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5:22 PM on 04.20.2009

Those About To Die: The Princess



One of the most ongoing epidemics in video games for generations has been the Missing Princess Syndrome. Your princess has been abducted by a rather unsavory character, and you're on a mission to rescue her from an uncertain fate, thus proving your chivalrous adventuring attitude. Only, your princess doesn't stay saved. She's always in another castle, kidnapped by the evil sorcerer, or simply eluding your manly touch.

Let us now find the long lost princess, or condemn her to a fate with a giant snapping turtle. To those Princesses about to die...

She's in another castle...

Abducted by monkeys, and giant snapping turtles is the very royal Damsel in Distress, Princess Peach. She has been destined to be rescued by our favorite plumber on repeat for over two decades. She even gets two different abductors, to add a bit of variety to the rescue missions.



Before he became a good croc-stomping-monkey guy, Donkey Kong had "King Kong" syndrome, instilling a strange desire to steal a girl, and throw barrels at her plumbing rescuer. Once Mario reaches the top of a vertical maze, his generic princess (currently "Pauline") will be rescued, then stolen many times in a single sitting. Thus, making me wish the monkey would just get it over with already!

In Mario specific titles, the Princess now dubbed "Peach" lives in a far away castle, guarded by a single toadstool henchman - which makes her constant abduction by mutant snapping turtle Bowser, and his army of Koopa turtles, a certainty. Bowser's goal is the same as any other mutant snapping turtle, except maybe Tokka, he aims to kidnap the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom to steal her throne.

It's never completely clear what Bowsers intentions post-kidnapping are, presumably marriage since that's how that whole Monarchy thing works. I'd almost call Princess Peaches story one of vanity, where the big ugly turtle gets denied because of his looks. But, the hero is Mario, so that theory doesn't really hold water.



Thus is born the Princess in Peril stereotype.

She's not that interested...

Of course, as games began to demand variety and political correctness, the focus went from "Save the Princess" to "Save the Kingdom, there may be a Princess in it for you."



She can use telepathy, yet is still completely helpless.

Which brings us to the most notorious princess, holding the game franchise name, rather than her pretty-boy knight in not-so-shining armor, Princess Zelda. The palaces Royal Sorcerer, Gannon/Gannondorf/Agahnim will stop at nothing to steal the throne, either using a powerful spell that requires Princess Zelda to be sacrificed, or by kidnapping a usually-under-aged girl as a bride. Princess Zelda will always play a part in Gannons plot, and somehow the commoner boy in green, Link, is always roped into rescuing her.

By the end of each game, after rescuing said princess, she gives you her thanks and maybe a piece of the mythical Tri-Force - yet somehow, Link has yet to officially be made a prince. Simply restoring a Monarchy that frowns on the poor fairy-folk seems like such a gyp. Once again, wishing ill on the princess that won't properly reward her rescuer, or at least stay out of danger!



She wore her hair down to there...

Now let us fast forward in time to the present, with arcade games taking center stage in the gaming market. The cryptically named arcade game Braid has an elusive princess for the main character, dubbed Tom to alter time to find. Unwinding the story of how his princess with braided hair, left him, and he has to quest to find her again.



Where have we heard this before. Oh, right.

I think this brings us full circle with time travel and Princesses. Now, wake me up when my knight in shining overalls shows up just in the nick of time.

How many princesses have to almost-die before we give this tradition a rest?   read


10:25 PM on 02.19.2009

Interview with Carlos Ferro of Gears of War:

What do Deadpool, the Wizard of Oz, and Starcraft have in common? Well, it certainly isn't "Zerg", "Rainbows" or "Poptarts", so it must be "awesome"! That's exactly what you get in this Q&A session with the worlds greatest 'player two'. (I'll give you a hint, the wind doesn't whisper "hostiles" at him.)

Carlos Ferro, AKA Dominic Santiago, AKA Domination, AKA "the character responsible for the majority of my achievements in the Gears of War series", has taken a moment to chat with me on behalf of Co-optimus.com. He talks about Voice acting, toys, Gears, and Batman.

Take a look at what he has to say, in his own words! (with pictures on the site, since something isn't working with my images right now...)   read


7:27 PM on 01.30.2009

[Editorial] Crossing4Dead

Credit for this banner goes to: Amy "Phoenix" Clark it's amazing



What happens when the apocalypse happily meets up with starting a new, animal filled life? Crossing4Dead is the latest game from Farcical Studios to the nethersystem, which takes the survivors of Left 4 Dead and gives them a new life among the animals. Join Regn, after she's survived the apocalypse, but been separated from her team, make a new life in the world of Animal Crossing.

Meet new friends, maintain a town, and most of all...Survive. Write anonymous letters to be mailed by stork to random strangers to answer the age-old question: are we alone post apocalypse? How would you survive, what would you do? Play the game**, decide your destiny.

**This is not actually a game, this is an editorial by yours truly for Co-optimus.com. My goal is to have you enjoy what you read, and hopefully you enjoy "Crossing4Dead", Cheers!

Read the whole editorial over at Co-optimus!   read


6:28 AM on 01.13.2009

Nintendo to play games for us?

After reading this article, in which lies the next top secret Nintendo advancement, which will allegedly stream a player hints in video form, solving puzzles for “stuck gamers,” I became very nervous for the next generation of players. With the Wii, it felt like Nintendo was working hard to swat the stereotyping “gamers are lazy” fly, but now they appear to be feeding the fly our minds.



The patent hinges on a form of automated gameplay -- likely sequences pre-recorded by a game's developer -- that users can turn on, described as "digest moving image." For example, it could show a game's character navigating a level to reveal its solutions to stuck players -- or simply to allow players to experience it [the game] without investing the time for an entire playthrough.

Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I seem to recall Nintendo's most notorious games are adventure/platformers. Adventure/platformers put as much an emphasis on gameplay, as they generally do on puzzle solving. Being someone who finds puzzles to be engaging, challenging, and fun, I would be very upset if someone sat down with my 6-year-old-self and showed me exactly how to solve a puzzle, or I were allowed to simply frame the puzzles box and take credit for the completed works. Stacking empty video game boxes on your shelf to show off would have a similar effect.

People need challenges so their brains learn, children especially need this type of mental stimulation, to start problem solving early on. Problem solving with most adults is difficult enough, but if our next generation just tapes a box to a wall to take credit for a job well done...well, we're in trouble.

Sure, there are people that become very frustrated with games (and are very frustrating to watch), but if they are to learn to play games, or in essence, solve their puzzles, they need to practice. People need to get stuck, so they can figure out how to get out of a situation – be it in video games, in the workplace, at school, etc. One of the best life lessons is failure, because “Why do we fall, Bruce?”

Many games have included their own hint system in the programing. Many of the hints are an optional “check this screen if you are stuck”, but others are more , what's the word, irritating? When it was impossible to bypass some problem solving fairies. But to develop an entire system devoted to bluntly solving problems for you...Where's the sense of accomplishment that gamers crave, if they "solve" something by watching someone else do it, instead of trial and error?

As a 23 year old gamer, I have thus far avoided feelings of “Dern whippersnappers – why, back in my day we were happy with this, none of your fancy, shiny graphic thingies.”



But if this new form of gameplay, where the game may actually play itself, I will likely take the geezer stance on games, and boycott the next generation a decade or so prematurely. There does appear to be an "off" switch to these helpful tips, but am I mistaken in thinking many people will take advantage of this system and abuse it to some extent?

Here's the the legal Mumbo Jumbo (the patent) for those interested.   read


6:55 PM on 12.19.2008

Interview: Lead Concept Artist of Red Fly Studio, Frank Teran, talks Mushroom Men.

When art, satirical humor, Mushrooms, and Nintendo collided earlier this December, we were given the beautiful independent game: Mushroom Men, developed by first timers Red Fly Studio. I explored the game thoroughly, and enjoyed it more than anything I'd played on the Wii in over a year (or, ever.) I then took notes, and dropped my two cents into the vastness of the Internet, which was magically picked up by someone at Red Fly Studio.

This gave me the opportunity to interview Red Fly Studio Lead concept artist, Frank Teran (also known for his artwork on Vertigo Comics.) Along with co-founding the independent studio with Dan Borth (CEO) and Kris Taylor (Art Director), He was primarily responsible for giving life to these Mushrooms through his drawings and paintings, cover art for both games, and (in his own words) “extraneous gameplay ideas/concepts”. I was excited to sit down (on-line) and learn something about this game from an insiders perspective, and have quite a bit to share on the experience.



I would imagine there's an interesting story here, so I have to ask: Why Mushrooms?

I think I'd really have to ask my friend Dan that same question, since he was the one that thought of the whole mushroom angle. I'd say my part was making the mushroom viable as a character the players could ultimately latch onto, and I think the fact that a fungus would be in the lower spectrum of the totem pole, it'd make them the ultimate underdog. They're kinda given life, but at the same time hamstrung with having to deal with the huge world that surrounds them.

I also think Dan and Kris focused on mushrooms as a nod to the gaming roots of the Mario universe.

While the final product is very original, including the humor, music, and story - what would you say inspired the development of this game the most? What inspired you, personally, while working on this project?

I think the inspiration for me were the things I remembered most from my awesome childhood. The sense of wonder and things that I embraced and loved, like Harryhausen movies and old sci-fi flicks, as well as humor that gravitated to the mad magazines, e.c comic books and wacky package trading card types of satire...you'll see glimpses of that thru out my concepts and hopefully in the game as a result...it's like a bizarre amalgam of my nostalgic brain-seepage that makes its way to the digital canvas when I work on ideas.



My initial draw to the game came from a pack of promo-cards a game store employee gave me, with incredibly interesting visuals. My question then would be: is Red Fly doing anything additional to use the art to it's advantage?

Haha - well, I'd love for them to compile an art book, but I'm pretty biased. I leave that up to the fans of the game to request, power to the peoples. I also think the 'lil resin figure was a great idea.



With the darker art style, twisted sense of humor, and the advertisement with “Teen+” rated comic books, what specific demographic would you say this game is targeting?

I'd hope it appeals to those within the range of a gamer that can handle the stuff we toss at 'em. The humor is pretty much in line with stuff I grew up with in old cartoons and mad magazine, like i had mentioned. Hopefully no one is truly disturbed by the artwork, being a bit creeped out I'll take though - since I like making the gamer feel something emotionally when they encounter anything I had imaged out.

Do you think they'll ever let you take the art to comic books, perhaps for a miniseries, or one-shot of Mushroom men, to maybe include your old crowd?

I would be more than happy to visually narrate any type of prologue for those who think it'd help round out the story. I think we're going to add a lot more into the next adventure to help answer some questions, but also up the ante with more stuff. I can't tell you how amped I am for the next chapters to unfold, hopefully that'll happen.



What sort of feedback did you, or Red Fly, expect on the “users” front? What has the reception from gamers been thus far?

I'd say from my perspective, we really don't have any expectations. I'd hope that the fans would embrace something like mushroom men; the weirdness, the satire, the retro feel, all that stuff I would hope the players could dive into and dig. The feedback thus far has been great actually, the enthusiasm in the comments from those who have played the game are really, really encouraging. It's one of those magic moments where you get to see what others get out of what we wanted to get across. It's funny seeing the wide range of what folks get out of it.

So you're finding a lot of Internet feedback?

Yes indeed, and I love all of it! Even the harsh, dismissive, cynical stuff. I basically use that as fuel. It's what I feed on in the wee hours of the night when I work.

Basically, you feed off the Internet “trolls?”

Yes. I flip it and use them to my advantage. Bosses grow more fangs, and become more fierce as a direct result.



This game seems to defy most expectations of the Wii fan base, so the question here is: Why Nintendo?

I don't wanna speak for the folks who were directly involved in that decision making, but I think we possibly chose Nintendo because the style of platforming game we were aiming for seemed to dovetail perfectly with the platforming/adventure gaming base that's already established there, as well as the innovative tech/controls that the Nintendo offered. I'm personally still fascinated with the Wii-mote, and the potential gameplay uses. Mind you, I was raised on the joystick and trackballs for innovation, so this is like...THE FUTURE.

To expand on that, why split up the two games to the two separate Nintendo systems? Would it be beneficial as a player to play them “in order”?

Splitting up games sure is a risky venture, yes. But then again, we're a 3rd party developer who's 1st IP is a platformer on the same system that Mario is on, some would say that's a risk as well. I think if you want to have more insight into the mushroom men universe, playing both would offer some more narrative prologue, and offer different gameplay at the same time - but that's a decision we leave up to the gamer.

So, you'd say they're relatively independent games from one another?

Relatively. there are aspects that connect them, but not to the point where one is dependent on the other. I actually had painted 50+ illustrations for the DS versions cut-scenes, so there are aspects in basic storytelling within, they are a nod to my career in comics. That's what made the experience so rewarding, taking my storytelling love and applying it to the mush universe.



While trying to generate mini-buzz about the game on my level, the reaction I got from people was; well, not great. I'd heard this game called “Just another platforming game”, What then, would you say to this - what distinguishes Mushroom Men from the rest of the platforming games?

Well, I think that we bring a new angle to the genre that didn't exist before. Artistically I think we didn't mimic anything, so we're going to maintain that type of sensibility and just build on top of it. The gameplay will start to expand and bloom into something folks have never quite experienced, but that will be up to the gaming audience. Hopefully the audience will want to see the further adventures of Pax, since I'm already in full steam concept mode for the next step in Pax's future. I am confident that even at this stage, it's going to be one heck of an adventure.

I think Red Fly Studio is Pax - there is a parallel. We're brand new to this game, it's our first, we're goin' head to head with the monoliths of gaming, we'll take our lumps, but we'll keep fighting.

Tiny is the new big, and I see Red Fly making a big splash with a very tiny hero. Experience Mushroom Men for yourself, or gift it to someone who could use some quality time with their Wii.



A few handy reference links;
The official site,
Red Fly Studio developer blog,
Tatertotco @ wordpress - basically the Mushroom Men faux tabloids.   read


5:01 PM on 12.08.2008

Mushroom Men: The Spore War Review



In the spirit of judging things by their cover, I stumbled on Mushroom Men: The Spore War based on a small pack of artistic cards promoting the game – they must have made some impression, because I was instantly intrigued. Being a new franchise, I wasn't sure what to expect beyond the pretty cover, but I decided to give the little guys at Red Fly Studios a chance to knock my socks off.

During my preliminary research, I noticed a lot of the art and humor style seemed to be influenced by the Oddworld series - one of the heavyweights (and my favorites) in artistic “indie” gaming. These are pretty big shoes to fill, and I was curious to see how Mushroom Men would hold up. So, I put down the one-and-only preorder on the game at my local store, and after dusting off my neglected Wii (not my fault...) here's my experience.

System: Nintendo Wii (prequel on the Nintendo DS)
Genre: Adventure, platforming
Rating: Everyone; just enjoy yourself!
Suggested For: Anyone who enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy and would enjoy something similar (minus the motion sickness,) the next generation of Oddworld fans, or anyone who really needs an excuse to power up their Wii.

The story begins, as so many do, with a meteorite crashing on the Earth. This meteorite doesn't appear to have impacted our world at all, at least - not on our level. However, the world of mushrooms and other plant life are brought to our level of thinking, talking, and warring. Once peaceful Mushroom tribes begin warring over pieces of the meteorite, a few tribes grew strong, and more peaceful tribes went underground.

Now, follow the hero Pax on his adventure to find where he belongs, after his tribe was completely wiped out. He'll meet up with plants, and other mushroom tribes who will assist him along the way, but he accidentally absorbs a meteorite from a peaceful tribe. His quest for companionship turns to a promise to quest and find this particular tribe a new meteorite – one that Pax can't absorb. Mushroom Men: The Spore War is this quest.



Being a mushroom, Pax has a very different point of view of the world – it's still our world he's walking around in, it just looks much, much bigger. This makes house-hold items that one might discard or lose, very useful as improvised weaponry. Pax will collect specific prerequisites (called “Scav”) to create a simple, yet effective, weapon. For instance, a Pencil, Zip Tie, and Toothpick create a very unorthodox stabbing weapon, and a Match, Thread, and Exact-o knife create a useful slashing weapon.

Defending oneself in time of war, even small-scale war, is very important. Aside from the improvised Weaponry, Pax is armed with special powers he gains from his accidentally-absorbed Meteorite pieces. “Sporekinesis” allows Pax to use his will to move, throw, and activate objects without touching them. “Will of Spores” allows Pax to control plants that may be helpful, and “Spore Punisher” gives you a special direct attack on weak or injured enemies. Really, the “Sporekinesis” is the most useful of the spore powers, and you should use it to bowl for moles whenever possible. Trust me.



Of all these powers and weapons, though, I really have to say my favorite “item” in the game was the grappling hook. Actually, it's a child's sticky-hand toy, the kind I personally used to put sticky “hand” prints on the television as a kid, to drive my parents crazy – Pax uses it much more constructively while exploring his surroundings. I even enjoyed the grapple-points, which were things like “Vote for...” campaign buttons, or quarters stuck to various surfaces with chewing gum. Brilliant.

On this scale, the attention to tiny detail becomes increasingly important. Fortunately, I don't have to tell Redfly that, as all the nails, woodwork, mold, and scattered debris were just as I would imagine them being, were I the size of a mushroom, which I think about regularly. Though they may be only aesthetics, detail is the kind of thing a lot of people seem to be looking at most with games, and where much of the criticism against the Wii lies – so, do not fear, Mushroom Men is still beautiful, and is even accompanied by very unique music.

One aspect I am always worried about with the Wii's unconventional controller, is the movement control and gameplay. For anyone who has played Super Mario Galaxy, I can tell you the way the wii-mote works is very similar – which is to say; not too bad. Moving Pax around the screen is fairly straightforward, battles work smoothly, and aiming your interactive cross hairs on the screen works as well as any other Wii game.

It's once you incorporate the camera into this equation that things are a bit more frustrating, as I ended up standing still, taking much more time than I would have liked to center the camera where it needed to be. But, this camera issue was only bad in especially tight areas, while free-roaming, and fixed-camera areas, the game works best.

Humor and character design is very important in a game where the primary storyline is searching for rocks, and you're a mushroom. Mushroom Men measures up to the clever giants of gaming by utilizing a slightly askew idea of the way things work. For example, the enemies fit an array of different pint-sized animals, most of which are rarely considered a threat – unless you're a plant. The Rabbits are the first to come to mind, with their bunnicula presence, the plant kingdom (called “Kudzu”) fear the Rabbits above all others, and request help from Pax to defend them. This species is even taken a step further with a very odd Jackalope enemy; a pretend species of Rabbit with antelope horns.



Another example of very off humor is the health-bar system – as Pax takes a hit, a piece of his mushroom cap goes missing, and his radioactive brain is exposed, until no cap remains. Even regenerating health comes from an odd place, when you have to beat dead rats that have fungus growing on them, to retrieve the fungi-spore health bits. Sounds disgusting, right? How many kids tend to favor disgusting things? Exactly.

In many action-adventure and platforming games, some of the most memorable characters are the side or alternate characters you run into on your path. Whether you loathe them, or they made you feel guilty for all the times you abused them, or they freak you out a bit, you're bound to remember these characters. Unfortunately, I felt that aspect was a bit shallow for Mushroom Men. While Pax is adorable...in a fungus-sort-of-way, there weren't many quirky characters to banter with, or anyone particularly memorable.

This isn't to say the character design is completely lost, as the different mushroom tribes each has it's own social personality and traditions – I'd personally like to see at least one sequel, since the gameplay and design is just right, they can maybe focus on the writing aspect a bit more. Or, perhaps I missed enough storyline by not playing the prequel, which is on a different game system altogether – probably not the best idea, guys.


That is, indeed, a cactus riding a lizard. It definitely makes sense.

While this game may not fall into the “all-time favorites” list, it was certainly a wonderful experience, and a welcome change from the music and mini-games that seem to be Wii's primary focus. If I were you, and you happen to enjoy a fun, mildly twisted, platforming game – I'd definitely recommend at least a once-over, especially if your Wii needs a bit of exercise as mine did.

Now, imagine me, only trying to figure out where this fits on a rating scale of 1-10. (8/10, or an A-? Almost great, with a few kinks that held back great potential.)   read


7:46 AM on 10.31.2008

The Fear: Atmosphere.



"You're walking down a dark, quiet hallway, littered with debris of what was once a beautiful hotel. Weapon in hand, poised as an agitated snake, You call out; "hello? Anyone there?" With no response, you continue walking cautiously, when you catch something out of the corner of your eye and stop dead in your tracks. A hanging lamp sways as you blink the dark out of your eyes to focus. "It was just the wind" you reassure yourself, willing your feet to carry you further down your path."

To me, the scariest part of survival horror, or any horror games, is the atmosphere – the general mood set by various aspects of a game. This can be set by music, sound effects, environment, or anything else that makes you feel something specific.

A few specific titles.



Resident Evil

Sounds play a very specific role in Horror games, being part of the ambiance aspect of the atmosphere. Resident Evil was one of the first survival games to implement footstep sounds in large, echoing rooms. You can hear yourself walking, but if you're really quiet, you can hear an approaching zombie, or dog, or other Resident Evil monster.

I find myself holding my breath a lot, in areas that have a very loud echo associated with the footsteps. Combine this ambiance with many dark, empty areas, the zombies just become a bonus. This was such a good tactic, it's been used over, and over again, with a tried and true result – Though I haven't managed to pass out yet.

Speaking of zombies, and other monsters, many of the rooms you go through in the Resident Evil mansion will be vacant, until you return at a later time. This tactic for creating mood, I would call a false sense of security.

For instance; a calm, brightly lit hallway, will have a pair of “Cerberus” zombie dogs burst through the window. The first time through, you'll only hear the window crack – enough to give you a fair jolt, but then you look at the window and go “Oohh, you, I see you.” and promptly think that was it. It's not until you return to that hallway, that the real threat comes barreling into the hallway, and you change your pants, because you had let your guard down.



Silent Hill

Silent Hill makes use of bright, rather than dark, to deliver a very haunting atmosphere. While outdoors, the entire town is covered in floating ash, which is thick enough to look like snow. The visibility in these conditions is very limited, maybe able to see a block ahead at best. When searching for something, clues become more difficult to find. Also, many of the buildings, houses, and streets look identical.

The ash creates a blanket over objects and buildings that appears to be very undisturbed, meaning no one is around. Feeling isolated and alone, in a place cut off from the world by sheer cliffs, is enough to make any normal person go mad, and make me grip the controller tightly and keep going...

Aside from the ashy atmosphere, Silent Hill will attempt to give one the chills by adding a few disturbing images throughout their games. These aren't the same as terrifying monsters, they're a part of the landscape, but they're still there. To me, this is almost scarier than being mauled, because; will it move? Is it alive? Is it dangerous? Can I walk by?



It may not actually harm you, but I'll bet you still wouldn't touch it.



Bioshock

A very good example of atmosphere use is Bioshock, which was a beautiful display of horror. Your character has just been in a plane crash and survived. While floating in the ocean, the only thing you see around you, is a lighthouse. Inside this lighthouse, there is a transport, which descends to the depths of the ocean, over an amazing view of an underwater city.

While on your brief journey, there is a welcome video, introducing you to the underwater utopia of Rapture. However, as the video screen closes, you're trapped in the small transport, looking at the wreckage of what was once a habitable city, poorly lit by sparking wires. While you're waiting, an ominous, cackling voice fills your ears, and you see slight movement. While you can't see exactly what's going on, you know you're in danger.

A few enemies, such as the cackling “splicer” won't be an immediate threat, but their mannerisms and presence are enough to instill the feeling you need to defend yourself – in this first instance, you have no way of fighting back...and as I mentioned, you are trapped.

To add to my fear, many places in Bioshock have small floods – when you're underwater in the ocean, this is a very bad thing. Many times doors will barely hold their hinges, glass will shatter as you walk by, and rooms will be barred by dangerous amounts of water.



The sense of urgency to get out of a situation is caused with a large dose of claustrophobia before the enemies even arrive. You're trapped underwater with lunatics, and do whatever is necessary to survive. Even if there are only 30 enemies through the entire game...tight quarters, and their element of surprise make for quality scares.

Shared scare tactics.

Location, location, location.

The majority of the Silent Hill games will take you on adventures through places that already make people uncomfortable; most notably, a hospital. Not just any hospital, but a Silent Hill hospital - draped in rust, broken plaster, soiled beds, and ominous looking medical supplies. That isn't even counting the enemies, very unfriendly nurses of varying types.

While you, and I, may not be FBI officers – Condemned tends to scare with a level of familiarity, albeit broken and decayed. You'll spend the majority of your time searching areas you might see around town; A hotel, a subway, a department store, someones house...all abandoned and left to rot as the seediest part of society.

The department store was my personal favorite, taking you through strange familiarity, and uncanny valley in one shot. The mannequins that were left behind when the department store closed are in varying states of disarray, with broken parts, missing parts, and strange costumes. Enemies blend in with these mannequins, leaving me wary of every single one I ever passed.

Lighting

Indoors in many survival games is a very dark story, with zero electricity, your only salvation is a small flashlight delivering a cone of light whichever direction you're facing. In Silent Hill, you also get the added luxury of attracting anything in the area, if you happen to have this light turned on. Attract baddies, or play blind...



Many horror games utilize the single light strategy – and it's a good strategy. I'll sit in my living room squinting at the television as though that will help my character see better...Because really, when terrifying things can hide right out in the open because of a sheet of ash, or simply because it's so dark, where is safe?

With survival horror, everything is usually very dark - so, while sitting in my dark living room, the worlds blend together nicely and I'm captivated, left to the will of the game.

The Writing's on the wall.

While it may not always be scary, it is definitely unnerving to stumble upon an area in a game, where someone else may have been trapped, or gone insane, before you even got there.

Condemned played with this option a lot, generally written in blood; warnings about certain places, clues, hand drawn eyeballs, or just general rantings.



Silent hill 2...well, they've done it as well.



The most famous of these unnerving situations is "The cake is a lie" plastered throughout the end of the game Portal. While not necessarily scary...you were almost killed by a psychotic computer, who has apparently tried this before.



What this means to me.

To me, there are plenty of games that have a few good scares. But, it's the ones with an atmosphere that captivates me, and includes me in the action that scare me the most. When my own house begins to scare me hours after I've stopped playing, you've done your job.   read


5:36 AM on 10.26.2008

Fable II: A Critique



Lionhead studios, the studio notorious for its blabbermouth designer, Peter Molyneux, has released a new game backed by enough hype to fill a small moon...or a space station. I personally enjoyed the original Fable well enough, it had many shortcomings, but it was a decent game, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

(I have had the opportunity to test drive the game temporarily, on loan from a friend. I had a bit of a run-in with Microsoft which drained me of funds, so this is just a “first impression” for now...About 6 hours of gameplay gave me a taste, anyway, and this is the nit-picky version.)

Times have changed, in the land of Fable. Starting in the town of Bowerstone, which now resembles the era of London that Jack the Ripper might pop-up in, times are tough. You're an orphan child, of the gender of your choice, given the nickname “sparrow” for an unfortunate reason. You wish for life in a castle with your sister, and do some chores around town to make that wish on a “magic box”.

Times aren't all that have changed here...

Revisit Fable...kind of.

As with many sequels, there were a lot of similarities between this installment, and the first. Graphically, the game lives up to the original. Lush landscapes, detailed surroundings and garments, and the same watercolored storytelling cut scenes that I personally adored from the original are fully intact, and even upgraded in parallel with the next generation system.

Interaction with, or really just walking by, game characters in the Fable world has always been entertaining. Word spreads quickly about your deeds, good or bad, and you make a name for yourself among the citizens. You also have some form of title that people will call you, should you pay to have that nickname spread across the land, and characters greet you accordingly; “Oohhh, there goes the gunslinger” or “Chicken Chaser? You mean...you chase chickens?” depending on your title, and there are a lot more options this time.

Unfortunately, the concept of similarity is taken very literally with a sequel. Many of the starting missions have been nearly identical to Fable. There is a Hobbe mission, in a cave, with an abducted little boy. Been there. The opening mission is to complete minor tasks for people around bowerstone, to collect 5 gold coins, to buy something. Done that. Even the source of the tragedy that leads you away from your hometown directly involves your sibling. Originality is a spice of life, unfortunately, it doesn't grow as well as basil.

What the first game was lacking...

Lionhead made an attempt at covering ground that was criticized in the first visit to Fable. First, I'll start off with the primary issue – length and size. As with most men, when they're criticized about such things, they go all-out to try and fix it.

I can't say much for the length of the game, but there did seem to be a lot more quests, which is definitely good in the world of achievements, and enjoyment. Hopefully they're not all bullshit quests, like shamelessly flirting with some guy to get him to fall “madly in love with you”, or vacuuming up Hobbes all day.

Sure, the game boasts ten times the expanse of the original, but they seemed intimidated by their own growth, like you'll get lost and lose interest – so, they gave you a strange solution to the “nav point” or directional help of most games.

A sparkling gold line directs you through most areas, very distracting to those...ooohh, shiny! What was I saying? Unfortunately, the navigation dust doesn't even work properly all of the time...it'll disappear without warning, or lead you into a wall and insist that is the right course. Also, I probably wouldn't have explored any new areas because of this distracting dust trail, if my dog hadn't done it for me.

The Dog

Adventure games can be lonely at times, so giving an adventurer a traveling companion sounds like a good idea, in theory. I loved the idea of having a dog as that companion, take on enemies along side, while earning me charisma points because “Oooh, puppies!”.

But then, every time something interesting to explore came along, I heard an insistent “Bark-Bark” Which, after the tenth time in a row, translates to: “Hey, LISTEN!” Wait, I know that voice...Navi the fairy has been resurrected in dog form! They even went so far as to give the dog an icon with description above his head, telling you exactly what you're looking for. Where is the challenge, or fun of poking around behind rocks, if they dog's going to tell you exactly what you're looking for?

Also, zero customization options with the dog. Even some of the beautiful art scenes showed a slightly different variation on your dog. In the opening “Oh, your life is laced with tragedy, but you grew up strong” cut scene, the dog appeared to be a golden lab – but, in all of the gameplay, even when you meet the dog as a kid, pre-tragedy, it is a mutt of sorts with the fur pattern in three colors, primarily black.

Gender roles in video games

One of the things that bothered me about the first Fable, was the boasted “fully customizable” character was; A) Male, and B) Caucasian, and C) oh, wait, that's it. Sure, as the game progressed you could change some features such as hair, some physical attributes, and tattoos – but really, you were always a white male. I wonder what demographic was in charge of making this game.

This time, however, you do have the option to start out as a little girl. Unfortunately, Lionhead was misinformed as to what an adult female is, when programming this gender option. As you grow up, you're a very awkward looking woman, that was really lacking any femininity except breasts and long hair. The hair looks stapled on the back of her head, and her body is very oddly proportioned...add layered clothes in the mix, the result isn't remotely flattering.



Sure, you're supposed to be a warrior of sorts – but one of those “sorts” is mage-like. Mages should be refined in their art, with a sense of grace about them...doesn't that sound like it should be easily pulled off by a female character? My “little sparrow” looks like she could take the lead in a biker bar, even wearing nobles clothes! I think they did a better job of making the men-who-are-interested-in-men more feminine in the first Fable.

I'm sure making a female warrior character is a challenge in games...but I'm pretty sure I have seen it accomplished in the past, and the result has been acceptable before. In fact, the majority of the women in this game, if they're not housewives or small children, are terrifying creatures...



Allignment

Fable had a very strange alignment system for progressing through the game as a good, or evil character. Every time you engaged any enemy of any kind, you earned oodles of good alignment points. Shouldn't that have been a neutral thing, and all of your other actions decide whether or not you were good or evil? This is one of the things they actually “Fixed” this time around.

Options to fight to help villagers, or take an offer behind their backs to do them wrong are a much more realistic way to go about deciding your alignment. You can make your decisions through the game, and your alignment will reflect that - simple, and straight forward.

Of course, you still get the quick-and-easy path toward evil by munching on “crunchy chicks” or beating your significant other into divorce...or punting chickens, and shooting rabbits. Or boost your good points (see, charisma) by being a showoff in towns by yourself, or with your trained canine performer.

The unfortunate side of hype, and wannabe overachievers

There has been a lot of buzz around the internet, and beyond, as to the sheer awesome contained in this game. I've heard a few things about bugs, including one that will have you starting your game over, and a few other things related to the mechanical issues – let me re-emphasize those, now.

The button assignment is an interface of menus, and sub-menus, that would even have a hard time being mapped out with hotkeys on a keyboard – let alone a controller. I had an unfortunate time accidentally bringing up a menu when I bump the shoulder button in a fight, which had me molested in a battle, because I couldn't switch back fast enough.

One of my favorite things about Fable, which had me wanting more for a second run, was the combat. The combat multipliers were fun to crank up, the experience was acquired much easier, and the control was very smooth. This time around, the control doesn't flow as well – for instance, hitting the sword attack button three times, means you might attack once and change your posture?

Trying to adjust your spells, or do just about anything, tends to make accidents happen. I've tried to talk to a villager with the wrong menu open, and attacked everyone with a shock of lightening in the ground. Oops.

This time around, they appeared to have tried to listen to Peter Molyneux and add all, or at least most, of the things his big head wanted in the game. Unfortunately, that makes for a very encumbering game, with a primary focus on things you don't care about (There's a sale at such-n-such market, buy now!), or entirely too many notes popping up, telling you nothing. I bought some fruit at a market, and it popped up with 3 different descriptions of what I'd just done...that was a waste of time, guys, really.

What happens when you don't get paid for your missions by a proper guild? You get a job? I suppose that's a solution, too bad the jobs are boring, pointless, and low-paying – kind of like real life. Looting areas and watching my dog dig for treasure earned more...it's a sad fiscal system, when a hero doesn't get her pay, until she loots some poor dead guy.

There were some good things, afterall!

Instead of just allowing random villagers to fall in love with you, many of them will also offer you gifts, which can be handy, since quests offer no real income. You have a whole slue of additional postures, or interactions with characters, though sometimes cumbersome, it provides a decent amount of entertainment.

There is a "run faster" button in this game; though it's slightly unnecessary, it makes a few things easier until it glitches out. It's handy for swimming, as well. Way to make the tedious tasks feel like participating in the Olympics! I'm pretty sure my Fable II character is capable of out-swimming Michael Phelps.

Fighting animations; specifically with spells, are amazingly awesome. For instance, electrocution gives you an X-ray view of your victims, as their fried in their own skin. I'm hoping for a lot more of that, depending on the spells – I love being a mage, but unfortunately didn't get far enough to unlock many spells...



I'm sure, as the game progresses, I will find a lot more to be excited about. I have enjoyed my time, but found my critique senses tingling all over. Hopefully now that it's out of my system...

Also, it's very, very, pretty.

Final summary

Not a bad game, from what I played, but really – the glitches were enough to steer me away from this one...at least temporarily. There are promises that the game will be fixed, but then, Molyneux promises a lot of things. So far, I've experienced much of the original game, with a bit more umpf this time...I suppose this criticizing was really a reflection of how disappointed I was, in the way the female characters turned out.

I didn't touch much of the main storyline, I focused on side quests – as I do plan on purchasing this game someday. It wasn't an all-bad experience, it just needs a lot of patching...I won't really know, until it drops in price a bit. I will label this one an “Own it, but not before the price drops below $40”.   read


7:14 PM on 10.24.2008

Adventures in (x)boxing.



This past weekend, I had to put down a good friend. His name was Harold IV, and he was an xbox 360. This past Saturday, Harold IV's processor/video chip gave out – and he stopped producing hours of entertainment and fun. Unfortunately, Harold IV was also 4 months outside of Microsoft's 1 year manufacturers warranty, so no comfort rested with Microsoft to resolve my plight.

To me, it seemed odd that microsoft knew about this defect, and could pinpoint my model, but absolutely refused to do anything about the problem. “Oh well, it's outside of warranty now, sucker!”

I did my best to get around the original warranty, into the 3 year extended warranty reserved for sufferers of the ever feared Red Ring of Death. Unfortunately, the Red Ring extension was for a very specific problem with the Xbox 360, that is difficult to emulate without otherwise voiding that warranty, or taking a lot of time to overheat it repeatedly.

So, after arguing with a Microsoft representative, who then informed me it would be approx $100 to be without an xbox for a 2-6 week period, I made a drastic decision. I have upgraded – that is, given Microsoft more money – to bring home a bouncing baby Xbox 360 Elite, with chic black finish, a 120GB hard drive (my old one wore the weakling 20gb hard drive) and High Def cables that don't do much good to me at the moment.

My saved up PS3 monies went toward this replacement...ironic, and somewhat sad, how that worked out.

How do I loathe thee, let me count the ways.

Why is my Xbox named Harold IV? Well, because this xbox was the 4th replacement in my Xbox 360 history of ownership. Don't look at me like that; my cats have not knocked into or slept on any of them, I have not put bologna in the disc drive, I leave plenty of space for ventilation, I don't store them on the carpet, I don't store them upright or where they might be bumped into, and water, beer, or soda has stayed a minimum of 3 ft away at all times…so, what's the problem?

Well, I brought home Harold in November of 2006. We enjoyed a few laughs, playing Oblivion and Hexic, but after 3 days Harold was done. The error message "Please insert this disc into an xbox360" greeted me repeatedly, whenever I attempted to boot up Oblivion and play with Kiren Shade, who was well on her way to becoming an accomplished Mage. Back to the store we went, and thus was born Harold II.

Harold II lasted 17 days, then decided power from my apartment was highly over rated, and even with the security of a brand new surge protector, crashed the power supply, refusing to turn on ever again. Sensing a trend, I decided to purchase the xbox coverage plan for Harold III, which turned out to be good idea. Nine months or so, after Harold III graced my presence, he decided game discs were yummy, and froze with a disc in the drive – refusing to give it back. The clerk at the game store had to pry it open with a screwdriver to get my game back...then replaced Harold III.

This brings us to Harold IV, who outlasted the 1 year warranty with Microsoft, and then started the problems. At the end of this summer, Harold IV decided scratching discs was fun, and should be practiced at least once a week. Unfortunately, this occurred after the warranty had ended, so my only option was to clean everything (discs, and laser lens with a DVD lens cleaner) which seemed to help, somewhat. Coinciding with the disc scratching, the disc drive began to stick shut every time I used it...I should have known.

Until finally, our fiasco this weekend with the resolution being drained to less than a Nintendo64 and the screen no longer showing me pretty xbox things, bringing about the tragic end of Harold IV. After wrapping towels around Harold IV and turning him on, hoping for a RROD (yes, I was actually excited for this) to take advantage of the extended warranty, that would have my xbox fixed for free…I made my choice.



Now, allow me to introduce Lydia, and LydiaII. So much for evoking a sense of reliability by changing the name, and upgrading. Lydia had downloading problems, and loading problems, and extreme gameplay lag. Apparently, one of the few known defects of the Xbox Elite followed me home, and I had to return Lydia first thing this morning.

Not a good track record, Microsoft, seriously.

Why I've stayed by your side, after all the abuse



Also, the rapid price reduction, variety, and selection of their games library. In other words, I don't love Microsoft, I love their cheap games. Now is it clear to anyone why I refuse to drop the full $60 on a brand new game, when I can get the game for under $30 used, and deny Xbox any of that profit?

Why, Microsoft? Why?

Dear Bill Gates, you should be ashamed of the product your company sells to normal, everyday, busy people. You're lucky the games library is much more extensive and varied than the other game systems, or I'd have abandoned ship, like so many before me.

Also, your Microsoft Support page is written in id10t code, it should be translated to something easier to navigate, and read, and send you disgruntled e-mails demanding free stuff.

...Until one day, Bill Gates goes the way of Tony Stark, deciding his company is not in the best interest of the people – what with its greed and lack of any quality, stable products - and use his multi-billions of dollars to become a Superhero. First Windows, now Xbox...will the carnage ever end?

Now, imagine me, only setting electronic devices on fire, simply by entering the room.   read


6:47 PM on 10.14.2008

Retroreview; Silent Hill 4: The Room



Down the Rabbit Hole

For me, October means a number of things; parties, Resident Evil, dressing up, events, and Silent Hill. One of my favorite traditions for the past 4 years, is my annual revival of Silent Hill 4: The Room. Unfortunately for some, Silent Hill 4 has yet to be experienced – I'm hoping this year is different. At a measly (approximate) $12, why not give it a chance this year? Especially useful for those of us unable to drop a full $60 on the newest release of the Silent Hill franchise...

I personally found The Room to be the scariest visit to Silent Hill to date – not including Silent Hill 5, which I haven't played much of yet. The potential that the haunts and monsters of Silent Hill might follow me home, specifically appearing in my bathroom, still gives me the chills.

You may say; "It doesn't even take place in Silent Hill!" which is the most common complaint I've heard opposing this game...though, I promise, as soon as immersion sets in - the dark, eerie, monster-filled atmosphere is fully intact, minus the ashy visibility issues. Plus, many of the locations are adjacent to the cozy, haunted, resort town of Silent Hill anyway, so you'll hear the name often.

Why this couldn't be anything but Silent Hill

Someone recently said to me “a lot of people seem to think it would have stood on its own if they hadn't added 'Silent Hill' to the title.” Which, alright – in all fairness, this one strayed just to the left of Silent Hill. But, there are a few reasons “Silent Hill” was attached to the title “The Room”, they are as follows.

First and foremost, the Melee combat system that Silent Hill is notorious for, is still intact up to the finishing stomp required to fully silence any baddies. Being up-close-and-personal with a fiend that may very well eat your face, adds a bit of nail biting to all situations. Though minor changes were made to the combat, I only noticed the controls being slightly more fluid.

There are a few links between The Room, and Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams - which seems to be the collective favorite of the series. In Silent Hill 2, while looking for clues to one of the many puzzles, you'll read the name “Walter Sullivan” in a newspaper article, reporting an inmate accused of murder has committed suicide with a spoon. In The Room, Walter Sullivan is the one-and-only antagonist, tormenting all of the stories characters, and the hero; Henry Townshend.

If I say Sunderland, you say (James)? The hero – or anti-hero if you've played the entire game - in Silent Hill 2 is James Sunderland. The surname Sunderland is also present in this installment, as your superintendent who is suspicious of that strange odor – or was it the fact that you've disappeared in your apartment for an extended period of time?

Silent Hill 3 had the creepy bunny, affectionately named Robbie;



Who has also returned for a few random appearances in The Room;



At some point, you'll visit an Orphanage in Silent Hill 4, called Wish House – where Walter Sullivan learned everything he knows. Wish House Orphanage, and the cult associated with it, are a primary focus of Silent Hill 3 – I don't think I can make that connection any clearer.

Of course, as with all Silent Hill titles, these games work well independently, making it simple to jump in and enjoy any number of them, in any order. In my opinion, exploring these out of numerical order makes them more interesting, since you're more likely to catch the small connections, like the ones mentioned.

Storytime

In each consecutive visit, the storyline that brings you to Silent Hill or some semblance thereof, has deviated more as time goes on;

[i]1. “Ahh shit, my creepy child has run off to play with monsters again...”
2. “So, my wife died, then wrote me this letter...”
3. “Like, one time, there was this cult in the mall...”
4. “Some asshole locked me in my apartment, and tunneled in my bathroom...”[/i]

In the fourth installment of the Silent Hill series, you are Henry Townshend of apartment 302, in the faux-urban town of South Ashfield. Everything in your life was fine and dandy, until one day some strange nightmare creeps into your head and locks all your doors and windows, leaving you trapped in your apartment for 5 days before a video game is born.

The game will begin with Henrys nightmare; walking around your apartment, in first-person view, you'll admire the decor in the infamous Silent Hill rusted walls, and broken electronic devices, with very few clues as to what is going on.

After the nightmare ends with the games opening creidts, you wake up in the same way your nightmare began – only the apartment is a bit less rusted. Now, you'll pick up bits of information about the last five days. You can see the outside, but seem to have lost the ability to communicate with it – shouting and hammering on doors and walls do no good...you're cut off.

Your first adventure into the Silent Hill realm happens when you hear noises in your bathroom, and notice a rather large hole in the wall. Crawl down the creepy hole? I'm so glad you asked, I'd love to! Tap into your gaming claustrophobia for a moment, then emerge in an alternate world full of the strange and unusual.

Silent...subway?

Here, Henry meets the dazed and confused Cynthia, wandering around on her own. She's convinced this reality is her dream, and behaves as though her dreams are regularly dirty. She'll lead you around briefly, before getting violently ill, and disappearing into a bathroom.

You really don't see much of Cynthia after that – but you follow her voice and helpful hints, to attempt to rescue her from whatever is stalking her beneath the streets. Solving puzzles, hitting baddies, opening creaky doors, and uncovering a murderous plot along the way...Some of my favorite things, in one beautiful package.

Cynthia's eventual demise is broadcast on the radio in Henry's apartment, confirming a parallel from the supernatural subway, to the real world. Down the rabbit hole indeed, as every incident in the world through the portals is reported in the real world under “suspicious circumstances” related to the late murderer, Walter Sullivan, from several years ago.

Each area you visit will have a few things in common; Walter Sullivan, a single victim, cult references, monsters, and riddles. Work your way through each area, attempting to rescue the victims, and stop the immortal Walter Sullivan from completing his cultish task...

A small chunk of time will be spent in your apartment, on the “reality” side of the game, where you uncover clues to various puzzles, unfold the story as it's told through an ominous “red diary” and watch as Silent Hill begins to follow you home like a sad, undead puppy.

The Good

Different enemies make this game look unlike any previous Silent Hill title, but not in a bad way if you think about it. Having a single, primary antagonist is a new approach, so why not give the goons a Walter Sullivan makeover?

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, most of the enemies in the game represent a piece of Walter. In Silent Hill 2, the newspaper article that you find on Walter Sullivan tells the brief story of his final murder(s) before being incarcerated; twins. Thus the two-headed monstrosity that chases you down in the Water Prison.



Ghosts; Well, I actually use the word “ghosts” lightly – I believe that's what they are, since they float, slip through walls, and make a moaning noise when they're around. Otherwise, this breed is not quite Casper-esque. They ooze through walls leaving an inky trail, and take minor physical damage when you swing a pipe at them. It is possible to knock them on the ground, but they'll be up quickly unless specific precautions are taken – with a magical cult-sword.

Proximity is as much an issue for with these guys as being swiped at by one of the other enemies – Ghosts will drain your health and slow you down drastically if you stay too close for too long. To me, this added something to the game to creep me out more than cannibal-hyena-dogs, who eventually stop coming for you if you hit them hard enough.



In every installment of the Silent Hill series, the Dark Nurses have changed ever-so-slightly. This time around, we get a full overhaul, where the enemies in the hospital are actually Patients. Creepy, oversize, patients with fluid-blob movements and armed with a sharp knife.



By having two completely separate worlds to visit, solving puzzles requires you to go back and forth to get all the pieces to fit. Revisiting your apartment, you'll be looking for clues, they may lie in the hallway, or out a window. I wasn't nearly as annoyed by this tactic of gameplay-extension as getting lost in the elementary school exactly forty-three times in the first game.

Color-changing blood; because red is just so 1990. My first play-through, my enemies bled green, which is oddly satisfying when you're supposed to be in an alternate reality. Every time I play through, I mix it up a bit by simply changing the color of enemy blood – it's a hobby, shush you.

The Bad

There is a tag-along you pick up from the Hospital - sufficiently injured and confused, you have the task of escorting her safely back home...somehow. Escort missions tend to be frustrating in any video game, and this goes double for injured escorts. It is possible to give mystery-escort a weapon, but with her slow movement, I laughed at that option.

Similar to Ashley in the fourth Resident Evil game, only you can't suggest to this escort that it might be a good idea to hide in a dumpster when things get dicey, or hungry. Though, as much as I may or may not have tried – it seems impossible to actually let her die...which is nice, I suppose. Also, I realize I left a name omitted, as I'm a big fan of limiting spoilers.

One of the creepiest things from the original Playstation game was the radio static every time an enemy approached. Now, every time white noise interrupts my television, or cell phone, I'm on my feet and ready to bust some Silent Heads. This is lost in The Room, replaced by ghost moans, or a strange throbbing feedback noise – which I can only imagine is something in Henry's head.

Degrading weapons are a growing epidemic in video games. While not all weapons in this game are effected – good old pipe, nothing beats pipe – having a powerful weapon break in the middle of a major scuffle was an issue that left me pretty dead on a few occasions.

The Ugly

Backward compatibility is excellent, in theory. In practice, I haven't seen anything but the Gameboy show anything decent in the world of backward compatibility. In other words, this game played on an Xbox360, is ugly.

Be prepared to take a nice brisk run down uncanny valley as you're interacting with characters, when their face cracks in three-to-five-pieces when they move their head, talk, or look around.



Load times seemed to increase, but that may be my memory serving me poorly – I don't specifically remember if that was just Xbox load times, and I'm currently used to Xbox live Arcade load times, or if it really is slower on the 360.

Don't worry, though, the gameplay is still good! I didn't have any problem with things lining up properly, or loading accurately, outside of a few cutscenes. The face-splitting was actually mildly humorous, or creepy – depending on your point of view.

(For the record, I haven't played or seen the PS2 version of this game...there may be changes, and the price may be different. As I understand, there is a PC version as well, so the possibilities are pseudo-endless!)

Is it okay to deviate from the city limits of Silent Hill?

In the past, Silent Hill has taken place in the ash-covered Silent Hill. The city limits, marked by sheer cliffs where roads should be, aren't terribly extensive. In the past, we've visited most major buildings, a theme park, and even a few residential areas while completing our tasks.

Because of this, I personally didn't see a problem with extending Silent Hill into Ashfield. (See what they did there?) This also gives Silent Hill the ability to cross its own boarders, potentially into my apartment – adding a new level of fear to the game. I still check to be sure there aren't any new holes in any of my rooms before getting on with my day...



Now, imagine me, only swinging a crowbar into unsuspecting lawn gnomes that may, or may not be dangerous.   read


7:59 PM on 09.26.2008

Feel the Hatred: Self-proclaimed Hardcore Gamers



Culprits:

Just over a week ago, I decided to drop in to a local game store to take a look at the games that have been released before the big holiday rush, one of which was Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise. I picked up the box, and was reading the information for educational purposes.

I was probably grinning to myself while reading the silly storyline inside the booklet when an employee approached me, and asked if I had any questions. Unsure of the exact style of the game, I asked if it was another party game, a sequel to the original, or an expansion. The guy looked at me as though I just spoke Swahili, and replied "I don't really know anything about Viva pinata, I'm a hardcore gamer - I got spore and stuff. Viva Pinata is for kids."

After which, he went into a very long monologue about how he's in college for game design, but will only design hardcore games, and I should only get spore.

Self-proclaimed "hardcore" gamers - we've all seen them. In our game stores, or in our forums - almost a generic fanboy/fangirl, but with a double dose of elitist pride.

These specific gamers will scoff at you when you ask questions about Crash of the Titans, or show an interest in the latest Kirby game. These gamers will tell me, on a regular basis, that I am not a true gamer, because I prefer Marvel Ultimate Alliance to Gears of War - without even being avidly against Gears of War!

Define a Term...

If everyone would please take a moment to define the term "Hardcore Gamer" in the fewest words possible. Go ahead, I'll wait. This definition for each person should be individually tailored, but have basically the same theme; Someone who thoroughly enjoys games, or video games are a large part of that persons life. Simple, yes?

Unfortunately, with the way gamers behave toward one another, no. For the most part, the most specific definition goes down to individual games, or even one game system from another, rather than the actual gamer.

When any one of us engages our consoles, or computers for a bout of gaming, how do we express that verbally? I can't think of any other way, than "I'm going to play some games", in slight variations to fit a specific situation.

For instance;
"Want to play some Halo?"
"I've been playing Assassins Creed for hours now!"
"I'm going to play Starcraft."

By using the word play in every gaming scenario to express our gaming interest, we imply we are going to have fun with whatever game we decide to boot up.

I am now, more than ever, having a hard time finding the specific fun in gaming. These hardcore gamers, the ones that will come up with some interesting names for me for not playing World of Warcraft, are taking a lot of the entertainment value out of gaming.

We, as consumers, require our critics, so we know the flaws we're getting into when spending hard earned money on a new game, from the most stripped down, nitpicked standpoint. Knowing these things, we know where our hopes stand so we're not crushed somewhere down the line, and so we might enjoy the game for other aspects.

However, if the entirety of the gaming community, both on and off the Internet, are critics – who is left to just have fun? Also, "You're retarded", or "This game sucked", are not valid criticisms, for the record.

What can be done about it?



Lighten up! That doesn't mean stop defending your favorites, hardcore or otherwise! Just be more productive about it, try listening, as well as talking.

The hardcore status doesn't change if you tell a fellow gamer about the great time you had playing Jet Set Radio Future, or about how much fun it is to catch Elebits for a few hours. Discuss the "Guilty pleasure" games, the ones with very little content, but hours of entertainment.

You can still be hardcore, after you write a review about something relatively low key, raving about how great Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee was. Or, if you pick up a controller with the kid down the street, and enjoy an afternoon of Lego Starwars. Be just as serious about your time spent on Nintendogs as Resident Evil.

Hardcore gaming doesn't have to be a status war, trying to size each other up based on gamer score, or how many times we've beaten Ninja Gaiden Black – those are boasting rights, but shouldn't dictate what gamers are "supposed" to play. Let a conversation cover all plains of gaming, from Smash Bros. To Silent Hill.

I would like to be allowed to store Kameo on the same bookshelf as Bioshock, and still be accepted in this hardcore community, if that's all the same to you guys. If that means calling myself a casual gamer, so be it! I'd rather have fun, then try to sound cool by taping the hardcore label to my forehead. Play the hardcore stuff, but give yourself a treat once in a while with something more laid back.

Also, Pokemon.

I suppose that wasn't so much "hatred" as "ongoing irritation."

Now, imagine me, only being a video game equal rights activist - playing Oblivion in one hand, and Mario Superstar Baseball in the other.   read


6:18 PM on 09.25.2008

Thanks, Destructoid

During my time here at Destructoid, between random hiatuses, I have come to know some of the community members for certain attributes. I look forward to hearing from most of them (even the asinine ones, believe it or not) and have assembled a little “thank you” post to Destructoid.

The Specifics

First off, to Y0j1mb0, for the many times I've been welcomed back into the community, after vanishing for a month or two at a time. The encouragement to continue writing – here and on my own website. And for the inspiration to thank everyone - the swanky banner he made for me, somewhat randomly, which I will cherish as long as I can.

Then the obligatory “I was introduced to this site by....” which goes to Spykron. I've known Spykron for years in the world beyond the internet – its a mystical place, where friends are always appreciated, and he's stuck around for a good deal of “real life” stuff.

Sharpless, my favorite stalk-ee in the whole wide world! Thanks for letting me properly stalk you on various websites and XBL. Castle Crashing again someday, hopefully soon!

Petrovay, for being supportive on my website writing as well. Also, for confirming that it was, indeed, rats that I heard under the street in NYC.

Ron Workman, the wierdo who stalked me once – making me feel included in other destructoid traditions, extended through the world of networking.

A somewhat belated thanks out to Shipero, who was abducted by Spykron and I for a day in January – Thanks for wandering around with us, and hitting a bar in a relatively unknown part of town. Also, for being smarter than everyone else. Cheers!

A strange thank you should go to Artemis – for potentially having a sexier gaming chair than mine, though this hasn't been confirmed photographically, it has been implied greatly. Thanks for putting the gold crushed velvet in its place. Especially if it's a leopard driving a chariot, or whatever it was we decided on.

To Hamza CTZ, I don't know if I even need to explain this one – but I will. Aside from babysitting this somewhat troubled community, thanks for humoring me as a newb. All is right with the world, thanks to your difficult lifestyle, drinking on yachts.

Mr Sadistic; It's good to have you back, after your 2 months of no blogs. Though, thanks for lurking around during that time. So basically, thanks for being an entertaining, creepy fucker, it just wouldn't be the same without you.

Of course, Jim Sterling gets one for wearing a monocle and looking good doing it. It's very important, these days.

Finally; Brilliam – thank you so much for writing this. Someday, it will make a difference - the stereotypes will wander into Wal-mart, and never be heard from again.

The remainders

Though there isn't enough space on the internet to thank everyone specifically – or maybe I just suddenly got lazy, I do appreciate everyone. Even those that dislike me for whatever reason, or that I dislike for various reasons. It wouldn't be the internet without every personality type around.

This community has been lot of fun, and hopefully will continue to be. The good, the bad, and the un-punctuated have kept me up-to-date in the gaming world and otherwise. Here, I've bettered myself, and built up an immunity to the trolls; Thanks everyone!

Also;

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