begs gamers to test their skills and see just how much they can get done before the full moon sets and the sun rises.

Developer: Scientifically Proven • Publisher: Midnight City • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 06.11.14
8.0
Blood of the Werewolf is a solid 2D platformer that hearkens back to a bygone era. Tight controls and decent action make up for somewhat bland aesthetics, while the extra modes seen in this version offer more than enough replayability to garner a look from most gamers.
The Good Crisp platforming and tight controls reminiscent of classics in the genre.
The Bad Needs better balance between wolf form and human form; boss battles are a breeze compared to the levels.
The Ugly How many bodies did Dr. Frankenstein dig up to make a 50-feet-tall monster?
Blood of the Werewolf is available on Xbox 360 and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360. Review code was provided by Midnight City for the benefit of this review.

Tighter than a Kimura lock

Mixed martial arts has long been one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, spearheaded by the UFC’s founding just over two decades ago. Combatants hail from around the globe, and the sport often packs up its eight-sided cage and travels to international locations such as Brazil and England to accommodate its ever-expanding popularity. So, it only made sense that when THQ went bankrupt a couple of years ago, EA Sports would swoop in and grab the rights. While the games from the THQ days were decent and diehard fans of the sport who simply couldn’t get enough ground and pound were served well, no one could’ve imagined what EA Canada’s Fight Night team would do when they put a chokehold on the property.

EA Sports UFC changes everything we know about MMA games, and you’ll never be able to look at those other titles the same again. Sure, we’ve all heard how great the characters look—and, yes, they do look phenomenal. The real-time deformation and discoloration of fighters is impressive, but I expect that to a degree with new-gen hardware. What really blew me away here were the control schemes.

I’ve played all of those other UFC titles. Often, they’d devolve into slugfests with little to no ground game due to complex, unintuitive controls. While EA Sports UFC’s controls aren’t of the pick-up-and-play variety, the game does a much better job of teaching you how to balance your attack, from standing up to working in the clinch to finally putting your opponent on the ground.

The game begins with a mandatory tutorial,  then offers specific control challenges like “training” in career mode to earn extra points to level up your character. All this means that you’ll come to grasp the schemes far more effectively than ever before. By the time you work through the career mode once, you’ll be a master who’s more than ready to jump online.

You’ll also learn very quickly that if, like in those old games, you try to just stand and bang most of the time, you’ll end up knocked out on the canvas more often than not. The emphasis on the ground game is critical here, but with everything assigned to two simple motions modified by the specific button you press, the barrier for entry is far lower than it once was when it comes to the control scheme.

I went from not knowing how to apply a submission—never mind locking one in—to being a submissions specialist in EA Sports UFC, making 75 percent of my opponents tap over a 38-4 career. I won The Ultimate Fighter tournament to get my UFC contract, had two stints as the UFC Light Heavyweight champ, and I mastered a variety of locks: inverted triangles, armbars, Kimuras, and more. The game offers fewer satisfying feelings than knowing your opponent tapped out. Mind you, it’s much harder on a human opponent, but it’s not impossible—again only amping up that feeling of accomplishment.

My only issue with the career mode is that the training segments, while comprehensive, also became repetitive later on in your career. Some variety here could’ve really helped that section of the game keep its legs, but at least there’s an option to skip the training, which is especially nice once you max out your character near retirement.

I didn’t just grapple with AI-controlled opponents during my time with EA Sports UFC, though—I also took my skills online. While I never won fights online before in older UFC games, I was 3-2 here in an obviously limited stint, making one opponent tap and knocking the other two out (including one sick finish as Jon Jones with a Superman punch off the cage wall). And, yeah, I lost two matches, but they were really close: One went to a decision, and the other? I admit, I got my butt knocked out as B.J. Penn.

Not everything here is as flawless as Rondy Rousey’s 9-0 career start, however. In terms of technical shortcomings, the game has some framerate drops, both offline and online. It seemed to pop up most frequently with sudden camera shifts, like when starting the submission minigame. It’s not enough to ruin matches, but it’s enough to be noticeable and a bit bothersome at times.

I also feel like there could’ve been some improvement on the presentation side of things. While the real-time videos of Dana White, Mike Dolce, and a bevy of real-world fighters rooting me on and offering advice were nice, I was horribly disappointed by the lack of pomp and circumstance when I won a belt, made significant strides with my career, and finally was inducted into the hall of fame.

And speaking of looks, character customization could’ve been a bit deeper. To start with, the game offers fewer options than in THQ’s glory days in regards to the characters themselves. What’s more, when I unlocked new gear and sponsors, since there were no rewards associated with them besides making my character look more like an authentic UFC fighter walking to the Octagon instead of a bum off the street, there was no reason to even bother messing with them. Let “Bam Bam” Carsillo look like a hobo. I don’t care; I’ll still kick your butt. Actually, I wonder if I can make my next created fighter’s nickname be “The Bum.”

When my time with EA Sports UFC was done, despite the presence of a little lag and a few customization shortcomings, I really couldn’t get enough of the game. In terms of how everything plays out once you step foot in the Octagon, there’s never been a more accurate or enjoyable representation of the UFC brand. The controls are intuitive and easy to learn, and no MMA game has looked more realistic. Fighting fans and MMA fans alike will want to jump into this one.

Developer: EA Canada • Publisher: EA Sports • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 06.17.14
9.0
The best representation of the action that happens inside the Octagon yet. While it’s not simple, the control scheme is still easy enough to learn that it takes the experience to an entirely new level as you break your opponents down standing up, in the clinch, or on the mat. With outstanding next-gen visuals, EA Sports UFC is good enough to carry around a championship belt.
The Good A dynamic fighting system that makes it feel like you’re actually in the Octagon.
The Bad Training system could use some variety; some lag during matches.
The Ugly How sad I was after having to hang up “Bam Bam” Carsillo’s gloves.
EA Sports UFC is available on Xbox One and PS4. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by EA Sports for the benefit of this review.
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