Archives for January 2010

Team Quad Rock

I don’t post local-to-me (Columbus, Ohio) stories like this very often, but I had no idea I was living this close to greatness.

By day, the four 20-something friends work with or around computers.

By night, they play on them — so much so that they’ve amassed a combined 72 video-game world records.

Ladies and technophiles, meet Team Quad Rock.

This makes me want to get down and dirty with a game of New Super Mario Bros. Wii:

“We go level by level and analyze it,” explained Lowe, who holds records in mostly vintage games — both popular (BurgerTime) and obscure (Splendor Blast).

“Russell figured out that on the third level of the game, when the clock reads 396 seconds, you can use Mario’s propeller cap and get an extra 16,600 points every 25 seconds. I have a spreadsheet breaking down every level like that.”

A single game of New Super Mario Bros. Wii takes about two hours and five minutes to play, Lowe said.

Maybe I’ll just go watch The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

FUNd Raising (yeah, I got nothing)

FotB (Friend of the Blog) Corvus is working on a game called Addicube and is looking for help funding his project.

What is Addicube?

Addicube is a virtual-pet sim that challenges you to maintain balanced diets for an ever increasing family of tiny cubes in a petri dish. If their diets become to unbalanced, they begin to act out emotionally and as you progress you’ll unlock tools that help you keep control over their intake.

An emotional petri dish game? Corvus is starting his own genre. A genre we can all get behind.

I hope everyone can give a little to help them out. This is a do as I say and as I do situation, as I’ve put my money where my mouth is. Let’s all pitch in.

One to Watch: Red Dead Redemption

While everyone is out and about playing with their Commander Sheep, I’ve been scouring the internet looking into the future. One of my favorite games of all time is Outlaws (why is this not on Steam?), a spaghetti-western created by LucasArts. Although there have been a few western-themed games released since then, none of them have been able to capture for me the gritty wild west.. Maybe Rockstar’s sequel to Red Dead Revolver (which I just played this year—meh, too restrictive), Red Dead Redemption will change all that. Here is one of the few titles I look forward to this year.

Source: Giantbomb.

In My Hands

This Game You Should Play: Canabalt

You ran 8953m before hitting a wall and tumbling to your death.

Canabalt is what Mirror’s Edge should have been–freestyle running that’s fun. It’s comparing apples and oranges, but there’s one other thing about the two games that must be mentioned. Mirror’s Edge uses a myriad of control schemes utilizing bumpers, triggers, and even a little bit of motion control. Finger-fu that leads to finger-flu. Canabalt uses one key.

Yes, it’s that simple. In the game you control a runner who is escaping from…well, something. Judging by the backgrounds it’s an alien invasion. However, the word control doesn’t describe it properly. Basically you tell him when to jump. The main character automatically runs the map, and his jumps are a few careful button presses that propel him from building to building, through glass windows, and over other obstacles.

Jump to retry your daring escape.

Not all obstacles are bad. Hitting some of them will slow the runner down. This can be a good thing because he progressively runs faster. (His stamina is amazing!). Play the game at a frantic pace or time the jumps by using the environment to control his actions. It’s a brilliant play scheme–one that involves only thought.

However, the difficulty is ramped up because the play area is randomly generated. It’s a new experience every time. Easy to learn, but a lifetime to master.

Surprisingly, the simplistic graphics make the experience enjoyable. It’s gray, white, and shades of gray. The smooth animations of the runner and the birds make it a pleasure to watch. Seeing the runner’s arms flail in the air never gets old. There’s also some nice narrative touches going on in the background.

For maximum awesome, headphones recommended.

The sound may be the best thing the game has to offer. From a great soundtrack to the beats of the runner’s footsteps on different material, it offers an immersion that one might overlook. Even the flapping of the bird wings is detailed.

Canabalt is available for FREE online as a flash game and in the App Store for $3. The iPod Touch version doesn’t have any buttons. Just tap.

Developer Semi Secret Software created this gem in five days for the Experimental Gameplay Project. This is an experiment that succeeded.

The game measures your progress by the distance ran. Give us your free-running record in the comments and become a legend.

Violence and video games together again

Most be another one of those violent video games, right?

An Italian man who argued with his son over Sony PlayStation tactics was recovering in hospital on Monday after the teenager stabbed him in the neck with a 15-inch kitchen knife, police and hospital officials said.

What was he playing? Grand Theft Auto IV? Modern Warfare 2? God of War?

The man, identified as Fabrizio R., suffered a deep cut to the throat after his 16-year-old son, Mario, attacked him during an argument on Sunday over the soccer video game FIFA 2009.

Huh. So it wasn’t a violent video game that led to this violent outburst. My world view = shattered.

It’s Mass Effect 2 Eve!

It’s my favorite time of the year, the hours before a new, highly anticipated title is launched. Ever since finishing the first Mass Effect (two years after it was released), I have been anxiously awaiting the sequel to drop. I came home to the most awesome email ever:

(My Gamefly Ninja move has worked again. I could keep Mass Effect 2 for 45 bucks right now. I am a Gamefly Ninja!)

For whatever reason, I avoided most of the pre-launch info with a righteous zeal. I’m not sure why. I’d peep the occasional screen shot or watch a video, but I ignored most coverage the various sites have had. Was that a mistake? I wanted to avoid all spoiler talk and go into the game “pure.” This is actually something I’ve thinking about (spoilers) lately and hope to talk about that more in a future post.

Due to not keeping up with the previews and coverage leading up to launch, I don’t know exactly what changes have been made to the sequel or what to expect. So here is my short Mass Effect 2 wish list:

  • Let’s get this one out of the way first: no more elevators. Duh. The shorter the loading waits, the better. Early in the original game, there were dialog between the characters during the elevator rides, which made them bearable. If I have to sit in an elevator, I need more of these.
  • Make the side-quests mean something. I was never really interested in doing in any of the side-quests in the original because there wasn’t any real compelling reason to do so. I started finishing them near the end, which unfortunately turned out to be too late in some cases. I hope the new side-quests will enrich the main story and flesh out the new characters.
  • I loved the first person conversations from the first one. I’m not a big fan of how the main character in Dragon Age never talks. I hope Mass Effect 2 continues the great BioWare tradition of meaningful conversations.
  • Finally, I hope I can bring over my saved character from my finished game but use Shepard’s original model. I tried to make a “new Shepard” but he ended up looking like an extra from Planet of the Apes. I’d really like to revert back to the original Shepard. I did notice on today’s Penny Arcade post that Tycho mentions that there will be a way to maintain your character, even if you don’t have access to your save file, so it’s good to know I’m covered. Scratch that, reverse it.

As a service to you, fellow Mass Effect 2 fans, I posted a bunch of screen shots on Flickr to prime the pump. This game looks great. I’m hoping it is great

Mass Effect 2 01

Dragon Age First Impressions

Now that I’ve spent a little time with Dragon Age: Origins, I thought I’d post a few impressions.

Initially, I didn’t think Dragon Age: Origins was going to do it for me. Things started out really slow. I didn’t care for what at first glance appeared to be a rather generic story. Some of the graphics were distracting. Controls didn’t feel right. I was not impressed.

Now that I’m about five or six hours into the game, I’m happy to admit things get much better. The story, now that I’ve read some of the background (via the Codex) has me buying in to what’s happening. I quickly became comfortable with the controls.

Graphics are still a bit of a disappointment. It’s probably nit-picky and petty, but some of the character models look really bad. I know the game has been in development for a long time, but it’s surprising that Mass Effect, a game two years older, looks just as good (if not better) than Dragon Age. Maybe that’s due to the fact that this game was obviously designed for PC first, consoles second, but some of the models are very distracting.

I had read in more than one place (Josh most recently) about how Dragon Age had a potentially steep learning curve but I thought I was good enough to start the game at a higher difficulty level. WRONG. After an hour of dying needlessly I set the difficulty back to normal and moved on. I don’t know why I have this need to do things the hard way but I’m getting better. I’ve decided that after I gain a few more levels I think I’ll give the next difficulty up another try now that I’m getting the hang tactics system and my guys aren’t as squishy.

And one last thing. Normally with BioWare games, I’m almost always go with the “good” options. In conversation I say the “right things” and when offered a moral choice I “do the right thing”. This game, I’m trying to be a “bad guy” or at least not a knight in shining armor. It’s hard. On more than one occasion I’ve felt a twinge of guilt as I send an orphan packing or see a “-10 Alistair” after I make a decision. If nothing else, that’s got to count for something in terms of emotions in a video game.

This Game You Should Play: Star Guard

Star Guard is one of those rare games that come along and wow you on simplicity alone.  The premise: guide the spaceman through the castle and defeat the wizard. You are green. The bad guys are red.  Along the way, you get little bits (ha!) of narrative in the form of text overlays.

The controls are simple: shoot with X and jump with Z. The left and right arrows are for movement. The author of the game suggests using a gamepad, and I would concur with the later stages of the game. There will be the need for some fast shootin’!

The game’s charm comes in its accessible gameplay and little nods to humor via the enemies and their placement in the levels. However, this platformer probably has the simplest aesthetic I’ve ever played in a game since Combat on the 2600. At most, six colors are used.

There are a few perks for the diehards such as a hard mode and a trial mode (the levels are timed) that can be played on the game’s nine levels. In hard mode you get one life whereas in normal they are infinite. There are checkpoints in the levels, and when you die you continue from them. There’s an interesting twist that the enemies and traps you’ve set are still gone from your first failed run through a level (if you got, say, half-way). In essence, you could go through a section and not have to do anything but reach the exit if you had earlier died at the end.

It’s available for Windows and Mac as a FREE download from developer Vacuum Flower’s website. See the key word? FREE. It was made in Flash but has it’s own executable. Perfect for a USB stick game on the go.

Lastly, it’s a 2010 Independent Games Festival Finalist in the Excellence in Design category. Based on the fun I’ve had with this title the last three days, it should be a contender.

Set your DVRs

Got this note from EA’s PR peoples and figured some of you would be interested. I know I am, but I’m also torn. I’ve been avoiding any and all info about Mass Effect 2 to go into the game pure and unsullied as possible. I have seen a few of the teaser videos for the game, so maybe I’m already corrupted. Either way, check it out:

Tonight the SyFy Network will debut the special TV documentary, Sci vs. Fi: Mass Effect 2 , featuring celebs, creators, and experts discussing 2010’s first blockbuster videogame, Mass Effect 2 and its place in the sci-fi pantheon. Tune in to the Sy Fy Network for the premiere airing on Tuesday January 19th at 11 PM EST/PST and 10 PM CET. The show takes an in-depth look at both the science and fiction of Mass Effect 2, and features interviews with in-game voice talent Tricia Helfer and Yvonne Strahovski, Sci-Fi fan favorite Wil Wheaton and journalists Jessica Chobot and Adam Sessler among others.