GaTSPod Reviews: Rayman Legends

Rayman Legends is the fifth game in the Rayman video game series, and it is a stunner. Vivid and inviting illustration immediately pulls you in, but the mischievous personality and creative puzzles are what make you stick around. Platformers are my favorite, and this game does not disappoint.

Rayman is the limbless main protagonist in this 2D side-scroller, and since the last game, he and his friends have been asleep for 100 years. They are finally awakened by Murfy, who informs them that during this time, The Magician and the Nightmares have gotten stronger, and they’ve kidnapped the Princesses and the Teensies! It is up to Rayman and his trusty crew to save them and destroy the darkness.

Each stage has ten Teensies (700 in total) waiting to be freed from captivity, that can be used to unlock new worlds in the game. They are sprinkled every which way throughout the level, and if you think it’ll be easy to find them all, think again. You may have to go through a level multiple times if you’re a completionist. They are hidden in dark corners, sometimes in treetops or underwater, and sometimes in secret mini stages in each level. And you won’t know you missed one until you find the next one one out of order.

There are also Lums to be collected, which unlock heroes in the heroes gallery. Most are static, but some of the Lums are fast movers, and you must react quickly to catch them all. Not only can you collect Lums during each stage, you are also gifted with Lums from your Creatures daily in your Creatures Gallery. If you catch enough Lums, you are rewarded with Lucky Cards, which can unlock more lums, free Teensies, a Creature, or an Origin level.

The controls are the reason I love this game. Rayman is very bouncy and seemingly weightless as he makes his way through the stages. He can jump, kick, punch, and float in midair, and everything is relatively simple to get used to. The controls are smooth, and when mistakes are made, they are usually related to slow reflexes. But sometimes Rayman’s buddy, Murfy, comes along to help. He will poke some unfriendly monsters, cut ropes for you to swing on, or even activate levers. While this may seem convenient, if you are playing solo it can be a teeny bit of a nuisance. You must take over as Murfy and poke those monsters yourself before continuing on your journey. It fiddles with the pacing but not enough to ruin the fun.

Each stage’s challenge level is represented by a ranking of one to five skulls, five being the hardest. The beginner levels are a good warm-up for the rest of the game, and it’s easy to play for so long that you don’t realize you have progressed onto the harder levels until you catch yourself almost throwing your controller at the television. This is the perfect game to play solo, but is equally as fun with friends, though only locally as there is no online multiplayer. This wouldn’t be too disappointing if there weren’t an awesome mini soccer game called Kung Foot sitting in the gallery, itching to cause chaos.

Though Rayman Legends has a plot, it is easy to miss, and forgettable. And while this may be the kiss of death for some games, it isn’t the case here. The fun factor is in not knowing what comes next. Jumping, kicking, and punching your way through each level again and again trying to find everything you missed, or trying to race against your best time, will have you glued to your controller for hours. Rayman Legends has lots of heart, and offers a wild and wacky ride through a visually intriguing masterpiece. It is a skillfully crafted game, full of life, that will win over both casual and hardcore gamers alike.

4.5/5

GaTSPod Reviews: Assassin's Creed IV: Freedom Cry

Assassin's Creed 4 came out last year. In my opinion, it fixed everything that was wrong with the previous entry in the franchise, Assassin's Creed 3. While I do think that Assassin's Creed 4 had the best story so far, it still didn't do too much for me. It was riveting, story wise, but the main character was just another brooding, handsome white guy. Being a black man that loves video games, I’ve always searched for games where I could play as a black protagonist. Games like last year's Remember Me, from Capcom, are always on my radar because I finally got a chance to see a black woman as the hero in a game. So when I saw that Assassin's Creed 4 was going to have DLC that let me play as a runaway slave who was actually the quartermaster to the main character in Black Flag, I couldn't pass up the chance to give it a shot. I'm glad I did, because it was a superb expansion.

Adewale is quick with the machete

The DLC starts off with you as Adéwalé 15 years after the events in Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. You are captaining your own vessel and are about to destroy a convoy that has a package from the Templars. You end up losing your crew in a storm while trying to escape the fleet of re-enforcements that show up after you destroy the aforementioned convoy. After being thrown overboard, you wake up in St. Domingue on the shore of Port au Prince. You quickly notice that it’s a slave market where you can buy and sell slaves, trading them for goods. You end up meeting a woman named Bastienne Josèphe who runs a brothel which most of the politicians frequent. She keeps her ear to the streets to find out who’s doing what, and where. Because of her, you end up saving and working with the leader of the Maroons (escaped slaves) to end Gouverneur de Fayet’s rule and to free your brothers and sisters from slavery.

I really appreciate how the developers at Ubisoft took the time to not only make this a game where it’s a completely different character existing in the same world as the main game, but the whole world changes to reflect Adéwalé as the main character in the DLC and his mission to free the slaves. For instance, in Black Flag, Edward would go to store fronts in town to go get new weapons and items, but in Freedom Cry you couldn’t access those because slavers would try to capture or kill Adéwalé. So you’d have to find marooned merchants, who hid in trees and other hideouts, to sell you what you needed. Also, the DLC essentially replaced money so that to get your weapons you had to free slaves. For example, you'd have to free 300 slaves to unlock the next machete or 400 for your next firearm. I preferred the switch up because it made this title feel more unique than the others and made the game feel new to me, a frequent Assassin's Creed player.

I had a tendency to kill every single slaver I saw

You are able to free slaves by following the main story and by doing the side missions, which vary from liberating slaves at auctions and killing the Punishers who can be seen whipping slaves at the markets to destroying convoys and taking over slave ships. (I roamed the sea doing that for hours).That’s all fun and breaks up the repetitiveness of the game, but the biggest way to do that is by taking over a whole plantation. You have to kill a certain number of slave overseers and then there’s a slave uprising, after which the slaves are free on the plantation grounds. Eventually, another slaver will take over the plantation and you can to repeat the process. It’s a great addition to the story.

Adewale really doesn't like PETA

Overall, I love Assassin's Creed 4: Freedom Cry. I appreciate that the developers chose to tell a different story than usual, and finally being able to play a black assassin was awesome. The soundtrack, composed by Olivier Deriviere, complemented the game’s story perfectly. I applaud Ubisoft for basing the story on a topic that is still taboo and also for keeping it as honest as possible. While I did get spit on by white men, I don’t think they called me a “nigger” once, which I thought was odd but also understandable. It was the dev’s choice to not make the game depict that part of racism, even though a fair amount of the rest of it was depicted accurately enough. Even if you don’t care about playing as a runaway slave and freeing other slaves (all while murdering anyone in your path à la Django), you’ll still love the game just because Adéwalé is such a badass.

My biggest issue with Assassin’s Creed IV: Freedom Cry is that it wasn’t a full-length game, the character of Adéwalé had so much depth that I can definitely see them doing something else with him…hopefully. This DLC is well worth the $10 bucks if you already own Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and if you are a Playstation owner, you can purchase the game as a stand-alone story, not needing the $60 Black Flag.

This game is a must buy for any gamer and it has me hyped for what Ubisoft plans to do next.

4.5/5


GaTSPod Reviews: Quick and Dirty Review: Nokia Lumia Icon

I recently acquired the new Nokia Lumia Icon because I’ve been saying for quite some time that I wanted to try a Windows mobile phone. As fate would have it, the opportunity presented itself when my Samsung Galaxy S3 broke unexpectedly.

So…where to start? Personally, I love this phone. Its functionality is perfect. The cameras — both the back and front-facing camera — take very clear pictures. It runs on Windows Phone 8, which is surprisingly great. Apps are placed conveniently and the swipe feature makes a great pairing with the glorious 5” 1080p touchscreen.  

The rear-facing camera was really the highlight of the phone to me with its 20 MP image-taking and full 1080p HD recording capability. I had fun snapping random pictures of my son playing, and even the recordings of him running around were flawless. One awesome thing about the camera is that even with only ambient lighting you can still get a crisp picture. The video recording is nice with no delay between hitting record and the process actually starting. Video is wonderfully sharp and there is no noise or graininess to them at all unless you decide to change the picture in the Nokia Cinemagraph app. This app allows you to create and add various visual effects to a picture and/or video.

The setup for the phone takes some getting use to but it’s not difficult to pick up. Of course, since this phone runs on Windows Phone the internet browser is Internet Explorer, which was a huge step backward for me having just come from Google Chrome. The battery life isn’t the worst, though, as Nokia packs a 2420mAh non-removable battery touting close to 18 hours battery life in optimal conditions. It was closer to 10 hours with my usage habits. I find myself doing pretty well when the phone gets down to 20% power. If I’m not on the internet or any other apps, I can keep going for about 2 hours before needing to charge.

However, with the good comes the bad…

I really hate how sometimes the screen doesn’t respond well to light touches. It seems as though a little more pressure is needed to get a response. Internet Explorer isn’t really the best browser being that some websites won’t display pictures without a tap on the empty space where the picture should be. Lastly, something that’s not really that big a deal but does still bother me: the limitation on apps. Android and iOS are way ahead when it comes to getting the latest apps while Windows is struggling to keep up. Granted, I’m not a big app user but it’s kind of annoying to still be using Instagram beta (which you can’t DM or record videos with), and the 3rd party Twitter apps still won’t let you retweet without quoting.

All-in-all, I enjoy my phone and I am still learning it. I can say that after going from an Android to a Windows phone, I do miss some of the things I could do on my Galaxy, app wise. I’m sure as the app ecosystem grows that will change. The Nokia Lumia Icon phone is good, but like all Windows mobile devices, it’s behind when it comes to getting new apps. As true as that is, it doesn’t take away from the fact that you are still getting a quality product. I certainly suggest this phone to anyone who isn’t really pressed for the latest apps and is familiar and comfortable with the Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system.

 

Full spec list

Dimensions

Height: 5. 39 inches

Width: 2.79 inches

Thickness: 0.39 inches

 

Memory/Processor

32 GB internal memory/2GB RAM

2.2 GHz quad core processor

Snapdragon 800 processor

 

Display

Screen 5 inches

Aspect Ratio 16:9

Full HD 1920x1080 OLED

Pixel density: 441 ppi

Super Sensitive Touch technology

Ambient light sensors, Accelerometer, Proximity sensors, Gyroscope, Magnetometer

 

Apps

Microsoft Office

Internet Explorer

Nokia CARE

Nokia MixRadio

Creative Studios

Cinemagraph

HERE Drive Plus

HERE Map

Nokia Pro Cam

 

Battery

Non-Removable Standard Battery (2420mAh)

Usage Time: up to 17.64 Hours

Standby Time: up to 18 days

 

Camera

20-MP PureView Rear-Facing Camera & Camcorder with ZEISS Optics

Optical Image stabilization

Back Side Illumination

Dual LED Flash

1.2 Megapixel Front-Facing Camera and Camcorder

Full 1080p HD video recorder

Video records at 30 frames per second

 

 

 -Charles