Gametap tightens the faucet

As reported by Game|Life, Gametap’s editorial website and video content is getting axed less than a year after it was started.

I have voiced worries about Gametap in the past, and this is another bad piece of news. The problem the service has is that it seems to be run by individuals who know what the hell they are doing. This brings a level of knowledge and communication with users that you would not expect from a branch of Time Warner. Of course, this makes Gametap stand out like a sore thumb, which is bad when it comes time to knock out anything unrelated to the bottom line.

In any case, losing the editorial section likely has nothing to do with the fate of the service itself, but it still makes me worry. →  Read the rest

Review – Sam & Max: Night of the Raving Dead

I’ll be honest with you. When I started writing this review, I was only doing it to get this game out of the way. I really wanted to review episodes 4 and 5, and it just didn’t seem right to skip this tale of the emo undead, no matter how mediocre I may have found it upon first playthrough. As I began writing, however, I realized that this game taught me something. It taught me why I play Sam and Max. Not a deep, meaningful life lesson by any means, but a lesson nonetheless.

To catch people up who haven’t played the game already, New York is invaded by hoards of zombies, and Sam and Max must travel to Stuttgart in order to stop them at their source: a castle-turned-goth-club called “The Zombie Factory.” →  Read the rest

Gametap grows, but is it changing for the worse?

For the longest time, Gametap was a confident and persistent service that had a vision and, at least content wise, seemed to be making good on their promises. In the last year however, the service has changed considerably. They began supporting original projects, such as the critically loved Sam and Max episodes. They offered a select few games for free every week for anyone to play. Their community site exploded, and now rather than merely offering forums and commentary on their own games, the ‘tap has reviews and commentary about the industry as a whole. Blogs like Joystiq now cover the weekly releases with some semblance of seriousness. Not bad for an idea that no one thought would catch on. As for myself, I have been impressed with Gametap ever since I signed up in the summer of ’06. →  Read the rest

Review – Sam & Max Season 2, Episode 2: Moai Better Blues

Episode 2 of Season 2 of Sam and Max continues the fresh trends we saw in Ice Station Santa. The pacing is brisk, the filler is minimal, and each location is compact. This is a good thing, because without these elements this episode might have been painful. The puzzles this time around are dastardly and obfuscated, harkening back to the old days of the adventure genre while not quite reaching the level of absurdity of a Gabriel Knight game. Just as striking as the spike in difficulty is the shift towards humor that is even more obscure and older in taste. Whether or not these are two trends for the future, or a sign of Telltale mixing it up as they see fit, remains to be seen. Whatever the case, this is a stumbling block for the series. →  Read the rest

Review – Sam & Max Season 2, Episode 1: Ice Station Santa

One thing I have noticed since I was young is that every new season of television shows creates a new trend or two. In the last 15 years it seems we have seen everything, from a flood of cartoons, themed sitcoms, non-themed sitcoms (thanks, Seinfeld), sci-fi shows, crime dramas, and more. There are two common patterns; either a network hits gold and cranks out dozens of similar shows to cash in (see how The Learning Channel nearly destroyed itself thanks to Trading Spaces), or two networks create almost identical pieces of shit in hopes that theirs will stick.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, we have seen both of these trends as the games industry has tried to tackle episodic gaming. On one hand, we had Telltale Games working on episodes for Bone and Sam and Max, while Valve and Ritual made their own serialized installments of Half Life and Sin via Steam and the Source engine. →  Read the rest

Other sites’ minor offenses

In my never ending mission to find things to complain about, I frequently stumble upon poorly phrased passages in competitors articles (by competitors I mean real web sites). Here are two stupid things I found recently:

Joystiq calls Alien Soldier “filler.”
Or maybe it’s a highly respected game from a hugely talented developer that never made it to American shores.

In the wake of the release of Super Mario 3, many have overlooked Treasure’s cult classic Alien Soldier. This has happened before – Super Metroid overshadowed Shinobi 3, despite both being awesome. The strength of the Virtual Console lies in its ability to offer us access to excellent games we missed, or hard to find classics. While it’s true that the first thing I did when I got home yesterday was download Mario 3, it and games like it that have been released 17 separate times aren’t what makes the VC so sweet. →  Read the rest

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 7.27.07

Microsoft sort of wants you to buy an HD DVD add on
$20 off is not a good deal for something that costs $200, but that’s the amazing deal Microsoft is giving us on their 360 HD DVD add on. The move feels like a last ditch effort to make it appear that they still have a chance at beating the Blu Ray format. What is it with these companies that are desperate but not willing to allow this desperation to save me a lot of money? The PS3 should cost $300 and the 360 HD DVD doohickey should retail for $19.95.

Then there’s the prevalence of bundle deals. In addition to the twenty big ones you’d save buying the HD DVD drive, you’d also get five free movies. Choose from classics like Seabiscuit, Chronicles of Riddick, and Tomb Raider. →  Read the rest

Review – Sam & Max Episode 6: Bright Side of The Moon

Here it is, the final episode in the only episodic series that’s actually managed to do something with itself. Six games in as many months is something that Telltale Games should be proud of, but they get another pat on the back for doing such a good job. Season 1 was very much a learning experience, both for themselves and for the fans. Throughout the journey, Telltale has shown definite signs of listening to their audience and learning from their mistakes. Bright Side of the Moon fixes a lot of problems from past episodes, and is all-around the most solid effort of the six games. Funny, lengthy and fun to play, I was sad to see this one come to an end.

The first five episodes sometimes struggled with the balancing act of keeping the puzzles tough but not obtuse and also keeping the humor strong, all in a very tight timeframe. →  Read the rest

Review – Sam & Max Episode 5: Reality 2.0

Despite it being the penultimate episode of Season 1, I don’t have much to say about Reality 2.0. It repeats much of the same things we’ve already gone over (ie, “The rule of three” for puzzles, familiar faces and environments, etc.). Reminiscent of ep. 4, it has two very hard puzzles with some very easy stuff in between. At this point it is rather useless to discuss whether any of these things are good or bad, because they are simply the way they are.

When episodic content is released in a matter of weeks rather than months, there is a very limited time in which to create new content. Some things are going to be static, both because it fits the nature of the game (“episodes” of any sort of media don’t completely change), and because it is the only way to get the content out quickly. →  Read the rest

Review – Office Purks

christian says:
About a month ago I played The Shivah. Although it was made in something simple like Adventure Game Studio, it had fantastic production values, a lot of craft to the graphical design, and some decent gameplay hampered by a lack of originality. Bottom line was that for the five five dollars I paid for it, I got a great little game that showed a lot of personality.

To me, this is what indie gaming is all about. Yes, I love to see innovations and new ideas floating around. But if an indie developer can get personal, to use their game to show us something special to them, then they’ve used their avenue of development to the fullest, because its something you just can’t do very easily within a big time studio. →  Read the rest

Review – Sam and Max Episode 2 – Situation: Comedy

Is episodic gaming on the ropes already? That seems to be what some people are saying. It’s kind of hard to believe this when the idea still hasn’t gotten off the ground, but these claims have some merit. Sin Episodes is in limbo, and everyone has come to agree that Valve is really making Half Life 2 expansion packs, regardless of what they want to call them. That leaves Telltale Games as the only major developer that has followed through with their promise of timely episodic content. First they did it with Bone, and now Sam and Max looks to be moving along right on schedule. The second episode, Situation: Comedy, was released just before Christmas, and I’ve finally gotten around to finishing it. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be enough to say about Ep. →  Read the rest

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 9.22.06

RedOctane sues TAC who in turn sue RedOctane
Guitar Hero makers RedOctane have filed a lawsuit against TAC for making guitar controllers that resemble their own. In response, TAC has sued RedOctane, claiming they’ve been making guitar controllers longer and that RedOctane is actually infringing on their copyright. Whether or not this sue the suer move is just standard stupid legal strategy remains to be seen. Personally, I’d find it hilarious if RedOctane loses.

Nintendo wants violent sexy games
Nintendo of America is courting mature content for the Wii. This is no doubt a good business strategy, but it still doesn’t sit totally right. However evil they were as a corporation, I always had a little respect for their slightly patronizing desire to protect us from unseemly content. Nintendo was the catcher in the rye. →  Read the rest

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 8.18.06

World Games is another awesome/terrible Epyx title.

Classic Epyx games coming to current consoles
Impossible Mission and California Games remakes coming to the Wii, DS and PSP and they’ll be in 2d. Now I can finally finish Impossible Mission, let’s just hope it doesn’t have a bug in it like the Atari version (the bug made the game unbeatable). California Games should be very interesting because it’s debatable that the original was actually a piece of shit. Through the glasses of nostalgia I remember the game quite fondly but it’s true that the actual gameplay is similar to Wario Wares, only minus the creativity, humor and instead of 105 there are 5 games to play.

“Classic” Electronic Arts compilation coming to the PSP
What’s this, another compilation featuring games from my beloved C64? →  Read the rest