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The Cursed Crusade is cursed today

The Cursed Crusade is quite possibly the greatest hair salon simulator ever created. With a tailored swift swipe, you and your magical sword can both cut off a man's head and render his scalp hairless at the same time! "But Marc, why would anyone want a haircut as I die?" What a silly question, but I'll humor you with an answer: necrophilia is steadily growing in popularity and if I was going to get sexually molested by fetishistic necrophiles, I would sure as hell want to look good while it happens.

Jokes aside, what I have played of The Cursed Crusade was rather awful on almost every level. The combat is boring and repetitive, the controls are sluggish, the visuals are visually unappealing, and the game has more bugs than my soon-to-be molested copse. It somewhat feels like an attempt to mix Assassin's Creed with more fantasy elements, but  the execution leaves me wishing for my own execution, as my brief time brought no fun and little material for puns. You-all can try out the game for yourself in a demo available now on Xbox LIVE and PSN. Go cut some hair.

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Quickie: Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster (Xbox 360)

As someone who spends absolutely no time with children, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is a must-buy for anyone with children, so start impregnating everyone you see if you're in dire need of an excuse to play this adorable game. Is the game really a must-buy for parents? I actually can't answer that for two reasons: one, as stated earlier, I have no child or spend time with children in general; and two, I only played a snippet and cannot comment on the game as a whole. That said, Once Upon a Monster has all the charm of Sesame Street and was a solid experience I can only assume a child, and parents alike, would love long time.

In my little time with the uncharacteristically friendly monsters, I was immediately impressed with the amount of color and vibrancy. The game is by no means a visual powerhouse technically, but the style and Sesame Street vibe is in full effect. In addition to the psychedelic,  but drug-free, visuals, the audio is all top-notch, with characters voiced by their actual voice actors. Every crevice feels right and the Kinect controls all seem to work rather well, but nothing I played required precise controls—such as dancing, sneaking, and creeping around—so that may be part of the reason.

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Quickie: Chester (XBLIG)

The Xbox LIVE Indie Games coverage has been severely lacking as of late. When I say, "severely lacking," I mean non-existent. This has been due to many reasons—none greater than my own laziness—but I hope to change this and return to my once pseudo-glory. This here post is just the beginning and while going through dozens of XBLI games as August turned into September, one game stood out. The game capable of standing on its hind legs would be Chester, and while I haven't played it for hours, my brief time with the game has left an impression.

Chester is beautiful, if a little rough, and has a great style, a style that seems to change from level to level and can be manually controlled by the player. The ability to switch styles/characters—once unlocked, of course—breathes a certain life into the game and keeps it fresh like an icebox—I'm old. As someone who tends to be more critical when it comes to visuals, it's nice to see an indie game appease my four eyes. Along with lovely visuals, Chester's presentation and way of delivering information is well-implemented and  something a lot of smaller developers tend to ignore.

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Quickie: Dead Island (Multi)

Dead Island is one of my favorite games this year, which is funny when it comes from the same developers [Techland] of one of my most hated games all year: Call of Juarez: The Cartel. I would rather smuggle drugs for the cartel by placing countless bags of coke in an extremely uncomfortable place—no, not a Volkswagen—than play The Cartel. Dead Island could, without question, use some polish, but it has the kind of hooks capable of addicting me in the same way coke hooks a cokehead.

The hooks I speak of are a leveling system with numerous upgrades and an open-world that actually feels open. A well-implemented leveling system—which The Cartel does not have—is enough for me to play the absolute worst games, but that's not to say Dead Island is a bad game. The leveling system featured in Dead Island is similar to games like Borderlands, with three columns of differing themes, leaving many choices, many hard choices. Each level feels earned and I was addicted to getting experience points in whatever way possible. The game also manages to have a environment that feels completely open despite that being false. It may be due to the island setting, but for the most part, I never felt like I wasn't free, except the moment I was being warned about leaving the game area.

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Impressions: Madden 12

Having just played the Madden 12 demo, I am surprised by my ability to successfully run the ball on a consistent basis. In fact, I am surprised by the overall quality of Madden's gameplay in general this year. The tackling, physics, and ability to play a more balanced game are all improved and this is the first time I have been excited about a Madden game in years, possibly the first time since NFL 2K's murder. There are many tweaks that all come together to deliver an experience where no single aspect is always the way to go—i.e. always blitzing or running slot routes.

The improved gameplay is accompanied by much needed improvements to presentation—such as team-specific intros and an overall look more reminiscent to an actual football game. The most impressive improvement, however, is the detail put into Jay Cutler's massive eye-bags. That being said, the visuals are very much the same and I really wish there would be a jump in quality at any point in time. By any point in time, I mean why is the series still unable to blow my mind visually?

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