in orbit

I mostly talk about video games and the world wide web


I Made A Meat Boy Thing

Super Meat Boy is a game that appealed to me on a pretty fundamental level. It's a platformer focused on speed and crazy, well-timed jumps and has relatively little penalty for mistakes (you restart what is generally a pretty short level). It's basically the platform game I've always wanted. I was almost compelled to play it, even though at times it evoked high levels of frustration. The main thing about that, however, was even though I would mash my fleshy body into a saw blade (the same saw blade) dozens upon dozens of times I always knew why I had screwed up and I never blamed the game for being unfair. Not even once.

So with the release of the level editor I decided to see what I could come up with and I put together a five-level chapter called "Brownie Goes To Hell" which I'm fairly pleased with. It's not perfect but if you have the PC version of Super Meat Boy you should load up Super Meat World (which requires twenty bandages to unlock) and search for it in the chapters section, if you're so inclined. I hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Games Completed: Shank

Shank is really short, which is why I finished it about day after I posted that I had started it (I just didn't get around to writing a review until now). The game told me I finished it in a little over three and a half hours though that probably doesn't include deaths and such because Steam says I played it for 5.1 hours. Regardless, it's very short and more or less pretty straightforward. You have a few weapons, you beat up a bunch of dudes and then you face a boss. Rinse, repeat.

The good is that the game looks great, and the animation is pretty spectacular, particularly when switching between each weapon as you fight. The transitions there are seamless. I believe they actually hand animated each possible combo, which makes sense since it's the only way to achieve the look they ended up with. The game is also stylish and I like the art style a lot.

The combat is mostly fun but like a lot of beat-em-ups it wears thin after a bit and maybe 75% into the game I kind of started getting tired of it. There's not a heck of a lot of variation to the enemies as far as functionality goes, but they all look different enough that it doesn't matter too much.

The bosses are all pretty cool but with the exception of the final one they're all a matter of biding time until they enter one specific sequence at which point you can grapple or pounce them to take away a big portion of their health. You can spend hours chipping away if you want but that's obviously not really worth it. Repeat four times and they're dead. It's fine but none of them are overly challenging. Though there is one boss in particular (the second to last one) who is a bit quirky. It took me entirely too long to figure out that you can only pounce him from one side, otherwise your pounce will miss entirely.

There's also a slight amount of platforming to be done, though little of it is overly difficult, but it does help keep the game interesting at the end. My major complaint about the platforming is that it almost feels too simple, making it something like a 2D Uncharted 2 where one button does everything and the main character will just grab the only thing he can because there's really no other way to go. Not that I expect non-linearity, but something that makes you feel like you are actually in control of the movement is much more satisfying to me.

There's a story as well but it's mostly a poorly done rip-off of Kill Bill, which I'm sure was not the first revenge story but Shank certainly takes great pains to utilize many of Kill Bill's plot points. Of course cramming five hours of movie into maybe 15 minutes of cutscenes is a bit difficult so it ends up feeling very rushed. In fact it almost feels like they wanted the entire game to be you searching for the first guy and then suddenly more characters are introduced. It ends up feeling sloppy.

There's also the matter of really having no emotional attachment to the characters (including the titular character) so when something bad happens to one of them you kind of don't care. Shank himself is supposed to garner some feelings of sympathy from the player, however he is basically an emotionless killing machine throughout the game, so it's difficult to do so. I realize critiquing the emotional attachment to characters a short beat-em-up is a bit of a pointless thing to do but the game clearly intends for you to care on some level. Otherwise it could very easily play from some kind of campy Bad Dudes angle or at the very least dispense with the flashbacks and reveals and just stay light on the story (nobody would fault it for doing so). It just ends up as a sort of mishmash of something that was intended to be serious but is impossible to take seriously because not enough time was spent on it.

Regardless I enjoyed it enough to complete it (in spite of it slightly overstaying its welcome), so I guess it's a success in that way. I look forward to the developer's next project since there is a good base for a game here, and I have heard from a developer at Klei that they learned a lot from making the game, which is always good news.


Games Started: Shank and Amnesia

This very first, very exciting video game-related update is the first two games I started this year, both on January 1st.


Shank is the tale of a dude named Shank and some guy killed his wife and then it sort of turns into an even worse version of Kill Bill. But basically it's a side scrolling beat-em-up. It doesn't present much new as far as mechanics and gameplay go, but it's pretty fun if not a bit repetitive. I imagine I'm close to the end at this point having put in 96 minutes according to Steam.

Amnesia: Dark Descent

I'm not posting any gameplay screenshots because I saw one and I think it may have spoiled something for me, though I'm still totally not looking forward to it. This game kind of reminds me a little of Thief though without all the stealing and stealth stuff and more with the spooky castle in an outdated engine. Still, it has so far done a pretty fine job of building up a spooky atmosphere and I haven't crapped myself yet but I'm certainly a little pensive while I play it, which is something games seldom (ever?) do for me. Generally when a game is supposed to be scary I just find it lame. I only played it on the 1st for 83 minutes (thanks Steam!) but I'll be going back to it in the future.


It's Time For Video Games!

This year, the year of our Lord, is the year I think I will blog about video games. Specifically I will blog about each one I play and each one I complete. These two lists will overlap, you see. That way I can look back and see what I've done with my life over the past year, and that will largely revolve around playing games. I'm sure there are better uses of my time, but hell if I can think of any of them. It's gonna be great! First update incoming!

Something I Never Thought I'd Say

So I got to play Duke Nukem Forever this weekend. That's pretty weird.

Three Stories

You are alone. Or at least it seems that way at first glance. In front of you are grassy hills spattered with trees, and behind them lie some larger mountains and some odd looking stone structures. You turn around and see sand and a vast body of water. Is it an ocean or just a large lake? Difficult to say. You can see some islands off in the distance but not much else. You take in your surroundings and gradually realize that you're not actually alone. Up on the hills appear to be a few cows and a pig. They don't seem to be doing much, but it's nice to know living things inhabit this place.

Okay, now what? Better look around, right? Seems logical. You head towards the hills and mountains. You discover hidden alcoves and shallow caves. You meet more cows and pigs and even some sheep and ducks. What exactly is this place? You keep wandering and eventually stumble onto a much deeper cave. It's dark and scary inside. You can't even venture too far in before it becomes impossible to navigate in the dark. You turn around and head back to the outside. The sun is setting. That makes you nervous, though you're not sure why. Maybe you should take up refuge in this cave? That thought doesn't sit well with you, plus the cave is too dark anyway. Instead you dig up some dirt with your bare hands, just enough to make a small makeshift house in the side of a mountain. You leave only an opening big enough to walk out of.

Continue reading...


Video Games: The Revenge

I have some other stuff half written but not completed which includes my 'best of 2009' list (February isn't too late to put that out, right?) and one or two other random articles. Before I potentially get around to finishing those I would like to note that since my video games update I have actually completed Trine, Machinarium and Hitman: Blood Money from that list. I also played a good deal of Torchlight though I didn't beat it. On top of that I purchased Crysis and Crysis Warhead and beat both of them. So I'm pretty happy about that too! Still a lot of other stuff waiting to be checked out, but I never expected to finish all of that. Oh, all of those games are totally worth checking out, by the way. Blood Money in particular is pretty great. Video games!

Game of the Years

While I will probably write up some kind of non-definitive list of games I liked best in 2009, there is one game not released in 2009 I feel deserves some attention. Somehow Team Fortress 2 has been getting constant, content-heavy updates since its release in 2007. While there's the usual new maps and game modes (which sometimes piggyback existing maps and modes) the concept of adding new weapons to each class that need to be unlocked (or found) is a highly interesting concept.

One of the most recent additions is the WAR! update, which comprised of new unlocks for both the soldier and demoman. The latter class I barely ever play as because of my complete inability to face off against anyone coming directly after me. I've mostly taken to wearing a top hat and running around with a sword (which I got as a random drop). The soldier, however, is a bit more my speed. It's the most 'classic' of all the classes, as you get a shotgun and rocket launcher (and a nearly useless melee weapon). My main gripe with the soldier was always the speed of the rockets.

As a way of perhaps trying to keep them from being overpowered, soldiers can only chamber four rockets at a time and they are rather slow and the reload animation is fairly lengthy. My main issue was the rocket speed, as it forced most soldiers into a mid-to-short range game of shooting people in the feet. But no more! The new weapon, dubbed The Direct Hit, rewards people who hit guys directly. The damage is 25% higher and the speed is 80% greater, making them pretty fast. The downside is that there's almost no splash damage, so if you miss even by a little it's mostly wasted. I was never amazing at Quake 3, but I always enjoyed the hell out of it, with the rocket launcher being a primary reason.

None of the unlockable weapons are a huge improvement over what they replace. The scout's melee replacement, the Sandman, is a bat that's identical to the default one, except that you can also hit a baseball that stuns any enemies it hits from within a certain distance. The downside is that you have 30 hit points fewer, but with a scout that doesn't necessarily matter.

Some unlockables are just plain fun. The sniper can use a bow and arrow called the Huntsman. It's inferior to the sniper rifle in every way possible, except that you can shoot arrows which can pin bodies to the wall or stick out of them if you connect but fail to make a kill.

Valve deserves a lot of credit for breathing new life into this game on a pretty constant basis. It's not something many game companies could ever afford to do, which is why the situation is so unique. Since TF2's initial release I've dropped it and come back a number of times (probably four or five), when generally with online multiplayer games the first time I drop it ends up being the only time.

It's not a game that was released in 2009, but it's certainly one that I enjoyed a lot in 2009, and that's pretty cool.

I Hate Video Games

I've suddenly become overwhelmed with games I own (or am planning on buying) but haven't completed (or bought) yet. It's a lame ass problem to have for sure, but I can't recall this being much of an issue in my life before.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla - I really want to finish this but I haven't had the time. Nevermind that I never played the second one (though the first one was great), I'm trying not to think about that. It's fun but kind of repetitive, but it also fuels my desire to be a gigantic asshole (in space).

  • Trine - I put off buying this even though I loved the demo and now it's $20 on Steam and I pretty much need to buy it.

  • Machinarium - I played the demo and I liked it a lot, plus I like the stuff these guys have done before this game. It probably won't take me too long to beat either, maybe I can put it off or something.

  • Hitman: Blood Money - Highly recommended and bought during a $5 Steam sale. I am pretty sure I will love this game, but it's also probably going to sit in my Steam list, uninstalled, for a while. Kind of like Beyond Good & Evil did.

  • Time Gentlemen, Please! and Ben There, Dan That - Also bought for $5 on Steam! I heard these are good and funny and I wanted to support the developers. I haven't had time! I think I might play these on my laptop over Thanksgiving (possibly along with Machinarium).

  • Torchlight - I'm not even sure why I want to buy this, but it sounds neat and everyone is heaping positive praise onto it. I've never played Diablo (which angers many, many people apparently) so I guess maybe I don't know what I'm getting myself into. I haven't bought this yet, but I probably will!

  • STALKER - I got this for $5 on D2D. I'm pretty sure I'll think it's great, but it's going to sit around for a while like Blood Money.

  • Brutal Legend - I have a copy but I haven't started it at all yet! I might hate 50% of it! I'll probably like the world design a ton though.

  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - I don't even own a PS3 yet but I need to play these! The first one is like $28 or something so that's pretty cheap.

  • Super Metroid - Some day I'll play this game!
So there you go. Video games.

Scribble Me This

Scribblenauts is a game you may have heard of. Made by 5th Cell (makers of no games I've ever played, though Drawn to Life is easily their most popular release) this game just kind of popped out of nowhere during E3 this year. It ended up winning a number of 'Best In Show' awards (extremely rare for a DS game) and certainly was the most popular DS game shown off during that time period.

If you don't already know, the basic premise of Scribblenauts is that you solve puzzles by conjuring items. More or less any item can be spawned, from mundane things like types of food, to useful items like guns and swords, to animals, to mythical creatures (Kraken, Cuthlulu, Spring Heeled Jack, Jersey Devil, the list goes on) to downright ridiculous things like 'Ninja Shark' and 'Robosaur'. The levels of the game come in two types: action and puzzle. Puzzle levels generally you need to spawn something that someone (or something) in the level will find useful. For example early in the game you need to give a fireman, chef, policeman and doctor an item they will find useful. So, spawning an ax, butcher knife, billy club and stethoscope will win you the level. Action levels are more general and usually involve you murdering something and arranging items in order to complete the level.

Now bear with me, because I'm about to say something not overly flattering about Scribblenauts. The main issue with the game is that it feels very clumsy. Interaction between items is usually pretty limited and things usually only try and eat each other. And while there is a huge (and impressive) collection of things you can spawn, many of them are useless or even extraneous (I mean, will I ever really need to use baklava?). You end up using only a small collection of items to solve most of the puzzles, and of course you can purposely attempt to be more creative, but it often ends up sinking your proverbial ship.

An example, a few missions require you to get a person or thing to a new location on the map. In your way could be treachery and many perils. You could lead the thing along and fight off threats as they come, or you could spawn a helicopter, rope, and just airlift your subject to safety. I have attempted some kind of crazy scheme involving a ton of items or a crazy contraption numerous times, but often it ends with a colossal amount of failure. When that happens enough you end up busting out the old standbys and you finish the puzzle, but it feels sort of empty. It's weird to have so much at your disposal and potentially never using more than a small fraction of it.

That all said, when the game works, it works really well. As you play through the puzzles and they get more difficult you can end up stitching together some very elaborate things that don't always work exactly as planned, but many times a horrible failure can lead to a ridiculous victory. These moments make you feel like some kind of clumsy MacGuyver, where instead of inexplicably pulling off a ridiculous escape in your coffin jetski maybe the jetski hits a rock and does a flip in the air, explodes, catches a rope on fire and drops the starrite into your lap. Sure it wasn't elegant or at all what you intended, but it was pretty damned fun.

Weirdly Scribblenauts shares a lot in common with Far Cry 2. Not in any semblance of the gameplay of course, but in what exactly makes the game interesting to play. Far Cry 2 was very much about the experience of playing the game. The unpredictability that came with broken weapons and having Malaria. The war stories you told of the time you were sniping at some guys and an RPG exploded the truck next to you and you had to make a ridiculous run for cover because the grass you were standing in caught fire. Scribblenauts war stories are of course a bit more ridiculous (a lot more ridiculous, really) but that's where the true draw of the game lies. Telling your friends how you spawned a tiger to kill the leprechaun or that you discovered some insane thing.

That's really what games are about, or what the best games are about anyway. A major failing of game companies is thinking that the GTA3 series of games were popular because of the open world, and the subsequent burst of GTA3 'clones'. When people talk about GTA3, they don't talk about how big the world is, or how many missions the game has, they talk about the time they holed up at the car dealership and held off the army for 10 minutes before making a mad dash to a fast car and fleeing only to hit a ramp wrong and meet a watery demise.

Scribblenauts has that ability, and any game that can manage to make the player's individual experience the star of the show is okay by me. It's not perfect, but then again, I don't know if I'd want it to be. When everything goes terribly wrong and explodes in your face it's not frustrating, because now you have a story to tell for your troubles. Hitting reload isn't something you dread, it becomes something you almost look forward to, and there's something pretty great about that.

Pretty Awesome eXpo

I have a fairly substantial write-up coming where I outline all the totally sweet (and totally lame) games I played or watched someone play at PAX, but it turns out there are an asston of them and it takes a long time to write about an asston of games. Asston, by the way, is a real unit of measurement. I think it's British.

At any rate, I have had some thoughts about PAX kicking around, and after reading both Simon Carless' analysis on why PAX works and Steve Gaynor's blog post about game experience (which isn't related to PAX at all, but I think it applies) I feel I can pretty well put it into words, though perhaps only words that have already been spoken by those two.

Having never attended PAX before, I have to say I really enjoyed it. At the surface PAX is a pretty huge convention (2009's being the biggest yet), which would quickly bring up comparisons to E3 or San Diego Comic-Con (neither of which I have ever attended, though I know a lot about both). If you look at it from afar, and this is probably true for non-gamers, PAX is similar. A huge convention about video games and other geekery. Granted Comic-Con is spread out over a number of other things, but E3 seems like it would share a lot of similarities with PAX. This is not the case however.

I've heard PAX described as 'a large convention with a small convention feel' and that is pretty much the most accurate of a description you will get. Somehow a huge amalgam of gamers, both video and tabletop, have gathered in Seattle for one weekend solely due to promises of sweet games, cool events and of course game-related junk (free or otherwise). It's entirely a consumer show, catering to the people who, at the end of the day, make the video game industry run. Gamers. It's a pretty novel idea.

And PAX seems to be very genuine, which I think is the key to everything. There are areas where you can just go play games (PC, console, tabletop) if you don't want to take in any presentations or wait in any lines. You can preview some anticipated titles, or just goof around with friends. Or if you really want you can sit on a beanbag chair and play DS all day, because there are two or three hallways filled with the things. Can you imagine that happening at E3?

It's really something special to see it, really. Just tons and tons of people who love games and are there to enjoy themselves. It's something special, and I have to say in spite of what I thought, I really enjoyed myself. Pretty awesome.

Extremely Quick and Brief PAX Day 1 Impressions

Since I'm actually at PAX (unlike my lame E3 impressions) I can give more in-depth views of stuff since I can play some of them! Of course I am also somewhat busy, so I only have a brief moment to write up some stuff! If you want more sweet PAX stuff, I'm posting stuff on twitter pretty constantly.

God of War III - It's God of War for sure. It looks a ton better, but plays the same. If you enjoy God of War, you will love this game. Go buy a PS3. If you hate God of War, there's nothing new here for you except quick time events are a bit easier.

Halo 3 ODST - It's Halo 3 but without armor or regenerating health. I'm not sure I see a reason it's interesting, though it still has a very Halo feel. I only got to play their version of Hoard Mode (if you ever played Gears of War 2) so maybe there's more stuff.

Borderlands - Looks great. I am going to actually play it today, but what I have seen looks very cool.

That was lame, but there's more to come probably!

Touch A Spider

The iPhone as the future of portable gaming is a notion that's never really sat well with me. For one, when a device intended first to be a phone/media player/web browser gets shoehorned into being a gaming device after the fact it makes me a bit suspicious. Apple clearly designed the iPhone with ease of use in mind, but the ease of use that comes with things like web browsing, Google maps, email and various other applications used for day-to-day tasks doesn't necessarily translate to games.

The iPhone's most prominent feature is of course the touch screen. While the Nintendo DS also possesses such a feature, it also contains a standard set of buttons. The best DS games seem to be ones that utilize one or the other, with many mediocre games ending up as a painful mishmash of ideas. You get the sense the developer of these games really wanted to use the touch screen but perhaps didn't know the proper way to integrate it into their game.

So now the iPhone comes onto the scene without any buttons at all. This also creates the interesting issue for seasoned gamers of there being no feedback whatsoever. I've seen a number of games devote a portion of the screen to being a controller, however I've always felt this a sloppy implementation. Just touching a bit of the screen to shoot or move forward or any other action feels almost artificial. Likewise I feel using the iPhone's tilt mechanisms for almost anything feels clumsy and uninviting, plus you can end up looking pretty goofy if you play it in public.

So when presented with making a game for this device you end up with a lot of strange ports of games that perhaps shouldn't be on any portable, nevermind the iPhone in specific. First-person games like Wolfenstein 3D or Duke Nukem 3D or even Prey feel clumsy and unintuitive (Wolf3D, I would say has the best possible control implementation and still feels wrong). On the flip side there are also excellent implementations of the touch screen for some ports. SimCity and Civilization Revolution are excellent iPhone games since with both games the translation of mouse (or cursor) to finger is nearly 1:1.

The game I initially wanted to talk about before going on this tangent was Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, which utilizes the touch screen wonderfully. The premise of the game is pretty simple, you're a spider and you need to catch bugs. Most of them (with one exception) need to be caught in a web, which you can make with three or more strands of silk shaped into a triangle or any other closed shape. Different bugs have different behaviors and require different tactics to catch. Some need to be herded, some need to be tackled, and others just require some other level of prediction or trickery to catch. The gameplay is divided into levels consisting of a single area, each generally taking around five minutes to complete, making it perfect as a pick up and play type of game.

The real genius of the game, however, is the implementation of the controls. Touching to the right of the spider makes him move right, to the left he moves left. No clumsy pseudo-buttons or tilting needed. To make him jump you simply flick him in the direction you want him to go. Since he sticks to almost every surface and can jump quite far you generally don't need to worry about missed jumps or falling into a hole or anything. There's nothing at all that can cause instant death and, more importantly, nothing to cause instant frustration.

The web building mechanics are likewise intuitive and just plain fun to make. Some areas may require a bit more precision to form a proper web, especially later in the game, but there's nothing that I would consider an extreme difficulty curve. The most important aspect of the game is that in every way it's enjoyable to play. Once you beat the main adventure mode you unlock three additional game modes, which adds a pretty nice level of replayability to the game.

So there you go, I'm practically gushing over an iPhone game. Who would have thought? At $2.99 the game is a steal (iTunes link) and certainly worth picking up if you have a long trip coming up, or really even if you just want a cool game to play.

'Splosion Addendum

Just a few days ago I was singing the praises of 'Splosion Man, but you should know I had only been playing the game for about a day when I wrote that. I still agree with everything I wrote in spirit, but 'Splosion Man himself has decided to 'splode all over my face and become a hard game. It's not quite at Mega Man levels (at least not as of yet) but it's inducing more rage than I care for. Still, though, enjoyable when you finally get past one of those parts.

Also worth noting, the camera distance can be downright massive in this game. I have a 26" LCD TV, which used to be plenty, but at times 'Splosion Man will be under an inch tall on my screen. Sitting more than a couple feet away makes it difficult to tell where he is or what's happening at times. It's not a deal breaker, but certainly a point of extra frustration. Anyway, 'splode you later.

Holy Crap Stuff

If I may take a moment to stop talking about web browsers and video games (and analytics stats), I just need to go over the insanely hectic schedule that is my life over the next month and change. Realistically I'm not doing this for any other reason than to sort of put my thoughts into some tangible form that doesn't involve me thinking "HOLY FUCK" every 30 seconds. So I don't really need any sympathy (though I will accept it if you have any to give I suppose) and I'm not trying to weirdly impress anyone, though I can't imagine why anyone would think that since the aforementioned schedule involves two very nerdy conventions. Regardless!

So at current moment it is August 4th. The first thing on my list is Quakecon, which I am going to for the second time with the first one being in 2007. I mostly go to hang out with people from Game Fly and drink a lot, and it was pretty enjoyable (if not nerdy) in 2007. Anyway that's August 13 - August 16. The week I come back will likely be a very busy week at work, and the following weekend, August 22 - 23 will be spent packing because I am moving into a new apartment roughly four blocks away. The following weekend, August 29 - 20 is the weekend I am able to move into our new place. For a period of around a week I will have two apartments as the move out date of the current place is September 4 - 6. However this weekend is also the weekend of PAX, which I am attending for the first time ever (and mooching a hotel room, courtesy 2K Games) for some reason. And then when PAX ends I will be flying out to New York for a week to attend Elizabeth's big sister's wedding (which is actually taking place outside of Philly, but that's not entirely relevant).

Anyway now that I've laid all that out it doesn't seem that bad, which is exactly how I wanted to feel about all of this! Anyway that was uninteresting and blog-tastic so I will try and have something more interesting next time.

'Sploding Straight Into My Heart

'Splosion Man is a wonderful hearkening back to the days of video game yore. Not the yore where you had to play Mega Man 2 or Battletoads or Contra and memorize things like boss patterns and enemy and powerup locations. No, this is a hearkening back to the days slightly after those days, where video games were still hard and still mostly in 2D, but also actually thoughtfully designed. The bridge between extraordinarily difficult and normal person difficult was being built.

As a slight aside, it's interesting to note that people loved series like Super Mario Bros., or Sonic the Hedgehog, but when talking about them their difficulty generally never comes up (Super Mario Bros. 2 being the exception). Mega Man's claim to fame seems to be almost entirely centered around how brutal the series could be. Maybe I'm wrong since I've never actually played a Mega Man game (I never had a Nintendo Entertainment System in my youth and now I'm a mostly grown man who prefers not to shout obscenities at his screen and throw his controller at the ground), but if nothing else the difficulty level of those games is certainly a focal point.

'Splosion Man, made by the same studio who made The Maw, reminds me more of a game like Vectorman, one of my all-time favorite platformers. The similarities between the games aren't massive beyond the fact that they are both platformers. 'Splosion Man can't shoot anything and Vectorman cannot 'splode. Vectorman is more focused on shooting whereas 'Splosion Man is largely about navigating the levels with your exploding ability. However the simplicity of both the mechanics and levels, combined with 'Splosion Man's half-baked story (a requisite for any mid-90s platformer) and enjoyable always-on soundtrack makes it an extremely enjoyable experience (double so if you lived through the mid-90s era of gaming).

'Splosion Man isn't going to win any awards or push any genres forward. What he will achieve is something pretty cool though, and that's enjoyment. There's just something about an exploding science-experiment-gone-wrong that makes you want to smile. Figuring out how to explode at the right time in the right place and then stringing a couple together is quite satisfying. The goofy feeling of being a kid again is something I imagine Mega Man fans felt playing the latest sequel. It's the very nostalgic feeling of "they don't make 'em like this any more". It's a very grandpa thing to say, but it's certainly true. For better or worse, games like 'Splosion Man are few and far between, but I'm glad someone out there is still making them.

The Problem(s) with Prototype

I don't normally write anything about games I genuinely dislike because I either don't get far enough through them as to have a significant amount of authority, or I just don't want to revisit them after such an unpleasant experience. Prototype, made by Radical Entertainment (the same guys who made Scarface, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Simpsons : Hit & Run among others) will be an exception to this trend because I did finish it and it bothered me enough to actually make me want to write this. Prototype is interesting on some level because I actually beat it out of spite. Even though the game was almost totally unenjoyable to me by the end, I felt that I had to beat it just because I was so angry at it. I can't quite describe it any better than that, nor could I tell you why I felt that way, so let's just get started instead.

I suppose I can start with what I did like about this game. Namely it's an open world city that is full of stuff (people, cars, monsters, uh, I guess that's it) and you are allowed close to total freedom to roam. The player also has a number of super-human abilities. You can run up the side of buildings, jump pretty high, pick up stuff and throw it, punch people into the air, glide, and a variety of other things that are mainly in good but mindless fun. As the game progresses you earn some kind of points that allow you to purchase additional abilities and upgrades so that by the end of the game you're an even more unstoppable killing machine (you start off more powerful than a maxed out player in Crackdown).

The fun of the open world was basically that you could mess around and be a complete jerk. If you messed with enough stuff the military would send out a strike team that you'd have to either evade or destroy. I enjoyed those mini-missions, though after you get a reasonable amount of power the strike teams end up being pushovers. Regardless, fairly enjoyable to fight or attempt to escape from.

That's all I've got.

Continue reading...


Blueberry Garden

At the surface Erik Svedäng's Blueberry Garden doesn't appear to be much. As far as games go, it's fairly stripped down. It comes across as a platformer, though one seemingly without a clear goal. the world is mostly white, with plants and random animals adding some color to the bleak world. Unlike a regular 2D platformer, however, your goal is not to move from left to right to get to the finish, but rather to explore and find out what your goal is.

The goal itself becomes fairly evident after your first playthrough which will almost certainly end with your demise. Find various large objects such as apples, pencils and top hats hanging around the world and stack them. Touching one of these objects (or standing next to it) will cause it (and yourself) to teleport to the stacking point. The higher your stack the more you can explore by jumping or flying over the game's geography. Some items are easy to collect; just walk over to them. Some take a bit of thinking to get to.

There first 'mission' of the game is to turn off a large faucet that is flooding the world. There's a water level to the entire thing and after a certain amount of time the water will begin to rise. Our player cannot survive underwater unaided for very long, so once the water raises above all the land (or your stack) the game sadly ends.

Helping you out during the game are various kinds of fruit. There are red berries of some sort, something resembling onions (though they grow on trees), some kind of star-shaped fruit and of course blueberries. Red berries and onions alter the terrain when you eat them. So the area you happen to be standing by can be warped by eating one. This adds an interesting element to the game since stacked items are positioned in the stack in the same position they are collected in. So if you have a pencil laying on its side it will appear that way in the stack, however if you tilt it 45 degrees by utilizing berries then it will appear in the stack tilted 45 degrees as well. Using this method it's possible to create a taller stack with fewer items.

The game's soundtrack, a simple, almost somber piano tune, adds immensely to the atmosphere of the game. Often kicking in when you leap from your stack and fly across the level, the sparseness of the world combined with the music is something of an experience. It's a very 'indie' experience that some may not notice or care for, but it made the game extremely relaxing and enjoyable for me.

At a meager five dollars on Steam (sorry non-Windows users, it's an XNA game), Blueberry Garden is certainly not a major purchase. Once you figure it out there's not much more to the gameplay (I have played it for a total of 1.7 hours according to Steam) but its mechanics are simple enough, and its atmosphere interesting enough that you may find yourself replaying it even after you've completed it.

Revisiting a Colossus

With my recent gushing over The Last Guardian and its stunning trailer I decided to replay Team Ico's most recently released game, 2005's Shadow of the Colossus. Loyal reader(s) may remember when I reviewed it back in December 2006 after playing it for the first time. The spoiler laden 'review' I wrote is mostly my own complaints about the ending of the game, which I agree is still sort of odd, but now knowing about Ico (which I still have not played but very recently purchased) it does make a bit more sense. However, my main purpose here is to go over the game again since I feel my initial review doesn't do justice for the rest of the game.

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E3 Wrapup

I didn't update yesterday because nothing really happened at E3 (nothing I really noticed anyway) so now I'm mostly just poking around and seeing the stuff I missed.

One intriguing thing I found was a little DS game called Scribblenauts which is an amazing looking game that almost looks too good to be true. That trailer will explain it better than I could (especially the last few minutes where they show off sandbox mode) but essentially you type in the name of an item and it's given to you and used to solve puzzles or beat levels. It's really intuitive and inventive and if it works as advertised (and why wouldn't it, that was a live game demo) it could be pretty entertaining.

This interview on IGN with Shigeru Miyamoto also sheds a small amount of light on the next Zelda game for the Wii which hasn't been formerly announced but is clearly in the works. Miyamoto notes that the concept art of Link shows him much older than he's ever appeared in a game before and without a sword. What that means Miyamoto obviously won't say just yet, but apparently it's of at least some significance. The interview also touches briefly on Pikmin 3, which appears to still be early in production.

Update: Nintendo has released the image of Link. He's not as old as I was expecting, but certainly at least as old as he was in Twilight Princess. And of course the missing sword is evident.

Alan Wake, a game most people never thought they'd see, also has some intriguing gameplay. I'm not entirely sure what to think of it just yet, but that gameplay footage was enough to stick with me. Horror games generally tread a thin line between terrible and good, and Alan Wake looks like it might actually come out on the good side. The jury is still out of course, but as of right now it looks pretty spooky and has a pretty interesting light/dark thing going on. I could probably do without the voiceovers by Wake though. They're not quite noir enough so they mostly come across as hokey instead of awesome ala Max Payne. Also the awkward shots of the guy playing the game in this footage are weird, but just ignore that I guess.

I also want to talk about Microsoft's Project Natal and Sony's motion tracking thing, but I will probably make a longer update about that and I need to collect my thoughts a bit. At any rate, that's more or less all my random and mostly unedited E3 thoughts, so everyone who reads this (all four people maybe?) is now safe!

E3 Day 2 Impressions

With the first party press conferences all wrapped up I think most of the big announcements and 'hey, remember us?'s should be out of the way at this point. A lot of anticipated games seem like they are not going to be with us until 2010, but that's cool I guess. More time to save money or something. The big press event today was Konami, who showed off their new set of MGS games which had already been shown at Sony and Microsoft's events. Peace Walker for PSP, Metal Gear Rising for 360/PS3/PC, which is I believe the first simultaneous multi-platform Metal Gear game (though I think the first game or two had a PC release). I'm kind of interested in Peace Walker, just because I like to actually use my PSP once in a while. Not a requirement, but I've only played like three games on it.

Konami's biggest announcement was a new Castlevania game, Lord of Shadows. First time a Castlevania has been on a non-portable in a decent while. Kojima doesn't seem to be as involved with it as Konami wants people to think as they attempted to play up his involvement with the project quite a bit, perhaps to soften the fact that the studio making it also produced Clive Barker's Jericho (sorry for linking to metacritic, but it does prove the point I wanted to make).

Another game that's actually sort of come onto my radar in the past couple of days is The Beatles: Rock Band of which I basically said I was sick of plastic guitar rhythm games. However, the opening cinematic is extremely cool (done by the same guy who animates everything for Gorillaz, as well as opening titles in various movies) and the gameplay trailer paints an interesting picture of the band's extremely varied career and all its famous stages. Also it's done by Harmonix, who are generally the best at this stuff, so it will probably end up being pretty cool, even if you're not a huge Beatles fan.

The new Aliens vs. Predator trailer (for a game, not a movie) is also pretty exciting. I'm actually surprised there weren't more games after the two (terrible) movies were released, but perhaps that's a good thing since this game won't have to be shoveled out to coincide with a movie release. At the very least it looks nice. Hopefully they take a page from the first two AvP games.

Finally, I keep harping on it, but Left 4 Dead 2 continues to polarize nerds across the world. I've decided that it's going to be awesome and I'll pay $50 for it and love it, though sadly most people seem to feel Valve will drop all support for L4D after its release and that they are owed more content. Gamasutra and Shacknews have interviews with Tom Leonard (L4D lead) and Doug Lombardi (Valve's marketing VP) respectively that seem to state at least somewhat otherwise. A big influx of potential L4D addon content is probably not coming, but there seem to be at least some plans in the work for supporting or integrating L4D and L4D2. Valve won't say what just yet of course, but with the game already looming five months away, I suspect we'll learn more fairly soon.

And as if that wasn't enough, Peter Molyneux is now creative director of Microsoft Game Studios Europe. Yep.

E3 Day 1 Impressions, Sony Town

Since I missed the Sony press conference I guess I'll watch it now and tell you what I think. Weird! It's like a delayed live feed or something. It's here on Game Spot if you want to check it out. The intro is ridiculously long. Was this actually in the thing or was it added after? I see a pink PSP, did that exist before this? Whatever! This crap is two hours long, I am probably not going to watch it all. Skip to 12:00 for Uncharted 2 footage.

Uncharted 2 - I never knew much about the first one, not having a PS3, bit this one looks pretty damned awesome, though the terrible resolution of this video kind of ruins it. Either way, action-platformer sounds pretty awesome. Like Tomb Raider but without boobies! Well, like the non-crappy Tomb Raiders. If I had a PS3 I'd probably buy this.

MAG - The concept of 256 players on a battlefield sounds cool. It looks pretty overwhelming but is certainly a cool concept. Battlefield 1942 comes to mind, and that generally had around 50 players to get a suitably epic feel. The concept of having a ton of players seems to be the game's main draw, however, and it doesn't look to do anything overly interesting beyond that. Also I question how well the game will work if it potentially requires that many players, since people on the internet are unreliable jerks. We'll see I guess.

PSP Go - Not a game of course, but a digital media only PSP. It looks pretty cool, with a crazy slide out controller. I applaud Sony for building a gaming machine without any tangible media, since it would essentially be ignoring retail which is a huge thing to do. The PSP 3000 of course still exists and won't go away, so I suppose this is looked at as another option. Who knows how well it will do, but the smart move to put a way to access PSN from a PC was the obvious move to not have it fail. I'm rooting for it, though I'm not sure I'll be buying one (I already have an original PSP).

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker - PSP Metal Gear I guess. The trailer didn't offer up too much, but it looks like it could be cool. Konami is certainly whoring the shit out of Metal Gear after years of Playstation exclusives though. One game every two or three years for a long time and now like three simultaneously on different platforms. Crazy.

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E3 Day 1 Impressions, Nintendo Edition

Nintendo and Sony had their press conferences today. I missed Sony's entirely but I watched the last half hour or so of Nintendo's. As expected, some boring stuff, but also some cool stuff.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii - I can't find anything to dislike here. A new Mario 2D platformer? On the Wii? Awesome! The co-op stuff sounds interesting as well.

Wii Fit Plus - Yeah I'll pass.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story - Crap, more awesome Mario games? Following on the heels of Superstar Saga (which I enjoyed but not enough to complete) and Partners in Time (which I loved), this one apparently takes place, uh, inside Bowser? I saw some videos for the Japanese version of this a while back and it looked pretty great (you also get to play as Bowser), so I'm excited.

WarioWare DIY - I never really got into the WarioWare games, and this sounds mostly like more of the same but with the added 'make your own' aspect, which could be cool I guess. I'm sure it'll be fun (the series is a pretty big seller for Nintendo) but I can't really make myself care.

Golden Sun DS - While I'm not generally an RPG fan, I did play a decent amount of the original Golden Sun (on GBA) and it was enjoyable until I just gave up. I'm glad to see they're revisiting the franchise, but I doubt I'll pick it up. RPGs scare me.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: The Minis March Again - This is actually MvDK 3, with the first one being a kind of obscure GBA game that was a sort of puzzle solving platformer and the second one being very akin to lemmings. I loved the first, and enjoyed the second but found myself getting bored after playing it for a while. This is also on DSiWare, which is intriguing. I don't have a DSi either, so I guess even if I was super enthused about it I would still need to pick up a new DS (again).

DSi Facebook Integration - I'm sure this would be cool if I used Facebook more than I do (which is barely at all).

COP: The Recruit - I don't know much about this except it's a third person action game for DS kind of like GTA. Who knows? It could be cool I guess.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days - Hey, I don't care! What does the name mean though? Kingdom Hearts 179 Days? Oh well.

Wii Sports Resort - I want to say I don't care, but it might actually be kind of cool. At least for parties and stuff? No? Well screw you.

Wii Vitality Sensor - Uh, what? Pulse monitor? This is where I almost started to lose faith in Nintendo. I am not ashamed to admit that.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Awwwww yeah. I loved the shit out of Mario Galaxy, and this looks like more of the same awesome (hopefully with less swimming). I will confess that I switched browsers during this part so when I started watching again I missed that it was SMG2 and I kept wondering why they were showing clips from the first game. It's similar, though that's not a bad thing.

Metroid: Other M - This was a pretty good way to end the conference. Brawler-style Metroid game (with 3rd and 1st person stuff) made by Team Ninja? Pretty awesome. I still need to play a Ninja Gaiden game, but I'm pretty excited for this just because those games are so popular. Hopefully it'll be awesome!

E3 Day 0 Impressions, Part 2

Since more stuff popped up, why the hell not?

Left 4 Dead 2 (Update) - Rock Paper Shotgun has a preview up and it sheds some light on the fairly surprising game. Namely that it seems to be L4D but better, but a good amount. Bigger maps, more interesting (and larger) environments, a better AI director, more types of common and special infected and some kind of crazy backstory for each character.

I almost get the feeling that Valve wanted to put all this stuff into L4D but it was just out of the project's scope. Wedging backstories and everything else into the existing game might have just been too difficult. I'm potentially making excuses now, but I think the game will have enough content to warrant being a second game. I can't even really pinpoint what makes L4D2 seem so offensive. Perhaps it's Valve's tendency to release free content-heavy updates for many of their products months or even years after their release. All this content seems like it should have been an update for the full game? Is that really what it is? Are we somehow self- entitled to all this glorious free content? Why don't we complain about yearly Call of Duty games in the same way? Because Activision never did what Valve did? If it had been called an expansion pack would that make it better?

I don't have an answer to any of these questions, by the way, just something to puzzle over.

Singularity - In the works by Raven Software, this game has piqued my interest just due to the time/physics control gimmick. Obviously a game with a feature so central as Singularity's manipulation of time space needs to be careful not to become tired and gimmicky (as Prey can attest) or overstay its welcome. Raven has a tendency to make technically and artistically sound games that somehow lack a soul, however, which could be a problem. I'm very curious, but I feel like it could go either way.

Red Steel 2 - Didn't play the first one in spite of it being the "number one 3rd party Wii launch title" (with it's major competition being Monkey Ball and Excite Truck) though reviews pointed to it being overwhelmingly mediocre. I'm not excited about the second one, and the trailer wasn't very impressive. I'll remain that way until someone tells me otherwise.

Splinter Cell: Conviction - I never really got into the Splinter Cell series (though I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy it) but this game doesn't really look like Splinter Cell. Aren't those stealth games? I mean, using a silenced pistol is stealth and all, but falling into a room via an air duct and killing four dudes doesn't seem very subtle. Sam Fisher is an angry old man now I guess.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle - Fuck yes! I already knew about this game of course, but seeing the trailer is also good. Gameplay looks like more of the same, which is certainly a good thing. Very much looking forward to it. The brief glimpses of boss fights in the trailer make it look like they are at least attempting to make up new, crazy boss fights as well. Game of show!

I think that's it for today.

E3 Day 0 Impressions

With working on launching a crazy E3 announcement myself (though that was to do with the web site and not the game itself; that part I leave to the professionals) coupled with an unfortunately timed Paypal incident that broke a number of orders, I didn't actually get to witness what E3, day 1, had to offer until 4:30pm Pacific time. Since I finally have a short break to collect my thoughts and watch a few videos, I thought I'd randomly share what I have to say about these announcements. This is quite a lot to take in. I'll go in order.

Borderlands - First time I've seen this game in motion. I wasn't sure what I thought about the new renderer, but in stills it looked pretty nice. In motion it's somewhat less impressive. It almost seems like a game that was built to look like a standard shooter but had the renderer changed for no real specific reason. Could be fun though, we'll see. Hopefully E3 has some more footage for us.

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Think Fast, Hot Shot

Thanks to my recent playthroughs of Resident Evil 5 and Tomb Raider: Anniversary our old friend quick time events have been on my mind. For those who may not know, quick time events, or QTEs for short, are timed sequences during a game where you have to hit a specific pattern of buttons in order to pass. Think of it as a short game of Simon in the middle of an action-oriented video game. You'll be merrily walking around, or calmly watching a cutscene when a little picture representing a button appears. You then have a short amount of time (usually fractions of a second) to press the corresponding button. Success means you get to keep playing, failure means something bad happens which can be anything from failing the sequence and losing some health to getting killed and having to start the entire ordeal over.

The God of War series are probably the most prominent games to feature QTEs and probably the reason for their prominence in more and more high-profile games. As seems to be the consensus among gamers (especially those who consider themselves more hardcore) I hate quick time events. I think they tend toward lazy design and generally don't add anything to a game. In seemingly direct contrast to that I am a huge fan of the God of War series.

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Game Publisher Consistency

Dave Perry recently posted some game review scoring stats gleaned by an independent source in his blog. The list of 20 publisher (the full, unreleased list contains many more) shows the top and bottom 10 publishers based on their games' Metacritic scores which are of course a weighted average of review scores from various sites.

The results are interesting for a variety of reasons. First off the top score (held by Rockstar) is 19. The system works by awarding positive, negative or zero points based on review scores. In R*'s case they have 23 titles in Metacritic. Six of them are worth 2 points, ten worth 1 point each and three of those points are canceled out by three D-rated games (worth -1). If you're wondering why that only adds up to 19 games it's because four of them simply don't count for or against the score. This seems off to me, but we'll just run with it for now.

Regardless, R* has the top score clocking in at a whopping 19 points. The bottom score is held by Ubisoft with an impressive(ly depressing?) -148 points. For those of you keeping track that puts the median score around -65, which means that the vast majority of video games are shit.

My second issue with the data is how it doesn't quite seem 'right'. For instance look at the #3 and #4 ranked publishers. Blizzard, highly commended for their addictive, polished and downright beautiful games, has a score of 11. Microsoft comes very close to Bilzzard with 10 points. However looking only slightly deeper we see the apparent flaws in this system. Blizzard's 11 points come from a meager sevem titles, four for 2 points, three for 1 point each. Blizzard has zero games that didn't count or counted for negative points, which would seem to mean they put out only a few games (less than one per year) but those games are of very high quality. Conversely Microsoft's 10 points comes from a set of 110 games. They published 103 more games than Blizzard since 2000 but also earned one fewer point. So it would seem the distribution of points among Microsoft's games is nowhere near as good as Blizzard's. Indeed if you look at the breakdown the majority of MS published games fall in B-range with the rest mostly distributed below B and only eight (7% of total) getting an A score.

A perhaps more accurate gauge of how consistent a publisher is would be to look at the average score per game, and indeed this paints a much different picture of the stats:

PublisherAvg. Score
2D Boy2.00

This places Microsoft much lower than Blizzard by quite a bit. In fact MS's per-game average is below 0.1, as is Nintendo's (which is even lower). This is more or less intuitive based on the number of titles each publisher puts their name on. There are a bunch of AAA titles (Gears of War, Halo etc for MS, Mario Galaxy, Twilight Princess et al for Nintendo) that bring up the overall score enough that the publisher remains consistent in the eyes of the calculation.

Keep in mind that the maximum possible average (obtained by 2D Boy) is 2.0, so the fact that Blizzard is hovering near 1.6 is very impressive. Speaking of 2D Boy, it's also worth noting that they should probably be dropped from the list entirely because their publishing efforts consist of two titles; the PC and Wii versions of World of Goo. Both of those scored very well but with such a small sample consisting of what is realistically only a single game doesn't seem to be statisically relevant.

And so, if you were looking for the most consistent publisher in video games that would be Blizzard, as one might expect. However I'd hesitate to suggest these stats, or even Metacritic in general would be a good gauge of much of anything. Essentially throwing away an entire set of scores for each publisher (the C-level games) as well as not weighting anything in any significant way based on the volume of games makes it suspect. However I'm sure there is some useful info to be gleaned from Metacritic, though I'm not going to hold my breath thanks to arbitrary score scales or bizarre scoring systems that many game review sites use. All that we cab really gather from this data is that there are a lot of games out there and the majority of them are not very good, and I confess I already knew that before we started. Video games!

Beyond Beyond Good & Evil

In late 2003 the creator of Rayman, Michael Ancel, released the masterfully crafted Beyond Good & Evil. As anyone who played the game will tell you (and sadly there aren't many), there is almost nothing to dislike about it. The writing, setting, characters, design, voice acting, story, music, art direction, pretty much everything about the game is amazingly well done. However the one area it did fall short was on the sales charts, which at the end of the day is the one thing that matters. In spite of being released on four platforms within a month of each other (Playstation 2 and Windows initially, XBox and GameCube the following month) the game simply failed to sell. Partly because of strong competition of other late-2003 titles such as Splinter Cell and Sands of Time (two big hits for Ubisoft, the same publisher of BG&E) and partly because making an entirely new franchise into a success is one of the more difficult tasks faced by a publisher.

Games based on an existing license such as a movie, or sequels to existing games sell well and are traditionally easier to market. It's the reason Bethesda bought the Fallout franchise, why Far Cry 2 was named Far Cry 2 in spite of having nothing to do with the original game and why marketing pushes for Gears of War 2 and God of War 2 seem far less in your face than the first time around. If a game doesn't have an existing franchise or license behind it then your next best bet is being able to simplify it in some way in order to get retailers to push it and gaming journalists to cover it. BioShock, originally touted as a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, later had that tagline dropped in favor of its mantra of 'a shooter with choice'. Assassins Creed, another new franchise started by Ubisoft, had one of the largest marketing campaigns a new franchise has ever received all in the name of making it a success.

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A Word About Mirror's Edge

So here's a game that I was pretty excited about the moment I first saw a video of it, which I think was released during some kind of video game convention a year or two ago. The idea of a game where combat was not necessarily encouraged and making some kind of daring escape by running away was something that sucked me (as well as many others) in. Most of the videos put out prior to the release of this game showcased the game's first person view of the player running and jumping over the top of a city. There was some small amount of focus on disarming guys and combat, but a decent amount of it seemed focused on platforming, which was pretty cool because I enjoy myself some awesome platforming.

Anyway the game came out and I held off buying a copy until after Christmas and was gifted with a copy for my birthday (or Christmas, I forget). Upon coming home from Christmas vacation I popped it in my XBox and played.

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Thumbs Up Something, or

For those who listen to the 'cast of the Idle Thumbs variety, they've finally put up their Games of the Year, deftly named the in a flash of brilliance. Or grossness. Anyway the picks by Chris, Nick and Jake are somewhat expected if you keep up with the podcast, so I suggest the reader GOTYs for some insightful, hilarious and unconventional picks.

Ranging from GTA4 to Mega Man 9 to Imagine Party Babyz the list has it all! Also a couple of my own hastily written reviews can be seen on pages 2, 4 and 5, written as such since I thought they were casting a GOTY pod (Jake works the same place I do, so I usually know when he's leaving to record one) and I wrote my email in about 15 minutes. They weren't doing that at all though, so I could have maybe written something more readable and with less use of the word 'retarded'.

I'd like to have my own list of sweet 2008 games on this blog thingy like I did last year, but I haven't played some of the games I feel I'd want to add to the list, so if I manage to finish them up in the next month I might do that, but otherwise just take the list since it's pretty good. Except for Space Giraffe. Fuck that game.

Dead Space

With the recent glut of high profile video games which promise to make 2008 a pretty good year for gaming after a strong output in 2007, I have to confess I haven't had a huge amount of time for all of them. Fallout 3, Mirror's Edge and Fable 2 (to name a few) have all gone unplayed by me thus far.

Regardless, Dead Space, EA's first M rated game in forever (I think the Godfather game was also rated M, but that game doesn't count) is a game I did play.

What actually drew me to Dead Space initially was not the setting or the promise of a spooky game, but rather the interesting way the game's HUD was done. Rather than having your health and ammo on screen at all times everything is shown to you on the player. Instead of a health point count there's a little blue bar on your his back, and your clip count is displayed on your weapon when you go into aiming mode. It's the sort of thing I wish more games would attempt, as I feel the standard heads up display is something that has not evolved at all.

Sure it's moved on from the status bar days of Doom and Quake to a less expressive (but also less distracting) listing of numbers to more general health bars and even to implementations like Gears of War or Halo 2 (and 3) where you don't even have to pick up any health and just wait for it to refill. The fundamentals of the HUD have remained the same since forever though, and it's nice to see someone at least attempt to shake it up. Of course Dead Space's HUD only works in a third person game (or else you end up with something bizarre like in Trespasser), but weapon counts on your gun have existed before in games like Doom 3.

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Gaming Moments

A recent thread on Shacknews posed the question of favorite gaming moments. To me this is a pretty interesting list or concept, because it removes lists of what usually encapsulate entire games and brings it down to sections or moments of games which, as a whole, may not be as excellent as some individual moments.

Due to the list being full of spoilers for games you may or may not have played, I'm going to put the article a click away.

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Greg Stephens of Nottingham, UK

So here's an amusing anecdote:

Marmite is a genius

After me saying about being unable to get a copy of GTAIV, he sent the "preorder phone text" to my mobile for me to try and get a copy.

So on the way home I walked into a game, showed the text and said "I've just got the message about my preorder, I've been unable to find my receipt though" to which they responded "You must be Greg Stephens, you're the last one to get your preorder", to which I replied "Yes, yes I am"

So I now have my copy of GTA IV, because Marmite is AWESOME.

From this Shacknews comment. Greg Stephens of Nottingham, UK is gonna be pissed!

PSP: It's Like A Nut You Can Eat

Through a strange string of events, the ramifications of which I'm still not entirely sure of, a Sony Playstation Portable has come into my possession without any traditional exchange of currency. It also arrived with copies of Wipeout Pulse and Silent Hill Origins, neither of which excite me that much, and a demo of God of War: Chains of Olympus, which does excite me, though not enough to put down $40 for at this moment in time (mainly due to owing the state of New York $200, those greedy bastards, and shelling out another $300 for a visit home to the very state which decided it was a great idea to take this money from me).

Anyway, the main reason for this post (aside from the fact that I don't have much else to do) is questioning the odd price variation in PSP games. The DS and GBA; the most recent portables I owned, had fairly consistent pricing. With the DS most top-shelf cost $30 with a select few making the jump to $35 (mostly reserved for big-name 1st party releases like NSMB, Metroid Prime Hunters and Kirby Canvas Curse). There are also the low-end budget titles, which are usually puzzle games, that cost $20. That's it.

The PSP, on the other hand, has prices as high as $40 with some new titles as low as $20. I know the difference between God of War and Patapon is fairly obvious, but this seems like a pretty huge gap to me. To make matters worse only a select few games seem to go down in price over time. LocoRoco, one of the most celebrated PSP titles, continues to maintain a $30 price point, while games like MGS: Portable Ops have dropped to $20.

I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this, just that the pricing differences annoy me, especially given we are talking about a handheld. The $35 cap is also far more tolerable than a $40 cap, somehow, even though it's only $5. It is worth noting that the PSP is a pretty nice piece of hardware, however. It's far more powerful than the DS, and the screen is something else. The main thing it has against it is that it's kind of heavy, but considering it's capable of seemingly PS2-level graphics, it seems like a decent trade off, I guess.

However the DS remains king of homebrew. I recently purchased a slot-1 flashcard (the CycloDS) for the DS due to the incredible ease of running neat stuff on it. The PSP seems more like a gigantic pain in the ass, with firmware downgrades and all sorts hacks and even the possibility of bricking the PSP if not done properly. The DS is pretty much "insert card and have fun".

Anyway this is kind of meandering since I really had no focus when I started typing it, so I'll just say that the PSP is pretty cool... I just need to find some awesome games for it.

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand Will Be The Greatest Game Of Our Time

So Fiddy's first game, Bulletproof, was a commercial success (though a critical failure), meaning a second game must be made. IGN has an interview with producer Aaron Blean where he details 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. Can anyone else say game of the year?

I swear you could not make this shit up if you tried:

[W]hat's inspired the title is, 50 and G-Unit are putting on a sold-out performance somewhere in a fictional Middle Eastern setting. This is where the 'blood on the sand' comes in. They put on the performance; the people are pleased, but the concert promoter stiffs them and doesn't give 50 and G-Unit their payment.

So, of course, 50 isn't going to leave until he gets paid, so he hassles the concert promoter, [saying] if he doesn't come up with the money now, there will be consequences. And instead, the promoter offers him a very valuable gift – something that's valuable to this particular country – a diamond encrusted skull.

So 50 gets the skull, and as he's about to leave this war-torn country, when they're ambushed and the skull is taken. They escape the ambush, but they're without the skull. So 50's motivated to get what belongs to him. So basically, throughout the game, he's trying to track these people down and find out who they are and why he was ambushed.

Fuck it, Game of the Decade! I am calling this shit right now.

Fancy Pants

Sup guys? I figured three or however many years that old design was around was enough so I made this one. It works in Firefox, IE7 and Safari but I can't test it in IE6 until I get into work tomorrow but screw those guys anyway.

On a totally unrelated note, Smash Bros. Brawl is pretty god damned awesome. You should buy a copy!

No More Heros

No More Heros is a video game about being an assassin. Only instead of being awesome like Jean Reno in The Professional, you are actually a pretty big anime nerd who also enjoys wrestling. Oh, and you bought a sweet light sword (with enough details changed so it's distinct enough from a light saber as to not infringe on any copyrights) off eBay which is what you use to assassinate, uh, dudes.

The basic premise of the game is you somehow kill the 11th best assassin in the world and as such you decide it would be a great idea to work your way through the ranks to become numero uno. Between killing the top 10 assassins you have to collect enough cash to apply for these battles in an open (but not too open) world-style city called Santa Destroy. That's pretty much it.

While the game is far from perfect (holy shit is it ever), the basic charm of it is that it knows it's a video game. It uses a lot of very old school sound effects (mainly for menus and such) and important map areas are marked by strange pixel-y markers representing whatever the spot is (a gym, a bar, employment office, assassin-for-hire place and so on).

I'll be honest in this brief review and say that the open world aspect is not overly impressive, nor is it very compelling. Many games have done it a lot better (though Santa Destroy is a small town, unlike the city in Crackdown or something, so it at least isn't attempting to be overly ambitions and failing horribly) and at times the complete lack of anything resembling physics will make you laugh (for example hitting a car causes you to stop, once in a while falling off your bike, but many other times you just stop and bounce off it).

However where the game really shines is the combat. Rather than opt for endless Wii remote swinging, the developers went with a much simpler control scheme of hit 'A' to swing your sword, and hit 'B' to kick or punch. Coupled with aiming your remote low or high (determined by the tilt) for low and high attacks, the control scheme is amazingly effective and very comfortable. There is a minor amount of swinging; when you take an enemy's health down to zero you are given a finishing move, done with a quick flick of the remote either vertically or horizontally. This ends with cutting a dude's head off (or slicing him down the middle) followed by an excessive amount of both blood and coins.

Combat against standard enemies is repetitive and not overly challenging, but somehow manages to never stop being fun. The game's bosses are where your combat skills are really put to the test. Each boss gets progressively harder and teaches you new levels of patience (most will dodge all your attacks if you go after them without regret, and then quickly take a huge chunk of health) as you wait for them to lower their guard (normally done when they are taunting you or miss a big attack). Each one is also surprisingly unique, and range from a sword wielding schoolgirl, to an anti-Superman, to army chick with a fake leg.

The story and writing of the game is entertaining, though faulty and downright bad at times, though the fact that the game's style and combat are the main focus make it okay by me. The story takes various strange turns that often seem like they are going nowhere, or certain aspects will pop up and make you go "wait, what?" almost seeming as if they were made up on the spot. Still, you can hardly fault a game with crazy lighting and a spiky haired anti-hero wielding a modified light saber katana as the main protagonist.

No More Heros is just one of those games that's pure fun, and ends up being highly enjoyable thanks to just believing it's an old video game. Hilariously crazy storyline coupled with killing a fuckton of guys and a protagonist of morally questionable views. What could possibly go wrong?

Elephants of White

So every year Shacknews posters do a White Elephant. This year I got some shit from Iceland and the dude I had was from the land down under. Anyway he finally got it and seemed to enjoy. I sent him my old DS and a bunch of games I did not pay for (hooray for being generous, 2k Games) and a weird cactus shot glass I bought for like $1.75. You can see the pictures in his shackpost or view the gallery if you like.

In The Year 2007...

So I've compiled my list of the best video games of 2007 and posted it for the reading enjoyment of the six or seven people who read this page (myself included). Weather or not you agree, I don't care, but 2007 was a pretty damned good year if you happen to be a fan of video game based entertainment. I know I am, and I thought 2007 was pretty sweet. Anyway, check it out, if you dare.

Orange You Glad?

Yes, I seriously just made that pun. At any rate, Orange Box came out on the 10th, which includes Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. They are all awesome in different ways, and I can't believe I only had to spend $45 to get all three. In celebration I've reviewed Episode 2 and taken a bunch of screenshots to go with it. It's also impossible to convey how great Portal is with just still screenshots, but I think this comes pretty close:


Twilight Princess

So, when the Wii was released you may recall one of the games I purchased with it was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, or Zelda: Twilight Princess for short, or Zelda:TP for even shorter, or just Zelda, which is probably what I will refer to it as since it's the shortest and I save valuable seconds.

Anyway At any rate, I played it starting sometime in January of this year and I played and played and played for a month or two and then I got to the sky dungeon (city in the sky? fuck if I know the proper name) and I kind of stopped because holy shit that was annoying. I actually stopped earlier in the water dungeon, but that was mostly because I am retarded and really bad at any games that require more thought than "hey I should shoot that guy over there".

Anyway My point is, a few weeks ago I finally finished the fucker. Turns out the sky city thing wasn't as difficult as I thought. Sure there were pain in the ass jumping puzzles (which are silly given that Link pretty much only jumps when you run off the edge of something, so it's sort of like automatic platforming) but it wasn't too hard. I also found that when you complete a good portion of a game months ago and then come back, you remember very little of the story and what exactly happened (and what you accomplished aside from the really annoying parts that made you want to kill babies) so it's sort of like watching a movie after it's already been playing for an hour.

Anyway My general consensus is, long story short, it was pretty good, although Zelda games seem to tend towards being a group of short stories that will somehow indirectly help you accomplish a much longer story. My favorite part was when you have a snowboard race against the Yeti. I am not even kidding, and it's just as awesome as it sounds. Also as an added bonus you can go back to that spot and race him again and try to get the best time! It's like SSX Zelda or something. There's also a portion where you drive your horse and have to shake some bad guys and protect a carriage... Grand Theft Zelda? That part sucked ass though. Holy shit.

The bosses were another favorite part. While I don't believe I really ever had trouble with any of them (most I beat on the first try, and those that I didn't usually only killed me once), they were all pretty cool and the battles always felt pretty epic. It was sort of like Shadow of the Colossus in a way, only you didn't have to spend hours figuring out how to climb one of them because the solution to damaging them was usually pretty apparent.

That's about all I've got. If you're a fan of Zelda games, I am pretty sure you will like this (it was the first 3D Zelda I had ever played, by the way, and only the second Zelda game overall after Minish Cap)... I don't know why it matters though because the game has been out for almost a year so my recommendation is silly. Oh, the beginning of the game is kind of slow and uninteresting. Stick with it for a few more hours and it gets much better and more exciting, trust me.

That's all I've got for now, I just figured I should wrap up that storyline or something. Woo.

War, What Is It Good For?

Finished up God of War this morning. Really awesome game, but I feel like my video game world has come crashing down. I bought Super Paper Mario yesterday and I started playing that almost immediately after I finished God of War and it's kind of insane how different they are in almost every way possible while both still managing to be action games.

At any rate, I'm late to the party, but God of War is really awesome and now I have to go buy God of War 2 because I hear it is equally awesome, if not better. Any game where you spend the duration of the gametime fucking pretty much everyone up is okay by me. Ridiculous amounts of violence and bloodshed and beating everything that walks (or flies in some cases) to a bloody pulp.

Also is kind of annoys me that God of War 3 will probably come out and will probably be exclusive to PS3 and I do not own a PS3, nor do I really want one. Maybe I can get one for free from some dumb website. Such problems to worry about!

Super Paper Mario is pretty cool too, and kind of trippy because you shift from 2D to 3D a lot, but I haven't played it enough to comment I guess.


Okay, so apparently if you don't have ID with your current address, you can just Photoshop your name into your cable bill and fax it to whoever is trying to ID you for government taxation purposes and it will all be fine. Apparently my 'free' MacBook Pro will be here in less than thirty days. It's over!

In other news, SSX Blur is pretty fun.

I Can See My House From Here

So those fancy Dell widescreen 22" LCD monitors were on sale for $299 the other day and I bought one because a) my roommate convinced me (she bought one as well) and b) my old 17" LCD was like 4 years old and had two or three dead pixels and I apparently have enough disposable income to drop $300 on a new monitor. Anyway, it's quite sexy and wide and stuff... I have a lot of desktop room now, and Counter-Strike looks great in widescreen.

The only problem is now my laptop screen seems even more insufficient because it's only 15" with a native resolution of 1024x768 (the new screen is 1680x1050 by the way)... also the screen hinges are kind of wobbly so the screen doesn't always stay up all the time. Oh well. Anyway, that's all I have to say about that! Before and after pictures to follow!

The new Phoenix Wright game, Justice for All is also really good. Same fun of the first game, though they changed some of the music to be not quite as good (mainly the courtroom music is less in your face, or something like that), but it's still pretty good stuff. Also apparently Phoenix won't be a playable character in the third game (which will not be a port of a GBA game like the first two), which is why the emphasis of the logo shifted from Phoenix Wright to Ace Attorney. So I guess it's the Ace Attorney series. Also the fact that I am talking about a video game where you play a lawyer is highly amusing. TAKE THAT!
Dell Widescreen LCD

Old and busted

New hotness


New Year

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is really good. Like, it's the sort of game I'd normally hate what with not too much action and a lot of roaming and stuff, but somehow Zelda games are always done in just the right way that I love them. Minish Cap on GBA was another great example. I may have to check out the N64 titles whenever they show up on Virtual Console. Maybe the Game Cube ones, but that would require spending more than $10. We'll see I guess.

Ever had a really awesome story that you couldn't tell? Not necessarily awesome, but I think from an outside perspective it would be pretty awesome. I don't have many stories, so I sort of like having them. Like that time in college I accidentally got super duper shitfaced because my friend and I kept buying shots for these two hot (or at least, to my inebriated self they were hot) chicks who would make one every time you did it. I love that story, even though I look like a complete moron for most of it. Maybe if I hadn't been to another bar before that one it would have been okay. Ah well.

That was kind of random, so I'm going to switch back to gaming because I am a giant dork. 2007 has some cool stuff coming. We've got BioShock, Half-Life 2: Episode 2/Team Fortress 2/Portal for PC (BioShock on 360 as well, but I kind of hate playing shooters on a console, also note how I write BioShock instead of Bioshock because that's what I was told is correct). GTA4 will be out on 360 at the same time it's out on PS3, so for once I don't have to wait a bajillion years for it to come out on a platform I already own. Metroid Prime 3 comes out on the Wii, and hopefully will not have controls that I hate (I still need to play the first two). There's also Mario Galaxy for Wii. On DS I'm sure there will be some fun stuff I don't know about, but the new Zelda for DS (Phantom Hourglass) should be neat. There's also potentially a Wii-exclusive Zelda, but nobody knows for sure right now.

I think I need to see Children of Men. Also, did anyone else notice that not a single Jim Carrey movie came out in 2006? However he's starring in what looks to be a crazy-ass Joel Schumacher movie called The Number 23. I don't even know what to say about this, but it looks like it could be awesome. It may even make me forgive Joel for certain abominations which names I dare not speak. Not even Keifer's awesome role in Phone Booth could make me do that.

Holy crap, speaking of Keifer, season six of 24 starts in a week! I'm super excited because my life has been devoid of Jack Bauer kicking ass and yelling loudly lately. Especially since I watched seasons 1 - 4 while season 5 was going on so I had an overload of Bauer for a while there and then when season five ended my life was strangely empty. Hopefully this season is good. I'm not looking for season two good, just be better than season three. That's my only requirement. By the way the order of awesome, in case you're interested, is 2 > 1 > 5 > 3 > 4. One and five are very close though, but one gets props for setting the bar. Two is so awesome I can't even imagine. Three is decent, or at least it has a bunch of good episodes with some not so great ones sprinkled throughout. Four is mostly crappy the whole way through, because it tries way too hard. THERE'S NO TIME!!

And now before I ramble on any longer I realize that I need to get ready for work and I am wasting my morning updating my stupid blog. Oh how I hate that word. Blog. Blog. Bloggin'! Maybe I'll be on CNN if I say something political. I am, of course, a member of the exclusive Blogosphere. I can't believe I capitalized that. Or even said it. Anyway, impeach Bush! Woo!

Shadow of the Colossus

So I finally finished this game last night. It got raving reviews from, uh, I guess everyone... I kind of see why. It's a really pretty game (especially given it's for PS2), and the gameplay is usually fun and the concept is kind of cool....

The premise of the game is that your girlfriend is dead and you want to bring her back to life because you can't deal with it I guess. Anyway, you steal a magic sword and trek to some forbidden land which has sixteen huge thingies (though a couple of them are less than impressive in size) that some crazy voice tells you that you need to kill to get your girlfriend back. The voice is Dormin, by the way, some apparently evil thing, though his motives are unclear until the end of the game (which I will spoil later).

Anyways, the entire game consists of riding your horse (Agro) great distances, blindly searching for the next colossi (you can use your sword to get a general direction, but only in the sunlight) and then figuring out how to climb said colossus and strike his weak point (which is one or more glowing seals that you need to stab with your sword a bunch of times) for massive damage.

Once you figure out how to climb the colossus (or get him to reveal his seal) the game is pretty simple. Just hang the fuck on and wait for him to stop flailing around so you can stab him. With a couple of them (especially the last one) it gets downright tedious doing this. But overall, it's a pretty good game... except the ending... here's where the spoilers come in! Don't read the rest of this article if you don't want to be spoiled, okay?

Continue reading...


You Know What's Retarded?

Going home for Christmas from Dec 23rd until the 26th and bringing your Wii for some fun times, and then when you're on the train you realize that you forgot to pack any god damned games. Excite Truck was already in the drive, so at least I have that, plus any Wii games I get as gifts, but seriously, what the fuck is wrong with me? You may commence with the mockery... now.

What Happened to the Other 358?

So dahanese bought herself an XBox 360... so now we have one. It's funny how I have gone from owning zero consoles and pretty much exclusively playing PC games for the last, oh, at least eight years (last home console I owned was a Sega Genesis... Megadrive for our European readers), to owning one of my own and playing almost exclusively console games in the last couple of months. The little 'Video Games' section in the sidebar which showcases what I am playing, is now entirely comprised of console games (sadly I do not play Counter-Strike as often as I once did).

Anyway, it's a really cool machine. The whole dashboard thing is pretty awesome and very well done. It's got neat stuff like voice chat and some kind of friends list and other neato junk that I haven't even looked into much yet.

Also we have seven games for it, and paid for none of them (the benefits of a roommate who works for a game publisher). Viva Pinata is really fun in its own weird way. Gears of War is pretty and also fun, but I really, really prefer mouse aiming for any sort of shooter, so using the sticks annoys me a little. Still, it's a pretty sweet game. I also briefly played Need for Speed: Most Wanted, but the use of live actors with severe bloom to make them look more video gameish really annoyed me so I stopped. I haven't tried any of the others yet.

The gallery is also out of date now. I moved the Wii to the other side of the TV and put it vertical because it was getting a little hot on its side. I really need to start playing Zelda too. Some day... some day.
XBox 360



Sort of a general update because I haven't updated in a while and at least one person has complained I haven't updated in a while (hi dahanese!). Note if you too would like a shout out on this awesome web page, you should I guess bitch at me or something.

Life is busy. Ish. Since I moved to Manhattan without having a job here, I have of course been applying to shit since my commute takes a bit of time. I got one offer for a PHP/mySQL programmer, but their salary offer was waaaaay too low (as in, less than what I make now) so I had to turn them down. Kind of sucked, but whatever I guess.

That aside everything else is going pretty well. The Wii continues to be awesome and also impressive to non-gamers. I also picked up Shadow of the Colossus from Best Buy for $20 because of the immense shackhype (damn you!) and it's a pretty well put together game. Pretty fun, not too challenging, but you do feel pretty rewarded as you progress. Kind of sad too. The premise is you need to slay these huge giants (colossi) which have a weak point somewhere usually high up on their bodies, so you need to figure out how to climb them while they try and figure out how to throw you off. Once you find their weak point, the killing is fairly easy but I always feel a twinge of sadness when one of those big guys falls. If you have a PS2 (or a PS3 I guess, hah) it's a pretty worthwhile purchase for the money.

Oh and in closing I leave you with a few pictures of our Christmas tree. It's a theme tree because all the ornaments are various foods. It's pretty cool, and it's my first Christmas tree that wasn't owned by my parents, so I think it will always hold a special place in my heart. I don't know if I could get any more sappy, but I will certainly try one of these days. Enjoy!
Christmas Tree '06

Hot nude tree action!

Now it's got lights... kind of hard to see with the flash.

Here's the lights in the dark.

Complete with ornaments. They are only food ornaments. There's a story behind that but I won't get into it. The pickle is the shit.


Nintendo Wii. Great Console, or Greatest Console?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. They call me Ismael. Today, November 19th, was the launch of that Nintendo Wii console I may have mentioned a couple of times. My plight is one of, uh, lots of waiting. And plightyness. Firefox 2.0's spell check is saying that's not a word, but I don't believe that.

Anyway, the original plan was to wake up early today and head to a Best Buy or possibly the Nintendo World Store and hope to get one. Instead we get some insider info that the Toys R Us in Times Square will be getting in 5000 Wiis. Five thousand. So we, my roommate and I, rush down to the place. The line wraps around the block. As in, the end of the line and the beginning of the line were very close to each other. We get a spot and a wrist band and we're about 2500 people into the line. It's a little after 8:00pm. We wait.

And wait.

The store closes at 10pm and then reopens at 12am just for the Wii launch. The line starts moving at 11:50pm. It's dark and cold and random tourists are mocking us. All five thousand of us. We play DS (side note: Elite Beat Agents is awesome) and wait and wait. The line starts to move. Slowly. By 2:10am we are inside Toys R Us. There are tons of Wiis and remotes and games and it's quite glorious. We buy a Wii and an extra controller and three games and run home. Mission complete.

Quick reviews? Excite Truck is fun as hell. Super Monkey Ball is kind of confusing. Wii Sports is pretty neat. I haven't played Zelda yet. Also I need to get component cables I think. So far the Wii is really fun to play and I can't wait to get my hands on Mario and Metroid and see what else developers can do with the controller functionality. Should be sweet. That's all for now! Enjoy these pictures!
Nintendo Wii

Inside this box is... pure magic.

The flash makes it hard to see how awesome it is. It's very white and Apple-ish. But I forgive it.

This is the bag Toys R Us gave us. Spared no expense. There's the remote below.

The Wii and four games! Excite Truck, Monkey Ball, Wii Sports and Zelda. I haven't cracked Zelda open yet.


Can't Sit Here

You know what sucks? Going to the Nintendo Store, which apparently has 'tons of pre-orders left' and asking the dude behind the counter if they are still taking Wii pre-orders, only to have him inform you that they stopped taking pre-orders hours ago. Fuck you, clerk! I couldn't get to the store until Friday! Now I have to crapshoot. Jesus. I haven't bought a non-portable console since the Sega Genesis. This is a lot of trouble! Imagine if I wanted a PS3? I'd probably be having a heart attack. Curse you Nintendo, curse you!

Also, many months later, 'Wii' is still a stupid name. However I have grown used to it, so I can accept it.

Back In Black

In happier news yesterday I stopped by Walmart even though I hate it with all my being (in spite of their every day low prices) and they happened to have a crapload of black and pink DS Lites in the video game cabinet. I almost didn't notice them because I was planning on buying one during my lunch break today so I wasn't really looking. Thanks Walmart, for not caring about street dates (even though they didn't have Vice City PC until a week after it was released, jerks)! I now own a brand new, shiny pink black DS Lite!
Black DS Lite


Kiss The Sky

Someone posted this flash game on Shacknews and it's really fun. It's yet another variation of that penguin toss game, only the music is really catchy (to me anyway) and there's some extra stuff you can do like bounce off pink clouds and deploy a parachute. I'm playing it at work even though I should be working and anyone walking by my cube can see me playing. However, I don't care! My record right now is 1391.82 1629.565 km.

Also the whole thing is in Norwegian, but holding space positions the launcher dealies, and then when you're in the air use left and right to keep yourself straight and space for the parachute when you get close to the ground. Oh and press up when you pass by a pink cloud. It's fun! And yes, I really have degraded this page to the point where I post flash games.

The Nintendo Store Is Fancy

In keeping with my Nintendo-themed updates (I hope I'm not a fanboy now, because I really hate Nintendo fanboys and that would really be a conflict of interest), on Friday I went to Nintendo: World Store in Manhattan with dahanese. It's really shiny in there. They had tons of Game Cube and DS and GBA games as well as consoles and DS download stations and all that stuff. Plus a crapload of Nintendo-related junk like toys and t-shirts. I didn't buy anything because there aren't any games I want right now, but dahanese scored a copy of Meteos (they also had many copies of Phoenix Wright and Trauma Center, so if you need some harder to find games, Nintendo Store is where it's at) which we played the fuck out of. Meteos is fun, but playing against and taunting someone while playing Meteos just multiplies how awesome it is.

After that we met up with some other folks from for dinner and drinks. They are becoming less 'Shackmeets' to me (though I suppose that is the correct technical term for them) and more hanging out with awesome people. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm pretty sure it's a good thing. I love you, internet friends!

It Doesn't Matter if You're Black or White... or Pink

So I can finally stop asking when Nintendo is going to release a non-white version of the DS Lite, because black and pink (okay, onyx and coral pink, but whatever) will be out on September 13th! Woot! Regular DS is starting to annoy me because it's really pretty ugly. This will also be the second time I have repurchased what is essentially the same exact Nintendo handheld with a prettier and slightly improved design (GBA and GBA SP was the last one). Damn you Nintendo!

In not-really-related news I was looking for a post I made complaining about the DS Lite when I found a post where I complained about FEAR being on five CDs instead of one DVD. Well I recently ordered Prey from GoGamer because it was on sale for $30, and it turns out I got sent the European DVD edition. That is to say it's the standard version of the game on DVD, and it comes in a regular DVD case! It's awesome! Why the hell don't we have this shit in America? We're supposed to be the most powerful and annoying country in the world yet we don't release standard editions of games on DVD? Lame. Prey is okay, by the way. It's fun, but not worth full price. I may have a review up when I finish it, because I've taken a lot of screenshots with the intent of writing a review so I may as well put them to use.

Update (8/27 2:09am): Okay I just beat Prey and I sort of take back what I said. I'm not sure if it's worth $50 still, but the end is a lot of fun, and I think overall it was a pretty fun game. Nothing great, but lots of fun combat with lots of monsters and stuff coming in waves and such. If you can get it cheap, I'd say go for it.

A Duck and a Tortoise...

Are just some of the things you will see if you check out my vacation pictures (complete with a fairly short summary)! That's probably all I'll say about that I guess.

In nerdier news, I finally secured a copy of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and it's pretty damned cool. Everyone kept saying it was great, and I finally caved, and holy crap they were right. It's so wonderfully over-dramatic and so much fun (considering you play a lawyer) that you can't help but smile the entire time you're playing it. If you have a DS you should pick it up. Amazon will be getting a shipment in on August 10th, so pre-order it now, damn you. TAKE THAT!

Meteos is Really Addictive, Plus I'm An Idiot

So Meteos was the second game I ever had for my DS. I got it in exchange for some game I won at the very first NYC Shackmeet because I was awesome at laser tag (apparently). It was funny because I went to Target and since I didn't have a receipt I had to walk from the customer service desk all the way to the electronics department, pick out Meteos, and then walk all the way back with an employee escorting me. I was amused, but this isn't the point of this update!

No, you see, the point is that Meteos is great. And after a while I stopped playing it until it came to my attention that you can hold the left or right shoulder button on the DS to make the blocks drop faster. This is important because then it moves a fuckload faster. How much faster? Well in the 100 Meteo challenge, without the shoulder buttons the best I could do was around 2 minutes and 30 seconds. With the button? Nine seconds. Now I've started playing again because I'm obsessed with getting better scores.

It also compounds my desire for a DS Lite, because the brighter screens and bigger stylus are really, really nice. Even while I was drunk and standing in the middle of the sidewalks somewhere in Manhattan (it seemed like a good idea at the time) I could tell that it was awesome! If only it came in a non-white variety that didn't cost $190+ to obtain. I'd so be all over that. Oh well. My rampant consumer whorism can wait I suppose.

Please Clean Your Trampoline

I don't normally get into the what happens during my daily life because frankly I don't feel my life is overly interesting (and I'm sure you'd agree). However this is my stupid web page and I'm supposed to do that sort of thing and I guess you wouldn't be here if you weren't, at the very least, totally bored. I had a somewhat interesting weekend.

Things happened on Friday, but unfortunately I can't really write about them because I'm not 100% sure who reads this and who does not. If anything comes from Friday's events, I will be sure to give a full report here because it will be very exciting. Oh yes.

Saturday I got into a car accident. A very small one. I was leaving Walmart and some guy in a gigantic van backed into me. There's a small dent in my passenger side door now, and I have to go to the body shop tomorrow because my insurance company is retarded. Or maybe I'm retarded. By the way, Progressive is kind of a shitty car insurance company. They take forever to get you money and my deductible is massive ($1000), which is annoying. However they are very cheap, so I guess you get what you pay for. I hate car insurance so much.

The guy who hit me was actually really nice and very apologetic (I guess because it was his fault). He even gave me all his info twice (I had to call him back) and said he would tell insurance that I wasn't moving when he hit me (since in parking lots both cars are at fault almost 100% of the time). I'm not sure what will come from all this, but it won't cost me too much in the long run (I'd estimate the damage to be around $700 at most, but what the fuck do I know). So annoying though. Plus another reason to hate Walmart. Sorry mewse. I do enjoy their every day low prices though.

I also bought Kirby Canvas Curse for DS. It's a really fun game, but once again in the dorky, goofy Nintendo way. That is to say I love it as I have loved many DS games, but I feel like a total dork when I play it. But then I guess I am a total dork so it works out in the end. I will punch some nerds to compensate.

Today was fun. I went to my uncle's house for father's day and he has a pool and a trampoline. If you ever need an excuse to not grow up and act like a kid just visit a house with a pool and a trampoline. It's like you have to try as hard as possible to not have any fun. And even then you will still probably have some accidental fun. My socks got really dirty though. People need to keep their damned trampolines cleaner. It's just proper etiquette.


I bought Half-Life Episode 1 and I played it last night, and it was a lot of fun. Valve is really good at making first-person shooters, even if they do suck ass at patching games (though I have to say the last batch of Source patches have been quite nice and Steam seems to have stopped fucking things up for the time being), and it was a lot of fun. I wrote a review if you care to read it. Or you can just look at the pretty pictures. Your choice.

New Computer!

There is possibly nothing sadder than updating your blog on a Friday night. I was actually too lazy to call my friends this weekend, and I figured I'd just do nothing this weekend and hang out next weekend, but I just realized I'll be away the next two weekends. My sister graduates this upcoming weekend, and then I'm of to Washington DC the following weekend for my company's... show of some kind. I have no idea what it is because all I have to do is keep the computers from breaking. And I think I have to run a PowerPoint presentation because the CEO or whoever can't talk and click at once... that's what my boss says anyway. I hope the CEO never finds this page. Nobody tattle on me!

Anyways, thanks to my fat tax rebate ($200 state, $600 federal; mainly due to me working part-time last year and only making $17k) I decided to finally upgrade my stupid computer. I picked up an AMD64 3500, X1600Pro, a spiffy MSI motherboard (ATI RD480 chipset, whatever that means) and 2GB of fancy RAM (they're fancy because they have red dealies on them). Oh, and a new power supply. After struggling with Windows (I had to reinstall, god damnit), I finally got everything working and now I'm installing FEAR so I can play it with stuff turned on and in a decent resolution instead of with everything off in 800x600 like I did on my last playthrough. I would be playing Counter-Strike, but Steam refused to work, so I uninstalled it and it decided that meant it should delete all my Steam games. Great. FEAR is five CDs, by the way. Can we get the DVD edition for regular price, please? I don't want to pay $10 extra and get some crap I don't want just so I can have it on DVD. Fuckers. Oh well.

Anyway, I'm just rambling now, so I'll end by saying that the new Tool CD (which came out May 2nd; or two weeks before that if you got a leak) is okay. I don't like it as much as Lateralis or AEnima, but it's got some good songs on it, so I forgive them. And that's that.


So, if you haven't already heard (and I'm sure you have), the next Nintendo console is will be called Wii. Pronounced 'we'. After the painfully obvious and of course hilarious piss jokes (and by hilarious, I mean not hilarious at all), I'm left wondering what the fuck?

First off, Nintendo has never been very creative in naming their consoles. Allow me to provide this handy chart:

YearNameMarketing Strategy
1985Nintendo Entertainment SystemWell, our company is called 'Nintendo', and this is a system which is used for entertainment... seems pretty straight forward.
1991Super Nintendo Entertainment SystemUhh, well it's like the NES, only better... like it's more powerful and stuff. Like a super version of it, or something. It's like a super Nintendo.
1996Nintendo 64Okay, Saturn and Playstation are huge and they're 32-bit systems... and ours is 64 bits, so we want to convey how it's double the awesome of those two, right? So it needs 64 in it... SNES64? NES64? Actually screw it, just drop the ES since people just called the other ones 'Nintendo' and 'Super Nintendo' anyway.
2001Nintendo GameCubeUhh, well it's shaped like a cube and it plays games, so...
2006Nintendo WiiI want to take that job with Sony, but I'm under contract with Nintendo, so I need to think of a way to get fired...

Then of course there's the genius of the DS. DS, in case you have a very low IQ, stands for 'Dual Screen'. How did they ever come up with that? Game Boy is about the most creative thing they've come up with, and even that's kind of mediocre as far as cool names go. Virtual Boy doesn't count because it was a piece of shit.

But, I digress. The system still shows potential, and even mundane games like EA's Madden franchise could become more interesting.

I keep waiting for the name to grow on me though, and it almost does until I start to think about it. Consoles have never had amazingly great names; Playstation, XBox, Master System, TurboGrafx are all pretty goofy, but I got over them after a day. I thought XBox 360 was a dumb name for a few hours, but it's been a whole day and Wii still sounds just as stupid as when I heard it the first time. Plus when I go buy one I will be forced to say the name out loud for the first (and hopefully last) time, which will only cause me to rethink my entire life, and that's never a good thing. If I pre-order one I might even have to say it twice ("Hi, I'd like to pre-order a Wii" and then "Yes, I'm here to pick up my Wii"). Immature and stupid, sure, but come on. It's just a bad name.

Also the internet never fails to amuse me with its ability to absolutely pound obvious and not-that-funny jokes into the ground until they die horrible, foaming deaths naked with their hands down their pants in shame. At least it's a nice break from all the 'O RLY's and Chuck Norris jokes. Not that they're not the pinnacle of comedy the nine-thousandth time someone spouts them off.

But, whatever I guess. It doesn't change how interesting the system is (to me). Even if it turns out to be a horrible experiment gone terribly wrong, I'll at least have something to play GameCube games on. I never really got to try any and there are a couple that look pretty cool. Wii'll have to see how it turns out. Get it, because it's Wii! I'm so sorry. I almost made it too.


I love people from the internet, because no matter where they're from, I always seem to drink a lot when I hang out with them. Shacknews is a website where we argue about abortion and religion and sometimes we even talk about games too. And once in a while we'll even meet up in New York City for drunken hijinks. It's the best kind of hijinks, you know.

Metroid Prime: Hunters Impressions

There were a couple other DS games I wanted to pick up, but this is the first one that I was really waiting for. Not sure why, because I never played either Metroid Prime on the Gamecube, and my Metroid experience is limited to Zero Mission and Fusion on the GBA. Still though, the DS touchscreen has great potential for a first-person game, on a console that's not slow and awkward, right?

As far as looks go, the game looks great. I mean, it's N64-era tech, but it's a handheld, so I can forgive that. Besides, I still play Doom, so it's not like pixelated graphics and non-smoothed textures bother me anyway.

Continue reading...


Want To Touch

I like the Nintendo DS. This is sort of hard for me to say because growing up I had a Sega Genesis. I never had an NES or SNES or N64, even though I'm sure all were fine systems, I just never cared about them. I played all three plenty of times at friends' houses, but that was about the extent of it (my ex-girlfriend used to decimate me at Dr. Mario... so embarrassing).

When the DS was announced, I was skeptical. Dual screens, one of them a touch screen, seemed like a gimmick. The initial offering of games didn't do much for me either. However, when Mario Kart was announced, complete with Nintendo WiFi support (meaning you can play anyone, anywhere in the world), I caved. Mario Kart itself is a lot of fun, if not retardedly frustrating, but playing games against other people was the best part, though voice communication would have been a nice addition I suppose.

And of course as I predicted over a year ago, Nintendo is releasing a streamlined version of the DS; the DS Lite. They came so close to making it perfect, except the GBA carts apparently stick out, which I guess isn't the worst thing in the world, but it still annoys me. Also I'm sure the buttons are still too small. I know their target audience is six year old children, but damnit these games are fun, and my fingers are huge compared to those buttons.

In more cool news, Opera is making a browser for the DS, which means I will shortly be able to look at porn look up recipes while I'm taking a shit laying in bed, which is damned cool in that geeky sort of way.

And that's all I have to say about that.

The Bomb Has Been Planted

Counter-Strike. I don't know. For some reason I keep coming back to this game. I managed to avoid it up until 1.5 in the summer of 2002 I think it was. I'm not quite sure what's so appealing about it. I think it's the fact that you have teams, and once you die the round is over for you. You get a nice break between rounds (assuming you don't survive) and there's a certain element of teamwork involved. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy a nice game of Quake 3 every so often, but it hasn't quite held me like CS has.

CS1.6 is a major reason I did so bad my first semester away at college. I commuted my first two years, but my third and fourth years were spent away. Too much CS and not enough studying and well, after a nice 1.56 GPA I had to show some self control. My addiction stories are not as exciting as I'd like them to be.

When Half-Life 2 came out I wasn't overly interested in CS:Source for whatever reason. It wasn't until after I graduated that I began playing again. The Shacknews CS server, which is where I play now, is a pretty cool. The players are all awesome, the skill level can be quite high, and most importantly it's a lot of fun. Fun in that seething hatred sort of way. It's easy to hate Counter-Strike, but somehow hard to stop playing because of it.

Recently it came to my attention that a company actually produced some bootleg Counter-Strike toys. I bought a set, of course:

I don't know why the teams are uneven. Inspired by the antics of Shackers who obtained them before me: megarust and helvetica, I decided to do the obvious thing and create a game of Counter-Strike in my basement. As you can see I spent entirely too much time on this, and I am indeed quite the consumer whore. Also apologies to anyone who feels they are misrepresented in this... I just used the names of people I happened to be playing with around the time. I make no claims for accuracy... in fact the length of time that I survive should be a dead giveaway as to how accurate this is.

And yes, I do have entirely too much time on my hands.