Why Did I Agree To Do This? A Star Wars The Clone Wars Republic Heroes Review

Those who listen to the podcast may have heard that my birthday was on May 4. As such, the ever oh so generous Cameron wanted to get me a gift. That gift was Star Wars The Clone Wars Republic Heroes for the PC.

And that’s why we’re all here today.

Star Wars The Clone Wars Republic Heroes (try saying that five times fast) is a co-op action/platforming title developed by Krome Studios. Krome isn’t exactly a well respected developer, but they are one of the only few independent studios doing work for major publishers in Australia – so points for them I guess. That’s where the points stop though.

Krome Studios used to not be bad. They developed Ty the Tasmanian Tiger – a game that I never played, but fans swear up and down that it’s one of the best platformers of the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era. I’m gonna take their word for it because it’s all I have. Anyway, their real trouble started in 2007 when Microsoft contracted them to make Viva Pinata: Party Animals. After that, LucasArts turned them into a Star Wars workhorse.

Now, enough about Krome. Let’s get on with the game, shall we?

Star Wars The Clone Wars Republic Heroes is best described as LEGO Star Wars without the LEGO. Now, that’s not inherently a bad thing. Sure the LEGO games get by with their derivative gameplay by having buckets of charm, but surely Republic Heroes has at least a single bucket of charm in it, right? Right? Maybe a cup of charm? How about a droplet? No?

OK, look, Republic Heroes apes the style of The Clone Wars TV series. No, not that awesome Genndy Tartakovsky series. The crappy one where George Lucas threw Genndy’s work into a computer and just expected it to work. It’s much the same filmmaking style he applied to the prequels and we all know how those worked out.

Anyway, the game obviously can’t look anywhere near as clean as the TV series, and that’s even with forced MSAA. All the characters look absolutely lifeless, and some are best described as nightmare muppets. No seriously, take a look at Yoda:

Nightmare Muppets

Now, I don’t believe in absolute zero badness. There’s always a redeeming factor and Republic Heroes’ visuals do have one thing going for it. The outer space shots with the planets in the background look absolutely marvelous.

Pretty Planet

Unfortunately, the environments on the planets look like somebody took the airbrush, cracked it open and just let whatever came out of it to flow all over the canvas. In other words, it’s a mess.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Benevolent Zach, I care not these “graphics.” I only want to hear about the gameplay. Well, I was really hoping you would stop reading by now so I wouldn’t have to get into that. But since you insist…

Remember how I said that Republic Heroes was like the LEGO games minus the LEGO? Yeah, that applies to the gameplay as well. The characters can jump, swing a lightsaber and throw the force around like a belligerent drunk throws around insults in an alley at midnight. That is to say – it’s completely ineffective and doesn’t hurt anyone.

So, you ask, the combat is bad? I wouldn’t classify it as bad. It definitely works when it wants to. I just often found myself hitting the X button next to enemies hoping to slice them in two, but only finding Anakin or Obi-Wan swinging their lightsabers at thin air in the opposite direction. This is especially annoying during boss fights where there’s only one target, but these “Jedi” seem content to swing their lightsabers at anything but the gelatinous ooze monster that’s threatening to blow up the galaxy.

Speaking of boss fights, the game lacks variety. Players are forced to fight the aforementioned gelatinous ooze monster three times throughout the game. The pattern of attack only ever changes during the final boss fight, and even then, the only difference is that you’re now balancing on floating platforms while fighting.

Now that may seem hard, but trust me, it’s not. In fact, Republic Heroes is insultingly easy. Sure, you can’t die, just like in the LEGO games, but those games never feel condescending. Republic Heroes makes you feel stupid for trying too hard. For example, the very first boss fight in the game requires players to force hold a robotic leg down and then climb up said leg to slash out an eye. Now, that sounds incredibly simple, but the solution to this boss fight was frustratingly ambiguous. It didn’t help that the nightmare muppet version of Yoda kept on appearing to tell me that I was doing it wrong, but never actually explaining how I was doing it wrong. In the end, it only helped me to understand Luke’s frustration with the little green guy on Dagobah.

After all this, you might be thinking – “Great and powerful Zach, is there anything you enjoyed in this game?” Actually, yes! I thoroughly enjoyed any of the levels that allowed me to play as one of the Clone Troopers. It was an excellent change of pace from the Jedi levels, and the levels themselves were actually fun. Of course, this comes from my adoration of twin stick arcade shooters, and the Clone Trooper levels deliver that kind of arcade action in spades.

Beyond that, however, there’s little in this game that I liked. The Jedi gameplay is dull, the boss fights are terrible, the environments are bland, and the game just kind of ends with no closure whatsoever.

That being said, there is one thing about this game that is truly phenomenal – Anakin Skywalker wearing an abnormally large Indiana Jones-style fedora:

Anakin Hat

Dress To Play: Cute Witches Makes The Cast Of Hocus Pocus Look Adorable – A Review

I have a small confession to make. I love playing dress up.

Of course, I mean the virtual kind of dress up. I’ve always been enamored by Princess Maker, the super popular line of princess simulators that were only released in Japan. Princess Debut on the Nintendo DS is one of my favorite titles on the system. I’m not even kidding.

It’s with this deep seated love of dress up games that I was pleased to find one on the Nintendo eShop. Dress to Play: Cute Witches is a game that promises “thousands of combinations to create thousands of different little witches.” This already sounds like my kind of game.

And what luck! The game was on sale this week as part of the same promotion that has the excellent Guild01 titles on sale. As an aside, you really need to play Crimson Shroud and Liberation Maiden.

Anyway, I gave Nintendo and the publishers at EnjoyUp Games my $1.99, and I jumped into the magical world of Dress To Play: Cute Witches. Unfortunately, the magic turned out to be a case of high school students in masks tricking the FBI into opening an investigation into the occult. It was a waste of money that only ended up wasting everybody’s time.

Before we get to that, however, let’s jump into how this game works. First of all, you’re given a “witch” to customize and dress up as you see fit. The dress up menu is strangely similar to the Mii creation menu except for the addition of, well, clothes.

When you first start out, there’s an insanely appalling lack of clothing options. I could dress my witch up in a sailor outfit straight out of a Japanese anime and a couple of cat ears. There might even be a bow. The point is that there’s not much in the way of customization options at the start.

To unlock more clothing options, you must go into the challenge mode. The challenge mode is like a shmup without the shooting. You direct our lovely witch through an obstacle-laden sky full of cute creatures and copyright infringements. While you’re avoiding these obstacles, you must also collect stars that float past in the sky.

Of course, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. The enemy patterns can get pretty erratic, and it actually does feel like a hardcore shmup at times. Unfortunately, the controls are just kind of terrible. You can move with the Circle pad, d-pad or face buttons. All three options are terrible, and movement feels sluggish. This leads to a number of cheap hits as you’re often too slow to avoid oncoming obstacles.

Thankfully, the game is pretty forgiving with this section. No doubt as a result of trying to appeal to much younger gamers. The health bar is a fuel gauge because witches apparently sport diesel engines on brooms now. The fuel gauge drains slowly over the course of gameplay, but each hit helps to make it drain faster. You can collect hearts to restore a bit of the fuel gauge, but you will fail. In all honesty, you will fail a lot.

This is where Dress To Play: Cute Witches ceases to be a cute little diversion and just becomes an annoyance. The game expects you to play this mode a countless number of times. Each clothing item is tied to challenges that you must complete in the challenge mode. One such challenge is playing challenge mode for three hours. Another is collecting 150 stars in one run.

Look, I love dress up games, and I love unlocking outfits. I would rather unlock new outfits by wooing over princes and finding true love though.. Sure, that’s not exactly what witches do, but maybe she can just apparate into a clothing store and steal all the cute clothes next time.* It would save her, and by extension me, a lot of time.

*The DV Cast does not endorse theft or apparition. Save the latter for when you’re a seventh year.

Games To Scare Stephen With On Halloween

Greetings, boils and ghouls, this incredibly archaic introduction is brought to you by The DVCast.

In fact, this particular post is written by none other than Zachary Walton, the self-proclaimed horror master of the group. Since Stephen is too scared to tackle the task, I have taken it upon myself to create a list of the scary games you can play during Halloween this year.

To be included, the game must follow these strict standards:

1. It must have been released in the last two years. That means no perennial classics like Resident Evil will be on this list. You all know Resident Evil is a classic horror game, so why bother?

2. The game must be scary. Of course, scary is strictly subjective. Take Stephen for instance – he’s scared of awesome things. Those scarecrow things in Thief: Deadly Shadows? They’re super cool! This list will be comprised of titles that I think are scary.

3. Special consideration will be given to games that might not be scary, but rather exude pure malice in their design. These are games that don’t intend to scare, but can be extremely nerve wracking in their design.

(As an aside, it should be noted that these titles are not in any order whatsoever. They are all quality titles and deserve your time. Don’t take their placement on the list as a sign of their respective quality.)

Now that we have that out of the way – let’s dive in!

Silent Hill Downpour (Xbox 360/PS3)

Resident Evil and Silent Hill both received a main series entry in their respective franchises this year. Resident Evil 6 isn’t as bad as some critics would have you believe, but it is not scary. Silent Hill Downpour on the other hand is a major rebound after the last few titles failed to live up to the series’ pedigree.

Downpour casts you in the shoes of Murphy, a convict with a troubled past. He’s the perfect candidate for interment at Silent Hill. As you make your way through the famous town, much of Murphy’s history is dug up through excellently crafted areas and, in a first for the series, side quests. It’s a shocking, and often times depressing, journey through the psyche of a man who lost everything and gave up his humanity in return for solace in nothingness.

Lone Survivor (PC)

Speaking of Silent Hill, Lone Survivor could be considered its 2D doppelganger. It even lifts some of its sound effects straight out of Konami’s horror series. Much like the previous entry, Lone Survivor is all about psychological horror. It puts player in the role of a nameless character who is the only survivor amid what appears to a viral outbreak that turned the populace into flesh-eating zombies. Think I Am Legend, but far more disturbing.

The game is a side scrolling 2D adventure game with limited combat. That doesn’t make the game any less threatening though. The enemies that are present can easily spot the player and will make short work of the player’s character if they’re not too careful. The player also “dies” if they run out of ammo. It forces one to think creatively and avoid confrontation if at all possible. It makes every encounter, even with the weaker enemy varieties, incredibly tense.

Corpse Party (PSP/Playable on PS Vita)

The next entry on this list is a bit different from the rest. Corpse Party is a Japanese adventure game that looks like it was made in RPG Maker. The visuals are incredibly basic, even more so than Lone Survivor, but it’s by far one of the more terrifying games to be included on this list.

The key to Corpse Party’s success is its use of audio. This is the kind of game that requires headphones as the audio moves within your head. It creates the illusion that the player is really inside the haunted schoolhouse. The interweaving stories that take place over five chapters also serve to alleviate the pain of having to sit through some particularly awful visuals.

A fair bit of warning here – the game is incredibly graphic. There are CG stills throughout the game for important scenes which include the brutal murder of high school-age children. I don’t want to spoil these scenes, but they are some of the most disturbing I’ve ever seen in a game. I’m actually kind of glad they aren’t animated.

Home (PC)

The player awakens in a darkened house. Why are they there? What’s going on? These are the questions that the player must ask themselves as they venture through the highly stylized 2D environments of Home.

Home is an indie horror project created by one person – Benjamin Rivers. He did all the art, programming, writing, etc. This is one of those personal pet projects that lots of love was poured into and it’s obviously shows. It’s one of the most stylish 2D games to hit the indie scene with expressive pixels forming the landscape that the player wanders as they search for answers.

The big theme in Home is choice. Everything is decided by the player through simple yes or no answers. Are you going to pick up that gun? Are you going to open that door? Every choice has a consequence somewhere down the line as the player slowly realizes the true horror behind their actions. A word of warning: the game is super ambiguous and the non-ending may turn off some players.

The Binding of Isaac (PC)

Remember how I said in the rules that some games may not be “scary,” but rather exude malice in their design? The Binding of Isaac is one of those games. Much like Super Meat Boy before it, The Binding of Isaac hates you. It will do everything in its power to belittle and destroy what little self-esteem the player had left.

Beyond the game design, I think the game could be classified as fitting nicely into the horror genre due to the varied, and often times grotesque, enemy design. Many of the boss monsters are pus or acid spewing monsters that look like they’re straight out of a Lovecraftian nightmares. Scary? Not really. Unsettling? You bet.

Anna (PC)

I’m not going to lie – Anna is my favorite of the list. If it was numbered, Anna would be number one. It’s an extraordinary first-person adventure game set in a dark sawmill where the supernatural comes alive. You can feel the presence of something malicious, but it never truly manifests itself until you least expect it. It’s the kind of game that uses its atmosphere to the very best of its ability.

Anna, much like Home, is very ambiguous. It may be a detriment to some players in Home, but I bet that many players will come to appreciate the ambiguity in Anna’s design. It doesn’t use it to make the player confused, but rather uses it to further stir their curiosity for repeat playthroughs. There are multiple endings, and the game constantly hints at this. There’s more to be done and seen in the solitary sawmill in the middle of the woods. It just waits for the player to find it.

And… that’s it. I can’t add anymore games to this list, even if I wanted to, thanks to the rules imposed by myself. I would like to ask any and all readers to add their own favorite horror games in the comments. My rules do not apply to you so bust out that recommendation for “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.”