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7:03 PM on 08.06.2008

Geometry Wars and Braid do NOT mix...but what if they did?

I've just jumped from an hour long session of playing Braid in to Geometry Wars 2. Both are excellent games, but Braid completely destroyed my ability to play GW2. I was playing the Braid levels where your movement is connected to the flow of time - when you move to the right time flows naturally, but retread your steps and you also revert into the past.

Having been stumped by one particular puzzle for so long (and finally solving it, thankfully) my brain was stuck in this way of thinking. When I grabbed the twin sticks to control my GW2 ship, I was confused as to why the enemies didn't reverse themselves as I travelled left. Naturally, it was game over pretty quickly.

It got me thinking, imagine a mashup between the two games in which the right stick (i.e. your weapons) and your left stick (your movement) could operate in two different time streams. Green square got you down? Just head back the way you came to reverse time, whilst your bullets remain firing behind you at the pesky green bugger.

Obviously this would involve reworking Geometry Wars into a sidescroller, but think of the possibilities. You could be presented with an entire screen of enemies, seemingly undefeatable, but by carefully navigating your way through time and space you could wipe them out one at a time.

Its just a random thought from my Braid-addled brain, but I'd love to see someone give it a go.   read

2:00 PM on 05.13.2008

If you love it, change it: WarioWare

For those of you unfortunate enough to have never played a WarioWare game, a quick summary. WarioWare takes the concept of the minigame to its logical conclusion - the microgame, in which the player is thrown into all manner of crazy situations that they must react to in under five seconds. Half the fun of the game is simply working out what you are meant to do, be it picking a gigantic nose, conducting an orchestra, or one of hundreds of others.

The series started on Gameboy Advance, but the latest release was at the start of 2007 with WarioWare: Smooth Moves for the Wii. I got into the Gamecube version around the same time the Wii was announced, and immediately saw the potential for Wiimote integration. Nintendo didn’t disappoint, and with multiple ways of using the controller Smooth Moves was a great way to show off the new system to friends. Looking back however, I can see a number of ways the game could have been improved.

1. Downloadable Content

This game screams out for DLC. There are literally hundreds of microgames that are thrown at you, but at only five seconds each it doesn’t take long before they start to be recycled. New microgames could be easily and cheaply produced, and wouldn’t take up very much of the Wii’s scarce internal memory. A perfect comparison would be Professor Layton – although it turns out that the DLC puzzles were already present on the cart and you simply download an unlock key, it’s really cool to get a new puzzle each week. A similar system for WarioWare would keep me coming back for more.

2. More Gaming References

Some of the most hilarious microgames are references to other Nintendo franchises. You can find yourself shaking paws with a Nintendog, helping Windwaker Link get to dry land, or even using a Starfox fighter to take down ROB the robot. I’d love for Nintendo to expand this further, perhaps even to other companies’ games. Sonic and Snake have appeared in Smash Bros, so why not give us a five second Pacman or a quick Final Fantasy battle?

3. Customisable Multiplayer

As much as I love playing WarioWare with friends, multiplayer options are sorely lacking, particularly on Wii. All of the Smooth Moves multiplayer modes are of the “pass the controller” variety. Twelve people can play at once, but only as part of a “sudden death” mode. Other modes only allow an arbitrary five people, and wrap the microgames up in slightly contrived scenarios like a hot-potato mode where winning allows you to choose the next player, but losing ends the game for everyone.

The Gamecube version had many other silly modes, but the best was simply a versus mode in which up to four players could play with their own controller in both consecutive and competitive microgames. Ideally I would like to see a return of this mode, but also the ability to make my own. Let me select a time or score limit, a difficulty level, or even a playlist of microgames. Everyone has their own way they like to play, and there is really no reason WarioWare shouldn’t let you choose.

Finally, multiplayer should be accessible from the moment I put the game in. WarioWare is fun solo, but having to tediously unlock everything just so I can play it with friends is ridiculous for a party game. Come on Nintendo, I thought the Wii was for everyone! Make these changes to WarioWare, and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who won’t love it.   read

5:55 AM on 05.04.2008

The Guardian: You Should Play GTA4

The Guardian is fast becoming the most pro-gaming newspaper on the planet. Today, Catherine Bennett writes I'm game for Grand Theft Auto. You should be too. She makes the excellent point that Grand Theft Auto is probably the most difficult way for someone to experience violent media:

"With a violent and nasty movie, or corrupting literature, the thing is simple. You merely have to buy a ticket for, say, No Country for Old Men, or There Will be Blood, and watch it, with a keen eye for anything that might be violent or nasty. With books, you simply open, then read a copy of The Catcher in the Rye or, to go back a bit, Lady Chatterley's Lover or a bit further, one of those 18th-century courtship novels whose potential to enervate young virgins was discernible, apparently, within just a few minutes of scholarly inspection.

How different for the mature student of Grand Theft Auto IV, who discovers that acquisition of the game, an Xbox 360 and a working television will not be nearly enough to expose the sickening extent of its moral bankruptcy. For that, you need time, skill, dedication and, I suspect, youth. In fact, it would probably be cheaper, and easier, for any averagely underqualified adult who craves the excitement of casual violence in a context of social indifference to make your way to somewhere like Borough Market and snarl: 'Out of the way, bitch' at every double buggy."

It feels like the tide is slowly turning. Non-gamers are starting to "get it" whilst those who don't, or simply refuse to, fall by the wayside. It has only been a week since the release of GTA4 so it is perhaps too early to tell, but the moral outrage seems to have been contained. People are ignoring politicians like Keith Vaz, with his uninformed knee-jerk reactions, and finally waking up to the fact that gaming is here to stay.   read

5:29 AM on 04.28.2008

Gamers vs. politicians: gamers win

A great article by Richard Bartle (co-creator of the first MUD) on the Guardian website today on why gamers have won and politicians should just stop fighting. A choice quote:

"Half the UK population has grown up playing computer games. They aren't addicted, they aren't psychopathic killers, and they resent those boneheads – that's you – who imply that they are addicted and are psychopathic killers."   read

5:39 PM on 03.16.2008

The most horrific picture of Mario you have ever seen

That is all.   read

11:50 AM on 02.22.2008

How many games can you play at once? Try 16

I'm sure many of you have played 2 games at once. I know that I like to keep my DS handy when playing games with long load times - because after all, if you aren't gaming every single second, you're clearly doing something wrong.

Taking this a step (or 14) further, Grid 16 asks you to play 16 games near-simultaneously. You spend a few seconds on one game, jump to another, then another, and eventually back to the game you started with. It's quite like WarioWare, except that you pick up where you left off when returning to a game. Try not to let your brain implode, as I hear that can tickle.   read

3:20 AM on 12.04.2007

Parents worry games have come for their babies

The BBC reports "more than 75% of parents are concerned about the content of video games" - or rather, parents in the UK, France, Italy and Germany. Having looked over these statistics, they seem pretty dodgy to me. For example, in answering the question "how do your children most often play video games?" 63% report that their kids play on their own, whilst only 5% play online. Most likely the online statistic is much higher, and the parents are simply unaware that just because little Jimmy is in his bedroom by himself, it doesn't mean he isn't trash talking on Xbox Live.

Similarly, "more than half of children played games on consoles, 32% on PCs, 9% played games online and 4% played on a mobile phone." How exactly one plays online without using a console, PC or mobile phone, I'm not exactly sure.

Interestingly, only 66% of parents believed they should be the most influential in deciding what games are suitable for their children - presumably leaving at least 9% of parents who are concerned about content, but don't decide which games their children should play.

Basically I think these statistics are pretty flawed due to the respondents not understanding the question - what one parent sees as PC gaming, another will see as online gaming. The default attitude still seems to be buy the kids what they want, without checking out the content first, and then loudly complain if they happen to catch little Jimmy murdering virtual hookers (which I seem to recall is the aim of the Grand Theft Auto series, ages 3 and up, right guys?). Perhaps if more than one in five children played games most often with their family (a statistic more likely to include siblings rather than adults), parents would be less concerned about the content of games because they would be playing them as well.   read

12:35 PM on 11.15.2007

Super Mario Galaxy - second best game ever?

Game Rankings currently has Super Mario Galaxy listed as the second best game ever with an average score of 97.5%, beaten only by Ocarina of Time by 0.01% more. I just got the game today (thanks to Virgin Megastores for getting it to me a day before release) and I've put about three hours into it so far. On at least two occasions I have giggled like a schoolgirl with sheer glee at just how fun it is. I'm a huge FPS fan and often get my kicks blowing people away with a shotgun (in the game, Mr. Thompson, back down), but nothing puts a smile on my face like a Mario game. So, second best? I'm not sure about that, but it's pretty damn close.   read

7:26 AM on 10.23.2007

Psychonauts 2 - coming soon?

This image has appeared on the Double Fine projects page, right below the recently announced Brütal Legend. Could it be that a sequel to the critically acclaimed but commercially failed game is in the works? To be honest, I'm not so sure that Double Fine has the resources to produce two games at once, so perhaps this is just a rehash of the original game in some form like a re-release or Wii port. If however it is a true sequel, it will be Tim Schafer's first since Monkey Island 2 over 15 years ago. Personally, I would rather have Grim Fandango 2, but the fact is more Schafer = more good.   read

9:27 PM on 10.11.2007

Tim Schafer's new game: Brutal Legend

From the creator of Grim Fandango and Psychonauts, a new game...featuring Jack Black? More on the Double Fine forums. I don't know anything about this game, and yet I still can't wait.   read

4:29 AM on 10.09.2007

UK government launches game violence study

The study seeks to find the effect of violent games on children. I for one welcome this, as perhaps it will lead to ratings being better enforced and games like Manhunt 2 not being banned for fear of finding their way into kiddies hands.

Interestingly enough, Elspa (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers' Association), report that "only 2% of games released in the UK receive an 18 certificate and the average age of a gamer is 28." I would've thought the proportion of 18 ratings would be higher - I guess this just shows how useless the ESRB's M rating is, and that they need an equivalent to our 15 certificate.

Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye out for the results of this study - even if it will probably conclude games make us all murderers...   read

3:07 AM on 10.03.2007

Redesigning the Wiimote

These guys have suggested quite a nifty redesign for the Wiimote, for playing games like Metroid:

Now, being a filthy Brit I haven't yet had the good fortune to play Metroid (damn you Nintendo of Europe) but I would still appreciate this new Wiimote. I'm currently playing Resident Evil 4, which is an absolutely amazing game by the way - I've got a cblog brewing that compares it to, you guessed it, everyone's favourite Bioshock - and having the minus button right up near my thumb would be wonderful for quick weapon switching.

However, I would suggest that rather than placing the buttons above the A button, they be placed below so as not to interfere when using the Wiimote NES style. Of course, then you lose the nice comparison to the wonderful Gamecube controller, but it's a small price to pay. Come on Nintendo, spend over $17 million on these, rather than the Wiimote jackets!   read

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