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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Loco Roco 2 coming

Oh yeah.... I'm getting psyched for it now.... after watching it come out in Japan & Europe and having *NO* North American release date at all for awhile... Loco Roco 2 is (finally) almost here... The N.A. release date is set for Feb 10, 2009.

The release price is also pretty great: $19.99 U.S. Unfortunately, Future Shop has it listed for $24.99 Canadian... which is to be expected given our dollar has sunk so low in value in the last 2 months... it's still a price that will probably have me buying it on day 1....

I think I've pretty much run dry the entertainment value of Secret Agent Clank... the final boss battle is all about fighting and being able to take tons of hits. The problem is, the *entire Clank campaign* is about AVOIDING fighting & using stealth. He's not as tough as Ratchet, and his weapons aren't as strong. Yet they throw in a final boss battle that basically looks like it was meant to be played with Ratchet since Clank is so ill-equipped to do this stuff properly. It's really frustrating how the devs got so lazy at the end here. Basically they took an outtake of a Ratchet level, maybe from Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, and dropped it into Secret Agent Clank. I never get why devs don't want people to finish the final levels of their games. Even if I do manage to finish it, I know it won't be particularly satisfying for all the effort.

So I could use a new PSP game... Loco Roco 2 should hit the spot nicely I hope.

About 2 weeks left.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

playing Secret Agent Clank

I was a bit harsh in my initial assessment of Secret Agent Clank last week.... I do still think that Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters is the better game of the 2.... but Secret Agent Clank, while rough around the edges, is proving to be a pretty fun experience.

I've been playing it quite a bit over the last week. Maybe because I'm aware of its flaws, I'm somehow more forgiving of the game, but really-- I haven't had any major frustration from it in all the hours of playing. So that's good.

Critics have been hard on the Ratchet missions, and for some reason very generous with the Quark ones. I have to say that both are not as bad as they were made out to be. True, they do distract from what we think is the main game-- Clank's missions-- but we have to look at this game as being more of an ensemble cast *starring* Clank but also Ratchet, Qwark, & the Gadgebots. Yes Clank is the star in this game (his name's on the box after all) but the other characters play major supporting roles. It varies the gameplay up between stealth/puzzle platforming, action, and, ummm more action, and more puzzle platforming. I find my PSP battery draining from all the gameplay... which is a sign of a good game (even though the PSP has a pretty short battery life)

Wish we could've gotten that cute Clank action figure in Canada, apparently only a GameStop preorder exclusive.

I've heard the final boss is really hard, so I'll probably go back & do some of the side missions, try to level up.


DTV delayed

IGN quietly posted an article about how the switch to DTV has been delayed.

Originally, Feb 2009 was the deadline given to U.S. tv stations to switch their signal over from analog to digital. This doesn't mean much for anyone using cable, but if you're still tuning in tv stations using an antenna; that's analog. As in, "gone by Feb 2009".

For most, tuning in tv station through an antenna (anyone remember "rabbit ears"?) is like washing clothes using a ribbed washboard & bar of soap. But it's gained a newfound relevence for me.

See, I have a portable tv, a Sony Watchman:

It looks similar to that, but mine looks better.

I got it when I was a kid, and loved it like crazy for awhile. Then I put it away and only a couple years ago came across it again. Sure to (old) Sony quality, it still works!

But of course the only way to get any tv channels is over the air, through the antenna. So when that gets shut off.....

Being in Canada, I'll only lose a few U.S. tv stations, like KVOS in Bellingham or some of the ones in Seattle. But it will still be sad.....

I've been planning to do a photo spread of my Sony Watchman & PSP to compare the 2 devices. It's pretty obvious which one has the most functionality, but it's also sad that quality-built devices like the Watchman shows Sony just doesn't make things like they used to.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Die Videogame industry, Die! - part 4 - movie videogames

Part 4 of a 10 part series about why I want the video game industry to implode, causing massive layoffs & putting most devs out of business so that the industry can come back much better than it currently is.

It's common knowledge to gamers that "movie-based videogames suck".

To quote Battlestar Galactica: All this has happened before and all this will happen again....

Here's a bit of history of comic books: In the late 70's Marvel Comics published comic book adaptations of Star Wars & Empire Strikes Back. They were pretty successful, spawning an ongoing monthly Star Wars title. Followed by comic adaptations of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Bladerunner, etc. These adaptations tried to be exact to the movie, basically in comic book form. Sometimes they showed scenes cut from the final version of the movie. Way before DVD, this was the only way you'd ever get to see these scenes.

When they first started, the comic adaptations were fairly good... they had really good art that looked like the characters, and the dialogue was all lifted straight from the script. But by the late 80's through the 90's, Marvel and other comic companies had really worn out the "comic adaptation of the movie" formula. Fans were tired of picking up a comic that was supposed to "be the movie", but instead was just a tired, cheap, quick cash-grab.

Does any of this sound familiar to gamers?

I can't figure out what game was the FIRST based on a movie, but one of the earliest I can think of is GoldenEye for the N64. I've never played it, but it's highly-regarded for it's FPS format & dual-wielding gameplay.

Fast forward to the present, and movie-based video games clog the shelves. Most--hell, ALMOST ALL of them-- are considered to be shovelware.

I don't consider games like Star Wars: Battlefront or games like that to be "movie games", because they're not meant to be straight adaptations where you're "playing the movie". Star Wars: Battlefront is more like a game that sets itself in the universe of the movies. That's different. It wasn't timed to release right before a movie, nor did it seem like a quick cash-in. It felt like the devs thought, "Hey, I have an idea for a twist on the Star Wars universe...." Which is how games SHOULD be made: based upon GREAT IDEAS FOR A GAME. That's probably how GoldenEye was made.

Movie games are more like, "if we have a game to go along with this upcoming movie it'll act as advertising for it". A lot of movie games come out weeks before the movie does. It's pretty obvious that the deadlines are tight, because they have to coincide with the movie release. Is it a surprise then, that the games seem like they're rushed through development? To get it done in time, publishers like EA Games, THQ, Ubisoft, etc. probably use a basic game engine, and wrap it with the "feel" of the movie they're adapting. So movie games all feel generic & the same.

What really pisses me off is that it seems like most of the games scheduled to come out are games based on movies. It's true that the Wii has some of the saddest video game offerings of all the consoles, but even for the others, I'm sure movie games make up the bulk of their releases. It's just that anyone who's bought & played games for a time has learned to ignore them.

Look, I'm not against the idea of games based on movies. But the genesis of them has to be "here's a great idea for a game based on this movie". Instead, what we're getting is, "Ok, we need a [movie of the week] game, and we need it in 6 months". There's so much money being made from videogames, and people who make that crap have no business being in the biznizz of making videogames. From companies on down to the individual creators of this junk, they need to be disolved/fired/whatever and find something other to do-- NOT create videogames.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Die Videogame industry, Die! - part 3 - respect for handhelds

Part 3 of a 10 part series about why I want the video game industry to implode, causing massive layoffs & putting most devs out of business so that the industry can come back much better than it currently is.

So many things are wrong with the video game industry right now... one of them has to be the sheer lack or respect for handheld gaming.

Handheld consoles have been around for a long time, mostly Nintendo's market-dominating Game Boy line. Traditionally, Game Boy and handheld gaming in general has been seen as for little kids or an accessory for the completist, hardcore gamer. Even though there are some involved & "deeper" Game Boy games, overall they're always seen as automatically on a lower tier of importance to full-sized console gaming.

Which was fair enough.... Game Boy Advance graphics & production couldn't reach the level of the home consoles at the time: PS2, GameCube, Xbox. Unfortunately, the way the devs/pubs think about handhelds was maybe true over 5 years ago. They're stuck in the past, to a way of thinking that hasn't been relevant for the last 3-4 years. Since the release of the DS and PSP, handheld gaming consoles have evolved to a new level. I don't deny that it's still a different level than home consoles, even those older ones listed above. They can't/shouldn't be compared directly in terms of production values. What really bugs me is that no one in the industry is really taking seriously the huge sales & ownership bases of the portable consoles-- their sales are rivaling and SURPASSING home consoles.

I could *maybe* understand the lack of respect for the PSP; there's always the "declining sales/piracy/just not as popular as the DS" excuse that too many use to dismiss it, even though the PSP is currently Sony's best selling console, outselling the PS3 and PS2. But the DS often tops the list of consoles--both portable & home-- sold. Yet it *still* doesn't get its due from reviewers/bloggers/developers/publishers... it's just seen as a nice bonus or something. #1 and it still can't get any notice from creative-minded game developers? What does a handheld need to do?

The so-called hardcore just doesn't get it, and neither do game devs & publishers... that portable gaming is a new beast, that's growing by leaps & bounds DESPITE their (lack of) efforts not because of it. They blame it on "casual gamers"... because that's a convenient term that can be slotted anywhere yet doesn't have to mean anything. Developers & publishers think there are 2 kinds of gamers, to them hardcore=no money, and casual=stupid. Since they think casuals are driving the handheld gaming boom, they release tons & tons of DS shovelware (and used to release tons & tons of lame PS2-to-PSP ports)... when you throw a wall of crap at a successful selling system, of course there's some money that's going to be made. It doesn't mean that we DON'T want good games though. Games that play to the strengths of the system they're made for, and are DIFFERENT than all the other generic trendy games that keep coming out.

It's nice to have some connection between them, but handhelds are NOT an accessory item to a larger console. Lots of people have a handheld system as their ONLY system. These owners still count. And they're growing. The industry needs to push the production quality of their handheld games with the same fervor they apply to the full-sized console games.... or just give up and die.

Just show some respect & understanding already.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Secret Agent Clank

Last weekend I bought Secret Agent Clank... I noticed the price at Future Shop dropped to $20.00... so I thought I'd take a shot & picked it up.

I've only started playing it, but I have to say... the mediocre review that IGN gave it seem pretty accurate. Secret Agent Clank uses the same look & general feel of the superior PSP game Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, but there's much less polish to everything. Secret Agent Clank feels like a rushed follow-up to to it. $20.00 is a good deal, but I'd rather have paid $10.00 for a game that's this rough around the edges.

It's sad, because the basic idea is really cool: Clank, Ratchet's sidekick, takes the guise of a James Bond-ish agent. Whereas Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters was more of an action/platforming game, Secret Agent Clank is more stealth-oriented, with small bursts of action.

One thing I've noticed about stealth games: if you're going to make a stealth game YOU CANNOT HALF-ASS IT. I've seen/heard of so many stealth games where they were either rushed or just couldn't be bothered to really polish it up, and I don't know if developers/publishers think that "it's mostly there" is good enough... but for a STEALTH game, it really isn't. You'll notice when things are clunky & broken. Things have to work.

I don't think Secret Agent Clank was given the attention it deserved in development to make it a more fun, playable game... it was quietly "announced", and unlike Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, where developer High Impact trumpeted it in video after video.... Secret Agent Clank was given relatively little promotion. "Managing expectations" is the catch-phrase that maybe fits this game. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good, and fairly well polished. In Secret Agent Clank, it's hard to explain, but it seems less intuitive as to where to go & what to do in places. And things like the timed button presses stealth maneuvers are sadly broken.

If someone was trying to decide between getting Secret Agent Clank or Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, I'd recommend Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters over Secret Agent Clank, especially if you've never played a Ratchet & Clank game before. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters is just a more complete, accessible experience.

[UPDATE:] having more fun with the game after a week of play... read here for details.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Wii remote jackets received

Awesome! I ordered the 4 Wii remote jackets on Thursday, and got them on Monday! Gotta love Nintendo's fast service; that kind of postal service is probably common in the U.S., but it's nearly unheard of here in Canada.

It's funny.... I've noticed whenever I order something from them, it seems like Nintendo has basically every part simply packaged in a clear plastic bag-- often not even sealed-- makes me think that they have stacks & stacks of whatever parts lying around somewhere, in unmarked plastic bags, ready to go if needed....

Pretty much just stuffed in there, with a crumpled instruction sheet on how to "install" them.

They're fairly thick, even at the thinnest parts.

They make the Wii remote feel a lot bigger, which might be good for people who think it's too small, but I felt the Wii remote's compact size fit my Azn hands rather well.

They also add some weight, though it is a small amount... I'll have to play with one on for awhile to see if I like it.

The Wii remote jackets have ridges on the bottom part. Aside from feeling really rubbery, the ridges add even more "extra grip" to the Wii remote with the Wii remote condom jacket on it; wow, Nintendo sure is scared about Wii remotes flying out of users hands.... between this, the Wii remote strap, and the contoured shape of the Wii remote itself, basically the only thing left is for Nintendo to figure out a way to GLUE the remotes to users hands.....

But still, free is free. I'm only going to use 1 out of the 4 that I got; I only have 2 Wii remotes, and I want one free to use in the Wii Zapper or Wii steering wheel when I need to.

Thanks Nintendo!


Friday, January 16, 2009

Iwata interview on the origin of Wii

Nintendo put up this great text transcript of an interview conducted by Satoru Iwata - President and CEO, Nintendo Co., Ltd.

He interviews his Wii design team in quite a bit of detail. Kinda funny to have a bunch of people interviewed by their boss. I'm reading the first volume, there are 6 volumes, each volume 3-4 pages.... so this could be a lot of talkin'.

One of the most surprising bits the team reveals is that they started working on developing the Wii shortly after the GameCube came out!

But in this first volume, the team talks about how they were really focused on making the Wii small and energy efficient-- they wanted it to use as little power as possible, to keep it on "24 hours a day" ... I assume they are talking about Wii Connect 24.... they used advanced semi-conductor chips to achieve this.

The focus for such tech is usually to create better graphics & faster processors, but they talk about not wanting to go in that direction:

In the case of the GameCube, we discovered that the power consumption could be reduced to between one-third and one-quarter of the consumption of the GameCube's semiconductors. I was really impressed with these results. Of course, I was surprised by the data itself, but it was also the moment at which I was struck by the originality of Nintendo. Normally, when making new devices, companies compete with each other on the basis of “How much faster is the CPU, how much more memory is there, and how many more polygons can be displayed?” But Nintendo posed the question “How much can we decrease power consumption and maintain performance?"

Wii has gotten a lot of flak as being "2 GameCubes duct-taped together"; basically graphically "last-gen" opposed to the other superior power of the other consoles. I would have preferred that Nintendo made the Wii more powerful so as to not look dated this gen, but I do like the new direction that it clearly went for in gaming. There's tons of untapped potential to it. The problem is that a lot of third parties don't understand that potential or how to make proper use of it.

The interview is pretty interesting if you're curious about the little details of the origins of the Wii.

*read the full interview here*


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wii remote jackets

I just filled out an order for 4 free Wii remote jackets.

I bought my Wii before the jackets were introduced. Nintendo has a history of overreacting being a bit over-sensitive to safety criticism.

First it was the little nylon string that ties the Wii remote strap to the remote was too thin. That one actually might be a bit true. It was before my [Wii-buying] time; mine came with decent string that they thickened in response to all those "Wii remote flying out of gamers hands" stories that were all over the net.

Then they replaced the Wii strap tightener to a locking Wii strap tightener. The Wii strap I got with my Wii had the non-locking kind, but the Wii strap I got with my 2nd Wii remote (from the Wii Play package) had the locking Wii strap. But Nintendo offers these replacements (up to 4) free, so who am I to turn down free stuff? I submitted my order & got 4 free Wii straps....

Nintendo, still not feeling "safe enough" then started including silicone Wii remote jackets that had padding around the front.... I guess after hearing all the "Wii remote bashing into furniture & stuff" stories.... which is actually true. I really try to be mindful of that, yet there've been times when I've bashed my Wii remote into stuff. It just happens. So I guess it's a good idea to have the extra padding, 'cause Wii remotes are expensive.

Except I never got around to getting in on that particular freebee. I never really thought I needed it THAT badly, plus I'd have to take it off to put the Wii remote into my Wii wheel (MaroKart Wii) and/or Wii Zapper. And I just plain forgot.

But tonight I just thought, what the hell, & tried out the free order thing. So hopefully I'll get some free Wii remote jackets. Is it just me, or do they kinda look like a cobra at the top?


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party

So I finally tried out Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party that I got during Boxing Week. Gah (or should that be DAHHHH!?)-- they need to just take Rayman's name out of the titles of these games, as he's becoming less & less of a presence. The Rabbids are the real stars of this show, and the title is unwieldly enough as it is.

It's fun enough so far, I'm only about 20% in.... but it doesn't really bring much that's new to the franchise of Rabbids games. I haven't tried Rayman Raving Rabbids 2, because I heard that one wasn't so good, but I think the first Rayman Raving Rabbids was the most innovative of the bunch, though it did have some really frustrating mini-games with broken controls. There's still a bit of that here too.

I am fairly impressed so far with the Balance Board support-- this is my first game other than Wii Fit that lets me use the Wii Balance Board. There's the obvious snowboarding type of challenges, and also "tobogganing" type of races where you steer the toboggan with your bum. It generally works fairly well. My fave Balance Board one is where you're a Godzilla-ish monster and you use the Balance Board to steer a jet of flames onto buildings & enemies.

One thing I find a bit disappointing is that like RRR1, they repeat mini-games over & over again. They advertise "over 50 mini-games!" on the box, but really, it's more like 10 games 5 times over. That's a bit annoying, though I rather have less that work than more that DON'T.

It's a bit early to judge the game, but it seems like it will be a quick one to finish. We'll see, when I have time to play it some more.


Wii Music

So, I got my 8-year-old nephew Wii Music for xmas, knowing that he was getting a Wii from "Santa". Recently, he made a deal with me to trade his copy of Wii Music for my copy of Super Mario Galaxy. Hmmmm. Errrrr... ok. (yikes.) I'm sure I'll see Super Mario Galaxy again, and I did want to try out Wii Music....

Wii Music has to be one of the least understood apps to come out in the last few years. People just don't get it. *I* didn't entirely get it. Bloggers & so-called game critics CERTAINLY didn't get it. So Wii Music suffered a critical drubbing & is considered by many so-called "hardcore gamers" as a failure of a game.

I'm not sure that Wii Music is a game in the traditional sense. Some call it a "toy". It sort of is, but it also has a small mini-game component to it. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that's the focus, when I don't think it's meant to be... so they end up disappointed & wanting more.

There are 3 sections to Wii Music: jams, mini-games, and videos. Videos are recorded jam sessions. Custom Jams are where most of the action is at. There's a list of songs you play along to, one instrument at a time. You are encouraged to play through a song with one instrument part, say, the melody, then go back & play through that same song doing the harmony part, & so on... each time you change instruments it will include your previous performance in the song, so eventually you can end up performing all the parts of the song & save a video of it.

It's weird... hard to explain it, but this isn't like Guitar Hero or Rock Band types of games. Those are basically Dance Dance Revolution played with your fingers instead of your feet. In those games you have to hit the notes exactly to succeed. Wii Music is more about improvisation. But Wii Music isn't entirely free-formed either. You can do a little bit of variation, but overall it sticks to the general song you're playing. The trick is to come up with something that is original & interesting in its own right, within the framework of the original song.

It really reminds me of those Casio keyboards, where you hit almost any random notes and there's backing tracks that "play along in tune" to whatever you hammer out.

Wii Music is clearly aimed at introducing people to music. You won't learn to read music here, but timing & rhythm are important (as they obviously are to music) I play guitar, and I don't profess to be awesome, but I don't really like playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band types of games because I'd rather be playing the tunes on an ACTUAL GUITAR... again, it's just DDR for your fingers. But Wii Music feels more like playing and understanding music than those games do. It's not as fast & furious as those games, so it's not as accessible, but if you want a rudimentary introduction to music, Wii Music isn't bad for that. Keyword being RUDIMENTARY.

All that said, I'm still not sure there's enough here to warrant the full price they're charging for Wii Music: $50.o0. I think it's totally worth $20.00, maybe even $30.00. Unfortunately, Wii Music is a first-party Nintendo game, and they are notorious for not dropping in price, no matter how much time passes. I wouldn't be surprised if Wii Music was still $40.00-$50.00 a year from now. Which is a shame, because at a lower MSRP, I think Wii Music wouldn't be so much-maligned as it is now and more people might give it a chance.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

PSP watching: Yo-Yo Girl Cop, Knocked Up

Couple more movies I watched recently on my PSP.

Yo-Yo Girl Cop... so lemme get this straight: Toho Studios made a movie... and it *didn't* have Godzilla or any other giant rubber-suited monsters in it? Hmmm....

So Yo-Yo Girl Cop... enh, it was alright. It's about this girl who infiltrates a school trying to find a bomber ring, she's working for the police & she uses a yo-yo as a weapon. Obviously it's meant to be cheesy action fun. Can't expect anything more.

Knocked Up. I have to admit, this was a really funny movie! I was surprised; I'm not sure why since I liked The 40 year Old Virgin, and this was made by the same director. It's really funny if you have young children in your life, I think.

If I have to be really honest, there's a lot of cheesy tv shows on my PSP as well... I've been taping and watching Blood Ties & Flash Gordon.... they are really throwaway series but they're entertaining in short bursts. But there's no justifying watching this stuff, really.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wii playing GameCube discs

Trying to get the bad gaming taste of Ultimate Spider-Man out of my mouth, last night I popped in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door into my Wii. It's a GameCube game, and it sort of baffles me that the fact that the Wii can play GameCube games is rarely ever mentioned, especially by Nintendo.

Out of the 3 "next gen" consoles, the Wii is the *most* backwards compatible of them... early on, the Xbox 360 was heavily criticized for only having backwards compatibility through software emulation-- they had to program it in for EACH GAME-- so there are many original Xbox games that aren't playable on an Xbox 360. And Sony's track record is even worse, though they were able to escape public stupidity notice by timing their backwards compatibility; at first the PS3 was backwards compatible through hardware... then they removed that hardware from subsequent PS3 models and used (the flawed method of) software emulation... and now, I think they have just removed backwards compatibility entirely from their latest PS3s?

The Wii needs a couple things to play GameCube games:

  • A GameCube controller-- I use a Wavebird wireless GameCube controller. It's pretty good, but it doesn't have rumble. That bugs me, actually.
  • The other thing the Wii needs is a GameCube memory card for game saves.

My Wii with Wavebird remote dongle and memory card sticking out the top. Sitting beside my Xbox. Because the cover's up, I cut a comic book cardboard backing board to cover up the exposed controller/memory card ports.

There's a real "separation between Church & State" when it comes to Wii and GameCube modes on the Wii. The Wii has enough memory for GameCube gamesaves, but you still need a seperate GameCube memory card for it. It's like the hardware for the 2 devices is completely autonomous. You put a GameCube disc in, start up the game from the Wii menu like normal, and once the Gamecube disc starts loading, the Wii thinks it is a GameCube. You can't go back to the Wii menu to end the game like you can with Wii games, even the Wii remote turns off. And if you eject the GameCube disc from the Wii, a "cover is open" message appears on the screen. The Wii thinks it has a GameCube disc cover. That's open. Which it isn't. 'Cause it doesn't have one.

So I'm never sure how to end a GameCube game. With my Xbox, I can safely eject a disc as long it's not loading/saving data. I put in another Xbox game, and it starts up again. But with the Wii playing GameCube discs, I eject and it thinks the cover is open and won't do anything. Am I supposed to turn it off and turn it back on every time I need to switch games? (which is what I do) Or do I hit the RESET button on the Wii? (I only use it for emergency freeze ups) I don't really know.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ultimate Spider-Man sucks

*Sigh*... may as well just lay it out in the title.

I bought Ultimate Spider-Man (Xbox) used from EB Games awhile back.... I think I got it as part of a "2 for $20.00" sale. I sure hope I didn't pay more than $10.00 for this turd, anyway.

I've had it sitting on my shelf for so long.. looking for something to follow up the mostly great experience of Super Mario Galaxy, I thought I may as well try it out.... I really wanted to like this game. Yes, it's made by Treyarch, the Activision-owned developer that made Spider-Man 2/3 and probably Spider-Man 1. I've only personally played Spider-Man 2, and that game also bites.

You know when devs make the EXACT SAME GAME over and over and over again? I'm sure it happens with [sport title]:[whatever year], Madden 2009 for example, or NBA 2009, etc. I'm not into sports games, so I don't know if they're good/bad, but I always wonder why someone would want to buy the exact same game over again every year...

Except this is EXACTLY what Treyarch does with their Spider-Man games. Sure Ultimate Spider-Man has a slightly different look to it: more cel-shaded, more comic book cutscenes. but the gameplay itself is NEARLY IDENTICAL to Spider-Man 2, and from what I can tell, all the other Treyarch Spider-Man(1 & 3) games. There should be a law against making the same bloody game 4 times over, and expecting people to keep buying it. Actually, there is a word for it-- fraud.

All of the same problems from the previous Spider-Man games show up in Ultimate Spider-Man. There's races and "get to here before the time runs out" missions, and they're STUPID because as cool as the webswinging & climbing mechanic is, IT IS NOT NEARLY PRECISE ENOUGH to do these missions. You get so little time to get into the ball that's nestled in this stupid corner that it's impossible to even get into because you keep jumping off a wall when you're trying to stick to it.... and of course they pad out the game by making you repeat the same missions over & over to artificially extend the gameplay. Instead of, y'know, adding legitimate content.

After about 1 hour of play, I've had enough. This is the same crap I endured trying to accept that travesty known as the Spider-Man 2 game, it hasn't gotten any better. It makes me so mad, because the game basics are really cool. Spidey does swing around nicely, the overall look is good... it just all falls apart in the gameplay.

I can only hope that Activision lost a lot of money with the Spider-Man 3 game, and with even more luck for us gamers (if there was any justice) Treyarch will get shut down & never make another Spider-Man game ever again. I'm sure that's just too much to hope for.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Counter Force - shovelware

So I popped Counter Force into my Wii last night.


I expected bad. But this is *bad* bad..... I thought it might at least be fun in an arcadey way.... the problem is that it's pretty hard to even see the enemy to shoot at. And then there are collisions with the backgrounds.... overall I can't tell when I'm being hit or what. It's just a big mess.

from Wikipedia:

The term "shovelware" has more recently been used in a more general sense by video game reviewers to indicate any product of disappointingly low quality due to a lack of time and effort by the developers. The Nintendo Wii and DS have often been criticized for having many shovelware titles, with producers hoping to make money with the large success of the consoles at the expense of creating quality games.

I feel bad for paying money for such obvious shovelware. I know that we should not be supporting the making of crappy, quick cash-grabs of broken games, especially for the Wii as it's drowning in shovelware as it is.... those of us who know better have a MORAL OBLIGATION to try to stop the support of shovelware as best we can. Usually this only means voting with our wallets & not buying that crap.

I noticed a lot of shovelware comes from one particular publisher, Conspiracy Games. Check out their roster of games.... EVERY ONE is a shovelware title. They're all the ones I see in the bargain bins at Wal-Marts and other big box stores.... they're usually seductively-priced at under $20.00. I bought Counter Force for $10.00.. and I STILL paid too much. Because honestly, how low of a price is low enough for a crappy game? There is no price low enough.

I can't help but compare Counter Force to another quick & dirty title, Star Trek: Conquest. That game also has limited modes & production values; there's no 2 player, and really not much more than the basic game. But despite it's low production values, Star Trek: Conquest is just dumb fun. I'm going to give Counter Force a bit more play, but I doubt I'll really warm to it. May as well use it as a coaster.


PSP watching: Miami Vice, United 93

I haven't been using my PSP all that much over the holidays... I did play a bit of Jeanne D'Arc, but RPGs are pretty slow paced.... I have to admit my Wii has been getting the most attention (even before I got Super Mario Galaxy)

But I have been watching some movies on my PSP, trying to clear a backlog of junk that I've collected & need to delete. I watched 2 movies, both camera copies.... which I'm going to avoid in future. That's just no way to watch a movie, the quality is such crap.

Miami Vice... was enh. Might be better had I watched a better quality version. But overall, it didn't live up to one of Michael Mann's best movies, Heat. Still, I was really taken by the final song in the film, Mogwai's Auto Rock.

Then I watched United 93. I've been putting off watching this one for awhile. The subject matter is so heavy. And it's emotionally draining to go back to the events of 9/11. It's such a sad story, but really, this is a story of pure heroism. These people are just going about their daily lives when they're confronted by such pure evil, in a way that they never really concieved. We all knew of plane hijackings, even terrorism, but nobody could have predicted this. And the passengers of this flight rise up to the challenge, knowing that they will probably die, not only to try to save themselves, but to prevent further death of others. It's too bad that this heroism seems to have been forgotten in the history of 9/11.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 video game resolution - pay less for games

If 2008 taught me anything about videogames, it's that I don't want to pay full price for the majority of my game purchases.

May 2008 was the killer EB Games "Games Days" sale, where they had massive markdowns on 1 or 2 games for just about every console each day of the sale. I picked up 3-4 Wii games, 1-2 DS games, and 1-2 PSP games for $10.00 each.

And that's about how much I want to pay for games. My sweet spot is $20.00, but $10.00 is my snap-it-up price if it's a game I'm at all interested in.

For 2009, I want most of my game buys to be in the $20.00 or $10.00 range. A few games I will pay full price (or close to it)... I know I will when Loco Roco 2 (PSP) comes out in Feb 2009. I'll try to wait for a few weeks to see if it goes on sale, but if it doesn't, I'll pay.

It's just that even 1 full price game will set you back over $50.00. That's a lot of money for only 1 game. If it's one of the best games you'll ever play, it's totally worth it. But the chances of that are statistically very low.... there are too many crap and overrated games coming out in this current state of the industry.

What I want this year:

Kirby Superstar Ultra (DS) --got it (???)2009
*Loco Roco 2
(PSP) --got it Feb. 10, 2009 ($24.99)
Star Wars Clone Wars Lightsaber Duels (Wii) --got it Oct(?)2009
Boom Blox (Wii) -- got it Feb 5, 2009 ($19.99)
House of the Dead: Overkill

What I am possibly interested in:

Resistance Retribution (PSP) --got it March 30, 2009 ($34.99)
*The Conduit
(Wii)-- got it March 24, 2010 ($24.83)
No More Heroes
New Super Mario Bros (DS) --got it Aug, 2009 ($29.99)

*= I'll pay full price for it.

Notice how most of the games on those lists have been out for awhile already. I'm hoping that they will drop to my sweet spot in pricing this year (in the case of No More Heroes which is already at the $20.00 mark, obviously I don't want to pay more than $10.00 for it.)

The problem with waiting for the $10.00 deals is that rarely is it something I was totally searching for. In 2008, the best $10.00 deal I got was Star Trek: Conquest (Wii) because out of the $10.00 deals I got, it was the game I most wanted. I still play the hell out of it.


after the perfect game

Ever played a really really great game... one where you're enjoying just about every minute of it? And you almost don't want it to end; you don't want to finish it because it's been such a ride.

Eventually, you DO finish it, and maybe go back to it for some replayability. But at some point, you have to move on... on to the NEXT game.

But what is the next game? And can it live up to the experience of that last, near perfect game?

I'm pretty close to wrapping up Super Mario Galaxy. There's a lot of content to the game, a lot of extra levels... so there'll be ones to go back to. But for the most part, I think that most of the real fun to be had has been squeezed out of the game. It was such a pleasant surprise to find it such a great game.

But now I'm wondering, what should I play next? I have 2 Wii games from the Boxing Week sales that I haven't tried yet: Raving Rabbids T.V. Party and Counter Force. I figure I'll be popping in Counter Force & giving that a spin for awhile. I expect it to be not great, but hopefully a "so bad it's good" type of experience; just cheesy on-rails mech action fun.

One thing I've noticed about playing games one after another is that timing & order is key. A few times I've played an awesome game only to follow it up with a mediocre one... and I know I would've enjoyed the mediocre one more if I hadn't played an awesome one just before it. There've been times where I played an mediocre/ok game, had fun with it, then the next one is awesome, and was grateful I hadn't played it first since it's so much better than the previous game that I enjoyed-- not knowing that I had a better experience to compare it to.

The thing is, I can never really know what's going to turn out to be an awesome game and what's going to disappoint.

In this case, I think playing Counter Force will be such a change of pace that I will have fun with it.... but it's never easy at the end of "finishing the perfect game"..... what's next?


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Super Mario Galaxy

Wow. As mentioned, one of the games I bought during Boxing Week was Super Mario Galaxy. Paid $29.99 for it... Super Mario Galaxy got glowing reviews, but I was skeptical because I find that major game franchises from *ALL* the companies to be largely overrated. Part of what's broken in the video game industry is obviously the companies-- console makers, publishers and developers-- but a significant part of it's brokeness also comes from the poor quality of so-called video game journalism. I expected Super Mario Galaxy to be a bit of a letdown like MarioKart Wii was.

What a surprise though! This game is really fun and addictive! I'm very pleasantly shocked by how much I'm enjoying this game. I really want to like the platformer genre of games, but rarely do I find games that are balanced & not just "you can't get over the 18th firetrap, so you can't go any farther in the game. May as well throw it away now."

Super Mario Galaxy has its share of frustrating moments to be sure, but there's still a lot to love about the game. The levels are really nicely designed, you walk around on planets that are small as a house, so you're upside down a lot. For the first couple hours I found it a bit... not queesy, but I wasn't sure how I was going to like it. But after I got used to it, it really adds to the fun of exploring, not only the topsides of worlds, but the undersides & insides too.

The overall look and sound of this game is really great. The basic gameplay reminds me a lot of Lego Star Wars. I like Lego Star Wars, but Super Mario Galaxy is like a better version of those games. Unfortunately, because of the static camera in a 3D world, Super Mario Galaxy suffers from much of the same camera issues Lego Star Wars did... some parts of the game are harder than they should be simply because the camera gets in the way.

Everything is very bright colourful, & cartoony, even the lettering exudes a certain charm (though more voice work would be nice....) Coupled with music with sounds that range from a stirring cosmic themes to what sounds like a Vienese Waltz... it's just a really nicely designed game world. Very kid-friendly looking/sounding game. Playing it, however, is *not* kid-friendly... there are some tricky areas & some of the tolerances for the challenges are so low that there's NO room for ANY error, which I hate. I don't play video games 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I don't want to have games designed for people who do. They went out of their way to make this such a kid-friendly looking game that I wonder why they made it largely inaccessible to those very kids they seemed to be targeting it at. We'll see how it goes when/if my nephew tries it out.

But I personally found the difficulty curve to be not too bad. The levels are not too short, but they aren't too long either. You'll navigate some tricky platform challenges & you usually won't be expected to endure tons more, usually you'll get there. Most of the checkpoints are good. You start with 4 Marios, it's fairly easy to get more... but I found that after getting 20 Marios, when I saved + turned off the game, next time I played, you start back with only 4 again. Like I said, it's easy to get more.... even though Princess Peach is kidnapped, she manages to send you a letter with 5 1-ups included. It's just having a limited amount of men is an archaic & outdated formula of video game design.

There's a lot of content to the game, lots of levels, called "Galaxies" here... and there are secret paths that lead to other levels.

Super Mario Galaxy is definitely one of the Wii's flagship titles. I'm glad I bought it. I keep going back to it for "just one more level"... which is a sign of a great game.


Jennifer Hale interview by UltraNeko

UltraNeko posted a nice 10 minute interview with actress Jennifer Hale.

I'm a fan of Jennifer Hale's sexy voice work from cartoons & video games... I first remember her doing the voice of Felicia Hardy (Black Cat) from one of the Spider-Man cartoon series. But then I started recognizing her voice from games I was playing.

The final minutes of the interview, Hale gives a couple demos of her voice acting, and if you close your eyes & imagine the characters she's doing, she's actually quite an impressive voice actress! I knew the sexy stuff, but I bet she does a lot of voices I never recognize.


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