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'Uprising', 'Stacking' polar opposites

Apr 19, 2011

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Hard Corps: Uprising

More than 20 years after the first Contra game was released, gamers get yet another entry in the series in the form of Hard Corps: Uprising. And two-plus decades later, the Contra staples are still there: the Spread Gun, the Konami code, and most importantly, an absolutely punishing difficulty.

Hard Corps: Uprising Fans of the series want one thing and one thing only, and that is to have the difficulty ramped way, way up. Anything less is an insult to the old-school gaming that has gone to the wayside in recent years. Those gamers will not be disappointed, because as different as Uprising looks (and despite dropping the 'Contra' name altogether), this is Contra through and through.

But in an age where the almighty dollar truly reigns supreme, a game that's as typically inaccessible to most gamers as Contra doesn't make sense financially.

Enter Uprising's 'Rising' mode.

In Rising mode, players earn points as they go through each level. These points can then be spent unlocking numerous power-ups that carry over the next time you play. You'll be able to gain extra hit slots (yes, this game has those!), special moves, guns that upgrade faster, and a whole bunch more.

For anyone who finds the difficulty simply too much - and that'll be 95% of the gamers out there - Rising Mode is the obvious alternative to classic Arcade mode.

Problem is, even with all the power-ups, Rising mode isn't a lot of fun. Right from the opening level, the difficulty is ramped up so high, it'll take dozens of playthroughs to get through the game. You can always start from the last level you played or any in between, but if you're stuck somewhere, it probably means you need more power-ups, which means going back to the first or maybe - maybe - the second level and earning some easy (that term is used very loosely) points.

This is probably a subtle way of getting less experienced players to get better at each level by playing through it repeatedly, but the typical person playing in Rising mode doesn't want to play through a level that many times.

Hard Corps: Uprising In terms of actual gameplay, Uprising has everything you'd expect from the series, and a few surprises. Players run and gun their way through each side-scrolling level while snagging special guns that make getting through the game much, much easier. Though one-hit kills can be turned off, if you get hit, you still lose whatever gun you have equipped.

One really cool addition to Uprising is the ability to do a quick dash, either while on the ground or in the air. It may seem like a small thing, but the midair dash is not only a lot of fun once you've mastered it, it's downright required if you want to avoid the attacks of certain bosses.

Another addition to the game is a sneaking level. The protagonists do their best Solid Snake impression by going through a factory while sneaking around under boxes, avoiding the detection of sentries and cameras all over the place. It's neat that developer Arc Work Systems tried something new, but it really doesn't work.

There's also online and local co-op, but unless both players are of the exact same skill level, this is probably only going to slow one person down. Having an extra gun is a good thing, but when quick, pinpoint jumps are needed (read: often), it's all too easy to kill the other player but jumping too high too quickly, causing him to die if he or she is too far off the screen.

For the most hardcore Contra fan, Uprising certainly fits the bill. But despite one or two neat ideas and a lot of ambition, the game still doesn't come close to earlier games in the series in terms of outright fun. Heck, even Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS was more memorable in more ways.

 

Hard Corps: Uprising
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Arc System Works
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Official Site: http://www.konami.com/officialsites/hardcorpsuprising/

Rating: 5.5 / 10

Stacking

If there's one genre that's sorely underused in the gaming world, it's the one that uses Russian matryoshka dolls.

For anyone who doesn't know what those are, they're the sets of dolls that increase in size and stack one into the other (or decrease in size as you unstack them).

In the charming Double Fine Productions game 'Stacking', gamers take control of Charlie Blackmore, the smallest in a family of matryoshka dolls. Charlie is tiny, but is given the large task of freeing his siblings. After their father mysteriously disappears one day, all the children except for Charlie are forced into labour to work off debts that the family is unable to pay.

Stacking Each sibling resides in a different place, and these places make up the levels in the game. The player is told what must be done to free a specific sibling - for instance, in the first level, a lounge full of rich people must be cleared out - but the challenge is figuring out how to get to said result.

The key here is that Charlie can 'stack' into just about any character he comes across. Once he's stacked, he gains that person's ability. These abilities could be anything from yelling, to riding a bike, to passing gas. Charlie has to make his way around the bustling levels, talking to as many people as he can to figure out what he needs to do, and how he needs to get it done.

The beauty of Stacking is that even if you're stuck trying to figure out what you need to do, it's an absolute blast simply walking around, getting up to hijinks (there are actual hijinks side-quests, in fact!), and just hearing what people have to say.

For those who aren't the most logical thinkers, there is a generous hint system that can help nudge you in the right direction. That being said, if you simply must figure things out yourself, the game will let you do just that and stay out of your way.

Stacking There's only a handful of levels and finishing the main missions likely won't take up that much time, but there are plenty of side missions to complete that help take up more time. There's also an achievement gallery of sorts that you can visit, which illustrates murals from levels you've played, as well as a stand that shows all the characters you've stacked into.

The biggest complaints about Stacking are the length - even with side missions, seasoned puzzle gamers will get through pretty quickly - and the controls that feel like they could stand to be tightened a little. There is no speaking in the game, with the plot being presented in an 'olde time-y' way, using moving pictures followed by text to move through the plot. It's a really neat idea, but for those who don't want to read a lot and would rather just plow through the plot, it could become annoying.

Despite this minor issues, Stacking is a very unique game that's worth a look. There's just enough to keep players busy for long enough to justify the price tag, and stacking into just about any character around never gets old.

 

Stacking
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Double Fine Productions
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone 10+
Official Site: http://thq.com/us/game/show/6516/Stacking

Rating: 8 / 10

 
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