Monday, December 14, 2009

More Musings on PixelJunk Shooter

In my previous discussion of PixelJunk Shooter I totally forgot to mention two of the greatest aspects of the game.

The first aspect is the music. Performed by High Frequency Bandwidth the music has just the right blend of looping and hypnotic groove to keep you wanting to play through and finish a level. Once the level is done the beat is still resonating in your head and you want to finish listening to the groove so you just have to go back in to listen some more.

The second aspect is the ability to record short segments of the game and upload them to YouTube. Eden has the functionality and so does the sophomoric game Pain. Below is my first recording from Shooter. It's not much to watch unless you want to laugh at how quickly I die, but the fact that you can record cool moves and post for all to see is something you don't get from the other consoles.


Pixel Junk Shooter

Where did the time go this weekend?

Most of it was spent zooming around lava and magnetic oil.  Pixel Junk Shooter is the fantastically fun new game from Q-Games.  The object of the game is to save workers that have managed to get themselves into fairly hazardous locations which include the aforementioned lava and magnetic oil, as well as ice and explosive gas.  Navigating through the cavernous areas is simple to learn and there is little penalty for doing something wrong.  The catch to the game is two-fold, one playing through to save every worker, and two collect the diamond treasures hidden in the rock and lava.  Added to this is the leader boards that Q-Games have for all of their PSN games and you get an addictive game that is simple to play but challenging enough to make you want to play through again and again.

The majority of my play through this weekend was with my son.  At 9 he tends to enjoy the super hero games more, but as soon as he saw that he could affect the lava and water (by killing my ship no less) he was hooked as well.  The coolest part about playing local co-op is the sheer enjoyment of getting caught up in frantic battle, surviving, and being able to give each other a high-five at the end.  Also my son is a trophy hunter in training so as we progressed along through the levels he would be quick to nab up any diamonds that I might have missed.  Team work pays off in spades during the boss battles.  Once we figured out the patterns for second boss and the third we had a blast making short work of both.

Each level is unique and you can tell that the crew at Q-Games has spent a lot of time refining each section to maximize enjoyment.  As soon as you think you've seen everything that the Lava hazard has to offer you suddenly get the Inverter suit, which makes Lava your friend and water the hazard.  Magnetic oil is also another genius environmental hazard that caused many a tense moment as we tried to squeeze through the levels avoiding the various enemies that spawn when you save a worker or overheat from getting too close to any one of the beautiful hazards.  One of our favorites though has to be the Magnetic suit which repels the magnetic oil as you get close enough to.  The fluid dynamics really show off just how amazing the game engine is when you finally get that suit on.

While the game is fantastic both for single player and local co-op, there are a few points that I want to momentarily squabble about.  First of, if I'm playing a level solo there is no pop-in co-op.  Not a big deal as each section can be completed rather quickly or exited out (and any found diamonds or workers fore-fitted) but something worth noting.  Another squabble my son and I had was the fact that each player's ship could be pushed/shoved/bumped off course and into a fiery death if the other isn't paying attention.  I think this is intentional to stay true to the physics of the game (thankfully bumping into a wall doesn't cause damage) but certainly caused a few deaths between the both of us as we would try to stay close for the benefit of the magnetic suit.  A final squabble we had was the fact that there are only 3 areas and then the game is done.  As I stated earlier there is definitely plenty to do for replay but after the final boss was killed there was a sense of, "That's it?"  That is until we sat through the credits and watched final "To be continued..." and then we both started speculating on what new areas we would be able to explore and shoot.

Shooter is by far my favorite of the Pixel Junk games (mostly because I could actually see the end game and WIN!).  All of the Pixel Junk games hold true to a style of game play that is unique in a world of current gaming that crams hyper-realism down the collective gamers throats.  While Eden and Monsters start out relatively simple, mastering them is entirely beyond my reach.  Sadly I've never earned enough rainbows to even unlock the 2nd half of Monsters.  I have seen all 10 of the original gardens in Eden, but not all of the gardens in Encore.  Many gamers fall into the same boat with the Pixel Junk games, and may be hesitant to pick up Shooter.  Don't be hesitant with this game.  I can honestly say that Shooter is worth the money.  Even if it comes back to bite me in the arse, I'd love to see an Encore or Second Course (to play off on the ending) that adds a little more of the "Pixel Junk challenge" that we've seen from their previous games.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Uncharted 2--further thoughts.

I've previously talked about my initial impressions of Uncharted 2, but now that I've completed the game I figured I would write about my final impressions of the whole game.

The game is solid from beginning to end, there is no denying this.  The dialogue is superb, the story is very intriguing, the game play is perfectly balanced between action, jumping and stealth.  As the story progresses each game play element increases in intensity to end with a frenetic mash of battles over the Cintamani Stone.  It's not unexpected, that the closer you get to the goal or end point in a game that the difficulty would ramp up, but I found myself getting almost hopelessly frustrated with the endgame.  Knowing that I was very close to the end, but fighting off wave after wave of killer zombie/native/beast like mobs was almost a deal breaker.  I played through on Normal but by the end it felt like I was playing on Crushing.  I'm sure that is just my lack of experience with console games or something, but seriously if that was "Normal" hard I don't want to play it on "Crushing" hard.  At what point does playing a game for challenge become an exercise in self control so that you don't throw your controller through your TV?

I enjoy a challenge, but combine that challenge with poor motor skills with a controller, which then translates to really poor aim, which translates to scads of wasted ammo, which translates to relying on the least powerful weapon for taking out said challenge, and you end up with either a shattered TV or a broken controller and a divot on the floor (or both).  Games should be fun.  Games should be challenging.  Games should entertain and enlighten (that is debatable).  But to do all those things should a game lose sight of each for the sake of being a "game"? 

This is a weird loop to ponder.  At what point does a game stop being a game (taking you out of the moment of enjoying the resolution to a great story) and become a series of button mashes, swearing, and unnecessary aggravation?  Does a "good" game constitute great story with little challenge?  Can a challenge overshadow and completely break any story that may have otherwise made a game perfect?  I can think of a few games that I've played recently that fall on both sides.  Killzone 2 has a moderately good story (the game play mechanics worked well), but the end boss kept me from ever finishing the damn game.  Pixel Junk Eden has no story to tell and has a very simple game play mechanic, but add additional challenge as you move through gardens and the game becomes virtually unbeatable.  (With PJ:E, the question begs to be asked what exactly is the ending--and that is something that is up to the individual player and whatever goals you may want to accomplish).  Star Wars Force Unleashed is another game that has a fantastic story and relatively good game play mechanics, but add in wave after wave of bad guys with deadly aim, shields that block lightsabers (WTF?!?) and you break a game in order to make it a "game".

Maybe I'm too old.  I don't think I am though, as my nine year old finds games that are too challenging for the sake of making a game "more game-like" a complete bore.  Challenge is one thing, but excruciating exercise in frustration is another.  Will I continue to play Uncharted 2?  Sure.  There are more treasures to find.  I found 50/100 on my first play through, plus there are additional trophies to get for killing bad guys with different guns.  The multi-player is a blast as well (both co-op and death match).  But will I play Uncharted 2 to get a Platinum?  Not very likely.  Good, fun games shouldn't make you cry yourself to sleep at night. (I kid of course)  That's what real life is for.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Long Time no Post

It has been a while since I have posted anything and there are several reasons, namely Borderlands, Uncharted 2 and Netflix.

First off I finished the "story" to Borderlands and absolutely love the way that the game allows you to play through a second time from the beginning but with everything leveled up to give you a new challenge. I have to admit that I feel a bit silly for not realizing how to kill the final boss on my first attempt on the first night I encountered him, but I'll chalk that up to being tired. Borderlands is such a fun game that has such Civilization mind-set of "just one more turn" with the notion that it only would take a few more kills to fill that last bubble to level up or one more kill to finish a quest. Since I've played the game through to the final boss with the Hunter Mordecia and still haven't tried the other 3 classes there is plenty to try in this game.

Unfortunately I've become distracted for the moment and can't seem to get into Borderlands to try the game as a second play through though because due to a little negotiation I now have Uncharted 2. Thanks Andy!

What can I say about Uncharted 2 that hasn't already been said? I'm not sure that I can say anything new, but I'll give it a go. The game is so freaking amazing. The characters are phenomenal, the story (so far--I haven't finished the game yet) is griping, and the actual game play is a perfect blend of puzzles, climbing, jumping and shooting enemies. Visually the game just can't be compared to anything (except for the first Uncharted perhaps). Rich lush jungles meld with highly detailed city play. Lighting is amazing as well. Exploring caves you see sunlight pouring through cracks, illuminating details missed by many other games. Jumping from boulders or buildings is exhilarating and challenging. Many moments look like they are impossible but the animations used with Nathan Drake are done with such a level of detail that you expect Drake to miss a jump but he scrambles at the last second to pull off a true cliff hanger style escape from death.

Humor also plays a huge role in how good Uncharted 2 is. The subtle humor between Drake and Cloe as well as Elena and Drake are on par with great romantic comedies. Situational comedy also plays a huge role in the game. Whether Drake is getting the tar beat out of him from falling or the overwhelming odds against Drake, you can't help but laugh by how the game manages to put you into a situation and make it fun to survive. One of the early moments that I still get a good laugh from is when Drake is climbing around the outside of a museum and his temporary partner in crime is helping by talking through headsets to give Drake directions and alert when any enemies are near. Hanging from the edge of the roof, Drake is told to watch out, "Enemy above" and you pull the enemy down over the edge of the roof to watch him plummet to the ground four or five stories below. Your partner in the same urgent voice then says, "Enemy below". While it is dark, it is that same tongue in cheek humor that fills the cracks of the game to make every moment enjoyable.

Even though I have enjoyed playing Uncharted 2 for all of the humor, action and story, I also just received the Netflix PS3 streaming disc so I have spent a pretty fair amount of time using that feature now too. Having not used Netflix for any streaming before I have to say that this new addition to watching movies and TV shows on the PS3 is such a good thing. Navigation within each category is smooth and after selecting a movie or show the time to wait for the show to start is minimal. Some complaints have been made that the selection of streaming isn't that great, but for my money there is enough that I haven't watched to make Netflix worth the monthly fee. Another complaint that has been made is the fact that you have to put the disc in the PS3 to get the actual service to work. As a short term solution I can't complain. Granted "short-term" is still a year away before the service would be available as an installed app on the XMB, but the way I see it, if you want to watch a Blu-ray, you gotta put the disc in to watch that, so why not put a disc in to be able to access hundreds of movies to watch?

More later folks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Old Haven Happiness

Last night I loaded up Borderlands figuring I'd play solo for a little while to hit level 30.  Little did I realize that I'd get sucked into the game for four hours.  I have been tooling around in the Rust Commons for several nights and starting to find that the game starts to feel a bit of a grind the further I got into leveling up while playing solo.  Last night though changed my perception of the game back to the original enjoyment that I felt the first night I played the game.

After playing through the first main area you end up moving into a new town called New Haven which butts up next to the Rust Commons.  New Haven is the starting point for many quests throughout the Rust Commons (East and West), as well as introduces you to many new characters to help drive the story along.  I had enjoyed the game as I explored New Haven and the Rust Commons, but it never dawned on me that there could also potentially be an Old Haven.

Well after finishing off a series of quests the other night I was able to cross a draw bridge that previously had been raised which allowed me to find Old Haven.  Old Haven reminds me of one of the better instances from WoW.  I say this because several of the points I've encounted in Borderlands up to this point felt very much like simple extensions of the rest of the world of Pandora.  Old Haven breathed life into action in the game that had started to fade.  Now granted I have not played Borderlands at all with any other people at this point but the action has become very repetitive and predictable (albeit enjoyable).  The premise of Old Haven is that a town has become over run by a group of mercenaries who have claimed Old Haven as their own after being paid to clear out a rival gang from the town.  My excitement for Old Haven is squarely from the fact that unlike most of the combat locations in Borderlands, Old Haven is chock full of street fighting with enemies coming from all sides.  Even when I thought I had cleared out an area I would find myself having enemies circle around me to try and ambush me.  This was a total blast.  I would love to see how Old Haven plays out with a full party and all the chaos that would ensue.

The best part of my whole Old Haven encounter was the fact that the story led me closer to the end of my journey to the Vault.  While the story takes a backseat to the action in some points, there is definitely a good reason for wanting to play through to the end.

If you haven't picked up Borderlands yet (for PC, PS3 or 360) do yourself a favor and buy this game.  Pick it up on PS3 and join me even. 

More later folks

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Borderlands is a blast

For fans of first person shooters AND RPGS, Borderlands is definitely a great game to play.  Picking one of the four types of characters while riding on a bus in the opening moments, you learn that you are on the planet Pandora to find a mythical treasure known as the Vault. 

The game hooks you in by giving you lots to shoot at and lots of loot to collect and sell.  Quests vary from finding items to repair appliances or other machinery to killing X number of bad guys.  As you walk through one area to another mobs spawn (or re-spawn if you've traveled past a location before) to give you experience points and loot.  To help you stay alive you wear a shield that can be swapped out for an upgrade (as with all other weapons in the game).  The shield takes the damage first and once it has been depleted your health will start to drop.  Various shields will replenish faster or slower depending on the type you equip.  Some even revive health. 

Battles can be fierce, but given that each class type has a special weapon that can be utilized, combat seems to end in the players favor.  Upon leveling up from killing enemies or completing quests, you earn a talent point that can be used to give your character an advantage in whatever style of play you prefer.  With the Hunter, Mordecai the choices are Sniper, Rogue or Gunslinger.  Similar to WoW, there aren't enough talent points to allow you to pick every talent to it's fullest.  This gives you the choice to pick one talent tree to get the best of one type of play or choose from some of each.  Talent point distributions like this really allow the game to give the player the opportunity to play their own way.  Another nice touch with gunplay in the game is the fact that as one type of gun is used (shotgun, pistol, combat rifle, etc) the character increases their proficiency giving them a better chance for critical hits and better damage.

Borderlands also allows for four player online co-op and 2 player split screen local co-op.  As of this writing I haven't had a chance to try out either because I have been enjoying my solo adventure.  The way combat is set up, it is obvious that game play would benefit from having more than one class playing at a time and the ability to invite friends from your friends list to your own game is a nice touch.  From the main menu of the game you can also browse for and join random multiplayer games which also allows you to see what level other players are at and what part of the world of Pandora they are in.  This is really great as well.

Aside from not trying out a multiplayer run through the game I can say that this game will definitely occupy a lot time for me in the foreseeable future.  My only complaint so far with the game is driving vehicles.  Everything is backward in my opinion.  Steering and moving forward are handled with the analogue sticks instead of the trigger buttons as is typical with most driving games.  I think if I give the driving enough of a chance I'll be able to not drive straight into rocks or buildings and hopefully rather drive over bad guys as the developers intended.

This is definitely a must have game this holiday season.  I'll keep you all updated as I spend more time in the world of Borderlands.

Sunday, October 18, 2009's a spoon

In 2003 Genndy Tartakovsky changed the perception of a sinking Star Wars franchise.  Mixing the art style of Samurai Jack with Star Wars and then forcing the story to be compressed into three to four minutes of action showed that a good Star Wars story could be told without bad acting or worse dialogue.  In 2008 Lucas started airing on TV a CG re-imaging of the Tartakovsky stories that tells the official Clone Wars story since the movies only briefly allude the beginning and end of the fabled battles.

Star Wars Clone Wars: Republic Heroes is set in the story from the 2008 series between season one and season two.  The concept of the game is a mix between LEGO Star Wars, Little Big Planet, and Star Wars Battlefield.  It takes some of the best aspects for each but some implementations are just not fully realized.

The game switches between playing as two Jedi or two Clones.  As Jedi you have lightsabers and the force, and playing as Clones you have guns and explosives.  Game play is a cross between button mashing when playing as a Jedi and twin-stick shooter when playing as a Clone.  Jedi can also jump on top of droids to either take control of them or (after paying for an upgrade) make the droids dance.  Combat for either type of play is mostly competent and intuitive but the game developers have added a tutorial throughout in the form of Yoda instructing players how to play.  The problem with this tutorial form is that you can't turn it off (but you can skip by pressing O) and the tutorial messages are repetitive and break up the game play.  Annoying are you, yes Yoda.

By the time I played through the first Act of the game I was accepting of the fact that even though I'm a smart gamer and can figure something out on my own, I would inevitably have Yoda pop up to explain what I'd already figured out. 

In the description above I describe the game as a mixture of LEGO Star Wars and Little Big Planet.  Playing through the levels you can collect little blue orbs for points which can be spent to buy combat upgrades, droid-jak upgrades, droid dances, masks and hats, and cheats.  I liken the game to Little Big Planet because there are different depths of field that you can jump from.  This is the one of the problems that makes this game frustrating.  Yoda (in one of his annoying tutorials) says that you can jump and the Force will land the Jedi where he's supposed to go.  But Yoda lies.  There are many times where jumping is critical to move forward in the level, but the Force doesn't seem to correct the path at all.  Fortunately death is meaningless in this game.  You die, but re-spawn very close by from where you died.  There is no penalty for death, no loss of blue orbs or Jedi points, so even if you miss where you're supposed to jump to and die, you can keep trying....again and again and again.

Apparently I'm a bit more critical than my kids.  They really enjoy this game.  They like the ability to make the droids dance (it's cute but breaks the moment of battle), they like the ability to change hats and masks, and they like the ability to replay missions as different Jedi than from the first "story" play through.

Multiplayer in the game is handled by allowing both players to play on the same screen as the partner to the main character (Jedi or Clone).  The kids really enjoy that too.

Overall, the game has some very annoying quirks, but when presented to young Star Wars fans, the game is not bad.

Also, for those who want relatively easy trophies, this is worth playing too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Pitt wasn't the pits

After my last review of Operation: Anchorage I loaded up The Pitt with some trepidation.  I was not looking forward to constant freezes and a rather dull story.  But I loaded the game hoping that a new environment with the same basic pallet of colors that the original game had would have less problems. 

I tend to play Fallout 3 with a slant toward stealth so that I can sneak up on enemies but it also allows me to slow down and enjoy the level of detail the designers put into each new area that I come across.  I really enjoyed the initial crossing of the bridge into The Pitt and was impressed by the varying levels of height that were employed for enemy placement.  The initial story wasn't that interesting.  Although I have to admit that after spending so many hours looking at and helping ghouls I was defintely grossed out by the new diseased look that the slaves in The Pitt had been given.

Exploring the initial area of The Pitt I was a little disappointed.  The new areas are basically just large squared off city blocks so exploration ends quickly.  The second quest left me at odds.  The quest simply asks you go into an area filled with Trogs (slaves taken over completely by radiation--losing skin and all human instincts) and retrieve 10 steel ingots.  The first 10 come relatively quickly, so you can easily return to the quest giver and move on.  My dilemma stems from turning the easy 10 or searching for all 100 hidden within the area for a silver trophy.  Ah the trophy.  Sounds easy right?  Well...I've gotten 90 steel ingots and have decided to stop looking (for now).  There is only so much time I want to spend in one area. 

So I returned the 10 ingots and continued on with the story quest.  As I previously stated I wasn't really excited about the quest story up to this point, but once you realize what the "cure" is to help the slaves I was immediately sucked in.  This final trophy quest is what really brings out the best in all of the Fallout 3 quests.  The ability to give you a choice to help one group or their opposition with an end result that leaves you feeling morally dirty at the end of either choice.  This last quest brought me right back to the Tenpenny Tower quest and the Paradise Falls quest from Fallout 3.  I don't want to spoil the quest for those who haven't played The Pitt yet but I have to say that the last quest is definitely worth paying for the DLC.

One thing that I have not discussed about The Pitt is whether or not I had any technical difficulties.  As I mentioned in the beginning I loaded up The Pitt with some trepidation but found the game to run smooth throughout the entire experience.  I had one freeze-up but I'll chock that up to a failure in the Fallout 3 engine and not the DLC specifically.  Too many enemies and friends all battling at the same time on multiple planes seem to have choked up the game engine at one point late in the third quest.  After a reboot the quest finished without any further problems.

I would definitely give The Pitt a recommendation after the disappointing Operation: Anchorage DLC.  I'm still going to hold off on Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta for now, mostly because there are some other good games coming out soon that I'd rather save my money for.

Until those come out, I've rented (against my better judgement) the so far, disappointing Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes game.  More on that after a thorough play through.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Operation: Broken Anchorage

I can honestly say that I feel ripped off.  Both by Bethesda and Sony for allowing Operation: Anchorage to be released with so many problems.

First off the story itself is only minimally interesting.  After playing through Fallout 3 for close to 200 hours and seeing the slide during loads saying Alaska Liberated many many times, I was hoping that O:A would be a decent story and adventure.  The first leg of the journey was fairly interesting.  Traveling up a cliff face with potential enemies coming from above or below was neat.  Seeing white rocks and snow was neat.  Seeing how an enemy died--a cyber degradation similar to a kill from the Plasma rifle or Alien Blaster--was neat.  Being able to heal and restock ammo from a different source was neat.  Neat. For the first hour of play.

After that it got boring.  Boring because the only enemies the DLC seems to offer are either flame throwers, missile launching troops, or stealth snipers.   Any combo of these three could show up and attempt to ambush you, but you also have a companion and VATS.  At the time that my character started playing through O:A I was at level 24 and Small Guns, Big Guns, and Energy Weapons are all at 100.  Using VATS in O:A seems almost and unfair advantage when combined with the companion who seems to be a crack shot. Boring because there are healing and re-stocking ammo stations too close together.

Maybe that's why Bethesda decided to release a buggy add-on.  I had the game freeze up so many times when I entered VATS that I was ready to just give up playing.  The worst part of O:A freezing up is that the only that I could get it to unfreeze was to restart the whole PS3.  LAME!  Of course if you restart your PS3 and then launch the game again any progress you made from your last save up to the freeze is completely gone.  The worst part is that you can't really anticipate when your next freeze could happen, so you start to train yourself to save often--too often.  This saving often is ridiculous for two reasons.  First, the save process is slow and takes up unnecessary hard drive space.  Second, the game shouldn't freakin' be this buggy that I have to RESTART my PS3 to unfreeze a game.  Seriously how did this get passed through QA checks from Sony?  Or is it because the game is set in a different environment that doesn't use the muted grays, greens and browns of the Capital Wasteland, so the rendering engine doesn't know how to handle what it is trying to draw?  Or is it because the environments are mostly open areas with long view distances that the render engine is having a hard time trying to render all of the information in the viewing area and keep the AI variables all in check.  Yeah.  That must be it. 


It's shitty ass coding.  You know how I know.  Because the game freaking locked up on my when I tried to access a computer terminal in the game too!  A freaking computer terminal.  What is there to render with a computer terminal?  Fill screen with green and black.  Run loop for cracking terminal password.  It works all the time in the original Fallout 3 so can't it work in O:A?

Seriously.  This is completely unacceptable.  But Bethesda already got my money.  They've also already got my money for Broken Steel and The Pitt.  Will they get my money for Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta?  That is questionable.  If they fix the bugs and offer a patch then sure I'll pick up the last 2 DLC. 

I love the environment and the game play that Bethesda has created in Fallout 3, but releasing really crappy code, game breaking code, is completely inexcusable.

If you enjoy Fallout 3 and want more, DON'T waste your money on Operation: Anchorage.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Who you gonna call? The Lone Wanderer

This was a gaming weekend.

Some family came to visit and wanted to watch the dreadful U of M, MSU game on the big screen so I ended playing Ghostbusters on the Wii with the boy upstairs.  I got Ghostbusters back in July for my birthday.  I played it for a day or so on the Wii and enjoyed playing it, but found that the game (at least in my opinion) was much better suited as a single player game than a two player, split screen game.  The controls for the Wii aren't bad, in fact if I played the Wii more often with first person POV games I'd say that they were pretty good for the hardware used.  You point the Wii-mote at the screen to move your view around, move it too far left or right on the screen and your character turns left or right (or if you veer off to the left or right your character starts to spin in a very fast dizzying fashion--first bad point).  You move forward with the nunchuck.  Switching between the various Ghostbuster gadgets is handled simply with the D-pad, and pressing either A or B to activate said gadgets.

Now the game will let you play the story mode in single player and two player mode.  I was all for playing in single player because you get the chance to see the whole world filling the entire screen.  The kids of course wanted nothing to do with my gamer wishes and insisted that we play in two player mode.  The second bad point to the game is playing in two player mode.  Split screen forces both players to view the entire world in half the space on the screen, which makes for squinted viewing.  After a day of playing two player mode back in July I had had enough.  So I stopped playing.  The story was decent and the replay is worthwhile--ghosts and other objects to scan, art to find, but a combination of the split screen and the constant pointing of the Wii-mote at the screen was just enough to keep me from going back.

So back to this weekend.

The boy wanted help with a section in game and since I didn't have any real interest in the U of M game after the first quarter I went up stairs to help if I could.  Coming into the story after not playing for several months I found it easy to catch up without feeling like I'd missed anything important.  The voice acting is definitely great, the art style on the Wii is fun and after a few minutes of re-acquainting myself with the controls I was enjoying the game quite a lot.  We got through the area that the boy had been stuck on and then found another section that had us both literally ready to throw our Wii-motes at the screen.  Both of us wanted to kick the TV, the Wii, anything to help us get out our frustrations with a section in the game that felt completely broken when using the Wii-mote.  As described above you move forward with the nunchuck and view by moving the Wii-mote pointer off to the left or right.  The section in question required four different chains to be pulled down with the Ghostbuster beam, which in turn would then raise a platform for you to walk across.  The problem is that the platforms drop after a few seconds so you have keep moving.  Aiming with the Wii-mote exasperates the experience because if you move too quickly with the Wii-mote, your target zooms off the screen and you can't pull the next lever to raise the next platform so that you can keep moving.  We were both ready to just give up.  The worst part about this section we were stuck in is that it was just a few paces further along from where my son was stuck before.  My first thought was if the rest of the game is this broken-hard, we'd never see the end.  Fortunately after many tries one of us was able to cross the four death platforms and move around the corner.  Another plus to the game design is that if one player moves to a section in the game that moves the story forward both players get moved along.  Finally we ended up playing through that horrendous level to find that the rest of the game, while challenging, had a satisfying ending.

Overall I'd say Ghostbusters on the Wii is worthwhile in short bursts.

After the kids went to bed I fell back into my old routine with Fallout 3.  I'm a sucker for that story and environment and now that Bethesda has finally released the DLC for the PS3, I had to try out Broken Steel.  Loading up my Good Karma save from March (or so) I finished the original story sacrificing myself but letting Project Purity run to clean up the Wasteland water, watched the endgame narration and then found myself waking up with the Brotherhood back at the Citadel.  So much time away from the game but everything felt so right and good to be back.

At the end of my good karma save I had Fawkes as my companion.  Running through the Broken Steel missions with Fawkes almost felt like cheating, but at the same time felt like it was my way of allowing that great Super Mutant his moment to exact retribution on those that would otherwise slaughter him.  I ended up playing through the 3 trophy missions from Broken Steel in roughly half a day even with a few glitches to the game.  The first major glitch was early on where a fast travel from one location to another which hard locked the PS3 and I had to power off the console altogether.  The second major glitch involved a VATS battle near the end of the 3rd mission in which the game never came out of VATS even though all the enemies were dead.  Another full reboot of the console was required.  Sadly I had to restart the console, fortunately I was never far into an area without saving where I'd have to restart the console.

Of course after finishing the missions from Broken Steel I've become hooked again by the Lone Wanderer.  I've picked up Operation Anchorage and The Pitt and I'll post my thoughts on those soon.

"Thanks for listening children....this is Three Dog....AAAWWWWHHHHH"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I played the demo for FIFA 10 over the weekend. This game is going to be awesome. I have a bit of a bias for soccer since 2 of the kids play. We played the demo for FIFA 09 earlier this summer and the kids really got into the game, but when we realized that 10 would be out just around the corner I told them we should wait.

Now that we have waited and I've had a chance to play the demo I'm glad that we've saved off for now.

The control of the ball has been improved from 09. The online features to the game are amazing. The ability to import your picture to create your own players is something I'm sure the kids will enjoy. The other online feature that I think is slick but I'm not sure if we would pay for is the My Live Season which will update weekly the real world stats to the local game play. As real world players improve or get injured then the games players will improve or get injured as well.

If we got better world soccer sports coverage on TV then I could see us paying for the My Live Season, but I'm still not totally sold on that. Check out more of the new features for FIFA 10 and enjoy the trailer below.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Replay value?

I finished Batman: Arkham Asylum last week.  Rather I finished the Normal Story mode.  But the game is not complete without getting the Platinum trophy, which requires replaying the game on Hard, plus earning medals in the challenge rooms.  Half of the challenge rooms are pure brawler the other half are stalking rooms.  I love the stalking aspect of the game, but the brawling....meh.  Plus there are Riddler Challenges yet to complete.  The Riddler Challenges are probably one of the coolest parts to the game because you can get so much backstory on Batman and the various enemies he has faced over the years.  The problem I'm facing right now is I have completed 238 out of 240 Riddler challenges.  The last two I need to complete are elusive.  You need to destroy 20 chattering teeth in the different zones of Arkham to complete the Riddler challenges.  In one section I have 19 of 20 and in another I have 17 of 20.  I have slummed through the incomplete sections twice and can't seem to find the last 4 chattering teeth.  Ugh. So for the sake of "replay" value I find myself hunting for trophies in sections of the game that I have completed, basically wondering the halls of Arkham, now empty, and find it boring.

I'm not sure that I want to replay the game on Hard and I can honestly say that the challenge rooms aren't my cup of tea (except for the stalker rooms--that was the best part of the actual game).  I may go back to Batman at some point in the future.  But I still need to actually finish Star Wars Force Unleased, something I'm not sure I really want to go back to.  Sam beat the stinking game in one day.  This is the second time that he has finished the game.  I have yet to beat it.  I have been playing it on Normal.  I think he has been playing on Easy.  Curse my need to collect trophies.  I find myself going back to Batman because it is fun, even though it is challenging.  Force Unleashed is not fun and annoying.  If there was a way to set the game on auto pilot simply to be able to see the story unfold I would put the game in and play through for sure.  I suppose there are other games that I could go back and re-play or finish.  All for the sake of do they add replay value or just a big headache?

I'm not sure.  Maybe both depending on the game.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I am the Walrus

So I rented Rock Band: Beatles and played through all but the last set the first night. Saturday I finished off the game. There is something satisfying about the game and how you can "beat" the Story mode in such a short play through. For my trophy hunter instinct I only had to go back and re-play 4 songs to earn the gold for playing all songs to 5 stars. Granted I only played on medium, but in my view, music games should be played for the fun of the music, not the torture of playing so hard that your hands cramp up. I may actually try some of the songs on hard though seeing that so many are listed as easy. But I think that's the magic of this game (or more likely The Beatles) is that I grew up with so much of their music that I would rather play at a hard level because I'm so familiar with the tunes that I can really get into each song.

I think the game is a great play, but I miss a lot of songs. I'm sure that's where they will get most people. Nothing like missing Norwegian Wood, Help, or Eleanor Rigby to list a few that I would love to play. What I'm curious to see is how they handle the DLC. Will they redo the background themes to each Album when they become available for download? Will they add new photos to unlock for each album as well?

I haven't tried playing the game with other instruments yet, something I may try tonight, nor have I played any songs with the kids, but I don't know if they would appreciate the songs as much.

Overall I like the game, but I'm not sure that it is anything more than just another music game. Something fun when people are over, but bland without friends.

More later folks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Batman last night

The problem with Batman Arkham Asylum is that it is a good game.  It reminds me of the Civilization games where you'd start playing and then 2 hours later realize that you've been playing for 2 hours.  You need sleep but you keep telling yourself, "Just one more turn.  I'll stop after the next turn."

Now granted last night I was ready to throw my controller through the TV and give up for the night in one particular section toward the end of the game; however, the game is so good that you just want to finish playing to see how it all ends.  I admit that I was probably playing the section too cautiously but up to that point, the game had taught me to be a cautious detective.  The section in particular leads you back to a kill box from the beginning of the game.  This time however there are 7 guards all with guns and the gargoyles that you previously would hunt the thugs from have been strapped with proximity bombs.  If you spend any great amount of time on them they blow up, hurting you and removing one of your perches to hunt from. 

Fortunately the game has a very quick reload if/when you die, but I have to say that after the 5th or 6th death I was seriously getting tired of hearing the Joker's death taunts.  Once I finally got past the kill box I was sucked back into the story.  I really enjoy the fact that Rocksteady has created levels within the game that allow have you play through more than once but each time you play the area it feels different.  A lot has to do with the fact that the Bat toys have been upgraded so now you can get to items that previously were inaccessible.

I may be able to finish the story tonight, but given last night's late night session, sleep may come first.

More later folks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A full weekend of gaming

After being away from the PS3 for a week for training it was nice to come home to find my copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum had arrived. Prior to playing the demo I was on the fence about purchasing the game because it looked like nothing more than a brawler with beefy thugs that didn't look like any one particular Batman villain. My fanboy mind was swayed after playing the demo though when I realized just how deep the game would end up.

Friday night after the kids went to sleep I put the game in and was immediately sucked in. The story from the demo was only a portion of what the full game contains, but the fact that the story in the demo was intriguing enough, but then to find that the full game has so much more a treat for gaming.

What really sells the game for me is the fact that Batman just plain and simple kicks some serious ass. He is a brute that fights for justice. At no point do you feel like there isn't any thug or boss battle that you confront and think, crap I'm never going to finish this battle. The fighting is simple, but there is a nuance to the fighting that adds to combos which ends up putting Batman in some of the coolest fight sequences as he floats between, over and through waves of thugs.

But fighting is just one element. Batman is a detective. Being a detective you get to walk around and examine lots of different things. Since Batman is also known as The Dark Knight you have plenty of opportunity to move around stealthily or swing from a dark corner down onto an nervous thug. With the funding of the Wayne fortune Batman has every toy at his disposal for...uhm...well...detecting things. With a simple press of the L2 the view switches to an almost wireframe view of the immediate area with certain important objects standing out in orange (a nice complementary color to the typical blue view that Detect mode normally runs in). Thugs and good guys stand out as skeletal frames when in Detect mode (thugs with guns show up in red). You start off with the Batarang but end up getting explosive charges, a Batclaw, a repel line and a micro transmitter to disarm computers and other electronic devices. Each Bat-toy fits perfectly within the context of the game.

One of the other nice design elements of the game is the fact that you can collect Riddler trophies within the game. The trophies help to build up XP for improving the Bat-toys as well as help to unfold additional story elements for some of the villians. Some trophies seem impossible to get at first glance, but once you have all of the Bat-toys you can go back to the hard to get trophies.
This allows for multiple play throughs without the environment becoming too stale or boring.

At this point I haven't even loaded up the Challenge rooms, but I'm looking forward to switching modes and playing as the Joker. Speaking of the Joker--hot damn Mark Hamill does a fantastic job. Not too hamtastic with the peformance, and plenty of nuance when the moment calls for it.

More later folks.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Finished my LBP level

Last night was a night of gaming and creating.  We rented Super Smash Brother's Brawl for the Wii.  That is a game I just don't get.  Of course the boys had fun because you could play as Pokemon trainers and summon all sorts of Pokemon.  But the battle system is just a bit beyond me.  If I wanted to play a fighter I'd rather play Street Fighter or Soul Caliber...or even old school Karate Champ.

The upside to the boys playing on the Wii was that it gave me a chance to work on my LBP level.  I ended up getting another section put in (basically putting it at 75% complete) but I was still having problems with a prize bubble room which was driving me nuts.  After probably 3 hours of level creation I tried out the WET demo.  That is one crazy game.  The controls take a bit getting used to but it will definitely be something worth playing (likely as a rental) when it does come out.

Woke up this morning, fed the boys and headed back downstairs to finish off the LBP level.  I had an epiphany while eating breakfast on how to make the secret bubble room work.  So I went about making those changes (which worked) and then had to finish the last quarter of the level.  After putting in several layers of detail stickers and adding the story elements (talking sackboys and girls) I put the level out for all to play.  So far it seems like it has been moderately received.  The boys found it to be a bit challenging.  It is definitely easier to play solo than with 2-4 players.

Check it out if you have LBP.  The level name is Save Sam and AJ.

More later folks.

Friday, August 28, 2009

More LBP fun...and THX too

Last night had me back for more LBP level editing.  The level is coming along nicely and I have to say that after drawing out the map to explain the level to my co-workers this morning I've been inspired on what to add next.  I've also gotten some good feedback from some of the players who have tested it out already and I'm looking forward to the weekend to get some more "in-depth" time to add details and tweak some of the finer mechanics.  So far the level travels from the small Sack village into the cave of doom.  The cave of doom has burning wood and several areas of jumping.  I worked out a secret bubble prize room but I will need to go back and tweak the emitters.  End game design I want to have the player travel through some additional sections of the cave of doom and then end up on the outside at the other side of the mountain/cave.  If I get really ambitious I may pull out the camcorder and record some footage and post it afterward.

On a side note prior to loading up LBP and waiting for the evening activities to settle to slumber I put in Indy 4 on Blu-ray to pass the time while cleaning up around the basement (mental note--if you let kids spill milk, have them clean it up right away otherwise it turns into a nice gluey substance that doesn't come up easily).  The THX logo test pattern at the beginning of the beginning of the movie was outstanding!  The animations for THX test patterns have always been a cool little preview for the movie after, but the THX folks have really out-done themselves with this one.  Flowers and plants unfolding into a chaotic awesome melody.

More later folks.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A little bit of LBP

So I finished Uncharted Tuesday night. Such a great game. I finished it and then wanted to go back to collect a few more trophies. The plan was to play it last night as well but instead I got a bit side-tracked. Instead I put in Little Big Planet. This is a game that the kids and I have enjoyed from the beginning. The only problem with the game (if you want to call it a problem at all) is the fact that the level editor is very VERY robust. If you want to create your own level you can easily do so, but to make a GOOD level you need to actually spend some time planning out the course, theme, story etc that you want to convey in the game. Building the level can be fairly easy but adding all the extra details to make the level really pop....that is where it gets hard.

As Garnett Lee from 1UP said last week on the ListenUp podcast, "Making good levels is not as easy as just going out and finding good levels made by other people. If I want to play LBP I'd rather play it than build it." I'm paraphrasing a bit but I can totally agree with his sentiment. I've published the level with the intent that tonight I'll go back and add a new swath of content to "enbiggen" the level some more. If you want to look for the level and give it a go, please do. The title of the level is called Saving Sam and AJ. Currently the title won't make any sense as I haven't added the story elements to it yet. I have to say that once I get into the level editor I do find that my creative mind sets ablaze and I find myself getting inspired to try new things.
More later folks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Torn between Uncharted and Force Unleashed

With the trophy patch now released for Star Wars Force Unleashed I have a hankering for replaying the game (and actually finishing it this time).  But I'm also working through the original Uncharted.  I had been impressed with Uncharted when I had previously checked it out from the library but didn't finish it and until recently (last week in fact) the price on that game was too prohibitive to simply buy it outright.  So I've rented it and I'm so close to finishing it. 

So far I'm really enjoying Uncharted for the mix of shooting and environment puzzle jumping.  I can't wait for Uncharted 2 to come out.

More later folks.