Sunday, February 28, 2010

Video game number sixty two: Dynasty Warriors Strike Force

Video game review number sixty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Dynasty Warriors Strike Force".

There have been about 497 different versions of Dynasty Warriors over the years, but somehow...this one is the first one I've ever played. Oddly enough, I played the copycats of this game before I ever played the original, and while I'm not a huge fan of the genre, I have to admit, the first hour or two of these games is always a lot of fun.

Dynasty Warriors games all involve one player against hundreds of enemies on each level. There are usually a ton of levels, and the overall experience ends up being incredibly grindy. You have to defeat tons of enemies, with the hope you might find some steel or a rock or something that you can make a better weapon with. You can power your weapons up with orbs and crap that you find in boxes around the levels. I've never particularly liked this part of the game. It's like they took the best elements of Double Dragon and tried to add some Final Fantasy to it. I'm not a fan of RPGs, so the intricate weapon upgrades and grinding are not usually something I enjoy.

Still, there's something satisfying about that first hour of gameplay. You mow down enemies like a guy with a scythe in a field of grass. Except for the bosses, there isn't one warrior in the level that can withstand you, so most of the're just spinning around killing people. I can't imagine anyone being able to do this in real life, but wouldn't it be awesome if you could be one of these guys at the next big concert you went to? I'd totally grind my way up through General Admission to the front row of the pit....picking up all the awesome items that my 400 hit combo dropped. When a swarm of cops tried to arrest me for mass murder, I'd just use a magic potion on them or something. Then I'd have the band play "Freebird", just because I could.

Overall, I'm giving this a 5/10. Like supermarket brand vanilla ice cream, this game is exactly what you're expecting: average. Fans of the series will certainly feel differently one way or the other...but for casual folks like myself, this isn't a big winner. I'm not sure whether or not I'll keep playing this one, but I can't say that I feel compelled to. The story doesn't particularly interest me, either because there aren't any cinematics in between levels or because something exciting might have been lost in the translation to english. The plot consists mostly of generic "go fight this guy next" text in between waves and waves the same fight. It's a fun action game to button mash your way through, but it also gets very grindy and repetitive. I actually found myself longing for the campaign mode in Tekken, which frankly...I liked a lot better than this game.

Here's what I unlocked after a few hours with this one.

Video game number sixty one: Domino Master

Video game review number sixty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Domino Master".

When it comes to dominoes, the only game I'm familiar with is the one where you line them up in long, intricate rows and hope that your little sister doesn't knock them over before you finish making the line.

We had some dominoes when I was a kid and this was all I ever did with them. I knew there was an actual game you could play, but I didn't really know how to play it. I'm sure I played at one point or another, but dominoes were used for chain reactions that would sometimes end in knocking a Star Wars figure over or something.

Domino Master is all about the actual game of dominoes, not lining them up to knock them over. When I played this game, I had to learn the basics from scratch. The first thing I learned is that the computer employs some cheap bullshit. The next thing I learned is that Domino Master has the exact same user interface as Uno, only instead of a deck of Uno cards, you have dominoes in the middle. The final thing I learned is that I don't really like dominos very much.

The one fun thing about this game is that when you play it, you can shout "Domino, Mother Fucker!" every round you win, like you're Doughboy from "Boyz in the Hood". Heather was in the bedroom and came out to see what I was doing. She didn't know I was playing actual dominos, and just thought I was shouting at the TV for no reason. She started saying "Domino, Mother fucka!" too....and that upped this game a point in my book.

Overall score: 3/10. There's nothing wrong with it, but there's certainly nothing special either. It's just dominos. If you like dominos, play this game. Or better yet, buy some real dominos instead. If you don't like dominos (or maybe you just want to line them up and knock them down like I did)...skip this game altogether.

Video game number sixty: Yo Ho Kablamo

Video game review number sixty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Yo Ho Kablamo".

This game is one of the first efforts to cross-over to the Xbox Live Marketplace from the indie-developer program for Xbox. It was submitted as part of a contest a few years back, and won top honors along with "The Dishwasher" (which I should also try one of these days). I really admire the fact that someone without a publishing contract created this one by themselves.

The concept is classic enough. You have a pirate ship, as do three other players on the screen...and your job is to destroy them. It's an overhead combat game, the likes of which you'll remember from the last 30 years of console gaming. I played this one late on a Friday night with my buddy John, who I have invited to be a guest reviewer for this one. Here was his sound bite:

Not easy to just pick up and play, but it's got potential. I'd like to put a little more time into it, but if that were just a demo for me, as it pretty much was, I probably wouldn't buy it.

When I asked him for his opinion on the game yesterday, at first, we got into an interesting discussion about gaming in general. John mentioned that he spends a lot of time playing his games, and thought he would have to spend a lot more time playing this one before he could review it. I pointed out that we played for awhile the other night, and neither one of us liked it. We were both saying "What the fuck?" a lot, as we were conquered by even the easiest computer opponents. The controls left a lot to be desired. For me, that was enough to write it off and move on. John wanted more time with this game to form a full opinion on it.

I don't find either viewpoint flawed, I just have a shorter attention span for games I don't like. Not just because of this challenge, but because I believe that if you don't like a game when you first play it, there's no need to force yourself to keep playing. There are exceptions to this, of course. Mass Effect comes to mind. It's a game I tried, didn't like at first and embraced two years later after being urged by friends to give it a second chance. Some games have reviews that are so good that even if you don't want to play them, you might want to try to make sure you aren't missing out. The first time I played Guitar Hero, it was really hard...but I got the hang of it, and now Rock Band is among my favorite games of all time.

On the other hand, bad video games are like cigarettes for me. The first one I smoked, I knew almost instantly that I hated it. It made me cough, it stunk, and I couldn't see any reason to continue to try to learn to smoke them after that. Especially given all the reviews from doctors, who said that it would kill you. Luckily, no one in my life was pressuring me to smoke (like they urged me to play Mass Effect), because I never really gave it a second try. These days, I might light up at a party once a year for fun (mostly to get a double take from all my friends who know I don't smoke), but it'll never be a regular thing for me. I'm not saying Yo-Ho Kablamo is bad for your health, but I didn't like it enough to keep playing until I learned what the hell was fun about it.

John on the other hand, did want to keep playing. He said: Well, we're two very different types of gamers, too. You like immediate, instantaneous pick-up-and-playability. I like to take my time and get invested in a game, digging into it a bit before really playing.We didn't take the time to do that. Initial impressions. 5 or 6/10 I guess. But I didn't spend enough time with it to score it fairly. Didn't play any single player, didn't play any other multiplayer variations besides Deathmatch.

I have to say, he does have a point. On the one hand, this challenge has been great, because I've discovered a lot of new games. On the other hand, if I was trying to give the game a "real" review, instead of my snap judgment before moving on, I probably should have played more than 40 minutes or so. I have to say, if I'm going to regret one thing when this challenge is's probably not going to be missing out on games I didn't initially like (like Yo-Ho Kablamo). Instead, I'm probably going to regret all that extra time I've had to keep playing to get one achievement in the games I didn't like, just to meet my own rules. If there wasn't a tutorial for Yo-Ho Kablamo, I would have been disappointed that I had to keep playing it. There are so many great games out there, there's no sense in wasting exra time on one like this.

Overall impression for me? 3/10. I feel that if you can't have fun with a combat video game on a Friday night with your buddy, it's time to switch to another game. That's exactly what we did.

Here's the one lame achievement I earned. Not sure if I'll ever play this again, but I suppose after getting John's impressions on the game, I might feel guilty if I don't. :-)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Video game number fifty nine: Fret Nice

Video game review number fifty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Fret Nice".

This game had all the makings of a wonderful idea. Most gamers I know have at least 3 or 4 musical instrument peripherals just sitting around in their living room, waiting for someone to play with them. When you're not playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero, they basically become giant plastic living room ornaments that your wife (or whoever else lives with you) hopes that you will put away someday....but you leave them there, because you never know when it might be time to rock.

The folks who made Fret Nice ask the eternal question: "What if you could use that guitar controller to play a game that has nothing to do with rocking?". They didn't ask me, but if they had...I would have said "Yeah man, that sounds cool...go do it". I also would have followed up with "But please don't make it suck". Clearly, they really should have asked me first.

Fret Nice has all the right ingredients, but somehow...they mixed them together in the improper way and created a crap casserole. This game is your standard platformer (cool), where you have to kill cute little enemies (cool again)...which you can do with either the guitar hero controller or the regular gamepad (very cool). Unfortunately, it's no fun no matter how you choose to play it.

I tried the first level with the guitar hero controller. Learning to strum to kill the enemies took me a minute or two, but once I got the hang of it, I liked it. Learning to jump on the other hand, had nothing to do with skill...and instead, relies completely on the quality of your guitar. All guitar controllers have the gyroscope inside, which enables the feature where you use the "tilt" to get your star power. My stupid gyroscope is broken from rocking a little too hard. Since this game requires you to use the tilt just to jump, I'm screwed most of the time. Some guitar hero controllers have a star power button, which makes jumping easier...but even after to switching to one of those, I can't say it was more fun. It's still a really annoying way to jump. Jumping is supposed to be a twitch reaction, and "star power" isn't really easy to pull off. They should have mapped it to the "A" button or something. You run by strumming, which is also silly.

I struggled through beating the first level using the guitar and then decided to go back and do it with the controller to see if I liked it better. It's hard to believe, but it was actually worse. "Strumming" on a controller is never fun (try playing Guitar Hero with your 360 controller sometime). There's a reason the folks at Harmonix were smart enough not to let you do this in Rock Band. Unfortunately, Fret Nice actually relies so heavily on the guitar hero controller being there that it's not really any fun without it.

This game itself is very simple, so it seems like the main challenge in this game is learning how to control it. That's all right if you're playing a game with DDR or even Tony Hawk Ride, but when you're just trying to play a normal doesn't work. I applaud them for trying to think outside the box, but the game simply wasn't any fun no matter which controller you used to play it.

Overall score: 2/10 and the two is mostly for the great concept here. Unfortunately, it's a horrible execution. I'm really surprised IGN and Gamespot gave this sucker sixes.

I will never play this again.

Video game number fifty eight: Wits and Wagers

Video game review number fifty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Wits and Wagers".

Wits and Wagers is another video game based on a popular board game that I'd rather play instead. If three of my buddies wanted to sit around and play this board game on our dining room table, it would be a lot of fun...but frankly, if I have three friends over for gaming, this is one of the last kinds of games we'd play. We'd go for Rock Band, Halo, even something silly like Scene It before playing an incredibly basic trivia game like this.

Playing this game alone against the computer? It's pretty lame. They ask you really difficult questions that have a specific numerical answer, and then you try to get as close to the answer as you can by guessing. You wager on your guess, as does the AI. The closest person to the actual answer without going over wins the money, just like the Price is Right.

At first, I played honestly. I actually won a few rounds, not for having the right answer...but for being the closest. It was then that I realized if I really wanted some achievements, all I'd have to do is bing the answer and bet everything. I did that, and got a huge bonus.

This was fun but completely negated the purpose of playing any further. You wouldn't sit with your friends and play the board game with Google or Bing sitting open on your laptop, but unless you do that against the computer...the game drags on and on.

Overall score? 3/10. This would be a fun party game, if anyone ever actually wanted to play it at a party. As a solo game, either you play it and bore yourself to death....or you cheat for the quick achievements. Either way, it's just a waste of your time, so I decided to pick option three, which was moving to the next game.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Video game number fifty seven: Lazy Raiders

Video game review number fifty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Lazy Raiders".

Lazy Raiders is one of those games where you can choose your avatar as the main character. I had just purchased a brand new Force Unleashed Sith Lord outfit for my avatar, and was looking forward to seeing this in the game. Unfortunately, it makes you wear a stupid explorer outfit (which it also unlocks an avatar award for use in other games). I was kind of bummed I couldn't be the cool Vader guy, but I got over it and moved on.

This game is pretty interesting. It's a tilt maze game, where you move the screen around and your character falls or slides based on the angles you create. Think of those old wooden games, where you tilt either side of the board to move a marble around. Your avatar is the marble, only now you also collect keys, open doors, and eventually make your way to the center of the maze by tilting it around.

Aside from tilting the screen in one direction or another, you can also flip it completely over. This essentially reverses the playing field. Flipping the screen also has other effects. If there are torches burning, flipping it blows them out. It opens a gate or closes one. This makes for some pretty challenging gameplay. I found myself dying a lot while trying to flip, but I think that's just because I don't have the hang of it yet.

Overall, this is an interesting game. It's not great, but it's not bad. I think I could get the hang of it, but of the strategy arcade games I've played lately, Qix++ is still my favorite. In fact, I went back to playing that after I got done playing this one today. The more I play that one, the more I'm enjoying it.

Overall score is 5/10. Purely average so far. I wish your avatar could wear it's own outfit, and I wish the action was just a tad slower, which might make it more strategy and less twitch.

I got some achievements and here they are:

Video game number fifty six: Vancouver 2010

Game review number fifty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Vancouver 2010".

One of my coworkers saw me carrying this game as I was heading down the stairs to the parking garage after work this evening.

He said: "Vancouver, eh? That game sucks ass".

"Uh-oh, really?" I asked.

"Yeah. I thought the achievements would be really easy, so I played it...but then it turned out to be really tough. I'm stuck on a level where I have to be Apolo Ohno".

I made a mental note to avoid that level.

After I got home, I booted this one up and took a look at my options. Lots of skiing, some snowboarding, bobsled, luge and of course, the Apolo Ohno levels. I decided to skip those and go straight to some downhill slalom, which sounded sort of fun.

The controls are a bitch to get used to, but once I eventually got the hang of them in each mode, some events were actually ok. Slalom was one that had a long ramp up time for me (I couldn't figure out why I couldn't get gold even though I was going fast and not missing gates). I got frustrated and moved to the "Challenges", which aren't the Olympics, but rather....gamer challenges for achievements. I was able to do better there.

The downhill skiing is a lot of fun. Once I figured out how to keep my speed up (by not carving), I was able to win races and break records. That was pretty cool. I played both the bobsled and the luge...but I kept crashing, no matter how much I leaned. Those things have no brakes. Morbidly, I thought to myself "Boy, this is actually just like the real Vancouver 2010 Olympics" and then I stopped playing those modes.

I booted the speed skating events once, and my coworker was right, they pretty much blow. Next I went to snowboarding event, and I had my ah-ha moment. I don't know why it didn't occur to me until then, but this video game is pretty accurate as far as the location goes. I had seen this track before, as snowboarding was one of the first events I watched on TV during the actual Olympics. Later, I happened to see a brief glimpse of the slalom on TV (My wife was hoping to see some ice skating and had turned it on to check)....and I realized that it was the level I'd been playing all evening in the video game. That made it a bit cooler for me.

I did a few more challenges, including one I really liked where you had to do ski jumping tricks. Eventually, I made it to a challenge where you were supposed to run the snowboard race again. "Cool", I thought to myself "I was pretty good at this". Then I found out I had to run it with backwards controls. Left meant right, right meant left.

I can't imagine why they thought this would be fun. Challenging? Sure. Go ahead and make it a dumb achievement and make it optional if you want to screw with your player. I didn't feel like screwing around like that, as I had just spent a good 30 minutes or so learning how to get good at snowboarding. Suddenly they want me to do it completely backwards? That was just stupid.

I was actually mad that I couldn't adapt, so I played it about 12 times until I finished the challenge....just because. After that, I was basically done with this game.

Overall score? I have to give it a 5/10. It's pretty simple stuff, I can't see people being wowed by any of it. You've seen better snowboarding games for sure. The graphics are only so-so, with the big exception being how accurate the levels are compared to their real life Olympic counterparts. I suppose that shouldn't really be impressive, but for some was to me.

Achievements? I got quite a few

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Video game number fifty five: World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars

Game review number fifty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars".

So far in this challenge, I've played quite a few racing games, including some lesser known ones like this. This isn't just because of the challenge, I actually really like driving games and I was aware of this one before the launch, even if it's not a "big" title. Although I wasn't dying to play it....I was planning on trying it simply because it's a new racing game with online multiplayer and I'm always looking for diamonds in the rough. The cover art on the box features little race cars with the big wings on top. I'm pretty sure I got to mess with cars like these in a game before. It might have been in Dirt, Dirt 2, Rallisport Challenge or some other game with dirt tracks in it.

Turns out this game wasn't at all what I was expecting. By the way, from this point on, this review has background music. Simply right click to open the following link in a new'll make sense in a moment.

Music playing? Good. Ok, so for some reason, I was thinking this would be a "rally" of some kind, but it turns out I guessed wrong. The track you start out on is just a big circle. "Ok", I said to myself..."they're just warming me up". Then the next track was a big circle too. "Hmm", I thought to myself... "Maybe the entire first level is like this". I beat a few races (two of which were each 30 tedious laps long)...and moved on to the next circuit. More circles. That's when the Soul Coughing song came to mind.

I wondered if maybe this was what the entire game was going to be. It seemed unrealistic, but after 3 or 4 races, I knew I was already sick of driving in circles. I jumped into the multiplayer mode and hosted a game. Got an automatic achievement for doing that, but no one joined, so I backed out and joined someone else's game. Another free achievement. Cool. I instantly found a match and was greeted by three or four people talking to me. I didn't have my headset on yet, but I heard lots of conversation coming from the speakers in my TV. I put my headset on.

I'm not sure what it is about racing games, but they seem to have a much nicer community following them than shooter games do. Dirt 2 had one of the best online experiences ever for me. Just about everyone I met in the game was friendly....and I ended up with several new folks on my friends list while going through to get all 1000 points in that one. In World of Outlaws (Or "W.O.O!" for short), I found a lobby full of friendly people and we started a race. Holy crap, another circle.

"Hey guys, this is my first race....are they all like this?" I asked.
"No, you'll get better" one of the players said. He then proceeded to give me a bunch of tips on how to win, which were really helpful...even though I hadn't asked.

I thanked him and said: "Cool, I'll try those...but what I meant is, are all the tracks like this? Big circles, no jumps or anything?". Two or three of the folks in our match laughed in unison and one said: "Yeah, it's Sprint Cars, man!"

Clearly, I'm not educated on sprint cars. I sat back, listened to the tips they gave me, and finished out our match. I placed 5th out of 5 racers and got lapped a couple of times. Afterwards, I went back offline to try some of my new skills against the computer. I raced a few more races, and eventually won using the tricks the guys had told me about. The cars are extremely temperamental, apparently just like the real ones.

How do I know? Simple. I had to look it up, because I had no idea what Sprint Cars were all about. According to Wikipedia: Sprint cars are high-powered race cars designed primarily for the purpose of running on short oval or circular dirt or paved tracks.

In other words folks, it's NASCAR in the mud. That was all I needed to know, and I called it a day.

Overall 3/10. Making left turns in the mud for 30 straight laps in a row is not nearly as exciting as it sounds.

Achievements?'s a funny note. I actually got an achievement for using my windshield wipers 40 times in this game. It's something I encountered naturally, because the screen gets so dirty you can't see (I suppose to simulate a windshield), and you can turn on the wipers. The funny thing is, you only get so many "screen wipes" per race, so you actually have to use them carefully. Me getting my 40 achievement after only a few races means I probably used them too liberally...but there it was anyway. I also got an achievement for NOT using my wipers in a race. That one, I did on purpose. :-)

Video game number fifty four: Sonic Sega Racing All Stars

Game review number fifty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Sonic Sega Racing All Stars".

In one sentence, this game is awesome...despite having all the odds stacked against it.

"What odds?" You may ask. Read on.

If you've been religiously following my quest so far (and seriously, why wouldn't you?)...then you're aware there has been a recurring theme as far as my old friend Sonic the Hedgehog is concerned. It seems that while I wasn't paying attention to him, Sonic resurfaced with a vengeance. Unfortunately, it also seems that he has only returned to screw all of his older fans with terrible new games. He's succeeded not once, but twice now.

These days, Sonic is sort of like Courtney Love. He might have been a rock star for a few years almost two decades ago, but now he's just kind of a drunken slut. He'll do absolutely anything to appear on your TV screen. Sonic is a shell of his former self. He's whacked out on heroin, falling over chairs and landing on his back with his legs in the air, exposing his smelly private hedgehog parts. If you're stupid enough to pay attention to Sonic these days, much like Courtney Love....he's probably going to leave you feeling like you need to douche your brain.

There has been one shining exception to this rule for Sonic: Collaborations.

When Sonic gets together with his old buddies for reunions, he actually seems to do ok. Actually, I suppose he's like Courtney Love that way too. His old friends keep him clean for a weekend while he turns in solid performances as a tennis player, or in this All Star Sega Racer. Speaking of the latter....I suppose I should probably get to reviewing it.

All Star Racing is a fantastic Mario Kart clone, and the first one in perhaps get almost every aspect of the target model correct. If you've ever seen the movie Multiplicity, you know that when you clone something, there are all sorts of unexpected side effects. Sometimes your clone is an asshole. Other times he turns out to be gay. Sometimes he's just fucking retarded. Video game clones are the same way.

The original Mario Kart is like Star Wars. People have tried, but no one will ever be able to make a better space trilogy. Even George Lucas couldn't do it again. Mario Kart defined the genre and then cranked out five amazing sequels, not to mention two separate arcade games (which I am dying to play someday). At least a dozen other games have tried to capture whatever it is about Mario Kart that makes it awesome but Sonic Sega Racing All Stars is the first game in history ever to come this close.

All Stars does not try to reinvent the wheel. The folks at Sega have wisely chosen to follow the classic Mario Kart formula. First, they add the basic ingredients: Their game has 3 difficulty levels, 4 "cups", 4 tracks each cup. There are item boxes, different karts to unlock, power weapons, drifting, crazy jumps and shortcuts. Next, they mix in some new flavor: Unique character "all star" moves, that can only be activated if you're trailing and you're lucky enough to unlock one from an item box.

All Stars has random power items like the Mario Kart lightning bolt and blue shell, but the All Star moves take it to a new level. If you're behind and you're lucky enough to get this, it's better than a blue shell. You only unlock these when you're behind (way behind), but when you get them....your character pulls off something amazing. I haven't been able to get all of them yet (it's random) but the ones I have gotten are cool. These moves not only knock out people ahead of you, but it puts you on rails for a moment (like the bullet in Mario Kart). The announcer warns you that someone has "GONE ALL STAR", and that gives you a few seconds to get the hell out of the way before they run you over. It's a thing of beauty.

All Stars also has time trials, where you can race staff ghosts and your own best times. When Mario Kart 64 introduced the ghost feature, I thought it was awesome. I kept my best times (a few of which I still have to this day) on the memory unit for that thing and challenged my friends to beat them. Mario Kart Wii stepped up the time trials by offering staff ghosts and also letting you race against the best in the world. My friends and I would constantly beat each others times on that and send them back and forth. Nothing encourages you more to be a better racer.

Sonic borrows the trials concept, and also adds cool little challenges in a mission mode. One mission asks you to drive your character through a bunch of gates. Another asks you to collect rings. One mission I tried was all about boost, another was all drift...and some are just races. Every mission you run wins you "Sega Miles", currency which you can use to unlock new racers and bump your stats with. Every race you run also gives you miles.

If the above was all they had crammed into Sonic Sega All Stars Racing, it would be a good game....but wait, there's more. Sega has packed in a decent online multiplayer mode, which quite possibly makes this the most well rounded kart racer out there. In the past, I've bitched about Mario Kart DS not having proper multiplayer. When the Wii version of Mario Kart game out, the multiplayer had improved a little...but was still a pain in the ass. I know I'm mentioning the wart on grandma's face that we're all usually too nice to bring up...but here it is: Nintendo is absolutely fucking retarded when it comes to figuring out how to match up two friends who want to play a game together. My friends and I shouldn't have to enter 12 digit codes into a message before we ever have a chance of finding each other. Once we have finally managed to complete the two email process that make up the Nintendo friend code exchange, we should be able to talk with each other, dammit.

All Stars racing allows everything you'd expect in a modern multiplayer game. You can play a quick match with friends or strangers, and while you're can (gasp) with them. All of your races earn you Sega miles, which you can spend in the offline store. That's nice, and gives the game additional replayability. The only thing missing from the multiplayer mode is the All Star power moves, which I actually think is a good thing. The developers knew people would save them up until the last lap and then fuck all their opponents with them at the last minute, so they took the toy away. This would be fun in local matches with your friends (who you can curse at without hating), but it's probably better to leave them out when it comes to random people online.

Overall score: 8.5/10. This game is great. For the first time in kart racer history, they've actually raised the bar for Nintendo a little. You hear that Mario?

Achievements? Oh yeah...there are tons. I'm just getting started, but I have no intentions of stopping anytime soon, especially if I can get some friends to pick this one up as well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Video game number fifty three: Serious Sam HD

Game review number fifty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Serious Sam HD".

I love when a game developer takes the time to go back and resurrect a classic title I used to love by giving it updated graphics and achievements. Of course, I never liked Serious Sam in the first that doesn't really apply here. I thought this game was kind of dumb.

Picture the original Doom. That's the basic concept of Serious Sam. Now, upgrade the graphics to the point where they look like Quake 3 (a PC shooter from about 10 years ago). That's apparently the "HD" Part. Great if you're a fan of the old one, instant fail if you're not.

Much like my review for BF: 1943, it's important to know I never cared for the original. Sam Shepard is cool and everything (he's one of those funny smack talker heroes), but if you've played one Doom clone, you've played them all. I happen to know there are many better than this one. Would you like me to name a few? If you insist:

Quake 2,3 and 4
Unreal 2,3 and tournament
Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, etc, etc, fucking etc.

Still...this one got good reviews, so I thought it was worth at least checking out. My mantra is "play NEW things". First, I tried the offline single player. There was a lot of running, followed by random encounters with enemies that you'd have to kill. Move to the next level, rinse---repeat. Three levels in, I was sick of it.

I tried the online multiplayer and there were plenty of games to choose from. Apparently, there are a lot of people that like this game out there. The first match I found was a huge boss level. A quick search of youtube let me know this was the final level, and if I had beaten it, I would have gotten an achievement. Visually, this was really impressive, but the guy hosting had no idea how to kill this giant bull guy...and neither did I. He'd kill us over and over again, and just when we'd get close to killing him...he'd regenerate all his energy back and we'd start over again. I stayed in the match for over ten minutes, but the person I was playing with had no I had no idea how to win. After asking my teammate what I should do a few times...I eventually left and found another match. That's what you get for playing co-op with no mic, dude. The next match I found was a standard campaign level, which I would have gotten an achievement for completing if my partner hadn't stopped the game midway through the level. Maybe it's because I'm new, but the douche rating on my co-op partners was 2 for 2.

Overall rating: 3/10. After 45 minutes of this game, I was done. For a port of a game from the's ok I suppose, but if you have no attachment to the original, it sucks.

Here's the one achievement I got:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Video game number fifty two: Dante's Inferno

Game review number fifty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Dante's Inferno".

This game is part 2 of 2 in my SUNDAY OF HELL

Why Sunday of hell? Simple. Today, I picked two games that involve all sorts of demonic shit that I never would have played in a million years, were it not for this challenge. I generally like my video games filled with race cars, assault rifles, power-ups and heroic characters. Today, I've been playing games filled with demons, skeletons, bones, blood and damnation. Just a bit of a break from the norm I suppose.

Darksiders started out promising, but the story proved too convoluted and boring for me to want to continue it. Dante's Inferno started out promising and stayed that way. The story is fantastic. I don't know anything about the poem it's based on...but this may be the first video game in history that made me want to go explore classic literature after playing it. Wanting to read the Halo books after playing those games doesn't count.

Forgive my ignorance, but I have no idea how closely this plot follows The Divine Comedy. I've read a few reviews from folks more knowledgeable on the subject, and they think the game is a terrible adaptation. In this regard, I may actually have the advantage, because if the developers have screwed up some details, it doesn't bother me in the least. I can with confidence that if you're a moron like me, the story is really, really interesting.

For those who have not played the game (or read the poem): You're Dante, and you've been off on some crusades, while your wife has been at home waiting. You're sinning while you're on the road, because some priests said that since you were on a crusade, you have a get out of jail free card from God. It turns out this wasn't the case...and off to hell you go. To make matters worse, while you were on the road sleeping with a hot chick and eating a lot, your wife was killed. For some reason that isn't immediately made clear to the player, she's been pulled down to hell and you've got to save her. I think this part is the modern updating of the classic story, because I'm pretty sure there was never a princess to save in the poem.

You spend the rest of the game visiting the nine circles of hell (the names of which I wasn't aware of before, but my wife says they are pretty common knowledge). Each one is a unique level and you have to encounter all of them in the process of trying to save your special lady. A simple enough tale, but it's expertly told and keeps you interested to hear every tidbit of dialog that you can in order to find out what will happen next.

The levels of hell are amazing. There are demons, dead people, giant beasts and lots of naked ladies everywhere you go. Of course, Lust was my favorite circle of hell so far, because it was filled with tons of horny sinners, lamenting the fact that they're damned to hell. Many parts of the level are filled with moaning, oohs and ahs....which I hope will alert any parent who was stupid enough to buy this one for their child to come into the room and take it away from them. Dante's Inferno is NOT a game for your teenager. This game makes Grand Theft Auto look like Elmo's counting game.

You will fight many disgusting beasts, including a giant talking boat and evil babies with knives where their arms should be. One particularly disgusting villain spits these demon knife babies at you, out of little mouths in her boobs. I can't describe how disgusting the visuals are in this boss fight, but I hope they don't give me nightmares.

The gluttony level is also pretty gross. All kinds of overweight monsters, with giant man-boobs hanging over their enormous bellies. They're constantly trying to kill you in rivers of what can only be described as bile and crap. It's as disgusting as it sounds....and I didn't even describe the giant intestinal worms that try to eat you while you're visiting.

The Greed level is filled with rivers of molten gold. One thing all of the levels of hell have are "walls of the damned" that you can climb. It's pretty gross, but instead of a vine, or a brick wall like you might find in another video game....the walls and ropes you climb in Dante's Inferno are often made up of screaming sinners. They're usually pleading for help...and often whining about their specific sin. The greed folks are lady cries: "I had it all...I had it all". On the "Heresy" level of hell (which seems reserved for atheists and people who worshiped the wrong god), the dialog of the dead people is awesome. "I was wrong, I was wrong...I believe now!" one says. "Your gods can't save you now" says another. On the wrath level, the dead people are all pissed off at each other. I heard one of them say something like "Move your foot or I'll cut it off". The little details like this made me laugh every time.

The game is actually pretty long and there's a ton of stuff to do. The gameplay changes often enough that it never gets stale. There are dozens of different types of enemies to fight, and you have a ton of different ways to kill them. You can also tame giant beasts, and ride them like giant death machines. The first one you ride looks like the Rancor from Return of the Jedi. Although I haven't finished yet, I am absolutely compelled to keep playing.

This game ranks right up there with Mass Effect as one of the best games I've played this year. In some aspects, it's even better...because the combat is much more rewarding. The area where I think it will eventually suffer is replayability. They throw in a metric ton of items and magic stuff that you can go back to collect, but ultimately...the story is the same no matter which ones you pick up. That means you probably play this one once and then (unless you want all 1000 gamer score), you don't need to go back.

Overall...this one gets a 9/10. I think it's fantastic, and if it had some multiplayer, or alternate quests or something...I'd give it a 10. It's great...and definitely one of my favorite games in a long time.

I played all day long today and unlocked about half of the achievements. There are still many more to come, but since I'm not collecting every little thing...I don't think I'll be getting all of them. Still, check out this giant list. I realize I got so many that you can't read them all...but you can always click on my gamertag to the right and see them on the Xbox website:

Video game number fifty one: Darksiders

Game review number fifty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Darksiders".

This game will be part 1 of 2 in my SUNDAY OF HELL.

Before I popped this game in, I was posting on twitter. Since I was in the mood to micro-blog, I decided: Hey, why not write the entire review in twitter format?

8:55am A bland text opening screen explaining what's going on in this game.

8:56am: Oooh and here's the really great cut scene to tell me what's going on. Wow, meteors are hitting the earth live on CNN. They're showing the locations, it looks like Seattle was spared. Awesome.

8:57am OMG: An Autobot with wings vs a giant Orc thing! Awesome! I hope I get to be the autobot...

8:57am: Now I am playing. I'm not the autobot. I look like a Warcraft character in the game Prey.

8:58: I'm fighting the Orc thing, and now I'm a dragon....a dragon on FIRE!

9:07am This game is way too exciting to Twitter.

So, yeah. That experiment didn't go so well. Back to actual paragraphs. Darksiders is a game I've heard described as "God of War" meets "Zelda". I've never actually played God of War, but it sure doesn't remind me of Zelda at all. This game reminds me a lot of Prey. It also reminds me of a game I played last month: Bayonetta. It doesn't remind me of Bayonetta because of the gameplay (although they are both action hack and slash games). It reminds me of Bayonetta because I have no idea what the shit is going on in this game.

As I understand it, you're one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (or some such shit) and you're fighting angels and/or demons in order to achieve some purpose that is unclear to me. From what I can gather, you're trying to redeem yourself or avenge someone...but I have no idea which I was doing at any given time. They tried to tell me in the opening screen, and further the plot along with each cut scene, but I still have no idea what is going on. I am clearly ignorant when it comes to these sorts of stories. Oh, how I long to be 50 Cent again, where I am a rapper that everyone has heard of and my only mission in life is to get paid.

Anyway, eventually I gave up trying to understand what my mission was. I cast the story aside to focus on the combat, which is a lot of fun. You're an all powerful demon guy, and you have a giant sword. You fight endless swarms of zombies (or maybe they are demons too), while making your way through castles and the ruined cities that look like they've been redecorated by the devil. I don't know why exactly how they were ruined, I suppose there was an apocalypse or something.

I thought I was making some pretty good progress in the game, but when I got stuck on the boss of this freeway overpass, I went to the web to find some tips on how I was supposed to beat him. It was at that point I realized I was only at the end of the fucking prologue. That's when I hit eject. There is absolutely no way I have the attention span to keep playing through bullshit if I'm moving that slowly.

Overall: 4/10. The combat system in this game is a lot of fun, but without a plot...all you're really doing is hitting the "X" button a lot. It's fun to watch heads explode and throw cars, but only for a little while. I'm sure this story may be right up some people's alley, but it made me feel like Ned Flanders. The whole thing is so far out of my realm of interest that I have absolutely zero investment in what happens next.

I've played games with less than perfect combat systems before, because I wanted to see where the story would take me. Gears of War comes immediately to mind. It's a fantastic game, even though I really don't like some of the combat in it. Gears of War remains the only shooter in history that I've beaten all the way through the campaign, but NEVER played multiplayer in. Gears of War 2 would have suffered the same fate, if they hadn't added horde mode. I still think that game and the sequel are two of the best around....because their story is great. This game....well, frankly...I just don't care. If there was a button you could push to watch every cut scene in the game, just to see how it all turns out....I wouldn't take the time to push it. That's how lame it is to me. Your mileage may vary.

Here are the achievements I unlocked after 3 or 4 hours. I won't be playing this game ever again.

Video game number fifty: 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

Game review number fifty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "50 Cent: Blood on the Sand".

What other game could I possibly play for number 50 this year?

When the first two words out of the main characters mouth are "Mother fucker!" know you're in for something special. You are 50 Cent, international rap least in your own mind. Apparently, you've just gotten off stage and the concert promoter owes you ten millions dollars. Clearly, this is a video there probably isn't a venue in the world that would pay 50 cent that much money for one night of rap these days.

I don't think you have to be a fan of the rapper to enjoy this game. I liked his first album "Get rich or die trying", but I haven't bought a 50 Cent record since then. When I heard he had a movie or a video game coming out...I thought that was pretty funny, but hey...good for him. He certainly hasn't died trying to get rich so far.

Actually, this game made me snicker a little bit at the man himself. Here's a businessman, who made most of his money by investing his rap earnings in Vitamin Water and then selling his share of that company to Coca Cola. Then, he releases a video game in which he's both a superstar and a mercenary at the same time. In the world of this game....50 Cent is still playing sold-out concerts, but immediately after he gets off stage....he's all about shooting people. I can't knock the guy for creating a video game based on his wildest dreams. If someone wanted to make me a game, it would have all sorts of awesome stuff in it that doesn't actually happen in my real life. No one wants to play a game where a guy sits at a desk working on Excel all day. Still, because this game stars a real person, I suppose it's sort of funny at just how unrealistic it actually is. This game could have starred Bret Michaels and it would have made just as much sense. In fact, wow....I think that's the sequel right there.

While the concept itself may be sort of silly, this game is actually pretty fun. Primarily, Blood on the sand is a third person shooter with a buddy system, sort of like Army of Two. Unlike Army of Two, I actually really enjoyed the combat system. It may be wrong to say this, but I think it's a much better far, anyway.

I picked a combat partner named "Yayo", who helps by shouting out objectives, or giving 50 a boost when he needs to get onto a ledge or something. As 50 cent, you have a couple of cool powers besides just being good at shooting people. You can slow time down to take more accurate shots, or you can punch people and get very elaborate counter kills. One of my favorite things is the "taunt" featire, which is basically 50 Cent yelling "bitch!" or something at people he is about to kill, or people that he's just finished killing. Taunting victims gives you extra points. There are hidden items to find all over the levels, and of course...lots of money hidden in item crates. I'm sure this part is rooted in real life. When 50 isn't playing sold out concerts for ten million dollars a pop, he probably supplements his income by running around and breaking open every box he sees, hoping there's more money inside for him.

Speaking of money, any game about 50 Cent wouldn't be good if you couldn't get paid. You start out the game trying to get your ten million by doing the music thing, but when the concert promoter doesn't have have to break out the hardware. You're about to shoot him with a shotgun (instead of sicking your lawyer on him, like the real 50 probably would)....when suddenly, he offers you an alternative. This concert promoter happens to have in his possession, a human skull covered in diamonds. "Damn, look at all the ice!" says your partner Yayo. 50 Cent is going to take the skull as payment, when it's suddenly stolen away.

Into your first mission you go, with the header: "The convoy's been ambushed and that bitch has stolen your skull!"

Basically, this is all you need to know. From this point on, you'll obviously be chasing and shooting people, trying to get your skull back. I may actually keep on playing this sucker to find out, but I imagine you succeed.

Overall rating: 7/10. This game is quite solid. I can see myself coming back to it. As far as shooters go, it's pretty darn good. I suppose my only beef is with the hero himself. It's too bad it had to be based on a real guy. Had they created a hero from scratch, this could have been epic.

Achievements? I got quite a few...including one zero pointer I tried for on purpose, the "get killed on easy" achievement. I thought that would be funny.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Video game number forty nine: Avatar

Game review number forty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Avatar".

No, this isn't that Avatar game where you put it into your console for 30 seconds and you get 1000 gamer score for hitting the "B" button a few times. I already played that one.

This is James Cameron's Avatar game. The one based on his little indie flick you might have heard of. The game he traveled to Comic Con to talk about, and gave the audience a walk through of the entire plot. I'm glad I didn't go to that panel, because I'm told the dude spoiled the entire story of the game for anyone who did. I went into this one completely un-spoiled, ready to play.

Much like the movie, Avatar begins with you landing on a human army base on the alien planet of Pandora. It's not "the movie game", so while the plot is similar, you're not playing the same main character from the movie. They give you like 20 choices of pre-configured soldiers, I picked the hot blond girl of course. Sigourney Weaver made a cameo to say "hi" in the beginning and to tell me that I'd better not screw my mission up. I wanted to press the button that tells her I saw the movie and she's probably not the best person to talk, but I couldn't find that button. Anyway, you meet all the soldiers at the base, and before you know've got your own avatar to walk around with.

Just like in the movie, it's much cooler to be an avatar than a human. You are ten feet tall, you can run really fast and perform awesome jumps. Given these new powers, you are asked to check out some plants, shoot some puppies, drive a buggy and repair a few radio beacons. Basic "Run here, do this, come back to me" sort of game. Just as you're getting the hang of the basics, you meet another human (also occupying an avatar) who walks you over to a cliff and shows you some burning trees. He tells you that all these missions you've been working on have caused all this. He tells you that the humans are ruining Pandora, and that you must join with him to help him stop the humans and save the Na'vi.

I whipped out my army issued assault rifle and shot that big blue motherfucker right in his goofy looking face.

After that, the game deviated quite a bit from the movie. I decided that the humans spent a lot of money to fly me to Pandora. Space travel isn't cheap (it was going to cost that kid from N'Sync ten million bucks just to orbit earth in a Russian spaceship, and that was in 1990's money). The human race has set up an occupation force, spent the time to build these awesome looking avatar things, then spent years integrating with the indigenous people and learning the native language. Finally, they fly me (an expert in communications) all the way out here, and I'm supposed to betray them? Fuck that. The least I could do was help them mine a little unobtanium. The Na'vi clearly aren't using it to it's full potential, or they wouldn't be running around naked and talking to trees. Some people might say it's not fair to dig up this mineral if the natives have built their homes on top of it, but I say they can always go move somewhere else. It's a big planet....and there's plenty of room for them, as long as it's not on top of that stuff that we need back on earth.

Sure, I could have joined the Na'vi, and helped them fight the humans, like in the movie...but that's sort of like playing Super Mario Brothers and teaming up with the mushrooms to help Bowser kidnap the princess and burn down her kingdom. I didn't want to be a traitor, I wanted to be a hero.

The world of Pandora is a beautiful place, with amazing wildlife. When you equip your flame thrower and burn it all up, you get lots of experience points. There are many wonderful creatures, from the harmless horses, to the flying Banshees that circle the beautiful islands in the skies. About 5 or 6 missions in, the humans gave me one of those awesome helicopters, and gave me some missles to destroy all that stuff.

There are a lot of Na'vi running around the planet Pandora, trying to stop you from stealing their unobtanium. Luckily, the humans have had the foresight to put ammo stations everywhere, so you almost never run out of bullets. Every Na'vi you kill gives you another 50 experience points, and every few thousand you get unlocks a new gun for you.

These pesky Na'vi seem to have teamed up with every animal and plant on their world, and they're all out to kill you. If you're flying a helicopter and you land it to do a foot mission, you'll often come back and find a group of Na'vi smacking your ride with their sticks. Whenever I saw this, I liked to pull out the nail gun and give them a lesson in superior human firepower. Perhaps I should have left a few alive so they could stick their tails into the trees and tell everyone on the planet not to fuck with me, but they're just so hard not to kill.

I know this probably sounds like the best game ever created, but it's not. First of all, unlike the movie...the graphics aren't awesome. They're sort of blah, and although the world is nice..your travel is limited to very specific paths. The combat is incredibly annoying, as you are often swarmed by a half dozen enemies at a time, and they always get a piece of you before you kill them. It doesn't really matter, since you carry around health packs you can recharge at will, but it's still annoying.

The humans in this game move REALLY slow. The army gives you little buggies, helicopters and boats to drive, but if you crash them, or if the Na'vi kills your have to do the rest of the mission on foot. That's never fun. Playing in your Na'vi avatar is fun, but then you can't use the human vehicles. You have to ride horses, or birds....or walk. They did include teleporters for both the humans and Na'vi, but until you've opened them up, you can't use them. That means you have to walk everywhere on Pandora at least once. It's sort of lose-lose as far as the transportation in this game goes.

I mentioned before that you're limited to specific paths, and that might be an understatement. You're very much on the rails in this game, and you can't leave them...even if you want to. When you're in the chopper, you will often find that you can't fly to certain areas (even though they're completely open in front of you), because that's not the way the developer wants you to go. The first time I had a mission where I was supposed to fly to a certain spot, and I couldn't take a straight line, it was so confusing that I actually crashed before I got where I was going. The next attempt, I figured out that the developers wanted me to get out and walk the last little bit for some reason. It was exactly the opposite of what my natural expectation was...which is really lame.

Overall: 5/10. This game is blah. Even though I had a lot of fun deviating from the storyline of the movie at first, that fun wore off pretty quickly. I would definitely recommend this game to someone who really likes the movie, but not to someone who really likes games. It's destined to be 9.99 in the bargain bin at every game store out there, so if you feel you have to play it....wait for the inevitable sequel to come out and pick this one up on sale.

Achievements? I got a few through normal gameplay. Don't plan to beat this one though, I hear it's a 12 hour game, and I'd rather put those hours into Mass Effect 2 or Bioshock 2.

Video game number forty eight: G-Force

Game review number forty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "G-Force".

About 6 months ago, the previews for this movie started coming on TV. One time, our dog noticed one and got very excited. He sat down and watched the little guinea pigs with jet packs on. I rewound it a couple of times on the DVR, and he watched it every time, wagging his tail and occasionally sniffing the tv. I think the dog wants to be a secret agent, just like the rodents in this movie.

I never saw the actual movie, but Heather did Netflix it and tried to watch it with the dog. Apparently, he lost interest. Playing this game, I know how he feels.

The game starts out well enough. You're a little guinea pig with a jet pack on. You have all sorts of laser weapons. You're taught how to use them, and then you break into a house and try to steal some secret information from someone's computer.

The controls are good, and right off the bat, I couldn't help but think to myself: "Wow, this game is better than Sonic". That's not saying a lot, but there it is. The controls, camera and combat are all better than Sonic Unleashed. If you're going to play one of those two, this is definitely the one to play.

I made it several missions into the game, and the enemies get more and more fierce with each level. Very similar to the Transformers movies, household appliances in this game are somehow transformed into little guinea pig killing machines. Toasters, computers, electric razors and desk lamps all transform into little electronic monsters. They chase and shoot you quite a bit, and your little guinea pig weapons are not always a match. Sometimes, you have to run.

The desktop computers turned out to be my least favorite enemy to fight. They shoot little electric mice at you and have shields so you can't shoot back. The only way to kill them is to wait for the case to open, then shoot their power supply. I have to hand it to the developers, if my PC ever came to life...I'm pretty sure this is exactly the kind of beast it would become.

After a few missions, I lost interest. There's nothing in the story worth continuing to play for once you stop being mesmerized by the guinea pigs with jet packs and lasers. I imagine the movie is similar. Kids might enjoy this game, but it's not one of those kids games like Lego Star Wars that adults will love too.

Overall score: 5/10. It's pretty much exactly what I expected. Average at best.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Video game number forty seven: Sonic Unleashed

Game review number forty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Sonic Unleashed".

Ah, my old friend Sonic. What the hell happened to you?

I don't know why I played another Sonic game so soon after my disappointing experience with the craptacular 3D Sonic the Hedgehog. I read reviews on this sequel before I tried it, and the IGN review I found was a 4.5. That's actually worse than the 4.8 they gave the other Sonic game, which incidentally, I scored as a 2. Still, deep down, I think I really want to like Sonic again, even if the folks at Sega are making it difficult.

This game could have been a lot better than it is. They had two years to improve the gameplay after their last release, and it looks like they might have tried. A little.

Once again, it has the stupid town aspect that the other 3D Sonic game had, but at least the missions were easier to find this time. The stages have plenty of checkpoints in them and extra lives are plentiful. The characters in this game make a little more sense than they do in "Sonic the Hedgehog", as they all look like they belong in Sonic's world with him. There are RPG elements, but they don't hit you over the head with it like they do in that other game.

So what went wrong?

Basically, all the same stuff. Sonic is hard to control. The camera stinks. On the speed levels, dying is incredibly easy if you go anywhere off the "rails" they put you on. One thing I like about this game, is the checkpoints. They're still few and far between, but compared to the other Sonic's an improvement. I enjoyed this one more, simply because I didn't have to restart from the beginning of the level again after each death.

The plot is sort of stupid so far, but it's rendered extremely well. I like watching the cut scenes, even if they're kind of dumb. Eggman is back, trying to take over the world again..and somehow he turns you into a "Werehog". Yes, when it gets dark, you cease to be a hedgehog and become a big werehog. Maybe they were trying to please Twilight fans.

The achievements are once again VERY difficult, but I knew ahead of time that I'd be able to get at least one, which I eventually did. Still, after 5 or 6 stages, I still had only one achievement...and frankly, I'm already feeling done with the game. I got stuck on a level with these giant, cheap robots that kept killing me over and over again. I wasted about 5 lives on them, but every time I died, I had to go back so far that it was really annoying. The battle with the robots would take two minutes, but getting to them again after they beat me took five. Every time. There was a quicker way to beat them, but I couldn't do that...and I'll explain why in a minute.

In any event, I have no patience for grinding right now...and so I decided that I was done with this one for the night. Probably forever.

Overall: It's a 3.5/10 This game improves some of the things that made Sonic Unleashed one of the worst games I've played this year, but not by much. It's still an absolutely horrible episode of a once-awesome franchise, and I can't imagine I'll be playing it much in the future, if ever again.

Now to explain the catalyst for my stopping playing this one. It was pretty funny. So, remember those robots that kept killing me over and over again? Well, they all had a weakness if you jumped on their head. You have to hit the "B" button at just the right time, then once you do that, you'll be prompted to hit another, random button...after which, you'll hear a doorbell sound effect. If you hit the right button fast enough, are rewarded with a second random button to hit, and a second doorbell sound effect. Awesome, right? If you manage to get that one too (making it three perfectly timed button presses in a row), then the robot dies instantly. It's a lot faster than killing him "manually". I'm not saying this was fun or anything (because it wasn't), but every time I jumped on the robot and got the doorbell sound, our dog barked and ran to the front door of the house to see who was there.

Since I did this stage about 5 times, and there are at least 10 robots on each stage....the dog barked a lot. Actually, the dog barked so much that he woke Heather up. I have to admit, it was kind of funny, but I eventually had to stop playing so that everyone in the house could get a little sleep.

I hear Sonic is coming back in "Sonic 4", which is going to be a straight 2D platformer. I can't wait to play that one. In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to the new Sonic racing game next week. I read a preview on IGN here and they have my hopes up. The game sounds kind of cool, for all the right reasons. Strangely enough, it also sounds like they stole the third paragraph of my Mad Karts of Madagascar review almost verbatim. Even though my review was posted nearly a month before this article appeared on their site, I seriously doubt anyone from IGN has seen this little blog, so gaming minds probably just think alike. Exactly alike. :-)

Anyway, here's the one stupid achievement I got. There are others just around the corner for beating the first world (and you can get some easy gamerscore by buying things for the townies from the store). Frankly, I just don't like this game enough to give a damn about the achievements. Some games just aren't worth playing, not even for gamerscore. I think the dog was trying to tell me that when he barked at it. Good boy.

Video game number forty six: Virtua Fighter 5 Online

Game review number forty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Virtua Fighter 5 online".

After my positive experience with Tekken 6 this week, I was in the mood for more fighting games. Writing the review for Tekken got me thinking about the ones I used to love when I was younger. Nostalgia is powerful, and I feel like trying some more sequels. Since Street Fighter 4 won't be out for awhile, I went for the next most recent major fighting game I hadn't played yet, Virtua Fighter 5.

Many people hail this as one of the best fighters ever. I think it's good, but it's certainly not great. The game features arcade mode, which is a lot more fun against your friends than it is against the computer. I remember dropping so many quarters into this game on the ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. I was usually the drunken boxer Shun, or the hot blond...Sarah. They're both back in this version, and were the first two characters I tried.

The controls are very similar, and I actually don't mind playing on the gamepad, though a fight stick would be better. I've got an amazing Hori stick at work I should try, because I have a feeling it will make doing the grapples much easier.

Virtua Fighter is the first fighting game I can remember that had the block button, instead of holding back to block. I never liked this, but I do remember how to use it. I started up the quest mode and instantly fell back into old patterns. The quest mode feels endless, you fight long streams of random challengers until you unlock a new tournament. Then you go fight in that. If you win, you'll win anything from sunglasses for your character to a higher rank, or of course...achievements.

I would have enjoyed the quest mode if I was progressing faster, or unlocking more things...but mostly, you just fight the same computer opponents over and over again. I finished two tournaments and when I finally decided to call it quits, my record was 50-1. That means I played fifty separate three round fights, which doesn't take into account the time I spent playing in arcade mode. Two tournament wins isn't a lot to show for all that time. If you want the full 1000, you have to win all the tournaments with every character. I can't even imagine how many days that would take.

Overall, I like this game, but I don't think it belongs amongst the greatest of all time. I like all the Soul Calibur sequels more than this one. I'm going to give it a 6.5/10, because there's not a lot "wrong" with's just...well, average.

Here are the achievements I managed to grab. You can actually get all 1000 on this one if you are dedicated enough to put the 80 hours into it, but that's not something I'm going to do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Video game number forty five: Tekken 6

Game review number forty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Tekken 6".

Back in the Street Fighter 2 days, I was a big fighting game fan. I probably spent enough money in quarters playing that game in the arcades to actually buy the stand-up version itself. In fact, that's probably not too far off from the truth....because I'd very often go in with around 5 bucks and for a period of 2 years...I played at least a couple of times a week at this little mini-mart near my friend David's house. Later in life when I was a home-owner, I actually did end up buying the stand-up, and it sat in the living room at my house, next to the futon. Eventually I sold it (to some guys from Bungie) to free up the space. Here it was in all it's glory:

Where was I going with all that? Oh yeah. Fighting games. my opinion, the days of Street Fighter 2 were the best. That was the golden age of fighting games. Leading up to it, I loved Pit Fighter and Wrestlefest (I actually owned that stand-up for awhile too), but nothing beat Street Fighter. When I was about 16 I bought the imported Japanese version for the Super Nintendo (this is WAY before Ebay and the internet, I actually had to order it from some overpriced reseller in the back of a magazine). It was actually pretty close to the arcades. Then Super Street Fighter two came out on the SNES, and suddenly...I wasn't playing arcade fighting games as much anymore. The 2D fighting games got more complicated (Street Fighter Alpha, SNK King of Fighters, etc)...and I sort of lost interest. A few years later, Virtua Fighter from Sega came out...and that game was rad. I didn't spend anywhere near as much on it as I had Street Fighter...but I liked it. That eventually led to Tekken.

I played the Tekken arcade game quite a bit. They had it at the movies, and they had it on the ferry to Seattle, so I became halfway decent at it. When the original Playstation came out...that was one of the big games for me...I played it a lot. Then, somewhere in there...Soul Blade (Soul Calibur on the consoles) came out and I haven't played Tekken since. It's been a decade, there have been 5 sequels....and Tekken 6 is the first one I've played since I was fresh out of high school.

A lot has changed.

Tekken 6 has about 40 characters. I remember about 8 in the original. There's the arcade mode, like you might expect...where you can battle two against each other. There is online multiplayer (surprisingly, I was able to log on and win a few matches, even 15 years later). There's also a scenario campaign mode, which I actually really enjoyed. Apparently, there are 38 stages, and you have to go kill a bunch of foot soldiers (Final Fight style) before you get to a boss on each one. I beat about 20 of them before calling it a night...but it was a lot of fun.

I'm not sure why I forgot about Tekken. I liked it when I was younger and I was good at it too. A lot of the old moves came right back to me, to the point where I was breezing through some of the levels. I got beat by some of the better players online...but I held my own against some of them too.

Soul Calibur is still my favorite fighting game series these days, and Street Fighter 2 still holds the all time top spot as far as I'm concerned, but this game is really good...and made me remember the good old days.

Overall score: 7/10. There are fighting games I like better (Soul Calibur, even DOA)...but this one isn't bad at all. Kept me busy for several hours...and I'm up way past my bed time on a work night again. Always the sign of a good game.

Online Multiplayer: YES. There are people playing this one. I found opponents instantly with the quick match for both ranked and player matches. There was no lag...everything worked as expected.

The campaign mode is a really nice touch....and the cinematics are beautiful, even if I have absolutely no idea what's going on in the story.

Here are a bunch of achievements I got. They're spread out pretty nicely...and I'm confident I can unlock the bulk of them if I keep going.

Video game number forty four: 0 Day Attack on Earth

Game review number forty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "0 Day Attack on Earth".

This week, 81 people (besides me) decided to play this game on the easy mode. The guy who has the bottom spot on the leaderboards may very well have booted it up by mistake. He has zero points, so clearly...he turned it back off again before he ever fired a shot. The guy ranked number 81 got 3120 points before quitting (or dying). Since you have three lives and each kill gives you a few hundred points, I'm guessing he probably said something along the lines of "fuck this shit" and turned it off.

The Weekly scores, snapped with my camera phone:

I was playing this game for the project, not because it was something I was dying to try. Today is the 48th day of the year and I'm currently four games behind. That's largely due to how much I've been loving the Mass Effect series this week, but I couldn't let myself play those awesome games exclusively. Gotta keep expanding those horizons. Zero Day seemed like a game I'd be able to get the idea of in an hour or two. I've read some pretty horrible reviews and knew exactly what to all I had to do was play it and form my own opinion.

I don't hate it, but it's certainly nothing I want to keep playing.

This game is your standard twin-stick shooter. The only unique thing about this game is that instead of animated level backgrounds, the fighting takes place over real satellite maps of famous cities from Google Earth. Frankly, this didn't make a big difference to me. It's not like the game was more realistic or anything...they could put anything in the background of this game and it would still be lame. In fact, if the entire fight took place above a giant pizza instead of New York City, I think I might have given it more points for creativity. Having the game be set above a pizza would not have affected it negatively in any way, I assure you. It could only have made it better.

Since I wasn't on the design team of this one, it starts out in New York. You get to choose one of four different ships (they all suck), and fight aliens. The three sucky ships you didn't choose will become computer controlled partners. Don't worry, the AI controlling them will be sure to that you're not getting any help while killing enemies. They have to keep that single player experience strictly single player.

Naturally, you begin the game on Day 1 in New York city. There is no plot or back story, you just get right into killing things. Each Day consists of three or four big targets you have to kill, and as many little ones as you like. Some of these little targets are orange, and will give you achievements for killing ten of them. The orange runs run away from you, literally making you chase the achievements if you want them. I did not. Instead, I opted for progress through the campaign. When you're not chasing the orange achievement ships, you can fly around the map and kill your bigger targets in any order you choose. When they are all dead, you move on to the next day....leaving your achievements behind you.

I made it to the 7th day, where the final boss killed me over and over again. I finally beat him by learning his pattern, but it took just about all my lives to do so. I was hoping for an achievement or at least an awesome cut scene or something, but no such luck.

After New York, you immediately head off to Toyko. Strangely enough, it looks a lot like New York. I guess having Google Earth maps wasn't such a good idea after all. If these backgrounds were animated, they would have at least put some big neon signs in Kanji, or had Godzilla running around or something. Maybe I play too much Katamari Damacy, but I was expecting Japan to have a little more character than what it does in this game.

Since every day in New York was exactly the same, it stands to reason that this will be the case in Tokyo as well. I can't really see the point in grinding for the I didn't continue after the second day in Japan. I can say that the monsters are much cooler in Tokyo, (aren't they always?) They have these big purple space ships there, which you must shoot the armor off of in order to destroy. I actually liked them, but not enough to keep playing. New York had these giant half robot, half organic aliens that looked like the baby you might get if ED-209 from Robocop got busy with a giant squid. They got old really fast, maybe the aliens in Tokyo would have as well.

After finishing nine levels of this game, I think I'm about done. I have no idea how many there actually are, but I'm guessing it's close to 20. I can at least take some comfort in the fact that I made it to the top 20 in the weekly leaderboards for this game, even if it was just on easy. Yes, that's right...I'm awesome and now everyone knows it.

Overall rating 4/10. I like this game more than Ikaruga, but I'm still not a fan of the genre itself. Geometry Wars is probably my biggest exception to this rule.

I think I might have enjoyed the multiplayer, but since this is such a lame one is playing it online. I started up a match and let it sit for quite awhile, but everyone (including that dude with the zero points on the leaderboard)..must have been off playing something better.

I got two achievements playing. The first is the freebie they give you for booting the game (They must have felt like they owed you something for playing this game). The second is for killing ten of the orange achievement aliens. I assure you, I did not run around the map chasing these things...but after nine levels, I supposed I encountered enough for it to pop on it's own. I'm probably pretty close to a few more achievements....but I don't care enough to chase them.

Video game number forty three: "Qix++"

Game review number forty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Qix++".

Qix++ is an Xbox Live Arcade update of an old arcade (and NES) game that I was never a fan of when I was a kid. As a young gamer, I referred to games like this (puzzle/strategy/etc) as "brain" games. I didn't like brain games much, because your character didn't shoot, jump on, drive, punch or kick in them. They always involved some sort of puzzle...or math related challenge. The one exception that I can remember was Tetris, and well...that doesn't count. Tetris transcended all genres and just became something everyone has played, like Pac-Man.

I actually think I played Qix on my NES back in the 1980's at some point or another. I know I didn't own it, but it I remember trying it somewhere and thinking the graphics were stupid, and that it wasn't as cool as the Tron light cycle game. I probably gave it a really quick try before I moved on. Obviously, I've matured a lot since then.

Playing Qix++ was a lot more fun than I remember the original Qix being. It reminds me of a free game called "Trap" that I have on my phone. You start with a big square of space, and your goal is to shave down at least 75% of it in order to clear the level and kill the "Qix". The Qix is a bad guy, made up of geometric shapes, that can shoot projectiles at you. Ideally, you'll shave enough of the screen down that you eventually trap this thing in a tiny little box. If you can manage to do that and end up clearing almost 99% of the screen out at the same time, you're awesome. Best I've gotten so far is around 95%. Doing better is really hard, but I've seen youtube videos and it can be done.

There are power ups (bonus points, shields for your character, shrink rays that make the Qix smaller and easier to trap, time freezes, etc)...but essentially, this is just one of those games where you hack off bits of the screen at a time until there's no screen left. Simple and fun.

That's pretty much it. It's a great little time waster, easy to pick up...really tough to master.

Overall Score: 7/10. I like it, I can see myself playing it again from time to time...but it's not a game I'll ever try to grind for all 200 achievement points on. Here's what I unlocked today:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bonus Video game review: Mass Effect

First of all, I went back and forth about whether or not to include this review in my 365 Games in 365 Days project.

Even though I started from the first level and went all the way to the end, I decided that my own rules won't allow me to count it, because technically....I played this game once before 2010. I never actually gave it a chance the first time around, and I only played through the very first level before putting it on my shelf and forgetting about it for the last two years. Still, rules are rules and this game doesn't count towards my 365. Fortunately, there's no rule that says I can't review it anyway. Let's call it a bonus.

This year, Mass Effect 2 (which I reviewed here) was released...and every person I know who has played loving it. I tried playing ME2 briefly for this project, and got through the first mission before deciding that it was cool enough to go back and beat the original.

Over the last three days, that's exactly what I've done. I set the combat difficulty to casual, figured I'd breeze through the basic story...and then I'd have all the history I needed to play the sequel. I played through a level on Thursday night, then played through another on Friday. Saturday morning, I started playing at about 7:30am, and I didn't stop until I beat the campaign shortly after 2am this morning. Hardly "breezing", but it was still time well spent.

I know I'm about 2 years late to the party on this one, but Mass Effect is awesome.

This 2 year old game is better than most games I've played in the last 2 years. It's definitely my favorite game I've played during this challenge (Call of Duty being the exception of course). The story is amazing, the amount of control you have over your own journey is great. I am not a fan of RPGs at all, but this one suckered me in somehow...and I'm hooked.

Just in case there's another soul on the planet besides me who is aware of Mass Effect, might want to play it....but just hasn't gotten around to it yet, here's the basic summary: You create your own hero (Male or female), and together with a team of aliens that you pick, you try to rid the galaxy of evil. The basic concept is simple enough, but the execution is anything but.

I created a female hero and named her after my wife. I made her a soldier, so she'd have all the best guns. I chose to make her "good", but it was quite a challenge to keep her that way. EVERY conversation in this game has an effect on the plot. Be rude to people and they'll fear you. Your reputation gets around. Be kind to them, and they'll hail you as a hero. They'll say "I heard about you in the battle of so-and-so). There is a basic story you have to go through, but countless times throughout that story, you'll be presented with little side quests. Some of these are completely random (a cop asked me to stop a jellyfish from preaching near the town fountain once)...but these conversations all some have something to do with the larger story. I was getting ready to go storm some corporate fortress, a mother asked if I could save her daughter while I was there. I didn't see any harm in that, so I said "sure". That effected several parts of the plot later in the mission.

During the dialog scenes, you're given the classic Bioware "conversation wheel". You can choose from polite or rude responses (the choices are fragmented descriptive sentences of what you'll actually say). Once you pick something, your character speaks it a similar pre-scripted line. I can't imagine all the dialog the actors must have had for this one, but it's gotta be a lot. I am not an RPG fan normally, but the story of this game drew me right in.

You can visit a ton of planets in the galaxy, even though the actual "storyline" only spans a handful. There were probably 5 planets I never even went to....all of them still have adventures waiting for me. Along your journey, you meet lots of people...and you add 5 of them to a list of potential team members. You can pick any two to join you on any mission in the game. I usually settled on the Frog and the alien chick (because I was hoping for a love affair with the latter), but there are several others to pick from.

I could go on and on about the game...but it's 2 years old and many other people have already reviewed it better than I will at 3am. The main thing I want to cover is that I really enjoyed the game a lot. Even though I spent a LOT of time on it, I think it was well worth it...and I can only imagine what the sequel has in store for me.

Overall rating 9/10. The only thing that kept this game from getting a ten was the slightly lame combat system. It's not the best shooter in the world...and a good portion of the game involves shooting. It's not bad, just not great....but the story more than makes up for it.

Replay value: 10/10. Even after pouring about 20 hours into this sucker, there is still SO much I never touched. And it's not like going through the same conversations again, I can go through the game and be completely evil if I want to. Or take all those side missions I skipped. Most importantly...I actually want to go back and do this. But first...Mass Effect 2.

Achievements? I got quite a few...and then are plenty more where these came from: