Friday, July 31, 2009

On the edge of fashion

Tell me, ladies - Do you ever run into the problem of wanting to look classy on a Friday night while at the same time showing the world your love of all things game-related? Well, I think I have the answer for you! What you are looking at is a genuine set of Mirror's Edge earrings, bought from The Clay Collection, and modeled by my girlfriend Katie. Not a fan of Faith's free running frolic? That's okay, because you can custom order any game you like, from many popular systems. They even have NES cartridges!

That's not all, though. Site owner Lauren has used her skill with polymer clay to craft all sorts of cool and geeky things, from controllers to companion cubes, and from Mega Man to the Millennium Falcon. She even has has cufflinks, so all you guys don't have to get super jealous of your girlfriend's new accessories and do anything rash, such as get your ears pierced (it doesn't matter if you pick the manliest game ever - you're still going to look like a woman).

So head on over to The Clay Collection and pick up a pair before everyone else does. I know it's tough to chose between every game in existence, but don't take too long deciding because the site may not be up for long. Why? Well, because as cool as these products are, they're total infringements of copyright - something that the big companies might not take too kindly to if they become overly popular.

What I'm saying is, don't wait until Christmas to furnish your special ladyfriend with a gorgeous Shadow of the Colossus necklace - you'll have to find another occasion instead. Such as what, you say? Well, September 9th is the Dreamcast's 10th birthday, and August 29th holds two anniversaries - a decade since the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and 5 years since we first got our hands on The Guy Game. Of course, if you choose to honor that last one, you might not want to tell your girlfriend what the celebration's for!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You can call me Al

You almost got out the way in time, but not quite. It's okay, though, as you managed to fire off a couple of heat-seeking missiles in the seconds before your helicopter was blown to pieces. That, plus the fact that you're a near-invincible, shape-shifting instrument of death who's just as dangerous without the helicopter as with it. You watch your targets explode in a burst of fire, then snap your head around to check your rear. Let's see, three more birds headed your way - shouldn't be a problem.

You extend your arms and casually glide towards the first of them, changing your position into that of a deadly kick at the last moment - one down. Tucking your feet inward, you barrel through the air towards the second, striking with pinpoint precision - two down. Finally, as you begin to fall, you throw out your arm like some kind of deadly, black snake; lashing onto the third and pulling yourself in. The pilots don't stand a chance, and soon you're flying off into the distance. All this without even touching the ground.

These are the good times in Prototype, a game that I've been enjoying for a while now. You may recall my early impressions last month, after just a few hours of play, but now I've had more than enough time to build up some solid opinions of the rest of the game too. Does it live up to those first ten minutes, or do things get real repetitive, real fast? That's what I'd like to spend a few minutes discussing.

For those who don't remember, Prototype is the story of Alex Mercer, a man who wakes up in a morgue one day and discovers that he's now more monster than man. The government are out too get him, but they have enough on their hands already, what with this infection spreading through the city like wildfire. Alex may have no memory, but he has the power to take the thoughts and feelings of anyone he consumes. Can he piece together what happened, and maybe get a little revenge? That's up to you.

I'm not going to pretend that this premise is the most original idea for a story, and I can't say that the rest of the plot is, either. Actually, I found myself quite confused before long, and never fully understood exactly what was going on. Part of this may be because of the optional nature of many of the cutscenes - they only play if you find the specific target that has the knowledge you need. This means that some parts of the story may be unlocked in a slightly different order than intended, so it's not always as cohesive as one might like.

The plot really plays second fiddle to the action, though, and this is where Prototype is strongest. I found myself getting constantly sidetracked simply because I couldn't help but attack a tank or helicopter, drawing sudden fire from all directions and giving myself a few minutes of highly destructive fun. In fact, I think that all these battles helped break up the otherwise-slightly-repetitive missions. For you see, the game consists of about 30 story missions (which are fun and varied), and a whole bunch of time-trial-esque sub-missions. Okay, they're not all time trials, but all have that same feel - kill this many enemies within the time limit; get to this point within the time limit; use a certain weapon to destroy this many tanks within the time limit, and so on....

All of these sub-missions have medals to unlock, so compulsive gamers who feel the need to get gold in everything will have plenty to do, and shouldn't finish Prototype in less than 20 hours. However, those who choose to focus on the main missions alone may find themselves at the end in about half that time. Either way, it's still a decent length (some may even say a bit too long). There are also plenty of new powers and moves to unlock, so you get that constant feeling of advancement. However, many of these abilities are pretty similar to others, so I quickly found a handful that I liked the most, and ignored the rest. Still, it's always nice to have options.

Of course, as with any new franchise, Prototype has it's fair share of faults which could be improved upon in future instalments: The helicopter controls aren't great (you can't ascend and turn at the same time); Precision jumping is tough due to Alex's speed; and I really wish you could collect experience orbs without leaving your vehicle. Oh, and who the hell decided to have the 'skip cutscene' button flash onscreen every time you consume a target? Games like God of War have conditioned us to quickly press any button that flashes like that, and I almost found myself skipping the story on more than one occasion.

These gripes all feel quite minor, though, when compared to the thrill of eviscerating an entire army squadron and taking out their base at the same time. You may do this a lot throughout the game, but it's still fun to find new ways of causing destruction. In fact, it's almost a bit too easy to dismember anything that stands in your way, and I sometimes found myself wishing that the military had something a bit tougher than just helicopters to attack with. Of course, those who want to take the stealthier approach always have that option, but the whole turn-into-whoever-you-consume aspect just didn't quite work out as advertised. Basically, you have no need to morph into anything other than military personnel, and I found that I used this ability more to escape from battles than anything else. Yes, it's sometimes necessary to escape, just because it's far quicker than facing everything head-on.

So despite it's faults, I had a good time with Prototype. It may not have the best story, it may be a little repetitive at times, and it certainly could do with a few control improvements, but what it does well, it does really well. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to start playing on hard mode, even after 20+ of normal mode. It's not quite as fun the second time through, but I still plan on getting to the end and unlocking a few more achievements along the way.

And now I must go. I hear the sound of chopper blades in the distance, and it won't be long before the sky is awash with explosions, like a crazy 4th of July parade. Wish me luck - not that I'm gonna need it!

Does this DLC smell bad to you?

This week in Rock Band, it may be brand new, but it's still Rancid. Actually, it's Rancid, Kings of Leon, and Rise Against, all of whom deliver us a 3-pack of songs. Oh, and Lush deliver a single track. Usual price for everything: 440 MSP/$5.50 for the 3-packs or 160 MSP/$2 to buy them one by one.
Here's what's on offer:

Kings of Leon Pack
Crawl
Molly's Chambers
Sex on Fire

Rancid Pack
Last One to Die
Ruby Soho
Time Bomb

Rise Against Pack
Prayer of the Refugee
Re-Education (Through Labor)
Savior

Lush - Sweetness and Light
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

I had every intention of picking up the Rancid pack sometime this week, I was just waiting for a day off (real busy at work - sorry). Then I actually listened to them, and decided against it. You see, I remember liking the little of Rancid that I've heard, but that's clearly not what's on sale. I'm honestly not surprised that we're receiving second rate DLC at the moment, though, as I'm sure the A-squad are a little busy with Beatles Rock Band. Won't be long now......

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Unplugged it ain't

No, I didn't doctor this picture - you are looking at the brand new drum grip for Activision's upcoming Band Hero. I imagine you have a look on your face right now that's similar to the first time you saw Guitar Hero Unplugged's guitar grip. You know - both eyes wide, one eyebrow raised, mouth silently forming the words "What the f**k?!"

Recovered yet? Yeah, I was shocked too. I think it's pretty clear that Activision are getting a little carried away with this whole peripheral thing. It's also not quite clear, but it's possible that Band Hero comes with another Guitar Grip. Either that or they provide a special skin for you existing one. Now on the one hand, this is kind of cool, allowing you to take the full band experience (with a little imagination) on the road, or wherever you go. I'm having fun with the little I've played of Rock Band Unplugged on the PSP, so the idea of pocket drumming isn't unattractive to me. The same strange curiosity that made me want to play Guitar Hero: On Tour, sort of makes me want to try this one too.....

But then I snap out of it. Lets be honest and admit that this is ridiculous. While the guitar grip at least added buttons to the system where there were none before, this drum skin simply replaces existing buttons with, well, bigger buttons. I'm having flashbacks to the original Gameboy, which had all manner of stupid add-ons that took away the one thing the system had going for it - it's portability. I know that I had some fun with Guitar Hero: On Tour, but have had no desire to take it out of it's oversized box since I first packed it away. Besides, lets not forget that as great as the DS is, holding large amounts of high quality music just isn't something it can do, and if we're now playing with friends, it may be a little rude to put on those headphones. Low bitrate music plus tinny DS speakers does not equal virtual rock show experience.

Oh, and as with Guitar Hero: On Tour, Band Hero will not be compatible with your brand new DSi. Not only is it missing the GBA slot necessary for the guitar grip, it's thinner form also means the drum skin won't fit either. And no, my skepticism isn't just sour grapes, as I still own my DS Lite and could play if I wanted. The final thing worth mentioning is actually the one part that deserves a little praise. Lets see..... Guitar, Bass, Drums - what could be missing? Why vocals, of course! Aspiring singers can join in the fun using..... wait for it...... the built-in microphone. While portable karaoke may have been done in Japanese title Daigassou Band Bros. DX, this is the first time it's been done in an English language game (I think), and at least it doesn't require another peripheral!

So have fun video game retailers. If you thought you were running out of space with all the giant-boxed home console games, you had better clear some space on your handheld shelf too. Now if you'll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to play a little Rock Band Unplugged........

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Emerald City Life

I'm a sucker for strange RPGs on DS. I loved The World Ends With You, I'm probably one of the only people to buy Atlus' Contact, and I literally jumped for joy when Bioware first announced Sonic Chronicles. So how did I manage to miss all the news about Media Vision's RIZ-ZOAWD? Well, it could be because of the strange name that tells us nothing about the game, but a little rearranging of letters makes things much more clear. Lets see..... just move the W to the beginning, the Z to the end, shuffle a few of the middle ones around, and we end up with WIZARD-OZ. Understand now?

Media Vision and D3 are the ones who brought this title to Japan, and XSEED have recently signed on to localize for Western release. For those unaware, Media Vision are the ones who brought us Wild Arms, and XSEED provided the Korg DS-10 Synth and the old-but-new Retro Game Challenge, so they have a fairly good track record with the console so far.

So what exactly is RIZ-ZOAWD, or as it's going to be know in the west, The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road? Well, it's a touch screen controlled RPG that closely follows the events of the movie. A virtual trackball is your main way of moving Dorothy, and the turn-based battles take place in first person, à la Dragon Quest. The four lands you travel through are based on the four seasons, and you will soon meet some familiar faces who will help you on your journey. They will even provide some useful abilities, such as the Cowardly Lion's run away move.

Of course, one question I can't answer is why I'm looking forward to this title so much. Maybe it's based on childhood memories and nostalgia, or maybe it's just because movie-based games tend to suck, and this one looks to be different (well, it should - they've had 70 years to work on it!). Either way, it's definitely going to be one to watch as we wait for it's release this fall.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Star-crossed DLC

This week in Rock Band, we enjoy a trio of three packs: One from Judas Priest, one from Big Dipper, and one from The Dead Weather. Not exactly my kind of music (sometimes it seems like nothing is), but I'm sure there are plenty of people who jumped for joy at the news. As usual each pack costs 440 MSP/$5.50, or 160 MSP/$2 for individual songs.
Here's what's on offer:

Judas Priest Pack
Dissident Aggressor
Eat Me Alive (Live)
Prophecy (Live)

Big Dipper Pack
All Going Out Together
She's Fetching
Younger Bums

The Dead Weather Pack
Hang You From the Heavens
No Hassle Night
Treat Me Like Your Mother
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

Don't look for any reviews here. I'll buy more music when I like what's for sale. Besides, there's something far more interesting going on in the world of Rock Band this week. If you're an aspiring band who dream that one day your music might be in the game, the time is almost here. Soon the doors will be open for anyone and everyone to bring their very own songs to the Rock Band music store, and even make some money in the process!

It's called the Rock Band Network, and it's coming soon to Xbox 360. No, it's not because Microsoft paid EA countless sums of money for exclusivity, but because it uses the XNA Creators Club system that has has already allowed small developers to release independent titles onto the Xbox 360 Community Games Channel. Bands can use master recordings and special software to create note charts, which are then shared with the other Creators Club members for helpful feedback (remember eager readers, there's a $99/year membership fee for the Club). Once you're happy with the track, you submit it to peer review for approval.

That's it. You can charge between 50¢ and $3 for each song, and you make 30% of the cut. I really think this is a huge deal. Rock Band was always billed as more of a platform than a game, and the continues release of DLC has strengthened this statement. But what's a platform that only one company can release on, eh? Soon anyone will be able to share their music with the the rhythm game playing world, and I can't wait to see what we get. Check out the official site for more info, then get recording!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A solid few days of fun

The government can't possibly afford the demands: One billion dollars, and the body of their former master. But they threaten a nuclear strike if they don't get what they want, there's no other option. Well, there is one option; he's retired, but he's the only chance we've got. He'll be up against a group of individuals unlike any he's fought before, with abilities beyond those of normal men, but that's the easy part. For you see, deep within the facility at Shadow Moses Island lies the ultimate weapon, one that could mean the end of life as we know it:

METAL GEAR!

Ah, Metal Gear Solid. It's certainly a classic piece of gaming history, and one that helped usher in a new era of interactive storytelling. As you should know, it was recently released for download on the Playstation Network, and I just had to pick it up. Naturally I've played through it a number of times before, as I'm sure most of you have, but it's been a while, and I wanted to try it on the PSP. How does it feel after all these years, and is it worth the $10 asking fee? Let me spend a few minutes discussing these things.

One aspect that still stands out, even after all this time, is the cinematic feel. This is apparent from the moment you start the game, and it draws you straight into the story. The cinematography was even more outstanding when Metal Gear Solid was new, as it was only a couple of years earlier that we had to deal with the laughably-bad live action opening of Resident Evil. The same can be said of the voice acting, which is a little cheesy, but overall still good.

As for the actual gameplay - you know, sneaking around and whatnot - it has some fun elements to it, but it also has some frustrations. The addition of first-person aiming in MGS2 was such an improvement that it's hard to go back to number 1. Of course, it's best to get around without killing anyone, but even stealth is a little tricky when you have a camera that only allows you to see 5 feet in front of you. I found that most of the time I relied more on my radar than the view of my character, so couldn't even imagine attempting it on anything higher than normal difficulty (because there is no radar). Then again, it wouldn't be until the re-release of Metal Gear Solid 3 that we finally got a (half) decent camera, so I guess I can't knock it too much for that.

The sneaking around and neck-breaking is actually less of the game than I remember, though. It seems that really, Metal Gear Solid is a series of boss fights, held together with some short stealth sections. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad thing; the bosses are all fun and there's a lot of variety between them. From tank battles to sniper battles to fights with psychics and shamans, there's always someone new around the corner waiting to kick Snake's ass. The confrontation with Psycho Mantis deserves special mention as it contains some real meta-moments, including one of the coolest puzzles ever seen in a video game.

This brings me to Metal Gear Solid's strongest aspect - the story. This was the first game I ever played that almost made me feel like I was controlling a movie. Of course, we're all used to this kind of storytelling these days, with fully voice-acted cutscenes and dynamic camera movements, but Metal Gear Solid still does it better than a lot of modern titles. While the plot itself might be a little convoluted, and at times cheesy (do all the bad guys have to tell you their life story as they die?), it stands head and shoulders above most games because of the little details. Gamers who rush will miss a lot of them, but those who are interested have a wealth of information at their fingertips, from the optional mission briefings on the main menu to the almost never ending stream of codec conversations you can have with your teammates.

But of course, I'm sure you knew all of this already. I found that while I didn't discover anything too surprising when revisiting Solid Snake's first 3D adventure, I still had a good time. In fact, I may even play through it again to get the other ending. Not that I don't remember it, but there's a really fun item to unlock that I wouldn't mind a mess around with. Besides, if I remember correctly, playing through the game twice allows Snake to attempt his next battle in a new, rather spiffy outfit!

So if you've never had a chance to sneak your way around Shadow Moses Island and destroy mankind's most lethal invention, you really deserve it to yourself to try it out. And even if you have, it's still worth the $10 asking fee to do it again. While Metal Gear Solid may be showing it's age in some areas, in others it feels like it could have come out yesterday, and it's clear why it's been named the best PS1 game of all time, in multiple places. I just hope Sony carry on releasing classics like this on the PSN, because there are many more adventures I'd love to revisit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Alright on the night

Okay, we've seen some weird Special Edition versions of games in the past, but this one takes the cake! If you thought Master Chief helmets, safety deposit boxes, and metal lunchboxes were strange, wait until you get a look at the "Prestige Edition" of Infinity Ward's upcoming Modern Warfare 2. As well as containing a metal game case, various books, and a free copy of Call of Duty 1 (downloadable), the $150 box also comes with working night vision goggles!

So please, can someone fill me in as to what purpose these goggles could serve to the average gamer? I'm wracking my brain, but the only uses I can think of are for night hunting or stalking women, neither of which I condone. Well, I suppose you could use them to locate that elusive Cheeto that disappeared under your couch during a mammoth team deathmatch, but I think a flashlight would probably work just as well.

Of course, since hardcore players have shelled out money for far less useful items in the past, I have no doubt that the Modern Warfare 2 Prestige Edition will fly off shelves faster than a minor celebrity running from a creepy, night-vision-wearing fan. And hey, if you ever get bored with your new piece of video game schwag, at least this time your cat really can wear it!

Here's an unboxing video, in case you still don't believe it's real:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

21st century DLC

This week in Rock Band, Green Day make an appearance with 3 tracks from their new album 21st Century Breakdown. They are joined by an assortment of hardcore artists from Marilyn Manson to Slayer, in a collection of songs entitled Mayhem Pack. The Green Day pack will set you back 440 MSP/$5.50 and the Mayhem Pack 1080 MSP/$13.50, or 160 MSP/$2 for each song individually.
Here's what's on offer:

Green Day Pack
21 Guns
East Jesus Nowhere
Know Your Enemy

Mayhem Pack
Behemoth - Conquer All
Black Dahlia Murder - What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse
Cannibal Corpse - Hammer Smashed Face
God Forbid - Empire of the Gun
Job for a Cowboy - Embedded
Marilyn Manson - Disposable Teens
Slayer - Black Magic
Whitechapel - This is Exile
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

Regular readers of this blog should realize that none of this is my kind of music so I should be excused for skipping this week's songs. It looks as though I'm finally breaking my addiction to the game, as I no longer feel the need to buy DLC just to have something new to play. Instead, I've become a lot more picky and only bother listening to the ones I think I'm going to like. Besides, if I add any more songs to my ever-growing library, I'm likely to spend even less time in the game and even more time in the menu screens, choosing which track to play next!

The only other piece of news worth mentioning concerns this week's Rock Band Unplugged DLC. I know I said I wasn't going to cover these, as I have no intention of buying any, but when a song is released for free I'll pay a bit more notice. The song in question is Jonathan Coulton's excellent Still Alive, which fans may remember as the closing track from Portal. Even though it's not quite as funny when taken out of context, it's still woth downloading because, hey, it's free. This announcement was certainly a triumph so I'm making a note here - huge success!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The original FF is back!

Lets go back a few years, to 1982. Long before the world became hooked on the wonders of handheld consoles, portable gaming options were limited. You could play tabletop football, one of the many LCD games, or engage yourself in a little Fighting Fantasy. For those unfortunate enough to be denied that last option, Fighting Fantasy was a series of books written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. Set in a well-defined fantasy world, they challenged readers with choose-your-own-adventure-style choices, enemies to fight (using dice), and items to collect.

Before you stop reading, convinced that I must have run out of video game news to discuss, let me tell you that this is video game news. Using the wonders of 27 years of technological advances, Steve and Ian's first adventure, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, will soon be making it's way back into people's pockets, this time as a Nintendo DS game! Developed by Canada's Big Blue Bubble Games and published by Aspyr, TWoFM will be a first person RPG that takes place in an old Dwarven keep within the Firetop Mountain. Players must battle their way though, defeating foes and making decisions about magic, abilities, and character development. As you do in RPGs.

What could set this particular title apart from the slew of role playing games already available is it's well-established fantasy world, with creatures and places that carry over from one book to the next. And I'm not just talking about obvious creatures, such as orcs and elves, but rather hundreds of imaginative and varied monsters, gathered from and inspired by many classic stories and legends. This is best shown in Out of the Pit, an illustrated Fighting Fantasy bestiary released in 1985.

Of course, some readers may remember that this isn't the first book in the series to receive an electronic adaptation. Those of us unfortunate enough to play the PS1 title, Deathtrap Dungeon, may understand why it's been 11 years since anyone attempted to bring Fighting Fantasy to home console! I just hope it's been long enough that we can re-start the franchise without fear of horrible flashbacks. Stupid camera!! Go where I want!! Oops, sorry about that. I guess it hasn't been quite long enough.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is currently scheduled for release this holiday season. Further details, such as whether or not it will feature a keep-your-finger-in-the-page option, are yet to be revealed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A remote possibility

One of the features of my new PS3 that has me most intrigued is the Remote Play function. This is where you fire up your PSP and use it to access content stored on your PS3, from either a home network or over the internet. At the moment, the number of things you can access is limited: Music, movies, and PS1 games are all fine, but the majority of PS3 and PSN games can't be played on the handheld, which is understandable. After all, the PSP has less buttons to work with, not to mention the lack of Sixaxis control. But why should it be like this?

Lets think about Onlive for a minute. You remember what Onlive is, right? It's a remote play service that allows users to connect to high-powered computers from a simple, cable-box-type device in their home. The cable box needs little processing power of it's own: just enough to register button presses and decode video. At the other end of the line, Onlive's computers do all the work - responding to the button presses and turning the gameplay footage into a high-def video signal, which is then sent across the internet into your living room. You are essentially playing a game on a computer that's miles away, then watching a video of it as it happens.

Do you see the similarity between these two services? Both allow a low-powered device to access content stored on a high-powered device, over the internet. Of course, the Onlive service isn't up and running yet, and there are many who say it can't work right now - our internet just isn't fast and reliable enough. However, the PS3's Remote Play function shows that this type of thing is possible, and can be done with something as simple as a home console. So why don't we take Remote Play one step further? If there were a portable device with the exact same buttons as a PS3 or 360 controller then we could access anything from our home console, including full retail games that no other handheld would be powerful enough to run.

As I said before, the device wouldn't have to contain much processing power of it's own; it would essentially be a controller with a screen and internet access. Now, how it would connect to the internet is another question. The cheapest way would be through Wi-Fi hotspots, much like the PSP, but this would limit use to certain locations only. Of course, this way it could be sold quite cheap, so maybe users wouldn't mind the fact that it couldn't be played everywhere. A second option would be to include a type of Broadband Card or 3G support, allowing it to connect from anywhere. This way would be more expensive, though, possibly resulting in a monthly subscription for the user. It's also unlikely that these wireless internet services are fast enough to support lag-free play, at least for now.

Maybe the device doesn't even have to be a handheld. What if it were a small box that connected to TV and internet, with controller ports on the side? It would be your "console away from home" that you could bring on vacations and when staying with friends, allowing full access to all your games without the hassle of lugging them with you. You would essentially be setting up your very own OnLive service, using your home console as the central server.

Of course, there are still many problems associated with such an idea. Like, what happens if a power surge knocks out your home network two days into your vacation? With no way of getting back, you could locked out of all your content until you return. And what happens if your connection slows, or even drops altogether while in the middle of a game? This is an issue that OnLive will have to deal with too, but so far they haven't revealed any details about how they plan on handling it. Then there's the question of whether or not current internet speeds are even fast enough for such a service to work reliably. With many games requiring split-second timing, even the smallest bit of lag would completely ruin the experience (as online gamers should know).

But despite these few issues, I really think that this type of remote play service will become much bigger over the next decade or so. It may be a while before we have a device that allows access to everything, but the PSP/PS3 connectivity is a sign that it's certainly in our future. So to all the people out there who make a living designing home console carrying cases, it might be time to start thinking about getting a new job.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Two is nice, but.....

Are you in the mood for some DS but realize that you've just about exhausted your meager collection of games? Well then, Best Buy has the solution for you this week: Just buy any two DS titles and get a third free! Hmm... that sounds a little too good to be true, right? You must be wondering what pitiful selection of shovelware titles are being offered as the free one, I imagine. But that's the best part: You can pick any game (of equal or lesser value, of course), including expensive Square Enix ones, making this a pretty sweet deal!

Of course, the only problem I have is that every awesome title on Best Buy's shelves, I already have on my shelves at home. But since my girlfriend had her eyes on a couple of games, I decided to look and see if I could find just one that I wanted. After a few minutes of fruitless searching I came upon an unfamiliar box with the words Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor on the front. Okay, I've heard of this series, I thought, but have never actually played any of it. Could be worth checking out....

Of course, I wasn't feeling quite daring enough to buy a game I knew nothing about, but after a quick browse through 1UP's review, I decided I should give it a go. I haven't started playing yet, but plan on giving my impressions when I do. It sounds quite different from many of the RPGs I've played recently, and I'm always happy to try new things, especially on the DS where you don't run the risk of blowing 60 bucks on something that turns out to be a lot less fun than you imagined!

So head on down to your local Best Buy and take advantage of the three-for-two sale yourself. It runs until this Saturday, but I wouldn't dawdle if I were you, because I've heard the DS is rather popular. Not sure what to buy? Well, why don't you start here.

Headknockin' DLC

This week in Rock Band, we re-visit the Warped Tour, with 3 more songs; Foreigner give us a 3-pack; and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club add a single track. Ok, so once again, I don't really have much to say about any of them. I'm sure I've probably heard those Foreigner songs at some point, but from the little I've heard of the Warped Tour, I think I should just stay away. Yeah, definitely a filler week as far as I'm concerned, but still, better filler than nothing. Songs are the usual price: 440 MSP/$5.50 for the 3-packs, 160 MSP/$2 individually.
Here's what's on offer:

Warped Tour Pack
Dear and the Headlights - Sweet Talk
The Devil Wears Prada - Hey John, What's Your Name Again?
Thrice -
Image of the Invisible

Foreigner Pack
Blue Morning, Blue Day
Feels Like the First Time
Headknocker

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Weapon of Choice
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

One day, If I'm desperate for new DLC, I may just go back and have another listen to all these tracks I've passed by, but I just don't feel that I need any more songs that I don't really want anymore. I hardly even know what to play with all the stuff I already have! Besides, with the new TV and PS3, plus my continuing Prototype adventures, I think I have enough on my plate for the moment. There hasn't been much in the way of Rock Band news, either, so this is going to be a fairly short post. Don't worry, though. It's not long until the release of Beatles Rock Band, at which point you'll have plenty to read about.....

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Three's company

Let any thoughts of this narrator's console bias be stricken from your mind, for I now own a PS3. Actually, it was my girlfriend's idea, for you see, she noticed a nice bundle deal that netted you the system, along with LittleBigPlanet and a copy of Wall-E on Blu-ray (both of which we planned on buying). But that's not all. She then noticed a special deal at Best Buy this week that included the system, game, movie, and a gorgeous Sony Bravia TV to play it on. Well, we just couldn't resist.

Regular readers of this blog may think of me as something of an Xbox fanboy. This is understandable, as I'm always going on about how much I love the system, and don't often have a lot nice to say about the competition. However, I've been a fan of Playstation for years. I loved my PS1 so much that I just had to buy a PS2 and PSP on launch day, and always imagined the PS3 would be the same. Then Sony started doing things that made me re-evaluate my desire: Taking rumble out of the controllers (which is thankfully back now); losing exclusive franchises (such as Final Fantasy, Devil May Cry, and Grand Theft Auto); shipping "the only true next-generation system" without the cables necessary to play in high-def; constantly changing SKUs and bundles; and finally, charging considerably more than either of their competitors.

But I didn't buy the system to support Sony, I bought it for the games. Now I have a chance to play LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid 4, Infamous, Agent, and The Last Guardian (I probably would have purchased the system just for that last one, actually), along with all the exclusive PSN titles. Of course, I imagine I'll still buy multi-platform releases on the 360 (gotta get those achievements!), but now the door is open for me to play any game on the market. As it should be! Plus, I can start replacing my antiquated DVD collection with high definition Blu-rays, which is certainly a bonus.

I'm also excited to try out some of the PS3/PSP connectivity, such as remote play. Not that I often have my PSP with me, but I love the idea of streaming PS1 games directly to the handheld, for use in the bedroom or bathroom or wherever. I expect I'll probably have plenty to say about my new system and all of it's features once I've had a chance to fully get acquainted with it, so expect some write-ups before long. I know that the PS3 has been out for a couple of years now, and LittleBigPlanet isn't exactly the freshest thing to be reviewing, but just think of it as a 360 gamer's venture into strange new lands.

And to my fellow writers: Expect some friend invites fairly soon, after which we can enjoy the magic of PS3 together. I want to see how good this Playstation Online thing really is.....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New game shop - Jammin!

Yes, it's a copy of ToeJam and Earl, and yes, it's sitting on my shelf right now. Regular readers should realize how much I love this game by the number of times I've mentioned it, but I haven't owned an actual copy in quite some time. Sure, there are always emulators, but it's just not the same. Oh, and it's illegal. So how did I come across this classic piece of video game history? Let me tell you.

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I had friends over (a rare occurrence in these parts), and before dinner, we decided to build up our appetite with a stroll around the mall. It was just five minutes after a conversation about Gamestop and their monopoly on the video game retail market that I spied something unfamiliar to my eyes. It was a kiosk. You know, like the type where they hassle you about your cellphone service or offer all-natural skin care creams made from real Dead Sea salt, only this one had shelves full of electronic entertainment.

3D Games was it's name (unimaginative, I know), and a little research tells us that the company opened it's first store in 2006 and it's first kiosk in 2008. It's franchise-based, and seems set on giving Gamestop a little competition. I'll be honest - I didn't spend a lot of time browsing their modern games and checking prices, because I quickly spied their older titles. And in amongst their selection of cartridges was the prize I sought, a little more expensive than some of the others, but worth every penny.

While I plan on returning to this kiosk and browsing through their more recent stuff, it's really the classic games that I'm most interested in. After all, new releases can be acquired from any number of places, but if you're looking for something more than one generation old, you're pretty much stuck with online stores only. Even PS1 games are difficult to find in brick and mortar shops these days, which is why I'm so excited by this new 3D Games thing. Also, since they will be the only ones who take classics for trade in, they may actually be able to build up a nice selection!

So anyway, I have ToeJam and Earl, my local mall has a fun new place to shop, and Gamestop has a little incentive to review some of their prices. Awesome. Oh, and before you say it, yes, I'm aware of the irony of shopping for old spite-based titles in a place called 3D Games.