Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Demo Reviews

Yeah, I know, I shouldn't judge a whole game by just a demo, but these are hectic times and it's not always an option to play through a whole game - and some demos show us that some games aren't even worth playing through the whole demo.

Few games in recent memory have caused me to take a mental double take as this one did. Up till now, all the Bond games have been either generic agents or modern incarnations, but here we have a return to the very roots of the series. I couldn't see how a movie that was contemporary for most of today's kids' grandparents could even be contemplated as the basis for a game. Add to that the use of Sean Connery himself for the voice and appearance (one can't really see him having much of a clue what videogames are like), plus the completely altered political structure of that time and now (Russia was the Big Bad Guy then), and the mind boggles. Then I see screenshots of James running around with a whole array of automatic weapons. This was not the "From Russia with Love" I remember (ok, I haven't seen it for awhile, but still). The demo really surprised me - I actually liked it. Sean doesn't sound like the dapper young gent of the 60's and I'm a little uncomfortable with running JB around in a half-crouch with a SMG, but it's a decent run-and-gun that will be in my collection when it hits around $20.

The demo of this proved almost impossible to control and an insult to the movie. It took place in the building lobby that Neo and Trinity shoot up - one of the best parts of the movie and a modern day movie-clip classic. Once I finally got rid of the goons and figured I would go up to save Morpheus, more goons walk out of the elevator. Ok, kill them with random button mashing. Then another set come out, this time with shields. WTF? If this type of artificial gameplay extension is what the developers think gamers want, they are way off the mark (with me anyway). Also, the draw of this game is supposed to be a different ending to the trilogy than the movies. Why??? Just so we have another confusing story to deal with? This one will never show up on my shelves, even if it drops to ten bucks.

Not much different here than the last game - just rolling up bunches of junk. I still have the original game (mainly because it is so original). But I don't really "get" the game. So I probably won't get this one either.

I didn't really "demo" this game, but I did play it for a few minutes at a Target. I might as well have been playing the Disney soccer game. There was very little Mario in this. I think they needed to make it from the perspective of Mario himself as in Mario 64. Sure it wouldn't be a real footy game, but who needs another soccer game where you see everything from the sidelines again?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Of bits and bytes

Just some random updates:

For some reason, Ninny has stopped shipping the DDR:Mario Mix sets. (Glad I got one early even if Sarah doesn't find it very interesting yet.) Something about problems getting the pads made. Not too much of a surprise to me as I thought they were being generous to sell the game and pad for a "mere" $49. They are going for $100+ on eBay currently. Be interesting to see if they drop it altogether or start up again with a newly manufactured pad.

360 mania continues with no new consoles available until the middle or so of this month. I've seen a couple of columns that actually talk more about the impact on Xbox than the improvement of the 360. Microsoft has created a bit of a tar baby here - Xbox's won't be blown out for discount prices, but the 360's are too expensive for alot of people and aren't fully backward compatible. I think that this will all work in Sony's favor and the new super console will be PS3.

Ninny maybe headed for problems too. A report I read stated that developers who got their hands on early dev kits likened the graphics for the Revolution to those of the Gamecube. This also doesn't surprise me - the Revolution unit is too small to provide adequate cooling for CPU, graphics and memory if they are going to be pushing the performance envelope. Of course, what do you expect from a company that is competing with itself on 3 different handheld gaming units at the same time.

Games just keep stacking up. Damn these holiday sales! (Ok, not really. Plenty of room for more games.) I just can't see adding another platform to my collection anytime soon. With the sparkling new SP, I have 4 major systems to buy games for. A DS and/or an Xbox 360 is not in my near or mid-future buying plans. Back when videogames were new (ie, Atari 2600 days), the thought of buying games and not playing them within hours of getting them home would have been unthinkable. But those were simpler days.

Going to try putting a "skin" on one of my Gamecubes. Fry's was selling the skins from Pokemon XD for $0.99 and I couldn't resist. With all the luck I used to have putting stickers on toys, I don't have much faith in it coming out looking anything but crap, but for a buck I'll try. Pics to be posted here if it isn't a total disaster.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dis'sing the DS and a Holiday Weekend in Vana'diel

Even though this is the week of the new DS Mario Kart bundle release, I don't know if I will be picking one up. As much style as this version has, the unit still has many of the same problems that caused me to sell the first one I purchased. It's large, heavy, and awkward to hold if you are using the stylus. Also, the games for it still aren't that interesting. True, Mario Kart looks good and the online feature sounds cool, but where are the RPG and adventure games? Only one RPG (Luna) and a few so-so adventure games. When I sold my first DS, I was sad to lose the backlit screen for GBA games, but with the new SP I don't need it. Plus I think the SP screen is even brighter than the DS was. So, never say never, but it looks like I will let Mario Kart drive on by. I've still got a stack of GBA games to play.

In other news, this was the first holiday weekend that I truly enjoyed more in the virtual world than the real one. Our hearty trio ran all over Vana'diel to complete quests, defeat nefarious monsters, and open up new jobs to train in. We have proven that a balanced 3 person party can kick major ass and pick up more than enough points to keep leveling. A run like this makes all thoughts of trying a different MMORPG fade like morning mist. Long live the NeverwinterKnights!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Xbox 360 Day

Yup, it finally came out. I saw lines at Best Buy and Fry's this morning, and the Circuit City I went to at lunch said they had people lining up last night, but only had 16 units to sell this morning. Most are probably going up on eBay where they are selling for as much as $3,000 according to some reports. So stupid.

I am looking forward to getting the Mario Kart DS system next week. Plus, who knows what kind of craziness is going to go on over the T-Day weekend sales. In the meantime, I'm thinking of a retro-gaming period. Still have a few SNES and N64 games I haven't played, along with some Playstation ones. Kind of wish I still had a Dreamcast. ;)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Monday Updates

More new games added to The Collection. Finally got the new Fable game. Microsoft really confused a lot of people, especially Target employees.

Going to put a white dot on Red Dead Revolver. I think I have to agree with the review that said they tried to do too much in one game. I mean, if it's a shooting adventure game, just let me run around and shoot! Before the third save point, I had to learn to shoot, use cover, special aim, and do a show down. And the transitions between modes was pretty abrubt. That and a few other problems sort of takes the fun out of the game. I'll keep it around in case I ever get a chance to wade farther in, but for now it's time to move on, pardner.

Xbox 360 comes out tomorrow (or tonight if you do the midnight thing). I can't believe people are dropping that kind of money. You could buy a PS2, Xbox, and a Gamecube for the price of the $399 package. And the games are aren't all that impressive. Oh well.

Stuff to get tomorrow. May have to get the King Kong game as it comes with a free movie ticket (that's $7.00 right there). The Aeon Flux set at Circuit City comes with a Liquid TV disc that I must have. Shop till you drop!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bad bad bad bad

Sometimes I think I shouldn't always believe reviews. Afterall, everyone's tastes are different and what one person thinks sucks rocks could be a favorite of someone else. On the other hand, some things are just universally bad. Like liver. And the game Minority Report.

This title (which will be returned to Gamestop later this week) could have been at least a playable game, but what I read in the reviews turned out to be true. They took the premise of the movie (which wasn't a bad one at that) and tried to make a game of it. They didn't get licenses for the actors and decided to make it a "fighting" game. The result is a game with decent graphics that has you punching and kicking anyone who gets in your way (guards, robots, glass) in order to open doors to continue chasing a potential killer. In a word, yuck! If you had been able to sneak and/or use weapons (even the bad guys got to use bats...or rolling pins - it was hard to tell), I think I would have kept it. We're only talking about $7 here. Good thing Gamestop has a liberal return policy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Catching up...

Haven't had as much time to scribble lately so I'm a little behind in my blogging.

First of all, I just want to put in that this blog is mainly here for me to drone on about videogames without boring the few friends I still have. And maybe to have something to look back on as the years roll by (and boy do they ever!).

Second, a quick clarification on the "white dot" system. I wanted to start it because the idea of buying things for a hobby and not using them (something I always do too much of) seems like such a waste. At least if I get an hour or so out of a game I buy, I feel like that money went for something enjoyable - other than the thrill of the purchase. Yeah, it's sad but I do actually enjoy buying stuff - well, most of the time. When I'm not feeling guilty about spending money I don't have.

Third, I guess I can put half a dot on Red Dead Revolver. I started it over the weekend and it's not bad. I haven't gotten beyond the first save point (and it was a quick one). Little tutorial, a quick battle and then the save. With Gun out, I thought I would play a different wild west shooter game until it came down in price. But I don't feel I can really put a full dot on it yet. I could easily (and probably will) replay the intro.

(Ok, no more numbering...)

Games coming out left and right this time of year, along with a whole new console in a week. Xbox 360 will have only 10 console-exclusive titles at launch, store quantities are going to be less than anticipated, and it's already looking that it will be a bust in Japan. My guess is that most systems will be bought to sell on eBay or as glamour Xmas presents.

Played a demo of Call of Duty 2 last night. These games serve two purposes for me - to remind me that war is a fucking waste of human life and that I would have lasted about 5 minutes in a real WWII firefight. My war would have gone something along the lines of hop off the truck, run up the road, and hope that I only sustained a serious enough wound to send me back home with a Purple Heart medal, but not bad enough to kill me. Oh, and hope the wound doesn't get infected either.

Well, that should do for today.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

White Dot for Project: Snowblind

I love videogames. I REALLY love videogames. And I buy videogames. LOTS of videogames. Maybe it's the way they are packaged. The older games came in cleverly designed cardboard boxes with little compartments for the cartridges. Newer games come in seductive DVD cases that stack well or can stand up like little books. For whatever the reason, I can't keep from getting more - and on a weekly basis. I figure the last system that I played all the games I got for it was either the Atari 2600 or (possibly) the Dreamcast (only because I didn't have very many games for it). I know I have some unopened SNES games and I think one or two for the N64. As for the big 3, forget it. With around 70+ for each system, it's no contest. So, in an effort to make me feel that I'm not totally wasting my money, I've started to mark games that I have played. I don't have to finish the game, but I do have to at least get a feel for the game. More than a demo and more than just watching the intro. Basically play it to the point of finding out what makes it unique and far enough into the game that I wouldn't want to lose my progress and start over. When I get to this stage, I put a white dot sticker on the spine of the game. Then when I look at my collection, I can easily see how many I've really played. Or see how many games I should play before buying more. (As if!) (The one thing it doesn't take into consideration is that some games I've played all the way through - like D&D Heroes and Cursed, for example - were sold off. And I think there were a few turkeys I got rid of after trying them and hating how they played. It does skew the count toward more unplayed then played, but I think it's still a good system. At some point I'm going to add GBA games to the "Dot System" too.)

Last night I was able to tag one more - Project: Snowblind for the PS2. I got a pleasant surprise from this one. I was expecting just a mindless FPS, but it had more story and setting than most. You play a U.N.-style peace-keeping soldier in the middle of what is becoming an Asian civil war set in 2065. Unlike most "peace-keepers" you get to kick alot of ass. After trying to hold a Chinese temple against enemy soldiers, futuristic double-rotor rocket firing heilo's, and ED209-like robots, you get seriously injuried and find yourself being "a candidate" for a new procedure - Project: Snowblind. (ED209 wasn't the only thing they stole from Robocop.) Neat touch: during the cut-scenes you can look around with the thumbstick, making it seem much less "canned". You then go out on more missions as this Halo-esque super soldier. So it borrows from a number of other games and movies - at least you get the feeling from the little touches (NPC chatter and computer cinematography, for example) that this wasn't just thrown together to make a buck. Hard to say how much more I'll play of it as the first mission out of the "garage" is kicking my ass so far. :P

P.S. The $900 B&N bundle is up to #2 on their best seller list, second only to SW:BF2.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Game Boy Joy

I've been meaning to add a few words here about how much I'd like to thank Nintendo for finally getting the Game Boy right. I've owned every version they have made (except the Micro) and up til this latest one, the gorgeous backlit SP, I really thought someone should have sued the crap out of Ninny for false advertising. The first Advance was so dark, you had to play it in full daylight to see the screen. I got rid of games because I couldn't play them - like Tomb Raider when I wasn't sure if Lara was jumping over a pit or in the shadow of a platform. You would think it would be misrepresentation to have the back of every game's box show a screen shot that was impossible to obtain with the existing hardware. The original frontlit SP was an improvement and the DS was even better - except a) it wasn't a Game Boy, and b) it was too damn heavy to use. When I heard about the Micro I was really planning on getting one because they said it was going to have a backlit screen. I wasn't thrilled that it was going to be a smaller screen, however. (I remember suggesting to a Nin-rep once that they should make a bundle for the over 40 crowd - a Game Boy with a pair of reading glasses.) Then I find out Nin is making a new SP with the same kind of backlit screen! No hype, no advertising, just a new box, new colors and the same $79 price. Not that they wanted to make a big deal about it - they were basically undercutting their own new product. It costs $20 less, has a bigger screen, and plays all old Game Boy games. So, I sold my old SP, bought the new one, and it's been portable gaming bliss ever since. WTG, Nintendo!

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Got an email from B&N today advertising their Xbox bundle - full package console, 4 games, extra faceplate, and a couple of other goodies for $899! And it was #3 on their Best Seller's list! If you want next day delivery, and who wouldn't considering only the truly desperate will be preordering it, you are up to a few bucks shy of $1000. To play 4 games, 2 of which have been released on other platforms. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Xbox 360 Bits

Just a little update to keep this fresh:

21 days (ie, 3 weeks) till the big Xbox 360 release and all is not well in Gatesville. Walmart had to disconnect their demo systems because the wireless function of the consoles was messing up the PA systems in the stores. Consoles have been determined that they won't be using HD-DVD's but will be able to play HD-DVD movies. And in a blow to anyone chomping at the bit to play the only RPG for the console at launch time, Oblivion has been postponed till a post-Xmas date in 2006. Prediction: being the nature of complicated RPG's, I say it's going to slip further. (Yeah, I know, not really sticking my neck out on that one.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Land of Stubbs the Zombie

Three recent and farily unrelated events conspired to really mess things up in this dimension. They were the DVD release of the "Land of the Dead" movie, the upcoming release of the "Land of the Dead" video game, and the recent release of a game called "Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse". How are all these related by anything but rotting flesh? By the fact that the existence of the third caused the creation of the second (which was mandated by the creation of the first) to suck like a Hoover on overload. Let me explain....

I recently saw "Land of the Dead" and must say I rather enjoyed it. Not as classic as "Night" or "Dawn", but much more enjoyable than "Day". Around the same time I tried a demo of "Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green", your typical game-from-movie tie-in. Aside from being a fairly crappy FPS, I couldn't get over the basic problem that any game that is supposed to be in the "Night/Dawn/Day/Land of the Dead" world has to exist under the fundamental rule that one bite will turn you into a zombie! The FPS game's fundamental rule is you take damage from 100% (or more) down to 0% until you are dead. I'm sorry, but you can't fit these two rules into the same game.

Where I think the developer's missed the target is in forgetting who the "star" of the movie was. It wasn't the easily infected warm blooded humes, it was the crafty thinking head zombie (credited as Big Daddy btw). A game where you play this central character, this Martin Luther King Jr for the recently deceased and animated, would make for some unique gameplay. In the movie alone, he solved problems, armed his followers, and dispatched (or converted) those that oppressed his, uh, people.

However, as (bad) luck would have it, it was around this same time that the "Stubbs" game was planned for release. Being that the game was touted for months ahead of time, it was widely known that one of the primary goals of the game was to build you own army of zombies by eating the brains of the living. Having two games release at nearly the same time that had the player be a zombie just would not have flown at the corporate level.

So, in the end, we are stuck with a mediocre FPS movie-tie-in and a good (but very short) action game. I wonder how sales of "Land of the Dead: Big Daddy" are doing in that other dimension.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Neverwinter ever again?

Just got the December 2005 issue of PC Gamer yesterday (yeah, I don't know why they print them like that either), and the cover story was about Neverwinter Nights 2. Being a veteran of many a D&D battle as part of an awesome trio, fighting our way through Baldur's Gate I & II, Icewind Dale I & II, their expansions, and then NWN, any news about the next installment had me doing something I almost never do - actually read an article in a magazine. :P Unfortunately, I think they got the name of the game wrong. If what I read doesn't change drastically, it should be called "Fable Nights". Here is a quote that sums up my dissapointment:

"Because Obsidian (the game's developer) is focusing so completely on Neverwinter Nights 2's story-driven single-player experience, multiplayer was brought up almost as an afterthought."

Yup, the main thrust of NWN2 will be a single-player adventure, complete with character growth and NPC's for hire. The article goes on to say that there will be a multi-player mode, but it will be based around the DM style - no mention of the non-DM style of play.

While I appreciate that the rich history of adventure gaming was built on single-player games, I can't help but think the legacy of Black Isle's games is fading faster than the popularity of Zip drives.