Thursday, June 17, 2010

TTD EVENT: Electronic Media Exposition Explodes with Dragonly Summations

The Entertainment Software Association's E3 Media Briefing Event has just concluded, and we were right in the thick of it! Or rather, we intended to be; after scoping the show floor out from the rafters, we each decided that getting hot sandwiches at the local Shakey's was a far more appealing prospect than walking around a sweltering convention hall, our nostrils afire with the stink of obese nerds as we attempt to hustle our way into playing the world's newest (and therefore most exciting) game demos with PR representatives staring over our shoulders. Still, thanks to the magic of backdoor entrances and flimsy security guards, we were both able to keep up with the press conferences of three of the big four hardware manufacturers! (Apple's apparently hasn't happened yet, and we couldn't find their booth anywhere. Readers: Let us know if there's something we missed!)

Biggest Surprise
Not pictured: handclaps, cymbal crashes, entire audience of straight-laced game-journos dancing in unison.

PHEN: Child of Eden. Tetsuya Mizuguchi opened up this year's Ubisoft media briefing, holding absolutely nothing as he waved his hands in front of a psychadelic landscape synced up with a driving trance beat. As strange-looking ships flew into view, an on-screen cursor swept across and targeted each of them, sending beams of light out that destroyed each ship, and I realized: this is a Rez sequel. Not only that, but it was shown being played on Kinect! Microsoft's announced Kinect titles made me feel wary about the platform, but Mizuguchi has me immediately pumped and ready to spend real-world dollars for the opportunity to flail my way through another surely-amazing Q? Entertainment product.

SVET: Nintendo 3DS. The existence of the system itself barely counts as a 'surprise'. However, given that we were initially told about this new hardware less than half a year ago with a projected an arrival date of Fall 2011, that Nintendo had screenshots/real-time footage of so many games from first and third-party publishers, that they had hardware that wasn't just an empty, lifeless husk of a case-design (as in years-past), but real, working prototypes attached to some chemical-tasting-but-ultimately-delicious female models... well. Add it all together and you have one of the biggest showstoppers in the history of the event. My favorite part is how the enthusiast community's biggest traditional problem with Nintendo systems (not enough third-party support + limited to games-for-kids) was taken care of with a massive confirmed release-list that includes THQ releasing a damn Saints Row game on a portable Nintendo platform. They even had a promotional video outlining the ways 3DS Will Kill You, for godsake!

Biggest Disappointment
"Annoying" and "black" seems to be the unintentionally-racist combination a lot of nerds are throwing around! Fair enough; he's now white and talks the same way. Have fun!

P: Twisted Metal. Admittedly, I was never a particularly big fan of Twisted Metal, and David Jaffe's newest entry in the franchise was a big contender for my Least Anticipated game this year as well. But I have no beef with Jaffe; my disappointment lies with Sony for choosing Twisted Metal as the final surprise for its media briefing. Sony devoted nearly ten minutes to Twisted Metal discussion, starting with a commercial in which two cabbies argue about how awesome and kick-ass the Twisted Metal series has been, segueing to a guy dressed as Sweet Tooth hanging out in an ice cream truck while Jaffe and Scott Campbell talked about their brand-new Twisted Metal game, including a live Team Death Match demo and concluding with an extended trailer for Nuke mode. The entire presentation seemed to cater to long-time fans of the series, leaving Twisted Metal virgins like myself shrugging our collective shoulders and wishing Sony had ended their show with a real show-stopper like The Last Guardian or the much-anticipated Jet Moto 4.

S: PlayStation Portable. Lately I've found myself in the middle of a cinematic montage in which I offer flowers to/ride a tandem bicycle with/watch movies with-but-not-on my PSP, because I've ultimately grown to love the thing. This is a rare case, though; the PSP still suffers from an image problem, and many people consider it as having run its course, despite how great games continue to come out on it even today. So, no worries; Sony can make up for it with the announcement of a new gaming device with the same on-train-playability that Japanese gamers crave, that capitalizes on the PSP's core strengths with a few interface adjustments and a big hardware boost! In theory, at least. What we ended up getting was a promotional video showing off mostly-already-announced games, a CG trailer for the new God of War, and the announcement of a bold new ad campaign in which Sony faux-executive Kevin Butler takes advice from a tweenage boy about how many suckers to consume every day. I never thought Chewbacca's onstage presence at Sony's 2007 keynote would be considered anything other than the bottom of the barrel, but it was better than virtually nothing at all.

Most Confusing Moment
This isn't what humans look like inside, though! If you like, I can prove it. >:T

P: Rod Humble. Eschewing any formal introduction during the EA media briefing, Rod Humble walked on-stage, scratched his head, and asked, "Did we have any choice in being here today?" This launched into a speech about free will, Greek mythology, emergent gameplay, chaos theory, and the unconscious mind, finally announcing after several minutes of waxing philosophy that The Sims 3 was coming to consoles and concluding his presentation with a short montage video to remind us that The Sims 3 exists. It didn't sound like EA was introducing any new twist on Sim logic for the console release; Humble's presentation could probably have been boiled down to a single slide that said "Sims think for themselves, duders."

S: Ubi Homeopathy. Ubisoft's presentation was riddled with curious moments that toed the line of balls-to-the-wall crazy; they turned a skateboarding game into Okami, showed off the natural comfort of cubes-as-furniture, revealed the superpowers you get from throwing yourself into a coma, and ended with a spontaneous, contextless tribute to Michael Jackson that they forgot to pair with a game announcement. The biggest offender by far, however, has to be the segment in which NBC sitcom Community's Joel McHale helped demonstrate Innergy, where they hooked a sensor to his fingertip and told him to breathe in and out in a steady, relaxed way -- while having his involuntary bodily functions tracked by the entire audience and holding a conversation with the game's representative. As though that wasn't enough, the Innergy guy started criticizing him when his breathing began to fluctuate beyond normal levels, causing him to have to apologize, which really sent the meter off-track. Once the sales-pitch was made and McHale was left to host the rest of the show, I swear he had to physically restrain himself from belting out an under-his-breath "Ooookay..."

Most Anticipated
Kids: with a steady diet of gunpowder, you too can develop the steel resolve necessary to slice bad-guys into dozens of airborne chunklets!

P: Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Bulletstorm was a close contender for this category; both it and MGS: Rising prominently feature combat that looks totally over-the top in a really fun way, scratching the same itch in that respect as God Hand or Painkiller. However, while Bulletstorm's kill-with-skill mechanic assigns a specific name and point value to the act of grappling a baddie into a point-blank shotgun blast, MGS: Rising apparently allows players to slow down time and dice an enemy to bits with a sword, and the footage released so far has left me grinning like an idiot.

S: Kinect. For most gamers who define their tastes outside the sphere of doing jumping-jacks to get coins/getting fake-tickled by a pretend-tiger, most of Microsoft's Kinect lineup leaves a lot to be desired. However, there are two things that most can agree the Kinect does well, even if it doesn't necessarily appeal to them: games that relate specifically to real-life full-body activities that can be reasonably mimiced while standing in-place without the practice coming off as totally absoludicrous. Dancing and aerobics fall squarely into this category; because of this, the back-to-back Dance Central and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved segments of the Microsoft press conference ended up holding bucketfuls of raw appeal for me. It was certainly better than the workhorse-like way in which the conference opened, in which they alternated back-and-forth between shooting-and-sword games before launching directly into talk of sports -- as though the press conference was laid out as boy segment -> girl segment -> mom segment -> cool segment -> hey look at this Ferrari.

Least Anticipated
Fogerty says some folks are born made to wave the flag, but it ain't me.

P: Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Vietnam. Vietnam is rapidly approaching the Invasion of Normandy and the Battle of Hoth in terms of market saturation. It's been well-established that Vietnam was a mess -- Francis Ford Coppola and Stanley Kubrick taught us that ages ago -- and another full-motion-video jungle warzone montage set to Creedence Clearwater Revival isn't approaching the narrative in any new or exciting way. And there's really no new or exciting way to approach Vietnam, since the historical narrative doesn't lend itself to what-if scenarios like the ones explored in C&C: Red Alert or Freedom Fighters. It also doesn't help EA's case that they used the same CCR song six years ago when they debuted a similar game with "Battlefield" and "Vietnam" in the title.

S: Sorcery. While Kinect's offerings to the motion-control format displayed some promise (even if it was mostly outside the realm of "gamer-games"), Sony had a much harder time attempting to distinguish their Playstation Move from a Wii remote with MotionPlus attached. On paper, Sorcery makes as much sense for the Playstation Move wand controller as Dance Central and Your Shape make for Kinect. This analogy falls apart when you consider what kind of games "Wizard Game", "Dancing Game", and "Aerobics Game" individually end up being. Unlike the other two genres at play, Wizard Game requires you to contextualize the action, since human wizards don't actually exist. There are many ways to do this, but Sony chose to present their wizard-game through what looks like a serious story presented in third-person action-adventure format -- and stories that are formed based on business decisions rarely turn out well. Personally, I'm looking forward to the rumored Ape Escape game in development for the device! Nobody-but-nobody cares about the stories in those games.

Who won the media briefings?
"With this device, we plan on printing money in new, three-dimensional formats, the likes of which humanity has never seen."

P: Nintendo. Wii MotionPlus technical issues aside, Nintendo dropped a lot of bombshells at this year's E3 and seemed to have something for everyone: new Zelda, new Golden Sun, new GoldenEye, new Kirby, new Dragon Quest, new Donkey Kong Country, new Kid Icarus, new DS, and Epic Mickey. Svet's already talked in-depth about the 3DS, so I'll just add this about GoldenEye: I can get my late-90s-console-shooter multiplayer fix from Perfect Dark on XBLA, but I'm genuinely interested in how Eurocom's reimagined the singleplayer campaign to fit in with the premise that it stars the Bond from Quantum of Solace.

S: Nintendo. Not to be the GameInformer-style 9.25 to Phen's 9.0, but your tastes would really have to vary wildly from either of ours to dispute this. Nintendo's conference was compact and efficient, running from trailer-to-trailer with very little CNN-targeted business jargon in between, jamming on the nostalgia buttons of every gamer who owned a Nintendo system earlier than 2001 (sorry, Pikmin fans). Most of all, Nintendo's showing displayed their utter dominance of a genre of game that other console manufacturers rarely attempt to enter: the Cartoon Character Action Game. Though new intellectual properties were few and far-between at this conference in particular (there's a characterless submarine game in development for 3DS, I hear), even if Nintendo decided to paste an entirely new set of characters onto the exact same mechanics of any of their star games, the resulting excitement and froth would be comparable to what they are now, if not exactly the same.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I am quivering in anticipation right now! Two of history's greatest rhythm game licenses just opened up their pre-E3 information floodgates, outlining the details and features new to their latest numbered/not-numbered-anymore installments: Harmonix's Rock Band 3 and Neversoft's Guitar Hero: Legends Of Warriors Of Rock! As upstate Minnesota's semi-reptilian rhythm game champion (I can almost 100% Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker" on Hard drums), I find myself terribly excited and will undoubtedly pick up both games -- but video games are consumer products, as we all know, and I'm certain every fret-clickin' fleshbag on the block is anxious to find out the vital statistics between one and the other. That in mind, let's directly compare and contrast the two! Surely a clear winner can be found, for most of y'all:

Just one step closer to Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)! Also, one step closer to marathon-playsession-induced throat problems.


Rock Band 3:
Enhanced character models -- no word on whether you can add animating wings/tails to your characters or play bass alongside an octopus just yet, but they do look better, at least. World Tour mode is enhanced with more supplementary visuals, which show your characters physically getting from place to place and picking out songs. Hundreds of miniature achievement-like goals are there to collect throughout your band's quest. The addition of keyboard and harmonies allows for up to seven players in a band at once. Drop-in/drop-out gameplay, new song filtering options (show me "songs that get players angry about being able to download them", please), and Rock Band Pro, which requires special hardware that allows players to better transition from plastic-instruments to ones that can make actual music, singlehandedly defusing the smug one-liners of sarcastic roommates everywhere.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock: There are enough enhancements to Quickplay mode to warrant the tacking-on of a plus sign at the end of it! These involve challenges available for all Guitar Hero-compatible content on your hard drive. However, the comprehensive Quest Mode is the focus; in it, you rescue the Demigod of ROCK N' ROLL from the evil beast of... something-or-other; smooth jazz, I guess? It contains heavily stylized characters and amazing mythical power-ups, with which your characters of choice can transform into terrifying, powerful beasts. This has the effect of, say, expanding your score multiplier from 4X to 6X. Narrated by Gene Simmons (bass player of KISS), dubbed "Honorary Voice of Rock N' Roll" by a group of Activision's most influential executives aged 40 and over. (Runner-ups for the title include Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, ZZ Top's Dusty Hill, and Bret Michaels of Poison.)


crganahl rockin' is sunthin' shawkin' when yer feet jes' can't keep still

Rock Band 3: A keyboard! Formerly described as a "keytar" by someone who "did the math" on keyboard + handle-for-transportation, it has 25 keys, 5 of which are visible during normal play (17 during Pro mode, with onscreen indicators to tell you where to put your hands at any given time). It's MIDI-compatible, which makes this the perfect opportunity to start composing brilliant faux-orchestral power-ballads with a shoplifted copy of FruityLoop Studio, if you please. A $40 MIDI controller "brain" allows you to plug in actual keyboards/drumkits, if you've got 'em. Drums and guitars have also been severely enhanced to accommodate "Pro" mode, adding three cymbals to the drumkit, 103 additional buttons to the existing guitar, and controller technology to actual guitar. All of these can be used on any difficulty level, ensuring a smooth transition to real-life musicianhood (completely straying from the precedent set by Guitar Hero Metallica's Expert+, which requires an extra bass pedal, a bottle of hooch, and a devil-may-care attitude to pull off correctly).

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock: A new guitar! Five buttons; the touchstrip was giving them problems, apparently, so they removed it. This one has its controller-components contained entirely in the neck! This means you can break the body of the guitar apart (smashing it after a successful set) and replace it with something that better suits your personal tastes, on the off-chance you don't like the one supplied to you by default. You could even just break the wings off and play guitar with a standalone neck, for maximum aerodynamics; the choice is entirely yours! Also note that the body has convenient airholes; not only do they make the guitar go faster, but you can stuff small bags of potato chips in 'em in case you need an energy boost during a set. If that's not a selling point, what is?

Stratocaster? Pff; no licensing necessary, here. Look at it! It's jaunty, plastic, and on fire!!


Rock Band 3: 83 songs. Standout tracks of those announced so far:
2000s: "Dead End Friends" - Them Crooked Vultures
1990s: "Walkin' on the Sun" - Smash Mouth
1980s: "Here I Go Again" - Whitesnake
1970s: "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen
1960s: "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" - The Doors

In addition to these, Rock Band 3 is compatible with the 1200+ songs currently available via exported game disc or through downloadable content, either via the Rock Band Music Store or the Rock Band Network of independently-published game tracks.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock: More than 90 songs. Standout tracks of those announced so far:
2000s: "Fury of the Storm" - Dragonforce
1990s: "Wish" - Nine Inch Nails
1980s: "Pour Some Sugar On Me" - Def Leppard
1970s: "Children of the Grave" - Black Sabbath
1960s: "Stray Cat Blues" - The Rolling Stones

In addition to these, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is compatible with the 300+ songs available via exported game disc or through downloadable content available from the Guitar Hero Music Marketplace. "GHTunes" functionality, which allows players to compose five-key MIDI songs and upload them to an online database, is unconfirmed.

Jane's Addiction fans are covered, no matter which game you pick! Bohemian Rhapsody's also in both -- why'd I count it for Rock Band, again?


Warriors of Rock's setlist is bigger. So, if you're looking for something you can throw into your Xbox and plow through over the course of a few weeks with the guitar controller that's been laying around in your closet ever since Guitar Hero Van Halen, then you should absolutely pick it up and become engrossed in the Brutal-Legend-like yarn they dedicate their primary game mode toward spinning! For anyone else who wants a full-band experience that can serve as a platform for 99-plus percent of any non-Beatles songs you've purchased to date -- especially anyone who wants to don a pair of sunglasses with star-shaped frames and plonk out a simplistic-yet-functional version of "The Power Of Love" (preferably with a microphone in your face so you can sing while shaking your head 'no' as you play) on something people could look at and call an "actual instrument" without busting up afterward -- Rock Band 3 seems like the sensible choice.

In all seriousness, it feels like both games are the result of different philosophies by each developer/publisher! Warriors of Rock's upgrades are far more incremental in comparison. This may imply that Activision believes the music-game genre has found its niche. They can continue to rack up steady profits as long as each release is spaced out far enough apart from one another to keep Guitar Hero's brand equity from falling too fast. Rock Band 3's changes are so radical and crazy -- taking steps to legitimize and reinvigorate the world of music games, instead of resting on their laurels and leaving the mechanics as-is -- that making the comparison to Warriors of Rock feels almost cheap and flimsy. In that case, can you really even call them competitors anymore?

What? No, you don't hit the colored parts! Shut up! Leave me alone!!

Egh; this is complicated. Tell you what; just go with PowerGig: Rise of the SixString. It promises a three-person band experience more authentic than any Guitar Hero or Rock Band game released to date, while at the same time providing a drum controller even more ridiculous than the one included in Rock Revolution. It'll make for more entertaining YouTube videos, at least~

Thursday, June 10, 2010

May Was Games, Part 1

Ignoring the precedent set by the May months of previous years, May of 2010 played host to one of the largest barrages of mid-year quality the game industry has ever seen -- after Activision took their prospective sales hostage with the release of Modern Warfare 2 last fall, it's understandable that rival publishers wouldn't want to compete. In part one of this four-part series, our two heroes take on a cubic-pixel sandwich encasing a delicious skateboard in the middle.

Picross 3D - May 3rd

The nation of Blockica has been overrun by "Grey Ones", an evil attacking force of grid-adorned rectangular prisms! It's up to you and your pet stylus Wisp to fight back against these evil creatures and quite literally carve out a new civilization for your countrymen, cheered on by a talking motor-duck and his clip-art compatriots.

Svet: This game sets my imagination afire! There are like a million puzzles in this thing, all of which are perfect for playing while lazing about with something else in the background -- cool jazz, Newsradio reruns, crazy cartoons, masturbation, and especially newspapers. The models you make are a little pixelated; I'd have preferred to work at a higher resolution -- carving out individual triangles and normal-map layers to create a stellar rendition of current-gen Mario's face, let's say. It would take several hours for each item to complete, but at least I'd be able to justify giving my Game-Reviewer's-Template review for this game a graphics score higher than a 2.5 out of 10.

Phen: After an extended playsession of Tetris, I often find myself picturing theoretical arrangements of a game in progress and where to place the next hypothetical piece. Very few puzzle games grip my attention long enough that I start getting Tetris-Vision, but Picross 3D is one of them. After solving a few puzzles, I'd set the game down and look around my cave, only to find that I'm seeing numbers scattered across the walls, describing the number of spaces separating every nook and cranny and providing clues on which spaces still need to be carved out. It turns out it's a platypus!

Skate 3 - May 11th

After your numerous adventures in San Vanelona in Skate (alternate titles: "skate.", "Skate OG") and Skate 2, you wake up in a newer, more colorful city filled with impossible architecture that just-so-happens to be brilliantly navigable with the control system provided to you! Your task is to rid this skater's Valhalla of as many neon blue icons as possible and help fill a progress bar with a million skateboards, preferably aided by up to three friends at once.

S: I've been playing this almost universally online with Phen! We spend endless hours dogpaddling in city water fixtures, throwing ourselves off tall buildings to break as many of our human avatars' bones as possible, and stacking ramps on top of each other to create more and more interesting ways to kill ourselves on park-editor architecture. My only complaint is the amount of useless numbers and multipliers that obstruct an otherwise-perfect view of the bottom of the screen, but I suppose they have to save some refinements for Skate 4.

P: I've been playing this game offline behind Svet's back, as well! The score-attack challenges are great, and I've been having a blast with the photo challenges -- especially the new Team Ads, which let you place a camera anywhere in the game world and snap a photo of your skater doing whatever you please, bails and inappropriate hand-gestures included. However, I know next to nothing about skater culture, so Skate 3's occasional name-dropping doesn't elicit from me the excited response I think the game expects from its audience. Playing S.K.A.T.E. against celebrity skaters is no longer required to progress in Skate 3, but it's been replaced with one-on-one score battles, and I still feel like my success is dependent on the game arbitrarily deciding whether my opponent bails at any given time.

3D Dot Game Heroes - May 11th

As a randomized cluster of dynamically-lit cubes that hover in a scattershot fashion above a 2.5-dimensional playing field, endowed with the mystical ability to sprout a giant sword from its center-mass, your task is to rescue the Princess of Oldschule from the Evil Draygun of Blast Processing, or some other such nonsense.

S: Hey, all right! Idea Factory apparently took some time out from creating stellar spinoffs of the Metal Wolf Chaos IP to revive the original Legend of Zelda in bootleg form, with the same snazzy washed-out colors, individually outlined pixels, and depth-of-field effects you remember from the NES days. I'm looking forward to the cheeky asides added-in by Atlus's brilliant localization team, which may serve as adequate field-dressing for what my preconceived biases have already labeled a barely-functional workhorse of a story. Haven't picked this one up yet, but I might when the clerk at my local Target isn't looking.

P: I also haven't picked this one up just yet, mostly due to the sheer amount of games on the table I need to plow through first! I'm looking forward to generating custom content that's as symmetrical as it is uninspired, just like I do with every other build-your-own-game game. Also, I never played a top-down Zelda game -- shame on me, I know -- and 3DDGH seems as good an analog as any.

Join us next time, where we wrestle pirate wolves, ghoulish nighttime townsfolk, and grizzly bears.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Splinter Cell: Conviction is more fun with a friend

In between our single-player runs of amazing titles like Just Cause 2 and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, my pear-shaped comrade and I have found time to enjoy each other's company while we snap necks and turn out lights with deadly force in Splinter Cell: Conviction on the XBOX 360. A formal review of the solo campaign is inevitably forthcoming, but this'll have to do for now: "game's pretty fun."

The four-chapter co-op campaign serves as a prequel to the solo campaign, with players playing the role of two Agents, Archer (American, working for Third Echelon) and Kestrel (Russian, working for Voron). Gameplay in SC:C's co-op campaign is nigh-identical to its single-player counterpart, its stealth-action sequences bookended by weapon-stash checkpoints and co-op objectives that force both players to join up. Technically, one player could blast through the stealth-action sequence and wait at the checkpoint for his buddy -- the co-op maneuvers offered by previous Splinter Cell games have been stripped away for a more streamlined experience -- but where's the fun in that?

Even without specific co-op maneuvers, there's still plenty of opportunities for players to help each other out. If two targets are in each other's line-of-sight, both players can sneak up behind their targets and simultaneously choke-hold them before the other target gets a chance to radio for backup. Both players have a separate bank of Mark-and-Execute tokens, as well; if either player melee-kills an enemy, both players' tokens are replenished, and players can execute each other's marks. By flanking a large room from two entrance points and splitting up, each player has a different angle of attack and enemies visible on sonar. Since a fully-upgraded Five-Seven allows for up to four marks, a well-coordinated duo could drop eight targets with a single press of a button.

Screwing up in SC:C's co-op campaign isn't the end of the world, either. While setting off an alarm in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory's co-op campaign meant guards donned body armor and whipped out their biggest guns, in SC:C it mostly just a few more guards come in and everyone's more alert, and results in a lower score at the end of the campaign. It's definitely easier to get through a level when players avoid detection entirely, though.

Ultimately, SC:C's co-op campaign is as entertaining as two players are willing to make it. While a team could play the game by sending one player in guns blazing until he reaches the checkpoint and waits for his buddy to catch up, the real thrill comes from infiltrating a room together, silently snapping the necks of every guard inside and reaching the next area without setting off any alarms. If you have a co-op buddy and you've been looking to scratch that stealth-action itch together, SC:C is the game for you.

Until Peace Walker drops, at least.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Humble Indie Bundle: wait, "indie" is a genre? :(

This week, five game developers threw on their scarves, cycled out to their nearest Starbucks, and teleconferenced through free wi-fi to band together and release the fantastic Humble Indie Bundle: five fully-featured games for the combined cost of $0.01 and up, which can be split between the developers and two charities of their choosing, at whatever ratio you desire. As of this writing, the average donation is close to $8; since there's no way to physically threaten a website, I decided to give them $15 from the shell PayPal account I use to harbor my ill-gotten e-cash, under the pretense that all charitable funds be given to that one organization that ensures I can post on Blogspot pages about my favorite graphic sex acts without it being all over the news. What can I say? The games looked good, and in my defense, I was drunk!

Torchlight: The sub-$20 price tag is a clear sign of its poor quality and distinct lack of fun game mechanics.

Reading forum threads online about the deal, it seems a few people are angry! I know, people getting inexplicably angry about something fantastic and wonderful on the Internet seems like kind of a stretch. But it's true; people are up in arms about having the option to pay as little as physically possible for five critically acclaimed indie hits! Their criticisms focus on 'indie' as a genre of games; as though they received their first indie 'hit' off of vile skunk-blunts like Braid, Passage, or Super Columbine Massacre RPG, and as a result, believe that all games made by small development studios are from starving artistes with a limited grasp on the concept of "fun". To them, all indie games may as well all be two-dimensional open-ended platformers about crying girls exploring handpainted barren landscapes, which end with messages like "SELL ALL YOUR POSSESSIONS" or "END THE CRISIS IN DARFUR" before the curtain-sprites draw closed and the player is booted to desktop.

Castle Crashers: A game about the grave consequences of military imperialism and traditional Anglo-Saxon attitudes toward the subjugation of women.

And hey, I could :colbert: my way through this and make believe that I actually dislike the thing that's good with a slew of cheeky asides that show my true feelings, but since it's the Internet, I can't take it for granted that people will know what I'm getting at. This attitude that all games made for under a million American dollars are nothing but smug, elitist garbage that puts 'story' and 'art' ahead of 'fun' needs to stop. All five games in this bundle were meant to be played, not to be run through so you can comment on the one-man "company"'s blog post about the amazing twist at the end where the main character straight-up dies. Of the five games in this bundle, none were made by Robert Pelloni or Tale of Tales Studios.

Trials 2: Second Edition; a game that bores you to death with its endless cutscenes, pretentious prose, and hamhanded messages.

It feels like a lot of the negative energy focused on indie titles seems to be based not so much on games like AudioSurf as it is on games in the vein of VVVVVV; games that have a strong focus on original characters and a creative visual style that may be different from the norm. I realize that some games have aesthetics that can be difficult to swallow, and I know the sub-$20 price tag sure does make you wonder about the value you're really getting, but neither of these traits makes independent games fundamentally different from their big-brand equivalents except in terms of whether they were put in front of a focus group or not. I'm willing to bet most of the indie stories critics call "pretentious" would be right at home in a Square-Enix or Grasshopper Manufacture game, and the "gimmicks" that forumgoers whine about would fit in perfectly along Nintendo's release lineup. As far as pure quality is concerned, the distinction is meaningless.

AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity! Don't let Dejobaan's stunning reputation fool you; I bet it's filled with memory leaks and horrible crash bugs! If only there had been an Activision label in front of it.

...But that's just my opinion, and you know me -- always ranting like the distinguished, erudite dragon I am. Go, comrades; check it out for yourself! Maybe you'll find something of valoh who am I kidding World of Goo is in it GET IT NOW

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Videogame artists need your support!! *buys ten copies of Eternity's Child*

So, Double Fine came out with Brutal Legend last year! Though I had to switch the soundtrack to smooth saxophone rhythms in order to play it without getting a horrible pounding headache, I think we can all agree that it was new, interesting, artistically inspired, cleverly written, and ultimately beautiful! You couldn't describe it in a single sentence, though, unless you decided to fudge a few facts: "Jack Black kicks metal ass in a rock-inspired open world" doesn't begin to describe the Pikmin/Sacrifice-ish proto-RTS enhancements they added onto what was initially sold as a God-of-War-style action-slasher game, and ultimately, it was a wash. People defended it to the death, though, citing the genius of Tim Schafer, creator of the stylistically perfect Psychonauts, and how he had done the game industry no wrongs up to that point -- and he really hadn't, but this came with an unintended side-effect. Schafer has unwittingly created for himself a cult of personality, mostly through amazing blog posts and wonderful adventure games; games where the focus is on the writing. Brutal Legend attempted to nudge the focus over to the game underneath the writing, far more than Psychonauts did; as a result, a lot of people -- myself included -- were totally baffled and disappointed. Tim's writing was good, but it wasn't enough to make me want to play a game I didn't sign up for.

eddie riggs in mouse-cursor mode! yech.

Believe it or not, this tragic story has a moral! People, don't buy games just because of the personalities behind them! Games can be artistic masterpieces, but they're also consumer products that you're expected to interact with -- and that interaction can be difficult to get a sense of until you see videos or play the thing itself. Wait until the overall "picture" of any given game is complete enough to see if it's fun, first! If it isn't, you can still feel free to attempt to sway market forces in the direction of an artist, personality, or game development wunderkind, but ultimately, your money is sending the message that you're willing to consume anything a certain person-of-games is willing to throw out onto a disc. This is bad business from a consumer standpoint; it hardly ever works; it only results in bitter disappointment!

hey these 'headbangers' have cromagnon heads and fat necks! that's funny for more than two seconds, right?

Maybe this is a side-effect of an instinctive behavior of Internet people to dramatize something they're passionate about? Regardless, here are some words to live by: Videogames aren't "causes" that need to be "supported". Brutal Legend sold at least a million copies worldwide, according to dodgy site VGChartz. That means it probably turned a profit (especially considering most of its development costs were likely already paid for by Activision), but even if it had failed, it wouldn't have been a death knell for the concept of "good writing" or "decent storytelling" in video games. Plenty of video games are written well -- the Persona series, the Telltale adventures, Banjo-Kazooie, Borderlands, and Prince of Persia are all brilliant examples of games that have excellent and clever dialogue, a few of them have a narrative structure that trumps anything Brutal Legend was capable of, all but one of those games/franchises have seen moderate success, and most of them are way sexier, too! You shouldn't feel obligated to buy a game you feel weird about, just because Internet people tell you it's "important" -- unless, of course, that person is me!

And if a game you're looking for focuses all its promotional media on the non-game aspects of it, wait for a review before you buy it! I've learned my lesson; have you?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Phen's Incredible Backlog, Part 1

Keeping one's library of dragony things in a massive pile is great for lounging and rollng around on top of it, but not so great for keeping things organized! As a result, my massive collection of games to beat and review here -- for that is the true purpose of this blog -- keeps getting buried under other games, movies, peripherals, baseball caps, myself and occasionally a good friend. So, what haven't I been playing lately?

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)

Last known position: Link just turned into a wolf! This game is awesome.

Reason for hiatus: I picked up this game at launch; every time I sit down to play it, something even more amazing comes out and pulls me away. I've been told the game gets better than what I've seen so far; the bar's already been set pretty high!

Resident Evil 4 (GCN)

Last known position: I have to escort the President's daughter through a fork in the road!

Reason for hiatus: it's hard to refamiliarize myself with the game's controls and plot points when I'm thrust headlong into an escort mission! My pear-shaped companion assures me that the Wii version is better; one of these days, I'll borrow hers and start fresh.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PSP)

Last known position: I just fought and bested this game's Mr. Freeze analog!

Reason for hiatus: said fight was a major pain! The fight itself was a kick in the jaw when I'd gone through the game leading up to it without firing a shot, came into the level without any weapons, and had to restart the mission with more adequate equipment. On top of this, I had to cheese the fight itself, due to poor controls. I'm pretty pumped for Peace Walker, and letting this game collect dust until that one comes out is starting to sound more and more appealing...

So, there it is! As much as I hope to get through these games soon, the next few months promise to be a sexplosion of even more amazing media to consume, so my hopes aren't very high.