Monthly Archives: December 2011

A visit with the family

I just got back from a visit with the immediate family. Since they live in a separate state we tend to travel between Christmas and New Year’s to see them. I would have mentioned it here, but internet horror stories have taught me that only idiots actually tell people when they’re gone from their house. My in-laws were housesitting, but you know, still.

All went well. My sister has a new daughter who’s adorable, all the other kids are getting taller, and I taught some members to play Dominion with my new Cornucopia expansion. It was a good time all around. Now all that’s left is to say goodbye to this year and look forward to the next.

New year’s resolutions? I’d like to finish more books, and learn how to cook a greater swath of vegetarian recipes. I’m not vegetarian, but my wife is, so it’d be helpful to know how to make a better variety of deliciousness. I’ll check in on how well I’m doing with these resolutions next year, assuming we all haven’t died horribly.

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Is it weird to want Skylanders?

I’m a little disturbed by how much I’d like to try out Skylanders. It’s not targeted to my age group at all, but I’d like to at least try it. The sad thing is that I can’t try it out without actually buying it — it’s foolproof against rentals or demos. So I’m waiting for it to drop to $30 or so, and then I might give a whack at it.

I know this may be inviting myself down a rabbit hole from which I may never recover. I might just collect new toys endlessly. Near the end, when I’m holding a sandwich board begging for spare change to buy extra Skylanders, my friends will look back at this blog post and call it my first desperate cry for help.

I’ll regret nothing.

  • The weirdest thing about this Sonic 4 interview isn’t the strange presentation of a trailer inside the video, or the obvious put-on “commercial” aspect to it, but rather the Sega employee’s facial hair. Click on it. You’ll know what I mean.
  • Oh thank God. My Skylanders are safe.

Kirby Mass Attack first impressions

I got the latest Kirby title for Christmas a few days ago, and I’ve been playing it in-between family time. Kirby has really become Nintendo’s proving ground for off-the-wall concepts, like Canvas Curse and Epic Yarn. I’m not sure if the game is blowing me away quite like either of those, but I’m glad to see it’s continuing the fine tradition of Kirboddities.

For one thing, it’s stylus-controlled like Canvas Curse, but it’s an out-and-out platformer. Drawing paths is convenient for moving the large group of Kirbies at once, but for the most part you just direct your pink army to take down enemies by crowding them and push past obstacles with the combined weight of all of them.

I’m only in the first world, so I haven’t seen the higher-level challenges. This control scheme might not hold up once the action on-screen gets more frenetic. But for the time being, I’m enjoying yet another really cute Kirby romp with some fresh ideas behind pushing it into more than “another platformer” territory.

  • I played Siren in the first Borderlands, but just hearing Gearbox talk about combining skills got me excited again — even if I probably won’t use that class at all.
  • The 3DS “telethon” strikes me as kind of bizarre, but then I haven’t been paying too much attention to the offerings on the Nintendo Video service.

Lazy Monday

I didn’t take the day off today, but it was as if I had. The news feed was pretty slow, and I hit my regular slate of stories but much faster than usual. That gave me a ton of free time to clean up a bit from the Christmas mess, work on some other freelance projects, etc. It almost felt like a day off anyway. Tomorrow news should be semi-normal again, and then after the new year we’ll see a more regular news flow.

  • My MacBook Pro might be able to just barely run Rochard, but like one of the commenters, I’m glad I didn’t just jump on it too quick.
  • The video of VVVVVV looks fun, but everything I’ve heard has been about how frustrating and hard it is. Maybe I’ll pass for now.

Not a creature was stirring

I had planned to write some first impressions of Solatorobo tonight, but I sent the game back to GameFly pretty quickly. It just wasn’t grabbing me, despite a few passing similarities to Mega Man Legends.

Instead, since we’re so close to Christmas and it seems like the internet has settled down for a long winter’s nap, I thought I’d keep this entry short and to the point. I like this time of year, when all is fairly quiet except the occasional tweet about someone spending time with family. It’s like the giant society that is the internet retires to their own sub-societies and checks in once in a while, it’s kind of sweet.

Merry Christmas everyone, and I’ll blog again on Monday after you’re all done feasting and looting and cashing in gift cards.

Saints Row 3 first impressions

I’m more than a little late to the party on Saints Row 3, but Giant Bomb’s enthusiasm for it moved it near the top of my Gamefly queue. I received it in the mail the yesterday, and I’ve dumped more hours in than usual for a game I’ve only had 24 hours with.

It’s really impossible not to talk about GTA when referring to Saints Row. I liked Grand Theft Auto 4, but I felt the tone was a bit jarring. I didn’t mind that they were trying to take the series in a more serious direction, but it bothered me that they didn’t commit to it. I’m not sure what critic coined the term, but I remember reading someone who said it suffered from “tonal schizophrenia.” You would hear about and take part in some truly horrific things, while occasionally passing billboards and hearing radio ads that sounded like they were from Mad Magazine.

My point is, Grand Theft Auto wanted to grow up, but didn’t take it all the way — to its detriment. Saints Row, on the other hand, has no aspirations of growing up. It’s perfectly self-aware of its own goals, which means no tonal schizophrenia. It’s all of the bombast, all of the time. This is what Vice City and San Andreas would be if they made the trek into this generation.

That’s to its credit. When you aren’t even attempting to create a serious narrative, you can just have fun with the gameplay. You could slog through 20 hours of Grand Theft Auto’s drug deals and pool matches before you get access to a tank or a rocket launcher. In SR3, that all happens within the first two hours, and those aren’t even the most ludicrous parts.

I have a lot of respect for Rockstar, and I think they can do a smart narrative really well. I have high hopes for GTA5, though I fear it will suffer the same tonal problems as GTA4. At the same time, I’m glad Saints Row exists, to give us a little taste of that style of game that places the emphasis on fun open-world shenanigans, instead of shoehorning in a defeatist narrative about the American dream.

I’m liking it quite a bit.

  • It’s really too bad that the announcement doesn’t mention Minerva’s Den for Mac. That’s some of the best DLC of the last few years, hands down.
  • I haven’t really missed Restore points in my Ambassador games, but the added convenience might just make it easier for me to get through games like Zelda 2.
  • I’ll have to try the demo for All Zombies Must Die, but the trailer looks pretty good. Sort of like Dead Nation, but more colorful and light-hearted.

Mega Man Blech

Apparently Capcom released Mega Man X on the iOS App Store yesterday, a stripped down version lacking a few features and apparently made much easier to support the lack of precision that comes with virtual pad controls. Plus you can apparently buy your way to upgrades. I think I can say without exaggeration that this is the most terrible thing to happen in the last decade.

I’m kidding! Mostly.

Mega Man X holds a very special place in my heart, and it’s strange to see the company that made it undermine the point of the game itself. It’s a game series very much centered around empowerment, and a few App clicks to the upgrade path just seems like it would suck all the fun out of it. Oh well. People can experience a hampered version if they’d like.

New comics!

Uncanny X-Force #19 – I picked this one up to support GeekSpeak friend Robbi Rodriguez. I have absolutely no idea what was happening, and I doubt I’ll keep up with it, but I did love Robbi’s art. He’s got a really unique style that’s immediately identifiable if you know his work.

Wonder Woman #4 – More classic Greek goodness. They’re really reveling in the personifications of characters like Strife and War, and I feel like this has to be setting up slowly for a bigger conflict. Also, WW herself has one extremely badass moment in the middle of the issue.

Batman #4 – This is my second-favorite of the Batman books, but man this issue was dull. I’d say it was the fault of too much dialogue, but I really like dialogue sometimes. The problem here was lack of suspense. By now the readers have seen enough to conclude that the Owl organization is real in some sense. This issue was probably 80% Bruce talking to Dick about how the Owls don’t exist. Seeing our hero being wrong for most of a book just isn’t interesting.

Justice League #4 – This is the precise opposite of this week’s Batman. Every issue of JL is just all non-stop action beats and snappy dialogue. After four issues, I almost wish it would calm it down for a minute or two and let us catch our breath, but then I know what I’m getting into here. It was enjoyable as always, but it’d be nice to see the League slow down and discuss strategy now that Darkseid has showed up. I think the most interesting interaction of the book was Superman being a bit less “boy scout” in a moral quandary with Flash.

Ultimate Spider Man #5 – This was the conclusion I’ve been waiting for since the book started, when the mantle becomes “official” for the new Spidey. It had a nice extended cameo with the Ultimates team, and I like how they put Miles under scrutiny over whether he deserved to wear the suit. It seemed a little contrived that a C-list villain took down heroes like Iron Man, but I’m willing to overlook that in service of the plot. Now with that out of the way, give us back Miles talking to Ganke, because that dialogue stands out as a lot more fun than most of the established superheroes. They served their part, now back to Miles’ story.

  • I brought this up a bit in the story itself, but I really am curious to see how BioWare would make an open-world, focused story. The two seem so divergent that games pick one or the other. How would you mix the two? Even Mass Effect, which is more open-ended than Dragon Age titles, is a pretty straight path with a few branches here and there.
  • I enjoyed this story, mostly because it let me use one of my favorite top images: Confused Sean Bean. (I still haven’t watched Game of Thrones, I just love that picture.)

Escapist culture

I submitted my first piece for The Escapist today, a serious little piece called You’re a War Criminal. The title is probably a bit more aggressive than I needed to make it, because I never actually argue that gamers are literally war criminals, but it was attention-catching.

Most of the time, I’d expect some people to react to a headline like that, or maybe give a passing skim before telling me I’m an idiot. Such is life as an internet writer. Next to my expectations, the comments section of the Escapist is a really nice surprise. I had a lot of genuine comments, intelligent and thoughtful responses, and the people who did disagree did so pretty respectfully. What’s more, they talked with the other commenters and came to a mutual understanding. What the heck?

Don’t get me wrong, other sites, I love you too. But I’ve had plenty of poor reactions to stories that aren’t nearly so hot-button, so this one caught me off-guard in a nice way. I should have another Escapist piece soon-ish.

  • The reasoning behind pulling Magneto from this DLC pack struck me as funny, partly because the offense is so blatant, and partly because the exact same thing happened six years ago in the source medium.
  • I’d like to try Star Wars TOR sometime, but my slate is too full and my computer too underpowered. Good to know that they’re keeping open options, at least.

Surprised by Impostors

I had a preview-like feature that we call a Field Report go up today for Gotham City Impostors, based on a few hours with the beta test. We try to avoid making direct game-to-game comparisons in our writings, because it’s usually lazy shorthand in a formal setting, but this is a personal blog. It’s very Team Fortress 2. And those who have known me for a few years know that I lost a lot of hours to Team Fortress 2. Like, probably about 300 hours. I’m not even kidding. So suffice it to say, finding a new game with a (hopefully) vibrant community and some cool customization bells and whistles? I’m a little afraid I’m going to lose myself in this thing.

I’m particularly proud of the field report itself, since it really seemed to flow. Some days you just hit your stride and feel good about your work.

News is slowing down before the holidays, but there should be enough to go around for the rest of the week. I imagine TOR’s launch tomorrow will provide a little fodder.

  • It’s not every day I get to write a story in which I reference Sy Snootles. Also, that screenshot at the top is definitely not from the dancing mini-game, but I like to imagine that it is. The rancor busting a move to some hot Max Reebo beats while crushed Tatooinians scream below his feet. It would be amazing.
  • This story about Mario & Sonic Olympics was pretty niche, but I loved it. If you read between the lines, it’s basically a bunch of guys commiserating over all the weird hoops they had to jump through to get sign-offs from the companies in control of the characters. I think the way I arranged the story makes it a bit more of a cohesive tale than the disparate comments from the interview, especially the little button comment at the end. It was fun to relate that to our readers, even if none of them have actually commented.

Crafting mines

My Minecraft review went up today. The verdict? It can be incredibly frustrating, but that’s part of what makes it rewarding too. Check out the review for some more details. By which I mean, pretty much any details, since all I said there was a one-sentence summary.

Original title for this post? Mein Craft. C’mon, don’t pretend that’s not clever.

I’m working on another game for Shack now; not a review, but it should be up on Monday with some impressions. Plus, my first Escapist piece will be around sometime early next week. Shameless plugs!

  • I was sort of poking fun at the I Am Alive trailer for being super-mega-dusty. I didn’t mean to claim that it looks ugly, but that seems to be the take-away from most of our commenters. Ouch.
  • Huzzah!