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I am a gamer of 32 years of age. I explode with rage when prodded or teased. You have been warned. I am a human-being, you know? With feelings.

I also have a likeness for RPGs.

My favourites: Road Rash (Mega Drive)/Dark Chronicle (PS2)/Pro Evolution Soccer (PS2)/Burnout Revenge (PS2)/Resident Evil 2 (PS)

Currently playing: Forza 4/Horizon (X360)
Medal of Honor: Warfighter (X360)
Etrian Odyssey 2 (NDS)
COD: Black Ops 2 (PS3)
Ni No Kuni (PS3)

Mood: Okay.

Fanboy class: Dedicated enough to get decent RPGs and action figures.

Favorite music artists:

Boards of Canada
Joy Division
Mr Scruff
Talvin Singh
The Prodigy
Primal Scream
High Contrast
DJ Shadow
Nightmares On Wax
Cocteau Twins
The Chemical Brothers
Kenji Kawai
Ian Brown
The Go! Team
Principles Of Geometry

Moments of Glory:

Promoted Monthly Musings

Expanded Universes
Untapped Potential
I Suck At Games
Do The Wrong Thing
Something About Sex
Following (118)  

Hollie and the gang hanging out at her home

For those of you basking in the memories of PAX Expos, E3 and Gamescom, you’d be forgiven for believing that all of these shows managed to cover all of the forthcoming videogame treats for the next year, and that there wouldn’t be any more to come. You’d be wrong.

As I mentioned in Destructoid a while ago, Gamescom happened in Europe. As such, there has been extra pressure on both British-based gaming shows to deliver something that the German one didn’t. After all, if someone has already had a whale of a time at one event, the newer event needs to give the impression that it isn’t a case of déjà vu. GAMEfest, happening in Birmingham at this very moment, will deliver the UK’s first chance to have a go on one of the biggest titles this year, Modern Warfare 3. Meanwhile, next week’s Eurogamer Expo will have the next chapter in Sony’s ongoing attempt to muscle in on the handheld market, the Vita.

For most of the Destructoid community across the other side of the Atlantic, this won’t mean much. The Vita will probably be demoed at a later event over there. For the British and European contingent, however, the Eurogamer Expo in London will be an important chance to meet up again and have brilliant fun. I promised a post-event blog on last year’s Expo, but I’ve decided to make a pre-event blog now instead. You can blame my laziness for that, but this is also an opportunity to stir up a bit of enthusiasm.

[b]Just to make you aware, cosplay doesn't happen very often at the Expo. When it does, the outfits look very good[b]

When we all met up last year, Kinect and Playstation Move were trying to muscle in on Nintendo Wii’s active-gaming craze. Kinect was stirring up a buzz with various attendees trying out Dance Central, whilst Move had several more booths on hand for people to try the sports launch game. Microphone-based Def Jam Rapstar was something that Hollie Bennett, our leader for the event, managed to give us a more detailed preview thanks to an early copy she was allowed to try out, and was also present on the floor of Earls Court.

Several more conventional games were trying to help people decide what to do with the contents of their wallets. FIFA 11, F1 2011 and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood were on show, but the ‘highlight’ had to be several booths dedicated to the ‘phenomenal’ Mafia 2. With its slightly buggy NPCs that seemed to have the ability to lean on the most unlikely of surfaces, it ‘could’ have taken Game of the Show. If there was a ‘Game of the Show’.

Forthcoming games like Brink and Medal of Honour were getting extremely long lines, Gears of War 3 had its ‘Beast’ mode on display, and we were getting hands on with Hunted and Killzone 3. The latter game was also being displayed on a 3D television, another important feature of the show. Whilst I was sceptical about how well it would make a long-term profit (we only just had HDTVs out before then, FFS), I was impressed by how it worked on not only the aforementioned game, but also the new Motorstorm game. Seeing people, debris and stuff fly at you was awesome.

What wasn’t so awesome was when the developers of Hunted decided to show off their game in a developer session, only to see it crash right in front of the audience. Humorous, but you had to be reminded that the game was still at an unfinished state.

You'd be surprised how many peeps managed to fit in the tiny place

The first night was spend around Hollie’s pad, checking out Rapstar, socializing, playing around with fake promo Rapstar dollars and in one case, blowing chunks when the alcohol got too much.

There was much more to consider over the first two days which I attended. I didn’t get to see the booth with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but I had fun with Mario Sports Mix instead. I was joined by Approximation (the same could be said about my spelling of his name, because he might have spelt it differently to how I believe), who related a tale of frustration at being barged off Marvel vs Capcom 3 by an over-zealous gamer. Both of us had a go in the end, and I was feeling particularly impressed at my ability to catch my rival’s characters in a Dante/Chun Li cross-up until a big attack on both my fighters wiped them out. But I was happy.

This is the smile of a man who got his first ever go on Marvel vs Capcom 3

Last year will also hold happy memories of what was the last time we got to play in the arcade heaven that is the Trocadero Funland. A hotel will be constructed in there for the Olympics for next year, and I’m sure that all of us will be mourning/enraged at its loss. I personally will be gutted, as will the area of its coin-op machines. I’m praying that they all get good homes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to visit Namco Station at Westminster instead or something.

And can I mention the karaoke? Yes, that was a thing that happened, and it will be happening again this year. It will be joined by a special after-show charity party AND a night watching Jurassic Park in the cinema. And don’t forget the meet and greets with the other Destructoid members. And all the stuff at Eurogamer like free Onlive sets, Gears of War 3, Halo: CE, Forza 4, the new SSX, Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Batman: Arkham City, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Guild Wars 2, Mass Effect 3, Saints Row: The Third, Sonic Generations, Soul Calibur V, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Retro and Challenge Areas, developer sessions, Rage, Ninja Gaiden 3, the Indie Games Arcade, Battlefield 3, FIFA 12, Dark Souls

gasp, gasp, gasp, gasp, gasp, huuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrr….

Expect to feel like this towards the last day of the Expo. Barring any mishap, Aidan (AKA Toilet Duck) will be present at this year's event!

I never knew that looking through the Expo newsletters and listing the names could be so tiring. O_O

Well, I let you in on how it went. Or I’ll let someone else do it, and do the same type of blog next year. Anyway, I’m looking forward to a weekend of fun. Roll on next week.
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I noticed the title for the weekly C-blog musing and thought could I really be bothered to write about a favourite/worst handheld? I couldn’t be. In the end, I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of a sharp focus on the chosen subject, I’ll attract your attention over to the area a handheld doesn’t cover, as well as all the bonuses. That is, all that empty space that would otherwise be taken up by a home console.

It may sound like a stupid idea, the very thought of lugging a home console in the open air. Whether you wanted to show it off at work during break-time so more fun could be had playing Halo with your work-mates or taking it to play games around a friend’s house…it was a little inconvenient. In a rucksack, on a bicycle for several miles, or sitting it on the seat of your friendly public transport, you either had to carry extra things you wanted in your pockets or have another backpack that would make you look pregnant/overweight/overloaded.

No, no, no. That will not do. A handheld games-console is the way to go. Put one up against your home console. Go on, do it. Look at the difference in siiiiiiiiiiiiiiize. Look at the difference. Now think about how much stuff you can put in your bag now that you have something that still can play games, but smaller. Granted, you still need to bring games and a charger in the event of the handheld losing power, but even with those items, you still have more space.

Now, I put a comment forward in a debate about whether handhelds would overtake home games consoles in the major part of the industry. I decided (and a few members noted) that handhelds, since they couldn’t do the things that the home consoles offered (a movie experience, decent controls for one-on-one fighting games were a couple of standards that handhelds still fall short of) would be a smaller, if not equal force in the market rather than the dominant.

We don’t stay at home all the time. Since we love gaming, we can’t bear to be without some semblance of our pastime during periods when we haven’t got anything to do, and handhelds fill that gap. But what quite a few negative nancies are spouting are comments in the above paragraph. They can’t do this. They can’t do that. We should have had robots that cleaned our grotty bedrooms like Tomorrow’s World said, but we have progressed to this, etc. We all nod our heads sagely. However, I feel that continually comparing what handhelds can’t do against their home counterparts is like putting small children next to fully-grown adults, and telling everybody that they will criticize the kids for not being able to hold their own in a pub-brawl. We know they can’t, but that’s because it is not their modus-operandi. They were made that way.

But you know what you can do with them. You can fit one on the extremely tight luggage quota or take it on board a plane for your holiday without much hassle. You’ve got the rest of the space to cram more stuff you want to relax with. You are not encompassing an area of your friend’s or relative’s living space with one. You already have it in your hands, in the event someone wants you to go downstairs and considers a cut in the electricity will spur you on to get your food. You don’t have to be stuck in the same room all the time or fight over the use of a television with someone to play with it.

And just to make you aware, the paragraph above was about handhelds, not small children.
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Fail List: Before You Die Edition

This is it. The big list. About as close to the ‘ultimate list’ as you can get.

When Cassell Illustrated published their 1001 series of books, the first one that caught my eye was 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I bought it primarily via flicking through and finding Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children within it, a most righteous entry in my eyes indeed. For those not in the know, these lists are compiled by a group of several knowledgeable people in their chosen field, and presented chronologically. Each of them writes about the reason why their inclusion should be approached, highlighting facts and stuff about it. These books would get occasional updates to remove the chaff and insert what others felt improved on the removed. It is top quality work, well-presented.

The only problem I had with the book usually is the problem with every list; in spite of the large number of albums allowed, there were omissions of certain albums that I believed had a right to exist. I still enjoyed it thoroughly though, despite that fact. And that is the only negative feeling I get when I had perused my fresh copy of 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.

I started testing the list by finding out ones which I didn’t think should belong in the alphabetical list section at the beginning. Wii Fit and Wii Sports are allowed a begrudging nod through the doorway, since the title of this list isn’t ‘Absolute Best Games Ever!’ and introduced a whole new audience to gaming. However…John Woo Presents Stranglehold? And Army of Two: The 40th Day? Well, I guess those will probably get exchanged with something better when new editions are released, since it is at the latter end of the timeline.

Garry’s Mod is in the list. Explanation? Well, let’s just say that if you think LittleBigPlanet belongs in the list (which it does), then the Half Life mod should exist there too.

And…that’s it. It is quite astonishing that only two games look seriously out of place. The reason for this is the choice of experts. These include Kieron Gillen, Jim McCauley and Jim Rossignol who I knew from the great PC Gamer magazine. Believe me, they definitely know their games. You could have a go at certain choices involving sequels (no Grandia, Shining Force or Donkey Kong Country, but they are represented by Grandia 2, Shining Force 3 and Donkey Kong Country 3), and spiritual installments (no Ico, but Shadow of the Colossus is there), but there is not much to really knock about the book.

So, it seemed like a strong list with one movie spin-off and a late entry that will be eaten up by a more awesome game. But what about those omissions? The ones which you love that seemed to slip through the cracks? To find out, I asked the Destructoid IRC what games they would expect in the list. A few of the IRC-dwellers started off by deliberately shouting out bad games. This was handy, since they were testing their faith in the book’s contents, finding out how good this supposed ultimate list really was.

However, a gap in the armour was discovered early on by T0pc0w. He made a simple, common-sense request for a game that (I agreed) should have made it in there; the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version of Aladdin. To my concern, the game…wasn’t in the list. I tried looking to see if the game appeared as a subtitle to something (still searching in the alphabetical section, see), and with no luck. Then, after registering his disappointment, he asked for another Disney game, Castle of Illusion. No luck. Then Evil_Cheese suggested Magical Quest. Nope.

When I couldn’t find that either, a shiver went down my spine…and after searching through the whole amount of entries, I reached a conclusion. Apart from Kingdom Hearts, there are no Disney-themed games in this list. Just let that sink in a bit. Maybe it is because most of those great, memorable games are platformers, and other, well-styled ones came before and influenced them. Or maybe that group of chosen gaming journos and experts have something against the big D. I mean, the only person I wouldn’t recommend the book to for fear of upset, other than hardcore Disney fans, is Chad Concelmo. Fortunately, he has already done us a great service and shown his own Best Disney Game List so we don’t need to worry about that…

…although he didn’t include Quackshot and The Jungle Book in that list. Hmph.

Continuing the subject of the rejects, the Star Ocean (Gemsi’s choice) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Coonskin’s choice) series of games do not feature in the book. Yars Revenge, a game that rated really highly on the Atari 2600, isn’t there, and neither are my personal favourites, like Turrican and Shogo: Mobile Armour Division. That said, the latter game still managed to get a nod; Fear 2’s listing has a large picture with a figure wearing an T-Shirt emblazoned with an unmade sequel.

But can you really fight against the existence of the list when you have entries such as Xenogears, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, Square games that usually get passed over in top lists because they either didn’t get an official release in some territories or just because they weren’t mainstream enough for people who didn’t know their stuff? Could you really denounce a book that selects Canabalt, Uplink or VVVVVV, when other lists wouldn’t acknowledge their minimal simplicity? Can you really be so dismissive of this tome just because it doesn’t have your favourite game, when it gives credit to Giants: Citizen Kabuto, God Hand, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Mother 3, Odin Sphere, Sin and Punishment, Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, Psychonauts, Earth Defense Force 2017 and Retro Game Challenge, games that have had their praises sung to high heaven by other gamers and critics, ones who feel that their words have been ignored?

Other than the couple of odd selections and one or two pictures that don’t seem to match the games listed, this is an essential purchase if you can stomach those missing Disney games. I’m guessing that even those that can’t have to admit that choosing not to buy the book because only Kingdom Hearts represents their corner is a little bit sad. If you are one of them, why not make a list like Chad has done? The community blogs are here for you to do just that.

And it has a two-page preface by Peter Molyneux. You could decide not to get a copy because of that. Erm…

No. Just buy it. There really isn’t going to be another book out that is of this quality for a long time, other than an update of some sort. Seriously, I can’t recommend this 960-page book more. It belongs on your shelf.

2002 was an interesting year. The Allied forces were in Afghanistan and (unwisely) trying to get stuck into Iraq as well; the World Cup was held in Japan and South Korea, eventually being won by Brazil; Joe Strummer, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan all died (the former quite unexpectedly). In videogaming, Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City were the top grossing games of the year. In Greece, an unexpected attack on the gaming community was about to happen.

Before Greece’s financial problems and their hosting of the Olympics (including their amazing win in the European Championships) in 2004, the country hadn’t really seen much (internationally) newsworthy stuff happen to them, since, I don’t know, the fall of the military junta in 1974. To me at the time, Greece was a holiday destination, and had a football team that couldn’t even score in the World Cup finals stage.

Illegal gambling has been a problem in Greece for a long while, and whilst the leading political party at the time, PASOK, had promised to crack down on this, the last thing they wanted was one of their own to go about doing it. Sadly, that was exactly what happened. One Mr. Chrisanthakopoulos MP made the foolish mistake of stepping towards a poker machine in an illegal gambling joint without knowing a video camera was being trained on him. It wouldn’t be fair to just accuse this person only for the events that introduced this law, since this led to several other MPs being named and shamed. The video evidence, however, was shown on television, fuelling debate. The Prime Minister had to act with the public pressure on and ruled the MP out of the party.

On July 30, in further response to the situation, Law 3037/2002 was drafted in. In trying to ban the illegal gambling, it ended up also prohibiting the use of any form of game software. Every platform, from console to mobile was affected. Not only that, the law even applied to private use; you play games at home? The Greek government had now deemed you a criminal.

As Dan Faber pointed out at the time, Greek politicians not being able to tell the difference between videogames and illegal gambling programs wasn’t the only error they would make. Prime Minister Costas Simitis was quoted being all for the opportunities created by technology, so he’d have to be brought up on that matter and eat his words. As well as this, the Olympics were coming up, and the police would be getting very busy trying to crack down on games-playing visitors from around the world (did I mention the law applied to foreigners as well?). There would be little time to catch real criminals!

The effects were immediate. The businesses wanting to start or continue to work with their LAN centres found it very difficult to build any trade. Police raids took care of any that decided to ignore the legislation.

The good news was that in the same year, a Greek judge decided this law was a pure case of douchebaggery, and decided to throw it out. This was swiftly followed by the European Union who, in spite of all the stupid laws they make up, believed the law was too much against the idea of trade with other EU nations, as well as putting in place procedures that would go further than the aims intended by it. Gamers could all breathe a sigh of relief.

The only other issue is that the Greek government still wanted to curtail all this illegal gambling, so it kept amending the law in the hopes that was better, submitted it to the EU, only to have it slapped back on their desk. The government has kept doing this up to last year…only for this year’s recession to provide a way back for low-price gaming and gambling machines.

Admit it, it was a messed up situation videogaming could have done without. LAN centres out of business, putting a hobby in jeopardy for several months, eight years of a government striving to stop illegal gambling, only to backtrack and have economic conditions putting well-intentioned plans on hold and wasting valuable administration time….you couldn’t make it up. But it serves as a reminder that when certain laws are introduced, they can have a wide-ranging effect that covers other areas, impacting on freedoms and things we all too often take for granted. This threat was only brief…thank goodness that the Greeks can join in our pastime with the rest of us.
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Damn. Usually Jim Sterling gets shocking articles like this first, especially since it is one I first spotted in the UK's Daily Mail newspaper. Rather than demonising the game, the article writer at least managed to give a few details about Small World, the game a woman from Kent played so much, that her dogs died of starvation and her children (aged nine, ten and thirteen) had to eat cold beans straight from the tin. Seriously shocking stuff.

The only good news here is that the Daily Mail (and the court judging the woman's actions) recognise the woman was responsible for this messed-up situation. Click the link above for the full article.

Some of you have no doubt had a look at Ace Flibble’s blog (the one rather unfortunately posted below two spam-blogs for a penal-enhancement advert) about his experience playing the first seven levels of Ninja Theory’s Enslaved. For those who haven’t, here’s what happened.

Ace Flibble himself. That smile would get wider in the three hours he got to play the game.

Me, Ace and a couple of other Destructoid members took up a request for people to play the game ahead of its release on 8th October. We travelled to Hammersmith, London to the UK offices of the game’s publisher, Namco/Bandai, to take part.

The sofa in Namco's lobby.

Being accustomed to the Hammersmith area on previous visits and armed with a printed map, I found the building I needed to arrive at quickly. Zooming up in a pretty fast lift, we were greeted with more people waiting to play as well as members of the office, who took us through to a room with several 360s (as well as pointing over to another with a couple of PS3 consoles) and got us accustomed to a note regarding the rules for online previews, free soft drinks and water.

Also in the lobby, a list of awards from Pocketgamer. I'm guessing that the London office ports those classic games to the mobiles.

For those whose only knowledge of the Monkey King legend is from the 1970’s series Monkey, you will still get a wry smile of recognition from the references to the actual core material. Monkey, the playable character of the game, starts off imprisoned in an egg, for example (‘the nature of monkey was irrepressible!’). You’d expect to think Ninja Theory would have dropped stuff like that, but no. What they simply did was give these references a futuristic spin, and this doesn’t feel out of place at all.

After escaping from the egg and undergoing a tutorial on the basics of gameplay via some hostile mechs, you end up having to guide Monkey to the outside of the prison ship, and that is where the first full breathtaking moments are found. Uncharted-style climbing and clambering is needed to survive, and quite a few close-calls were had, albeit on a pleasingly massive scale. And when I mean Uncharted, it does look and feel like Enslaved has been influenced by the PS3 game sequel’s shift from precarious cliffhanging animated scene into playable section. That isn’t a bad thing at all, because it has been done so well in the game I’d been controlling.

On the ground, the headband was introduced, as well as a couple more mechs to fight. The headband acted as a pretty handy HUD for information and checking where Trip (the second character) was. This latter ability is pretty important, since Monkey and Trip will become separated often. Trip will find herself under attack occasionally, and if caught by a mech, she’ll dole out an EMP that temporarily disables them. However, Monkey cannot leave her in danger for long, so allocating a button to check her whereabouts was a very sensible move by Ninja Theory. Once the mechs were dealt with, they left behind red orbs, which added to a points total. What was this for? A ‘Trip-Shop’ that upgrades Monkey’s abilities, found via the headband options. I found this very useful.

After traversing the landscape, wrecking mechs, avoiding mines, flanking turrets and a running from a huge, menacing ‘C-Dog’ (as well as very sweet bit where you get to use Monkey’s ‘cloud’; I’m hoping that there are more opportunities to use that piece of transport later on), my three hours were up. I had only managed to reach the fifth chapter of the seven we were allowed to play, but I was very happy with the game. Very seldom does a game encourage me to smile spontaneously, but this game did. Ace managed to get all the way to the seventh chapter and had to have his monitor turned off by a staff member as he was just about to enter further into the game. It wouldn’t surprise me if the reason he went almost too far was because the game was so involving…

Environmentally and graphically, the game is astounding. The rusted hues of the prison-ship make way for the bright blue sky, then lush green and red foliage around abandoned, decaying buildings. The animation on the characters is particularly impressive; Monkey’s trips and stumbles as he sprints through the ship are very fluid and natural. Aside from glowing pipes and handholds, there are some parts which do require a little bit of thought about which direction you need to go and what cover you’ll feel you’ll need when avoiding mech-fire. Trip doesn’t get herself into trouble too much as long as you have your wits about you, and as a result, becomes more of a help than a hindrance with the few abilities that she possesses.

As for negatives, the character did get a little caught on the environment because of a dodgy camera angle, which may not be handy when running from a cyborg dog about three or four times your own size. There is also this feeling of not able to jump to a surface which I felt would be achievable with the agile Monkey. Nevertheless, with the game near to its release date, I am more than satisfied that Enslaved deserves your attention and a small chunk of your bank balance when it arrives on shelves.
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