Archives for June 2007

Diamond in the rough

Pokemon DiamondThe one game I’ve been playing consistently for the past month or so has been Pokemon Diamond. I have been trying to put in words what it is about this game that keeps me coming back, but I just read what peterb had to say about it and figured he said it better than what I could. Go read it.

I just checked my save game stats, and I’ve already put in north of 25 hours of gameplay. Thing is, this has come in bite-size chunks. I don’t sit down and play Pokemon for long stretches of time but I still seem to have logged quite a bit of time already. Most of my Pokemon are in the 20-25 level range and I can’t fall asleep until I’ve leveled at least one of them.

I haven’t even touched the WiFi portion of the game, but that’s on tap. I’d really like to battle with some buttonmashers, so level up your Pokemons and get ready! I won’t have time to get online until sometime next week, but when I do — look out for my Monferno and my Luxio. They both pack quite the punch.

Game Review – The Bigs [360]

THE GIST: THE BIGS is developer Blue Castle Games’ offering on the whole “extreme” take on sports in the vein of NFL Blitz, NBA JAM, and MLB Slugfest. Build up your respective POWER BLAST or BIG HEAT meters by performing certain in-game tasks and unleash some hurt on your opponent.

Pitching and batting all take place from the behind the plate perspective

THE GAMEPLAY: Normally with these kind of games the gameplay is rather bare bones and all pick-up-and-play, THE BIGS is no different in that regard. I felt right at home within minutes with the controls save for the always initially confusing base running. The title offers several modes, all with the depth and character as Keanu Reeves doing Shakespeare except for the compelling Rookie Challenge. In this mode you build a prospect from scratch, assign him some limited ability, and take to the minors to work on beefing up his ratings. This mode is akin to the 24/7 mode in NBA 2K7 and is quite fun.

Blue Castle also tossed in Home Run Pinball, a unique mini-game where you tee-off in downtown NY and earn points for taking out everything littering the city streets while the pitcher gradually throws more mixed pitches at you, this is mindless fun.

Standard games are stretched out over 5 innings though you can switch that to 9 if you’re a rawhide purest at heart. Much of the action in THE BIGS seems to be focused on the batting, you will see fly balls hit to the track in droves and you will see just as many fence-climbing catch attempts. Though the 5 innings may read like too little it isn’t. You will complete a game in about 20 minutes, perfect for quick gaming fixes.

Homerun Pinball rules. Just about everything seen here is hittable and breakable.

THE GRAPHICS: The stadiums all look very good, and there are some nice effects when you use your power-ups. The player models often look like their respective counterparts (best Jim Thome I’ve ever seen, he almost oozes hillbilly off of the screen when he steps into the box) though they have a somewhat doughy look to them. The framerate and camera angles are all spot-on as well.

Plays-at-the-plate are made all the more dramatic with a bullet-time buttonmashing fest to see who will win the most grand of jousts.

THE AMBIANCE: This is baseball, from the fans in the stands to the homer schlep in the booth you know you’re engaging in America’s pastime. Fan noise, ball-on-bat sounds, etc. are all what you’d expect in a game like this however the 2K beats soundtrack is awful. “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead in a baseball game? Lemmy and his facial tumors should not be involved with a title about baseball, period.

Fly-ball hit deep, he goes back, at the wall… Will you be Griffey or Canseco in the spotlight? You’ll have plently of chances to find out.

THE VERDICT: Blue Castle pulls off a… wait for it… homerun with THE BIGS. Though I can imagine a title like this losing much of it’s luster after a week or two the rather deep Rookie Challenge mode is enough to justify a purchase.

I can easily see this becoming a series that improves year after year. Not based off of what I see, but rather what I don’t. For as many opportunities as you get to rack up points there feels like there should be more like bonuses for back-to-back HR’s, home-run distance, and hits in clutch situations, expect to see things like this in future incarnations.

Still, as an initial offering you can’t go wrong with THE BIGS.

Photos courtesy of

Timeless List: Warning Forever

Warning ForeverThere are a few games that I keep on my “list”. These are games that no matter what, when I reinstall my OS or upgrade my computer they are the first things to be installed. There’s a criteria that these games have to meet: replayability over more than 18 months, easy to pick up but difficult to master, and cause me to stay up all night on more than two occasions. So far, only two titles make that list, but I’ve now added a third. Last Friday, it met the 18 month requirement.

I introduce you to Warning Forever.

I don’t know what it is about this game that keeps drawing me back to it. It’s perfect for killing some time on a break at work and it’s also great for getting lost in immersive, repetitive gameplay. What makes this shooter unique from most other games is that it’s a game of bosses. Yes, you read that right. There are no wave after wave of peons. Just bosses. More accurately, you could say that it’s a boss that learns.

The player has a certain amount of time to defeat the boss, you’re also penalized for dying. The boss certainly isn’t. Every time you face him, he evolves to best suit your playing style. Keep attacking him from the front and the next evolution you face will have more armor in the front. If he kills you with rockets during one phase, you can be sure that he will have stocked up on more rockets next time around. Basically, he adapts to your strengths and preys on your weaknesses.

This type of responsive AI really causes the player to have to think ahead strategically. Do you widen your attack radius and cause the boss to armor up all over, or do you narrow your attack to certain areas? Do you attack from the side, front, or behind? Maybe you decide to circle the boss? Whatever you do, you get a sense over time that you are playing a real entity. (Which might be a good indicator that you need to stop).

There are nine possible evolution paths with subpaths under each evolution for the boss. This mathimatically tranlastes to fifteen or sixteen levels you face before reaching the end. I’ve only gotten to twelve. Needless to say, it gets intense. It’s also different eact time you play.

The game can be customized is areas of time, lives, and other options such as sudden death. There’s a high score list as well as a neat feature of using your own MP3s for music. For a simplisticly styled game, the vector graphics hold up well, even in this day and age of Geometry Wars style gameplay. The control scheme may turn players off, actually, because it does take three to five playthroughs to get a feel for it. However, it’s a lot like riding a bike. It just simply clicks and you’ll see how intuitive the control really is.

Here’s the best part: it’s FREE. It was programmed by Japanese developer Hikoza T Ohkubo and is available on his website. It’s a small download that’s great for running of a USB stick. Don’t tell the devloper, but if he sold it, I would most definitely pick it up.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for the image of which I slightly edited).

BONUS: Be sure to check out Ray Hound as well.

You get to drink from… the FIRE HOSE!!

From the Why-Didn’t-Someone-Think-of-This-Earler? Department, there will be a new Firefighter game for the Wii, titled “Real Heroes: Firefighter” by Epicenter Studios.

Let the Wii puns commence in full force once again.

(Via Games Are Fun)

It’s a sickness. Help me!

Recently, the medical community confirmed what most of us already knew — playing video games can be addicting. Anyone who has grinded for a few more gold pieces, played that stupid helicopter flash game for one more level or dropped yet another quarter into the Galaga machine can attest to it. We didn’t need some egghead with an M.D. to tell us that.

Clearly, the people that make up the AMA have never played Desktop Tower Defense. All those “addictions” they talk about pale in comparison to what Desktop Tower Defense will do to your soul. Hopefully everyone by now has played DTD, but the newest version came out recently and it’s better than ever. When I first saw a link to the game a few weeks ago, I played it for a few minutes and went about my merry way. It was a fun little game, but I was at lunch at the time and I didn’t have time to really delve into it.

Well I decided this evening to “delve into it” and have wasted the last four five and a half hours playing the game. And all I can think about while I’m writing this is, “finish the fricken blog post already, dude! I have a great idea for a new tower layout!” That’s not right! I should not be having this conversation with myself. I wonder if there’s a DTD Anonymous?

So yeah. Are games addicting? When they’re as fun as DTD, yes. Horrifingly so. If you play this game for more than five minutes and don’t like it, you have a defective gaming gene.

Update: I made a Group called “” on the DTD site, where you can compare your score to other sickos players. So if you play a few games today, add your score to our little “group.” I’d like to see how afflicted much fun you guys are having.

(On a side note, James Lileks has a great piece about this so-called addiction, which is worth a read)

Back in the Saddle Again

I have a confession. Being the resident Sony expert it might be surprising to note that my only Sony experience in the last two years has only been with a PSP. Even that has been sketchy at best. Let me give you some history.

When the PSP came out I was pretty excited. I traded in my PS2 and entire collection of twenty games. I walked out with a PSP, two games, and a case. Looking back, it was a horrible trade. After about six months of Lumines, I traded that back in and received my first Xbox (one of six! – that’s for another story) and a couple of games. I was Sony dry for almost a year.

Enter late Summer of 2006, and I get a call from Visa. I have a Sony credit card, and I need to use my reward points in 24 hours or I lose them. I pick back up a PSP and five games. Nine months later, it’s still a little sketchy with the PSP. However, it appears to be picking up a little in that department.

My dilemma is that I cannot really post much review info about Sony’s bread and butter, the PS2, with any sort of integrity or legitmacy. I could use a PS2. And then came the windfall.

I have to run a video game tournament for teens in October and one of the needs is a PS2. I’ve been graced with a budget of $200. I figure I could get a system and four $20 Greatest Hits games. Here’s where you come in. What games should I get? A couple of caveats:

  • the games need to be $20 or less
  • they can only be released in the last two years
  • no sports (to dated) and no games that require peripherals
  • no games I can get realtively easy on other systems

What four games would you recommend? List them in the comments.

It’s about fricken time

First off, thanks to Glen at tBftSG pointing me to the new HD videos of NCAA 2008.

I watched the tutorial video in particular and learned that EA has FINALLY put in a “sim to complete” feature into the game. I cannot stress how important this is.

It’s called the “Skip Ahead” feature and it may supplant sliced bread as the greatest thing ever. Using it, you can skip to the either the next possesion, the next quarter or the end of the game. EA calls it the Super Sim feature. Sounds awesome. I call it the “What took you so fricken long feature?” We have been clamoring for this feature for years and they’re finally getting around to putting it into the game. It’s about time.

But it gets even better. You can watch the simulation “real time” and jump in and take over the play calling at any point. You can even resume playing (from what I can tell) at any time during the simulation. This is most excellent.

It simply cements further my belief that EA has a laundry list of “features” that they could put into the game, and they spin the wheel and add a few new features each year, stringing us along every year while we lap up the newest greatest thing. It’s frustrating to be sure, but what can you do?

I skipped out on NCAA 2007 but I’m not skipping out on 2008.

Game Review – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer [360]

Fantastic FourTHE GIST: Based on the movie of the same name, veteran sports developers Visual Concepts take a shot at the “if-it’s-a-movie-we-can-make-a-game-about-it” market in this souped up version of Final Fight that is bizarrely reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online, but with significantly less depth. You control one of the four heroes but can change to anyone of the on-the-fly, and in some cases you have to.

[Read more…]

Game Review – Shadowrun [360]

ShadowrunTHE GIST: FASA Studios gives you a full-blown, online-only FPS based off the cult-classic Shadowrun that came out in the 16-bit era and is the first 360 title to allow 360 owners and Windows Vista users to sync up online. Players can choose from 4 races (each unique in their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses) and do a pre-round stock up on various weapons, tech abilities, and magic a’la Counterstrike. Combatants engage in various derivatives of capture the flag (called the artifact) as well as deathmatch (called attrition) in a first-to-six-wins battle. Matches can be public or private and players can also add bots with several levels of difficulty to the mix. (This game has no offline campaign mode but does come with a tutorial which I strongly recommend going through.)

[Read more…]

There’s a new guy in town

When I first started this site I never envisioned it growing larger than just me blogging. I actually resisted the idea of another blogger for a long time. Then as time went on, I noticed that I just simply can’t keep up with everything. Along with that, there are huge gaps in the amount of titles I can actually play. So I mulled over the idea of adding another blogger and decided to ask Nat if he’d join me. I was pretty excited when he joined the team a little while ago.

Recently I ran into a high school buddy of mine on MySpace (it’s not all bad, yo!). He and I were huge gamers back in the day and we fell out of touch for a while. After a little back and forth via email, we got together on Live for some Gears of War and had a blast. I told him about the site and made an offer to him, that if he was interested, I’d love to have him write for the site as well. He agreed and he’ll also be joining the team. He’ll go by the name Dark Reyule and he’ll be giving us some excellent content.

So now, as far as the site goes, here’s how I see things: I’ll be handling the majority of the day-to-day blogging and site stuff. Nat will throw in his two cents, blogging-wise, along with some more in-depth analysis and editorial content. He’ll also be our resident Sony expert. Dark Reyule will be our 360 guru, blogging about the goings-on with the 360, and will be providing us with his in depth reviews of games he’s been playing. We’ll have two of his reviews up soon one the site.

So in the period of a couple months, we’ve tripled in size and will hopefully be bringing some consistently good content.