Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dave's Top Games of 2011

It's that time again. Every year it seems my format changes. This year is no exception. There are three categories, and each will have a definitive winner followed by a couple runner ups / honourable mentions.

Without further ado...

The Game i wanted to play the most in 2011 but haven't yet...

Catchy title huh! And the winner is...


It's by Atlus, it's a Q*bert-esque block puzzle game with a story set around relationships and possible adultery. It sounds right up my alley and yet i haven't gotten around to acquiring it yet. This will have to be rectified soon.

Runner ups: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron & Gray Matter

El Shaddai i actually own, i am just waiting till i finish Zelda, but i still need to get my hands on a copy of Gray Matter. El Shaddai seems to be a visual feast, and i always appreciate unique art styles in games. We're at this point that the only limitation to what we can achieve in computer graphics seems to be our imaginations... and yet departure from normal artistic tropes in the games we play are so rare. The question with El Shaddai will be if the style can overcome the supposed lack of substance i have heard about.

Gray Matter is an adventure game that finally was released this year after being in development forever. It's by Jane Jenson, the creator of the Gabriel Knight series, and my favourite entry in the King's Quest series (KQ6). Like El Shaddai, a lot of what i've heard isn't good... but i have to give this one a try. I hope for the best.

Best Game of 2011

The best game i have played released this year. The winner is...

Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Granted i haven't played most of the heavy hitters this year but Deus Ex just floored me. The gameplay was incredibly engaging and it gets bonus points for allowing me to play through most of the game as a non-lethal stealth character. Sure there were issues like the boss fights, and the story choices not having any consequences but rather a final choice being given to you at the end of the game. In my mind Deus Ex wasn't just a good game, it was good science fiction. As much fun as i had playing it, the moral backlash and ethical decisions revolving around augmentation technology i found fascinating, and one could see a similar outcome when this technology becomes a reality in our future.

Runner up: L.A. Noire

For all its faults (and it had quite a few) L.A. Noire had a very engaging story littered with intriguing characters, which really played its hand during the arson missions. As evident earlier in this post, i'm a sucker for the adventure genre, and this was a modern day adventure game. That facial capture technology was pretty amazing too... ooo, and how the game handles the Black Dahlia killings? Incredible. I dunno how many gamers will enjoy the experience but i had a blast.

Best Game not Released this year

While Deus Ex was fantastic, i wanted to create a category for games from other years as i spent most of this year not only playing catchup from 2010, but even further back. Readers of Monday Musings will probably pick the winner right away.

Persona 4

What more can i say about this title that i didn't during the months i played through it? It's one of the best RPGs i've ever played (And definitely my favourite since playing The World Ends With You). The story is expertly woven alongside the gameplay. Helping your friends overcome their problems makes you more powerful, and along the way you grow attached to this collection of characters. The game is also laugh out loud funny at points which seems to be rarer and rarer in this medium. The combat is interesting (though can be unforgiving), and while somewhat necessary, the game is not grind heavy. This is one for the longhaul however. I achieved the normal ending while plowing through the game and my gametime at the end was about 50 hours. I am so glad that i finally took the game out of the drawer to play and complete.

Runner ups: Civilization 5 & Fallout New Vegas

Both these titles are from the previous year. I acquired both at quite a discount (as PC prices tend to drop  nicely if you're patient). The original Civ destroyed me back in the 90s. I would play for days at a time and have fond memories of trying in vein to upgrade my castle before game's end. I've related this story here before but i actually held off installing Civ 4 for a few years after buying it because i was scared that it would overtake me. Funnily enough when i finally played it, it didn't. Civ 5 did. I joined forums, watched youtube plays, bought some of the extra civs on DLC. I love this iteration of the game. I haven't played it since the big update in June/July but i did pick up all the extra civ DLC for $4 in the autumn steam sale. I shall have to check it out sooner or later.

Fallout 3 really didn't do anything for me, but man did New Vegas suck me in. I dunno if it was the wild west setting or the faction system or even the story, but i spent 38 hours on this game, completed every side quest i could, reached level 30 and had a blast. In that autumn steam sale where i picked up the Civ 5 DLC, i also bought all the New Vegas DLC. I think i might put aside a little bit of time after Zelda to play through them. We shall see.

Wrap up

Well that's my awards and top games for this year. A little different i know, and actually this is the first year in a couple that an indie game didn't hit the top of my list (2010 - Super Meat Boy, 2009 - Flower, 2008 - No More Heroes, 2007 - Super Mario Galaxy... for those that are interested). Like this year it looks like 2012 will be spent playing catch up on years passed (including this year), but that's never altogether a bad thing. Still, some big releases to look forward to, and i look forward to another year of talking about games.

Till next year, happy gaming all!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Monday Musings - 26th Dec, 2011

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great Christmas (or any other holiday you celebrate)! Me? Well my internet's been down this holiday season but I worked out a way to make sure they were musings none the less. Call it my gift to you. Let us muse.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

I don't know if it was necessarily a gaming funk or just the annoyances I experienced in the Lanaryu Desert last week but things were looking up the past seven days. I just saved the game this morning outside the pirate hangout on the sand sea. Yes, I've covered quite a bit of ground since I last wrote. I'll try and list my experiences because there is a lot i'd like to discuss.

The Lanaryu dungeon was a bit of a letdown after how much I enjoyed the Earth Temple. I think it was a combination of overuse of the running mechanic (and the stamina bar), and the annoyance of all the puzzle involving the new item you gather in that dungeon (i'm purposely not saying what the items are when discussing these dungeons as at least for me, part of the magic of a Zelda dungeon is discovering what new toy you get to play with). It's a shame really as I was praising how cool the time stones were last time. There were some neat enemies though. I really liked dealing with the sentries, both the tower variety and the flying ones. The jumping totem pole heads I did not enjoy as much.

From this boss onward I have started to notice a pattern in how I play the game (and maybe this design is on purpose). You start out usually with full hearts, and I think due to this and not exactly knowing what the boss has up its sleeve, I tend to charge head first into danger, and before I know it, I am not at full hearts anymore (quite the opposite in fact). From this point onward, I get a lot more defensive, keeping my distance from the boss, or at least jumping in and out, trying to provoke an attack so I know what I have to do to counter and put the hurt on it. The last boss I fought in the Ancient Cistern was a great example of this. I defeated it with two hearts left. It was a crazy battle that had me swearing at my television on more than one occasion.

Now the Ancient Cistern dungeon is pretty much the exact opposite of the Lanaryu one. This was a delight to play through. Part of the reason was how centralized it was being more about different levels of the main room, and a few offshoot rooms, but I think the real joy was all the clever uses of the item you acquire in the dungeon. This led to one or two Eureka moments where I thought to myself, “Hmm, I wonder if I can pull this off”, and it worked. Follow that up with the item you get for passing the next trial and indeed the game is making up for having to power through the intial run of Lanaryu desert.

One final thing i'd like to talk about are the trials. The first one was a unique encounter. I found it tense, and there was a real sense of accomplishment when I completed it (especially because I ran out of freeze time with two spirit tears left). After completing it I thought to myself, “Wow that was intense. I enjoyed that, but never want to go through that again.” Those of you who know the game are laughing now. When I got to the second trial, I wondered what new gameplay awaited. Well the joke's on me. It was the same trial in a new location, this time in the sinking sands of the Lanaryu desert. Now i'm really dreading the final trial when I get to it.

So having just had a lot of fun on the sand sea and with the mine carts, and having been amazed at the design of the Ancient Cistern and looking forward to the next dungeon, i'm fully back on board with Zelda. Heck, I even enjoy the harp and how you play it. Sure it doesn't have as much fidelity as the ocarina or the conductor's wand, but the songs are great (especially the song of the goddess). I kind of want to power through and finish though. I've got three out of the five must play games off my list of releases for 2011 waiting for me when this is through (El Shaddai, Arkham City, and Bastion). I can see my 2011 year taking me right into at least Q2 of 2012 (which isn't a terrible thing really. I spent most of this year playing games from years passed).

Regardless, Zelda does feel right around Christmas time, even though Christmas down under does not put this American in the holiday spirit (what can I say? I miss snow).


Well because of no internet, I haven't had the resources to look for an indie game this week. Thus what I shall do is talk about some iphone titles I have been playing (because I always seem to forget to mention them on this column and that's just not right.

Blueprint 3d (IoS)

Iphone games don't usually grab me like Blueprint has, but I powered through all the available level packs and even the Christmas pack that became available in an update not too long ago. I guess it's easy to see why. Each level takes a few seconds and I find this title incredibly stimulating to my brain, or at least the visual recognition parts of it (maybe it's the cartoonist in me). You start a level with a bunch of scribbles and fills. By rotating the blueprint, you line up the squiggles, lines, and fills until they resemble an image. Then you get stars depending on how fast you created the image and move on to the next blueprint.

It's simple, addictive, and has a lot of content. These are some of the items on the checklist of a good iphone title. The funny thing was even though solving a level in a couple seconds is very rewarding, the real fun came with the levels where the image wasn't readily apparent and it took close to a minute to rotate and shift the picture, trying to work out just how the thing fit together. Now those who read my blog probably know my stance on difficulty, but seeing how these levels were the most fun, I decided perhaps I needed to up the difficulty. I turned it to pro mode. I instantly turned it back. Pro mode has different layers you need to switch between to line up the image. They made it needlessly complicated, and really, I was still having fun when I was completing a level in seconds.

Bike Baron (IoS)

Since I last played this game (I was busy with Blueprint for a couple weeks), there has been an update making the game a lot easier with more checkpoints and little changes (like allowing you to keep coins if you crash). These changes allowed me to make my way through the entirety of the hard levels... but trying extreme, in my opinion, the fun was sucked out of the game through those designs. For instance, to get to the first checkpoint in the first level of extreme, I had to glitch the game, so my motorcycle was stuck in the wall, allowing me to fall straight.

Still, everything I played up to that point was great and if I ever get the itch again, I can go star collecting in the easy and normal stages.

Final Thoughts

Well it's the end of the year. Last year I posted my top 6 games of the year and it was very popular. I've posted my top games of the year in some form or another since 2007 (2010 was the first time on this blog). This week keep a look out for my picks of 2011.

Now followers of the musings will probably say, “Hey Dave, you haven't really played enough titles this year to have a good top list”, and to that I would say you're absolutely right. What i'm going to do this year is have three categories with one winner, and a couple of runner ups (probably 2 – 3). The categories will be:

'Game I most want to play from 2011 that I haven't'

'Best game i've played released in 2011'

'Best game i've played this year'

I already have my winners but the runner ups i'm still working out. I'd say expect this one between Wednesday and Friday.

If you have your own picks for these categories, please feel free to post em, either in reply to this musings, or on the end of the year post later in the week. I'm interested to see what other people really enjoyed from this year (as it was a great year for gaming).

Till next time, happy gaming all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Musings - 19th Dec, 2011

This musings is gonna be a bit of a sparse one i'm sorry to say. Not much gaming has been done. Still, let us muse.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

It's really not an understatement when i say i haven't played much this week. I think i played Zelda on two nights, and for maybe an hour a piece. Basically i have saved inside the next dungeon in the Lanaryu desert. I'm sure the dungeon itself will re-energize my spirits, but the whole hassle of getting to the dungeon was pretty annoying for me.

It took a little while but i finally made the connection that all these upside down coloured triangles littered out of reach are probably hookshot markers and that's most likely the tool i uncover in this next dungeon. That will make travelling around a lot easier. So so much easier in fact.

Yeah i dunno if my lack of gaming is due to just wanting to relax and watch television during this uni course or if i'm down on Zelda. I'm almost tempted to check out either El Shaddai or Arkham City and see if my gaming funk is game related. That happened with Twilight Princess. I played the first 6-8 hours when i bought my Wii at launch... and then didn't touch the game for 9 months. When i picked it up again, i spent weeks and completed it, enjoying the whole experience.

No matter my call, i'm gonna play through this next dungeon. Then we shall see.

Coins (Indie)

A more relaxed approach to gaming this week. A puzzle game where you have to move coins to their designated slots. The catch is a coin can only be moved if it is touching two other coins. The game has a nice soundtrack and its level transitions are very fluid. Give it a play.

Final Thoughts

This week i just wanted to make a funny observation that came across my head last week. I love adventure games. Most of my game library over at GoG is adventure titles. The recent Christmas sale, i bought all the FMV zork games as i have never really given them a play (aside from Return to Zork). I was musing on some of the things you do in adventure games to achieve goals and a realization hit me.

In most adventure games, to progress you act like a massive jerk.

In Zak Mckraken and the Alien Mindbenders, there's a sequence where you make a flight attendant's day a living hell by sabotaging both the toilets and the on board microwave.

In Pandora Directive you can act like a total ass to everyone and while you don't get a good ending, it's a legitimate way to play the game.

In Sam and Max Hit the Road, one of the puzzles involves dipping your partner in water and shoving his face into an electrical outlet.

Possibly the reasoning here is that these games all have comedic elements and a good source of comedy is conflict, but there's also that kind of perverse pleasure that a player can get by saying to themselves, "I can't believe i'm doing this". Granted with games like Grand Theft Auto that feeling has kind of dulled in the face of wanton violence and destruction, but possibly it's because of the limits of the adventure game that this kind of realisation is much more impactful, especially when combined with the accomplishment of having solved a puzzle.

I'll leave things there for now. If anyone has any great memories of acting like a jerk in videogames, let me know in the comments.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Musings - 12th Dec, 2011

Last week was nice because of the rain. Now it's heating up again and reminding me how much i hate summer. Ah well, let us muse.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

So you know how a month or two ago i decided to try and make time to game every day and thus get through all the games i want to play quicker? Well that kind of hit a roadblock this week. I decided to check out season 1 of Sons of Anarchy and instead of playing Zelda, i was watching an addictive television drama about a bikie gang. It's not to say gaming did not get done however. I played every night of the weekend and have completed the Earth Temple.

Last week i lamented about how stupid LoZ games make me feel. Some games make you feel smart when you complete a puzzle, but for me, Zelda games always make me feel like an idiot when i figure out what i have to do. I think it's a testament to the level design of Skyward Sword however that even though i was in that state during the Earth Temple (and there were quite a few areas that stumped me and had me considering a walkthrough), i persevered and felt an incredible sense of accomplishment when the dungeon was completed. And disgust at my lack of intelligence wasn't the only emotion either. I also marvelled at the cleverness of the puzzle itself once it dawned on me what i had to do. Many sources have said this game has some of the best level design in the series (especially later on), and if this is what we start off with, i cannot wait to check it out.

Negativity now. You know what irks me more than anything else about this game so far? Link's lips. They're hideous. Everytime there's a close up of his face in a cut-scene i recoil. He looks like a fish.

I saved the game at the entrance to Lanayru Desert. From travelling through the mines, and experiencing the frozen time areas, i can sense that this whole sequence of gameplay is going to be special.

Earn to Die (Indie)

I got caught in this game's trap. It's quick and easy, and you're always progressing. Play a little longer Dave, just to upgrade this car and grab the next one. You're almost to the finish line Dave. Who cares if the game stopped being fun. You've spent this long playing, why not finish it?

I did finish it, and felt empty. This is an example of fine tuning the numbers so that your progression mechanics mask the lack of actual gameplay. It may sound like i'm angry. I'm actually not. These guys have got that balance down. It's quite inspiring in a way.

This kinda stuff is why i quit WoW though.

Final Thoughts

Nothing kills a videogame like hype. Let's take Skyward Sword for example. Not only was this the only game i paid full retail release price for this year but as it was being shipped to me i got really excited about the new Zelda title. I felt like playing previous entries in the series and couldn't wait for it to arrive.

The result? I feel a little let down. Don't get me wrong, the game is great... but it's not nearly as awesome as i had worked it up to be in my mind. The drive to play it isn't fully there mainly due to this chasm between expectation and reality.

I had thought myself free of the hype train. Years ago partially due to being around gamers and game news while completing my degree and recording The Console War Vets, i started holding back on having to play the newest latest release. Part of this was due to money, but i started to see that this cycle that most gamers find themselves in with new games is pretty self defeating. The game press does such a good job at building up interest in future releases that one can't help but be swept away in how great a game looks, and how interesting it might be to play.

And that's why hype will always negatively impact a gaming experience in some way. Our imaginations are more powerful than anything that can be created from a couple videos and news pieces, our minds race about all the possibilities an upcoming game might provide. The story, the mechanics, the epic scale and setpieces, how can a game actually live up?

Well it has been argued that there are some games that do either live up to or exceed the hype surrounding them. I'm sceptical on this as flicking back through my memory, i can't think of any personal examples. Many of the games i have fallen in love with i knew very little about going in... or i had waited until the buzz died down (mainly for money reasons. Some game drastically drop in price if you wait two months after release).

I think in some cases, hype can be positive if it's long term post release hype. For example, Red Dead Redemption was a game i had ignored in 2010. Come to the end of the year and people were still talking favourably about it. This got me interested to check it out. I haven't still... but it's on the radar once i get through everything else i wish to play.

At the start of the year i told myself i would only purchase one game at full price, and i waited till the Q4 launch window to discover what that would be. It was actually between Skyward Sword and Arkham City when it came down to it, but i went with Zelda. I'll pick Arkham City up later. I think this release purchase put more pressure on the game as well. I paid full price for this! It better deliver!

It does... just not in the way i was hoping. It's not a perfect game. No game is, but hype tricks us into believing this, and that can be a real problem.


Till next time, happy gaming all!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

5 Credits to Midnight: Ep 9 - Magic Sword

This week on 5 Credits we look at a sword of magic and the tower involved with it. It's an abstract love triangle!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Musings - 5th Dec, 2011

Wow, December. I've been writing this column for almost a year. That's pretty crazy right? Here's to more years to come! Let us muse.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)

I finished this up on Thursday. Man what a nutty last couple of hours. First of all i decided to get the new chip installed so that made the next boss fight incredibly difficult. It's one of the most intense gaming experiences i've had in quite a while. When i finally took him down, i had exhausted all my health items, all the ammo for 3 different guns and when i had finally resigned myself to failure, i pegged him with a tranq shot to the chest and down he went. Immensely satisfying!

Then the final showdown, but more importantly the final choice. The game gives you four options at the ending, and i had to think about which choice i wanted to take. Like a multiple choice question on an exam, i was able to eliminate 50% of the possibilities immediately, but the choice between Sarif's and Taggart's plan was where i was stumped. I ended up choosing Taggart's plan and was moderately satisfied with the ending i received.

Having not completed the original Deus Ex (i need to fix that one day. I have the GoTY edition on Steam), the post credits cut-scene didn't mean much to me, but perhaps it will mean more when i eventually get to playing through that game, having completed the prequel first. It's kind of like how i played through Westwood's Blade Runner game before watching the film for the first time years later. I constantly said to myself, "Hey, i know all these shots from the game". Incidentally, if you haven't played the Blade Runner game, you should. It was amazing in the way it randomly presented character and plot elements on different playthroughs, and it had some moral choice gameplay... and this was 1997. The only game i remember that from any earlier (having not played much Ultima) was The Pandora Directive (which is one of my favourite games too).

Anyway this is slowly turning into a Final Thoughts spiel, so i'll just give my recommendations for Deus Ex. While i haven't perfected how i want to present reviews on this site, i still rate games how i rate movies, with a 5 star system. Deus Ex is the 2nd game i have played this year that i have given 5 stars to (the other being Persona 4).

Pokemon Yellow (GBC)

The day i completed Deus Ex, Skyward Sword arrived in the mail. I also had borrowed El Shaddai from my good friend Kenneth. So what game do i start playing that evening? Pokemon Yellow on a GBA emulator. I had a pokemon itch and decided to go back to basics.I missed yellow the first time around. I was very close to completing Blue back in the day but i never pushed myself over the threshold (i had the most awesome party though. Charizard, Raichu, Garados, Wigglytuff. It owned). So yeah, i load this up and start playing. I've been playing for the last couple days. I just defeated Misty for the 2nd badge. I dunno how much longer this poke fever will stay but i am enjoying myself, and that's all that matters.

Incidentally, having gone from an original Game Boy to a GBA, i never really got to experience the Game Boy Color. At least in Pokemon Yellow, i am really impressed how they create some beautiful shades and textures with such a limited colour palette.  How travelling to different towns and on different roads there's a dominant colour swap that invokes a different mood. I think part of the reason i love games from the earlier eras is the limitations of the hardware provoked so much creativity in these development teams. Not to say that kind of stuff doesn't happen now, but it was so much more prevalent when you didn't have the graphics power, sound chips, or just the hard drive space or memory to enact everything a team wanted to do... and of course the brilliance of coming up with a creative solution to problems that these limitations might provide.

And maybe it's just me but in this series, i've always loved the single release of their games that comes out after the two main ones. Maybe it's cause it feels kind of like a special edition or psychologically it feels like the two games combined (even though it's of course not). Just something interesting that struck me during my treks through the long grass.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

So after an hour playing Pokemon, i had to try the new Zelda. Every day since then i've been playing pokemon during the day and Zelda in the evening. For those of you who are asking about if i was working on other projects like my comics or the next 5 Credits...please dont. I feel bad enough. I completed the first dungeon last night and i love this game. If there is any fault i would say that the game doesn't adequately explain some of the controls enough and sometimes the sword fighting is a little iffy... but when it all works, wowzers.

One thing i really like is Skyloft seems like a mix of Majora's Mask and Windwaker. You have this town full of people that you can help with certain things throughout the game, and thus gain more of a connection to your home... and having the sky to explore is just fun. The dynamic of having Zelda be a childhood friend and also having a role to play in the coming events creates a nice take on the classic formula... especially when Link is kind of a doofus in this game.

I love the art style and design of the characters. The game is dripping with colour and not in an bombastic, obnoxious way either. It was also pointed out to me today, that your companion Fi sounds like a female T-Pain. She definitely is auto-tuned.

It'll probably take a couple more dungeons before my thoughts are really solidified (after all, most of the Zelda games really kick into gear after dungeon 3), but i'm having a blast.

Oh and the first puzzle in the first dungeon with the eye above the door. Completely stumped me and i had to look up the solution online. Once again, a Zelda game succeeds in making me feel like a complete dumb-ass (in Twilight Princess it was using the boomerang on the four windmills to open the gate. God i felt stupid when i solved that one).

K.O.L.M. 2 (Indie)

This picks up exactly where the first one leaves off, so if you haven't completed the game after i recommended it last week, go back and give it a whirl. Funnily enough the story intrigues me more in this title. I played for 20 mins and then saw how things were changed gameplay wise. You gain another character to control either separately or in tandem. To be honest this is when i closed the game as i generally dislike this type of gameplay... but i might bite my tongue and go back and run through the rest of the game... if just for closure.

Final Thoughts

Gah, i have no idea what to type here this week. I guess the off topic conversation i broached in the Deus Ex and Pokemon sections of this week's musings tapped me out. Come to think of it, is this section even needed? Well yes, cause there are things i like to discuss down here regularly. Should it be here every week, even if i have nothing to talk about? Possibly?

Hmm. Well i'll throw a call out. If anyone has anything game related they'd like my take on, let me know and i'll address it in future Final Thoughts segments.

Reader participation!

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Musings - 28th Nov, 2011

It is Monday and there is coffee coursing through my veins. Let us muse.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)

I'm back in Detroit after a crazy time in Shanghai. I've infiltrated a convention centre and an underground bunker, and now am about to head back to Sariff Industries.

Quick question: Does anyone know if it's possible to disarm proximity mines? They have been a pain in my tuckus for a while now.

I don't want to give too much away, but i was really enthralled when you return to Detroit and there's that opportunity to learn more about Adam's past. Since i share what happened to him (trying to be vague enough not to spoil things. Hopefully it's not too vague), this side quest really resonated. I think it shows that even in games, creating compelling characters is paramount in creating impact in your audience. One could even argue that it's a little more important, since the gameplay options given to the player need to reflect the type of character given to them (or the one they choose to play in the case of games with moral choices... which really Deus Ex is included in). I'm playing an Adam Jensen that only kills when he has no other choice (so far that has only included the intro and the boss fights). Because of the way i am playing, my interactions with people, i've tried to keep in line with that... and i think that's what makes these side missions resonate a little more. Oh sure, the example i'm giving works because of my past, but there's a side mission in Shanghai where you help a prostitute in making the lives of the people in the under city a little easier. Heck there's a section where you have to escape from a pod hotel. The enemies are there to kill your contact. I disarmed all of them, thinking that i could save this guy. Turns out it didn't really make a difference. You were just meant to escape.

But on that note, there have been a couple occurrences where even though play doesn't affect the story (as far  as i know), actions had weight attached to them in my eyes. One was in the pod hotel. I sneaked into the office of the desk manager. I hacked his computer and his safe and took his money. I then found an ebook diary he had written how he was saving up to finally escape to a better life. I felt miserable. I reloaded my save, but it was too late, my most recent auto save was after i had stolen from him (i auto-save like a maniac in these games).

The second example was in a section i just played. I noticed an area in the streets of Detroit i had never noticed before. Accessing it, i found a letter, a sniper rifle and some ammo. Someone had left these there for a mercenary who was contracted to escalate the riots that are going on. I took the rifle and ammo and sold it. It would be cool if this leads to something further on. I'm not expecting it to, as it was just something i found off the beaten path, but again, it reinforced what kind of character i wanted Adam Jenson to be (or probably more to the point, the type of character i like to be, even when given power in video games).

K.O.L.M. (Indie)

If this was a live blogcast i would have to apologize. I went to get the url for KOLM and ended up continuing my saved game and completing this. I was checking out games at Kongregate and KOLM 2 was on the front page. The sequel continues right from where the last game ends. Intrigued i decided to check out the first game. It's an interesting one.

It's kind of a metroid platformer. Find upgrades which allows you access to unreachable areas you came across before. It has a really interesting presentation to it, from the way the screens are presented as different cameras to the dialogue the main character has with its mother.

The game took me 40 mins to complete so there's a decent amount of content there. I shall report on the sequel next week.

Final Thoughts

So at the moment i am giddily anticipating Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Since the internet gaming scene has been abuzz with Zelda tributes of all varieties, i thought i'd use this space this week to work out just why Zelda resonates with me so much.

Seriously there is no other game even like it. Each entry in the series has had a nice combination of nostalgia combined with new experiences. What other series could go from the original game to what we saw in Zelda 2? What about Ocarina of Time to Majora's Mask? No two Zelda experiences have really been the same but they retain a lot of the design choices, characters, and locations that makes this series resonate with so many gamers.

At its heart i think the key to the magic of Zelda is rising to the challenge. In every game Link starts off as a boy who through various confluences finds himself on a quest to save the kingdom of Hyrule. As he travels on this quest, he discovers new equipment and new power, and always has to constantly use his skill and ingenuity to overcome adversity. This is a very positive message combined with a gamer's favourite trope, power fantasy.

The characters and world itself have a part to play as well. Now some games have had better characterization than others, but aside from the first game, Hyrule has always been inhabited by a cast of colourful characters (and you know what, i count the old man in Legend of Zelda as a colourful character dammit). The denizens of Termina in Majora's Mask all have their little story arcs over the three days of anxiety that town keeps facing. Windwaker saw some of the most expressive characterization in the series visually, and Twilight Princess has Midna, who quickly became my favourite Zelda character for her snarky, mocking attitude.

Many locations keep popping up in the games as well, like Kakariko village and Death Mountain. They change each time though and serve different purposes, maintaining the familiar but different vibe that Zelda games seem to hold. One of the joys of each new game is to see how the world is different. Windwaker was probably the most drastic departure, but Skyward Sword looks to be just as intriguing with the duel layers of sky and land (and of course who can forget the light and dark worlds of Link to the Past).

My anticipation for the new entry has even got me thinking about planning a replay through all the titles i own (for those who care that's Zelda 1, 2, LttP, OoT, MM, WW, TP, and Minish Cap). It certainly has been a while. I don't think i've touched a Zelda game in years now that i think about it actually, that probably explains why i'm getting all nostalgic and itchy trigger fingery about playing not only the new game, but going back through the series.

I'm not alone as the series has always had a large vocal fan base. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what makes the series so endearing and magical, as well as perhaps some of your favourite or least favourite games in the series (my fav is probably a toss up between LttP, and Zelda 1).

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

5 Credits to Midnight: Ep 8 - Donkey Kong 3

This week on 5 credits, we look at Donkey Kong 3, an odd sequel that involves bug spray and naughty parts.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Monday Musings - 21st Nov, 2011

It's almost December. 2012 is almost upon us. The big release window is pretty much over. I have SO SO much catching up to do game wise. Let us muse.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)

I might have been too hasty when i downplayed the visuals in this game last week. I had just come off L.A. Noire, and the facial animation of the characters in Deus Ex did not impress me, and probably influenced my over-all opinion of the visuals. Truth be told though, until L.A. Noire, i held up Half-Life 2 as still the best facial animation i've seen in gaming (well at least that made an impression on me)... and that was released in 2004.

So game wise i am in the upper city of Shanghai. Shanghai was actually what brought me back over to praising the visuals. It was the street signs. Just all the neon going on with the glows and reflections. I've visited densely populated Asian cities and they definitely got the feel right. I also like how the game rewards you with interesting side quests for exploring and actually paying attention to the conversations of random people. I've found more than a couple praxis points by completing side quests and exploring elevator shafts and the like.

Upgrade wise, am i the only one that feels reactionary to how i level up? I mean there are plenty of areas i have no intention to put points in because of how i play, but in the areas that look useful, i find i'm always thinking about upgrading them too late. Case in point, there's a section in the upper city where you can come across a fan shaft with the grating removed. Quite a ways down, something is glowing (i bet it was a praxis point). So then i decide it might be a good idea to save up two points and upgrade the back so i can safely land a fall from any height without damage. Who wants to bet that i'll hardly use this new ability? I felt that way about the silent walking actually. It was the first thing i upgraded... and i never use it. Partially because i didn't initially realise it was an activated ability, but mainly cause i always move around crouched.

On the other hand, the cloaking has already been very useful.

Deadly Premonition (360)

So another Friday night of heading over to Kenneth's for some Deadly Premonition. We made some solid ground story wise. We decided to visit Harry (so says Mr. Stewart), and we solved his puzzles and fetch quests and he told us his story. Intriguing.

Also, now that shotgun ammo is dropping off almost every enemy, the shotgun has become the weapon of choice. It definitely makes things less difficult (even though most of the zombies still are bullet sponges).

I've started tweeting during out play sessions. Not too much was overly hilarious this play session (nothing to rival the line of "Becky is dead.")... but we fished at the waterfall. We caught the gift box. That had us in stitches for a good 5 minutes. I think Kenneth had trouble breathing. Playing the game with a friend definitely creates a joyous mood.

I kind of worry now thought that the story seems to be heading towards a climax that the game will lose some of its charm. Part of what makes this just a great experience is how crazy everything is. The characters, what's happening, and especially Francis York Morgan himself. Now as many of the questions are being answered, some of that is going away. I expect to be entertained right up to the closing credits, but this is a concern none the less.

Wonderputt (Indie)

Style over substance. Mechanically and control wise, this is a pretty awful mini-golf game. The courses and how its presented make it worth playing all 18 holes. The course morphs and changes. Sometimes the hole you just finished reforms into another. All up, it's a really fun experience full of wonder. Yes, the name Wonderputt is apropos.

Final Thoughts

This week i thought i'd use this section to tally my progress in experiencing all the games that have been released this year that i want to play. Every year since 2007 i've had some form of 'best of year' in regards to my opinion on videogames and which ones delighted me. My fear the last couple months has been due to my financial issues in 2011, i would not be able to experience much of what's on offer. Luckily over the year this column has helped steer my gaming habits in the right direction and especially the last month or so, i've been quite hopeful about at least covering some basics.

Also, even though there are some HD collections i want to purchase, they will not be included on this list because they are games from years past that just have a new coat of paint.

These are the games from this year i wanted to play and have...

Portal 2
L.A. Noire
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Child of Eden
Rock of Ages

Not a big list. This year was more about catching up on last year. Civilization 5, Fallout: New Vegas, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and Kirby's Epic Yarn were 2010 games that got a lot of play this year (not to mention all the time spent on Persona 4).

Now here are the games i have waiting for me.

LoZ: Skyward Sword (ordered online. It's in the mail)
El Shaddai (Borrowed from a friend)

I forsee Zelda taking up most of my December, but here are the remainder of my must plays for this year

Gray Matter
Batman: Arkham City

Finally i'll add a category for games i'd like to play once everything else is out of the way.

Serious Sam 3
Uncharted 3
Rayman Origins
Super Mario 3D Land (i'd need to buy a 3DS first and that isn't happening anytime soon)
Dark Souls (i'd like to play Demon Souls first)
Radiant Historia
Shadows of the Damned

Heh, i think 2012 will be another big game of catch up. This used to be no problem but for the last couple years, Q1 has been a release window as well. I'm really looking forward to whenever The Last Guardian and Journey drop. Those are probably the future releases i'm most hyped for... and we may get Diablo 3 next year too.

Yeesh. This is on top of all the great old games i want to play or revisit. It's extremely daunting when looked at in this fashion, but i think if i take it one game at a time and enjoy myself along the way, everything will turn out fine!

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Friday, November 18, 2011

5 Credits to Midnight: Ep 7 - The Super Spy

This week on 5 Credits we look at a spy that is indeed quite super... well at least his fists are.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Musings - 14th Nov, 2011

It is indeed Monday. It is indeed time to muse. It is indeed time to stop typing this sentence. Let us go!

L.A. Noire (PS3)

The curtain closed on L.A. Noire on Saturday night. I must say, it's refreshing to have a game completed in a week. This was the first step in playing catch up on all the games i've wanted to play this year but couldn't afford. It was quite an exceptional first step. Mind you, i'm an adventure game fan so this was right up my alley. The investigations, the interviews, even the action sequences were a lot of fun.

Now i know this game has a lot of horror stories associated with its development, but i did really enjoy the tale that was told here. There was an overarching tale of corruption from the get go, but the mini-story during the homicide missions revolving around the Black Dahlia murders was incredibly well woven with a great conclusion. The final chapters at the arson desk were amazing too, especially the stuff revolving around Jack Kelso. The flashback after the credits, while a curious way to end things, just rounded out the experience a little more.

I feel a lot was wasted with this game though. While having all these side missions and a breathing 1940s LA to drive around in, the main storyline was too engrossing to ever want to explore or try other things. The facial motion capture was incredible (so much so that the game i'm playing now, things just look terrible face animation wise... but more on that soon), but it really was just a gimmick as most interviews, there were pretty obvious tells if a character was not being truthful.

Heh, i'm used to having multiple weeks to talk about games to pick out things and discuss them. I'm racking my brain to try and find all the little things i noticed while playing and cram them into this segment. I guess i'll end on saying i would play a sequel to this game. That's pretty high praise right? Maybe set it in another time or follow other characters with another story, but use the same gameplay, only refined? I would be all over that. Somebody make that happen.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)

I started playing this last night and played a little passed the first mission. Already i find the gameplay incredible. I love any action game where non-lethality is an option (see my love for Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid). The options present in upgrades have me planning out which route i want to take with my character, and this might be the coolest hacking mini-game i've seen in any video game before. The story is very intriguing. My buddy Andrew and i were having a conversation a while back (he'd already played through the game), and he mentioned the actual moral opposition that a lot of people would have to augmentation when it becomes a reality, and that Deus Ex might be a case of forecasting. If anything, the themes are very engaging to the philosophy and sci-fi fan in me, and already having exited the building to explore Detroit in game, i might put the main story on hold, and check out a couple side quests to see what they have in store.

Actually my only complaint so far (aside from the facial animation of the characters paling in comparison having just finished L.A. Noire) is that i seem to get really bad frame rate drops now and then. It's not enough to impact the gameplay (it's more about this second or two of jitter loading new areas), but it is noticeable and annoying. Mind you, i do have the graphics cranked up. To see if it made a difference i turned DX11 off, and that has helped somewhat, but it has taken some of the shininess off sadly.

Whoever is voicing David Sarif, i swear i know them... but i usually wait till the credits to work these things out if they don't become apparent.

Persuit of Hat (Indie)

This is a lot of fun. Why? Because its colourful, the music is jaunty and it's a puzzle game where you tear off your own limbs to retrieve your hat. You also shoot some of these limbs out of canons. The puzzles are clever without being too difficult and this could have wasted my afternoon if i had let it.

I tried this game because the title intrigued me.

Final Thoughts

So some of you will be wondering where the review i promised of Persona 4 is. This is a valid question. I wrote up my proposal for how i was going to tackle reviews on Wednesday... then i become unsatisfied with my game categories so i slept on it, and went back to re-evaluate things the next day. I've tackled writing the explanation for my review structure at least four times now and still am not satisfied with it. Sometimes i think it's a little too much like other reviews out there, sometimes i think it's not informative enough, and i haven't been able to agree on discussion categories since i started (plus i'm still up in the air whether to create video reviews or just to write them).

I think my reviews will be a work in progress till i've settled on something i'm happy with. Till then, well my discussion each week here on Monday Musings should leave enough insight to whether you'd like to check out a game or not. I'm always happy to field questions about titles i've played in the comments too.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Friday, November 11, 2011

5 Credits to Midnight: Ep 6 - Yie Ar Kung Fu

This week on 5 Credits we look at the granddaddy of the modern fighting game, Yie Ar Kung Fu.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Musings - 7th Nov, 2011

It's once again Monday, it's once again time to muse. Let it begin.

Persona 4 (PS2)

And the game is complete! I finally polished off the game on Friday. Well kind of. Let me explain. On Thursday night after work, i defeated the final boss. Then the game fast forwards to the next spring when your character leaves the town. You get some time to go out and talk to everyone you've maxed S links with (kind of having an ending for all those characters). Through certain choices, you uncover a secret dungeon that is the result of not every thread of the mystery being solved (I tell ya, the way they wove the story of this one deserves a lot of appreciation. This is an amazing example of narrative and gameplay being planned out in tandem). So i saved before opening this final dungeon and decided that i would continue playing to get the true ending.

The next day i felt the urge to just load up my save and see what the normal ending is like. It played through (along with a refreshingly short credits sequence), and i saved my completed game. The normal ending satisfied me. I made the decision then that i had completed Persona 4, and when i get the urge to return to the game, not only do i have a new game plus waiting for me, but i can achieve the true ending as well.

I wont talk too much more about the game (those who regularly read my column are probably sick of hearing about it), but sometime this week i will post a review. I'm experimenting with a bite-sized review format for the internet viewer too busy or lazy to read paragraphs of text, but in a way that still imparts some useful information about the game's qualities to potential players (Still debating whether or not to do it in an audio format). Keep a look out this week for that.

Finally, after completing the game, my curiosity got the better of me and i youtubed the bad ending of the game. In the words of the Professor... "Oh, i made myself sad". Yeah, i wouldn't have liked to have experienced that in game. Not at all.

L.A. Noire (PS3)

Now it's time to start putting a dent in all the games i've wanted to play this year but haven't (funnily enough, i've spent more of the year catching up on games from last year). The first on this list is L.A. Noire. As an adventure game fan, i am having a ball!

I'm in the middle of the homicide section of the game. Most missions my interviewing skills are right on the money, and my investigation skills are always high, but the game does have its quirks during the questioning. Some of the times what they're saying is true, but because you need more info, doubt was the correct response. Other times you get more info by picking truth. I've come across a section where i had evidence to prove the person was lying, but the game didn't give me that one (i guess i needed to use the other piece of evidence... but both proved the person had a connection to the scene of the crime).

It's the same issue i had with some of the court sections of the Phoenix Wright games. I love those to death, but often an obvious answer (at least to me as the player) would be incorrect, either because you've jumped the gun on evidence or even though what you picked is correct, the game wanted you to pick another piece of evidence that was also correct.

And actually i'm kind of not happy that no matter how you do in a case, the game continues. I mean that's a neat accessibility feature to keep the narrative going, but you miss the good parts of the cases if you're constantly getting the wrong answers in interviews. Personally i'd actually prefer it to be like the chase sections. If you fail those, the game resets to the start of that area and you try again. Well ok, seeing as they've cleverly framed a lot of the cases to play out differently depending on how you do, that would detract from the experience they've set up for the player. I guess as an adventure game fan, i'm used to mainly engaging linear stories. L.A. Noire is engaging, no doubt about it, but getting a low star rating on a mission just makes you feel like you've missed out.

Oh and the clunky controls in the car chase sections. My god! I'll be talking about the controls a little more in the final thoughts this week...

Minotaur in a China Shop (Indie)

This is an interesting one. On the surface it seems like one of those shop simulator games with a bit of comedy thrown behind it. "You know that old saying about a bull in a china shop? What if one ran a china shop? Hilarious! Let's make it a Minotaur too!" It probably went something like that. The thing is though that like the QI board game, you actually can win by failing. Yup, if you want to succumb to your Minotaur ways and trash the place, go right ahead. See how much destruction you can wreck before security are called and tranq you to the ground. Depending on your rage insurance, this can actually end up being more lucrative than playing the game properly.

Plus all the upgrades you can buy in-between days are basically coaxing you to seek and destroy.

Final Thoughts

I'm talking about control schemes today. Well, one aspect of controls. The reverse axis debate! Before i learned the ways of playing an FPS with a mouse (one day on the internet in 96/97 i came across a revolutionary control scheme for Duke 3d), the only games i played that combined the two peripherals in an action setting were space shooters such as Wing Commander and the X-wing and Tie-Fighter games. These used the reverse Y axis with the mouse (as did plane shooters like Red Baron). It simulated the actual control stick after all. When i discovered using a mouse for FPS', i naturally used the same control scheme. It kinda makes sense. You crane your neck back to look up and vice versa. Even back LAN gaming in the late 90s / early 2000s, there was some contention among PC gamers about reverse Y axis. Funnily enough, playing reverse was in the minority back then. Not everyone played space shooters or plane simulators after all, and i can see how moving up to look makes sense to those players.

Fast forward to FPS game becoming popular on consoles and my first foray into playing them. This is where things get kind of funny, at least to me. I found that on a console, reverse Y axis was a handicap. My brain couldn't register it. It's like not reversing it on a PC. It's the gamer equivalent of trying to write with your non-proficient hand (ambidextrous people win this round!). Yup, even though i swear by reverse Y axis on PC, i have to use normal axis on a console. I think it's that an analogue stick feels fundamentally different to a mouse, and so in that context, moving up to look up works.

Now let's pile on the humour a little more. Before console games, the X axis never entered into it. I mean why should it? You want to look left, you move left. Makes sense, case closed. What about third person games though? Well... on a console, it seems that i have to have the X axis reversed. It doesn't feel natural the other way. Believe me, i find this very odd.

And that's where this whole discussion came from. L.A. Noire does not have an option to reverse its X axis for camera control. When i'm chasing down a suspect, i have to keep mentally reminding myself, "Ok, he's heading left. Turn the camera left. Good, good... now right." This must be how people who've never played games feel when they try and use a controller for the first time (especially if it's a game with camera controls). This is one of the reasons i stopped playing Enslaved last year (the half second delay on button presses didn't help). For all its faults, at least FFXIII let me change both axis' (axi?) to my heart's content!

So... how do other people feel about the axis controls when they play games? Do you reverse one or both? Do you change your preference between consoles and PC? Am i alone with this crazy problem? I'd love to hear all your thoughts.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

5 Credits to Midnight: Ep 5 - Robotron 2084

This week on 5 credits we look at Robotron 2084. This is our future people. Avoid the brains!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Musings - 31st Oct, 2011

Happy Halloween everybody. Let us muse on this hallowed day (get it?)

Persona 4 (Ps2)

Man what a week i've had with this game. I've just unlocked the final dungeon and am about to dive in? How do i know it's the final dungeon? Oh the game has pretty much raised the stakes to the point that this is leading up to the final boss fight. And man the days leading up to this unlock, what a roller coaster. I don't really want to say much because there's so much going on, and anything i mention might lessen the impact of the story ramping up to its final climax. I will say two things about this leadup. 1) there is a section that kicked me in the balls emotionally. Seriously. Not even kidding. 2) There's a section where now with all the facts at your disposal, you have to name the killer. I thought over it, and picked a name that i felt picked the facts, and it turned out to be right first try. That made me feel pretty good. There are a few things in this time-frame of the game that change the game's ending. Answering that question wrong a couple of times would have triggered a bad ending so i was quite nervous in making my selection.

I'm quite excited that i might have the game completed this week. Not that i'm not enjoying myself, but i've acquired cheap copies of both L.A. Noire and Deus Ex Human Revolution over the course of the last week. I've sticking to my one game at a time rule here, but the lure of the shiny new experiences is quite potent.

I also find it kind of amazing that my characters are lvl 65 and will most likely gain another 10 levels or so in the final dungeon. Aside from World of Warcraft, i've not had characters reach these heights in levelling in any other RPG i can think of. The ones i've completed it's usually around the 40 - 60 mark.

Finally the culture festival was some of the funniest stuff the game has thrown at me yet, and considering how funny this game is, that's saying something.

Deadly Premonition (360)

It's been a long time since i last went over to Kenneth's for a round of Deadly Premonition. A game such as this is best shared with a friend. Mainly cause we amuse ourselves greatly by the horrible animation, hilarious dialogue, and crazy attention to detail the game possesses. I was even tweeting while he was playing (those that follow me @dave_the_turnip probably saw it on Friday night), which just added to the hilarity.

We're about 13 hours in now and just completed Chapter 2 (it was a long one folks). There were some gruesome murders, we got to hear about York's past and Zach, and we have a suspect in custody. The juggalos can now shoot ethereal blasts if you let them charge up, and we braved the corridor where you fight the wall crawling ringu woman four times in a row. At least we didn't have to run from axeman again. I also fell for a jump scare from a truck.

This far in the game and we only discovered that smoking causes time to move forward. That would have been really helpful all the times we farted around town waiting for the clock to hit the right time for the game to continue. So much to complain about and frustrate the player, yet everything else is just a marvel to behold. Deadly Premonition made my top games list of 2010 for a reason. It's a very special experience.

Bike Baron (Iphone)

I don't actually play too many IoS games aside from the ones i review, mainly cause i want my gaming time to consist of a couch, a TV, or a chair and a monitor. Even when i have some downtime, i'm usually using the iphone for sudoku or crosswords (and sometimes making my way through Pathpix puzzles). Still every now and then i pick up a new game that just seems to hit the right spot. Bike Baron is one of those games.

If you've played Trials HD or Joe Danger or any other game where you have to pilot a motorcycle through courses designed to kill you, you know the score. Despite using buttons, Bike Baron's controls work amazingly well, and any crash feels like the fault of the player rather than the game being cheap. I also really like how the game doles out the stars (as every iphone game has to have a 3 star system these days to increase longevity). One star is for completing the level, and the other two stars are linked to certain conditions like collecting all the coins or finishing under a certain time. I'd say if you like physics based motorbike games and have an iphone, give this one a look.

One and One Story (Indie)

Braid has influenced a lot of game design, especially in trying to make the mechanics of a game elicit an emotional response (that final level still gets to me). One and One Story tries a similar approach. The game is about love between two people and the trials and tribulations they face. This is told through a simple platformer where you have to unite the two to move onto the next level. As the story unfolds, the mechanics slightly change to reinforce this idea (my favourite is the level where they're the light of each other's life).

The game is a little frustrating at times but i think it achieves what it set out to. It's short and worth a play.

Final Thoughts

So last week i was lamenting the fact that i could get so much more gaming done if i actually set aside time to play everyday. I decided to give it a try. Aside from Friday night when i went over to Kenneth's and played some Deadly Premonition, i spent every night playing at least 1 - 2 hours of Persona 4.  I reckon i chocked about 15 hours in the game over the week and felt quite accomplished. Last night when the main story stuff was going down, i actually played a couple hours, took a break for a few more, then returned to the game later and played yet another couple hours.

Like my drawing and bass playing, i guess you really should dedicate daily time to your hobbies. I guess i looked down on my gaming hobby because unlike my other pursuits, i'm not creating anything of value playing games. I'm not furthering a skill... but the books i read and movies i watch aren't doing those things, and i find it important to experience as many stories as i can (mainly to keep my imagination going for my cartooning). Games kinda fall under the same category. They afford me the ability to experience places i'd never go, and do things i'd never do, but because of the interactive nature, there can be a more poignant connection there. So i think i shall try and devote time each day to gaming from here on out. If anything, it'll stop me talking about the same game on this column for months at a time!

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Friday, October 28, 2011

5 Credits to Midnight: Ep 4 - Crime City

This week on 5 Credits we look at a city full of crime, and the cops that love it. It's heart-warming really.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Musings - 24th Oct, 2011

Hello Internet! I'm gulping down my coffee so it's about time to write some musings!

Persona 4 (PS2)

I played no games until Friday night, and then each night of the weekend, i logged 2 hours into Persona. I could play so many more games, and complete so many more games if i could make gaming a nightly occurrence. Something always seems to get in the way though, from projects, to movies, to just plain apathy. Ah well, c'est la vie .

I saved right before the boss of Naoto's dungeon. I spent a couple in game days making my way down there, and grinding the last couple levels cause the exp was so phenomenal. I love how when you first encounter enemies you may be overwhelmed (case in point, the dominating machine), but then after a couple levels and a couple fights, you have a strategy down, and while they still can be nasty (one focused hit can bring a party member close to death), you deal with them without too much hassle. I think in the case of the dominating machine however it's that the version i fought as the mid-dungeon minion had a lot more defence than the normal enemy version. Seriously, my single attack elemental spells on the minion were lucky to cause a hundred damage, yet they hit for an average of four hundred on the regular version. It made killing it a lot easier certainly.

As with the last dungeon, the music for this dungeon is amazing. I want to say that's been true for them all but i can't. Certainly the music overall in this game has been phenomenal. I haven't tired of most of the game's regularly used tracks yet and i'm over thirty hours in. It's just before the game dungeon the music in these crawls were techno-y and didn't make an impression on me. Meanwhile the game dungeon had a really cool track that built on a simple 8-bit theme, while Naoto's dungeon is a kind of a sombre, yet beautiful track. I'll post examples!

S link wise, i maxed out Nanako's and am becoming close to maxing out Kanji's. I've unlocked the Moon S Link and am about to unlock the Death. After that, i think the only link i have left is Tower (and i have an idea of how that one unlocks). Chances are i won't get them all maxed before the end of of my playthrough, but that's what the new game plus option is for someday down the road!

Escape from Black Lodge (Indie)

So last week i was looking for another indie game to write about, and my friend Robbie suggests this Twin Peaks game called The Black Lodge. I do a google search, and write about the game i found (which was what i covered in the musings last week). Well it turns out that i found a game that was different to the one he was talking about. This week i'm covering Escape from the Black Lodge which is what you might get if there was a Twin Peaks game on the Atari 2600... and the Atari 2600 was much more powerful.

You have to escape the block lodge (obviously). The exit to the room is always in the top right corner. This leads to new areas. Touching obstacles and characters will deduct points and sooner or later, Dark Dale will start chasing you. If he catches you, you have to shoot owls to stop Dark Dale merging with Bob. If he does, game over... otherwise you can continue the game.

Seeing as there is such minimal use of graphics and sound, it's kind of cool how the game creates an oppressive and odd atmosphere. It also gets kinda nuts rather quickly (although be honest, you'd expect that out of a Twin Peaks game). Definitely worth a play, and for those put off by last week's indie title, this is a lot game-like.

Final Thoughts

I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about the difference between Super Mario Bros and the US release of Super Mario Bros 2. Not from any objective or academic point of view, but a nostalgic look through the eyes of myself as a kid, and why back then SMB2 was indeed the superior game.

It was 1988. A six year old Dave thinks his parents are renting him a Nintendo for the weekend. They end up surprising him with not only buying one, but purchasing a game as well. So it was that fateful year when i became the proud owner of one of the greatest consoles ever plus three amazing games for it (it came with the Super Mario Bros / Duck Hunt cartridge). The game my parents bought along with it was Super Mario Bros 2.

Those first few weeks were interesting. I played SMB2 almost exclusively. I fell in love with the game and except when i felt like playing some Duck Hunt with the zapper, SMB2 didn't leave the console. None of my friends shared this love though. They would always eject it when it was their turn to play, and start up Super Mario Bros. This bored and annoyed six year old Dave.

SMB2 was more colourful. You could choose from four different characters at the start of each level. There was digging in the desert, sliding on ice, whales, rocket ships, giant mice that you threw bombs at. Doors opened up to shadow worlds and a scary face was going to kill you if you took his key. Compared to SMB2, SMB's trek as Mario through drab brick worlds just didn't compare. It couldn't!

Now a days, SMB is one of my favourite videogames. Over the years i've gained an immense appreciation for just how much creativity and genius went into it, and how infinitely re-playable it is. Perhaps my friends were clued in to something i couldn't see at that age. That's not to say SMB2 is a bad game. I admire its radical departure from SMB and again, its creativity and genius... even if it did start out as another title, and was turned into a Mario game just so it would sell better in the western market.

And then of course SMB3 came out... and we all know how many gamers revere that title. Still, i have this special place in my heart for SMB2 thanks to the wonder it captured in the six year old that i was, even when no one else was able to see it.

Till next week, happy gaming all!