Friday, July 29, 2011

Innocent Social Game or First Gen Skynet?

I once blogged about my obsession with games on Facebook.  I wrote here about how easy it was to get sucked in and spend hours playing.  One game that I played religiously was My Tribe.  Against my better judgement, I thought I would log in after being absent for months.  Who wouldn't want to see a wasteland of adorable coffins and headstones?  But that was not what I found.

They were alive.  Alive and well.  Alive and thriving.  No deaths.  No one unhappy.  Everyone just hanging out and successfully living the island dream.  I was completely shocked.  I hadn't played the game in something like six months.  The game hadn't paused while I was away.  My little characters continued to age, farm, fish, and swim.  Wtf?!?!

Not only had the game continued without any assistance from me, but I had earned achievements and awards.  I opened the game to immediately be shown the half dozen or so awards I had earned including characters leveling up, hitting extreme ages, having a certain amount of people visit my island, and more.
What do you mean you "won the game for me"???
So, My Tribe can play itself.  It reaches a point where everyone survives and succeeds without any player intervention whatsoever.  With that in mind, how is this still a game?  I don't need to make changes in rations, consider other strategies, or even be present.  I'm winning without playing.  How is anyone suppose to find this fun?

It reminds me somewhat of cheaters and hackers on console games.  If what you are doing guarantees you a win without ever having to even try, how is it fun?  I think it would get really old, really fast.  I know that I feel a huge sense of satisfaction when I complete a game that takes a lot of time or is really difficult. So if you aren't really working to accomplish anything, where does the sense of satisfaction come in.

Games need to maintain a certain level of difficulty in order to remain fun.  My Tribe crosses that line and removes any difficulty whatsoever.  The risk of me relapsing into this particular social networking game is completely nonexistent.  I will save my time for more Fallout.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Play and Hate The Impossible Game

Here at Achievos, we love a good, mindless game.  Tetris, Peggle, and Plants vs. Zombies occupy our time when we don't have the mental capacity to play something hardcore but still want to hang with friends online.  I would like to introduce you to my newest time suck; The Impossible Game.

You are an orange square.  There are spikes to jump over.  Sound simple?  Jokes on you.  This games is super hard.  There are no check points.  Once your adorable little square dies, you start from the very beginning. And to add insult to injury, there is a very unassuming counter at the top of the screen telling you how many times you have tried and failed.  Its judgement looms and causes the player instant feelings of bitterness and resentment.

I played the game and found it quite tough.  There are dozens of YouTube videos that can attest to the difficulty (check below for the staged but always entertaining LtMkilla doing a Rage Quit).  The Impossible Game is easily comparable to Super Meat Boy in terms of hair-pulling moments.  But that little wad of meat has nothing on the bouncing square.  There is no going back, no pausing to time your jumps, and no way to see in front of you.  Just a constant, fast scroll of spikes and gaps to cover. 

It should be know that while showing the game to my boyfriend last night, he grabbed the controller and instantly got about three times further than I did.  No, it isn't proof that he is better at games than me, because he most definitely is not.  He does, however, absolutely school my ass at music games.  He pointed out almost immediately that the Euro club beat the game is set to perfectly coincides with the jumps of the cube.  The Impossible Game is a rhythm game in disguise.

I highly recommend you give The Impossible Game a try.  It is available in the Xbox Live Indie Arcade section for a measly 80 points.  You read that correctly, just one zero.  80 points.  There are even versions available for phones.  So do your self a solid, and get this cheap and challenging game.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What You Need to Know About XBL Gold Family Pack

You've seen the ads all over and on your dashboard.  But is it really worth it?  Already have Gold? Don't have three gaming family members? Concerned about costs and renewal?  Here is what's up.

The Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack is available for $99.99.  What it includes is four one-year Gold subscriptions. In case you weren't sure what Gold allows you to do, it provides the player with the ability to play online multiplayer games, download games and other content, stream services like Netflix, Last FM, and Zune with appropriate subscriptions, and party chat with friends.  

The regular cost for one year of Gold membership is usually $60.  There are frequently deals out there that can get you a discount or pay full price but also get some free downloads or Microsoft points.  But comparing flat out rates, the Family Pack is clearly the better deal.  Four subscriptions would normally cost $240, and the Family Pack provides it for $100.  That is obviously a pretty major savings.

Be aware that there are some restrictions.  One person is in control of all four accounts.  That person has the ability to set parental controls and other system restrictions from their computer.  The primary account holder can also monitor and track the amount of time online and what each person in the group is doing.  So if you have a friend that loves practical jokes, you might not want them to be in charge of everyone's account.

When it comes time to sign people up, personal information will have to be shared.  The primary account holder logs on and adds people into the three available positions in the Family Plan bringing the total to four.  As each person is added, that primary person logs into, then the next player being added has to do a sub-log in with their account info to complete the process.  That means that someone has to know someone else's ID and passwords unless everyone is in the room at the same time ready to enter their own passwords.  So if you are planning to do this with friends, make sure that you fully trust them to know your business or vice versa.  Once the sign up process is complete, the personal info will not be needed again.  The Family Pack was designed for exactly that, families.  The assumption is that moms and dads know their children's email addresses and passwords.

Already have a Gold membership?  Not a problem.  If the main account holder is already in the middle of a subscription, the remaining time will be calculated into money and that will be credited towards the total.  So if I had six months left on my plan, it would cancel my existing Gold (don't worry, you don't lose any info), credit me $30 towards the Family Plan, and I would only $70 total.  If the other three members in the pack have remaining Gold memberships, they will simply tack that remaining time onto the subscription.  For example, I set mine up and the second, third and fourth person still had remaining time on their existing membership.  So Xbox cancelled them and added one month for each.  These extra months applied to everyone.  So now we all get Gold member ships for one year and three months instead of just one year.

Since one person is the main account holder, the three extra people will not be allowed to keep their own credit card information on file.  They will have to purchase Xbox points cards and use the codes to redeem them and purchase downloads that way.  It is an inconvenience, but points cards are really easy to find.  They can be purchased at Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Game Stop, anywhere that you might find gaming accessories sold.

Lastly, the renewal is annual.  I didn't see any place to turn off the automatic renewal, but Xbox will send emails one month before the renewal to warn you that its about to take your money.  That should give you plenty of time to talk with people and make sure that they are still wanting another year of amazingly cheap service.

So that is the important stuff that I noticed.  There was no service interruption and the price is completely worth it.  If your family is full of gamers or you have three really trustworthy friends, this could be the perfect fit for you. 

Eric is Greek now. Welcome to the family.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Can Your Relationship Survive Portal 2 Co-op?

Want to test the strength of your relationship? Play some Portal 2 co-op. Five courses. Thirty-five test chambers. Timing, accuracy, and patience are essential. Pick your partner in science and dive in.

The first thing that should be known about Portal 2 co-op is that it is exactly that, co-operative. If you are in a bad mood, feeling stubborn, require constant control, or just not feeling like a team player, don't even bother putting the disc in the tray.  You and your partner will be at odds within the first test chamber.

If you decide to give it a try, your need for teamwork will be evident from the very beginning.  Look for light bridges, gels, excursion tunnels and more. The pacing of the co-op chambers is very similar to that of the solo campaign. Different elements are introduced one at a time while the complexity goes up. By the end, the difficulty level has increased significantly but is still manageable thanks to the learning curve. To keep the mood light, the writers have struck gold once again.  The timing and dark humor of GLaDOS keeps the game funny and entertaining when you need it most.

Outside of that, the co-op is very similar to the solo campaign. There are no real surprises and nothing out of the ordinary. I wish they had developed the two player story a little more. I also wish there was the capability to do an XBL search for other players. Then I wouldn't have to wait until a friend is online and in the mood to play.  

If you haven't already, give Portal 2 co-op a try. Just be careful who you chose to play with, it may be the last thing you every do together.

"I said shoot your red portal, not the orange!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Link Gives Me Growing Pains

This weekend, I started playing Legend of Zelda on the Wii.  This original title, available for download, was a staple in my childhood.  But now, I play the game and I am not filled with the same sense of joy and excitement as before.  When expressing my dislike for what was once my favorite game, I was met with heavy criticism.
I was reminded of the origins of video games.  A lot of what games are today is all in thanks to titles like the Legend of Zelda.  How dare I blaspheme such an iconic character and his noble quest?  “Easy”, I said, “compared to games today, it sucks”.  

Why hang out in a black and white dungeon when I can get busy on the deck of the Normandy?
Now by this point, I’m sure that someone is having a fevered rage-gasm over what I’m saying.  But when you line up a game that is 25 years old next to the games available today, the new games win hands down.  Of course, there are some horrible games now, (I’m looking at you Transformers).  But there were shitty games back then too.  Remember ET the video game?  If you don’t, consider yourself lucky.  Remove nostalgia.  Take away your childhood memories of the NES and beyond.  Walk up to Legend of Zelda like you have never seen it before.  Then walk up to Mass Effect.  Tell me which one is a better game.  I like new controls better.  I appreciate the modern character development with its near infinite detail.  And I won’t even talk about how far the graphics have progressed.  I also realize this is unfair.  Mass Effect has 25 years of gaming evolution behind it.  

But some gamers get so stuck in those long gone years.  It’s like being thirty and listening to Raffi because you thought he was awesome when you were five.  If you roll up to me and insist that we listen to the Sherry, Lois, and Bram’s Elephant Show because it was awesome in 1984, you should expect to enjoy that shit alone.  Same goes with video games.  If you want me to play Mike Tyson’s Punch Out every single weekend, we aren’t going to be friends for long.

Do want this man in your ear all day?
There is nothing wrong with playing old games.  But there is nothing wrong with moving forward and seeing what’s new.  Let’s not be nostalgic for the sole purpose of being nostalgic.  If there is one thing you should take away from playing the classics, it should be an appreciation for how far the industry has come.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yoostar 2; More Like YooSUCKS ..... 2

Yoostar 2 is a video game that utilizes the Xbox Kinect or the PS3 camera to put your face in a movie scene.  You align your body with the image on the screen to replace the actor with your own image.  While standing in place, the player must read lines to match the dialogue.  There is also the option to run off script.  You are graded with 1-5 stars and points for how close your performance is to the real deal.  Now that you know how to play the game, let me tell you why you never should.  

The clips are from popular movies and they try to pick the most recognizable lines.  So when selecting Terminator 2, the scene to re-enact is the one involving "I'll be back".  I was pleasantly surprised with the movie selection.  I was expecting more classic, obvious movies like Gone With the Wind or Wizard of Oz.  Instead there was Zoolander and Shawn of the Dead.

The graphics that place your image into the scene are awful.  Probably some of the worst graphics I've seen in a really long time.  The game also had a lot of problems recognizing the player from time to time.  It would periodically stop sensing the people and drop their ability to run the controls of the game.

I put this game in the same category as Naughty Bear.  Its fun and funny for about thirty minutes, then the hilarity totally wears off.  The only demographic that would find this game entertaining beyond that time limit are kids between the ages of 10 and 13.  But this game isn't even successful as a game for children.  Most of the movies on the list are ones that a 10 year old hasn't seen.  If your child can recite the words from Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke, your child is awesome.  Also, you are a bad parent.

So with the high level of corniness, lack of consistent playability, and the fact that it isn't even playable for children, I do not recommend this game for anyone.  Ever.  Even if it drops to five dollars, take your money and hit up the dollar menu.  You will have a far more entertaining experience with a cheeseburger and sweet tea.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What ever happened to...

I was walking through Best Buy the other day because I had to pick up a battery pack for our black Xbox controller and a new charging cable.  Any of you who are friends with me on Facebook will have probably seen my status update that the baby I am currently housing is apparently some kind of EMP, because I have been killing anything and everything battery related.  2 controllers, cell phone battery, car battery, wristwatch...Keep your electronics away from me.

Anyways -- So I'm walking through Best Buy and I see on an endcap Epic Mickey.  Oh man, how I longed for that game when I first read about it in Game Informer.  It sounded amazing, especially for a Wii game.  It released November 30, 2010, just in time for the Christmas season - but also an incredibly busy time in my life, and a time when I was barely playing any console games, let alone the poor, lonely Wii.. So November 30 came and went and I did not pick Mickey up.  And then Christmas came and went and I didn't get it as a present, then 2011...and here we are, July 2011 and I see it on an endcap - and it's only $19.99.  Wow.  That game price dropped like a lead balloon.

I don't understand it, either.  It was hyped up.  It had the cover of GI (granted that can be a curse.)  It was supposed to be a deep, rich storyline with interesting gameplay.  A game to beat other games on the Wii (not difficult to do.)  And I never heard anything about it.  And now, here it is, drastically reduced in price.

Looking at other websites, I see that it got 4, even 4 1/2 stars out of 5.  I probably never heard anything about it because, quite frankly, I have almost no friends who play Wii.  I wonder if this one went under the radar because gamers don't take Mickey seriously?  Although the Kingdom Hearts games seem to do pretty well...

Overall, I was just surprised.  A game that I was totally psyched for that I never got, and never heard anything about.   It totally fell off the radar until the other day when I saw it for so cheap, and I still didn't pick it up.  I know, I know *shameface*.  I do want to get it, eventually, but my list of games right now is 3 miles long and I just can't justify even $20 tacked on to the waiting list right now.

Has this ever happened to you, loyal reader?  What game were you totally psyched for that fell off of you and everyone else's radar?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Black Ops Annihiltion Map Pack: Balanced but Lazy

I'm not going to hate all over the Annihilation Map Pack.  But I am going to hate all over the price.  Starting from the beginning, a break down of the maps.

Shangri La: This installation brings an all new zombie map.  With each zombie addition, the difficulty increases.  This is definitely a good thing.  Long gone are the days of finding a corner of the map and bottle-necking zombies for 60 rounds.  Now people are forced to move around and exercise some level of strategy.  Some of the great new additions include Zombie Monkeys that steal power-ups, Shrieker Zombies that blind players, Napalm Zombies that leave behind patches of damaging fire, and the first ever female zombie.

Hangar 18:  This map offers a lot of depth.  There are plenty of opportunities to snipe or have a more direct attack.  The combination of size, open areas, and multiple levels make working as a team vital in objective game play.  Teams that don't work together, will rarely do well on this map.  The details are simple but clean with numerous discrete tunnels and walkways.

Silo:  This map reminds me a lot of Array.  The layout isn't the same, but there is the similar element of twisting staircases and climbing to incredible heights.  This map is great for sniping and unfortunately camping which can make playing it on hardcore incredibly difficult.

Drive-In:  This is the point where the review starts to get negative.  The layout of Drive-In is basically a stretched out version of Nuke Town (thank you Mini Bezz for showing me the light on that one).  The placement of structures and open areas is very similar.  Its a very linear map with two spawn points secluded at either end.  The spawn points are protected by the only two major parts of the map where a higher elevation can be reached.  Lastly, much like Nuke Town, there are two open and direct paths on each side to traverse the map.  Its not identical to the older map, but its close.

Hazard:  It took about two minutes of playing this map for the first time before I realized that I knew exactly where I was going and strategies I was using.  This map is an "intentional remake" of the map Cliffside from Call of Duty: World at War.  Developers took the exact same layout (and I mean exact) and put a whole new skin on it.  The transformation into a golf course can't hide this classic map that I have personally been dominating on for years.

image flipped and major landmarks highlighted

My bitterness comes from the fact that two of the four maps were the product of laziness.  Passing off Hazard as a new take on something old shows a lack of creativity by the design team and unapologetic greed by producers.  I am not against old maps, but I am against being charged $15 for them.  If they are so insistent upon releasing old maps from earlier in the series, it should be its own map pack.  They could call it the Classic Map Pack; making the price $5 or $8 dollars for 4 old maps or keeping the current price but having more content.

No matter what your qualms are with the cost, the maps are still fun.  They lack environmental detail but are very well balanced.  They promote team cooperation during objective games, but aren't completely overwhelming during Team Deathmatch of Free-For-All.  And no matter what you do, watch your six on Hazard because my World at War training is coming back to get ya.