Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tomb Raider: Legends

Ever wonder what it would be like to travel the globe in search of ancient artifacts ? Well Tomb Raider Legend could be the game for you. It is an action RPG game that follows the iconic character of Lara Croft across the planet in search of various artifacts to help her explain what happened to her mother who disappeared decades earlier. The game is almost 4 years old, but it is super worth its new, uber cheap price.

Story: 6/10 Its a pretty confusing plot line. The game itself starts with a cinematic of Lara as a child and her mother being involved in a plane crash. When they escape the wreckage, Lara mistaken activates an ancient artifact and her mother disappears before her eyes. From there you flash forward to Lara as an adult. She begins a quest to find out what happened to her mother, a friend who is currently in danger, and locate several ancient items. Its kind of confusing because she is going from one exotic location to the next. She visits Nepal, Bolivia, Tokyo, England, Peru, Africa, and more. She hunts down ornate stones, maps, keys, and somehow King Arthur's Excalibur is involved. Basically the story is hard to follow but really not that important for playing the game.

Graphics: 7/10 The graphics are pretty good considering the game is around four years old. From time to time the camera angles become a little annoying. There is also the issues of the surroundings. Sometimes the details are too good in the walls but the third dimension doesn't keep up. That makes it kind of hard to see where your next ledge is or where you came from. Other than that, its pretty believable and the guys will love Lara's bouncy figure.

Sound: 8/10 I liked the soundtrack to this game. There is nothing really fun that sticks out in my mind. But at no point do i remember being annoyed by the music. The voice-acting was totally respectable. No one is getting an Oscar, but overall it kept me engaged in the game. The sound effects were good and at some points incredibly helpful. When looking for my next rope to swing on or tucked away artifact, the little glowing sound was exactly what I needed.

Game Play: 8.5/10 What this game lacks in story, it more than makes up in playability. There are several features to the game that make it super fun. Lara gets to carry around a grapple hook and it is really fun to use. She is amazing at swinging, climbing, and jumping. Almost every room is a puzzle in its own right to figure out how to get Lara's acrobatic body from one side to the next. So mentally, you never really get bored. Plus, for those who want more action, almost every level has multiple shootouts so you can test the third person shooter that lives inside you. Once the game is finished, you can go on the hunt for the hundreds of collectibles including tokens and unlockable outfits. I played the game through twice and after all that, I still had time-trials to play around with. This game can definitely keep you occupied for awhile if you want to do all the little extras.

Overall: 7.5/10 I like this game. It has a lot of different types of gameplay crammed into one single title. While the story lacks, the ability of this game to keep you busy for hours more than makes up for that. As much as I am a video game feminist, I have never really played much of the Tomb Raider series. I should have run around with this iconic female lead much sooner. But I think that I started at a pretty good place by playing TR: Legend.

Rent/Buy: Ok, this is where I blow your mind and tell you to Buy this game. Since it is so old and still playable in Xbox 360, you can find it used for only $7.99 ! Plus with that beloved Edge Card discount, you get it for something like $6.50. This game is definitely not worth the $60 it was released at, but you get every single penny's worth when you are only shelling out seven dollars. Its a great way to start off the Tomb Raider series and it is a nice way to pad your video game collection.

I have to take a second to thank my roommate Zack for letting me rummage through his video game collection. If it weren't for this gem hiding on his shelf, I would have missed out on this kick ass game. More proof that if you have this game, people will borrow it from you and they should.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mirror's Edge: The Aged Review

Ever wanted to run across rooftops and jump from building to building ? Even if you have never craved that, you should give this game a try. Mirror's Edge is about a woman who is trying to solve a couple mysteries all the while dodging the law due to her affiliation with a building-climbing underground group. Its a couple years old by now, but that just means it finally lives up to its value. When it first came out it was $60, but you can buy it now used for around $17. For that price, its a steal !

Story: 8/10 Its pretty good. This game is the first in what is supposed to be a trilogy. Its easy to follow, has some good murder suspense, and an evil corporation/ government. The characters don't really evolve that much in the story but they have to save something for the next two games.

Graphics: 9/10 Its not exactly Blu-Ray quality, but the whole feel of the game is dynamic. The environment is very simple but stylized. Even though its not complex, the color pallet and design are really captivating. The controls and movement through the world of Mirror's Edge is very smooth, fast, and visceral.

Sound: 7/10 The sound is pretty standard. When there is not much action going on in the game, the music is nice and almost fun. And of course during times of high action and chasing, the music gets really intense. There are times where the action last a long time which is fine, but the fast paced music gets old quick and makes it hard to concentrate and not panic.

Gameplay: 9/10 Its fun. The game itself is not that long. If you are a quick learner, you could easily crank this game out in a long Saturday. But there are also fun time trials to really help you perfect your Parkour skills. Its pretty easy to keep track of what is going on and there are lots of little challenges. You don't have to be amazing at video games to easily make it through to the end.

Overall: 8/10 This game it pretty good. Its not the best thing I've ever played, but there aren't a whole lot of other games out there like it. Its a very different experience from most video games and one worth having. The story is pretty short but the time trials give you something to play over and over.

Rent/Buy: Buy. I am doing this review on such an old game because it is so cheap. I got it at GameStop for around $17 plus I got the Edge Card discount which made it even cheaper. This game probably wasn't worth $60 but it is absolutely worth the new price. Plus it is the first in a trilogy. It is a game that you will probably revisit as the sequels come out. And with this on your shelf, friends will definitely want to borrow it off you.

Long story short is that many games arent worth their release price. I also have tendency for utilizing "retail therapy". So finding a game I passed up a couple years after its release can be really fun. It saves on the wallet and Im not bitter for dumping tons of money on a short game.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Let's All Play the Gender Game

Women have come a long way in the world. We fought to vote, struggle for respect, and still lack equal wages. I know that video games are nothing compared to these problems, but seriously, can a sister get a break ?

Every night I get online and have the privilege of listening to guys verbally berate me and other females once our gender is known. This seems really silly to me since we are reaching a point in society where almost everyone, male and female, under the age of 30 grew up with video games in one way or another. So why is it such a shock to guys that women like to get online too ? With females making up at least 30% of the market, finding girls online should be old news. Still, I receive the same remarks every day. I am accused of being fat, ugly, and told to make a sandwich. Alternatively, I get sexually charged picture, voice and text message.

So other than my ranting and complaining, what can I do to help fix the problem ? Well first is education. Lindsey and I both take pride in our ability to let people know just how game savvy we are. And with such high female numbers, it's not like we are entering a "man's world". It is our world too and I am all too happy to remind late-night players of that fact.

Another solution would be better video game characters. All the prominent females have the genetically impossible waist and bust line (I'm looking at you Dead or Alive). It's nice to see women kicking ass, but it is hardly a welcoming environment for the player not looking to be seduced. Samus Aran is a female lead that I can definitely get behind. She kicks ass without flaunting her sexuality or making excuses for it.

I think the last solution lies on us, the women. Don't bring your cat fight to the server. And for the love of God, don't use video games as a way to meet guys. Girls who send sexy images and messages make it harder for the serious gamers to get the respect they deserve. And if you are not one of these girls, don't mute your mic for fear of a sexist comment. Talk, engage, strategize, and be yourself.

The gaming landscape is not totally a man's world, but they definitely have the majority. It is up to us to claim what is rightfully ours and that includes simple respect. I am writing a letter to a magazine later this month about their lack of female writers and editors. I'm sure I will post it on here because that's just how I roll.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brutally Stupid

The title inspired by my darling Debbie in reference to kids' games.  Why are they, as she so delicately put it, "brutally stupid"??

I know I have referred to my 2-year-old daughter Kiera's gaming in this before, so that is where this blog builds from.  I want to buy her some new games for the DS specifically, and it is impossible.  She is totally into My Little Pony but the DS game for it looks so mind-numbing.  It's got a simple storyline (not that she needs a novel, she can't even read) and then something like 8 mini-games.  The exact same mini-games that are on every single kids game from what I've seen.  A version of Memory, a simple puzzle, a match game...  How many different faces can go on the exact same game?  And we expect kids to remain interested in that?

And now that I say that, there are just so many games geared towards the kiddies that are all the exact same game with a different face.  How many pet games can there possibly be?  (Nintendogs, My Pet Shop, Littlest Pet Shop, Paws & Claws, My Pet XXX [variety of animal choices], Imagine Babyz [babies are pets, right?]...)  Nintendogs is one of Kiera's favorites, and it is a pretty well put together game.  I've enjoyed spending some time on it (although the daily repetitive nature of it would get old I would think.)  I do think simulation games are good for kids though, because they can imitate things they understand in real life, like feeding a dog or making a salad (Cooking Mama).

Simple puzzle games are best for her right now, I think.  She enjoys games like Chuzzle and Plants vs Zombies on the computer, and loves the mini-game section on her New Super Mario Brothers DS game.  She likes to try and play the main, platform game on Mario, but can't quite get it.. Something about hand-eye coordination and making her thumbs do what they should.  She loves to play Scribblenauts which makes absolutely no sense since you have to be able to read and write, but she gets a kick out if it anyways.  Today my husband hooked her up on the Wii with Super Mario Sunshine and she was totally digging that, even though she was just swimming around in circles.

But these games aren't geared towards kids as little as she is.  In fact, are any?  Once she can read the ability for her to game is just going to explode and I think we'll both love that.  But it might not hurt for game companies to make more simple, fun games.  I think that more and more parents are giving younger and younger kids the option to game, especially with the ease and portability of the DS.  If there were more fun and easy games, like the WarioWare series, that would be great for everyone.  We all want a little variety, even when we're 2-years-old and our attention span is 13 seconds long.  (Perfect for mini-games!  Just give me more than the same eight games under different guises.)

What I want to know is who buys all of these games?  The Imagine series comes to mind, as it has countless iterations: Design Fashion Designer, Singer, Pet Vet...  Are young people buying multiple versions of this game, or do so many options mean that everyone can get a game specifically tailored to their interests?  Is this the early version of the seemingly hundreds of versions of FPS that we have to choose from once our parents let us play rated M games?

My guess? Yes.  The game companies are training us from an early age to want more more more.  I just cracked the case.  And ended up in a completely different train of thought here at the end than I was on at the beginning of the blog!  Clever!  But really, in a nutshell, I think that gaming is awesome even for the little-ones.  I think that it does help with hand-eye coordination.  They can learn to have fun playing a game, it is a great distraction when you need them to be still for a little while, they can learn simple reading and math skills even in games not specifically geared towards teaching..  So quit hating and buy that kid a DS.  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Americans for Kids Without Headsets

There is nothing more frustrating than a parent who clearly has no clue what their child is up to. When this spills over to the online gaming universe, the results can be negative and border on dangerous.
I play a lot of multiplayer games live. I am very aware of the kind of people and conversations that take place online. They really are just about as scandalous as one might assume. Players online (myself included), have glaringly inappropriate language and conversations. If you are not there to monitor who your child is talking to, they are exposed to direct interaction with these people.
Children are also at risk of picking up these bad words and habits. Many adult gamers have listened to screaming children of admittedly young ages. Shockingly, these kids are using words and phrases that make grown men blush. Kids throw out racial slurs, sexual comments, and gratuitous insults. I'm sure that most parents think their kids would never do such a thing. But I assure you that once the guardian has left the room, they are just as verbally aggressive as most of the adults.
Lastly, your kids are annoying ! As adults, gaming online is a quick, fun, social outlet. Unfortunately, kids show up and ruin everything ! They yell, scream, call out to their friends, answer the phone, and play their radio all without muting their mic. While we do have the options of muting people, it simply becomes tiresome to mute a person who is too young to be playing in the first place. They are not mentally mature enough to socialize appropriately. And worst of all, muting doesn't always work. If they are loud enough, their mic's sounds can still be heard.
In short, your kid shouldn't be playing online video games with adults. If you chose to expose your child to violent content, that is one thing. But all online content is unrated. It cannot be controlled and it will never be ideal for kids and young teens.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mommy + Gamer = Mommer? Gammy?

I have no idea what to call this mash-up of mommy blogging and gamer blogging, but that's where I'm going.  And no, I don't want to alienate the non-mommys out there.  It's more of a perspective on fitting gaming into your life.  For me, that's fitting gaming into my mommy-ness.

So Debbie's previous blog is what inspired me to finally start the mommy-mash-up series.  Hackers.  Ugh.

(Header to this story: Yes, I play WoW.  No, I have no intention of turning this blog into some kind of WoW hate/love fest.  Enough of those exist.)

The story begins as such: I was innocently trying to log into WoW and I couldn't.  Strange.  It says I need an authenticator and I don't even have one, therefore there shouldn't be one associated with my account.  I realize I've been hacked.  Frustrated, confused, and embarking on what would become an incredibly ANNOYING journey, I called Blizzard customer service.  Let me just tell you, have some time set aside if you have to do this.  The time wait on the phone?  40-45 minutes.  REALLY!?  (Yes, this story deserves all these italics and caps locks. You don't realize how annoyed I was, and you won't unless I annoy you with crazy typing.)

So I got through the wait by trying to use the automated system, which did nothing for me, but got me put into a different queue and I got through to someone in about 10 minutes.  And she was delightful!  We chatted, she told me I was hacked, she reset my account and all was right in the world.  So I logged in, checked my characters, and nothing had been messed with - hurray!  I played for 30-45 minutes when suddenly I lost my connection...or so I thought.  I tried to log back on and it tells me that I have been banned.  Well, something is clearly wrong here, I thought.  And I close the window and try again, but to no avail.  And then an email pops up: I have been banned for exploitative activity.  I don't even know what that is!  So I get back on the Blizzard Customer "Service" line and wait and wait until I get ahold of someone...and they can do nothing for me.  Despite the fact that a customer service rep had already affirmed that I'd been hacked, the account still had to be put under review, something that could take up to 10 days to complete.  Let's just say that I kind of got angry.  And kind of tried to defend myself by getting kind of upset.  It didn't do any good.  Lucky for me it was a very clear cut case and I was back on in about 12 hours.

That was a long story to get down to this point: a hacker got into my account, did some unsavory things (or as the customer service rep said "weird stuff" -  what is that!?) and screwed me over.  And what good did it do for them?  Absolutely nothing.  At best they could've spammed their gold sell website which is so lame and who falls for that?  At worst, I don't know what they did...obviously something "weird".  I'll never know.  And I'll never know what possesses people to do something like that.

So a new category of hackers: hackers who hack just to mess with other players.  It's so unfair.  Why jack with someone's play so directly?  If you're going to hack and ruin the game experience by cheating, that is a different level of suck...but trying to infiltrate me?  So uncool.

And that links to my mommy-ness by this: when I couldn't log into WoW during my kids naps (my good free time to game during the day when I need a break), I was so heartbroken.  That is the main reason I got so upset with the customer service rep. I felt punished for something I clearly didn't do.  And they were taking away my escape.  Isn't that what gaming really is?  An escape from your life, albeit temporary, but oh-so-very fun?   And as a mom I feel like my time for doing it has been cut so drastically that I was extra mad that another element I couldn't control took my game time away.

I felt like a kid who was grounded!  And I didn't even do it, mom!!  (laughs)

So how do you sneak gaming into your every day life?  Generally I have the kids' nap time, if they comply and sleep at the same time.  Generally I do my gaming from 10pm-2am, but sometimes I just don't have it in me to deny myself the sleep.  What's a girl to do?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cheaters Always Proseper .... Jerks

I hate when I read blogs where people do nothing but rant and rave. But I totally have to be one of those people today. I have finally reached my limit with cheaters in online video games. There are a bunch of different ways to cheat the system. Here is a list of what they are doing and how it ruins the game.

Hackers. This group of people doesn't really enjoy the game for what it is. They are definitely the "anarchists" of the online multiplayer. Their only goal is to cause problems and ruin the game. Their most common offenses result in viral lobbies. The game is bust because you are moving at super fast speeds, going uber slow, or a number of other annoyances. They also negate the validity of the leader boards.

Modders. Modders are just lame. These are people who aren't good enough at the game so they give themselves an unfair advantage. They mod their consoles, their controllers, and their profiles. If they aren't shooting faster than game physics allow, they are just being dicks by putting racial slurs in their tag.

Boosters. Obsessed with having a higher score, this group of people really doesn't care that much about the game itself. It's all about status. Who has the highest rank? Who completed what challenges first ? Best score ? The problem with boosters is that while these guys sit in the corner and complete challenges or trick shots, the rest of their team struggles to compete, often resulting in a loss for the few people actually playing the game.

All three of these groups are lame beyond reason. They ruin the game for everybody else. Worst of all, they clearly don't care that much about the game in the first place. Play it for what it is, follow the rules, and be chill. And if you suspect someone of modding, hacking, or boosting; file a complaint. They won't get removed right away, but if enough people file, then something will eventually be done. Rant over. Where's my Cherry Pepsi ?!?!