Review: Temple Run 2 is a blockbuster sequel to the hit mobile game

By Beau Yarbrough

“Temple Run 2,” the sequel to the ubiquitous mobile game, is also the fastest mobile game to reach 50 million downloads,  doing so in just in 13 days since the sequel’s release on Jan. 18.

It’s not hard to see why. The original game has been downloaded more than 170 million times, according to franchise developers Imangi Studios. They’re free and, unlike many “free” games, the in-app purchases – extra coins in the original and coins and gems in the sequel – aren’t required to enjoy the game. I’d even argue that buying the extras probably makes the games a little less fun. (Don’t worry about Imangi making their money back: They’ve turned the brand into a franchise, leading to board games, card games and branded spin-offs like Temple Run: Brave along with the inevitable t-shirts and so on.)

The game – and its sequel – are simple. Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones has to run for his life, trying to escape a giant rolling stone ball trap? That’s the game, although Temple Run replaces the iconic stone ball with skull-faced gorillas (a pack of them in the original, a single gigantic one in the sequel).

Along the way, your hero – a red-headed Indiana Jones look-alike named Guy Dangerous – has to leap over and duck under obstacles or cling to precarious ledges. If he runs into too many obstacles or stumbles too many times, his pursuers will catch up to him and devour him. He always loses in the end, but the fun is in seeing if you can get just a bit further the next time, or if you can collect enough coins to unlock better or more frequent power-ups.

Temple Run 2 dramatically improves upon the original’s graphics and trades running through ruins in a tropical rain forest for gorgeous ruins seemingly based on Machu Picchu, high in the Peruvian Andes. (Machu Picchu has traps that shoot jets of flame and giant rolling cylinders covered in spikes, right?) The player will also have to help Guy leap over mountain streams and sheer drop-offs, run along narrow cliffs and duck under logs and chunks of fallen masonry. The sequel also adds ziplines for Guy to slide down and an occasional mine cart sequence that has been my downfall more often than not.

The game runs best on mobile devices released in the last year or two, but should run OK on all but the oldest devices. (And if it doesn’t run well, the original almost surely will.) This is a no-brainer of a download: It’s free, playable in quick 30-second bursts while waiting in line or for an appointment, but is addictive enough to swallow a whole Saturday afternoon if you let it.

The hero’s name may be Guy Dangerous, but this is easily the best Indiana Jones adventure since that business with the Holy Grail.

Temple Run 2
Imangi Studios
iOS/Android/Amazon (Reviewed iOS)
Rated 9+ 

 

 

Review: Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: Absolution

By Neil Nisperos

The sight of silently creeping up on prey, hidden in the shadows, and pouncing on a sentry – a popular trope of the action genre – appeals to the hunter in all of us.

But unless you have a license to kill,  you can’t do this in real life. So it’s with great fun that in Io’s new Hitman: Absolution,  one can waste hours with garrote wire,  perfecting and honing the deadly craft of eliminating prey.

The game means the return of the bald-headed anti-hero Agent 47, who here gets a large toolbox to ply his trade through a number of villainous hideouts and sticky situations.

Absolution harkens back to the primordial instincts of our hunter ancestors. It’s just fun to creep in the shadows and wait for the right time to strike.

A feature in the game you’ll want to use a lot is instinct mode, which shows Agent 47 where all of the enemies are on the map. A key skill is to implement various electronic switches or to throw objects, which attract enemies and spread them out. Agent 47 can hide and they can get picked off one by one. Always remember to hide your dirty work in a nearby container or closet.

Level design and music are top-notch. The understated tension of low strings, brass notes, and the sudden plink of a piano key provided the appropriate mood as I took my hero past a bevy of enemy sentries, guards, and baddies. You know when you’re in the hit man zone when you find yourself taking deep meditative breaths as you creep through environments swarming with enemies.

Overall, Hitman is a beautifully rendered game of patience and strategy that doesn’t disappoint.  Infiltration was never more fun. Here’s hoping the developers behind Hitman: Absolution make a proper ninja game set in feudal Japan with the same great design.

Hitman: Absolution
Io Interactive/Square Enix
PC, PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Rated M for Mature 

Review: Madden 13 is enjoyable, but shows signs of stagnation

Madden NFL 13, adds a new physics engine to the annual franchise, but the game’s improvements feel more incremental than groundbreaking.

By Jahmal Peters
Contributor

As the story goes, legendary NFL coach John Madden played a significant role in shaping the video game series that would assume his namesake for nearly a quarter century.

As reported in an IGN history of the “Madden NFL” series, the developers who worked on the first version of the game tried to adapt to the hardware limitations of the time by designing the game as a seven-on-seven version of football.

Madden, however, wanted nothing to do with a scaled-down representation of the game.

“If it isn’t 11 on 11, it isn’t real football,” Madden is quoted as saying in the article. “I’m not putting my name on it if it’s not real.”

One can only wonder what might have been had the Hall of Fame coach not exerted his authority over the creative direction of the product and forced it to be as authentic as possible.

This brings us to “Madden NFL 13,” a game that is enjoyable on its own merit but is the latest iteration of a series that has shown glaring signs of stagnation and has been devoid of any revolutionary features that once set the series apart in years past.

Continue reading

Review: Mass Effect 3: Leviathan DLC

62012-Leviathan Launch 03-thumb-480x270-62011.jpg

The new “Leviathan” DLC pack for “Mass Effect 3″ falls so far below this reviewer’s expectations that everyone at BioWare and EA Games who had a role in developing or marketing this add-on needs to pull out a dictionary and look up the word “promise.”

Webster’s New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition) defines a promise as “1. An oral or written agreement to do or not to something; vow. 2. Indication, as of a successful prospect or future; basis for expectation 3. Something promised.”

In a sentence: “The Leviathan DLC for Mass Effect 3 does not deliver what its advertising promised.”

Continue reading

Review: “Sleeping Dogs” (PS3)

62009-Sleeping Dogs driving-thumb-480x270-62008.jpg

By Neil Nisperos

Staff Writer

For those who have ever dreamed of being in a Kung Fu movie or Hong Kong crime thriller, Square Enix’s new “Sleeping Dogs” offers that kind of experience, even if it is not a perfect sandbox game.

Sleeping Dogs allows players to explore the complex and labyrinthine environs of Hong Kong while assuming the role of Wei Shen. Shen is a fearless Hong Kong police officer who infiltrates a Hong Kong Triad criminal organization. Going undercover in the game’s version of Hong Kong means players enter a world of high-speed chases, shady business deals, shakedowns and bone-breaking beat downs.

Continue reading

Bethesda gets a stellar cast for “Dishonored”

“Dishonored,” the upcoming steampunk-esque revenge-themed title from Bethesda Softworks and Arkane Studios, will have a cast of voice actors including Oscar winner Susan Sarandon.

Sarandon won her Academy Award for her role in 1995′s “Dead Man Walking.” In the movie, Sarandon played Sister Helen Prejean, an nun who while opposing capital punishment, tries to prevent the execution of a murderer played by Sean Penn. In Dishonored, Sarandon will play Granny Rags, who Bethesda describes as a “an intriguing old blind woman now deranged after years of street life.”

From Bethesda’s announcement:

Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe-winner Brad Dourif takes
on the role of the inventor Piero, creator of the iconic mask worn by
Corvo as well as a wealth of gadgets Corvo can use. Emmy winner and
Hollywood-icon Carrie Fisher can be heard broadcasting government propaganda over loudspeakers throughout the city of Dunwall, where the game is set.

The all-star cast continues with John Slattery (“Mad
Men,” “The Adjustment Bureau”) who takes on the role of Admiral
Havelock, a Loyalist who helps Corvo on his quest, as well as Michael Madsen who brings his videogame voiceover experience to the role of Daud, a mysterious assassin. Chlo Grace Moretz (“Kick-Ass,” “Hugo”) portrays Young Lady Emily, the Empress’ daughter who is kidnapped after her mother’s death while Lena Headey joins the cast as Calista, Emily’s caretaker. In addition to the star-studded voice cast, Composer Daniel Licht (“Dexter”) lends his musical talents to create the game’s original score. 

61582-Dishonored Streets-thumb-480x270-61581.jpg

Review: NCAA 13

61295-tsu_tb-thumb-480x270-61294.jpg

Texas State receiver demonstrating one
of the newly added catch animations against my Teambuilder squad…
still not sure how he got that open.

By Jahmal Peters

Contributor

Summer is a great time of year for
college football fans.

It’s a time of year when every fan
believes that their team is poised to achieve greatness no matter how
outlandish the expectations may be and it’s only after the season
begins that the cold hard reality sets in and they are once again
reminded of their team’s place near the bottom of the food chain.

While college football fans can enjoy a
few more months of unwavering optimism, their gaming playing
brethren won’t be as lucky.

EA Sports’ NCAA Football 13
is the latest iteration of the company’s annual college
football game, and with minimal updates and an overemphasis on DLC,
the game is more UCLA than USC – promising but a long way from
dominant.

Continue reading

Review: Inversion

61013-inversion wall-thumb-480x300-61012.jpg

“Inversion,” with a little
more imagination, could have been one of the nicer surprises of 2012.
Instead, the game is a basic third-person shooter that never fully
lives up to its promise of offering players a chance to “command
gravity.”

Maybe I’m guilty of expecting too much
from this game, but I wanted Inversion’s gravity-control mechanics to
be something that would result in a fresh re-imagining of the TPS
experience. I imagined a game in which my character would be able to
leap from floor to ceiling at will, run upside down with guns
a-blazing and create havoc at any point along the X, Y and Z axes.

That, unfortunately, is not what
Inversion delivers. The game has its moments, but Inversion is
largely a linear experience that builds enough goodwill with its
gravity-control conceit to make things interesting for a while before
bringing things down with repetitive gameplay.

Continue reading

Review: Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut (Spoiler free)

59242-MassEffect3-thumb-480x270-59241.jpg

Angry and even not-so-angry gaming enthusiasts can now download new ending sequences for “Mass Effect 3,” a very good game marred by a conclusion that, to many, put the “anti” in “anti-climactic.”

EA Games and BioWare released “Mass Effect 3″ in March, but the role-playing game’s real ending did not come out until Tuesday when the producers released an “Extended Cut” to appease fans who hated the science fiction trilogy’s original conclusion.

Continue reading