Monthly Archives: March 2011

Jesus Boy wins again

We’ve been watching Survivor this season, with the whole Redemption Island mechanic added to the game. So far I’m really liking Matt, who we’ve nicknamed “Jesus Boy.” Because he talks about Jesus a lot, and he’s young, you see.

I started to like him when he took down Russell at the Redemption Island challenge. Then he took down one of Russell’s followers. This week he took down the other one of Russell’s followers. Apparently next week whoever wins will re-enter the game, and having that many victories under his belt provides some momentum.

I’ve been continuing to work my way through the 3DS review games. Ridge Racer is turning out to be unexpectedly long, so I’ll probably save that one for Wednesday and make Steel Diver on Monday.

I also got Lego Star Wars in the mail today, and played a (very) small amount. So far it’s a standout for the 3DS games, since it’s one of the few that I can see myself playing with or without the 3DS functionality. The 3D effect is cool, but the game itself is just really solid without it.

  • I downloaded Moon Diver from this week’s PS Store offerings, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to give it a try. Most of my time has been devoted to 3DS review games, but I need to take breaks and play something else once in a while.
  • I have a soft spot for Zeboyd Games, so this story was kind of interesting. I’m sure the creators of College Lacrosse didn’t encourage people to burn ratings, but c’mon, people. You should just know that’s not cool.

3DS First Impressions, Later Than Relevance

My shiny new 3DS arrived today. I had some thoughts to share on the device, but some of them would just be echoing the conventional wisdom, especially since I’m getting it two days after launch. So just a few quick thoughts, before I go back to my feverish reviewing.

The 3D effect works. I tend to keep it a little on the lower side, since I found long periods of play on the higher angles hurts my eyes. It’s also a bit more extreme in some games than others. Steel Diver, one of the games I’m reviewing, is extremely subtle even on the highest settings.

The dock might be my favorite unexpected surprise. I didn’t really think I’d use it, but it’s found a comfortable place on my office desk. It’s just really convenient to drop it into the dock and forget about it, rather than dig up the plug from a pile of chargers and fit it into the back. As such, I haven’t run into battery life problems. When I’m not using it, it nestles snugly in the dock. Problem solved.

The out-of-the-box software is pretty impressive. Face Raiders has that “wow” factor that I can see being a hit, and the AR games are definitely something I’m curious to explore more. I did the initial one (target practice with the question mark), and it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I need to play the AR Games in my kitchen, since it’s the room with the best lighting thanks to the halogen bulbs. But in general, what I’m saying is that if you don’t get any games, you can still impress people with this thing.

The Mii creator is apparently hit-or-miss. It did great for me, though. After I added a beard and moved my mouth a little bit, it looked a lot better than the one I tried to create on the Wii.

The Friend Code thing is still a bit of a dinosaur, but having one unified Friends List is at least a big step up. I’ve been enjoying looking at my friends’ Miis. By the way, has anyone noticed that all the fields for personal messages are extremely small?

The StreetPass and Coins features are pretty brilliant ways to encourage you to take it out and about with you. I haven’t run into any StreetPasses, but I took it with me on a walk. I logged 3,000 steps, which was more than enough for my 10 daily coins. Now I just need to find a game that actually accepts the virtual currency. Still, great idea Nintendo.

I popped in Pokemon White to check how it handled original DS games, and it wasn’t too bad. A little on the blurry side, but no where near the pug-ugly mess people kept talking about. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to consolidate my DS and 3DS games into one pouch and put the DS Lite aside, or just keep them both available for their own native games.

Onto the games. I’ve played some Steel Diver and Ridge Racer, but I’m going to save my impressions of both for the Shack reviews that I’ll be putting up next week. Ghost Recon and Lego Star Wars are on the way as well, so hopefully I’ll carve out some time to try them.

Nintendogs+cats – Yep, that’s Nintendogs alright. I haven’t gotten a cat yet, but so far I can say this is pretty much exactly what you’d expect if you played the original. A few new activities for your pet, much improved graphics, but otherwise it’s more or less the same. The 3D-ness is a nice showpiece here, and the puppies are especially cute. So far I have a welsh corgi named Belle, who is pretty good at catching frisbees but terrible at bringing them back to me.

Super Street Fighter 4 – I’ve only played a tiny bit of this, and I’m renting it. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it, since I already have two versions of this game available to me, and they’re prettier. But it does as advertised, and it looks pretty doing it. Some might complain about the shortcut buttons, but c’mon… no one is playing the portable version competitively. It only bothers me a tiny bit because it gets fingerprints. But heck, the whole system is a fingerprint magnet.

Onto the stories. Lots of good ones today, oddly:

  • I actually wrote this Mortal Kombat story yesterday, but some back-end hitches forced us to sit on it for a little while. Nothing wrong with the story, just working out the kinks of the new Shack site. I think it’s funny that people said it’s a spoiler. Come on, guys. I’m no Mortal Kombat expert, but is it really a spoiler that Scorpion is in this one?
  • No PlayStation Rewards after all. I kind of wonder why it got canned, really. We’ll probably never know.
  • Sometimes you stumble on a story totally by accident. I was looking at this statement from Nintendo as a non-reply to my inquiry, but my editor was like “the sales are the story, get it asap.”
  • Holy crap. I’m looking forward to LA Noire. I know there was probably some exchange of whatever rich people exchange — money, trinkets, virile Portuguese men — but I have to think Tribeca has some level of standards and wouldn’t let in, say, Bulletstorm. Where’s your god now, Ebert?
  • I already own Halo Reach, and trying new things scares me, but if you don’t fit into either of those categories: hey, free Halo Reach!

Delayed 3D (or: You’re Lucky I Love You, Amazon)

By all measures, I was supposed to get my 3Ds in the mail today. I know Amazon can’t force UPS to deliver on a Sunday. I get that. But they’ve always treated me right and done the next best thing. When Nintendo does its insane Sunday release bull-pockey, Amazon gets it to me the next day, so I don’t mind.

But today, I got a notice that Amazon had shipped my system. I checked its location, and it was in Delaware. Come on, guys. If you’re ever going to drop the ball, don’t make it on a new hardware launch!

Fortunately, I’m receiving enough store credit to get a free accessory and an entire free game. I’m sorry Amazon, baby, I just lost my temper.

I’ll also apparently be deluged with games upon its arrival. I ordered Nintendogs+cats for myself. GameFly is sending me Super Street Fighter 4, because I was just curious enough not to buy it. And I’m on the Shack reviews for Steel Diver and Ridge Racer, so those are being sent to me overnight express. GameFly is sending me Lego Star Wars as well, though it shipped after SF4 so it’s bound to arrive a little later. And I’ll be spending my credit on Ghost Recon, since that’s actually looking pretty good. All in all, this week promises to be a 3DS feast.

IGN is trying this new feature in which it responds directly to commenters on its reviews. I don’t tend to follow IGN that closely, though I follow a few writers that I particularly like. Having been the subject of commenter scorn plenty of times, I can understand the idea of wanting to address your critics. IGN may be big enough to pull it off, but I wonder if this isn’t a more intellectual way of flame-baiting. Don’t get me wrong, the responses are all well-reasoned, but running rational circles around angry people tends to make them even angrier.

Did I ever mention how someone said they wished I ended up in a ditch? Yeah, that totally happened. I didn’t even realize until the guy sent me a private message apologizing for it.

  • Ho-lee crap. Just dismal.
  • Capcom, release a tweaked version of one of its fighting franchises? Surely you jest!
  • This was a weird story. First a bunch of outlets were saying the NPD was freezing us out, but the story from Anita Frazier was completely different. We were sent the same response as a bunch of other outlets, but I’m glad I took the extra step to check into it.
  • This story concerns me, especially since I’m actually getting one and reviewing games on a deadline. I’m sure Garnett would be understanding if it did break; he’s a really nice guy, to be honest. But still, I’d rather not have my shiny new toy break on me for obvious reasons. The problem seems mostly centralized in Europe for some reason, most people I’ve seen reporting it (including the person who snapped the initial picture) used words like “centre.” So maybe our crop of systems is alright? Hopefully? U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Dominioning

We went over to a friend’s house to night and played a little Dominion. I’m not too knowledgable about the whole custom board/card game thing, but I’ve really liked playing this one. I have my own set (Intrigue), and our friend apparently has… all of the other ones. Except Alchemy, which I’m not sure I’d like. So we had a nice mix of cards going.

I think I enjoy the recommended sets the most, because they tend to strike a good balance. The game works best when there are a few card combinations to rotate your strategy around. The randomizers are nice for mixing things up, but it’s a bit hit-or-miss. Sometimes you get some good strategy paths and sometimes you don’t.

We have a little joke about one of the Seafaring cards called Pearl Diver. It’s mostly useless, to be honest. One of these days I want to make a deck that revolves around supporting the Pearl Diver.

Apparently there’s another expansion coming along called Cornucopia, which rewards building a varied deck. I tend to do that a lot, which may be why I lose so much, so maybe that one will help.

  • I know that Homefront isn’t a great game, but it’s kind of funny how people begrudge others’ success. It’s apparently doing pretty well, so good for them. Maybe with a little polish (and seed money) Homefront 2 will be better.
  • It’s probably going to be terrible, but I’d kind of like to see what kinds of Facebook games come out of properties like Scream and Children of the Corn.
  • Remember when all those companies started focusing on downloadable stuff to combat used game sales, and people figured it would screw up GameStop’s profits? That didn’t happen.

Twas the week before the 3DS

Even with a lackluster launch line-up, it’s hard not to be a little excited for the 3DS. New hardware just zaps some hard-wired part of the geek brain. And I’m pretty happy with how Amazon is taking care of me. They tend to match our outdo their competitors, and when I saw that TRU was offering a buy-one-get-one half off deal on games, I almost considered switching.

I’m glad I didn’t, though. Amazon has pulled through as usual with enough store credit to basically give away a free game, plus a free accessory. I don’t particularly need a 3DS case, but if you want to give me one, I’ll take it.

I half-suspect the Duke Nukem Forever delay is just them jerking us around. I’m sure it really is delayed, but I’m not sure there’s a reason for it. I think maybe Randy Pitchford was at a bar and was like “you know what’d be funny?”

  • Besides the Duke delay, this morning’s news crop brought a Stronghold 3 delay and a DLC release delay. When it rains it pours, right?
  • Even more Japan relief stuff. This story took a really, really long time to compile. Hopefully I steered a few people towards the auctions to drive those prices up.
  • I know it probably has something to do with the end of the fiscal quarter, but really Sony, you couldn’t have picked a worse day to do this.

Firefoxy

I finally got around to trying out the new Firefox 4 tonight, and so far I’m pretty impressed. It’s noticeably faster, and some of the usability improvements seem obvious in hindsight. I particularly like the pinned tabs.

I’m not sure how I feel about tabs being on the top of the address bar (or the “Awesome Bar,” which sounds more like an ironically named place to go on a Friday night), but I figure I’ll try it out for a little while. I found the option to put them back in their rightful place, but I figure I should at least give the designers’ intent a chance first.

I actually use two browsers: Firefox when I’m working on Shacknews, Safari for my own personal browsing. Firefox 4 is making an excellent case for making the switch, but I kind of like being able to “quit work” and close that browser. There’s some kind of mental satisfaction in being done for the day and you need a definite finish to the day. Closing the browser is like putting a period on a sentence, and without that period I might feel like the sentence (i.e., the work day) is left hanging. People who don’t work from home might not get it, but I find the distinction helps.

I know I can just clone the browser and call it something different, but I’d really like to have a different looking icon at the bottom as well, just to avoid confusion. It’s probably a little strange that that’s one of the only things keeping me from switching permanently.

When I got my Victini (above) in Pokemon White, I named him after the browser. I mean, he’s a fox, with psychic and fire powers. What else would I call him?

Speaking of writing for Shacknews…

  • Kind of a lackluster PS Store update. I’ll probably download the SOCOM 4 beta, just to have tried it. But I have to wait until my other HDMI cable gets here, so I don’t have to reach behind the TV to switch between OnLive and my PS3. I’m not in any rush.
  • I actually have a soft spot for Bonk, so I’m hoping this rumor proves false and we get to see his bald head on the 3DS.
  • I’m sort of a sucker for courtroom drama. We’ve made a bit of an editorial decision not to overexpose this PS3 hacker case, but Sony using his tampering as part of their case for California jurisdiction pushed it into the realm of worthwhile news to cover. I’m sort of rooting for the big corporation on this one.

Now Playing, catching up

I realized it’s been a little while since I just did some quick hits of what I’m currently working through, so lacking any other randomness I figured I’d hit that tonight.

Dragon Age Legends is keeping me busy on Facebook, but I made the stupid mistake of resetting my character while trying to change some settings. Oh well. Say goodbye to my female mage, say hello to my warrior, Stabby McGee. ┬áHe’s Irish. Obviously.

I wrapped up Bulletstorm last night, and that game is a straight-up hoot. It’s big and dumb, but the mechanics are fun and it has a pretty gorgeous color palette. Good on them for making a game that’s just fun for the sake of being fun.

Now that Bulletstorm is out of the way, I might put Republic Commando in the disc tray. I’ve been meaning to try it out for a good long while now.

I’m playing Homefront via OnLive. Now that I’ve spent a good 15 minutes tweaking the settings, it controls comfortably. I’m hoping that isn’t an issue for every PC-based shooter.

I’m alternating between Torchlight, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, and Beyond Good & Evil on XBLA. All great distractions, but I gravitate towards Torchlight the most. It’s a perfect unwinding game.

I picked up Sonic 4 since it was on sale. I tried it out a bit tonight, and the demo doesn’t really do it justice. It’s actually not bad, even if a bit short. I think it’s easier to like if you realize it’s not a Sonic sequel as much as a Sonic 1 sequel. It carries some conventions from the other games, but everything from the feel to the bonus stages is clearly an homage to the original.

I played some Okamiden via Gamefly and promptly sent it back. It wasn’t bad, per se, but I don’t have the patience for 50 minutes of dialogue in the first hour of play. So, back to Pokemon White for my portable gaming.

Holy crap. I’m playing a lot of games.

  • I can’t wait for Portal 2. I’m sure it’s going to hit Valve’s quality standards, and fun videos like this one just remind me how great the writing is.
  • I should still try out Super Stardust sometime. Maybe if it comes free for PS+ (which is not outside the realm of possibility)
  • Back to the Future: Episode 3 next week? Crap, I still need to finish Episode 2.

On Duke Nukem and sexism

I didn’t write the story for Shack, but details of Duke Nukem’s multiplayer modes hit the internet today. It caused a little stir in the gaming circles, which means we’re now at T-minus a few days before it causes a huge stir in the non-gaming circles. This time, they’re not entirely wrong.

The main problem is the “Capture the Babe” mode, a modification on Capture the Flag in which Duke hauls around a hysterical woman and slaps her when she freaks out. I can already hear the Fox News special report on the latest misogynistic game being marketed to our children. Our children.

They’ll be right, of course. Duke Nukem is a series that thrives on misogyny. That and bubblegum pretty much makes the game’s entire identity. But stuffing bills into a stripper’s g-string doesn’t have the same bizarre impact it had in the 90s, so they had to find some way to amp it up. It’s like getting offended by something Howard Stern says. If you’re offended, that’s the whole point. That’s the goal.

Stepping back, looking at it from a game design mechanic, you can judge the worth of a game type by stripping away the window dressing. In this case you have a capture the flag mode where the flag will sometimes, at random intervals, need you to press a button. That doesn’t sound even remotely fun.

So, onto the game news that I did cover.

  • I’m only a casual football fan, but this is a pretty cool idea. Narrowing it down to only a few votes, as in years prior, was a bit slanted. Obviously last year’s Super Bowl QB is the most likely contender, but at least the others have a chance. I voted for Ray Rice, also known as my wife’s football crush.
  • I’ll never be the one to complain about free stuff for being a PlayStation Plus subscriber. It’s cool that between Stacking, the Genesis classics, and this game, they’re starting to get some pretty big downloadable titles, and even get some early or day-and-date with their wide release. PS+ started out as a bit of a joke, but I think it’s safe to say it’s not a bad value now.
  • Only 7 days left before the 3DS. Sure, the downloads suck, but I’m eager to get my hands on a new piece of hardware. Unfortunately, since I ordered through Amazon, I’m getting it a day later than any other day-one adopter. Nintendo’s “always release on Sunday” policy at work. Oh well. At least I don’t have to camp outside a Target at 4 a.m. (We totally did that for a Wii)

I submitted a new piece to GamePro today. I haven’t gotten any edit notes, but here’s hoping it goes up without a hitch.

OnLive? More like OffLine lol m i rite?

I got my OnLive micro-console in the mail today, after taking advantage of the Homefront deal. I had been curious about it, and curious about Homefront, and even about Metro 2033 (the other free game included), so I bit on it. I’ve played around a little bit, not enough to gather any kind of experienced thoughts, but here are a few early impressions.

By default, it only includes an HDMI cable, so make sure you have a port open. I actually had to pull my TV out and swap it with my PS3 cable, which is going to be a pain pretty fast.

The controller is basically an Xbox 360 controller. I mean, it’s not even trying to hide it, to be honest. The OnLive logo is in the exact same spot as the 360 logo. But hey, if you’re going to blatantly copy someone, copy the best.

Starting it up was easy enough, for anyone who’s ever connected electrical devices. I like the little flourishes they do with the menus, even if it is just to hide load times.

Now for the bad news. I tried Homefront, and it was stuttering quite a bit. Not enough to make it unplayable — more like just enough to make it annoying. I’m still going to play it, of course, but I think the stuttering probably makes it better for puzzle games or RPGs instead of your fast-action first-person shooters. Maybe once we get better network infrastructure in America.

Bryan has some plans in place for GeekSpeak, and kicked off one part of it today with the first entry in the GeekSpeak blog. Exciting things coming.

But while I’ve brought that up, holy crap is that a bad costume. I honestly thought it was one of those Halloween outfits you find at Party City and Bryan had just used it as a visual aide. My reaction when I read the post and saw that it was the actual actress in her actual costume was “GODWHATNO.” And I don’t even have a particular affinity for Wonder Woman. I just recognize her cultural significance and how it’s getting crapped all over.

The main thing that bugs me? Besides everything? The metal looks cheap. It’s clearly shiny plastic. Give her metal gauntlets, metal breastplate, and some actual rope, as opposed to plastic crap and glitter string.

  • Apparently Gun Loco was very bad, so don’t get too broken up about the cancellation.
  • We finally did our wrap-up of cool promotions to help Japan today, and I’m glad we waited. A few just hit today to prepare for the weekend and it’s nice to have them all in one place. I’m thinking of taking advantage of a few myself. You know, for charity. Bungie is probably the most charitable, extending their donations through the end of April. Bravo.
  • I hadn’t heard much about Outland, but it’s awfully pretty.
  • Yes. YES.
  • “Hey, is it too late to cancel the shipments of that game about an earthquake hitting a Pacific coast town and turning it into a barren, Mad Max-like wasteland?”

Slow cookers are beautiful

I tried out our slow cooker for the first time in quite a while today, to make some chili. My wife’s a vegetarian, and she found a pretty great recipe. I modified it in a few ways — used one jalepeno and one bag of fake meat, when the recipe called for two of each — and it turned out great. The best part was how it made the apartment smell like chili. That was also the worst part.

Apparently some people are upset about the New York Times charging to view its online site. I understand the sentiment to an extent. Online content tends to be free, so people have grown accustomed to it. On the other hand, the content itself costs money to produce, especially for a professional, research-heavy organization like the NYT. It’ll be interesting to see how this all turns out, but good on them for trying.

  • This suit seemed like a foregone conclusion when the incriminating e-mails came around. EA can claim it was a joke, and they may even be right, but it seems like enough reason to justify the suit going forward.
  • I actually have Homefront coming, I ordered it through OnLive to get a free micro-console. I was curious about it, and this was a way to get it half-price with two games, so it seemed reasonable enough.
  • If you haven’t played Beyond Good & Evil on the original platforms or the Xbox 360, grab it when it comes to PS3. That is all.