Conan

It may not be as technically refined as God of War, but Conan for the Xbox 360 is a faithful and fun translation of character from page to game. You can now find this game for $10 or under (mine was slightly under $10 from GoGamer, including shipping), which makes this a definite buy for hack-and-slash fans or fans of the Conan books, movies, or comics.

Conan really wants to be God of War. I’m not referring to the character, of course. Our favorite Cimmerian is quite happy being the barbarian and thief that he is, and he has no desire to switch roles with Kratos. Conan for the Xbox 360 is reminiscent of the God of War games on the PS2, though, from its emphasis on stringing together multiple-hit combos against numerous enemies to its control scheme, including its “Battle Actions” (sequences of onscreen button presses). Considering that Conan and Kratos share many of the same qualities (they are both strong, independent, ruthless, and womanizing warriors), it is understandable why the developers would choose to copy the gameplay of God of War, but how well did they replicate this highly regarded game?

Well, They replicated it well. However, there are enough flaws to prevent this game from reaching the level of God of War.

The most apparent weakness in this game is its graphics. The God of War games showed us what the PS2 was capable of doing graphically, but Conan seems to tap very little of the Xbox 360’s potential. This game would have been more acceptable as an early Xbox 360 title, but it was released in 2007 after games like Gears of War, which treated us with some amazing visuals. Frankly, if you compare the graphics in Conan to those in even the first God of War game, God of War comes out on top. This is most noticeable in the cut scenes, which look like they came straight out of a last-generation game. In fact, the weakness of the cut scene graphics almost prevented me from picking up this game, as I thought it would be representative of the game’s polish as a whole. However, the in-game graphics are much better and or only noticeably subpar when viewed closely (for example, when zooming in on the many topless women Conan rescues throughout the game).

The controls in Conan are good, for the most part. New combos and special attacks are unlocked by spending red runes you collect during the game, and these are generally easy to pull off. Each time you use a combo or special attack, you work toward mastering it. Mastering all the attacks for a weapon type (single weapon, two weapon, and two-handed weapon) opens up achievements. The manual states that two-weapon attacks are weaker and are more useful for normal enemies, but I ended up using two-weapon attacks for the majority of the game. First, it’s just fun to see Conan slice and dice his enemies, a sword in one hand and an axe in the other. Second, I found the two-handed weapon attacks too slow, leaving me open for attack. In fact, there are some enemies I just could not hit with a two-handed weapon. Overall, the fighting in this game is very satisfactory; however, the platforming is a different matter. Conan’s jump is not as responsive as it could be, and a lot of times, you will miss a jump or not grab onto a ledge even though it appears onscreen that you should have. It seems appropriate that my last review was for Astyanax for the NES, since it was another hack-and-slash game brought down by cheap pit deaths. Seems like some pesky traits of the genre persist, even after fifteen years.

Though I haven’t read any Conan for a while, from what I remember, this game has done well in capturing the theme of Robert E. Howard’s books. Conan’s attitude seem like it may be toned down a little, but the way in which he dismembers his enemies, sending them to the ground with streams of blood, is appropriate for his character. Add to this the aforementioned topless maidens in distress, and we have a very barbaric, very male-centric atmosphere that we would expect from a Conan game.

It may not be as technically refined as God of War, but Conan for the Xbox 360 is a faithful and fun translation of character from page to game. You can now find this game for $10 or under (mine was slightly under $10 from GoGamer, including shipping), which makes this a definite buy for hack-and-slash fans or fans of the Conan books, movies, or comics.

Recommended (highly recommended for Conan and hack-and-slash fans)

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Kameo: Elements of Power

Though Kameo: Elements of Power may not have been a ground-shattering release title for the 360, it is a very solid game that you may find yourself having trouble pulling away from.

The time is autumn 2005. Microsoft releases the successor to the Xbox. Gamers are looking for the title that showcases what the Xbox 360 can do and justifies its $400 price tag. That game is Kameo.

Well, maybe not. If you’re like me, whenever a new generation of consoles is released, the biggest question that comes to mind is how they can provide a gaming experience that feels more real. A game about an elf girl who can change into different elemental beings that relies on cartoony—though nicely done—graphics . . . well, that’s not the type of game that will catch my eye with a new console release. In fact, it took me until nearly three years into the Xbox 360’s lifespan to finally try out this game, and I have to say that I had been depriving myself of a really enjoyable experience.

The story is Kameo is nothing really new. It’s a fairy tale involving a jealous sister, a dark enemy from the past resurfacing, family members being kidnapped, and a lone hero who must confront evil to save the world. As our heroine Kameo travels from various lands to confront this evil, she rescues elemental warriors whom she can call upon to help her defeat her enemies. Some of these warriors you will find yourself using rarely, especially those found later in the game like Snare and Flex, but some you will find yourself using much more often than Kameo, whose fighting abilities are very limited.

As I mentioned earlier, Kameo relies on more cartoonish graphics, but they are very well done. Occasionally, I thought that there was room for improvement (for instance, I believe Kameo’s model could have been smoothed out a little), but overall, the presentation is very good. Though the game is primarily our heroine travelling from place to place battling small groups of enemies, she will sometimes have to traverse the Badlands to get to the next area. The Badlands are teeming with armies of trolls engaged in combat with elven warriors, and you will feel the influence of The Lord of the Rings as the camera swoops over the conflict. Sometimes, you will be pulled back into the Badlands in order to complete a specific task, like destroying catapults that are attacking an elemental totem. These battles seem a little like filler material, but they are enjoyable and show off a little of what the 360 can do as you wade through tons of enemies.

As you progress through the quest, you will find things that, though they aren’t entirely necessary to complete the game, enhance the experience and may bring you back to play even after you have vanquished the giant troll Thorn once again. Since you can revisit areas even after you finish the game, there is some replay value here for those who must find everything.

Though Kameo: Elements of Power may not have been a ground-shattering release title for the 360, it is a very solid game that you may find yourself having trouble pulling away from (I played it from beginning to end in a weekend—something I rarely do anymore). Given that you can find it now as a bargain title, there’s no reason not to add this one to your collection.

Recommended