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Sore Thumbs

3/5/2014

thief2‘THIEF’    (M)

***

Square Enix

PlayStation 4

Full disclosure: “Thief: Deadly Shadows” is my favorite game of all time. It was the final installment in the “Thief” trilogy, and I have waited ten long years for a sequel. Unfortunately, after the decade mark, games don’t get sequels — they get reboots. So “Thief” is a reinvention of the series, cobbled together from a few elements pickpocketed from its predecessors and a whole lot stolen from contemporary first-person games. The result is a mixed bag of loot. So I’m not sure how to fence this stuff. For “Thief” fans, we’ve got master thief Garrett (sort of), a beautifully dark, steampunk cityscape, and lengthy load times that’ll make you feel like you’re playing a game from Thief’s heyday. For inexperienced burglars, we’ve got a Focus Mode (similar to Detective Vision in “Arkham Asylum”) that exposes all valuables ripe for the taking, and a “Swoop” move that allows you to dart from shadow to shadow unseen, much like “Blink” in “Dishonored” — a game that was heavily inspired by the original “Thief” games.

The biggest gripe from longtime Thief fans is likely to be the depiction of Garrett. Clearly this guy has never cracked a vault containing a personality. Original voice actor Stephen Russell’s laconic cynicism might’ve made the ridiculous narrative more palatable, but generic Romano Orzari makes us roll our eyes as though we’re actually there. Ignoring the story, the individual missions are, for the most part, satisfying. There are multiple possible routes into every stronghold and plenty of varied tools you can use to open new entryways or incapacitate guards along the way. Focus Mode proves to be as garish a crutch as Detective Vision, making reconnaissance too easy while simultaneously simplifying the otherwise gorgeous visuals. What we’re ultimately left with is an unremarkable but certainly decent stealth game. But with a legacy as impressive as this, a merely “decent” game is just plain criminal.

 

professorbox‘PROFESSOR LAYTON AND THE AZRAN LEGACY’    (E10+)

***1/2

Nintendo

Nintendo 3DS

“Professor Layton” games are essentially anime TV shows with a few puzzles thrown in to keep you interested. After several of these games, the onslaught of math problems, vague riddles and alignment puzzles are starting to show their age. But the mystery remains compelling (even when the investigators are needlessly verbose). And there are a handful of new mini-games to play around with in case you tire of the good professor’s exploits. This point-n-click style adventure won’t be winning over any new fans, but seasoned veterans can be assured that they will enjoy more of the same.

 

striderboxSTRIDER    (E10+)

***1/2

Capcom

PlayStation 4

Before “Street Fighter II,” Capcom packed arcades with the sidescrolling adventures of a nimble ninja named Strider. This modern take on the fifteen-year old franchise equips Strider with a bevy of unlockable upgrades and sets him loose in a world of updated (if somewhat drab) graphics. It’s very much like “Metroid,” but replaces the requisite arm canon with close-quarters melee combat.  Some backtracking is required, but when you can slide and slice your way past enemies with this kind of ease, a little repetition is acceptable. CV

Matthew Scott Hunter studied video games extensively while attending the University of Nevada Reno and Vancouver Film School (despite the fact that video games were not part of either school’s curriculum). He has been writing Sore Thumbs since 2004.

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