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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

de Blob

There isn't much that's sadder-- or more common-- in the videogame industry than when a really good game idea is tripped up by stupid, small broken elements that could easily have been avoided or fixed.

If we (players) are lucky, those broken bits are not big enough to ruin the game. Sometimes they are. But in the case of de Blob, I think the interesting gameplay idea still wins out despite problems that bring it down.

Ever since I played Me & My Katamari (the first game I ever got for my PSP), I've been taken with unusual game ideas. I'd never played anything like that before. Since then, I've always been on the lookout for original, different kinds of games. A lot of offbeat types of games are often compared to Katamari-- even if the gameplay is totally different-- and it's meant as a compliment to their originality. de Blob was one of those "in the vein of Katamari" type of games.

It's a great idea; you're basically like this living sponge that absorbs paint, and you roll & jump around painting buildings & landmarks around a town. There's a story to it, and while it basically just serves the purpose of the game, the design of all the little creatures are fairly good. The cutscenes are cute; almost reminiscient of Raving Rabbids.

The gameplay mechanics are a bit sluggish. This is a 3D platforming game, so jumping is very important. One of the biggest mistakes with the game is that the jump is mapped to waggle the Wii remote: you have to flick it up or down to jump. So it makes jumping a lot more laggy than it should be... and like I said, with a platformer, jumping is IMPORTANT. It should've been a button command. Also, the movement is very floaty; combine all that with 3D platforming... and it can make for some frustrating times... even moreso when I think about how these problems could've been easily avoided.

Then there are the glitchy moments. Your character de Blob sometimes gets stuck in areas like between pipes or alleyways. This morning I was playing and it had a game-freezing glitch which forced me to exit out of the entire game. I lost over 1 hour of gameplay progress because of it.

Which brings me to another major frustrating point: lack of save points. Saving is done automatically in de Blob, which is fine. But it only saves when you play through an ENTIRE level. Even though the level has 2-3 sections in it. Ummm.... could those end of sections maybe have been.... SAVE POINTS????? Sheesh. Seriously, none of you devs thought of that???? So if you want to make any progress in the game, you have to be willing to sit through it for more than an hour each time you play it. It's very annoying. I've talked about how save points can break a game. It's such a simple thing, yet game devs seem so completely clueless about it. And they wonder why their game doesn't sell....

de Blob certainly has some problems, like it's rough around the edges. But it's still a fun game with a lot of potential. I heard they're working on a sequel, and hopefully they'll fix some of these problems. I can see why de Blob usually gets 7-8/10 in the critics scores. Totally worth a budget price though.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic-Con PSPs

Check out those cool PSPs! I'm surprised that Sony would have custom PSPs made to celebrate Comic-Con. Though they do have somewhat of a history of supporting Comic-Con.

I'm a big comic book fan. In fact, I aspire to create comics, draw and maybe write them. Comic-Con International, held every July in San Diego, is the biggest comic convention in North America, and one of the biggest in the world. I've only been to Comic-Con 2 times; in 2004 & in 2006.

In 2004 I doubt I even heard of the PSP-- or if I did, I dismissed it as being way too expensive and hard to get. I know that's what I thought of it when I first heard about it.

But by July 2006, my PSP-1001 was my near-constant companion. So it was a given that I took it with me to San Diego.

For the last 10 years or so, Comic-Con has really expanded to cover a lot more than comics. Movies, tv shows, books, toys... pretty much anything nerdy had a place at Comic-Con. And yes, "nerdy" includes video games. I didn't expect much there, but I knew there was a "PSP University" panel going on that I *HAD* to attend. Except..... it was on at the exact same time of an Activision Marvel Ultimate Alliance panel that had... Stan Lee. Oh crap. Stan "The Man" Lee. One of my goals this Comic-Con was to see the elder Statesmen of comic creators; Golden and Silver-Age artists & writers, because let's face it, their time is short. In 2004, I remember walking out on a panel that had Will Eisner (the Spirit) on it because it was really boring. I regret that I didn't put up with the boring guests and stayed for Eisner, because he died shortly after that appearance. So I wasn't going to miss any chances this time.

Luckily the PSP University panel was right beside the Stan Lee one. I stayed for most of the Stan Lee one, then rushed next door to the PSP University panel right at the end. Once in there, I grilled a bunch of 13 year olds on what was covered; basically it was junk like how to put photos & video on your memory stick. "Did they mention the GPS???" I asked. "Umm... yeah I think so...." was the consensus I got.

But the coolest part was, once I was in the room, there was a lineup to get out of it. The line was because Sony was giving everyone in the room a free 32 MB memory stick loaded with bits of media for playback on their PSPs. I remember the Loco Roco demo being one of the things on it. Yeah, 32 MB isn't all that big... even then, I had a 2GB memory stick in my PSP.... but it was a cool freebie.

I should back up and talk about the first PSP experience at Comic-Con, before the PSP University one. On the showroom floor, which is populated with comics/toys/books/whatever dealers and displays by big companies... I'm wading through it, and I come across the Nintendo booth. It was this massive half-circle display with big DS Lite props along the top of the half circle, displaying stuff. But what was amazing was that the floor of the half circle was just a plain floor filled with people sitting around playing DS Lites. There were at least 100 people there.... I don't know if they were playing Mario Kart DS or what. Probably bunches of game-sharing games. I didn't know anything about the DS back then.

After seeing that, I thought, "Oh man... what will Sony's booth be like???" I immediately started picturing PSPs dancing in my head.... ok, I was really psyched to maybe have some downloadable demos or something.

But when I get there it's like... 6 PSPs mounted on a display. Oh boy. And no downloadable anything.

So obviously the PSP University story is better than the Sony booth story. But still, at least Sony has a presence at Comic-Con and it looks like they did a bit more this year. Man, I really wish I'd have gone to this year's Comic-Con.... not just for the PSP stuff, but there was so much great stuff there. There always is....


Saturday, July 25, 2009

HMV PSP games sale

I just heard that HMV has some of the Greatest Hits PSP titles on sale for $10.00.

Some of the titles:

Ape Escape: On the Loose
MX vs. ATV: Untamed
Killzone: Liberation
Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror

Could be more or less, depending on the location. I find HMV to vary content store-to-store a lot.


Friday, July 17, 2009

de Blob, Slide Adventure: Mag Kid

Yesterday I picked up de Blob (Wii) from Rogers Video Rogers Plus... it's currently on sale there for $14.99! My nephew really likes the game... when his parents rented it for him, I only got about 5 minutes of play time on it.... I don't know if I'll have a chance to play it before I see him, if not I'll probably pass it along to him when I see him....

I also ordered this week's Play-Asia weekly special: it's a DS game called Slide Adventure: Mag Kid. I don't know too much about it except it's Japanese, and it uses a peripheral that hooks into the DS Lite's GBA slot and lets you slide the DS around a flat surface; basically like a mouse. What with the DSi removing that slot, it's such a waste that weird add-ons like this and the Arkanoid paddle are now incompatible.

It'll be interesting to see what it's like.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Road trip

Ahh yes.... I've been away for a couple weeks on a road trip. Drove the southern part of B.C. through Kooteney/Banff/Yoho National Park, on to Calgary to check out the Calgary Stampede and back. I believe the picture is of overlooking Osoyoos, heading east.

This almost seems like blasphemy, but I didn't take my PSP. I didn't take any handhelds, only my Sandisk e280 mp3 player. I knew I wouldn't get a chance to use them very much. It was a hard decision to leave my beloved PSP at home, but I only had so much space. I did take a novel (Twilight) -- books: the original handheld-- but I didn't even get much of a chance to read that either. I shoulda taken the PSP.

I didn't expect to find much has changed in the handheld world, or even with the Wii either. And unless I'm missing something, not much has. As far as I can tell, there's been the usual "PSP 2" rumours, and the odd PSN announcement, but nothing of note.

I'm just spending the next couple weeks waiting for Wii Sports Resort to finally hit. Honestly, I think this may be my most anticipated game of the year. I don't know why I'm so psyched for it, it's not like it will be a deep immersive game. But Wii Sports was the killer app; I knew when I bought my Wii that Wii Sports alone was worth the price of admission for me. So if Wii Sports Resort lives up to that kind of accessible fun, then I'll be happy. Plus... it's such a dry season for games-- news and releases-- that anything is better than nothing. This would be a great time to release a blockbuster because I'd be much more inclined to pick it up now rather than the "holiday period" where there's so much more competing for my $$$.

Oh well, trying to slog through the rest of Twilight, and waiting for Wii Sports Resort to finally drop....