Posts by Ben Silverman

  • Review: Predictable ‘Mario & Luigi Paper Jam’ Follows the Fold

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 16 days ago

    He jumps, he smashes, he karts. But while Mario’s impressive physicality helped make him the world’s most well-rounded (literally) video game icon, the portly plumber has quietly made a name for himself among more cerebral fans through the excellent Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario role-playing franchises. There’s a big brain underneath that famous red cap.

    His latest role-playing effort for the Nintendo 3DS, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam,  is an odd mashup between the two series that on, ahem, paper seems like a recipe for RPG perfection. But it turns out to be a study in conflict. The game looks great and its combat is fun and layered, yet the series’ typically sharp writing couldn’t yield a paper cut this time out. Coupled with some unflattering side content, Mario & Luigi makes for a jam with a few sour notes. 

    Related: Good Luck Beating This ‘Super Smash Bros.’ Choose Your Own Adventure

    What’s Hot: Terrific turn-based combat; looks and sounds great

    What’s Not: Toad Hunts and papercraft battles underwhelm; story and jokes fall flat

  • Review: Talk isn’t cheap in haunting teen drama ‘Oxenfree’

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 23 days ago

    Oxenfree , the debut game from indie developer Night School Studios, does a marvelous job elevating this well-worn premise into something unique. It’s a surprisingly engaging game that makes what’s often the dullest part of an adventure — the conversations between characters – the real star of the show.

    You play Alex, a 17-year-old girl with a complicated family life: Her big brother passed away, her mom remarried, and she’s now awkwardly faced with getting to know her new stepbrother, Jonas. Joined by a few friends, Alex and Jonas head out to a local touristy island with plans to get loaded by a campfire and root around a creepy cave. Naturally (or supernaturally), things go sideways, and the island turns out to hide some otherworldly secrets. It’s Lost by way of Freaks & Geeks .

    That speaks to the strength of Oxenfree ’s script and well-developed characters. Despite its supernatural trappings, this is a game very much about the human condition, about love and loss and how even the most innocuous decisions can leave the deepest footprints. There’s some great work here, and while Oxenfree isn’t without flaws, like its teenaged cast, it points to a promising future.

  • The undefeated Golden State Warriors will lose to the Indiana Pacers, claims video game

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 2 mths ago

    How about tonight? That’s the prediction made by NBA 2K16, or rather the humans who created the game and subsequently simulated the matchup. The result: 103-99, Pacers. Cue the dramatic, slow-motion images:

    Before you write this off — and you should totally feel justified doing that, because the Warriors just keep finding ways to win — keep in mind that last year’s NBA 2K15 actually did a solid job of predicting last year’s playoffs. Or Finals, at least. The simulation missed a few stops on the way (Memphis beat Portland, and Houston made it past San Antonio), but nailed the 4-2 Finals win for the Warriors.

    It certainly won’t be easy. The Pacers are the league’s second-best three-point shooting team (behind the Warriors) and match up well. And with Warriors forward Harrison Barnes still out with an ankle injury, the team isn’t running at full speed.

    But seriously, would you bet against this guy?

  • Review: Tactically brilliant 'Rainbow Six: Siege’ could use more ammo

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 2 mths ago

    That sort of leaves Rainbow Six: Siege out in the cold, but to be fair, Ubisoft’s long-running franchise has always been a different sort of shooter for a different sort of player. Characterized by thoughtful strategizing and methodical planning, it’s never really tried to compete with the charge-ahead-and-blast-everything-with-a-pulse vibe of more popular franchises.

    In that sense, Siege is very much a Rainbow Six game. Emphasizing teamwork and tactical, heads-up play over quick-twitch running-and-gunning, it’s a smart alternative to the action-movie multiplayer hijinks in other games. But while Siege does a great job of grabbing your attention, it struggles to hold it.

    Related: Review: 'Halo 5: Guardians' saves its so-so story with marvelous multiplayer

    It’s also daunting and difficult. Get shot and you can’t just hide and magically heal up. Death comes quickly in Siege , and there is no respawning. With your fallen comrades watching your every move, the pressure’s on to perform. This is not a game for the weak of heart.

  • 14-year-old sets new Rubik’s Cube world record

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 2 mths ago

    The year Lucas Etter was born, the world record for solving a Rubik’s Cube stood at 17.02 seconds.

    Fourteen years later, Etter is the proud owner of the new mark — and it’s a doozie.

    Etter solved a 3x3 Rubik’s Cube (that’s the classic, traditional Cube) in an astounding 4.904 seconds at the River Hill Fall competition in Clarksville, Maryland. That’s a full three-tenths of a second better than the previous mark of 5.25 seconds set earlier this year, and the first time a human has broken the five-second barrier.

    Before you cry foul, this was a formally sanctioned “speedcuber” event, and indeed Etter followed proper competitive Rubik's Cube protocol. That means he was able to look over the Cube before attempting to solve it, but the moment his blazing fast fingers started twirling blocks, the clock started. His mark has since been verified by the World Cube Association.

    Keep practicing, Lucas. The very future of our species might depend on it.

  • Review: ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ is gorgeous but you may find its lack of depth disturbing

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 2 mths ago

    Star Wars Battlefront is the Star Wars game you are looking for. But it’s not necessarily the Star Wars game you want it to be.

    It’s in a tricky spot. Released just one month before the much-hyped debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens , the rebooted Battlefront is destined to cash in on rabid interest in the franchise. Fans of the films who might not otherwise care about video games have undoubtedly heard of it or seen it in action, while fans of the prior Battlefront games — and shooters in general —have been anticipating its return for years. So how exactly do you make an online shooter that will appeal to both casual and hardcore players?

    But it’s not just a looker, it’s also a shooter. And for all its style, Batttlefront ’s fun is mitigated by surprisingly limited gameplay that will undoubtedly leave some gamers feeling as unsatiated as a Sarlacc.

    Related: In Pictures: Recreating Iconic Star Wars Elements in 'Star Wars Battlefront'

  • Are UFC video game cover stars cursed?

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 2 mths ago

    Days after being announced as the cover athlete for the next UFC game by game publisher EA, the seemingly unbeatable Ronda Rousey lost her belt — and nearly her head — to striking ace Holly Holm at UFC 193. It was a stunning upset, one of the biggest in UFC history, but it’s a little less shocking when you take a look at the spotty recent history of UFC video game cover stars.

    Cover stars: Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson Release date: June 2014

    The best case for a curse can be found in the most recent UFC game, which put a pretty big dent in the careers of two of the sport’s most dominant fighters.

    Things haven’t gone much smoother for Gustafsson. Though the mild-mannered Swede stayed out of legal trouble, he hasn’t had any success in the cage since promoting the video game. He’s gone 0-2 with losses to Cormier and Anthony Johnson.

    Cursed? Yes .

    Cover star: Anderson Silva Release date: February 2012

    Tying Silva’s downhill slide to his appearance on the cover of UFC Undisputed 3 is probably unfair, but it’s still pretty compelling.

    Cursed? Maybe .

  • Review: ‘Fallout 4’ is a fantastic, familiar trip through the apocalypse

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 3 mths ago

    If Fallout has taught us anything, it’s that time is fleeting. Life is precious. The good times can vanish in one mushroom-shaped flash.

    So let’s cut right to the chase: Fallout 4 is an exceptional video game, a sprawling, well-nigh endless jaunt through a dangerous wasteland packed with valuable bottlecaps, mutated beasts, and people needing a helping — or harming — hand. It’s big and busy and everything you’d expect from the sequel to 2008’s revered Fallout 3 .

    And, chances are, your expectations are sky-high. Seven years in the making, the first Fallout on the new consoles has been the lead car on the video game hype train for half a year; with visions of Fallout 3 ’s amazing world scavenging around in our brains, gamers have eagerly anticipated what, exactly, this irradiated beast of a role-playing game would do to our lives.

    But it starts off with a bang. A big one.

    Related: Review: 'The Witcher 3' casts a mean spell

    Thankfully, you can largely ignore the settlement business and instead focus on the real meat of Fallout 4 : killing stuff.

  • Review: Sci-fi hijinks liven up ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops III’

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 3 mths ago

    That might be Fallout 4 , or perhaps Star Wars: Battlefront . Maybe it's Halo 5: Guardians, which just landed, and Lara Croft is back in a few days with Rise of the Tomb Raider . Traditionally, other video games get out of Call of Duty’s way in early November, smartly distancing themselves from the game’s blast zone and the ensuing week when seemingly half of the planet is shooting each other online.

    Not so in 2015. With huge games around every corner, this is the year the video game industry came to play. It’s also the year Call of Duty decided to get playful.

    Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a seriously beefy video game, packing three fully realized modes, plenty of sci-fi powers, and a handful of bonus experiences that could probably be standalone games in their own right. Yes, it’s still largely about dudebros duding out and shooting out, and yes, your preconceptions about this franchise means you likely made up your mind before even clicking on this review. But get out of your head and you’ll find a surprisingly interesting shooter, one that manages to toy with Call of Duty ’s staid conventions in clever ways.

    Platform reviewed: PS4

  • Review: ‘Halo 5: Guardians’ saves its so-so story with marvelous multiplayer

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 3 mths ago

    Even a grizzled supersoldier needs friends.

    That’s the take-home message of Halo 5: Guardians . Microsoft’s latest entry in its 14-year-old first-person shooter franchise — the first to be built from the ground up for the Xbox One — breaks from tradition by sprinkling team-based dynamics throughout both its solo campaign and its various multiplayer modes. It’s a Halo to be enjoyed with others.

    OK, it’s much more than that. Halo 5 is the biggest Xbox One exclusive of the year. With Sony’s Uncharted 4 and Nintendo’s Star Fox getting pushed back to 2016, it’s the biggest exclusive game for any system this holiday. That’s a treat for a console maker, and luckily for Microsoft, Halo 5 delivers where it counts. This is a gorgeous, streamlined video game, and while it stumbles with its storytelling, it soars with some of the best online play the series has ever seen.

    Its plot, however, has seen better days.

    Where Halo 5 ’s storytelling takes a turn for the worse, its mechanics have never been better.

    But Halo 5 shines brightest in its multiplayer — specifically, in a brand-new mode called Warzone.

    What’s Hot: Warzone, all the way; looks and sounds fantastic; faster than the average Halo