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!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

5 Credits to Midnight ep3 - Ninja Gaiden

This week on 5 Credits i tackle Ninja Gaiden. It's tough and there may be bad impersonations ahead.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Monday Musings - 17th Oct, 2011

Hello there true believers! Ok, that sounded corny coming from anyone else than Stan Lee's voice. Anyhow, it's Monday and it is time to muse!

Persona 4 (Ps2)

After finishing off dungeon 4 last week, i believe i am close to dungeon 5 appearing. Now to some that would make it seem like i haven't been playing much but this is incorrect. The span in-between is close to two months. In that time i've maxed the S links of both Yukiko and Chie (who i chose to be in a relationship with), and am close to maxing Nanako, Dojima, and Kanji. I also just played through the class field trip to Port Island, which like all these sequences so far has been hilarious (especially the bit at the club).

I dunno what it is about this game but the S links create enormous empathy for these virtual characters. It's most likely a testament to the writing and design that i come to care about these problems the characters are facing, and look forward to helping them overcome their hurdles. Perhaps there's a bit of wishful thinking that overcoming weaknesses and roadblocks in real life was this easy. I know i have a ways to go till the end of the game, but this is becoming one of the best RPGs i've played.

Child of Eden (Ps3)

I bought this on the cheap and it arrived in the mail this past week. I had to give the first level a go, even though i'm still playing Persona 4. It's Rez. It's a new res with nicer graphics, a different story, and a new mechanic or two. It's awesome. At the end of the first level, i was floored by what i had experienced. I can't wait to return, and i hope the shine doesn't wear off too quickly (I hear the game is rather short so i doubt it will outwear its welcome).

The Black Lodge (indie)

This is an odd one. It's a game loosely based around twin peaks that uses Internet source code (and a healthy dose of google). Each level is a mix of sound and image. There is a trick used to get to the next level. There is a hint hidden in the source code of each page. Most levels require you to type your answer in the address bar.

For example, if the source code hint was is 'what animal is Hobbes?' and the url was http://somethingsomething/thispage.html, you'd change the thispage.html to tiger.html, and the next level will reveal itself.

A very unique and effective way to design a puzzle game. Sadly i'm stuck on level 5 and scouring forums and searching for clues has not aided me... so i decided i better stop and finish writing the musings. This is worth a look. It might not grab all of you, but it is definitely a new gaming experience for me.

Final Thoughts

I'm drawing a blank on new topics for the final thoughts this week, so let's go to an old one. I made a list quite a while ago of all the games that could possibly fit on my top game list. I thought it would make for a good post here, but i haven't been able to wheedle down any of the list... so perhaps i'll take this time to talk about my favourite game of all time - Megaman 2

This is my desert island game. I could play this over and over again to the end of time. Hell, i've probably loaded it up and made my way through the robot masters and Wily's castle hundreds of times already. To me it's just the perfect videogame. The platforming is tough but fair, the bosses are great and can realistically be defeated in any order (i have my way of tackling them, as does everyone else i talk to), and the music kicks ass on a consistent basis. I also love how every boss can be defeated with the mega buster.

I also think it's the best game in the Megaman series on the nes (yes i've completed them all). Megaman 3 comes in second place (I found myself randomly whistling Protoman's entrance theme the other day), but man, Capcom was really on their game for 2.

There are a couple other NES titles that would make my top list (the nes era was my most beloved in childhood gaming memories), and i will get around to that list sooner or later, but i foresee the Blue Bomber's second outing staying on the top of my list for the rest of my gaming days.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

5 Credits to Midnight

Heya folks!

Most of you who know me or follow my twitter feed have already seen this, but i have launched an internet show where i record footage of myself playing old arcade games and i provide commentary. I have called this '5 credits to midnight' and have already released two episodes. Every week from here on out there will be a new ep posted here either Friday or Saturday depending on the complexity of putting together the show that week.

Here's episode 1

Here's episode 2

Please tell me what you think of the show, and if you have any suggestions for arcade games that future episodes can be based around. I'm having a lot of fun making these and i hope you have fun watching em.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Musings - 10th Oct, 2011

Well i am feeling a little down and out, and the musings are a little later than usual, but it is Monday and i will muse dammit! Let's do this!

Persona 4 (Ps2)

I'm closing in on where i left the game last time... and i got this awful realisation that i probably won't be able to finish half the S links i want to at the rate i'm going at. One reason i restarted was the perfect run i was following was sucking a lot of the freedom and fun out of the game, but now i'm starting to feel like i'm missing content. I've made my resolve that come what may i'll just try and do my best, finish the game, and then once i have that game complete save, i can new game plus a perfect run sometime in the future.

I'm at link level 9 with Yukiko and she asked me why i was spending so much time with her. I answered because she's a friend, and she got very sullen and ran off. Man, even in a video game i constantly put my foot in my mouth talking to women. I guess i should be happy that the character i'm playing does actually resemble a reflection of the player.

And what's with needing such high expression levels to talk to both Dojima and Nanako? Seriously. I'm grinding that translating job almost every night now.

Prizma Puzzle Challenges (Indie)

Can you shoot the laser to the finish tower while collecting all the stars? Oh it starts off easy and you feel like a champ, but then new towers and barriers get introduced and suddenly your head is swimming with the possibilities. It's never hard enough to frustrate you though. Less of a true puzzle game, and more a nifty pretty looking diversion. Give it a look!

Final Thoughts

So Game Trailers has been doing their top 100 game trailers countdown and it's been a fun list full of some classic trailers, and some i had never seen. One thing that struck me though was the Mass Effect 2 trailers... specifically this piece of music that played over them. I have not been moved by a piece of video game music this drastically since the Metal Gear Solid theme, and that theme moves me mainly because of the memories associated with where it plays in the games. This piece just blind sighted me. I haven't even completed Mass Effect 2 yet.

So i spent Sunday morning playing through all the Mass Effect 2 OST tracks i could find. Turns out the music was on the trailer only, and i finally found a rip of it. I must have listened to it close to 20 times yesterday. It looped in my head while at work and was earworming as i tried to get to sleep.

You never know what the trigger will be and it's different for each person, but it is pretty cool that music has this effect on people, and out of all the places to find it, it's from a video game trailer.

Here's the ripped version btw.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Monday Musings - 3rd Oct, 2011

Man, for the start of Spring (living in Australia and all), it's been quite chilly both last night and this morning. Suits me fine though. Perfect weather for writing Monday Musings!

Persona 4 (PS2)

I didn't actually play too much this week, but i have kept to my single game plan outlined in last week's column. I'm nearing the end of Rise's dungeon and have maxed out Yosuke's S link (and am close to maxing out Yukiko's).

I've been working on both the Nanako and Dojima S Links in the evenings when they're available. They both require additional levels in expression so i find myself constantly grinding stats in my room through the different jobs (i am also trying to raise understanding and diligence for other purposes). Having said that, there's nothing that feels like a bigger let down and time waster in this game than activating an S link and then getting the generic "you have spent some time with this person" message. I know the trick about having a persona of the same arcana summoned when you talk to them as that gives extra points towards reaching a new link level, and i know that giving the right responses during one of these sections will make the next level easier to obtain (though i don't always say the right thing when these choices come up)... but i spent four nights trying to activate the next Nanako link level.. and then when i was finally able to do so, my expression wasn't high enough to continue. That certainly was a kick in the pants ><

The Cat and the Coup (indie)

This is this week's indie title. It's free on steam or can be obtained through the link above and doesn't take long to download or play. I was made aware of it through last week's episode of Extra Creditz (amazing show for those who like to explore beneath the surface of gaming). It's a short playable timeline of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. You play his cat and you interact with objects to play through significant points in his life of politics and the coup that imprisoned him.

The art style is fairly unique and the way the game flows from event to event is impressive (like you're travelling from scene to scene on a giant mosaic painting). The gameplay is fairly basic, and i don't think anyone will get stuck as to what to do on any of the game's short puzzles, but as it ended i was quite impressed. If anything, i took 13 minutes and played through a perspective on a part of history i knew nothing about.

Final Thoughts

A short intro and video test for a weekly gaming series i plan to produce. I'll most likely post new episodes on this blog. I'm gonna get working on episode 1 this week.

Yeah, that's all i'm going to talk about in this week's final thoughts. It's a short musings.

Till next week, happy gaming all!