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.

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Review: Mass Effect 3: Leviathan DLC

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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.”

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Farewell, Mr. Armstrong, and Thank You

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Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, has died today at the age of 81 due to complications following heart surgery earlier this month.

Uttering the immortal words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”, Neil Armstrong and his crew became heroes to more than just a nation but to the world.

Armstrong’s self-made accomplishments were many, even before reaching the Moon. He had served as a Navy pilot having paid for flight lessons with a clerk’s job and fought during the Korean War, earned his degree in aeronautical engineering with top marks (and went on after his astronaut days to earn a Masters degree in the same field), became a test pilot, and had even directed a musical for his fraternity. He also holds honorary doctorates from a number of institutions.

Cool under pressure, he demonstrated his knack for doing his best in any situation during a dramatic episode during the Gemini 8 mission when he saved the capsule from an out-of-control spin. Armstrong and his partner, David Scott, guided the Gemini safely back to Earth having survived the ordeal.

After his astronaut days, Armstrong would go on to become a professor at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio teaching for eight years up until 1979. Afterwards, he would be a spokesperson for several companies and would heed the call of his nation when they needed him again at NASA to help investigate the Challenger disaster in 1986.

He quietly took himself away from the public spectacle in the last few years, but the impact of his life and that of his contributions to science won’t be forgotten. He once said “”As a boy, because I was born and raised in Ohio, about 60 miles north of Dayton, the legends of the Wrights have been in my memories as long as I can remember.”

I’ve little doubt that many others will continue to go on in being inspired by his life, and those of his fellow astronauts, in much the same way. Thank you, and good journey, Mr. Armstrong.

You might want to read this before Monday…

If you depend on the Internet, you might want to visit this site from your computer ASAP: www.dns-ok.us

What that site will tell you is if your computer is infected with DNS Changer malware, and how to fix the problem.

What that nasty bit of software does is change your computer’s domain name server (DNS) addresses — the Internet’s “address book,” to simplify — to ones that were once under the control of some Estonian scammers.

The servers are now under the control of the FBI, which plans to shut them down on Monday.

Hence the urgent warning.

Software checkers on Facebook and Google warned most people that their computers had been compromised, and the number of infected computers dwindled from about four million to about 277,000 worldwide, with an estimated 64,000 here in the U.S.

Is your computer one of those still infected? You might not know until you visit that website above.

Or until Monday comes and you realize you can’t get on the Internet.

To read more, click here.

Review: Inversion

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“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.

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

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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.

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Review: Kid Icarus: Uprising (Better late than never, right?)

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“Kid Icarus: Uprising” is the
first Nintendo release to bear the Kid Icarus moniker in more than
two decades and its blend of humor, mythological references, dynamic
visuals and old-school sensibilities are almost enough to make the
title one of the great ones.

The only really big problem – and it is
a big one – is the game’s control scheme. The unfortunate fact is
that although the Nintendo 3DS handles Kid Icarus: Uprising’s visuals
just about perfectly, the game’s controls are about as unwieldy as
can be. It’s telling that Nintendo included a special stand with the
game so players could set the game on a table instead of twisting
their wrists into an unnatural position in order to handle the 3DS’
buttons, circle pad and stylus at the same time.

It’s a shame the control scheme mars
Kid Icarus: Uprising’s gameplay, because this could be an ideal game
for anybody who grew up on the Nintendo Entertainment System and
still appreciates Nintendo’s zany approach to game design. Kid
Icarus: Uprising has enough wacky dialogue and flashing lights to
entertain just about anyone who doesn’t need all of their video games
to be grimdark and ever so “mature.”

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