Because I love to turn mental disorders into prose. Also Games.

Gaming

November is Coming.

And my god, what a sight it is.

We have:

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim *
  • Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword *
  • Saints Row The Third *
  • Batman: Arkham City *
  • Serious Sam 3 *
  • Assassin’s Creed: Revelations *
  • Uncharted 3
  • Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom
  • Halo Anniversery
  • Need for Speed: The Run
  • Dynasty Warriors 7

 

My god. A few rereleases amid the AAA titles, but come on. There’s literally something coming out for EVERY GAMER. Except Real-Time Strategy buffs, but you’re probably not that concerned, since AAA RTSs are few and far between anyways.

Of this list, I’ve starred the items I’m planning on having at some point by the end of the year. And I haven’t even mentioned December, containing a few HD releases and PC ports (And one RPG that everyone is probably going to tell me to play, but I never played the original, so SWTOR can just suck it). There’s also plenty on the list still due to be released in “2011” which I doubt will happen, but still.

I still feel as though my list up there is from bad information, but I can’t help it. I’ve the shivers for the month of November, and it’s not just the encroaching winter.

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Steam Sale Extravaganza! Demo-day 1

Extravaganza is a difficult word to spell.

It’s also that time of the summer again, when all those games your wallet couldn’t be bothered to look at twice go on sale for dirt cheap!

Farming simulator 2012? Buck ninety-nine! Trainspotting 101? Three bucks (With optional DLC for another dollar!)! Shoot-em-up 4: Revenge of the british guy from the second game? A pound and a half!

With that said, I was fortunate to come into money right around this time, so I can partake in the sale for once! Only, I’m not going to be reviewing full games until the aftermath.

Why, you ask? Because I can try before I buy!

Without further ado, here’s three game demos I recommend trying! (Click the picture for a link to the steam store page and the demo)

For the point-and-click enthusiast, we’ve got The Tiny Bang Story. Right off the bat, it’s a beautifully drawn game with music that’s fitting, and doesn’t get annoying. It gives you a little tutorial, gets you acquainted with the basics, then leaves you to solve your first puzzle. It took me twenty minutes to find five ladder rungs across 2 screens. Not because the game is cluttered, but because they all fit in so well with the background that it’s damn impossible to tell. That said, it’s not as annoying as you would think to be stuck looking for things across a few screens, because when you find them, you’ll get that little “Ooohhh!” moment that makes you smile, chuckle, and go “Clever”. Or you chuck your screen out the window because it was literally something you moused over four times while looking for it.

All in all, nice, artsy game, and a tiny bit frustrating, but in the “I’m going to get this done.” kind of way. Buy it on the cheap, five bucks or under.

Next up, a game for the dictator in all of us:

Tropico 3 is a civilaztion-building game that places you in the shoes of a Captain Ersatz of Fidel Castro on a tiny Caribbean island. The demo comes with a tutorial and a practice scenario for you to get your taste (Unlike the full version, which I ended up buying, the tutorial ends when you finish it, rather than letting you continue to muck about in beautiful wherever the hell the island is). It follows the usual rules of letting you plan your citizens needs, wants, and buildings, sandboxing you in until you fill the required goal. All in all, it’s fun, and it’s got a great sense of humor. Buy it at ten dollars or under.

And last, but not least, a game that lets you burninate the countryside AND the people:

The demo for Hoard is about as fun as it gets. It’s an arcade-style game where you play a dragon who ransacks the country for loot to build his hoard (Fun fact: Only male dragons build hoards. Shiny piles attract females). Along the way, you fight archers, knights, and other dragons, kidnap princesses, kill wizard-towers, and have a romping good time. The demo suffers from the problem of being too fun, and I’d rather just keep playing it than buy the full game. That said, the only reason I haven’t bought it is because I missed my chance and it went from three dollars to six. The full version contains multiplayer, more maps, and further customization of options. Buy it, but only if it goes on sale for under five bucks.

I think that’s how I’m going to rate games. Not with a score, but rather how much of its total asking price I think it’s worth. Seems like a good system.


Now you’re thinking with Portals, too

So, if you’re here, you’re likely connected to the world of video games in some way. If you are, there’s no possible way you haven’t heard about Portal 2 yet. There have been TV ads, posters, and even an Augmented-Reality game designed to put a little cash into indie devs’ hands.

Now, I’m gonna try to keep the spoilers in this to a minimum. The ones related to Portal 2, at least. I’m going to reference things from Portal one like crazy. To be fair, though, the only spoilers in Portal 1 were “You escape the test chambers, GLaDOS tries to kill you, you kill GLaDOS (But really she’s still alive). That’s it. Maybe something about a Weighted Companion Cube.

This review is of the single-player portion only. The co-operative portion will have to come later.

The game starts out nicely. You wake up in a pretty little cell long-term relaxation vault, do a little lookie-movie tutorial, and go back to sleep. For god knows how long. The only indicator is that the day counter has broken and so has most of your room. And then you meet Wheatley. Wheatley is one of the personality spheres that you may remember from Portal. And let me tell you. He’s a damn sight better to have around than GLaDOS was. And it wouldn’t be a Portal game without her, so I’m gonna spoil this right now (Even though it’s in the trailers and such). Wheatley screws the pooch and accidentally wakes her up. Then it’s straight back to the testing chambers.

Here is the game’s first strong point. It looks fantastic. To say its the best-looking valve game to date is an understatement. Valve’s engine always seemed a bit lacking to me, but this iteration of it, I can count the number of disappointing engine areas on one hand. Half a hand, really. And really, it has more to do with my computer than anything else. One thing that does kill me is that the engine still takes breaks to load. Small, I know, but when we can have games that you don’t see a load screen the whole time, I would think Valve would look into that.
*Coughs* Back to the game. The testing areas are a lot more open than before. You still get confined to small places, but then you get to peek around them and see the areas behind them at work. Let me tell you, this time around, Aperture Science is a lot more dynamic. There are areas where you literally see an entire room built or altered. And this isn’t counting when you’re moving behind the scenes, either. Or under them. The world within the confines of Aperture Science property just bleeds with robotic and natural life. There is still graffiti on the walls in many places, though you’ll have to do a lot more looking if you want to find all the hidden areas.

You visit a lot of very interesting places that the first game didn’t dare to go. And each area is more amazing than the last, one way or another. A very explosive segment has you completing test chambers while they collide with each other around you, changing the layout. Valve’s cinematic physics are on full display here, with debris and objects flying around.

And speaking of flying around, the puzzles are on full-auto now. You get to see how well the portal gun would work in real life in plenty of areas. You’re taught the same way that you were in the first Portal, but now you’re taught a lot more, and at a lot of different places in the game. You keep learning to use more Aperture Science technology all the way through the end of the game.

While we’re there…

The ending. Oh my god, the ending. Let me just say that Valve was listening to more than a few of the theories the fans were spouting. I’ll say this. There is another song by GLaDos during the credits. And in my opinion, it’s not as good as Still Alive (Which has more than a few references made to it over the course of the game). But Valve knew this, so they included plenty of golden material in the final cutscene (Which is, unfortunately, uninteractive, but it’s so awesome that you won’t care).

There is no reason for you to not buy this game. If the first Portal was a revolution to the gaming industry, Portal 2 is the installation of a new governing body. Valve’s trademark polish is laid on thick, and boy does it shine. Any gripes of the game pale in comparison to the sum of its parts.

Honestly, I want to give this game a perfect score, and it’s getting a damn-near prefect score, but I know that it’s not going to be for as many people as the first game. This is Portal on hardcore. I breezed through most of Portal, and many puzzles in here stumped me good. It’s going to be harder to share this game with someone, too, because with the new Cooperative gamemode, you’re just going to end up playing that. People who struggled through the first game, but did it as a labor of love will find this game to be just as easy to love, but a lot harder to work through.

I’ll have to give it a 9/10. Hell, I’ll give it a 9.7/10. It’s a game that raises the bar. It will make you love it. You will walk through fire, bullets, and hazardous chemicals just to finish it. You will want to see what happens next. Just be sure to bring your A-game to the puzzle-solving, or you’ll be stuck putting cubes on buttons forever.

(At least they kept the cake jokes out)

Apologies for lack of posts, but…

I preordered portal 2 and I have not been able to focus on other games unless they were made thirteen years ago or longer.


iPod Touch and Games

After a few months hard labor, I finally have enough cash set aside to purchase an iPhone!

Well, not really. I bought a Ipod Touch, henceforth referred to as “Touchi”.

I’ve had a good week to sample a large variety of apps and games, and I’ve gotta say: It’s the most convenient platform.

That said, it’s not without its inconveniences. Let’s just start with the general stuff and then move on to game specific examples.

We’ll start with the pros. The screen is nice and big, it’s very responsive, and it feels nice when its clean (I have to keep a cloth handy at all times because my fingers always seem to be dirtying the thing up). On top of that, I am still finding new games for agreeable prices (Free) every day I use it. Furthermore, the device itself allows for playing your own music over a lot of games, which I just think is a good feature.

Those are the good features of the system’s gaming capabilities. For the non-gaming stuff, go somewhere else.

The general cons of the system are minimal, but enough to piss me off. The biggest issue I have is control. Now, for games where the controls are just tap here, or rub here, it’s great. It’s when they put a control pad on the screen that I get pissed off. It just doesn’t work. My fingers move, and without the physical touching of an actual button, I have no idea whether or not my next press will swing my sword, take a step, or do fuck all. Thankfully, very few games I’m interested in use this. However, there’s one, and we’ll get to it later.

Ads. Now, I don’t mind free games for the price of having an ad bar here or there, but Words With Friends (A scrabble-like app, with a free, ad-supported version, and a paid, adless version) commits a grievous sin. It pops up with an ad after EVERY MOVE. Now, this is okay, when you pop a move every five minutes or so. But when you and your friend are playing together, it is the word-game equivalent of reloading your gun and finding out that you have to click “Next” on a pop up to chamber up the next round.

The last thing that gets on my nerves is that every other game has its own game-account system. There’s gamecenter, which comes default on the app, and many games use it to keep track of scores, achievements, etc. I would be fine with that, were it the only one. Instead, every game I download wants to be the next Xbox live with their little friends system and achievement tracking. Only NOBODY’S GOING TO USE THAT SHIT. I skip it every time, and then I find out that some features are denied to me unless I sign up? And then every time I want to log into said feature, I need to re-enter my name and password? Come on! I’m sure this will probably fall under nitpicking, but still! If you’re going to do something like that, at least make it a one-and-done feature, like I make an account and then other games just see “Oh, this guy’s touch has an account with us!”.

Seriously.

Okay, now that I’ve vented, let’s talk games.

First, the big one. Everyone’s talking about Angry Birds. Why? It doesn’t seem like something that would warrant the raving that it gets from an outside perspective, right? Well let me ask you something. You ever spend a couple hours playing a random browser game just because it was there and you were bored? That’s Angry Birds. You factor in portability, and the fact that more games come out every couple months, and you’ve got a recipe for success at ninety-nine cents a pop.

It’s your standard physics-catapult-tower-knock-down game, and there really isn’t much to say about it, other than you’ll understand why everyone keeps playing it once you play it for yourself.

Next is a bunch of games by a particular company. Optime Software seems to like making simple games that everyone plays, all for free. I originally downloaded a Sudoku app from them, and I spent a good couple hours messing with it before I decided to check out “Other Games” from the menu. Hoo boy. They have all the games I like to play. You have your few standard board games, chess, checkers, four-in-a-row. Games you play with someone else (I discovered their handiness when waiting with a family member for another family member). Then you have pen-and-paper games, like tic-tac-toe (Naughts and Crosses, for the only British member of our audience, you know who you are), box-in (At least that’s what I called it, they called it dots. Kudos, because I love this game.), hangman, too. They have hearts and war (Another kudos for that), some card games, and then a few other games you’ll have played elsewhere. Frankly, their games are free, mostly ad-free, and they’re the games you’ll play when you’ve got a bored sibling handy, or if you ever burn yourself out on everything else. So I recommend their lineup.

Next is a game I’ve only just started playing, but I love it to bits because it was exactly what I was expecting. WildFrontier is an RPG, and RPGs on the app store are a very mixed bag. I can never tell whether I’m getting a mobile MMO, a final fantasy knockoff, or some town-building sim when I see “Role Playing Game” in the description. This little game was what I wanted, and what I got was a mishmash of Zelda and your typical single-player MMORPG (Complete with little townsfolk and their golden “!”s). You run around on a field, swing your sword, kill bad guys, grab their innards (I haven’t seen an inventory limit yet), and return their bits to people for rewards. It’s short, fun, and you can pick it up and put it down at any time, really. One gripe about it, though. In-app purchases. I came across a store in it, and it sells things you NEED, like swords, and first-aid-kits, and they didn’t really appear to be high-class, either. But they were charging NINETY NINE BLOODY CENTS for each item! When I can buy a whole damn game with that kind of money, it boggles the mind how they can get away with it!

Other than that, there are a few physics puzzlers, a tilt-maze that kept me amused for an hour, lots of remade flash games, and tap tap tappity tap taps galore.

Let me say this. If you’ve been putting off your purchase of an iPhone or iPod Touch for reasons that you think you won’t use it a lot outside of music, put those fears out of your head. There is and will always be a handful of apps for you to amuse yourself with for hours on end. Enjoy.

(Now where’s my money, Steve Jobs?)

High in the Skyrim

I will not lie. I am excited for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

What I’m not excited for is the thought of some of the…less entertaining…aspects of the series staying in the game.

Bethesda has said they will be building a new engine for Skyrim, so I won’t go on about that. I’m just going to leave a list of suggestions and things I think would make for good changes to the game from the prior title, Oblivion.

  • More options for quests: Back when oblivion was on the verge of coming out, I remember reading a little mini-interview with a dev in GamePro. He said something along the lines of “A simple “Get the diamond from that guy” quest could be done any number of ways. Does he like you? Does he keep it with him wherever he goes? When does he work? When does he sleep? You could kill him and take it, obviously, or you could steal it from him after doing a little homework. Perhaps you could steal his food and see if he sells the diamond to eat, or convince him to part with it because he likes you so much.”
    Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, we get one or two options on a couple dozen quests, and the game flat out tells you which ones are which. Which brings me to my next point:
  • Assume your audience is smart enough to figure things out: Every single time anything happened, you got a prompt. Killed a target? Window pops up. Talk to someone important? “<Person> Said I should talk to <Other person>” comes along. It’s enough to drive a competent player insane. Sure, you could keep these on easier difficulties, or just have a journal that keeps track of everything WITHOUT telling you every miniscule detail. That way, when a player is stuck, they just consult it. If used with the prior option, the game would instantly get a massive boost in immersion.
  • Make certain guilds and quests more difficult to enter/obtain: Let’s face it. The only guild it should be easy to enter is the Fighter’s Guild. Why? Because it’ basically where anyone without any good skills goes (And they’re always looking for new recruits, if you’ve got the stones for it). The other guilds make a lot less sense for their recruitment policy. I walked into a Mage’s guild hall, heavy armor on, sword bloody, and asked to join. No entrance test, or anything. I was in it. I could use their facilities to my heart’s content. I knew THREE spells at the time. Seeing a bit of a problem? And the other two main guilds are just plain stupid about their recruitment. Okay, so maybe the recruiter in question “Sees potential in you”, sure. But then, why does the Grey Fox contact you for, say, picking up an apple in broad daylight in front of a pissed off guard? Hell, you can get drafted into the Thieves Guild for an offense completely unrelated to theiving! And the Dark Brotherhood? Really? I punch a man to death in his house, run from the guards, and you think I’m a “Skilled assassin”? What about all those highwaymen who I’ve WATCHED kill guards and such? Are they in the Dark Brotherhood? No, they’re not. Make your guilds a little more sensible, Bethesda.
  • More combat flexibility: And I’m not just talking about the dual wielding mechanic announced already. I mean give us more combat options. I think a stab in an NPC’s eye should be an automatic fight win, regardless. It takes skill to do that, so it should kill. Same goes for arrows in unprotected heads. And for god’s sake, make Hand-to-hand more useful! I know only a few people used it because it was only really anything good at high levels, and by then you had swords that would light a man on fire and turn his piss into liquid gold after he emptied his bowels in fear of you. I think it should be the opposite. It should be MORE useful than unenchanted weaponry at the start, and then stay pretty useful, only really losing it’s use against really strong enemies. That way, a barefisted kung-fu master would be just as fun to play as a walking magical tank of a knight. Oh, and give us options to knock people out. That way, we can do better as thieves without the risk of killing people. Nothing fancy, just the option for when a target’s health/fatigue/etc drops below a certain amount, and you whack them with something blunt, down they go. Honestly, without sneaking, it’d be just as difficult as a normal fight, and then people who WANT to kill others can do so, or just leave the body.
  • Make the world more alive: Yeah, it’s hard to top Oblivion in that regard, but I still didn’t get that “Living world” feel. I would see NPC’s all grouped around and stuff, but for a Capital City, it sure was empty. I feel like there should have been easily two or three times the amount of people in the cities I visited. Outside of the cities, I feel like I should have met more people on their way. And the amount of animals in the game was just pathetic. Okay, discounting fictional things, we had wolves, deer, lions, bears. Never once did I see any birds, squirrels, rodents (Regular sized ones, mind you). I’m lead to believe that all this will be fixed in the next game, but I’m going to be skeptical.
  • For Gods’ sake, keep your modding community happy: Face it, once a PC player got “Bored” with Oblivion, they stopped. The only way I know to stave off this boredom was new content. Along comes a truckload of mods. There are mods to add topless women, to turn whole men into topless men (Via sharp things), ones that add dozens of weapons, ones that add entire new worlds, and mods that turn the game into other games. Skyrim announced that the toolkits will be available to mod Skyrim. “Good.” I say. “Don’t mess it up.” I add, with a stern look. If something happens with those tools, there will be hell to pay for you.

 

With that, I can say these are the major concerns of mine regarding the upcoming Elder Scrolls game. I want it, and I want it bad. Just dreaming of these things here coming true is enough to give me a fangasm, and my wallet a forceful bowel ejection.


Riders on the (Bullet)storm

This game has amazed me. It isn’t the fact that any number of creative ways you kill people has already been thought of by a developer, nor is it the fact that all of the guns play like they were made specifically to induce gleeful, child-like giggling. Even Steve Blum’s sailor mouth and hilarious banter with the other characters isn’t what made my jaw drop.

No, the thing that impresses me most about this game is that it is exactly as much fun as all the hype and marketing made it out to be.

Namely: Incredibly effing fun.

The game starts you out slow and easy, with a simple interactive cutscene to show you the basics (While Greyson Hunt, your character, is drunk off his ass). The game sets you up as bad guys, to rebels with a cause to just plain assholes all in the first chapter. Greyson doesn’t care about anything other than his crew, his booze, and his revenge towards General Serrano, a man he used to take orders from until he found out that they weren’t playing ball for the good guys. So Grey and his crew defect and run off to play Space Pirates for a decade or so.

Cue the start of the game. Grey’s drunken, murderous vendetta against Serrano gets 2.5 members of his crew killed, and the remaining half man gets made into a psychopathic AI, hellbent on surviving, with or without Greyson. Along the way, you meet Trishka, your typical action-girl, go through a few plot twists, and end up getting closer and closer to the most profane villain you’ve ever seen. Seriously. Serrano’s a drill instructor who’s only ever read one book: Dictionary of insults, unabridged.

But enough rambling about the story, you wanna hear about the gameplay! All the hundreds of ways you can kill those mutated freaks? For every thought you have on how to shoot a man to death in this game, you have a dozen ways to kill them. Kick them to death? Yawn. Kick them into the air, shoot them? Pshh. Kick them into the air, leash them down to you, smack them with a pair of grenades on a chain, kick them into a cactus and watch them blow up their friends? Now you’re talkin’!

You get about eight guns to choose from. This is a good number. What ISN’T a good number is the amount you can hold at one time. Three. Tres. Two plus one. And that one, your standard-issue PMC (That’s PeaceMaker Carbine) HAS to be on you at all times. Granted, the ammo for it’s everywhere, but still.

Back to the guns. You got ones that explode, ones that tie people up, ones that bounce, pop heads off, drill people to walls, set them on fire, etc etc. And each gun has a charge  that you can unlock (Think of it as a more-powerful alternate fire) after a certain point in the game. However, while acquiring weapons (Coming across them once and then being able to add them to your arsenal after a one-time purchase) makes plenty of sense, unlocking the charges is arbitrary. You’re likely to have found a new gun or two by the time you unlock the charge for one weapon. The effects are awesome, but you can only have up to nine charges per weapon, which requires a large amount of points to unlock everything to that point.

And the points are another thing. They are fun, quirky, and their names will make you giggle like an immature grade-schooler. Shoot a man in the ass? Rear Entry. In the throat? Gag reflex. Kick them onto a cactus (Yes I’m going to keep mentioning this, because there are many, many places to do this)? Pricker. Points will accumulate fast enough to keep you able to restock your ammo and charges whenever you find one of the “Dropshops” that you have to access. They’re placed fairly well along your route, generally not leaving you hungering for ammo. I only experienced one point in the game where I had no ammo whatsoever, and even then it was for less than five or ten minutes. The prices in the shops seem a bit steep sometimes for the quantities of ammo you’re getting for them, and more often than not, you will blow your entire score and still be just a few clips shy of comfortable. Late in the game, though, this isn’t much of an issue.

Greyson isn’t a pushover without his guns, either. He’s no prize boxer, but he’s got a mean kick to put Duke Nukem’s boots to shame. Also in his repetoire is a leash that can be used to manipulate the environment (Such as yanking a weak structure down to pass) or manipulate his enemies (To their death). He also has a slide that gets rediculous distance on it, before nailing whoever happened to be at the end of it into the sky. It is by far the most fun you’ll ever have on your ass in any game, ever. (Driving sims notwithstanding). Your options in combat are rarely limited, and this game is forgiving on all but the hardest difficulties. In a standard first-person shooter affair, getting careless would mean sticking your head too far out and getting it shot off. In Bulletstorm, getting careless means having stood in the way of a minigun-weilding armored psychopath for about fifteen seconds. Or catching five or six explosives with your face. Your body armor seems to come from the same manufacturers of Serious Sam T-Shirts, because it sure ain’t standard issue.

Even the toughest enemies in the game will only give you a couple minutes of trouble. I found myself slightly disappointed at a couple of sections, but my disappointment rarely lasted. Being so ungodly powerful as you are, you will probably only die a dozen times or so over the course of the game, and that’s if you play it like a nutjob. If you stick to cover and shoot at exposed enemies, you may as well be playing on god mode for how many times you’ll die. But then again, playing this like oh, say, Call of Duty would be entirely defeating the point of playing this game.

There are a few issues. I had to reinstall this numerous times to get it to work, and there are a few bugs that plagued me. The largest one occurred during the final mission, where I had died, but the game didn’t seem to recognize it. So I kept running around with a bloody screen, got all the way to the end, started the cutscene, and then the game promptly froze near the end of it. I had to restart the chapter, but it was still a large bug. Another one that bugged me was that windows didn’t shatter properly. Namely, they cracked, and then they did nothing. It took me a couple minutes to figure out that I had to walk through a pane of glass that was severely cracked, but didn’t have any visible holes. It didn’t have any after I walked through it, as well. These, a few places where I got stuck (None of which I couldn’t get out of) and one event which didn’t trigger until I reloaded a checkpoint were all the bugs I found.

All in all, I can recommend this game to anybody who has a taste for varied weapons and a stomach for gore, as well as a penchant for over-the-top humor. Be warned, however, it might turn you into a rapist.