Review – Metropolismania

Some games are hard to put down. Often this is because a game is great fun, but entertainment isn’t always the force that drives us to keep playing. Sometimes we continue gaming because of a lack of clearly defined beginnings and endings; we don’t know when or where to stop so we just keep on going. Oddly enough, games that break play into nearly infinite tiny rounds deliver the same psychological effect as games that have no levels nor turns.

Will Wright and Sid Meier are experts at creating addictive gameplay through this method. Both Pirates! and Sims lack any clear level progression, while Civilization cuts up play time into such minute turns that each feel too short to be considered optimal stopping points. “Just one more turn!” is a cry familiar to anyone who has fallen victim to Meier’s brilliant design. →  Destroy All Articles! 2

Never Say Never: Next-Gen N-Gage in the Works

In a startling revelation, PocketGamer is reporting that Nokia is set to unveil a next-gen version of their ill-fated N-Gage hybrid cellphone/handheld gaming system in the next coming months. A conference was recently held in Santa Monica that had attendees from Disney, Sega of America, Sony Online Entertainment, Universal, Square Enix, Capcom, THQ Wireless, Glu Mobile, Digital Chocolate, EA Mobile, Tecmo, Namco and Vivendi Game checking out the capabilities of the new system.

No, April Fools didn’t come early this year. Nokia has said in the past that the N-Gage platform was never going away, that it was always going to be integrated into a broad range of their handheld devices. They even had games at their E3 booth last year.

I’m guessing that the N-Gage as we know it is merely going to be a suite of services that many of their phones will provide, which may help it gain a larger install base compared to the original’s weak showing. →  U R Not lamE.

Review – Okami

While some genres are mainly constructive (most sim games for example), the action adventure genre has historically been destructive. Even though your character is generally on the side of good and fighting evil there is something dissatisfying about achieving your ends using strictly violent means. Rarely does a game come along (outside the real time strategy genre) that gives the player the ability to create as well as destroy. Okami is such a game.

As the goddess Amaterasu you alternate between attacking demons with a variety of swords, mirrors(?) and rosaries(??) and restoring the world around you to its former natural beauty. This makes the experience of playing the game much more complete, since you actually have the capability to act like a god (assuming its not the spiteful, vengeful type of god), meting out punishment to offenders and aiding the just in their day to day lives. →  Article Kombat

Too Human Will Be Too Great

I’ve had just about enough of this Too Human bashing on the Internet. Everywhere I go, I read the same thing: because of last year’s horrid E3 showing, the game is going to flop harder than Granny’s flap jacks.

Need I remind you who is making Too Human? The ever-powerful and intelligent-sounding Silicon Knights. Yes, the same Silicon Knights that brought you the gift to gamers Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, my favorite GameCube game of all time.

Trying to figure out why these “journalists” say such harsh things is taking all my energy. Yes, the camera angles were weird, the frame-rate was all over the place, and the load times were long. But that was in May of 2006. The game isn’t due to be released until July of 2007. That’s more than a year to get everything in shape. →  50 Cent: Readproof

Review – Sam and Max Episode 3: The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball

I’m not going to do an “official” review of Sam and Max Episode 3. All the big aggregate game sites will give you the same Consumer Reports style bullshit about this one; how the environments are recycled, how the game is shorter and the puzzles are easier, and so its just not so good as the rest.

But you and me, we know differently. We already discussed with Episode 2 that repeated environments are to be expected in episodic content (and shouldn’t always be thought of as a bad thing). We know that length is not always equal to value. In short, quantifying game elements just doesn’t work, so let’s take the videolamer look at why I think Ep. 3 is the most entertaining and worrisome of the bunch.

Episode 2’s humor was somewhat blunt with its parodies of sitcoms and talk shows, but I still liked it. →  Please sir, can I have some more?

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 1.26.07

Wii games channel coming…some time
Nintendo has confirmed that they will offer new games for download on the Wii, no doubt inspired by Microsoft’s Live Arcade. Since the Wii is already being positioned as the console to develop for if you have a small budget, it should be interesting to see what kind of games are distributed through the games channel (not the official name). Will it be home to crappy Flash games or is this the beginning of the 2D renaissance on home systems? I’m hoping for the latter but won’t be surprised if it’s the former.

Gears of War sells well in Japan
Well enough to break the top 10 list, in fact. Now American developers know breaking into the Japanese market is possible; all they have to do is make one of the best games of the year. →  We have the best words.

Review – Excite Truck

Excite Truck has a lot to live up to. First, it’s one of only three first-party titles to launch with the Wii, and you know that consumers were looking at Nintendo for a reason to give their crazy new gaming interface a chance. Second, with Monster 4×4 World Circuit and GT Pro failing to meet expectations, Excite Truck may be gamers’ only source for a good racing experience. Thankfully, Excite Truck is running on all cylinders, delivering an awesome, and somewhat complex, arcade racer.

Developed by Monster Games (which developed Infogrames’ NASCAR games), Excite Truck is an arcade racer that brings to the table a totally new way to drive your virtual vehicle, with help from the innovative Wii-mote.

Just how rugged is that rack?

Most of you are probably wondering about how the game handles, so I’ll get right to it. →  Secread of Evermore

Review – Transformers

Take any sample of young twenty-something men, regardless of their profession or personality, and tell them to talk about Transformers. I guarantee you that no matter who they are, they’ll all have something to say. I’m sure there were kids who thought the Turtles were stupid, or that GI Joe was lame. But giant talking robots who turned into cars and jet planes? Its practically illegal for a young boy to scoff at that.

Thus it seems impossible for the Transformers PS2 game to be any good. It isn’t just based on a legendary license; the story and characters are based off of the recent Transformers: Armada anime. If history is any indicator, then this game should be less playable than the latest Pixar/Dreamworks movie tie-in.

However, it seems one of the gaming gods has decided to take pity on us. →  What is a post? A miserable little pile of secrets.

Where Have All the Villains Gone?

Is it me, or is there a huge lack of crazy and demented villains running amok in our games? I mean, where have all the Sephiroths gone? Is the world filled with shiny, happy people now or something?

Seriously, there are no more fiendishly awesome villains anymore. Most villains nowadays only show up as bosses at the end of the game. A villain to me is someone that continually ravages the game’s universe throughout the entire adventure. He/she also has to be evil in every sense of the word. Some would even say that they are eeeeeevil. And you have to be scared of what they will do next. That’s where the real fear comes from. Sephiroth was completely insane. He was on a rampage for most of that game.

In my mind, there’s really only a few villains that fit that bill. →  Is that an article in your pants, or are you just happy to read me?

Eve Online : First Impressions

It’s hard to write “first” impressions of a game that’s four years old, but nonetheless, this is where I find myself. Burnt out by World of Warcraft, ranting and raving about my addiction on this site, and swearing off MMO’s for good is where we last left off.

Well, I’ve at least kept part of it up; I’ve resisted the Burning Crusade completely. But I find myself once again sucked into the MMO world, having started playing Eve Online.

Eve Online is very different from other online games I’ve played. For starters, it’s set in the future, in a space base universe. But rather than being first person, like almost every MMO, the game is entirely ship based. In fact, until an upcoming expansion (and keep in mind there have already been several expansions), you can’t ever actually “get out” of your ship. →  Disaster Readport

The results of a gaming experiment

Before the holiday season, I made a blog post about a little experiment I planned on undertaking over the break. I was going to be very choosy about which games I played, and the rules were something like this:

1. Nothing with too much story or too many cutscenes
2. Nothing with too much unlocking hell
3. Challenging is okay
4. Skill based is preferred

Essentially, I wanted a holiday break where the gaming was filled with old skool sensibility. It was quite a learning experience too, both about gaming in general and my own tastes.

Here are some of the titles I ended up playing, and what I thought about each.

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Twilight Princess: Zelda is the only game I pardoned from the first rule, not because it was the only story heavy game I was playing before the experiment, but because it was the only one I wanted to continue playing. →  I’m readin’ here!

Do Games Evoke an Emotional Response?

Recently, my boss at work gave me a homework assignment. He wanted me to read Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun for Game Design. It’s a great read for anyone looking to get into game design, and I highly recommend it.

But the reason I bring it up is to talk about the topic of art in games. Koster defines art as “entertainment where the communicative element is either novel or well-done.” I went a little further with the definition and included the fact that art must make you respond emotionally, in some sort of fashion. It doesn’t have to be a deeply emotional response always, but it does need you to respond thoughtfully from it. To even begin to communicate, you need something to say, something that you want the viewer to know and understand. →  Fine, but this article then no more.

I can’t shut up about Guitar Hero

A slew of news about the franchise I can’t get off my mind. Come and get it!

– Rumors of a possible pedal accessory for future installments. A cool idea that could backfire. As Tycho at Penny Arcade mentioned, a peripheral for a peripheral is getting a bit crazy, and who knows if they would actually be a pack in or sold separately. Then there’s the question of whether they would have a direct effect on scoring. I would love to see it, but it would have to be done well for it to become an essential part of the game.

– I discovered that GH2 has a code for “hyper speed”, which is the same as a speed mod in a Bemani game. It basically makes the notes move faster, and thus become more spread out and easier to read (I know that might sound very confusing – it did to me at first. →  Postsona 3 FES

Let Us Cling Together: The joy of playing games cooperatively

Imagine you’re delving into a dark labyrinth. You’re exploring the endless hallways, looking for a path leading deeper into the ruin when you’re ambushed by a dozen demons both ahead and behind. You’re certain this is the end… but then you realize your partner was trailing a ways behind you, and by now she should blasting her way through the enemies attacking from the rear. Thus assured, you unsheath your sword and charge on ahead… This is the magic of cooperative gaming.

I find it hard to get into any competitive game (with the exception of Smash Bros). The idea of playing against other people just isn’t as fun as playing alongside them. I tend to find cooperative games much more enjoyable, but it’s a much under-appreciated genre. Before the release of Half-Life, Valve promised cooperative play in the game but never delivered, instead creating only an online deathmatch mode. →  Tony Hawk's Pro Reader 3

Suicidal Wii

My Wii almost met with a tragic end this week when it decided to shut itself off for good. Apparently it couldn’t take the “Wii” jokes anymore.

Last night, as I walk in from a long day of doing nothing, my Wii’s little orangey-yellow light wasn’t on. I, sensing something wrong, did what all red-blooded Americans do: I hit it. I gave it good, hard slap in the self-loading disc drive. Nope, no good. I checked all the wires, all the outlets, and anything else related to the problem, but nothing worked.

Distraught over the loss of my one true friend, I decided to call up Nintendo and plan out a proper funeral for the little guy. With minimal wait time (props to Nintendo for the awesome background video game music while on hold, btw), I got connected with the proper authorities. →  Do the math.

Review – Prey

I first heard about Prey in 1998 when sci-fi shooter was announced by 3D Realms as being in production for release on the PC “in the near future.” Apparently the near future is almost ten years later, and the PC they were talking about is the XBox 360 (although it was released for the PC shortly after). Regardless of how much time it’s taken, this game was conceived ten years ago and it shows.

We heard you guys were looking for extras for the new Doom game. What the hell is Prey? Ah, why not.

The gameplay is perfectly straightforward. You run around the levels and shoot aliens, you take their weapons, and then you kill tougher aliens with those new, more powerful weapons. There are four basic armaments (a very small number when compared to other recent shooters) and they are as unimaginative as you can get. →  Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about huffing paint.

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 1.18.07

Breaking news: Bill Gates likes the 360
When asked how the system’s strategy is working out, Gates replied, “It’s working perfectly.” So they DID mean to launch with nothing worth buying, have fewer than a 10 million lead on their year delayed competition, and fail in Japan a second time. That’s a relief. Other comedic tidbits — Gates says Sony is their biggest competition, despite last week saying Nintendo was their biggest competition, and then goes on to brag about owning Rare, which was largely a waste of millions of dollars.

Gates is a bright guy, sure, but he is also a bullshit artist. Other gaming sites have said that he is a man who doesn’t mince words; he says what he means and means what he says. These sites are wrong and possibly deluded. →  Zone of the Readers: The 2nd Reader

The Ubi-Soft Effect

Remember when Ubi-Soft was all gung-ho for the Wii? They jumped on the Wii like it was a free ticket to Pleasure Town.

For the uninformed, Ubi-Soft bet high on the Wii. They thought getting a head-start with the Wii would help them become the top publisher in gaming, besting the almighty EA. Since the launch of the Wii, Ubi-Soft has released 7 games in total, which is three more than Nintendo themselves(based on American release lists).

Interesting thing about this situation is the mentality behind making these games. You’d think after seeing Red Steel being showcased in Nintendo’s conference at this year’s E3 that Ubi-Soft wanted to bring gamers a more quality-centric release list, but has in fact done the complete opposite. After tallying up the average scores from Metacritic, Ubi-Soft’s titles have averaged a score of 54. →  Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing memory cards.

Madden on Wii

A while ago I had a bit of a rant about Madden football, where I said that no matter how much the game bugs me, I always end up playing each new version. It’s happened again, with a twist; my first experience with Madden ’07 was on the Wii.

I’m not sure how well this game went over with critics. Jay said something about the reception being poor, but I don’t really feel like looking it up. It’s fun to give impressions without knowing what others were thinking. In short, Madden Wii is a change, and if it really has been trashed, I think I know why.

I didn’t play enough to test the really deep aspects of controlling Madden, though it looks like it’s all there in some form or another, so guys looking for hot routes and audibles and line shifts should worry not. →  The King of Articles 2002: Unlimited Match

Parents just don’t understand

My parents recently started reading this website. I’m confident they are happy with what their 120 thousand dollar college investment has yielded. The down side is I may have to watch my language and sexual innuendos from now on because those things didn’t exist in the olden days and would surely shock anyone over 30.

A more disturbing problem is that my parents have no idea what any of these articles are about. It’s a proven fact that most specialized fields use vocabulary outsiders cannot understand just for the sake of being exclusionary (cardiac arrest? Yeah, sure doctor, those are real words). Gaming journalism is no different and I’m afraid this site is part of the problem. What problem, I’m not sure, possibly global warming.

Because my parents never discouraged my gaming and only encouraged me to get off my ass from time to time, I owe it to them to explain some of the terms this site uses on a daily basis. →  Speak softly and carry a big post.