Archives for June 2008

[2 Minute Review] Space Invaders Extreme (PSP)

Can a thirty year old game that uses old gameplay be updated for the sound bite generation?

The fine folks at Taito (now a Square Enix company) have taken a classic formula—and made it extreme—with a few surprises.

DO: Uh, it’s Space Invaders. Invaders have come from space in tight formations and your ship moves left and right and pew! pews! the enemy.

TYPE: Classic arcade (from the late 1970s). In this day it’s called casual.

PLATFORM: PSP (reviewed here) and DS

PRICE: $19.99

MEAT: Quite possibly, Space Invaders was the first videogame I ever played. I could not pass up nostalgia. Taito has taken the old formula and improved it quite a bit—while keeping that same, familiar 30-year-old play. What’s new? Shooting different colored invaders in chains can net you bonus weapons. (The laser is a nice touch.) The catch is that the bonus weapons have a time limit. However, you can “lock” them in place by holding down a shoulder button. Your ship then fires its normal bullets. Let go of the lock and it’s back to the bonus weapon. The game has various levels and some challenging bosses. Yes, bosses.

PERKS: refreshing update to old gameplay; trippy, Lumines-like visuals and music; strategic bosses; bonus weapons; bonus levels; ability to shoot the invaders missiles; DS version has wi-fi play and rankings

SCREAMS: to be on Xbox Live like Pacman C.E.; to have online leaderboards; Uh…PSP online play? WTH? It’s not that complex.

VERDICT: Buy. Own it on PSP for shiny visuals or the DS for bragging rights. Young gamers should give it a try.

Diablo 3 (aka The end of your social life.)

Dreams, prayers, wishes, desires, they have all been answered: Diablo 3 is coming. It probably doesn’t really come as a surprise to anyone, I’m sure, but still. If announcements were rated on an awesomeness scale, this ranks up there with sliced bread and a handful of Stones of Jordan.

I haven’t had a chance to read much about it yet, and I’m on babysitter duty for the next couple of hours, but it looks like there’s a lot to digest. I think I’ll start at and go from there.

Still no release date, and I’m not holding my breath until next fall, but this is wonderful news.

Magic Mushrooms and Tanooki Suits

Today, during the Super Mario Galaxy show (for the munchkins), I defeated Bowser for the seven hundredth time in my life, saving the Princess yet again (from herself). I haven’t “finished” SMG yet, as there are plenty of stars still to be had, but the Princess is safe, at least for the time being. I plan on heading back to get the rest of the stars. I had found 70 before I saved her highness.

Super Mario Galaxy, as frustrating as it can get every so often, is a great game.

But that’s not the point of this post. I have really enjoyed the new power-ups added to this iteration of Mario. Besides the Fire Flower and 1-UP mushrooms, there are a bunch of new power-ups for Mario. So I want to know: What is your favorite Mario power-up? (from any game).

I really like the new Spring power-up in Super Mario Galaxy. In fact, I think it’s my favorite power-up mushroom of all time.

What’s yours?

Call of Duty: World at War

Been meaning to post this:

I haven’t had a chance to play Call of Duty 4 yet (it’s next in my 360 queue after I finish GTA IV). But this game looks pretty.

Wow. Just wow.

The GTA IV Post

Niko BellicAt this point, GTA IV has been out almost two months, so after the hundreds of reviews and blog posts written about it, I’m not really sure what more I could add to the discussion. That’s not to say I don’t have anything to say, I just don’t think much more can be said. So this will probably be the only in-depth GTA IV post for me.

I could write paragraphs detailing my exploits in Liberty City. I’ve had some amazing moments, some hilariously laugh out loud moments. In the end, though, that would probably be pretty boring. Those of you that have experienced them would know exactly what I was talking about, but the rest of you would probably yawn and move on.

I won’t bore you. But indulge me to write about some things I really like about the game, and a few things I don’t.

As a story, GTA has grown on me and become rather gripping. It started slow, but when I hit the first major plot “moment,” I was hooked. As Niko started to give us some background, some motivation, it struck a chord. I’ve been riveted ever since. I need to know how things end! (I’m pretty sure I’m getting close to a conclusion)

The writing, in addition to the actual story, is great. The main characters get fleshed out over trips to the bowling alley, dates, and missions. Some of the support characters feel a bit out of place, but overall the interaction between the characters are great. I love Niko’s one-liners. (“I hope you have health insurance and a full coverage with i4mt!” “I see my invisibility pills are still working!“)

I love games that include those little details, those little nuances that elevate a good game to a great one. GTA IV is full of them. Just one example: You can car-jack a forklift (Fork-jack? Jack-lift?). If you’ve ever driven a forklift, you’ll know that the rear tires turn, instead of the front wheels like a car. It makes steering difficult at first. Sure enough, the forklifts in GTA handle just like their real-life counterparts. It couldn’t be any other way. I live for those kinds of details.

It’s all about the polish. I can’t get over the density of the city. I’ve read complaints that it would be nice if there were more ways to interact with the city (more shops, more buildings to enter), but honestly, there is already so much to do, there’s no way they could have added more. The amount of polish is staggering.

The characters, while mostly are caricatures and over-the-top, still work. Each character has a distinct individuality that resonates with my pop-culture addled brain. They crack me up. I’d go as far as say I’m emotionally attached to them and considered them “friends”. Brucie and Packie come to mind.

The amoral characters (not all of them!) are often conflicted and have issues. Niko, especially. I guess we all do.

One of the reasons I didn’t originally want to play GTA IV was that I was afraid I wouldn’t have the ability to impose my own morals (whatever that means) on the main character. I’m not saying I wanted to be a Boy Scout, but I wanted the chance to make a choice. There are times that I’ve been able to do that but unfortunately there are times when I can’t, and that bothers me a bit. The funny thing is, given a choice, I don’t always necessarily make the “right” one. I find myself considering what Niko would do. At least the Niko I’ve created. It’s not always black and white.

(Here’s an interesting factoid: Niko is Serbian for “nobody“.)

Of course, everything isn’t perfect. I wish everyone in Liberty City didn’t have such potty mouths (seriously!) and bad tempers. Pedestrians are ready to throw down at the drop of the hat. Every one is so jumpy! The driving isn’t the greatest, but I’ve gotten used to it. Speaking of being jumpy — the cops will PUT. YOU. DOWN. Do not mess with them.

There are occasional technical glitches, but taken as a whole, GTA is the total package.

Overall, I think I love GTA IV. It may have become my favorite Xbox 360 game, supplanting Dead Rising. Niko will probably go down as a favorite character as well. I wish I was playing it right now, actually.