Monthly Archives: October 2011

Puss N Boots

I haven’t really watched all of the Shrek movies — the first two were pretty good, but after that I lost interest. But, as a cat person, I have a soft spot for Puss N Boots. So that paired with pretty good reviews, obviously we had to go see it.

The verdict? Liked it. Didn’t love it, but liked it. I think if you consider this part of the Shrek “series” or whatever, it’s probably the most tightly plotted. The two other movies I’ve seen sort of introduced fairy tale characters out of no where as convenient plot devices; this one felt more like they introduced a few core characters (along with some original creations) and had a definite roadmap of what to do with them. There wasn’t an equivalent of the Muffin Man as a deus ex machina, for example.

Also, “Ohhhh Cat” is the best new character in the Shrek pantheon.

  • I really liked the Arkedo Pixel game, so I’m curious to see what they can do with bigger ambitions and presumably a bigger budget.
  • I think I’ve said this exact thing before, but I could listen to Ken Levine talk all day. And talking politics? Oh yes.
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Replay value and Batman

I finished Batman: Arkham City a few days ago, and yet I’m still playing the crap out of it. I’ve finished all the side-quests, collected all of the Riddler trophies and riddles (as Batman, at least), done most of the combat medals, and gotten not half bad at the combat system. Good enough to three-star a few of the Challenge Rooms at any rate. I haven’t even started a New Game + yet, but I might save that for sometime when my playlist slows down again.

This is a pretty long game to start with, and I’m not usually one for collectibles. I suppose that’s really the trick of replay value. You have to like the game enough to want to keep going through it. I’m not collecting the Riddler tokens because I really want to punch Riddler in the face — though that’s a factor too. I’m collecting them because I like being in the world and I keep wanting to go back.

  • Luigi seems like kind of obvious news, but I did like the gameplay video. Showed lots of nifty shenanigans happening.
  • About time Sony made an honest woman of Ericsson. They liked it, so they finally put a ring on it.

New Comic Wednesday: Of two minds, two times

New Comic Wednesday makes for a nice blog post. I always know what I’m going to talk about as soon as the day starts! This was a strange week for comics; I picked up just two new books and I’m of two minds about both of them. Let’s-a go.

Batman: The Dark Knight #2: I’m not sure whether I blogged about this, but TDK#1 was a mixed bag for me too. Great art, an interesting story, a fun script, and then that twist at the end. Oh dear. It was so incredibly stupid that it overshadowed the rest of the book. But generally, with finding new comics, I’ve adopted a “try it twice” policy. That is to say, if I see some potential I’ll give it another shot.

Now this issue comes out. Same thing. Great art and a lot of fun cameos from the Bat family. Stuff in Gotham is getting crazy and the middle of the book does a great job expressing that. Then we reach the last page, where not only is there a dumb twist, but the exact same dumb twist. Now I have to weigh if these great comics are worth their totally stupid endings.

All-Star Western #1, 2: This was like a case of whiplash in book form. I had heard so many sparkling things about ASW#1 that I figured I’d pick up both to catch up before diving into the second. And those were all true. The first issue is just crackling with creativity and wit, with a really unique approach to the art and a lot of fun references to DC lore. When I opened up the second issue, I was sold and totally on-board. Then the second issue happened.

Now to be fair, the whole secret society motif is still fun, and the relationship between Arkham and Hex is great. But the dialogue between this society of villains was just needlessly obtuse and overcrowded, and the art was such a huge dip in quality I went back and checked the covers to see if it was the same people. I’ll probably pick up #3, but here’s hoping it’s more like the first than the second.

  • I like the Metal Gear Solid series, but never got through MGS3. Maybe I should give it another shot in HD.
  • The Street Fighter/Tekken crossover concept is cool, and it’s interesting that they’re keeping the dev cycles separate to let each product breathe on its own, but I can’t help but wonder if the Namco version is too far out. We might even be moving into next-gen by 2013.

Confirming the obvious

Hey guys, that multi-billion dollar series that we haven’t heard from in a few years? They’re making another one.

  • Good to be reminded that quality sometimes gets rewarded. I finished the game and currently I’m working on plumbing the depths of the Riddler challenges.
  • I usually give Nintendo a bit of slack since they have so many great franchises and a long legacy of quality. That said, I do not like this Circle Pad dongle. It splits the market at best, looks pretty ugly in itself, and implies an impending hardware revision. I don’t want one, but I feel like eventually I may be shut out of some experience by not having one. That’s not a good thing to stick on your loyal early adopters. On a semi-related note, how is it that they still haven’t outlined a roll-out plan for the Ambassador GBA games?
  • I’m pretty proud of writing this entire story, which revolves completely around graphics, without using the word “graphics.” I’m not sure why, but something about the word makes me think of cheesy 90s-era game journalism. I don’t mind it when I’m reading a piece, but when it comes to writing it I always picture this:

Taking Triple-A for Granted

This is an odd season for games. We get so overloaded that we tend to overlook a lot of the low- and mid-tier games, but sometimes I even shrug off the big-budget games until the last moment.

Take Uncharted 3 for example. I definitely want to play it, and I loved the previous two games in the series, but when a franchise has that much stock in its legacy and reputation it’s easy to just gloss over any new information. I’ve been assuming it will be really good and not thinking much more about it. Now reviews are coming out, and they’re pretty universally glowing, and it’s snapped me back awake a bit. I think I was taking it for granted that the game would be awesome, and you don’t realize what that really means until you get closer to launch. I have to imagine that’s one of the stranger challenges of being a PR person: getting people to care more about the game that they’re just assuming will be great as a matter of course.

I finished Arkham City last night, and without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that is one game that did the final boss encounter and ending right. Stick around during and after the credits, kids.

I pitched a Halloween-themed piece to GamePro and it went up today: 11 Creepy Enemies from Kid-Friendly Games. It’s about time somebody called out the Spooky Mask.

I should have another piece on 1UP in early November that I’m pretty happy with. It might get some angry comments, but you know. Net rage.

  • Valve boss Gabe Newell talked a bit about some of the pricing experiments they’ve done on Steam, and I thought it was really interesting. It’s also very inside baseball and takes a lot of explaining to get to his main points, so I was afraid the response would be “tl;dr” — thanks for reading, Shackers.
  • Super Meat Boy is like punching yourself in the spine for funsies. So if you want a few more spine-punches, hoo boy! (I liked SMB, which makes me wonder if I could stand to enjoy Dark Souls. Similar masochism, right?)
  • Half of me wonders if part of the reason Sonic games are so out of style these days is that they just aren’t long-format games. People expect 6-8 hours for their dollars, and Sonic games tend to either be much quicker or overstay their welcome. That’s what made the Sonic 4 idea so intriguing. Anyway, rambling aside, pitting Generations side-by-side with Sonic 1 feels like it’s going to display the design differences pretty starkly.

Hallow Een

Tomorrow is our annual Halloween party and my costume is constructed, so all that’s left to do is shave my beard. Very few characters have beards, so shaving is basically an annual tradition. It’s weird feeling air on my face for a while, but I commit to my costumes.

Nina hates it, though; she thinks I look like a stranger for a while. And she used to hate my facial hair. Who’s laughing now?

Probably still her.

  • Laugh if you must, but I like the Mario Kart series, and MK7 sounds pretty good. I can’t fault it for incremental upgrades when they only come out every 3-5 years.
  • I’m not going to lie; if I get frustrated enough with the Riddler stuff, I might go for this app. As some commenters point out, a $3 app with interactive elements is a smart way to update the tried and true strategy guide business.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter first impressions

I picked up the new Professor Layton game yesterday, and I’m only about five puzzles in. So far it’s as charming as ever, and the puzzles are well-designed. Layton games are Layton games, and as long as they don’t terribly break it you know you’re getting something good. I’m only a few minutes into London Life too, but it’s just adorable.

The opening scene actually shows a giant ghost ripping through the city and smashing buildings. Every Layton game has a sudden, bizarre, unbelievable twist that I’ve nicknamed the “lolwut moment.” I can’t wait to see how they explain this one away.

I know this is coming later (and shorter) than usual. Blame Batman.

  • I’m not sure who I’d favor to play Ezio in an Assassin’s Creed movie. Probably some actual Italian actor that I don’t know.
  • We already knew Battlefield 3 is coming on two discs, but I have to say that offering the second disc as a sort of upgrade texture pack is a unique way to do it. I sort of wonder how that will impact trade-ins. Will GameStop sell it for less if it’s only the first disc? Would you be able to upgrade with the “texture pack” via digital download?
  • I liked the Peer Review DLC for what it was, but it didn’t have much in terms of new content. So an avenue to streams of user-created levels sounds perfect.

NCW and Walking Dead

It’s Wednesday again, which means new comics and apparently torrential downpour. This is the second New Comic Wednesday in which I had to protect my new purchases from the wet weather. I suppose clouds hate my comic habit.

Nightwing #2: Meh. I like the idea of Nightwing. A grown Robin with some of Batman’s skills and a bit of a cavalier attitude sounds great in theory. But the villain was a bit dull and I didn’t care that much about the story. I think I’ll pass from here on out, but hey, good for you Nightwing. Keep on, uh, doing what you’re doing.

Justice League #2: I hadn’t picked up #1, but I wanted to try this out. I think it will be a regular pick-up, since it’s just a lot of fun watching the various heroes play off each other. Especially since, thanks to the New 52 reboot, they don’t really know each other that much. Batman has a particularly good line when all the “super” heroes are comparing powers. This is also a pretty thick book; it seemed bigger than most to justify the extra buck.

Wonder Woman #2: Great. The art is a little uneven in this book, because Wonder Woman’s jaw turns from feminine to what-the-heck from panel to panel, especially during fight scenes. But I continue to be a sucker for the mythology and for WW being a badass. Unfortunately, the “twist” end was spoiled a bit for me from reading it on the internet and not realizing it was supposed to be a spoiler.

Batman #2: I still think I like Batman & Robin best from what I’ve read so far, but this was a strong follow-up. I liked this issue more than the first one, especially Batman’s speech in the last spread. Also, just great art.

I finally watched The Walking Dead S2 premiere tonight. Some odd pacing issues aside, it was a good episode to set the stage for this season. And I did not see that ending coming. At all.

  • As someone who has only recently and casually gotten into Madden, NFL Blitz looks really fun.
  • I’m pretty happy with this GTA3 retrospective story. The interview itself was alright, but I like to think I pulled the most interesting bit for my story.

Swear to me (or, Arkham City first impressions)

Happy Bat-Day everyone!

Arkham City came out today, as if you hadn’t noticed. The entire Internet seems to have exploded with conversation about it, though we did get a press release from Warner Bros reminding us that it was now available. I know this is SOP, but it always makes me laugh when a company reminds us that a huge game dominating the conversation comes out. We got it, WB! Thanks!

I’m probably an hour or two deep so far, and I’m really impressed. Combat in Arkham Asylum was never my strong suit, but even I can see that they’ve made some smart and subtle improvements here. It all just seems to flow much easier than before, and for a battle system as creamy-smooth as Arkham Asylum was to begin with, that’s saying something.

I was more of a Predator Challenge kind of person, and those have gotten their own improvements too. For one thing, the thugs aren’t brick-dumb anymore. They seem to follow your movements a lot better, so just swinging away won’t do it anymore. You need to break the line of sight before you grapple away, which is what makes Smoke Bombs useful.

It’s also legitimately funny. They play a lot with references to criminals being rightly terrified of the Bat. One early scene that sets up teaching you Predator stuff has a great line that I won’t spoil, but it made me laugh.

Catwoman is a fun diversion, but so far her chapters are pretty short. I suppose I should expect that for mini-chapters, but she plays really differently from Batman, so I’d like more of that. I guess that’s what the Challenge rooms are for. I’m hoping Nightwing and Robin are differentiated as well.

It’s a little overwhelming how much stuff there is to do. I was actually a bit wary at first that they might have overloaded the villains, but on reflection, I think that’s for its favor. It expresses the same idea that the plot does. Even in the midst of a mass breakout, Arkham Asylum was contained and compartmentalized. Arkham City is supposed to be a giant, chaotic melting pot of warring factions, and throwing in so many villains helps illustrate that feel.

If it’s not clear yet, this is a really, really great game. Portal 2 is in the danger zone for losing my GOTY spot.

  • Speaking of Arkham City, Batman Beyond suit looks cool and all, but I think I’ll wait for them to be bundled together as DLC. Easier and cheaper than chasing down all the baubles.
  • I understand the lack of a leftie mode in Skyward Sword, and it doesn’t impact me personally, but I have to wonder how hard it would be to implement. Other than mirroring the character model and animations, what would have to be done?
  • I have to say, as rumors go, Ezio in Soul Calibur passes the smell test. His visual and fighting style just fits so well into that world, it’s hard to imagine a better video game cameo.

Waiting for Batman

Sometimes I think through my whole blog post, maybe even write up the entire thing, and then make a title that encapsulates the spirit of it. Other times, I just slap up something because the reference sounded funny to me. Guess which one this is.

As much flak as gamejournos get for acting as glorified advertisers for games, that’s really a symptom of enthusiasm. We need to keep our enthusiasm in check and make sure it doesn’t color our perceptions or our ability to serve our readers, but at least the source is pure. With that in mind, I don’t often get the anticipation bug like I am for Arkham City. It will arrive tomorrow, and I’ve already made sure my schedule is (relatively) clear so I can dive into it. I have a few freelance bits on the docket, but I can do those while we watch Survivor or whatever. From the time I get done writing for Shack, I’m free to play.

Speaking of Batman, it’s looking like a heavy comic week. Looking up the week’s releases via ComicList is becoming a tradition in itself, and this week has both Batman and Wonder Woman #2s. I’ll definitely pick those up, but I’m curious to grab Justice League and Nightwing as well. Luckily my store has a B1G1-half-off deal on the #2s, so that should ease the burden. That’s also the day my hardcover Arkham City trade should arrive, so that day is going to have a lot of comic reading going on.