Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sony: Stepping their game up?

Hello Sony... Why what's this email I've received from you?  PlayStation Plus?  Hmm...

Sony is unveiling their new, subscription based service for online gaming.  I believe that in the past I have blogged about my vast dislike for PS3's online capabilities.  It's like they say, "Here - You want to game with friends online?  Maybe try and gain some noteriety by winning 'trophies' on your games?  Well guess what?  I'm giving it to you - but it's going to be a total pain in the butt.  Oh, and I hope you don't ever want to play multi-player on the same console either.  Basically don't interact with any other humans.  Ever."

So you can see that I might have a few doubts about if Sony's offering, at $50 for a year (with 3 months free if you purchase 1 year) would be worth my hard earned cash.  They claim that the paid service offers bonuses to subscribers, including full game demos, store discounts, exclusive downloads, and free games, among other things.  My guess is that should read more like store "discounts" and "free" games.  I sincerely doubt they are going to give up that much to the paid gamer.  They never do.  And haven't the demos been free up to this point anyways?  Kinda crappy of them to now make them cost..

Since my PS3 still lives in storage, and even when I get it out I am just not into it enough to pay for this service.  Except maybe if I buy Red Dead Redemption (want!) and have to pay to play online with my friends.  And if that is the case, well, then PS3 is getting a very strongly worded letter from this lady.  Hopefully they don't take away all of our free rights now that they have a pay-to-play service..  Ok - so that went all over the place.  Basically what I wanted to say was this: I am probably not going to purchase this anytime in the near future, so if you do please comment and let me know how it is.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Thank Goodness for Handhelds

Debbie keeps bringing up the goodness that comes from taking a break from gaming...I think she has a summer bug or something.  don't get me wrong, I love to get outside just as much as the next guy....but I seriously miss gaming!  And nothing else quite scratches that itch, you know?

I don't have games on my cell phone so I have been heavily depending on the DS.  I have always loved the gameboy.  It was my first system (remember the first one that looked like a brick with a green screen? ahh memories...)  From my time spent on the DS I have two short reviews for you.

USA Today Crossword Challenge

I love crossword puzzles.  It's my favorite thing in the newspaper.  So for Christmas a couple years ago I asked for this game thinking of the pure, unadulterated joy I would find in having a whole bunch of crosswords right at my fingertips.  Boy oh boy was I wrong.

This game is beyond obnoxiously hard.  Now, I don't think I'm a lost member of Mensa or anything, but I'm not stupid either, and I can only get maaaaybe 1/3 of one of these done.  With goodness knows how many errors.  On this monstrous road trip I even tried to do one with the assistance of my smart friend Katie and even together we were stuck.  this game is just straight up impossible.

And the worst part is that the Nintendo CrossworDS game is, according to Gamestop employees, boringly easy!  No middle ground for us??  I just want something fun to kill time and use my mind for a while.. Guess I'll stick with Sudoku on Brain Age.

Super Mario 64 DS

I just, and I mean just, started this game.  I think I have like 3 stars in the first bomb world.  And my first impression is that this game is super fun!

It starts out, looks, and plays exactly like Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64.  Only you're Yoshi which, actually, is kind of an improvement.  Yoshi is just so cute.  And if you put on Mario's hat you become Mario so that's pretty fun.  I haven't run into the other characters yet.  I'll get there.  I never actually had Mario 64 when I was growing up so I'm kind of excited to spend some time playing it.

The only issue that I've found thus far is this: remember every difficulty that you had playing Mario 64?  The pain in the butt controls?  The difficulty with the camera angle?  Oh yeah - times that by ONE THOUSAND.  The DS without a joystick, is difficult to handle in the open 3D style world.  But I am hoping it's something I get used to as I play more and more, and this game has definitely shown itself to be plenty fun enough to spend some time with.

And one final, tiny note, on a video game that you have to travel to play: Toy Story Mania!  My husband just took me and our girls to Disneyland this weekend and we waited in line for like an hour to get into this new ride, not really knowing what it even was other than Hey!  There's a line! Let's stand in it!

You have to put on these silly glasses because it's all supposed to be in 3D (which I couldn't see as 3D but it looked great to me anyways).  And then you ride in this little car which spins you all over the place and has a gun attached that you shoot at all these video targets.  I don't know if I have expressed my true and deep love for shooting at target games before, but I absolutely adore them.  And that is all this is.  It is awesome.  Plus you're getting whipped around in circles and going all over the place, and it all looks very Toy Story-esque.  It is so much fun.  So if you have an extra pile of money laying around that you don't know what to do with, I would definitely suggest flying to Anaheim, buying a ticket to Disney's California Adventure Park, waiting in line, and riding this awesome ride.  It is like being inside a video game.  Two thumbs WAY up.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Play With Yourself, It's Okay, We Won't Tell

Lindsey and I are definitely both social gamers. I have spent a lot of my game time playing online mulitplayers and co-ops. But sometimes, multiplayer gaming can be complicated. Just like real life, your online friends can wear you out. There can be drama, annoyance, and sometimes you just get bored of each other. When I'm feeling a little socially overwhelmed on XBL or anywhere else, I go back to my roots. I play a straight up solo game.

After having spent so much time playing online, I almost doubted my abilities to game without the communication of a team. But once I loaded up my first game, there wasn't any question in my mind that this was the gaming break that i needed. There is something really satisfying about completing a game on your own.

Some games that I recommend to help get back in your solo gaming grove is probably one you are already playing. If you have a favorite multiplayer or co-op, check out the solo campaign attached. They are usually pretty short and can have their difficulty settings dropped to embarrassingly easy. And because people are so focused on the online feature, the story is sometimes forgotten. Plus, there are always lots of delicious achievements and trophies to be had.

One-player games to keep an eye out for would Metroid, Zelda, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, Bioshock, Mario, and really any solo staple for any platform. Take this opportunity and go to your local game shop. They usually have an abundance of nerds just dying to give you their opinion of a classic game to try. In addition, used games are so incredibly cheap these days, you can get a game that is only a couple years old and pay less than ten dollars for it.

Its also a great way to try a new game type. I am horrible at driving games, but I will totally buy an old Forza for $15. RPGs might not be for you, but maybe if you try some Oblivion or maybe Fallout 3. They could change your mind on the genre. Just want to shoot some bitches up ? Score yourself an old copy of Medal of Honor or Splinter Cell. Sometimes we are so sure that we hate a game type, we don't even touch it for years. But this could be a great opportunity to try something different. The changes that happen from year to year are intense and detailed no matter what genre. The reasons you used to hate it before could be long gone by now.

As a last resort, you might be in need of some good ol' gaming detox. Hide the controller, unplug the console, take the batteries out of your mic. I never want to go without games for a week, but I'm usually pretty glad that I did by the end. It's good to get outside and remember that there are things in the world other than video games. I love gaming and it takes up huge chunks of my life. I'm okay with that. But sometimes, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

So don't get discouraged if you find yourself in an online gaming rut. Relax, play a solo campaign. And remember what got you started in the first place. There is nothing greater than toppling a boss. And a dramatic thanks to Jordan for the blog idea. He recommended that I go play with myself, and this is what he got. Joke is on you sir, joke is on you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Been There, Played That

Watching E3 2010, I noticed that a huge majority of the games that made headlines were sequels. At times, it felt as though almost every title was a remake of a classic or a major franchise sequel. I want to know when something new and fresh is coming.

I've heard people argue that it's hard to get brand new titles in the spotlight. But in years past, we have been able to see new games take center stage. Mass Effect, Bioshock, Assassins Creed, and so many more have been able to show at E3 before release. This year, the virgin franchises were few and far between.

Nintendo seems to be the biggest culprit. They have sequels coming out for Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, and, of course, Mario. There are even more on the list but those seemed to be the heavy hitters. Those games were all fun, but its nothing really new. Nintendo talks about being on the future's edge of gaming. But in reality, almost all of their games are the same old thing. I think it's time that the company starts to live up to its claims.

Nintendo isn't the only one to blame. Convention goers got firsthand looks at the repeat titles of the PS3 and the 360. Ghost Recon, Medal of Honor, and just about every sports title still in play. It seems like everyone has turned off their creative drive and channeled their inner Daddy Warbucks. I sort of understand given the current state of the economy. Developers want to minimize the risks. Why go for broke when you can fall back on a sure thing. But as a gamer, I am craving the next big game. Not a goofy new controller or some 3D gadget. I want action, story, memorable characters, and just something a little less ... stale.

One game that did happen to look pretty cool was Epic Mickey. While we have seen Disney and Nintendo partner up many times before, this installment looks different. It appears to be very stylized, and really focuses on incorporating elements of the Disney corporation's classic films. There are Disney characters all the way back from their first animations. Now I'm not talking Snow White, (although those characters make and appearance too). I'm taking about Steamboat Willie. The few cut scenes that I have viewed seem to touch on the few things that people still love about the Disney corporation.

With all this in mind, I'm sure I will end up playing at least some of these games. I do love when a story continues. Plus some of the titles were initially written to be parts of trilogies. Lets just hope that E3 2011 has something fresh. I'm only willing to pay so much for nostalgia.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How Link Became a Big, Clumsy Tard.

I have grown up my entire life being a fan of the Legend of Zelda. It was one of the first games in my household and can still be found there for a variety of Nintendo consoles. Needless to say, Ive played every addition to the franchise as it comes out. But after watching today's presentation at the E3 conference, I find the time is probably upon me to walk away.

The presentation was corny and lame. Fine. They had some sort of wireless interference that was disrupting things. I can accept that. But even when the game demo was running smoothly, the whole thing just looked clumsy. It bragged about taking full advantage of the Wii remote motion control system. But I remember when Twilight Princess made the same claims.
In the first Zelda for Wii, the swordplay was really awkward. Random series of slashes and shakes in certain directions translated onto the screen. Sometimes it was too sensitive and other times it wasn't sensitive enough. And it was pretty easy to forget exactly which series of motions meant different attacks like horizontal, vertical, spin, etc.

Now the controls function with one side being the sword and the nun-chuck being the shield. The actual swinging motion seems to make a lot more sense.
My problem with the controls is that even though they are improved, they still require a lot of large movements. This isn't a game that you are going to be able to play while laying back and relaxing. You will most likely have to be standing, or at the very least sitting on the edge of your seat.

Then there are the problems that come with just the general issues of using motion controllers. If you don't get the movement just right, you are doing a vertical strike instead of a horizontal one. Of course you may be thinking "who cares what direction you cut?". But as displayed in the game today, there will be numerous enemies that require you to strike in a certain spot and in a certain direction. So if you are feeling lazy, leaning to one side, not paying full attention, or even just have weak arms, your attacks can be messed up. I hate the thought of sneezing or coughing and accidentally stabbing a friendly character. But all of that is a lot of my own hangups with motion controllers.

But I don't want to just shovel hate all over my boy Link. The graphics looked a lot better. They have taken some great big steps since the days of Wind Waker. I like the more mature and slightly darker look of Link in the cinematics. The game play definitely brought back some more cartoonish styling, but i will take slow progression over none at all.

So while everyone else in the country eagerly reaches for their fire-proof tunic and Hyrule Shield, I will be pouting in my room for not understanding the fun new craze. Hopefully someday I will be able to get past my negative personal experiences with the Wii and move forward just like the console and everyone else.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Survivng the Video Game Summer Slump

Summer seems to be every gamers nemesis. Loved ones poke and prod to get you to go outside and enjoy the summer weather. And sometimes, its so amazing out that its impossible to resist. But on those days when it is way too hot to go outside or its finally raining, all you are left with is this summers near total lack of new releases. So the question is, how are you going to get your game on ?

Consider renting from a local store like a Blockbuster or Video City. These places tend to charge quite a bit more. It can be anywhere from $5-$10 and the rental itself can last anywhere from five days to as much as two weeks at some locations. This is nice if there is a game that you want to play and you know you can knock it out in a weekend. Plus this has its advantages over mailed games like Gamefly due to the fact that you have immediate access to the games. All you have to do is drive down to the store and get a different game.

Gamefly is a system that I have sung the praises of many times before. For a fixed fee, you can rent game after game. You play one, keep it as long as you want, and send it back. It worked really well for awhile but there are couple flaws in the system. The turn around time can be almost a full week. Another set back is that they pull games off of your online que. This wouldn't be so bad except that they frequently send you games that are really low on your list. The demand for new release games is too high. So my first couple rentals were from the top of my list, after that i was getting games that were ten or fifteen down the list. But it is a great way to try new games that you never would've tried before.

Downloading games is an a really good option as well. The Gametap service is pretty kick-ass. You can chose between a flat rate or a rate per game. And any game that you play and like, you can purchase to own right there on your computer. The only problem is that it really only applies to PC gamers. I have a stellar desktop but for some reason i just really never got into games on my computer. So this could be a major set back for the console gamer.

You can always just buy your games as well. A lot of times there are games that looked good, but not good enough to pay $60 the day it came out. There are lots of stores that offer old games and used games for a discount price. Gamestop is unveiling their latest change to the Edge card. Now you can accrue points and those points will eventually translate into something like store credit. I use my Edge card all the time to get discount on used games, now there is the added benefit of eventually earning something for my loyalty. Of course the major disadvantage is that you are buying the games. Hopefully if you are getting an older game, it is one that you have tried before at a friends house or something. But at least if you own the game you can take your time. There isn't a rush to play through it.

Alternatively, you can be like me and just mooch games off your friends. I find it to be the best option of all.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

You're Never Too Late for Zombies

Zombie video games have never really been my thing. I typically find them too scary to play and I just don't do anything scary very well. But almost every single game-playing friends has lovingly devoted numerous hours to the Left 4 Dead franchise. How can I consider myself a savvy gamer and turn my back on such a phenomenon ? Well I have finally bathed in the light of L4D and it is glorious.

Story: 4/10 If you want a dramatic, suspenseful story, this is not your game. There almost is no story. I don't want to give anything away, but there are zombies and you are trying to get away. .... That's about it. Its not even aligned with Resident Evil where you have the concept of how it started, finding a source, getting to a cure, or dealing with the Umbrella Corporation. Its a lot of zombies and you need to reach safe points until you are rescued. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating. The game is good. It stands alone very well without a great story. It falls under the Tetris category. Its just plain fun. No complex plot, no integrated menus, just go out the door and gun down some zombies. Good ol' fashioned fun.

Graphics: 8/10 This game is great at visually keeping up with itself. With zombies sprinting by, leaping through the air, and dragging you onto rooftops, there is a lot to keep you stimulated. The way they slowly lumber through the woods then come at a terrifying dead-run is almost shocking. The actual detail in the environment and on the characters themselves is definitely lacking. But the speed of the movement in the game is super fun.

Sound: 7/10 Its pretty good. This is probably the first game that I've played where I wish there was more music. There are times when you are plowing through rows and rows of zombies. So for several minutes on end all you hear is loud gunfire and zombie groans. It definitely made me realize how hard it must be for developers to find a good balance between having no music and having way too much. It just so happens that in this case, I wish there had been more or maybe a little louder. Something to break up the wailing and guns.

Gameplay: 8/10 This game has a lot of different things going for it. The solo campaign and co-op are a lot of fun. I really enjoyed how user friendly they made the co-op. So many times in a co-op game, the players have to stay in really close proximity to each other. But this really allows you to spread apart and do a little exploring. The game has this system of highlighting the other players once they are outside your line of sight. Not only are they now easy to find, but you can also see if they are in any kind of danger by the color of their aura. I really like how each player can keep going at their own pace and maintain at least a little independence. Plus with the mulitplayer, there is even more to do. The online capability really helps to keep the game from getting old.

Overall: 9/10 Even though its an older game, its a lot of fun. I can see how this game was at the top when it first came out. Years later and it is still better than a lot of the brand new games out there. The servers for the multiplayer had a limited time, but the co-op alone is totally worth it. I wish there had been a few more gun options, but the rest of the game was well paced and exciting.

Buy/Rent: Left 4 Dead should absolutely be in your collection. I confidently deem this title a buy. And because it is a couple years old, you can get it super cheap ! I found it used for $18 but be aware that I totally would have paid more. I know the the latest and greatest games are always a lot of fun. But you just can't beat buying three amazingly fun games for the price of one.