Soft Boiled Software

When it comes to repairing CD’s and DVD’s, there are a number of practices and household products which people swear can make a disc good as new. I tried several of the most well known methods in my youth, and found that none of them did a damn thing. Brasso, for instance, never managed to make a scratched disc run any better. Same with toothpaste. I even tried boiling a used copy of Devil May Cry. I ended up “fixing” it by buying another copy.

Ever since these failed experiments, I wondered whether any of these methods really, truly could work.  …

We need to talk about the PSP Vita.

We need to talk about the PSP Vita.

It isn’t exactly lighting up the sales charts.  True, it isn’t technically out yet in the West, but if it is true that its Japanese numbers are still hovering around half a million units, then the 3DS almost matched Vita sales in its first week alone.  Unless fortunes reverse, and the Vita ends up doing gangbusters over here, I think we can agree that Sony has a problem on its hands.

What frustrates me is why this is happening.  For all appearances, the handheld is a marvel of hardware design, is relatively cheap, and has strong launch titles. …

2012 Gaming Uncertainty

I wanted to write a 2012 predictions piece about how uncertain I am about what gaming in 2012 will look like.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to format such an article.  By sheer coincidence, Tim Bray recently wrote a similar piece on his personal blog (albeit about topics much more serious than gaming).  I liked his approach so much that I had to unashamedly use it as a template for my own attempt.  Here then are my Bray inspired 2012 Gaming Uncertainties.

Playstation Vita – Will the West embrace it as tepidly as they did the PSP?  And will it perform as well in Japan as everyone thinks (and hopes) it will?  …

2011 Year in Review

Last time I did a year end retrospective, it posted two months after the end of the year.  I won’t make the same mistake twice in a row.  Here now are the highs and lows from my 2011 in games.  Note, as always, that this is not a “best games of 2011” list, nor did all of the games actually come out this year.  These are simply the best (and “worst”) titles I played within the last twelve months.

The Tops

Async Corp

I actually posted my review of Async Corp. months after the initial draft was first written. and in the intervening months, I hadn’t actually played the game that much.  

Review – Async Corp.

Async Corp is the latest, and probably last release from indie developer house Powerhead Games.  There are many reasons to mourn Powerhead’s departure, the biggest of which is that Async Corp. is a marked improvement over Glow Artisan, its award winning predecessor.  While Glow was a wonderful concept, Async demonstrates some of the fundamental qualities of the all time classic puzzle games.

In Async Corp, players are given two wells filled with squares of three different colors. Players select one square on each side to swap with each other in order to form a packet.  Packets are generated whenever some number of same-colored squares are arranged in the shape of a rectangle (squares being rectangles too, of course).  …

Review – Kayne and Lynch

Kane and Lynch: Dead Men was, for lack of a better pun, dead on arrival in the minds of Internet savvy gamers, all thanks to the fiasco surrounding Jeff Gerstmann’s scathing review for Gamespot.com, and Eidos Interactive’s possible manipulation of the site.  That being said, if the controversy never occurred, I don’t imagine the game would have fared any better.  The signs of a troubled development process are all over the place, and the final product is a constant stream of highs and lows.

Where to start?  Visually, the background objects are gorgeous, but the foreground environments are criminally ugly.  The game often tries to hide this by placing levels in the dark, or by filling setpieces with several layers of tear gas smoke.…

Time isn’t on my Side (and I’m okay)

Former VL writer and Powerhead Games designman Matt recently posted a question on Twitter, to which I responded as succinctly as a I could.  All told, it’s an interesting topic, so I wanted to elaborate on it a bit more in a meatier blog post.
Matt’s initial question was the following:

With so many new games being released every single day, what does that do to a player’s appreciation for a single title?

I’m not exactly sure what, if anything, he is getting at with the question, but I know what it means to me.  My response was this:

honestly? It makes me appreciate that title more, if I’ve come to see most of those new games as “noise” in the release year.

Alternate Take – Nier

Note: Some folks on Twitter asked me if I was going to write anything about Nier after finishing it.  I obliged, as I did find the game very interesting, but I want to point out that the game was already reviewed by Chris back in December.  The original review can be found here, and I recommend you read it first.  It covers some of the same ground, and  Chris has a much better handle on the genre than I do.

Nier is a bog standard action adventure game in which the lock and key puzzle system of modern Legend of Zelda releases is replaced with traditional jRPG time wasters (mainly sidequests and weapon upgrades). …

Review – Glow Artisan

I have been meaning to review Glow Artisan for a very, very long time. Unfortunately, I had trouble sinking my teeth into it after just a couple of days (though those couple of days were, admittedly, fun). Did my struggles signify that it was, in fact, a bad puzzle game? I had to weight all the possibilities. My conclusion, at least for now, is that Glow Artisan is a good game, but it triggers a major psychological stumbling block within me.

Glow Artisan takes place on a grid of small squares. You are meant to color in the grid, using the three primary colors (which naturally create secondary colors when mixed) and an eraser.…

Review – Radiant Historia

Radiant Historia gets so, so close to being a bona fide classic. For three quarters of its length, it was my favorite genre-piece since Demon’s Souls. After that, it segued into its (shockingly) boring, generic final act. The biggest surprise of 2011 became the biggest headscratcher.

Radiant Historia is a classically styled jRPG with a time travel mechanic at its core. The player guides the protagonist through two different timelines, with the ability to travel to the past or present of either of them at will, maybe to fix a mistake, or to ensure that a certain event occurs. Time travel is at the very core of the game’s design.…