Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Make an Ass of Yourself With Kinect !

I spent a significant amount of my day yesterday boiling over with child-like excitement. The thought of using the Kinect and playing Dance Central swirled through my brain. And the final verdict, my preemptive joy was totally justified. Here's the breakdown of what to expect from the device itself.

This thing has motion sensors, face recognition, and voice activation. All this means that it is
not a plug and play accessory. Expect to spend about an hour setting it up. Between rearranging your furniture and the endless calibrations, give yourself the time to get it all ready before you invite all your friends to play. Otherwise, your Kinect party is going to be at a pretty serious standstill.

Remember all that hype about needing to empty out your living room to play ? Its all true. We created a floor space of about 10-11 feet from the television and still ended up playing up against the back. There are a few tricks to remedy this. Supposedly, mounting the Kinect higher up with a slightly downward facing angle means that you can get closer to the screen. Look for lots of reliable (and surprisingly cheap) mounts and stands already available. But this system can still be problematic for extremely tall people and the kids in the family. Before you dump a couple hundred on this for your demanding two year old, check the height recommendations first.

There were rumors flying around about the Kinect being racist. Somehow, the camera couldn't tell if there was a Black person with especially dark skin playing. What people don't realize, is that lighting is important. If you have super dark skin and you stand in a dark room with no lights,
rise genius, its not going to work. If your friends can barely see you, why would a camera across the room ? But the same is true in reverse. If people with exceptionally pale skin stand with the windows open and the hot sunlight flooding the room, the camera won't be able to detect them either. Between the intense light and heat, you are going to be lost to the sensors. So if the lighting is well controlled, that NAACP boycott you were trying organize won't be necessary.

But after all of that, prepare for awesomeness. You can shift through menus using your hands or the voice activation. There is also Kinect chat, although this is less impressive. It operates basically the same way that the regular XBL chat works. And you can look for a review of Dance Central very, very soon. I won't start it here, just know that it was probably some of the most ridiculous fun I have had in awhile.

So the long and short is that you should definitely spend the money to get this accessory. Its crazy fun and worth the price. There is no possible way you could regret bouncing up and down like an epileptic and recording it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lindsey Ruined My Virtual Social Life

So every couple of months, Lindsey asks me if I have played a certain game. She recommends that I check something out and give it a try. Her latest offense has been introducing me to MyTribe. It is this silly little game on Facebook. Reminiscent of simulators like Ceasar III or Age of Empires, this game is all about building a society out of nothing and advancing them through technology and resources. But there is no battle, no time line completion, nothing. Just lots of mundane tasks and leveling. Despite its lack of action, I am completely addicted to this game.

I don't understand how this happens ! I feel like my years of dedication to intense shooters and RPG's would make me "above
" all these pointless, endless games. Or, am I really that much of a hardcore gamer that I feel compelled to do my best at even the most trivial title ? Maybe Lindsey has magical powers over me. She was successful in driving me into the cold, heartless arms of Mafia Wars as well.

And why can't I just stop playing the game altogether ? I have logged into this time waster at least once a day for over 100 days ! I know there is no end to the game. I know that it will keep leveling on forever, and I know that there is no main objective, I literally can not win. It has taken over my life completely. I check on my little island inhabitants in the morning, throughout my day at work, and then before bed. So why can't I just walk away ???

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Little Lifesaver

Yes I am seriously going to blog about My Little Pony.  This was one of the games my 3-year-old got for her birthday, and the first official game she beat all by herself.

*CHEER!* *Party!* *Celebrate!*

There's not a lot to say about this game, other than it is good for little kids.  I played it a little, and...well...  There's just not a lot to say, haha.  The story gets a 10/10 as far as Ponyland goes, because those darn silly ponies hid all 20 of the birthday presents around Ponyville and you have to find them before the birthday party!  Those crazy technicolor horses.  You also have to fine 10 or so puzzle pieces.  Each present unlocks an item you can play with, like a box of glitter you can blow all over the screen.  Or a jack-in-the box.  They're pretty adorable, actually.  And I think the puzzle unlocked a mini-game?  I haven't asked Kiera.  There are a series of 8 mini games you unlock as you play the story mode though.  I had to help with one that was an imitation of Simon Says/Dance Dance.  And even I had to play it like, three times.  It was way confusing because that pony would not get moving.

All in all, this is a fabulous young person's game.  Kiera has played it for hours on end.  She loves replaying the minigames even though there is such a small selection.  And to top it all off, this game goes for like, $5 on Amazon.  So if your little has a DS, pick this one up as a stocking stuffer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fable 3 - Can I Have Your Baby ?

Fable 2 stole the hearts and souls of millions. With the distinct ability to make perverse gestures and contract sexually transmitted diseases, who wouldn't have fun ? Now those fun-loving bastards at Lionheart studios have come back with a sequel that is sure to quench your polyamorous thirst. First, the story.

In Fable 2, there was a story. Ask around, and most people have no idea what it was. Sure there was some fighting and a villainous character to defeat, but the whole story was extremely short and totally forgettable. Fable 3 has a much better and longer adventure in store. You play as the son or daughter of the main hero character from Fable 2. You fulfill your destiny to become a hero in order to over-throw your evil brother who has proven himself to be a tyrannical leader. Its not the most original story ever but its a significant improvement for the last game.

The co-op is hugely improved. Previously, characters were stuck in the same screen, not able to move in a direction unless both did. Long gone are the days of awkward camera angles. Say 'hello' to your new longer leash. Co-o
p partners can run around in the same city and be on different streets or in separate houses. Lionhead has also expanded beyond simply giving your friends a gift. You can now start businesses together and even get married. But be careful with those business relationships. Once you are locked in, you can end up sharing both profits and debts.

Breathe a sign of relief, you can still get syphilis ! All the offensive/awesome activites from Fable 2 are back. You can have multiple sex partners, get pregnant, contract STDs, and use condoms. But just like in real life, those condoms aren't always 100% effect. If you want full protection, try to find the Condom of the Gods. I'm not even making that up. You can belch in everyones face or fart and cause people to pa
ss out. And if you eliminate the drinking limit, you can watch civilians stumble around drunk and graphically vomit everywhere. Win.

On a more technical note, the controls are infinitely smoother. Attacking with ranged weapons is far more engaging than in the past. Load times seem shorter and interacting with people seems easier. One downfall is that some of the interactions take a long time to complete. There is a lot of navigating in and out of menus to accomplish simple things like giving a gift or shaking hands. This is especially weird since there are no shortcut menus for anything else is that game. Built into the game is a sanctuary room. The hero quickly transports to this room and once there they must walk up to a map and zoom into cities in order to f
ast travel. And from the main sanctuary room, you have to walk into other rooms where you can changed clothes or your weapon load out. I understand why they thought this might have been a cool idea, but there were times when having a shortcut button on the controller would have been much easier. And lastly, there were too many collectible missions, especially ones that had 30+ items to find.

Other than those few shortcomings, this game is amazing. It is a well rounded RPG with a very well integrated action/shooting element. The story is great and the missions are fun. As an added bonus, there are talks of Fable 3 merchandise that could even include a line of real life, Fable 3 condoms. Thank you Lionheart, for this seasons best stocking stuffer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Midnight Madness, Embrace It !

Everyone has been swamped with plenty of new games lately. And almost every title has come with a midnight release. Since games are usually released on Tuesdays, that means the massive midnight events happen on Monday nights. While this may seem really impractical during the week, here are a couple reasons why you should check them out.

First, and the most obvious: They are Crazy Fun ! Light-hearted atmosphere, great conversation, sometimes there are even cool games. Go with a fellow nerd, a non-gaming friend, or even go by yourself. Its a good time either way.

Second: Meet Awesome People ! You are bound to be standing next to someone interesting. Everyone who is standing in line loves the same game you love. You can geek out for hours while waiting for doors to open. Who wouldn't want to end their crap-lousy Monday by meeting dozens of new friends that love the same stuff you do. Its also a great way to meet new people for co-op. Strike up conversation with those around and before you know it, you will be exchanging gamertags.

Third: Amazing Perks and Deals ! Pre-ordering and picking up a game at midnight almost always comes with awesome little goodies. Keep your eyes peeled for avatar gear, extra weapons, and free songs. They also promote additional savings on strategy guides or extra money for trade-ins. And if the midnight event is the right size, there can be free drinks, free food, and giveaways.

Don't forget these easy tips to make your night more fun. If the store is outside, be mindful of the weather. Many times the line waits outside the store for hours, so dress accordingly. It sounds really obvious, but I have seen so many people not realize how cold you get standing outside at midnight without moving. Have a snack and a drink with you, even better if you have enough for everyone. I recommend a big bag of animal crackers or goldfish crackers. Your neighbors in line will love you for sharing. Lastly, bring a game. If you have a PSP or a DS, throw that in your bag. Maybe even load some fun apps on your phone. But if the crowd happens to not be the most lively bunch, you will be glad you brought it with you.

While a lot of the major midnight launches have passed, there are still a couple more out there waiting. And now, the next time a bank-draining slew of titles hits all at once, you will be prepared.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zombie Video Games ............. Yawn

Every couple of years there are cultural explosions of random things. Lately we've seen ninjas, pirates, and now we are back to zombies. We've seen them all before and we will see them again. But zombies have infiltrated the video game market and they won't let go. My question is this: "When will there be a 'new' zombie game"?

With little exception, zombie games appear to all be the same concept. There are endless waves of zombies. Now survive. An
d that's about it. Games like Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, and the Burn Zombie Burn all thrive on the same idea of finding new ways to kill. Some of them come up with new ways as to how the zombies came to be. Others change up who the main character is. But for the most part, there is not much imagination in the games themselves.

I can respect that zombie games have become their own genre. After all, what are FPS games other than point and shoot over and over ? But they typically know their place. I don't play Final Fantasy and then suddenly there is a DLC pack that allows me to actually shoot down the sites for hours. But for some reason, super lame zombie DLC and add-ons are popping up everywhere. Borderlands had the crap-tastic download of Dr. Ned's Zombie Island. Call of Duty hit it off with Nazi zombies, but now that extra feature gets more creative attention than the regular game.

Now I'm sure there is some zombie-buff out there reading this and fuming. They
've seen all the zombie movies with directors commentary, watch the tv show, and play the games. This person is just dying to put me in my place about zombie media. But the bottom line for me is that I used to like some zombie games, but the over-saturation has totally turned me off. I want to be able to walk away from a game without them sneaking in there. I want to continue to be a completionist without trudging through waves of the walking dead. I can't wait until developers ease up on cramming zombies down my throat because I, like numerous others, am totally over it.