Wednesday, August 31, 2011

AirMech: Something New From Someone New

Image straight up jacked from

Here at Achievos, we absolutely love indie game developers.  Its always fun and inspiring to hear about a small group that has been able to exercise passion and creativity without restriction.  So when I found a small booth along a back wall with some intense peddlers, I was more than intrigued.

The developer, Carbon Games, was demoing the real-time strategy AirMech.  Players control and attack in the air or transform to fight on the ground.  Different land units are generated and can be carried around the map for defense and progress towards offense.  By the time I stopped at this booth, it was my third day of standing in lines and walking around.  It is fair to say that mental and physical exhaustion had begun setting in.  With all that in mind, I was still able to walk up to the controls and effectively play within a minute.  I consider that a pretty solid testament to the game's intuitive controls. 

If you would like to see video of the gameplay or even sign up to help test the beta, head on over to Carbon Games.  You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.  There you can find all the deets on the different aspects of the game that my fatigued mind failed to retain.  I highly recommend you give this gem a try.  I have no doubt that AirMech will be seeing a major release.  But why wait?  Go check out their site for details on the game and the history of the team behind it all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

PAX Skyrim Booth Renews My Faith in Humanity

After years of anticipation, the long awaited sequel to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is just a few months away from release.  Even though Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim won’t be hitting shelves until 11/11/2011, the creative and loving souls over at Bethesda let PAX attendees have a crack at the game early.  After standing in line for almost an hour (the shortest wait line for the game all weekend), I was allowed to play the game for 15 whole minutes.  Read and bask in the details.

Each attendee walked up to a monitor that had a saved game loaded.  We could choose the character classes and move into game play.  Everyone started in a cave and then they were allowed to leave and explore wherever they felt like.  Most people went into either a small local woodland village or a mine.  There was also plenty of general landscape to explore including snowy mountains, dense forest, and a large glistening lake.  All locations had plenty of enemies to fight and characters to talk to. 

Starting with just the looks and general feel of the game, it was beyond amazing.  The textures and environment were crystal clear.  The definition and depth of the surroundings were amazing.  Even when swimming under water, the bottom of the lake was full of rich detail.  The menus also took on a major upgrade.  They are far more easy to navigate and much less overwhelming.  All items in the inventory are displayed individually and quite large so all the intense detail can be seen with ease.  The stats for each weapon, spell, and piece of armor are clearly visible and easy to calculate.  The weapons and spells are dual wield.  Players can carry a two-handed weapon, two one-handed weapons, a weapon and a spell, or two different spells.

I think there might be dragons in Skyrim.  Call it a hunch.
One of the more advertised features is the use of the Creation Engine (developed internally by Bethesda) that helps facilitate random events.  Certain enemies like dragons or physics related elements like weather are completely random.  It was widely discussed around the convention, in panels, and online that even the developers were completely unable to predict certain events in the game while working through the testing phase.

Overall, this game looks amazing.  And the 15 minutes I played completely hooked me.  It was more than worth standing in line for an hour.  The toughest part of the game will be trying to wait two more months to get it.  In the meantime, don't forget to subscribe to the blog and follow us on twitter @achievos !

Sunday, August 28, 2011

PAX Makes My Dreams Come True With An SSX Booth

Lindsey and I are complete screaming fan girls for the SSX brand.  So when I walked into the PAX showroom to see a giant display for the latest addition to the game, it was like hearing the voice of God and the shining light of angels.  Not only did they have reps to discuss the game, they had little SSX comic books (Lindsey, one is coming to you!), and plenty of monitors on which to play the game.  Here is the break down.

Much to my delight, the trails are very open with a lot of different paths to carve.  It is a very open world with mountains to conquer just like SSX3.  A lot of the same characters will be returning.  Elise was highlighted at the booth with a cosplay booth babe and her on the cover of most of the promotional material.  My favorite character was Allegra and when I asked about her I received a sad response.  They said she is definitely not going to be in the game, but weakly hinted that she might be involved in one way or another.  Allegra might return as downloadable content or unlockable artwork.

There will be extensive multiplayer broken down into three pillars; Trick It, Race It, and Survive It.  Blue ghost lines will appear on the track as you run it.  Whichever friend has the highest score or the best time on a run will have their path lightly illuminated on your run.  When playing single player, your own best run will have a ghost path.  The rep at the booth made sure to let me know that lobbies will probably be able to host dozens of players at the same time like an actual mountain.  I've not read much to corroborate that, but I hope he was right.

Remember that comment about blurry, poorly lit photos?  Not a joke, kids.

Lastly, the controls are not nearly as intuitive as the controls have been in previous games.  Its not hard to walk up to the game and play.  But grinding and executing elaborate tricks was tough to figure out.  The rep told me that the controls have been smoothed out considerably since then and will be more so when the game comes out.  The demo I played was some pre-alpha software so it was far from ready for release.

With all that, the game is still going to be amazing.  I had so much fun and I am confident that it will live up to the sky-high expectations that Lindsey and I have for the series.

The Secret World Developers Give Intimate Demo

A giant display in the middle of the convention room floor advertised a game, The Secret World.  There was a barely noticeable black curtain that allowed convention goers inside to three rows of seats and a giant screen.  In there were two Australian men, developers of the game, talking about making and playing the game.  Here is what I learned.

The Secret World is an MMORPG.  Its based in real time but has a lot of "old world" elements.  Characters have modern clothes and use current language and diction.  The game has secret government agencies and exploring buildings and sewers.  They also implied that there may be some abilities to use or interact with helicopters at some point in the game.  But they wouldn't say more, they just smiled and said "no spoilers" over and over.  All of us in the audience could tell they were dying to tell us something but they managed to restrain.

The "old world" elements refer to some of the other skills that players have.  There are varying levels of magic and skills that are obviously not conducive to modern times.  They fall more in line with that sort of alternate reality medieval time that is seen in Oblivion.  Spells like fireballs and electricity are available but will naturally upgrade as the player upgrades. 

The developers repeated several times that "there are no classes or ranks".  Players will not be locked into or out of special abilites based on classes.  However, they didn't explain the factions.  There was a huge display of computers where convention attendees could take a quiz.  The answers of the quizzes determined if the player will be in the Templars, the Illuminati, or the Dragons.  I answered questions in a way that leaned towards knowledge and peaceful advancement which resulted in me being a Dragon.  The characters are not actual dragons, its supposed to be modern times, and they claim there are no classes.  So these factions and their significance in the game remains unexplained.

They were also really excited about the system they established for teaching players the games.  Each skill is taught and utilized through an area.  Mini bosses must be beaten before players can move on in the game and learn the next skill.  They focused on not only learning spells or skills, but making sure that players are able to combine them effectively as the progress.

The game looks like a lot of fun.  The style is not particularly new but the story line sounds intriguing and complex.  Even with the convention center's crappy WiFi, the gameplay still looked smooth as they tapped into their servers.  This game will definitely be one to check out in the future. 

Also, are you following us on Twitter ?  I have a ton of swag to bring back and give away.  Plus you don't want to miss out on any PAX tidbits and info.  @achievos

Saturday, August 27, 2011

OnLive Takes on PAX Full Force

The game on-demand service provider OnLive took PAX by storm.  After at least a year online, the service is ready to take on the needs of the masses. When I say masses, I mean lines at PAX that were hundreds of people deep at any given time.  They were so long that event organizers had to cut people off due to fire hazard and c-blocking other vendors.  All those people were in line for their chance at a free OnLive console.  You can get one too.

First, a little more about OnLive.  As stated in my grand introduction, OnLive is an on-demand service for video games.  More specifically, it allows players to stream games to their televisions, PCs, and laptops.  There is no need to have an amazing graphic card or insane processor.  All games purchased are kept on servers and streamed to the user.  Customers can pay for games on an individual basis.  Most games are at a standard retail rate.  There are sales once a week where a not-totally obscure title can be purchased for five dollars.  The game might be a little older, but the price is still great.   Example: a couple weeks ago they had Borderlands with all DLC for $5.  Srsly.

The other pricing option is their PlayPack Bundle.  It kind of works like streaming Netflix where you can have unlimited access to more than 80 games whenever you want.  But just like streaming Netflix, you don't have access to the full catalog, and not a lot of major titles when they are first released.  To make up for this, OnLive members with the PlayPack option get an additional 30% off any additional purchase.  So that $50 game is now only $35.  And those five dollar deals I was mentioning earlier?  Yea, those get the 30% off treatment as well. 

The only problem that I found with the console is that it isn't wireless.  My apartment has a more intense wireless network than NASA.  We have everything linked up and passing back and forth.  But the OnLive console must be wired into the router.  A hardline Ethernet goes into one end of the device and HDMI comes out the other.   There is no wireless option whatsoever.  Even if we weren't addicted to our cord-free lifestyle, the router in my apartment is nowhere near where all the gaming takes place. 

So for a lot of people, this is still a totally viable gaming option with lots of potential savings.  And with my wireless dilemma, I am willing to part with my free, unopened, OnLive console to a loyal reader.  We haven't worked out yet how we will give away all the amazing things accumulated.  But keep a watchful eye on the blog to see how this $100 console and other super cool prizes could be yours.
My goal when taking pictures is to make them look as grainy and poorly lit as possible.  Mission Accomplished.

Gunstringer Brings out the Kinect's Useful Side

How dedicated am I to this blog ?  After going to bed at 2am from a night of drinking, I am back up at 7am just to bring you more PAX deliciousness.  I wanted to tell you about a game I played last night called the Gunstringer.

With the aide of some alcohol, I played this game for about 15 minutes in the middle of a charity party.  Talking with some of the developers and the promo guys for the game gave me some real insight into the game.  Their goal was to make a game that finally utilized the Kinect in a natural, intuitive way.

The player acts as the marionette for a gun-slinging puppet and guide him through his world.  Player's use the left hand to move the character left and right as well as jumping.  The right hand acts as the reticle of the six-shooter and the actually shooting action.

This game does play really smoothly.  Walking up to it and starting right away is very easy.  The way that the Kinect and the player work together is very intuitive and feels like a natural fit.  Moving the character, gun reticle, shooting, jumping, and more are all fun and seamless.  However, you are required to hold your arms up and out to play the game (think arms like a zombie but not stretched out so far).  Ten minutes into the game, my left arm began to get tired. I imagine that not too much later would have made my right arm tired too.  So while this game really uses the Kinect well, it has the classic problem of expecting players to want to stand in awkward positions for long amounts of time. 

In the end, this game will be worth the money if its released as an arcade game.  But as a full length, $60 game, not so much.  Its definitely fun, but I hope that they come up with some levels in the game to help relieve your arms throughout.

Friday, August 26, 2011

PAX Prime 2011

After months of anticipation and days worth of hype, Achievos has finally reached PAX Prime in Seattle.  There are a lot of booths, dozens of games to play, and some amazing cosplay.  With so much convention to cover, I will be general for right now.  But you can expect more detailed analysis of what I experienced later.

Upon entering the convention center, Friday found itself not to be as crowded as I assumed it would be.  Its well known that Saturday is the busiest day.  But after hearing the harrowing tales of escape from the obscene hoards at ComicCon, I was prepared for the worst.  Luckily, there was a total manageable and very friendly crowd.

The gamer spirit runs deep at PAX.  I know that sounds like an obvious statement, but there is a nearly tangible current of kinship.  Everyone is excited for free swag and blown away by fantastic demos.  Lines are long but people are patient and easy to chat with.  Booth babes, advertisers, developers, and higher are all ready and anxious to answer any questions.  

Fellow attendees Stefanie (left) and Frank (right) met and chatted with Gears of War 3 Lead Producer Chris Wynn (center).  Now that is some fan service!

But above all things, we all show up for the games.  One game that I was able to try out was Kirby's Return to Dreamland which is slated to release in late October.  Available on the Wii, this latest addition to the Kirby lineup allows for four players and is very easy to play.  I have never played a Kirby game in my life and this one was pretty simple from the get go.  There was a younger child next to me who didn't know what he was doing, but he appeared to have a good time.  So in the ten minutes I was allowed to play, I can say that this is definitely a very family friendly game.  Everyone will be able to pick up a controller and play along, even if they are a little below the learning curve.

Debbie playing the new Kirby
This is just a tiny sampling of things to come.  I will write and post more throughout the weekend.  I am also grabbing tons of goodies to give away to our loyal readers.  Keep reading to find out how you might win yourself posters, buttons, t-shirts, and autographed cards.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Misheard Game Titles, Vol. 3

Grand Theft Auto I.V.

We've all played and enjoyed GTA titles in the past.  The world is now ready to welcome GTA Intravenous.  You enjoy the game by literally tapping it into your veins!  There is nothing like the thrill of explosions and random murder in a GTA game, but now you get that thrill plus a boost of adrenaline via the newest gaming peripheral, an I.V. bag and all the accoutrement you need to hook it straight into your arm.

This is the ultimate gaming experience.  Forget 3D.  Forget headsets that block out all noise except your game.  Forget immersive player interaction.  Grand Theft Auto I.V. is actually inside of you.

Available...well..not really anywhere. Thanks a lot, FDA!

Batman: Arcane Asylum

Batman has long been the king of gadgetry.  This dark knight has hundreds of items at his disposal to take out the baddies he encounters.  But, as we all know from day to day life and red rings of death and burned out batteries, gadgets can fail.  That's why Batman has taken up a new step: He has entered the Arcane Asylum.

That's right.  Everyone's favorite super hero of the night is going to learn him some magic.  He'll be trained by the finest wizards and mages as you level up in this game.  Imagine going up against Mr. Freeze with your new arsenal of fire spells, plus frost resistance!  Aww yeah, the Batman has become even more unstoppable.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Age of Empires Online Blows Minds and Wallets

Growing up, a lot of people broke their PC gaming cherry on the game Age of Empires.  So when it was announced that there would be a new release for the franchise, it was kind of a big deal.  Despite the excitement, the game took a quiet roll out of the starting gate without much fan fare.  But now that the buzz surrounding this title is growing, its time to break it all down.

Age of Empires Online is a single player game with a co-op option.  The core objective of the game remains the same as its predecessor.  Build an empire through resource management in an RTS setting and completing quests along the way.  Instead of slowly building one giant empire, you are tasked to managed your capitol city while constantly going out and rebuilding small areas from scratch over and over again with different goals each time.

This game has an Xbox party function that allows you to chat with players while in co-op mode or otherwise.  It says that there is a voice chat but no one I have encountered has knows how to turn it on.  There is an option to type in an open stream but there are too many people to really keep up with any discernible conversation.  Starting parties to a restricted stream is pretty easy, but that's about it.

The real discussion point is the price.  As of right now, Age of Empires Online is free as part of a pay-to-play setup.  The first several levels and numerous quests are free, but there comes a point where progressing will cost you.  Players are asked to pay to access other civilizations, weapons, armor, and additional quests.  Booster packs are about ten dollars, quest packs are about twenty dollars, and a Season One pass is a full blown one hundred dollars.  The Season Pass does include all of the currently available content and probably any content release over the next couple months.  But I am curious about how soon Season One will end Season Two will begin.  And I assume that when Season Two starts, there will be an exorbitant amount of money that I will be expected to pay all over again.

Right now the game is free and a lot of fun.  It has achievements that link to Xbox LIVE accounts and allows you to play with friends.  While I am on the fence about how much content I'm willing to pay for, the game is still worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Queen of My Castle

I totally got hooked by a link the Frag Dolls posted on their Facebook feed about getting into a closed beta for a new game called Castle Empire.  I'm in it, and I have to say, I am loving it.

The game plays a lot like a simple, slower version of Age of Empires (AoE).  AoE was one of my original loves of gaming, and took many an hour/day/week of my time when I was in high school/college/post-college/right now.  The above screenshot is the main hub of my town.  The island you are on is split into 9 sections, and you start in the bottom left, each remaining section shrouded in fog and filled with bandit camps.  As you defeat them you can take over the sections and increase the size of your town.

As with AoE, in Castle Empire you must farm for materials like wood, stone, water, fish...  The type of supplies you need are organized by category based on level.  For example, I am currently level 19 and am up to the third category of supplies, advanced, and now have to farm not only fir logs, but also hardwood logs for building and upgrading different buildings in my town.  The system works, but it has been a trial trying to find that perfect balance for collecting goods.  Each building has a time frame that it takes to collect X number of resources, for example, a level 1 fir wood cutter takes 2 minutes and 22 seconds to farm 1 fir log.  A fir wood sawmill, which turns those logs into plants, takes 4 minutes and 28 seconds.  So you have a surplus of wood from plank creation - a good thing because you're going to be using those logs all over the place.  There is a fine balance to be found for supply and demand, and I have seen people in the chat talking about running spreadsheets just to keep it all straight.  I have far from perfected it, but that's part of the fun in my book.

The battle function when taking on bandit camps is simple, but has its own frustrations.  Soldiers are expensive and time consuming, and generally most get killed in battle so you're back to square one on building up your army to take on the next bandit camp.  The enemy camps are clearly marked as easy/medium/hard, and tell you the number of bad guys you're going up against, so you can prepare appropriately.

Obviously this game is in beta.  There have been glitches that I've heard other people talk about in chat, but have not experienced myself.  There are often people in chat that work for development that are getting the players ideas and suggestions, and I think it's a good method.  It's interesting to see how much other online games are influencing people's desires in Castle Empire - I've made suggestions based on AoE and Sim City, and have heard suggestions clearly taken from games as different as WoW. 

Right now Castle Empire is a really fun way to kill some time.  It is an interesting combination of a real-time strategy + Facebook game.  I say that mostly because of the time involved.  You aren't going to sit down and play this game through in a couple hours.  Collecting supplies and spending them on buildings and creating your army takes days sometimes.  You also have a friends list and you can help your friends out by gifting supplies or placing buffs on their buildings which make them work twice as hard for X amount of time.  It's a blast, and I love checking in on my little town a few times a day.  So far it seems like a game that can eat up as much of your time as you're willing to let it.  If you want to give it a go, send me a message at and I'll send you an invite.  As of right now I think that's the only way you can get into the beta.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Free Microsoft Points ! Oops, just kidding.

A lot of people woke up Thursday morning to a seemingly miraculous occurrence; free Microsoft points.  For a company that rarely gives away anything without some serious strings attached, this was amazing.  But as quickly as they arrived, they were taken away. 

My starting points going into Wednesday night were 270.  I spent my week downloading arcade and indie games so my balance was pretty low.  When I logged onto Wednesday afternoon, I was greeted with 3350 points !  It was glorious.  I knew it was a fluke, and every ounce of my being wanted to rush home and start downloading before they disappeared.  But my stupid conscience got the best of me before I had the chance.  I had multiple conversations with the Xbox Account Specialists and this is what I found.

The addition of extra points was very wide spread.  The lucky individuals were those scheduled to receive points from the Xbox Rewards program.  The tag had to be signed up at least a month before Wednesday.  The program only rewards if the player has accrued 100 points or more, so anything under 100 didn't get anything extra.  The amount of points being award, was deposited into accounts.  And then deposited again.  And again.  And again.  Five times total.

I started with 270 points.  I had 440 points in my rewards program to be deposited this month.  So when it went in, it immediately went in four more times bringing me up to 3350.  I am a person that deals poorly with guilt, so I called Account Services and they removed the extra currency.  Although, it should be noted that even if I hadn't called, everyone with extra points had them removed the next day anyways.  So my tremendous 3350 went down to 710 (270 plus the 440 I was properly owed).

"Surprise !  We love our loyal customers !"

Xbox's equivalent of being Rick-Rolled

The group that didn't have them removed?  People who spent them right away, of course !  Xbox has not mentioned what they attempt to do for the people who used their extra points right away.  When the problem was first noticed, players stormed Xbox Support's Twitter feed asking what they should do.  The initial response was that it was Xbox's mistakes and the points are free to be used.  But only hours later, that answer changed sharply directing people not to spend the points or buy any more until the whole event was over.

It would seem that there is little Xbox will be able to do to rectify the lost points.  It would be unlikely for them to charge people for downloads.  There is the possibility that all downloaded content purchased could be removed.  But even that isn't fool proof if the points were spent on games that are already completed or can be stored on hard drives.  

Xbox will probably never tell us exactly what caused the computer glitch.  But one thing is for sure, there is definitely going to be a gigantic spike in people signing up for the Xbox Rewards program.  Perhaps the whole thing was a moderately clever ploy to get people to sign up.  Either way, I don't think the financial damage to Microsoft is anything the company can't promptly recover.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Virtual Attraction Part 1 ….. A Guide on How NOT to Pick Up Women

You know those men that claim women only like guys who treat them like crap?  Those men are usually grown out of a friendship that never made it to the dating stage.  Imagine Winnie Cooper never hooking up with Kevin Arnold in the Wonder Years.  Those years of pent up sexual frustration lead to the type of guy that would make the game Virtual Attraction Part 1.

Found in the Indie Games section of the Xbox LIVE Arcade, Virtual Attraction Part 1 portrays itself to be a guide for how to attract women.  A general summary of the game would be to say that women only like asshole guys.  Therefore, you should treat them like crap.  There are pages and pages to read of “scientific evidence” to support the theory that women only like jerks.  There were quizzes and a virtual simulation where you talk to a poorly animated woman and test out your newly acquired women hunting skills.

When I first loaded it up, I thought the game was going to be a joke.  I was hoping it would be some hilarious take on relationships today.  But that is not what I found; it’s serious. Despite its usage of research and attempt at sincerity, the developers of the game can’t possibly think what they are saying is a good idea due to the presence of a warning at the beginning of the game that includes in very tiny print:
“By pressing start, you are explicitly declaring yourself solely responsible for the use of the information contained herein, and render us (the creators) harmless against any damages whether physical, emotional, or financial.”

So the game isn’t really a game at all.  It’s considered by its creators to be a legitimate training tool to bag the players a woman they previously never had a chance at.  It wasn’t fun.  It wasn’t informative.  And I doubt the tactics described within have ever worked for anyone.  Ever.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Activision Wants You To Pay ....... Again

The zombie maps on Call of Duty have always come with mixed reviews.  One or two levels are great, but with each installment of the series comes more and more maps.  With the upcoming release of the Rezurrection Map Pack for Black Ops, I’m more than annoyed.

The new map pack will have five maps, all of them zombie based.  I’m not a fan of zombie games so I don’t plan on buying it.  And not in the way I usually make statements like “ *grumble grumble grumble* not getting my hard earned monies” and then instantly buying it the second it comes out.  The Rezurrection Pack does not even faintly interest me.  I personally wish they would just make a separate Call of Duty zombies game, but I am one of the only players that feels that way.

For those who are long time players of series, like me, and happen to love the zombies, there is something you should know.  Four of the five maps are old, straight up recycled material.  Activision decided to take the four zombie maps from World at War (the originator of Nazi zombies in the series) and “revamp” them.  Basically, the gameplay will be smoother and there will be better music.  From press releases and information on the website, the maps are not even re-skinned like the Cliffside/Hazard map was (which you can read here).  They are straight up old maps.

The worst part of this?  They are still going to charge players the full 1200 Microsoft points.  That’s right, $15 for old maps.  But wait, it gets better.  Of the four offending maps, three of them were paid DLC for World at War.  That means a lot of people paid for the maps once, and now they will have to pay for them again.  The attempt to double dip in my wallet feels more like a double penetration.

It should be noted, that not everyone is totally boned in this situation.  The four old maps were part of the Hardened Edition of the game at release.  So those who already have them will actually get the new map for free.  And I do have some sympathy for the people who purchased the old layouts in the beginning.  The lobbies for those maps are probably close to barren since most people just bought the regular edition.  This release will certainly boost the ability to find people to play with.

I think there were a lot of alternatives to this situation.  Keep the price high but include more new maps.  Make the old maps a separate purchase altogether for a lower price.  But to expect me to pay for the same old maps that I have already paid for once is pretty stupid.  Activision has once again proven that they don’t give a crap about the player, just the money.  But we all knew that already, didn’t we.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Get Trenched!

Craving the snarky banter of a military commander?  Chomping at the bit to drive your own seriously armed robot?  Of course you are.  Let me introduce you to a little game called Trenched.

Found exclusively on the XBL Arcade, Trenched is a really fun third person action shooter spiced up with a little tower defense.  Each mission requires the player to protect an objective from waves of enemies.  The enemies are varied in their defenses including some that are air born, heavily armored, or have long range attack capabilities.  

There are several ways to win the battles and thus win the war.  The portion of the game that is tower defense allows you to plant turrets around the field of play.  The varying kinds of turrets are all upgradeable and vital to the success of the game.

The other option to help you through the game is the addition of a friend!  That's right; this little diamond in the rough has a four person co-op.  I would typically scoff at the idea of paying 1200 points for a game that is only about four hours of gameplay.  But for the ability to link up to friends or do a blind search for other players online, this is well worth your hard earned pennies.

Be warned, this game legitimately borders on impossible if you attempt to play solo.  The first couple levels are easy.  But each mission brings increasing difficulty and more waves.  The game reaches a point very early in the game where playing with others is almost required.  You don’t have to load up the room with four players; it is playable all the way through with only two.  But if you don’t play well with others, this game might not be for you.

The game is short and doesn’t require much mental strain.  But it’s fun to take command of massive robots or “mobile trenches” and run around with your friends.  And in keeping up with this summer's other arcade titles, there is some excellent artwork and style to this game.  The price is right.  The game is fun.  Download it now. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Move Over Limbo, There's a New Kid in Town.

In a summer full of less than thrilling game releases, the Xbox LIVE Arcade has come out with some great new titles to keep you entertained.  Clever puzzles, hypnotizing artwork, and hella fun gameplay: meet Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

There are few things in the world that I love more than robots and aliens.  This game has given me both.  The player explores the planet as an alien inside an adorable UFO that seems more like The Little Engine The Could instead of an invasion.  The precocious flying saucer comes with a robotic arm that has various upgrades and attachments to help you navigate the dangerous surroundings.  This non-linear, side-scroller relies heavily on its puzzle element.  While there are frequent enemy packs to shoot through, the majority of the game tests your critical thinking skills.  

What makes this seemingly basic game so captivating is its stylized environment.  In a form we all remember from Limbo, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet brings a lot of eye-catching silhouettes but juxtaposes against amazingly vibrant colors and shapes.

There is also a multiplayer component that is brief but fulfilling.  You and up to three friends can struggle down a linear path protecting objects and fighting enemies while earning as many points as possible.  The key is communication.  Correct placement of the lanterns, clearing obstacles, and defeating enemies requires constant team work.  Make sure you play it with people who have mics and play well with others.  There is a random XBL search to help you find other players, but that can be really unorganized and make the fun game more stressful.

Overall, this game is simple but fun.  It solidifies shifts if gaming to more artistic design and the viability of smaller, downloadable games.  Hopefully Xbox and other developers take advantage of the summer lull and keep bringing us great titles like this one.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Newest Vendetta

Since it would appear that my personal vendetta against some 3D gaming is over (see here), I have decided to take up a new cause: I am now against companies offering downloadable content only, vs purchasable hard copies.

I understand the draw for the company: we can’t resell it.  This sucks!  First off, I am totally cheap.  I buy almost all my games used at Gamestop because that way I feel like I can play everything I want without blowing a giant wad of money every time I turn around.  Granted, this means I have to wait until I can get my hands on a used copy, but my list of games to play is so long that that’s alright with me.

Second, and perhaps even more importantly… We can’t loan the games to our friends.  I am a huge proponent of this.  For example, I currently have Debbie’s copy of Mass Effect, and if she hadn’t loaned it to me I would’ve been missing out on this totally fun game.  Granted, again, it means that Bioware didn’t make a buck off of me…but that isn’t to say that I won’t buy my own copy when I return hers.  Loaning games to friends gives them a chance to really try before they buy, in a much more honest setting than the downloadable trial versions (which are sometimes not to be trusted.)

In all honesty, this particular blog and grudge is against Magic the Gathering (MtG).  I downloaded the XBLA game and played it once.  Then the first Duels of the Plainswalker expansion came out and my original MtG never worked again.  It told me I needed the downloaded content.  I was like….”What?!  Who ever heard of a required expansion??”  So I shelved it.  Then a few months passed and my MtG itch really came back in full force, so I started looking into the issue.  I went on forums.  Asked if the expansion was required.  No one else was having the same issues as me, so I did some deleting, some re-downloading.. And now it tells me not that I need the expansion, but that it needs an update that it can’t find on the server.  GARRHHHHHGG.   The error window says to visit but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  It’s back on the shelf and, quite frankly, it’s getting a giant middle finger from me.  And the worst part is that there’s a new Duels of the Plainswalker expansion and it sounds super fun, but I just don’t trust the game enough to pay $10 and download it.

You have hurt me before, MtG.  Why should I trust you this time!?
And this is what brings it full circle: I don’t have a hard copy of it.  I can’t hold it in my hand.  I can’t stick a disc in the machine and play.   And that is what I’m pointing the finger at for why it’s never worked right for me.  In this trend of downloadable only content, I feel like slight glitches block you out of your gameplay experience, and quite frankly, I don’t trust it.