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4:58 PM on 07.01.2009

The Zodiac, That Uncle That Nobody Knows

All this talk of PSP Go and its truant disc drive has caused me to wax nostalgic. Prior to the DS and the PSP, there was a system much like the transitional systems like the Dreamcast and the Saturn (Sega's recipe of trying to beat the rush was a recipe for disaster.). The little known Zodiac was its name and it was one of the first true 3D hand held systems.
I remembered seeing the advertisements in Play magazine and decided to try one. There's a reason why Tapwave only sold 20,000 units before it went under. It had a nice little joystick (unheard of at the time), and two expansion slots for SD cards at the top. It ran on palm software so you could play palm games (woo hoo) on it in addition to games made specifically for it.
It was an interesting experience. There were two decent sized message boards with a close knit community to boot for the zodiac and everyone was always trying to find new ways to make the system better. In the beginning, the promise of Neverwinter Nights and Tombraider 2 made people hopeful, but it soon faded when not even a single screenshot of either emerged. As the years ticked by, the systems degraded forcing tapwave to replace the defective parts and ultimately leading to its demise.
The Zodiac was a fun little toy from an overly optimistic company. The fact that it was very open to homebrew spawned a lot of aspiring modders (zodttd anyone?) but it honestly was a total waste of hard earned cash. If you do meet a person who owns a zodiac still, smile at them, tell them everything is okay and treat them like a leper. (I mean that in the kindest way, I am one of those people)   read

7:23 PM on 06.30.2009

Mirror's Edge, Strangely Compelling

Let me lay down a little bit of important information. I hate EA. They take games, mass produce them, beat them into the ground, shit on them and sell them again. Still, that oh so fickle friend of ours does produce or at least manufacture some solid games. Rest assured, however, that they will put a massive, unskippable logo to let you know, your average experience was brought to you by those two letters. I digress, the real star here is Mirror's Edge.
When Mirror's Edge was first announced, I got excited (those being my more naive, vulnerable years (they have now since dissipated leaving a cynical young adult in their wake)). I thought the game market needed to explore the budding sport of Parkour (see Free Running) and this was a bit of a godsend. Knowing EA, I was a bit cautious that the E3 screen shots of photo realistic environments and trailers of action packed, smooth game play, were in fact, more of EA's wonderful ability to embellish. When released, its sub par ratings confirmed my suspicions of another disappointing let down. Don't get me wrong, I kept interest in the game because I was an avid Battlefield 2 player back in the day and I respected Dice's work. I decided to let the price drop before I made the leap.
It wasn't until 2 weeks ago that I started thinking about that game again. Conversations with one of my friends rekindled my interest in the game. We reached the conclusion that not a single person we knew bought the game and that was unreasonable. Being that I had some extra scratch sitting about, not being used to purchase games, I decided it was time. I strode into my local EB Games (I refuse to call it a Gamestop), walked straight to the 360 section and bought myself a new copy for 30 ducats.
On a quick side note, the reason why this blog is called "Gamer ADD" is the fact that I can't finish a game for the life of me. I honestly don't have the patience, but sometimes I juggle about 3-7 games at once. I SHOULD be playing my Atlas RPG's (Persona yadda yadda yadda) but whose making sure I keep on track.
I put that game disk into my console, booted it up in HD (It really makes a difference for me). First thing I noticed were the environments. Of course, they aren't up to Crysis level, but why shoot for that when no reasonable hardware set up or console would care to give it a decent fps? Either way, I have never seen something so vibrant. This game clearly doesn't suffer from "next gen brown" syndrome Cliffy B seems to be plagued with. The lighting is beautiful, the environments (though mostly rooftops) are very believable. It really gives you a feel of being in a near futuristic city with a lot of interesting offices to speed through.
As for the gameplay. I would say that it is very, very well designed. Keeping your timing, the flow of the game is unmistakable. It plays so smoothly, just one jump to another, a vault, a slide. There are a few commonplace elements such as run from the fuzz and jump over shit, but hey, there are a good amount of puzzles requiring nothing but movement. The one thing I found compelling is the fact that even though each level has a somewhat linear objective, the levels are open enough to improvise a path towards that goal, plus the nature of the environments keeps you from really feeling like you're forced to follow a path.
I beat the game in about two days of regular gaming (a few hours a night), and I can say it was money well spent. The story is a tad generic but the cutscenes are fresh and interesting. Overall though it was a surprisingly enjoyable experience.   read

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