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2:24 AM on 04.03.2011

Spring Break Backlog BBQ

My backlog is insanely large and keeps growing with each sale or used game I find that I just have to have. It's at the point where every time I go to play something new, I feel a sense of panic rush through me, as if my choice will determine some vital part of my future that is unchangeable and could doom us all to a firey fate.

So, to help me face up to my daunting backlog, I decided that my goals for spring break, was to finish a game per day. Not just new games, but a bunch of games Iíve had sitting around unfinished, and in some cases completely unstarted. I sprinkled in a few newer releases as well, to keep it feeling fresh and exciting, and over the course of my ten day break, I managed to beat a decent amount of games and whittle my backlog down just a bit.

So here is my list of conquered games. Be prepared to weep with joy due to the sheer amount of awesomeness:


Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
It was a birthday gift this past December that I just never started. So I started it the day my break began, and in two very long sessions of gameplay, I knocked it out without much trouble. Very satisfying story, fun gameplay, and a great way to kick off my break. The ending was a bit too disjointed with the rest of the game for my taste, but I'd definitely play another game in the series without hesitation.


Raskulls
I pushed through most of World 2 right after it's release, but immediately got distracted by ilomilo and A World For Keflings upon their releases, both worthy games (and beaten games), so I went back and kicked this games ass so I could play as Mr. Dtoid. It was worth it. The platforming puzzle genre could use some more games like this and I really hope that HalfBrick makes more stuff like this and less stuff like their PSP Minis (which weren't this good).


Solitaire (Vegas, 3-card draw)
I had never fully beaten a game of Vegas Solitaire on my laptop. In fact, my stats were insanely depressing to look at... so I deleted them, granting myself a fresh start, and after a few days of playing everytime I had the TV on, I was victorious. And then I was victorious again!!! AND AGAIN!!! ...and since that third victory I haven't come close. In fact, I've mostly just been watching as my stats fall off the face of the earth again. It was good while it lasted though.


Homefront
Against my better judgment (and my empty wallet's protests), I picked this up when WalMart was selling it for $40 the weekend after it released. It was pretty fun while it lasted, but the story feels like the first quarter of what the full game should have been. And since I'm not super into online stuff, I started a playthrough on the hardest difficulty to get some achievements and milk the game for more time, but was very disappointed at how cheap it felt. That'll teach me to ignore review scores, lol.


Dead Nation
I don't remember why I picked this up, but I think it was on sale and I'd been drinking. It was a sound decision though. There really isn't much to the game, but it's a fun take on the zombie/apocalypse genre. Instead of being in the first or third person modes as zombies rush you, the view is from above and those bastard zombies are coming from everywhere at just about all times and you're just spinning around in a dark, fearful panic trying to kill them before they get you. I had a blast with it, even though it's pretty shallow and was feeling a bit played out by the last levels.


Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 1
My save file for this game was from 2008, right after it released on the PSN. That feels like forever ago. But instead of restarting, I just read up on what happened up to my point and then pushed forward. I can say without hesitation that it is one of the funniest games I've played and was well worth going back to. I'm definitely gonna play the sequel (which I also own for some reason) next chance I get... maybe for my next break?


Resistance: Fall of Man
Bought this and GTA4 when I first got my PS3 in the summer of 2008, and I hadn't even unwrapped the poor, ignored thing. That alone kinda threw me for a loop, so I ripped the packaging from it, threw that sexy bluray disc in the PS3 and then for the next day and a half couldn't get over just how good it was for a release day FPS. Not only was it was about 5 times as long as Homefront but the game felt just as solid (if not better). What a shock. Guess I need to play the sequel sometime (which I don't currently own...).


Angry Birds Seasons: Go Green, Get Lucky
This is kind of a cheat bc of how short it is, but I downloaded and completely played this new addition to Seasons from start to finish, getting 2 and 3 stars on pretty much everything. I also finished a ton of other Angry Birds levels I had been stuck on, so I felt like it was worth adding. When I wasn't eating, on the consoles, or asleep, I was playing this (I didn't stop gaming for the whole break, lol). Plus, who hasn't spent a ton of time with Angry Birds?! It's a game. It's worth adding to the list.


Red Dead Redemption
Picked this up on its release day last May, played a bunch of it before I moved back to Kansas City that June, and then just never picked up where I left off once the dust settled from my move (I blame job hunting and family vacations for that). I was in the middle of the Mexico missions, so it didn't take a ton of time to finish up the story, but I've got a lot of cleaning up to do. I'll definitely be going back to this one. Even if I don't get to play as the baddest badass in the west...


Hydrophobia
It was on sale. It was controversial. I was intrigued. And in the end, it wasn't that great. It showed some potential in spots, but if they manage to get some other episodes made, they have a lot of work to do to make them worth buying. Or at least a lot of work to do to convince me to buy them. Maybe someone thought it was worth their two hours. I did not.


Banjo-Kazooie
I've beaten it on the N64 more than once, but having it unfinished on XBLA just didn't feel right, so I returned to my N64 roots and rocked the shit out of that ugly witch. But, when you think about it, wouldn't you rather have a super hot witch around than a puny, annoying little sister? If I were Banjo/Kazooie, I think I'd let her keep my sis as long as I got a girlfriend out of it. Or some sweet magical powers at least...

And with that, my list comes to an end. If that doesnít count for a successful Spring Break, I honestly donít know what does. Now, just another hundred or so unplayed/unbeaten games to go and Iíll be caught up with my backlog! Wish me luckÖ   read


3:20 PM on 12.17.2010

Failure to Move

After gathering all my birthday money, I decided it was time to get a Playstation Move. Since I already own the the PS Eye, the only thing I needed was the glowing, vibrating, bulbous controller, so I went down the street to the local GameStop with $50 set aside for just that. The only kink in my plan was that I hadnít decided what game to buy with it.

So, upon walking through their doors I quickly weaved through customers and racks of holiday sales to the PS3 section in the back of the store where I scouted out games with the blue "Move Compatible" stickers on them. Sports Champions was bundled with the $100 pack I didnít need, and was the obvious pick since its a demo of different things you can do with the controllerÖ but I already have WiiSports and itís Plussed counterpart, so I really didnít want to spend more money on sports stuff (especially since I donít care for sports in the first place). There were several games with motion controls recently tacked on, but I owned several of them and couldnít imagine the experience being any better than a traditional controller. And there were a few casual games that lookedÖ mediocre... at best. And thatís where my purchase came to a grinding hault.

There wasnít a single game that demanded my purchase of the Move. Here it is, almost three months after the devices launch, and right in the prime Holiday buying season, and Sony has practically left their new motion controller to die among first party Wii titles and the super hyped launch of Microsoft's Kinect (which also has nothing I'm interested in playing and which I refuse to spend money on).

So, instead of wasting my money on a glowing, vibrating motion controller that would sit ignored and collecting dust under my TV, I picked up three used GameCube games for $15 and went home to put them in my Wii, where I wouldnít even use itís motion controls to play them.

This isn't to say that I want to see the Move and Kinect fail, because I'd love to see them do well. After all, it's always in our best interest to see systems/games/peripherals succeed; the better they are/do, the more fun we have and the more money developers and publishers have to make more great stuff. But when you put out a new peripheral that can't even compete with games from a last-gen system three months after its launch (and during the holiday buzz), you might have pushed it out the door a little early.

(If you know of good Move games, please let me know in the comments. I'm still itching to pick one up for some reason. Maybe I hate money?)   read


10:10 PM on 11.29.2010

Super Meat Boy PC Countdown

As everyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook already knows, Iím in love with Super Meat Boy. Since it hit XBLA in late October, Iíve logged some 50 hours in my quest to beat every level, grab every bandage, and unlock every character. Sure, I may have developed an ulcer (which Iím calling Dr. Fetus), but it was a ton of fun and constantly left me wanting moreÖ even after I decided to call it quits.

But when I placed my preorder for the PC version on Steam, instead of jumping back into the XBLA version to pass the time, I decided to look up the games from which SMB's unlockable characters are actually from and play the hell out of them until November 30th finally gets here. Each day I picked a game, read up on it some, played and recorded a 5 minutes clip, and did a short post about it. And, since it's almost the 30th, and the countdown is thus over, I decided to share them with you wonderful people at Dtoid.

Day 1: Mighty Jill Off

[embed]188658:34454[/embed]

So, Mighty Jill OffÖ what a fantastic game. Iím sure some of my indie friends tried to share a link with me at some point or another and I put it off until I completely forgot, but damn do I wish Iíd have played it before now.

If you didnít watch the video, itís a massacre platformer where you take control of Jill, a perverted fiend of a hero, who is kicked out of the Queenís castle for licking her boots and must race back to the top toÖ wellÖ probably lick her boots again. She seems like the kinda person that pushes that border, just begging for punishment; and Iím not just saying that because sheís in S&M gear either! (yes I am)

Day 2: Jumper!

[embed]188658:34456[/embed]

If you havenít played something by Matt Thorson, youíre probably just confused. Everyone has played something by MattÖ maybe you just didnít know it at the time. But thatís alright, because you can click on his name and see all the wonderful games heís made (which you can play for free!) and then youíll not only be informed, but youíll be a better person too.

Today, Iím playing Jumper! because Ogmo, the main character, is featured in Super Meat Boy and just happens to be one of my favorite unlockable characters. Watch the video for more info, and definitely check out all the Jumper! games (there are 3 of them, a redux of the first game, and a fourth one on the way) over on his site. You wonít be disappointed.

Day 3: Flywrench

[embed]188658:34457[/embed]

The games that SMB borrowed characters from arenít easyÖ but Flywrench can be downright evil. You play as a mechanical bird-ship-thing that has encountered a malfunction and must be piloted through space manually. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

You canít touch the walls/floors/ceilings unless you are holding the down button to bounce or roll or whatever it is doing. To stay in the air and gain momentum, you must press up, which turns you red and flaps the wings. And to go through the forcefields, you have to match their color (red is up, green is down, white isÖ the rest). At times, I really thought that the developer, Messhof, just hated the world and this is his ďfuck youĒ letter.

But itís fun, addicting, and the simple mechanics help you get through the challenging gameplay. Definitely check it outÖ itíll help to prepare you for the rage/frustration that SMB will smash you with on the 30th.

Day 4: VVVVVV

[embed]188658:34458[/embed]

When the guys at Team Meat announced that Captain Veridian would be an unlockable character for the SMB PC release, I about peeíd my pantsÖ not only because VVVVVV is one of my favorite games of 2010, but because I canít wait to see how he plays in the SMB levels. However, knowing that he's only unlocked after you collect all 100 bandages might mean I'll have to wait a while to find out myself.

As for VVVVVV itself, itís a must play. The music, the atmosphere, the simplicity of the gameplay coupled with the awesome level designÖ it comes together to make something truly amazing. Something that really has to be experienced. So go play it.

Day 5: Machinarium

[embed]188658:34459[/embed]

Although I like the idea of games focusing on adventures (Iím a Flapjack fan, after all), I havenít had the chance to play many. However, [url=http://machinarium.net]Machinarium[/iurl] is one that a friend showed me soon after itís launch last year and in an attempt to stay cool, I bought it and let it devour my life for quite a while.

In it, you take control of a funny little robot named Josef who has just been dropped off at a trash pile. After putting him back together you head back towards the city to make your way back in, do some uncovering of mysteries, solving of puzzles/problems, and eventually you save your cute little robo-girlfriend. D'awwwwww!

Day 6: Runman

[embed]188658:34460[/embed]

In RunMan: Race Around The World, pretty much all you do is run, jump, blast through enemies, and escape from bosses. Itís simple. Itís beautiful. And the old timey folk music only adds to the awesomeness of the gameÖ and this is coming from a dude who hates most folk music.

If you havenít already clicked the link, do so now. Download this game and play it until you win everything forever. Itís fun to play with a keyboard, but I find it more fitting to make fullscreen,lean back in my chair, plug in a 360 controller, and then jam on it like I would Super Meat Boy. But, to each his/her ownÖ

Day 7: SUPER MEAT BOY!!!

A few hours after posting this, the game will be out and PC gamers everywhere will be yelling at their screens and wanting to throw keyboards at the closest wall. And since I obviously I didn't get through all of the unlockable characters games in just 6 days, the following list links to the other games which weren't played in this countdown...

The Kid (I Wanna Be The Guy)
Headcrab (Half-Life series)
Goo Ball (World of Goo)
Naija (Aquaria)

Thanks for joining me on this meaty journey and hopefully you'll take some time to check out these awesome indie games for yourselves sometime. Just remember, if you like them and have the cash, click the donate button on their pages to help them out. They gave you awesome game love without any strings attatched, so why not toss them some awesome money love in return.   read


3:26 AM on 11.16.2010

Super? More Like Stupid Mario Bros.

After something like 13 games, youíd think that Mario would learn to start his quest in world eight. I mean, just think about itÖ when you lose something on a regular basis, donít you start looking in the places youíve found it before?

My keys have never ended up in the fridge, theyíve never stumbled their way into the back of my toilet, and theyíve certainly never been in the old VCR that we only use to watch Dead Man On Campus once a year. They have, however, found their way into my dirty clothes pile/bin, in between and under couch cushions, and even inside my pillow case (I was really drunk that night). So, when I canít find the jingly bastards, I donít check the former oneís until the latter ones have been thoroughly scoured, thus saving myself time and effort.

So, it would make a lot more sense if when the Princess goes missing, Mario would just take a shortcut to the dark, lava filled areaís of the Mushroom Kingdom. I mean, heís gotta have a tube that gets there without all the detours. I would have built one of those the second I got back from the first or second kidnapping ordeal. That way, Iíd only have to visit the other castles once Iíd been to the one Peach has been in before.

And since I know Nintendo is reading this right now, I think we can all expect a huge change in the layout of the next Mario game. In fact, I fully expect to start at world eight, defeating Bowser right off the bat, and then having to work my way backwards, before finding her giggling under the royal bed with a slice of cake next to her, just waiting for my fat, Italian ass to find her.

But if that isnít what happens, then, wellÖ I guess Iíll just have to play it anyway. They may be the same old games over and over again, but one of these days, weíve gotta find out why her name is Peach and what her weird obsession with cake is all about. And since Iím pretty damn sure theyíre both sexual, you know Iím not gonna miss out on that sweet cutscene.   read


4:03 AM on 12.23.2009

Think Before You Type

I joined this site because, unlike most of the blogs about games and the gaming industry, the staff and most of the community on Dtoid doesn't take themselves as seriously; choosing instead to use humor and satire to make points that would otherwise make for somewhat dull articles. But it seems like the more popular/hated Dtoid gets, the dumber the bulk of comments become (on the main site, at least).

The most recent article whose comment section infuriated me, was one by Rev. Anthony Burch about Avatar not changing anything for gamers. The sheer lack of critical thought by most of the commenter's was just mind-numbing (I'm used to that sort of crap on posts by the ever-hilarious Jim Sterling, who encourages it by replying to his detractors, but generally expect more thoughtful responses to more serious posts). But whether they were agreeing with Anthony or calling him an idiot, there was just so little real discussion going on that by the end of skimming all 183 comments I felt like I was back in middle school, arguing about whether Limp Bizkit was better or worse than ICP. I decided to leave a comment, against my better judgment, but felt like it would work as a cblog with just a little work. So let's break down the logic of how that article deserves to be on a game site, and why Anthony Burch was the perfect person to have written it.



To start with, lets have a very basic lesson in logic: when making a logical argument you must work within certain bounds and avoid all assumptions. A classic example of a logical argument is as follows:

A) Socrates is a man,
B) All men are mortal, therefore:
C) Socrates is mortal.

In that example we have tried to assume nothing. We started by acknowledging that Socrates, if he was indeed real, was a man, based on all accounts we have of him. As history has proven over and over again, all men are mortal (with certain exceptions based on your belief system, but then we can argue whether they were men or divine entities), and therefore, if Socrates is a man, and all men are mortal, it follows that he is mortal as well. (Sure we could have just said he was mortal since he's been dead for thousands of years, but that's not a sound argument.)

Now, let's apply that lesson to the argument for Avatar being revolutionary:

A) if the games/game-makers is to aspire to be like popular/successful movies, and
B) Avatar is not only popular/successful, but changes movies forever, then:
C) Avatar will change videogames/game-makers forever, as well.

Obviously it will take some time to see if anything Avatar did will actually become a trend among movie makers... but the point of Anthony's article is that Avatar's "revolutions" have no real basis for effecting the gaming industry because they already employ many of the technologies and have a stronger focus on immersion since we are playing as characters in games, making us part of that world and experience; watching a movie, even one as expensive as Avatar, still leaves us as an outside observer, unable to interact with that world, move at our own place, or act as we want.

The issue, then, is that the logical Avatar argument doesn't seem to work. And when that happens, you don't just throw the whole thing out, but examine each part, looking for where the flaw is and evaluating whether it's salvageable or not. So, let's start with the first line: do games/game-makers really aspire to make their games more like movies? If you are to believe quotes by many game-makers of the past decade, then yes, its true. Obviously there are exceptions, but its a hard fact to ignore when you look at many huge games today (eg: Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, Halo). So it would seem that our first proposition is fairly sound.

As already stated above, the second proposition can't really be tested as of yet (but it does seem to be pretty popular already); yet how the third proposition works can directly effect the ones coming before it. So, that question is: how would/should Avatar effect games and their makers? Although I haven't seen it, the plot sounds very typical and I have only heard about how good it looks and how immersive it is (games look good and, as stated above, are infinitely more immersive). And, since the big hype about the movie has been its technology, much of which is already used in the gaming industry on a regular basis, it seems more likely that games effected Avatar more than Avatar will effect games.

And therein lies the real crux of the article, the argument, and most readers misunderstanding: if Avatar learned it's "revolutionary" trickery from games, and the rest of it is mediocre, how do games learn anything Avatar? And on a larger scale: can movies apply things they learned from videogames in a way that is successful, or are some things better left to games and others to movies? And maybe on the largest scale: if movies start trying to be like games, and games are trying to be more like movies, what the hell is the result going to be!?

They are questions I won't pretend to have real answers for. But if you want my opinion, I think that the game and movie industries should focus on doing their own thing and not try to copy their media brethren too heavily. They're attempts to be more like other industries just ends up watering down their own efforts as a game... if you want to make movies, make movies not games that wish they were movies.

And as for why Anthony was the perfect person to write that article? Well, maybe it's because he works for a game blog and a movie site. Duh.   read


8:12 AM on 11.23.2009

New Mario, Same Nintendo

One of my most anticipated releases of the holiday season was New Super Mario Bros Wii. Not just because the DS title was amazing, and this basically looks like a Wii upgrade of that game, or the fact that I've been actively looking for an excuse to dust off my Nintendo console to no avail, but because my brother and I had grand plans to rock the shit out of this game on coop. There's only one problem... he doesn't live near me and it doesn't support online play... at all. No online coop. No online versus. No online leaderboards. No online chat. Nothing. Sure, it's an amazing game and I don't regret spending the money on it (yet), but I feel like I didn't get the full product, like its incomplete in someway, like I was lied to by the corporate bastards pushing coop gameplay in my face and never explicitely saying I had to have real-world friends that are willing to put on pants and come over.

I paid the same amount for Borderlands, which boasted coop gameplay and has online content as well, and I've wasted every weekend since I got it playing with friends online. Now, sure, I can play it by myself, but doing so with friends, or even against friends, is way more fun. And the best part is I don't have to be dressed and neither do they cause we're in different parts of the damn country. What I mean to say is that I've got 3 coop missions going with different groups and have spent, and will spend, hours and hours playing this game. Once I finish NSMB by myself, its pretty red box will sit on my shelf among its dusty white friends, and will soon be forgotten like all the others.



I don't really mean to write just another Nintendo bashing post (of which there are too many on the web), but I really feel like this title illustrates how stuck in the past Nintendo truly is and that pisses me off because I come from such strong Nintendo fanboy roots. Hell, except for a PS2 which died a couple of months after I got it at launch, I never had a console or handheld that didn't have the BigN's logo on it until 2007. So I hope you understand I love Nintendo and really want them to do well and keep making games, but it's getting to the point where I don't think they even comprehend the benefits that they, and their publishers/developers, are missing out on by not supporting online play and a more active marketplace. Lets just take a look at some of this generations numbers to see if they support this line of thought at all.

Nintendo's Wii has sold around 56million units, which is close to twice as many units as the PS3 or the 360 (both around 30 million), and with their main focus being on the casual crowd, most of their top selling games reflect that focus. Of the Wii's best selling videogames, only a handful have any online support (SSBB, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, rhythm games). However, of the best selling PS3 and 360 games, all have some sort of online features (whether it be coop, versus, or DLC). That alone isn't surprise since they both put such an emphasis on the community features. But the sales figures for some of the top games really are quite jawdropping.

Super Smash Bros Brawl, one of this generations best "hardcore" Wii games from Nintendo has only sold around 8.79 million units. Not only is that just barely 16% of the install base, but it's less than Halo 3 (10.33 million) and not that much more than MGS4 (4.31 million) or Gears of War (5.92 for the original, 5.31 million for the sequel). Even Super Mario Galaxy (8.2 million), the savior of the 3D Mario franchise, has fallen upon a similar fate (and don't even get me started on the sequel, which shouldn't be anything more than downloadable missions and map packs). Sure, there is MarioKart Wii (18.24 million) which has sold well to casual and hardcore markets alike, and gained quite a boost from the new WiiWheel peripheral I'm sure... but when compared to multi-console titles like GTA4 or COD:MW (both around 13 million) it isn't so impressive because, although it's still a difference of 5million units, the latter have paid DLC, communities that are still very active, and sequels that are sure to sell as well (if not better) than these installments (points to MW2's record setting release).



What I'm trying to say/show here isn't how awful Nintendo is or how they've doomed themselves to fail, but to make obvious three related points: first, that although the PS3 and the 360 share the same market, that they are matching or beating most of the Wii's sale numbers with a substantially smaller install base. Second, that this isn't because people with a 360 or PS3 have more money to waste, it's because the games on these two systems give users more of a reason to play and are aimed at the larger gaming audience. And third, that the bulk of users buying games for the Wii own another console which they probably use much more frequently because they offer titles to the "hardcore" market whereas Nintendo isn't. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, StarFox, and Kirby might have been the "hardcore" titles in their own time, but they are the new middle ground, having been replaced by Halo, MGS, GTA, COD, Fallout, and their brethren.

With their dynamic online communities, much better marketplaces, and reliance on DLC to help push games longevity to a new level, Microsoft and Sony have pushed gaming into a new era that necessitates a different focus and a different business model. Nintendo cannot rely on gimmicky controls, new peripherals, and a casual gaming market forever, because as soon as the Wii is old news and there's a new console on the block, the number of people willing to drop another $250 on another toy they barely use won't be nearly as big as it was this time around (after all, they'll still have their dusty Wii sitting under the TV). Eventually, the casual market Nintendo is milking with the Wii and DS will either move on and forget about gaming, or they will "grow up" and demand a more involving experience. Without offering something to appease these growing gamers during this console generation, Nintendo will once again become nothing more than the gateway drug and guilty pleasure of this next generation of hardcore gamers.



All it would take for Nintendo to start making some forward progress is to abandon their retarded friendcode system, incorporate some sort of online component into more of their games, utilize WiiSpeak in all online games, offer downloadable content via their marketplace (the SD card support they already expanded upon should be more than enough to support this), and some sort of trophy/achievement system wouldn't hurt. I honestly want to be a fanboy again Nintendo, but you're making me so hard to even justify owning your current console. How about throwing your longtime, loyal fans a bone. I promise it won't hurt your sales. Scouts honor.   read


11:47 AM on 09.13.2009

Real Triggers for PS3

With a price cut, a new Slim model, a 250gb system on the near horizon, and a completely free to use Playstation Network, it's getting hard to nitpick about the PS3. But, if there is one almost completely universal complaint about the Playstation 3, it lies in the Dualshock 3 and its recessed L2 and R2 trigger buttons. And with more and more people experiencing the joys of the slippery, recessed triggers that Sony refuses to change, there are sure to be even more people that are frustrated about their refusal to make them like actual trigger buttons... But I am here to tell you: there is hope! And it isn't in an entirely separate controller, but in two little pieces of plastic known as Real Triggers.



Gioteck Real Triggers for PS3
Company: Gioteck
MSRP: $4.99

At the time of buying my PS3, the trigger attachments were around $10, came with a piece of metal that wrapped around the controller to bulk up the original Sixaxis (the vibrationless controller the system debuted with), and I couldn't imagine spending extra cash just to make my brand new, perfectly functioning Dualshock3 controller a bit easier to hold. And even though I got used to the recessed triggers without much hassle, when I finally got an Xbox 360, the control scheme ended up being a pretty big factor in what version of a game I dropped cash on.

For those who still don't have a PS3 and haven't had much time with one, I'll break it down a bit: the PS2's triggers weren't such a big deal because the Dualshock 2 didn't have it's trigger buttons hanging off into open space like the DS3; instead, its plastic molding went out just beyond them, keeping them at an equal slant as the L1 and R1 buttons and thus keeping them more like buttons than the trigger shaped shoulder buttons on the Xbox. And with the 360, Microsoft took it a step further and made their triggers even more comfortable to use than before, whereas Sony went in the other direction, making them stupider and harder to use. I assumed that the Dualshock3 would change that, since it was already adding vibration, but they didn't fix the problem then. And when I heard about the Slim, I hoped that maybe this would be a good time for them to rectify their stupid mistake... but there has been no sign of relief. So, when I noticed that the RealTriggers were just under $5 and lacked the metal wrap-around, I decided that, for the sake of science, I would go ahead and splurge on something I was pretty sure wouldn't make that big of a difference.



But, I have to admit, they make a huge difference. Not only is it easier to press the triggers in, but it takes less effort and there is no slipping at all. The plastic molding has the exact same feel as the original triggers and the shoulder buttons, so it doesn't feel foreign at all, and if it weren't for a slight overhang on the sides of the trigger, these would almost be completely unnoticeable to someone who wasn't looking for them. Within my first weekend of using them (to beat Arkham Asylum), I had already gone back to buy a second set of them for my extra controller.

The installation is insanely simple. You just open the box, take them out of the plastic baggy they're in, hold onto the trigger, and snap them down over them... and that's it. If you ever need to take them off, you just hold the trigger's at their base, and pull the attachments back off. It doesn't seem to damage the controller in the least, it doesn't harm the RealTriggers, and you can always snap them back on in a jiffy.



Some of you might be wondering why you should pay $5 for a fix that Sony should have admitted with the original Sixaxis and corrected with the DS3... and you are right to question that. This problem should have been fixed a long time ago, but Sony is too stubborn to admit it's mistake and so it is the consumer who loses an extra Lincoln, not them. And for those of you who have opted for third party controllers, I'm sure you're happy with them... but, since you probably still have that controller that came with your system, it might be worth the $5 to make it a little more friendly on the hands of friends or whoever might be using it. After all, the Sony controllers not only use bluetooth (rather than some that opt for a usb dongle), but the battery is rechargeable via any USB port, they're light as could be, everyone has at least the one that came with the system, and the familiarity of the dualshock in the hands at least takes me back to my first romps with the PSone at a friends house in the mid-90s.

If you're curious if these Trigger attachments really are that simple, work that well, or just like getting other opinions from the community, you can check out the other awesome cblogs written by Corak and Xiofire about these very same attachments. And although I don't really like pitching unneeded attachments to friends and fellow gamers, I really mean it when I say: these were worth the money.

  read


4:03 PM on 08.21.2009

Feel Good Hit Of The Summer (Of Arcade)

The first XBLA Summer of Arcade wasn't just hot, it was on fire. With titles like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, Braid, Bionic Commando Rearmed, Galaga Legions, and Castle Crashers, I really couldn't imagine it getting much better. In fact, at the time of the first Summer of Arcade, I didn't even have a 360. Sure, I was able to get BC: Rearmed on the PSN, but the others, and the rest of the exclusives to the XBLA, are what got me interested in the system more than anything else.



And since I got a 360 later that year, and have picked up a pretty good amount of XBLA titles (all of which I've enjoyed), I was looking forward to another powerhouse lineup for this years Summer of Arcade for me to blow my money on. But when they released the list, the only title I really found myself excited about was TMNT: Turtles In Time Reshelled... and that was more due to my memories of playing that game at elementary school skate nights while ignoring the girls and wasting whatever money I could get out of my parents. (Which actually sounds quite a bit like high school... and even college... minus the skating. Unless you count one incident where I bought rollerblades and went to all my classes in them until I snapped a wheel off trying to jump a bench.)

When I found out that 'Splosion Man was from Twisted Pixel (who did The Maw, which is one of the best 3D platformers I've played since the N64/PSone), I bought it on release day and have been very glad that I did. But I've never been great at fighting games, in fact I think the appropriate phrasing would be: I completely suck at fighting games. I still haven't read up on Shadow Complex, outside of what I saw from E3, and that didn't really impress me. And aside from Burnout Paradise, I've never gotten into racing games, despite numerous tries; and I've never messed with the Trials flash games, so why get an HD version you have to pay for? So I figured I would just hope for something better from next years Summer of Arcade, and just buy the two titles I had any sort of interest in.



But, seeing the overwhelmingly positive review/response to Trials HD on Dtoid, I decided I'd give it a try... and I'm stoked that I did. It's not a racing game at all! It's a fast paced platformer with a level editor and customizable bikes/riders. Honestly, after some time with the game, it feels like something that honestly belongs as a part of Sony's "Play, Create, Share" initiative/genre. Like LBP, the levels are fun, fairly short, and creative. Like what I imagine ModNation Racers will be from demos and videos, its fast paced and easy to control. And like both of them, it has a level editor and a marketplace of sorts to download new ones from other users and hopefully more from the developers as well.

One of the things which I love about platformers is how frustrating they can be, but how addictive they still are... and when done well, there is a certain level of frustration and repitition needed to complete a level, challenge, or world. In most genres, however, that same "frustration motivation" seems to be higher and much more explosive within me... so, I often find myself putting down the remote so I don't put it through my TV, instead. Trials HD manages to walk that fine line of being challenging to the level of anger, yet still fun to play, like a rockstar. Even though it's frustrating, it's still fun to watch the crash. And even when you get stuck, you can easily jump to the last checkpoint or to the levels beginning... no pause menu or navigation required. Hell, with the controls being as simple as they are, you quickly find out you can pull some pretty sweet stunts with ease; and when you mess up a huge landing, it's almost worth starting the level over just to see the crash and get a sick laugh.

It's honestly a ton of fun, and once you hit the medium and hard levels, it goes from pure fun to extreme frustration... until you get the controls down with the new bikes, then it's back to fun again. That learning curve is something that steadily increases, making earlier levels easier, yet still fun to play with new bikes (each one needing a different strategy and control style per level). I've had it for a week now, and, although I haven't played it as much as I would like, I've had a great time with it.



If you're on a budget and don't want to spend $70 to get all the Summer of Arcade titles, just to get $10 back sometime this fall, I'd recommend Trials HD above all the others I've played so far. And, in case you decide to be a big spender, my second place award would probably go to 'Splosion Man.   read


8:57 PM on 08.01.2009

Rearmed: Revamped & Replayed

As a kid, there was one NES game that I completely sucked at but loved to play nonetheless: Bionic Commando. Sure, I had most of the other classic NES games (Mario 1-3, Zelda, Rad Racer, Duck Hunt, Contra), but the controls for Bionic Commando were just so fun to play with, that even though I couldn't make it past the first few levels, I always enjoyed what I could do. And up until this recent generation of consoles, I used to bust out the NES while at home over the holidays and play some of those classics from my childhood. So, when I heard about Rearmed and the 3D sequel, I got pretty amped up. Just knowing that for just a few bucks I would be getting HD graphics, retooled music/levels, challenge rooms, twoplayer co-op, and a chance to actually save my progress excited the hell out of me, because with as many hours as I have put into the NES version of the game, I still haven't beaten it. Since I didn't have a 360 at the time, I got it for the PS3 and didn't think twice about the lack of trophies since they were so new to the system. I bought it the day it was released (after checking the PS Store about 20 times throughout the afternoon for their update), played through it to completion once or twice in the days that followed, and didn't really think about replaying the whole thing again until I heard trophy support had just been added. But, with that patch came some side-effects which some might say ruin the retro experience... they made the game easier.



But is that really a mixed bag? Does it make PS3 owners girlymen? I don't think so. I beat the game on medium without much effort last summer, completed all the challenge rooms (getting at least 3 stars on them all), and had replayed most if not all of it on Hard just for the hell of it. So the decision to delete or move my data off the PS3 was one I wasn't looking forward to; but knowing that I'd have unlimited lives on the medium playthrough reassured me that it wouldn't be a hellacious journey through frustration, bouts of anger, and a sickening self-loathing. Of course, this does mean that there will be many players who either didn't beat it because it was too hard (which I can't imagine, because Easy was insanely simple) or haven't bought it until after the update... and that is sort of a shame, but playing it on the hard difficulty really brings the "retro challenge" to the plate in the same sense that MegaMan 9 did, so it's still there for those who want it.

This did bring to light an issue over what we expect from a retro title, however. Should it really have to recapture all of that anger and frustration, where, you can't play the game for more than a few minutes before wanting to break your controller, TV, or someone's arm/face/body? Is there something essentially wrong with updating a classic title and making it so more people can not only stand a chance at finishing it, but enjoy the experience as well? MegaMan 9 caught a lot of flack from some gamers for being harder than the original 8-bit MegaMan games, yet won over a lot of other gamers who were trained on that repeat and slowly learn the level/movements sort of gaming. The original release of Rearmed was the same way (but with difficulty levels so you could crank up/down the difficulty if needed).



So, does this patch really take away the Bionic Commando experience just because you don't have to constantly watch how many lives you have left or restart a level when they're gone? You still die as often as you would have before the update; and that is frustrating in and of itself. The enemies seem to be just as hard/medium/easy as they were before. Challenge room difficulties are exactly the same. And except for limiting the effect of hitting a wall while swinging (on the lower two difficulties), the game feels pretty much the same. All the patch really did was save us from breaking a Dualshock3 by eliminating the need to restart the level after you run out of lives; which is probably a good thing, because I still haven't finished MegaMan 9 thanks to an uncontrollable rage that about gave me a brain aneurysm last time I played it.

As much as I love the new "retro" games, I'd much rather finish a game on a slightly easier setting than leave it unfinished forever because it's too damn frustrating. Maybe that's my completionist/perfectionist nature showing through, or maybe its because I just have a limited attention span and lack of patience. Hell, maybe its just the fact that I'd much rather play something that I enjoy as opposed to something that irritates me to a peak of insatiable rage. Does that mean I'm not a retro gamer, even though I play and enjoy retro games? Hell, I dunno... maybe it does.   read


1:54 AM on 06.11.2009

Don't Call It A Rehash

E3 was pretty amazing this year (at least in comparison to the last few). Nintendo did much better than their flop of a show in 2008; mostly thanks to Mario steppin' up to the plate in three different titles, the MotionPlus thingy that is supposed to fix all the shittiness of the Wiimotes, and Team Ninja's Metroid project. Sony had a strong showing with probably the most badass lineup of exclusive titles, a sexy new version of the PSP, some PSN love, and more "proof" that the PS3 is really just getting some steam built up before it takes off (as the other systems age and can't keep up). And Microsoft did well, as usual, by pushing LIVE even further into our real lives (with facebook and twitter on the 360, why do I need a PC anymore?), revealing some cool games, and by announcing a MGS title for it's console (even though it's not a Kojima led effort, they'll take whatever they can get). But the biggest news, which most gamers saw coming since 2006, was all about the motion control tech which Sony and Microsoft showed off.



I was fairly impressed with both, but, as one of the hardcore gamers, Sony's solution to the Wii's inaccuracy and general lack of realism seems much more impressive than Microsoft's full body, controller-less technology. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for innovation, revolutions even, but what I'm not really down with rehashing old ideas using newer/better technology and blatantly ignoring how badly it has failed in the past... which is exactly what Microsoft did with Natal. They took a few different technologies which we've seen before, threw them together in tech demo form for their console, and showed it off to create some hype and "win" this years E3.

Does no one remember that shitty game Totemball that used the 360's camera? It was/is a free title on XBLA, and what you basically do is control a ball with your hands. While rolling around, the ball picks up new pieces of a totem thing that are balanced on top of the ball as you also try to complete little puzzles and get through different levels. In other words, it was a shitty rip off of Katamari Damacy that used these fancy new controls Microsoft was hoping would be "revolutionary" enough to appease the hoards of people wanting to get in on the Wii fad. The only reason I played it as long as I did was for a few achievements when I first got my 360, and since then, it hasn't been touched. Considering that most people I've talked to about it either don't remember it, have never heard of it, or hated it, I'd say that it failed pretty miserably. And furthermore, since no one else followed in their footsteps, I think Microsoft (and just about everyone else) agrees that it was a failed effort.



If that isn't a good enough reason to question this new technology, how about those 3D, virtual reality games that amusement parks have. You get in there, box/fight for a while, and leave after a few minutes feeling stupid, sore, and unfulfilled. The problem with motionless tech is this: we want to touch something. Whether it is a controller acting as a skateboard, tennis racket, or golf club, it's nice to have something real there to help us out. And who doesn't get a sort of sick satisfaction from the feedback of a body, drum, or punching bag as our hands slam into something. And aren't the arcade games where you get to hold the real looking guns way cooler to play than the ones with joysticks and buttons? So, from whence did the idea of controllerless technology come from and who ever made it seem like an appealing idea?

To expand on their demo, and question the next faucet of it... who has ever had a great, satisfying experience with those speech and facial recognition programs? I've got them on my laptop, and every time I try to use one or the other to log in, type, or do pretty much anything, I have to try several times to do anything with them. You either can't get the right light, cut down on enough background noise, or get your facial expression or voice inflection just right for it to work like it's supposed to. So, if it won't work on my new gaming laptop, which is more powerful than the 360, how well will it translate to the living room experience? Sure, it won't be moving around, so hopefully the lighting differences and background noise won't vary too terribly much. But if it is the non-gamer audience that they are targeting, after just a few frustrating run-ins with Natal, they will give up. They don't have the patience to stick with it, they don't have a reason to keep trying if it's frustrating, and they won't try again after each firmware update.

And what about the hardcore gamers? You know, the people that this gaming market has been built upon and who buy all the new games, gadgets, and updates as they come out (often at full price, and sometimes through insanely long lines and frustrating setup times). We're the ones who have figured out a way to bowl from the comfort of our favorite recliner, golf while slouched in bed, and play tennis while hunched over in a computer chair. Does Microsoft think that their controllerless technology will inspire us to stand up and move around the living room to play "football?" Or skate on a non-existent skateboard? Or smack balls into a wall with our body? Sure, it's fun to show off on Late Night TV and get people excited about buying and playing with it... but do we really want our game company's focused on who can create the next dusty Monopoly game that sits in a closet until enough of our bored friends come over wanting to kill time?



I don't know... maybe I'm just a skeptical asshole, but watching Jimmy Fallon and the demo team suck at the games on live TV just didn't inspire me to want to drop however much money it will cost so I can wave my hands around to use the menu, talk to my Xbox to turn it on or off, or use my body to make my players move. As far as I'm concerned, being able to do all that while relaxing from the comfort of my couch and only moving my thumbs and a few fingers is a much bigger accomplishment. Hell, even a revolution... Especially if I could just use a DualShock3 to get the rest of my work done for the night.   read


8:15 AM on 05.22.2009

(The Console) War Never Changes


A recent Penny Arcade sent me spiraling into a state of reminiscence before I had even finished the strip or read the associated blogs. I'm pretty sure I don't miss the diehard dedication and elitism of those days, but the sense of nostalgia stemming from those heated issues brings back some priceless memories.

Although I wasn't drafted in the great war between Sega and Nintendo in the early 90's, due to my parents refusal to buy a Super Nintendo (I had the NES already, and they couldn't tell the difference), I was a fairly active part of the Nintendo and Sony conflict of the mid to late 90's. My brother and I received an N64 for Christmas the year it was released and, because of our age, it would have taken us far too long to save up for a Playstation, Saturn/Genesis, or anything else. And even if we had, it would mean that we wouldn't have more than a handful of games for any of the systems. Since we'd grown up with Nintendo's classic first-party games, that was just unimaginable; we had to have each of the big first-party releases. So, we stuck to our guns and backed Nintendo.

In those days, we only had a dial-up internet connection, and without the resources online to filter and review games as they were released, all we had to judge what was worth dropping our precious coins on was Nintendo Power, a few cheat code sites (which would occasionally post reviews/scores), and our group of Nintendo loving friends. I've always assumed that these console wars were fueled by a lack of information more than anything else. Sure, everyone feels a sense of dedication to whatever system you have spent the money on, but it doesn't escalate today like it did then. We still have diehard fanboys/fangirls of the current systems who flame each other, post stupid blogs, and piss off their fellow forum members on a regular basis, but it is nowhere near as heated as it was with the Sega, Nintendo, or Sony conflicts.


I can think of three fistfights I got in as a kid based solely on gaming. The first were the result of a quip I made regarding a friends Genesis and how I'd rather play outside than play any more Sonic. It escalated quickly from there, and pretty soon we had fought, I had to walk home alone, and we didn't talk for quite a while. The second was due to a round of GoldenEye at a friends house across the street. We only had a few kids our age that lived nearby, and their parents bought them anything they wanted. The younger brother of one of the guys we liked hanging out with kept coming in last and I was probably being a smartass. He accused me of somehow cheating, I said something aparantly offensive enough to force him to grab a nearby hockey stick, which he started swinging at me. I somehow got it out of his hands and beat him senseless with the stupid thing... and wasn't allowed back at their house ever again. I'm pretty sure we never spoke again either, even though he lived across the street and went to the same schools as me. Anyway, the last one was due to accidentally pulling a friends PSone off the shelf. I tripped on the controller cord, the system fell, it scratched up his game, he got pissed off, I said something about a cartridge not being scratchable, and we had it out.

You rarely hear about kids fist-fighting because of an argument over the Wii, PS3, or 360. Hell, most arguments about them are even brief, childish, and halfhearted. Maybe it's because most of the games are multiplatform so they can pull in the biggest profit, thereby killing console loyalty. Maybe the wars can't sustain themselves with three major players on the field. Maybe it's because today's youth are a bunch of pansy's who care too much about the environment and humanitarianism than proving a point. Maybe parents are just way more overprotective or we're old enough that we just don't hear about these instances. Maybe it's because the marketing focuses on what their own console does best, rather than what the others do worse. Or maybe it's just because information is so easily accessible that we can throw together charts, informed blogs, and statistical evidence for which system and games get the best sales, reviews, and hype, thus quelling the anger before a conflict can break out.

Although each could obviously contribute to the lack of a diehard console war in this generation, I think that the multiplatform dedication from third-party developers and the insane amount of access to gaming information hold the most weight. Both make a lot of sense and there's nothing like facts to diffuse a loyalists (or fundamentalists) argument. Then again, maybe the war hasn't really died down, but merely changed its face, way of fighting, and its overall focus. If that's the case, the only logical place for it to be currently waging war is in the realm of casual gaming (rather than the core, where the battles have previously been waged). It is, after all, the casual arena where one group (Nintendo) holds the high ground, while the competition (Sony, Microsoft, etc), fight for what appears to be a lost cause.

In the past, whoever "lost" the fight either dropped out of the next generation, quit in the middle of the current generation, or would go on to make some pretty radical changes to their next console. If the same applies to the fight for the casual audience, maybe this version of the "console war" is just as important to the core-gamers than any of the other consoles war ever were.   read


1:47 AM on 05.03.2009

Whose Revolution Is This?

The idea behind motion controlled games is a pretty cool one... in theory. Slash to use a sword. Point to use a gun. Turn a wheel to drive a car. But after 3 years of the Wii's motion controlled games, and the PS3s motion enhanced Sixaxis controls, it is hard to find an instance where most of us wouldn't just prefer to have a regular controller without any sort of real, physical movement necessary.

There are a lot of places where blame can be placed when it comes to answering the question of why motion controls are so popular yet have such a negative connotation from gamers. Is it a problem with us as gamers? It could be a problem with how we like to play... my slouched sitting style doesn't exactly make most Wii games easy to use. The TV is also at an awkward angle from where my recliner is at in my room, and the bed is further away from the screen. So I can either stand or sit in a chair in the middle of my room. Neither are as comfy or as appealing as a bed or recliner. And how many gamers really get into games like the people in commercials? I've played a lot of Wii party games with friends, and we've never been as excited as them. Not even drunk. So maybe part of the problem is with us as gamers...

But could it also be a problem with the control system itself? The fairly obvious answer is "duh!" Even Nintendo is looking to answer that problem with the Motion Plus attachment, meant to give a more 1:1 control than whatever the hell the Wii currently can give us. It's an attempt to better the technology, but after 3 years of games that the Motion Plus can't fix/help at all, and with maybe another 3 years left on the market, it might be too little, too late. Even more discouraging is that early feedback from EA has said that they had to limit the technology because it was responding to movements they didn't want or intend to be commands. This makes me wonder if the Wiimote isn't inherently flawed technology. Microsoft and Sony are supposedly looking at using their camera technology with new controllers to do a more accurate motion control system which would track full body movements. These technologies are a backwards form of the Wiimote, so they should be better at tracking motions which the Wiimote has sucked at. But from the looks of things, most gamers don't really care anymore.

Maybe part of the problem lies with the developers/games themselves. Most people would say they at least played a big part in the lackluster motion controls we know and have come to groan at. Jumping in deBlob was just stupid. Eventually, after hours of popping the Wiimote up in the air for a jump, I finally quit playing cause it wouldn't let me remap the jump to an actual button. How about the stupid wheel for racing games!? They absolutely suck. I tried to use the Wii-Wheel for Mario Kart Wii but I can always beat my times by just using the regular controls, so why go through the frustration and humiliation of turning a wheel that isn't connected to jackshit? And sure, there are games that just plain use the controls badly... but when even first-party games seem like a gimmick rather than a good use of the technology, and their controls are the best out there, I think we need to take a step back and look at whether this is a "revolution" we really want to be a part of.

And maybe that's just what is happening within the gaming community. Wii sales have dropped pretty dramatically this year, their library of games can't sell as well as those on the "next-gen" (HD capable) systems, and the Wii's tie-ratio seems to be slowing down, whereas the other systems keep climbing. So what does this mean for Nintendo's revolution? From the looks of the market, it means that the Wii fad has saturated the market with plenty of systems in peoples homes, but that they aren't picking up the games that are put out there for it.

Part of that problem, though, could just be with the sort of games which the Wii is aimed at actually getting out on the market. Of the top 20 Wii games on metacritic, six of them are Nintendo titles (mario, ssbb, metroid, tetris), four of them are music games (guitar hero, rockband), one that is arguably better on PC (world of goo), and two of them are games originally made for the last gen's systems (okami, re4). That leaves 7 games that aren't Nintendo titles, casual games on other systems, or haven't been ported to the Wii. Not very impressive... especially when you compare those games sales to the others on the top 20.

But that isn't stopping the competition from trying to pick up the casual market which the Wii has managed to capture, and which its games has seemingly fumbled. Microsoft is putting Lips up against Sony's legacy of Singstar games (which, along with Guitar Hero, could have arguably sparked this latest casual fad in gaming). You're In The Movies! is an attempt to create a party game around the camera rather than a controller. Trivia games like Buzz for Sony and Scene It! for Microsoft have used simpler controllers as a way of getting non-gamers to play. A lot of the artsy games for the PS3 take advantage of the camera, Sixaxis controls, or both. And even the huge FPS title Killzone 2 jumped on the Sixaxis bandwagon for some of their games controls.

I guess the real question is what consumers plan on spending their money on this year. E3 will most likely have Sony and Microsoft debuting new, motion controlled, casually aimed titles and hardware. Nintendo will continue down that path (and it will probably go over just as well as it did last year). And casual consumers will keep buying a handful of games per year, while the rest of us, whose support keeps the industry alive, have to sort through all the BS just to find a few good games among the overwhelming tidal wave of shovelware.

Wait a second. I have this creepy feeling of deja vu... Could something like this have possibly happened before?! ...nah!   read





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