Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Video game number eighty three: Just Cause 2

Video game review number eighty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Just Cause 2".

I never played the original Just Cause, so this was my first time playing this series. Unlike Bad Company 2, I have no desire to go back and play the original. The hero in this game is named Rico and known as "Scorpio" by the locals. He's supposed to be a bad-ass, but to me, he sounds like Triumph the insult comic dog. Speaking of Triumph, this is a great game....for me to poop on.

The trailers made this one look great. You have a grappling hook, you can drive cars, parachute, even eventually fly some planes. It's a sandbox game, so apparently, you can do all of this in any order you choose. It sounds fun on paper and it looks good in the previews...but unfortunately, that's all hype.

Your main character is annoying as hell to control. The grappling hook is really cool, but unfortunately, it's more of a secondary weapon. Your primary weapons are all guns, which are always out of ammo, and hard to target people with. I eventually learned to tolerate the bad targeting, but it took nearly 3 hours of practice.

The parachute is fun, albeit unnecessary at times. You can deploy it while standing on top of a car and fly away. That was cool. On the other hand, when falling off of a building, when a parachute might be handy to have, for some reason...it's much harder to deploy. I died twice while trying that.

There is a plot in this game, but in one of the dumbest moves I've ever seen...you have to grind to be able to participate in it. You have this thing called a "Chaos meter" and it's basically a measure of how many bad guys you've killed. For two levels, I didn't even notice this meter, because I was busy making my way through the story. Suddenly, they throw you in this open world map and say "Before you can play mission 3, you need so many thousand Chaos points". I started killing things and finding that I was only getting 50 or 100 points at a time.

Fuck all that noise.

I'm done with this one. There is absolutely nothing about the story I have experienced so far that makes it compelling enough for me to want to grind through enemies just to see more of it. Imagine if Grand Theft Auto made you kill 1000 hookers before you could go on the next mission with Niko and his cousin Roman. That's what this game is like, except the characters are nowhere near as compelling as the ones in GTA.

Overall score: 5/10. It's sort of fun, but it's certainly nothing worth investing your 50 bucks in. Rent this one first for sure.

Achievements? There are actually some cool ones that I had fun trying for (all involving the grappling hook). Most of them are related to game progress though, and I'm not interested in grinding to see what happens next.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Video game number eighty two: Superman Returns

Video game review number eighty two my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Superman Returns".

This one is the second in my Sunday of games based on crappy movies. Surprisingly enough, this one is also not a terrible game.

Superman Returns was not a good movie. It started out great, and then takes a turn so far into the absurd that you basically hate every character in the movie, including Superman himself. It's a shame, because the guy they got to play Superman nailed the role...and I don't think he's going to get another chance to redeem himself when they inevitably "reboot" it.

I sort of assumed I was going to hate this game, so maybe that's why I didn't. First of all, you don't start out following the plot of the movie, which is a great thing. You begin the game by learning to use your powers while fighting a bunch of asteroids headed for Metropolis. This is cool. Next, you fight in some tournament on your way to Krypton. This is also cool. It's not following the plot of the movie, although the movie did mention that Superman was on a trip back to Krypton and left the world alone for awhile. These two opening levels aren't part of the story you know, but they are a pretty cool way to learn the basics of the game.

When you get back to earth, you settle into your role as Superman. I have to say, being Superman is boring. The first thing I noticed is that everything you fought could kill you. I heard there were some cheats to stop this from happening, so I found and entered them. You get a zero point achievement called "Not So Super" for doing that. This achievement is bullshit.

Superman is supposed to be SUPER. He's not supposed to die and get his ass kicked all the time (although you wouldn't know it from watching the movie this game is named after). By entering the cheat codes, I turned him into the Superhero he's supposed to be, and the game became more fun as a result. At least for awhile.

After the novelty of being Superman wears off, you're left waiting around Metropolis for someone to call for help. You save them. Then you wait. Then you save someone else. Then you wait. This is exactly what being Superman must be like. Every once in awhile, the plot progresses...but mostly...you're just waiting around to save people from robots, fires...or other problems they're having. Apparently, there are even cats you can save...though I never looked for them.

After awhile, I decided to be more like General Zod. I started taking people's cars and throwing them. I stood in the middle of the street and used my super breath to blow a bunch of traffic down the road towards a building. I used my heat vision to ignite some gas tanks, and flew at sonic speeds right into the sides of skyscrapers. All of this was fun, at least for awhile. Eventually, it was back to fighting robots.

Finally, roughly 3 hours in, I got to fight Metallo. You fight him 4 or 5 times before you get to fight the "real" Metallo, and this was a cool battle. He's HUGE, and you throw cars at him to slow him down. He's wrecking the city while you try to stop him by throwing lots of junk at him...it's pretty good. I'm not sure I want to keep playing to see what happens next, but I might eventually. It's not a terrible game...and although it might not be saying much, I think it's a lot better than the movie was.

Overall, I'll give this one a 6/10. I liked it enough to call it above average...probably even enough to go back and finish sometime if I'm bored. On the other hand, perhaps I should stop playing now. The first part of the game was decent, but if it's anything like the movie...Superman is going to turn into a whiny little bitch, start stalking Lois Lane outside her window, get the shit kicked out of him by Lex Luthor...and will eventually need some little super bastard to save him. I don't want to play that game. Ever.

Achievements: Here they are:

Video game number eighty one: G.I. JOE: Rise of Cobra

Video game review number eighty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "GI JOE: Rise of Cobra".

I thought I'd play a couple of games based on crappy movies today. This is the first of them. Movie tie-in games are not generally very good, and when it's a tie-in game based around a movie I didn't particularly love, I generally have almost zero desire to play it. For some reason, I decided to play this one instead.

Maybe it's because I was coming off of Metro 2033, or maybe it's because I just like the genre, but I thought this game was kind of fun. Rise of Cobra is a 3rd person shooter, there are many familiar characters (from both the movie and the cartoon from when I was a kid) and they all have different specialties. I liked the "heavy" class, because they do the most damage.

You breeze through the levels, mowing down anything in your path...and success is more based on score, than on progression...which is really easy at the default level. You can't get the best scores until you try out the hardcore modes...which I have no intention of doing. I figured I'd play on the default and see how much I could get through before I got bored.

About 2 hours in, I checked the achievements and there seemed to be an awful lot based around the two player co-op.

I asked Heather:

"Do you want to help me get some two player achievements?"

"Not really"she said. "How long will it take?"

"Just one level" I replied.

"Maybe later, I'm reading now."

That was about it for the conversation. I kept playing for awhile, but...as she was walking to the kitchen, she heard the GI JOE theme song, which is triggered whenever you get your "invincibility".

"You didn't tell me you were playing GI JOE!" she said.

Suddenly, she was interested. I told her she could be Scarlett, in the classic cartoon outfit and she liked that idea By this point in the afternoon, we were about to head out for a movie, so I made a mental bookmark to ask her again the next day.

Monday, after we got home, we decided to play through a level together. This made the game quite a bit more fun. I'm not sure if it was because the game is meant to be a two player game, or because I automatically like most games more when Heather is interested in playing them too.

It took her a minute or two to figure out the controls. Shortly thereafter, she announced that she could do back flips. The first level we went through had a jeep with a turret on it. Heather got to control the turret and she outscored me somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% to my 40%.
"It's because I had missles" she said.

We made it through the rest of that level and unlocked several achievements. As we were going on to the next one...I asked if she wanted to try being the "movie" Scarlett. She said:

"No, I don't like her outfit. She's Stupid Scarlett. I like the original one."

Fair enough.

We kept playing for a total of 6 checkpoints (2 full levels) before it was time to head to bed. When all was said and done, we had racked up 4 of the 5 co-0p achievements, which gave me a grand total of 17.

Overall, I'm going to rate this game a solid 7. Any game that's interesting enough to get Heather to play along for more than a few minutes automatically gets some bonus points. Ultimately, it's probably just your basic game...but I had fun with it, and that's what I'm basing my score on. I might even finish this one eventually. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Video game number eighty: Metro 2033

Video game review number eighty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Metro 2033".

For some reason I can't explain, Metro 2033 is enjoying being called a decent game by almost every game review outlet that I visit. Some examples:

Metro 2033 7.5
IGN 6.9
Gamepro 3.5/5
This guy at Joystiq actually loves it.

I am genuinely curious if I am playing the same game as the rest of these people. I don't think this one deserves to be called above average...and that's what all of these reviews are saying. In this challenge, I've played a TON of games so far, and this one is barely in the middle of the road. It's so unremarkable in every single way that there's almost nothing great I can say about it. Yet, review after review that I've read talks about how much anticipation surrounded this title, and how awesome parts of it are. I disagree with pretty much every comment they've made.

This game is set in some ugly, dark, gray tunnels in Russia. You're underground because of some apocalyptic event, and for some reason, there are monsters trying to kill you. These monsters come out of nowhere, and are inexplicably annoying to fight. Some can die with one shotgun blast. Others take a full clip of your machine gun. Some are only able to be easily killed by pistols. I don't know a LOT about guns, but last time I checked...a bullet was a bullet. It's metal, and when you shoot it...it penetrates flesh. The monsters in this game don't seem to know that, and instead...only like to be killed with very specific weapons.

Speaking of bullets, for some reason..in this game, they are your currency. Even though there are still bars, food stands, weapon shops and trading posts in post apocalyptic Russia...money has gone right out of the window. The currency of the day is ammunition for some reason, even though almost no-one else you meet carries a gun. I guess they like it because it's shiny.

What makes the whole "ammunition is money" concept even more retarded is that it's strewn all over every map like gold coins in Super Mario brothers. Mario Brothers is a cartoonish game, so when you see a gold coin just sitting there...it fits in that world. In this game, it's supposed to be all gritty, and realistic. Everyone is starving and bullets are the only money to be had.....yet the kid who begs me for one bullet to feed his family will walk right past 15 clips of ammunition just sitting on the ground as we walk towards a destination. This is just stupid as shit.

The story isn't really entertaining, and I've played through the first 9 chapters. You walk from point a to point b, having conversations about how awesome the surface will be when you get back up there (it reminds me of "30 days later" actually), but you're interrupted every few seconds by a really lame monster you have to fight. The combat is no fun, so basically....the game is "watch a movie, shoot an annoying monster, rinse, repeat".

Overall score 3/10. I get what this game is trying to be. It's trying to be Resident Evil or Bioshock meets Fallout. It fails. I don't care about the characters, the story, the graphics are ugly...and the gameplay isn't fun at all. Rent this one for sure, because if you buy into the hype and buy it, there's a good chance you'll be sorry you did. If bullets weren't so damn valuable...you might want to splurge on one to put right through your head before playing this game.

Achievements? Good luck. Apparently most of the achievements in this game are earned by meeting VERY specific goals. I missed about 8 of them, for really stupid reasons. One achievement involved shooting a guy before he became a threat. Another one involved knocking on every door in a stupid level. Another one I missed involved refusing to give the poor kid who wanted one bullet from me a handout. I suppose I could play the first 9 levels again to get these achievements, but I think I'm going to be busy. Probably until the real 2033.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Video game number seventy nine: Lucidity

Video game review number seventy nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Lucidity"

The other day, I noticed that they were offering people on Xbox Live the opportunity to vote for the best arcade games of the year. First of all, 'Splosion Man should win for every category. I don't care what the category is, unless it's "Best game named Peggle", 'Splosion Man deserves the award. It really is the best arcade game I've ever played.

Anyway, for some crazy reason, 'Splosion Man is only nominated for 3 categories, and after I voted for it in all three...I checked out some of the other nominees. I've played every single one of them, except one: Lucidity. Lucidity is up against Shadow Complex for best graphics. I can't believe I'd never heard of it.

I booted it up and sure enough, the graphics are pretty damn good. It looks like a children's book I might have read as a kid. I found myself saying "Wow, this art is pretty great." Unfortunately, the beauty in this game was only as deep as the graphics. The gameplay is pretty stupid.

The hero of the game is a little girl, who runs in a straight line from the start to the finish of the stage. For some reason, she is trying to get to a mailbox, to get a postcard from her grandmother. This is how each level ends. The post cards never say anything interesting.....it's usually just something like "I hope you're having a great adventure, you're such a darling girl".

Anyway, this stupid girl will run in a straight line, regardless of what obstacles might be about to kill her. Whether it's killer bees, pits of doom, a cliff, some fire, or perhaps a poisonous flower, the dumb little bitch will run right into it. You don't actually have control of her, so there is no way to stop her from killing herself over and over again. The only thing you can do to prevent her from dying is place objects in her path that will help her to overcome the hazards. The girl has a death wish, and you're basically her guardian angel.

If she's about to fall off a cliff, you must quickly throw down a set of stairs so she can climb over it. If she's about to step on a bee that will kill her in one shot, you might put down a springy platform so she can jump over it instead. If the hapless little twit is going to run right into a pit of spikes, you might be merciful enough to throw a plank down that she can walk across the spikes instead.

This is fun for about 3 levels.
I played 7.

Overall score: 4/10. I'm sure there are people who enjoy this sort of game, but I just got frustrated with it. I kept wondering when the girl's grandma would send her a postcard that said "Stop running into things that will kill you, you stupid little whore". I suppose since this game is rated "E", it could have said something a little more polite, but you get the idea.

For a moment, let's pretend I'm your grandmother and this blog is your mail box. You've opened it, and guess what....here's a postcard, just for you:

Don't play this stupid game.

Video game number seventy eight: Game Room

Video game review number seventy eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Game Room".

Is this a game, or is it 100 games? One cannot be certain.

Game Room is a really strange application that can be used on the Xbox 360 or the PC. It's awesome and suck-tastic, all at the same time.

The awesome parts: Game Room is a virtual arcade on your console. The arcade is giant, like a 2-story mall, and each room is completely customizable. You can change the backgrounds (one is an 80's cafe, there's an Atari themed room, a graveyard, etc). You can put props in your arcade (change machines, lava lights, skateboards, disco balls, etc, etc). Your friends can come visit your arcade and check out your game collection. You can send challenges to your friends when you get a high school, and they'll have a week or so to try and beat them. These are all great things.

The suck-tastic parts: In order to participate in game challenges, or get most of the achievements in this game...you're going to have to spend 3 bucks a pop on classic games that you want to put into your virtual arcade. The trouble with this, is that you can play them for free, right now...on any of 100 sites online. You can use MAME to play them on your phone. You can even search Ebay for the Atari games, and pay less than 3 bucks each for most of them. If you want all 1000 gamerscore in this game, you're going to have to spend around 100 dollars buying old games for your arcade.

I liked playing Asteroids. I don't know if it was worth 3 dollars (I own it in the Game Room and I haven't played 12 quarters worth yet). Centipede was fun, but it feels really old. There are some other games I used to be a fan of, like Tempest and Combat. I look forward to trying them out, but I'm not sure I need to "own" them. Especially if they don't have 200 gamerscore each. Something about buying something I can (legally) play for free online...bothers me.

Here are a ton of improvements this game could use. These things would make it really cool.

The economy needs improvement. They could allow your friends to play your games in your arcade for free. They could sell the games in cheap packs (10 for 500 points or something) and then make money selling tokens to your arcade visitors. This would make it much more viral.

The arcade itself needs improvements. For one thing, you should be able to walk around in it (1st person, like Sony home). There should be chat....so it's a meeting room or a lobby. You should be able to launch your existing arcade games from Game Room. People should be able to watch over your avatar's shoulder as you play a game...and see a live feed of it, like they can "spectate" in other shooter or racing games out now. High scores should be available to anyone, whether they own the game or not. If my friend beats my score, even if I don't own the game, and he only paid one token to do it...I'll definitely pay to beat him. The props should be interactive. I want to be able to play with a jukebox, or an arcade cabinet. I want to ride the little skateboards, or play air hockey or something. I should be able to "skin" my arcade the way you can skin a car in Forza 3. Let designers make and sell Game Room skins.

Overall score: 5/10. As I've called out above, this game could be improved. A lot. As it stands, it's worth the free price they're selling it for....and you can get some free gamerscore from it, which is cool. Before you go spending 5000 points on classic games for your arcade, I'd play the demos a bit and find out if that's REALLY what you want to spend your money on. There are some Call of Duty maps coming out next week, and to me...those are a much better value.

Achievements? One reason I suppose you could play this game. They're not hard to get, if you're willing to part with lots of MS points.

Video game number seventy seven: Lips: Party Classics

Video game review number seventy seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Lips: Party Classics".

Yes, I'm really writing this review after 1am.
Yes, I've really been playing this game at this hour on a work night.
No, I was not using headphones or playing with the volume turned down low.

My wife is away on a business trip, and so after spending the evening at a bar with the guys, I decided that coming home to sing at the top of my lungs by myself would be the best use of my temporary bachelorhood.

It was not waste of time. This game is rad.

Basically, this is an expansion disk for the original Lips singing game. I'm calling it an expansion because it only gives you 250 new achievement points, and the gamerscore is listed under the "Lips" section if you've already played that game. Sure, it's a new game that you can buy at the store, packaged with two microphones, but the way the achievements work are the same sort of thing as in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. It's new and retail, so it counts for the project, but I'm still thinking this is more of an expansion than a sequel. :-)

Party Classics is basically the same game as Lips was: A great little karaoke game that your friends can jump in and out of at will. If they're not singing on one of the two mics, that's ok...because your friends can participate by using the controllers as "Noise makers" (hitting certain buttons to trigger sound effects along with the beat). At it's core, it's clearly supposed to be a party game. Unfortunately, I don't think I've ever "partied" while playing this.

If I try to think back, I don't think I've ever played this one with more than one person, except maybe in a contest at work once. It was basically our version of "American Idol" and we had members of the band "The Presidents of the USA" there to judge our bad karaoke in this game. In the end, I somehow won "Best performance" for singing Nivrana's "In Bloom". I believe what sent the judges over the top (other than the fact I picked the only song by a another Seattle band in the game) was when I played an imaginary drum solo using some rock band drum sticks, then kicked over a few chairs in the cafeteria. There was video of this, and it used to be on "Inside Xbox", but thankfully...it has been long since taken down. This is probably good, considering it was probably embarrassing to watch. Good times.

Moving along with the review, there is a feature in this game that I'm not sure was in the original, but if it was...I never discovered it until tonight. You can record your performances and play them back later as part of a music video. I have to go on record saying this is an absolutely awesome idea for a singing game, but it might also be horrible.

Let's say you've just finished a song. Let's say the game told you that you just had a "Universal" performance, and gave you nearly 2 million points. On top of that, let's imagine the game told you that you were in the top 200 on the leadberboards for that song. Wouldn't it be great if you could save that performance to brag about later?

This was a trick question. It's not great, because when you are me...and this actually happens to you, it's not exactly flattering. I did all of the above things, then went back to listen to the song I had just finished. I realized that it was not awesome at all. In fact, I sound like Forrest Gump. The game lied to me and gave me a "Pitch Perfect" achievement for singing James: "Laid", but now I know the truth. I wasn't pitch perfect. I wasn't even on key. Hell, half the song...I didn't even sing the right lyrics (and they were right there on the screen the whole time, so that's pretty impressive). This game lies to you. "Lips service" one might call it. One just did.

Overall score: 8 out of 10. It may have let me know how badly I sing, but this game was still a lot of fun. Like the original Lips, you can sing songs from the disk, download songs from the marketplace, or sing things that are copied to your hard drive, PC or even your MP3 player. This makes the game experience pretty much endless. Lips is karaoke at it's most pure, with some fun little add-ons . Party Classics is a lot of fun.

Here are a bunch of achievements I got, while singing alone tonight. You'll notice they start on the 23rd and continue on the 24th. I should really go to bed now. :-)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Video game number seventy six: Mortal Kombat vs. D.C. Universe

Video game review number seventy six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe".

Ok, so the concept here is really cool. What if the classic characters from the DC Comic Books got into a fight with the folks from Mortal Kombat? I'm sure this is a question that has been asked countless times in lines for movies like "Spider-Man" or "Wolverine Origins", and finally...someones wet dream came true and this game was created. I can't mock the idea, because I'm hoping someday there is a Star Wars vs. Star Trek game made just for me. It could be just like this game, and I'd play it every day. I imagine myself controlling Captain James T. Kirk and bitch slapping that stupid whiny prequel Anakin. Or maybe I'd have Darth Vader force choke the shit out of William Riker, right before I pulled off a fatality move where the Sith Lord uses the force to shove that stupid trombone right up Riker's butt.

Unfortunately, this game stars a bunch of characters I am ambivalent towards vs. another bunch that I'm not too familiar with. Yes, it has Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman from the DC Side and yes...they dragged Scorpion and Sonya out for another sequel from the Mortal Kombat team....but I guess I never really cared to control these guys again. None of them have starred in a great video game for the last 20 years. On the DC side of the equation, I don't think there's EVER been a good superhero game, unless you count Lego Batman, which is more of a Lego game than a superhero game.

There's a campaign and it's actually pretty cool in a way. You start out as the Flash, and you go through various scenarios where you learn a part of the story, and then cut to a fight. I wish there was a way to just watch the story (it wasn't half bad), but try as I might...I'm just not a big fan of the Mortal Kombat fighting system. After the first 3 or 4 fights, I found myself getting owned by the computer. The only way to counteract that is to spam the same complicated counter over and over again. There's no "free flow" aspect (like Soul Calibur, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, DOA, etc), and that's why I've never been a fan of the series.

Overall, 5/10. Purely average. If you like Mortal Kombat and you like DC, this is truly your dream game. If you are a big fan of either...it's probably still worth playing. If you don't care much about either one...skip this game and get one of the other fighters I mentioned above. :-)

Here are the achievements I unlocked:

Video game number seventy five: Bomberman: Act Zero

Video game review number seventy five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Bomberman Act Zero".

I'm going to assume this game is some sort of "prequel" to Bomberman, and if the movies have taught us anything...it's that prequels aren't a good idea.

Like any famous prequel you might be thinking of, this game is all flash and no substance. Bomberman was awesome because of it's simplicity. You were on a little grid, you had bombs and other power ups...and you had to kill your opponents before they killed you. It was sort of like Pac-Man, but with bombs.

Bomberman Act Zero takes the classic formula, and then fucks with it until you hardly recognize it anymore. It's not just "New Coke", it's "diet New Coke with lime, blueberry and Zima flavors added". For some reason, the developers thought Bomberman needed 3D graphics, a screwed up camera (that makes the top down view almost impossible to achieve, even if you want to), and they topped all that off with a cheesy robotic announcer guy. I think they might as well have hired Jar-Jar Binks for that role. The announcer has awesome lines like "You are Dead" and "You are Alive" after you finish each level. Surely Jar-Jar could have spiced this dialog up a bit with some "meesas" and "yousas".

Anyway...there are some elements of Bomberman here, but nothing that should make a fan of the series play it. They have torqued this game to the point where it's...almost unrecognizable. As for people who have never played the series and are looking to dive in to the Bomberman world with this one....here's what I suggest: Don't.

If you want to play a Bomberman game on your Xbox 360, go play Bomberman Live! instead. It's a much better game than this sad sequel, it captures the classic elements of the series while still adding a few new things (like unlockable, customizeable, cool little outfits for your little bomber guy, as well as Live Multiplayer). If I were rating that today, I'd give it a solid 8.

My overall score for Act Zero is a 4/10. They snuck just enough Bomberman magic in here to keep it from totally blowing, but not enough to make it worth more than a 1 day rental. If you're going to rent this game, hopefully it's at a discount. If you're going to buy it, hopefully...it's in the bargain bin.

Here are the achievements I got. I'll never be getting another one, I can promise you that.

Video game number seventy four: Starcraft 2 Beta

Video game review number seventy four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "StarCraft II Beta".

I've been waiting for this game for over 10 years.

In 1998 when this game was released, I was working in the back room at an ISP with a bunch of guys around my age. Most of our work day was spent answering tech support calls, or repairing PCs....but whenever we had a break, we usually had a game of something or other going. For the first year I worked there, it was always Quake or Quake 2. We would shoot it out over the local network, stopping only to help some old lady figure out how to turn the caps lock key off so she could log into her email account. It was a mind numbingly frustrating job at times, but those games of Quake helped keep it fun. Being able to dominate my coworkers while simultaneously configuring someones Dial Up connection to our service over the phone was a badge of honor. Hitting the mute button on the phone to say "Fuck you bitch, if I wasn't on the phone..." was always fun too, unless I forgot to hit mute. :-)

At some point, StarCraft came out and we all switched over to that. I can't remember a day passing where I didn't play StarCraft. I would play it at work, then I would go home and play it there. I'd even log onto the internet with my state of the art 56k modem and play it online. Later that year, I moved to Seattle...and just about every night, I'd play either Quake 2 or Starcraft with my roommates. Sometimes we were taking on strangers online, other times...we'd play against each other on our home network. Very often, the games would go until 3 or 4 in the morning, regardless of who had work or school the next day. One of my roommates played so much StarCraft that his college education was in danger of suffering, so he cracked the disk and taped the pieces to his monitor to remind him to stop playing that stupid game. A few months later, he bought another "Battle Chest" (the game, the Brood Wars expansion and the strategy book from Costco)....and jumped back into matches with us on a nightly basis.

From 1998-2001, there were brief exceptions where I'd play something besides StarCraft or Quake 2. There was Mario Kart 64, Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast and even Unreal Tournament on the PC, but for the most part....StarCraft ruled my life for those three years. This juggernaut over a game was finally dethroned in 2001 when the original Xbox came out and I migrated back to console games. Late night Quake and StarCraft sessions were replaced with Halo parties, and the rest is history.

Over the last ten years, I've picked StarCraft up from time to time. I used to go through campaign missions on airplanes while traveling for business. A few times in the last ten years, I've even gotten together with a buddy and played an online match or two. It's probably my favorite PC game of all time, if only because it's stood the test of time after all these years...even after Quake 2 became outdated and was replaced by better shooters. I've played dozens of other real time strategy games trying to recapture that StarCraft magic, but no game ever has. It's simply the best of the breed.

Tonight, thanks to my friend Amanda, I was lucky enough to get a beta key to play the sequel. I jumped into a match...and instantly knew how to play. Stuff has changed in ten years (the graphics have improved, there are better units and I'm unfamiliar with some of the new menu commands), but this is still StarCraft. I played a match against someone online who was using the Protoss and got thoroughly owned...but I still had fun.

Since then, I've taken to playing games against the computer AI, trying to get my feet wet by fighting the computer instead of fighting against people online who wipe me out in the first few minutes. As close as it is to being perfect, this beta does have one flaw: It's multiplayer only.

In strategy games like StarCraft, Age of Empires or Halo Wars, I've always preferred to take the time to explore the tech trees and figure out the strengths and weaknesses of every unit before you head online to massacre regular people. There's no real option to do that in the beta, short of fighting against mindless computer opponents offline. They're fun and all, but I really wish I could explore the tech tree as God intended me too, in a scripted campaign where I learn the purpose of each unit by fully upgrading it and rushing off to fight some random villain during the story. Unfortunately, the offline option is grayed out, probably because this is a multiplayer beta and they want to get the kinks ironed out on their network (Battle.net) before they ship it later this year. I can live with this...it makes me crave the final version even more than I already do.

As far as the multiplayer vs humans go, well...I suppose I'm not a fan yet. As much as I feel at home in this game, as much fun as it was to play in such a familiar and beloved world again, I feel like I probably won't be fighting folks online the way I used to. I don't want to feel rushed into learning the ins and outs of this game online, I want to play in the campaign and take my time before I start competing against the people who live and breathe for online combat. Zergling rushing and 12 carrier attacks have never been my favorite part of this game...and that's all you find online in the beta. It would be like falling in love with Halo, missing it for 10 years, and then playing a sequel where you only got teabagged over and over again. Not for me.

Again though, these are all small gripes...in a game that is otherwise perfect. The best part of this game is that it's only a BETA...and I have the entire full version to look forward to.

Overall score: 9 out of 10. All the right ingredients are here, except for a campaign. When this game releases, I'll buy and review the full version. I am pretty confident it's going to rock based on the small taste I've gotten so far. The campaign is a big part of the game for me...and I can't wait to play it.

Achievements aren't enabled in this version of the game...so I took a few screenshots from a match I played tonight. I was proud of the outcome. I was the red guys. :-)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Video game number seventy three: Perfect Dark XBLA

Video game review number seventy three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Perfect Dark".

Is this a new game, or isn't it? That is the question.

I played Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64. It was new back then.
It's been "redesigned" for the Xbox 360, and re-released as an arcade game. Frankly, I can't see a big difference between this game and the N64 game. I'm not saying I couldn't tell them apart in a side by side comparison, but other than the achievements (which are always great to have), I'm not sure I've found any big changes. For Perfect Dark purists...that's awesome. For me, it just made me wish they'd skipped this one and done a GoldenEye reboot.

Perfect Dark was a good game, but playing it again reminds me how dated it is (and how old I am). They haven't really re-imagined it, they've simply tweaked the graphics a bit and put achievements in. In other words: Shovelware.

If you were dying to play Perfect Dark again, this is the game for you. I wasn't dying to play it. I still own my N64 and I can boot that sucker up any time I want to. Playing this game was fun for the first few levels (I beat the first 4), but then...I realized I could be playing some more Battlefield Bad Company. Or any other game out there. Just not this one.

Maybe I'll finish this when I'm bored sometime, but right now...it's just not interesting enough to keep playing.

Overall score? 5/10. Purely average game by today's standards (maybe lower than average), but the nostalgia factor keeps the score from going lower. Still, if Rare wants me to give me nostalgia, then give me GoldenEye (that's a game I really loved on my N64). I will be much more excited if that ever happens.

Achievements? Yeah..they're here...but frankly, I don't care about them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Video game number seventy two: Monopoly

Video game review number seventy two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Monopoly".

Much like my review of Hasbro Family Game Night, I can sum this game up simply by saying that the board game is more fun. In my life, I have played countless games of Monopoly, long before the game's resurgence of popularity, when every country, state and city had it's own version of the game. I love Monopoly.

There have been many Monopoly video games over the years, but this is the first one I've actually played. Frankly, I never saw the point. Right now..the point is to get through 365 games in 365 days, so I picked this one to try. I played an entire game against three computer opponents (who promptly bankrupted me), and I have to say...it's a terrible game. First of all, if you're going to play this video game, it's presumably because you like video games. You spent more buying Monopoly the video game than you would have spent buying Monopoly the board game. So it should play like a video game, right? Wrong.

The things you'd expect in the video game version simply aren't there. Play against 3 computer opponents, but you can't skip their turns. You have to watch as they slowly roll the dice, count their spots, land on properties...which they can buy or pay rent on. It's just like playing the board game against a computer might be.

Were you hoping for silly animations when you land on spots like the Boardwalk or maybe the railroads? Well...tough shit. They aren't here. The developers of this one simply took a Monopoly board, replicated it perfectly...and the only thing they animated are the pieces. By animated, I don't mean that the dog barks, or the car drives (that would be kind of cool, wouldn't it?). No...I mean that the pieces hop from spot to spot like the little silver game pieces at home. This game offers absolutely no extra entertainment value over the cardboard set you have at home...it simply offers a way to play that same game with a controller and computerized opponents, instead of manually with a few friends. Think of it as Solitaire for your PC, without the fancy animations when you finally win a game.

Realizing the base version of this game sucks balls, I played their new "Richest" mode. The "Richest" mode in this game seems to have been created for stupid people with A.D.D who think that the concept of regular Monopoly is too challenging. They take away all those annoying things like "money", "strategy" and property trading...and turn it into a game of dice rolling and mini-games. The stupid mini-games involve things like "Race your car from point a to point B" (a really, really bad version of Spy Hunter on the NES without the fun weapons). If you win this boring race, you're given a choice of pre-rolled dice to pick from. Choose the six, and you'll snatch up six random properties. Later, you'll lose those randomly based on other rolls of the dice you have no control over. Sounds awesome, right?

There are 6 rounds in each game of Richest. I made it through all six...and that was the end of this game for me.

Overall score? 2/10. The only good thing about this game is it makes you nostalgic for real Monopoly. If you've never played it before, be sure you go out and spend 15 bucks on the home board game before spending 30 on this shitty video game adaptation.

Achievements? They're not hard to get. Had I wanted to get all 1000, all I would have had to do is load up three empty controllers and grind. These points aren't worth it, trust me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Video game number seventy one: Battlefield Bad Company 2

Video game review number seventy in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Battlefield: Bad Company 2".

Call of Duty is pretty much the only "modern" or "historical" warfare game that I really enjoy. Everything else in the genre that I've put any considerable amount of time into takes place in the future. Halo, Gears of War, Crackdown, etc, etc. When I play shooters, I like them filled with futuristic weapons, cars and planes. Somehow, the games that tend to simulate the wars of today (or yesterday) just haven't been my cup of tea. I don't know why, maybe it's because I like a certain form of escapism in my video games...but I've pretty much skipped them all until recently.

All the guys at work really enjoy the Call of Duty series. My nephew jumped on the bandwagon with Modern Warfare 1, and I told everyone I knew that when the sequel came out, I'd play it. Turns out, I really love Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Apparently, so do the makers of this game, because they have done their best to duplicate it as closely as possible, without actually getting a job at Infinity Ward and working on the next sequel. When I played this, I felt almost like I was playing some "bonus" levels of Call of Duty. It's a good game on it's own, I suppose...but it's really derivative, and it lacks the polish of Call of Duty. That game felt epic. This one...not so much.

None of this should be taken to imply that I'm not having fun with the game. The first level starts out sometime around the Pearl Harbor attacks. At first, I thought it was actually an old school war game...which made me wonder if I had my facts wrong. Turns out, you're just playing a prologue, and soon...you're back in the present with all the automatic weaponry you could ever need.

I zipped through the first 3 or 4 missions, where I sailed down a river, drove some cars, called in an air strike on a tank and did some other stuff that might be considered "spoilers" to anyone looking forward to playing this game. I will spare you the details, other to say that if you liked Call of Duty..you'll probably like this game too.

Overall score, 8/10. I came up with this score based on the single player experience alone. I haven't tried to the game online yet, but when I do...I may add to the score based on how fun that is. I won't subtract from it for a bad online experience...because frankly, I didn't pick it up to play online. I have Call of Duty for that. I bought it for a good campaign, and so far...it's delivering just fine.

3/21/10 Update:

Well, I have spent some more time with this game. First, I played the multiplayer, which I have to say...I did not like. There were some awesome elements (vehicles, class switching on the fly like Call of Duty, rewards for teamwork, etc)...but overall, I didn't like the way you spent most of the level running and respawning. Unlike Halo and Call of Duty, this game seems like it's not about the fast shoot-em-up style, and is instead...all about the sitting and waiting. I'm not a fan of that. Never have been, never will be. Snipers are the class to pick in this one, and frankly...I hate being a sniper. I played several rounds, but didn't level up enough to get any good achievements. Within an hour, I was back on Call of Duty, working towards my first prestige. I'm at level 70 as of this writing, with about 40,000 more EXP to go before I do it. :-)

I did finish the Battlefield Campaign today, and I have to say...not only is it a fun game, it's a good story. I want to go back and play the first one now, even though I played them out of order....just to see where all these characters came from. I really liked the story, it's a fun campaign and they clearly set it up for another sequel too.

I've been working on it for about a week now, and unlocked about 19 more achievements. I'm actually not done either, I want to go back and grab a couple of other ones before I call this game finished:

My overall rating continues to be an 8. The bad multiplayer isn't going to knock it down for me, because frankly, I never planned on playing it much anyway. The campaign is great, and might even rival Call of Duty as far as fun goes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Video game number seventy: The misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

Video game review number sixty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom".

In the last month or so, there have been a couple of fantastic games released on Xbox Live Arcade. Scrap Metal was my favorite, this one is a close second.

From the opening splash screens and creepy music (which reminded me of the haunted house ride at Disneyland), this game immediately grabs you as something a little bit different from what you're used to. The first level is a tutorial of sorts, where you are taught how to move around. Simple platformer, you can jump, run and hit. You can also do a floating jump with your umbrella, but that's about your most complex move. Next, you learn that this entire game is about chasing down and collecting pies. I support this premise. Finally, you learn about the coolest feature in this game: You can clone yourself.

Let's say your character needs to get up onto a ledge with a little see-saw next to it. You're all alone, so you can't jump up there, but you can make a little recording of yourself jumping on one side, then play it back in the form of a clone. All you have to do is stand on the other side of the see-saw, and that recorded clone will boost you where you need to go. Some levels only allow you one clone, others give you 5 or 6, so you can get into some pretty deep strategy here.

The game sports simple controls, but very challenging puzzles. Together, they are a great combination of fun and difficulty. I played a level where you had to flip a switch with one clone, launch yourself into the air with another, then collect two pies while floating in mid-air. To make it even more complicated, the pies were only visible for a short while after you hit the switch, so the timing needed to be perfect. I also needed to spend a few tries making sure I had the placement of the clones just-so. It took me several attempts to figure it out, but when I did...it was a very satisfying feeling. I can only compare it to spending several minutes lining up a stack of dominoes before knocking them over with a chain reaction. The game takes a little time, but when you finish each level....you really feel like you accomplished something. It's fun to watch your solutions play out once of you've triggered them.

The game has rails, but you certainly don't feel like you're riding on them. Many puzzles have only one solution, but your approach to figuring it out can be attempted in whatever order you choose. The investigation is half of the fun...and I think that's going to turn the replay value up to 11 for me. I've already found myself playing this one at work during phone meetings...which is always a good sign. :-)

Overall Score 9/10. I really don't think there's much more you can ask for. It's fun, but challenging, the replay value is there (once you find the solution to a level, you can spend time trying to solve the puzzles faster for achievements). It's just a great little game. My only complaint with it is that there's no multiplayer component, meaning that eventually...I will beat it and be done with it. Obviously, that doesn't affect the score much...but it does have an effect.

Here are some achievements I got so far...I plan to keep on playing this one for quite awhile.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Video game number sixty nine: Scrap Metal

Video game review number sixty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Scrap Metal".

I've been interested in this game since last year's PAX. The developers had their booth right next to the guys from Twisted Pixel, and so we visited it quite a bit. They had a demo running and my nephew was totally hooked on it. Throughout the 3-day convention, he kept wanting to go back to this one booth over and over again and play this game. I really enjoyed it as well. That was eight months ago, and they've managed to build on the experience quite a bit since then.

Scrap Metal is a top down racer that reminds me a lot of three different games. I'll be able to tell how old you are if you remember every game on this list. The first game is Super Off Road from the arcades. It has an overhead camera, lots of sharp corners, and an arcade feel take me back to that quarter-muncher. I'm actually really interested in playing this with one of the steering wheel peripherals to see how it handles compared to that game. The second game this one really reminds me of is R.C. Pro-Am for the NES, mostly because you can switch the control scheme to mimic one you might find on a remote control car. Finally, there are elements of Twisted Metal in this one, in that all the cars have weapons. It's much better than Twisted Metal though, in my opinion.

There are several tracks, and each track has several stages. You might find yourself in a race, or an elimination match where you try to be the last car standing. There are demolition derbies (where you try to destroy as many computer controlled cars as possible) and on each track, there are boss levels. The "boss" cars are bad-ass vehicles that you'll eventually get to own if you can beat them. Your garage is stocked with all the cars you've won. You can upgrade them with all the points you get from winning races.

Last, but not least...the game has a mutliplayer mode which allows you to race against other people as well as computer controlled players. I found the competition online pretty fierce, but I enjoyed gaming with them just the same. It takes me back to the old school days, before racing games were all about how fast the frame rate was, or how realistic they could get the cars. Not saying the graphics in this game aren't good (because they are), but this game focuses more on fun than realism. It's truly an arcade game.

Overall score: 9/10. Arcade games don't get much better than this. In fact, I can only think of a handful that are, and they are named: Geometry Wars, Peggle and Worms. :-)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Video game number sixty eight: Deadly Premonition

Video game review number sixty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Deadly Premonition".

This game is awful. I had no idea what it was about before I played it, so I read the IGN Review which gave it a 2/10. Since I went through the trouble of borrowing this game, I figured I'd play it anyway, just to give it my own chance. If it sucked, then I'd have the rest of the day to play better games (I am thinking of playing a little more Mass Effect 2 today). If it ended up being a diamond in the rough, well then...I could keep playing it and have a pleasant time.

Unfortunately for me, this game sucks balls. IGN's 2/10 review is almost generous. I'm going to give it a 1, because it's truly one of the worst video games I've ever played. Here's the one stupid achievement I got:

I'm not even going to spend any more time reviewing it. That would be a waste of space on the internets, and there's no sense in doing that. Instead, I'm going to use this post to give you some excellent alternatives to playing this game. I wasted 37 long minutes playing this awful excuse for a video game (minutes I wish I could have back). To ensure this never happens to anyone else, here are 37 other things you could (and should) do before you even think about popping this vile software into your game console:

1. Spend 37 minutes trying to invent a time machine. Even if you can't invent a time machine in just 37 minutes, you'll still feel like the time was more productive than you would if you'd spent it playing this game. If you actually manage to invent a time machine in 37 minutes, please email me. I'd like to borrow it, so I could go back and tell myself not to play this game. Not even for 37 minutes.

2. Watch a full episode of the TV series "Friends" and then take a nice, relaxing dump. I've watched most of the episodes of that series, and I can personally guarantee you that each one has a better story than this video game does. Even if you somehow manage to find one that doesn't (and trust me, that's going to be difficult)....you'll enjoy your time on the toilet more than you'd enjoy this video game. By the way, if you need more than 7 minutes to take a nice, relaxing dump...please feel free to watch the episode of Friends on your DVR, or on a DVD from Netflix. The lack of commercials will give you several extra minutes, which will be perfect for pooping.

3. Take your dog for a walk. Even it's raining and you don't like your dog very much. If you don't have a dog, then spend 37 minutes trying to find a neighbor that does have one...and ask them if they'd like you to walk it. I guarantee it will be more fun than playing this game.

4. Do the dishes. Yes, doing the dishes is work (and not fun)...but trust me, slogging through this bullshit game to get one achievement is much less satisfying than having an empty sink and a full dish rack.

5. Call 7 random friends and have a 6 minute and 15 second conversation with each of them, about nothing. I promise it will be more interesting than the dialog in this game.

6. Drive to the nearest bowling alley in your town, walk into the "arcade" there, close your eyes, spin around 4 times, then put five dollars into whatever game you're standing in front of. I guarantee it will be more fun than Deadly Premonition, and it will only cost you 5 bucks. If 5 bucks isn't enough cash to last you whatever time you have left after driving to the bowling alley (and factoring in the drive back)....then just go up to the counter and ask if you can sniff the rental shoes until your clock runs out. The resulting odor will surely stink less than this game did.

7. Travel to the body of water nearest your home, and take a good long look at it. I don't care if it's a Mr. Turtle pool in your back yard, or a sewage plant....I assure you this water will be nicer to look at then the horrible squares of wavy white and blue lines some jackass thought would look like a river in this game. They literally took one square, replicated it 1000 times and hoped you would think it was a surging river.

8. Go on a Snipe hunt. Clap your hands three times and yell "Snipe". They're tricky to find, but fun to look for. Spent 37 minutes searching.

9. Drive to the closest Wal-Mart and try to snap a picture for the People of Walmart and then come back home and send it in to the website.

10. Read a book. Any book you have handy. If you don't have a book handy, go get a book...and read it for 37 minutes. You'll be more entertained than you would have been if you played this video game, even if you can't actually read.

11. Spend the next 37 minutes catching up on past reviews from this project that you may have missed. As boring as they might be, they are vastly more entertaining (and informative) than Deadly Premonition will be for you.

12. Find a piece of junk in your house (anything that you don't use or want anymore), and spend 30 minutes listing it on Ebay. Write an amazing description for it, take some cool pictures...then see how much money you can get someone to pay for this unloved item. I wish I would have spent my time putting a few Star Wars figures I don't want anymore up for sale online. Be sure Save the 7 minutes you have left over for after the item sells, because you'll need to drive it to the post office, won't you?

13. Exercise. Yeah, I said it. America is getting fatter folks, and I don't care who you are...you could stand to lose a pound or two (or at least tone those rock hard abs of yours). Grab your music player, put on some running shoes...and go for a jog. If the weather isn't cooperating, spend some time inside exercising instead. I'll bet your cable company has that free on-demand channel where you can find free workouts that take 10 minutes or so. Do three of them, then take a shower for 7 minutes.

14. Spend 37 minutes writing your own song, then record it and upload it to youtube. If you're awesome, you just might find yourself becoming the next internet superstar. If you'd like a topic, I suggest writing about your house pet. It worked for this guy.

15. Take your lunch break, even if it's on the weekend. Millions of people take a 30 minute lunch break every day at work. Personally, I think an hour is a much better amount of time to eat a lunch....but it can be done in 30 minutes, and you have 37. I've never gone on a lunch break and come back as disappointed as I was after spending 37 minutes playing this game, so I think you're going to be ahead of the curve wherever you eat. I suggest Taco Bell...it's very quick and it doesn't cost a lot. Just be sure to factor in some extra time to "run for the border" (if you know what I mean).

16. Grab a piece of blank paper, even if all you have around is spiraled notebook paper...and draw a picture. If you have magic markers, crayons or other art supplies....fantastic, but if not, this masterpiece can be created with pencil or pen. Your picture should contain the following 7 items: Ladybug, Zombie, Sheriff, Twin children, SUV, Tree, and Generator. Once it's done, stick it onto your fridge with a magnet. The next time you have friends over, ask them to take a look at your wonderful creation. They're going to see the picture and say: "What the heck is this? Why is it hanging here? Did a kid draw this? It doesn't make any sense.". Don't give them any answers, but smile knowing you've just lived the life of a Deadly Premonition developer, if only for a moment.

17. Find a copy of Good Will Hunting. Fast forward to the part of the movie where he names all of his 12 brothers. Spend whatever time you have left trying to memorize this list of names, until you can say it forward and backwards. I realize I could have just typed the list here, but I wanted to make this is a pretty stupid game, and send you on a meaningless quest (just like the folks who made Deadly Premonition did for me). Unlike Deadly Premonition, some day, Good Will Hunting might actually come up in conversation (or as a bar trivia question)....and then you're going to be able to recite the "brother list" you spent 37 minutes learning. How do you like dem apples? Achievement Unlocked.

18. iNTerWeb PR0N. Seriously...why didn't I just spend my time doing that instead?

19. Watch all of the clips in this 10 Best Video Game freak-outs of all time list. Rest assured that Deadly Premonition is not anywhere near cool enough to illicit this sort of reaction from any gamer (sane or insane), but these should be entertaining to watch just the same.

20. Listen to either of Weird Al Yankovic's amazing 10+ minute songs: "Albuquerque" or "Trapped in the Drive-thru" three times each. Afterward, you'll still have a few minutes left over to listen to your choice of most of his other songs for dessert.

21. Wait for Spring, specifically...Easter. Drive to Target. Buy a box of tasty Peeps. With whatever time you have left over, murder them in an interesting way. If you're not sure what the best way to murder a peep is, here's a site with some great suggestions.

22. Wait for Summer. Go outside on a sunny day, and get a nice sunburn on your tummy. Wait about four days until you crack and peel. At that magical moment, spend 37 minutes tearing the dead flesh from your body. This will be disgusting and also....much more fun than Deadly Premonition. If you're looking for additional incentive, you will have taken yourself one step closer to skin cancer, which is sort of like a bonus.

23.Wait for the Fall, specifically: Halloween. Spend 36 minutes carving the most awesome replica of yourself that you've ever seen....on a pumpkin. With minute number 37, go ahead and stab it a ton of times. This will save you the trouble of wanting to do this to your real head if you are ever unfortunate enough to play Deadly Premonition.

24. Wait for the Winter, specifically: Christmas time. Drive to a mall. Get into the line to see Santa. When you finally meet Mr. Kringle, convince him that he needs to skip all the houses of anyone associated with the creation of Deadly Premonition. They should already be on his naughty list, but just in case they aren't.....refuse to leave until he's added all of them, in ink. Don't worry if waiting awhile makes any of the other kids in line cry, it's for the greater good.

25. Go to Blockbuster and rent a zombie movie. I don't care which one. Fast forward to the first scene that has zombies in it and watch 37 minutes of it from that point on. I guarantee you, the zombies in whatever movie you picked are going to be infinitely more awesome than the stupid zombies in this stupid game.

26. Go to Best Buy, Gamestop or Toys R Us and find any remaining copies of Deadly Premonition (they'll probably be in the bargain bin). I'm not going to suggest you doing anything illegal or immoral (like destroying or hiding them). Instead, please spend up to 37 minutes trying to convince the clerk to allow you to hide any copies of this game that they have in stock behind any other game in the store. You wouldn't want some well-intentioned parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle on a budget to accidentally buy this game for some poor child, would you? If you have time left over after your successful mission, you may visit another store and repeat this process. You are making birthdays and holidays better for innocent gamers all over your town, I assure you.

The next ten suggestions are listed under the assumption that nothing above this paragraph has been able to sway you. The author assumes that at this point, you are still actively thinking about spending 2o bucks on this stupid game, even after reading this far. The author must assume you are either morbidly curious...or slightly crazy, so the next ten suggestions are meant for a person in either state of mind.

27. Take your twenty bucks to the bank. Cash it in for two rolls of quarters. Walk around town...find members of the opposite sex (or the same sex if that floats your boat). Hand each attractive stranger that you meet two quarters each....and ask them to call you sometime. Next, quickly walk away without giving this person your number or having any further discussion with them. This strange game will be much more fun than Deadly Premonition

28. Drive downtown, find the nearest homeless guy....and chauffeur him to the nearest McDonald's, where you will offer to buy him anything he wants to eat or drink. Afterward, drop him off wherever he may want to go. If this random adventure and ensuing conversation has not satisfied your desire for excitement, why not make a stop at the local 7/11. Whether or not you have change left over after your visit to Mickey D's, why not buy a couple of beers and get drunk together? Clearly...that twenty bucks was burning a hole in your pocket anyway, and this will be a very exciting way to spend it.

29. Spend your twenty dollars on two movie tickets to any movie in current release. Invite a friend to go with you, your treat. If you don't have any friends...BING...large popcorn and drink for you. I assure you, the plot is better than Deadly Premonition, and you'll get at least 90 minutes of entertainment instead of 37 minutes of misery.

30. Visit the nearest strip club, preferably one that has a cover charge of less than 20 bucks. Enjoy watching naked people as long as you like, and remember...every dollar that didn't go towards that cover charge can be offered up as a tip to some aspiring young college student.

31. Go to Blockbuster and rent any five games you like. You can literally close your eyes and pick any five video games, and they'll all be better than this one was.

32. Visit AM/PM. Buy forty bags of those candies that are 59 cents each or two for a dollar. There should not be any sales tax. As AM/PM has no shopping carts, simply carrying all this candy to the counter should be a fun challenge. Try to do this in only one load. Before you leave the store with all your candy, ask the clerk if they'd like a bag as a tip. If not, more for you!

33. Head downtown on a Saturday night and pay the cover to see a band you've never heard of before. Generally, the cover will be less than 10 bucks, so you'll have the cash to spring on a drink or two for yourself. The drinks will make the band better...and this evening will be better than any evening you would have spent at home playing Deadly Premonition.

34. Paypal me the twenty dollars. I swear, I will spend it in a more responsible way than you will (if you're thinking about spending it on Deadly Premonition and you don't like any of my other ideas so far). Hell, I'll even write up a detailed report of exactly how I spent it....and dedicate it to you on this blog. :-)

35. Visit Denny's. Bring a date. Did you know that you can have anything on the menu that you want for 20 bucks at Denny's? Granted, your date may have to buy her own damn food...but that could lead to an interesting conversation when the check comes. You'll get to ask: "Who do you think you're dining with, Bill Gates?" You might even get to watch your date wash some dishes.

36. Visit a store like Target or Wal-Mart around Valentines day and spend all twenty of your hard earned dollars on as many boxes of those little Necco hearts as you can buy for the money. Spend the next several hours opening them and lining the candy all up in rows. Take a picture of this masterpiece. Will it be art? Probably not...but I'll bet the picture will get a whole bunch of hits on Flickr. Be sure to link me.

37. Last but not least, if nothing in this list of suggestions has persuaded you to avoid Deadly Premonition like the plague, go ahead and play it, but please make sure you write your own review and link it here. :-)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Video game number sixty seven: Toy Soldiers

Video game review number sixty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Toy Soldiers".

Toy Soldiers is a tower defense game. Your army is made up of (you guessed it) toys. The battle takes place on a diorama set up between two toy boxes. The twelve year old me wants to meet the kid who has this set up in his room and become his best friend.

If this were just a standard tower defense game, I think I probably would have played it quickly and moved on, but it's much more than that. You have all the standard types of units (soldiers, machine guns, artillery and even vehicles), but you also have something no other tower defense game has had before this one. Control.

If your little automated machine gunner isn't hitting the right targets, you can jump into a first person view and take it over. Suddenly, you're the machine gunner, shooting at the little targets yourself. I don't know how many times I've played a tower defense game and wished my stupid gunner would focus on the damaged unit that was almost dead and turning a corner, instead of the healthy one that was right in front of him. Now I can.

This game isn't easy, by any means. There is a lot of strategy involved around what to build and when...but when you finally figure out the magic ingredients to solving a level, you can sit back and enjoy watching the enemy be turned into plastic bits and pieces beneath your artillery.

Toy Soldiers takes place in World War 1, and apparently...every battle you fight is affecting the outcome of the war somehow. I believe it's done with stats, and every battle you win (or lose) will have some small effect on the overall war. That feature doesn't really blow my socks off, but the next one does. This game supports Facebook integration

While it's just in it's infancy, the basic idea is....you can be at home playing Toy Soldiers, winning battles and earning money towards the war effort, or you can be at work doing the same thing. The facebook version is a little puzzle game (similar to Puzzle Quest or Bejeweled) where you match different colored pieces to form combos. Each piece has a different kind of weapon on it (soldier, tank, plane, bullet, horse, etc). When you get a row of 3 or more, that line will fire its unique power at the enemies who are walking down from the top of the screen like Space Invaders. It's addicting, fun and easy to play a quick game of while you're sitting at your desk wishing you were somewhere else.

Currently, your score just goes towards the overall war effort happening on Xbox Live, but in the future...I could see them doing things like unlocking cash for the Live game while you're playing on Facebook, or maybe unlocking special units. Then of course there's the ever present lure of achievements, which would be great to earn in this puzzle game. Regardless of what they are doing, they got me thinking about the future for this game...which was great.

Overall score 8/10. Very solid game, lots of replayability and a ton of different ways to play. The difficulty is steep, but the rewards of beating a level make it worth it. I got a few achievements below.

Edited 3/9/10--I finally beat that damn TSAR tank and got the achievement that's greyed out below. :-)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Video game number sixty six: Aliens Vs. Predator

Video game review number sixty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Aliens Vs. Predator".

I stopped enjoying the Aliens movies after Winona Ryder showed up. It's not that I don't like her (she's a fantastic actress and a skilled bargain shopper), but I think the movies lost whatever it was that made them great about the time that she got there. I never saw the Aliens vs. Predator movie, nor do I want to. I watched Freddy vs. Jason, which was enough icon "cross-over" for me. If they ever do Batman vs. Superman, I'll watch that...but only if it's the directors of the movies fighting instead of the characters. I'd definitely pay 10 bucks to see Christopher Nolan pimp slap Bryan Singer for making Superman Returns, and I'd pay 14 if it was in 3D.

Anyway, so....I played this game. My first impression? It was too damn dark. My wife walked in while I was playing and when I started complaining about it, she said "The movies are all dark. It's supposed to be scary like the movies".

That's all well and good, but you spend the majority of the first three levels looking at a small circle of light the size of a flashlight beam. The first alien you meet is scary. Every additional one is just annoying. Imagine if you were playing Bioshock (an awesome game that is scary and beautiful at the same time)...but instead of walking you through the city of Rapture, the developers turned off all the lights and made you play the whole thing through 10% of your TV screen. That game would have been lame....and so is this one.

I am aware that you can be an Alien, A Predator or a Marine. Like Starcraft, when given the choice of which race to pick, I always choose the human to learn the mechanics...then I move on to the aliens. In this game, I started with the Marine campaign. It's dark, and filled with lots of "run up these stairs, now run back down them missions". I don't mind linear games, but I hate it when they make you do a 180 in the middle of the mission and run back to where you started. he first three marine missions all do this.

Overall score is 4/10. By the end of my morning with this game, I didn't even want to try the Aliens or the Predators. I may go back to it some time and try them out, but it will be out of curiosity about the powers they have....not a desire to find out what happens in the story. Just like the movies, I don't care about what's happening in the darkness of this game. I blame Winona.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Video game number sixty five: Darwinia+

Video game review number sixty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Darwinia+".

Darwinia is a pretty interesting game that I played on Xbox Live Arcade. You start out in digital world that looks a little like "Tron", where you are given a quest by some strange professor to save the "Darwinians". Everything is very "blocky" in this game, from your little stickman soldiers to the snakes and spiders who will try to kill them. These predators are viruses, infecting the Darwinian computer world, so that all makes sense to me.

There are elements of real-time-strategy to this game (you have to lead your little dudes from point A to point B without them being killed). You have to flip switches to transfer your guys, and clear a path for them using the standard twin stick shooting controls.

I really like the gameplay, but have a major gripe that is making this game frustrating for me. The objective is never clear enough for me. Often, you're supposed to lead the Darwinians somewhere, but there is no clear indicator of where that place is on-screen. The professor narrates your objectives at the beginning of each level, but he never specifically points out your goals. This means that I often ended up with a level completed, all my enemies killed...and I didn't know where to take my Darwinians. Trial and Error doesn't work, because every time you send them in a direction, you lose one. Do that frequently enough and you won't have enough to meet the goal to pass the level.

There are youtube guides I found that walk you through this, but frankly...if you NEED a youtube guide to pass a game, it's probably not the game for you. That's how I feel anyway. I put between 5-10 hours into this one, but progress is very slow because I keep getting stuck. With a few simple UI tweaks (an indicator that shows you your goal, perhaps?)...I think this game could have been great. As it stands, I find it a little bit frustrating...and that's what steered me away from it.

Overall score? 5/10. Great potential...but in my opinion, the campaign is just a bit too confusing. Difficulty is fine, but I don't like completely beating a level and then wondering "Hey, what next?" every time. One of my coworkers beat this all the way through, and he thought it was a really good game. I think this is one of those cases where you should definitely play the demo and see for yourself whether you like it or not. If you have the time to invest in unraveling the mysteries of Darwinia, this game could be awesome. I don't have the time...I want that instant gratification, dammit. :-)

Video game number sixty four: Greed Corps

Video game review number sixty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Greed Corps".

Greed Corps is a turn based strategy game where you control little units, resources and buildings on a map that slowly deteriorates while you try to kill your opponent. I like strategy games from time to time, but this one has no story or anything. They just give you a few units to control, some money...and you're off to the races.

If the units were interesting to look at, or the animations when they killed someone were cool...this might be a cool game. Unfortunately, the graphics in this one look like they were designed for the Gameboy Advanced, and the gameplay moves at a snails pace. The music sounds like a tune you might enjoy if you were in the elevator at a nursing home. I'm not sure why they thought a nice slow jazz song was the perfect background for a combat game, but it plays over and over again. I think that they might possibly be trying to lull you to sleep, so that you'll dream happy thoughts of this game instead of experiencing the sad thoughts you have while actually playing it. This game is totally awesome....in your dreams.

I didn't enjoy this at all. Play the demo before you waste your 10 bucks on it. Overall Rating? 2/10.

Achievement? I got one. They are VERY few and far between in this game...and I have no intention of grinding to get them.

Video game number sixty three: MLB 2K10

Video game review number sixty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "MLB 2K10".

This game was released today and I played it within hours of it going on sale. Why? Because the first person to pitch a perfect game in this game gets a million dollars from the developers. This isn't in-game money, this is actual cash to spend in real life. It's an awesome idea for a contest, and I had to partake. I had never played an MLB 2K game before, but how hard could it really be?

This game was exactly like what I imagine playing in the Major Leagues would really be like for me. I couldn't get a hit to save my life, not even in batting practice. When I was pitching, the batters hit on me like I was the only hooker at a bar filled with sailors on shore leave. When I was on defense, fielding even the easiest hits that came towards me usually resulted in the ball going right by. Even base running was a challenge. This game is fucking hard.

I love baseball, but I haven't played many baseball games since the old school days, mostly because somewhere in there...they got too complicated for me. I miss the "Hit "A" to swing, "B" to pitch" two button games of my youth. These days, you have to time your swing, then move the right stick back and forth...then pray you'll make contact. There's a "classic" control scheme, but it's not much better. I sat in the hitting drills, and threw 80 pitches at my hitter, but I think I only made contact with 4 of them. All of those hits were probably luck.

Pitching is just as hard. It's like pulling off moves in street fighter. It's a button/joystick combo, and you have to get the timing perfect. Again, I went to the drills (which is the closest thing this game has to a training mode)...and I couldn't nail even one pitch. They give you three tries on each of the types, but I never successful threw any of them.

I played a couple of full games, hoping that I might get the hang of it, but the computer scored 6 runs in the first inning in the first game (which I restarted), and then promptly beat me 10-0 in the second game. I suppose that's actually improvement.

My overall rating might surprise a bit. I'm giving it a 6/10. My first instinct was to give it a 2 or something, because I couldn't pick it up and play it. Even a few hours later, I wasn't getting any better. There's no tutorial, the instruction book is worthless....so if you've never played one of these games before, you can expect to suck the big one.

Still, even though I couldn't figure out how to play it...I have to admit that it's a pretty good game. The graphics are amazing (it's like watching a baseball game on TV), and the player rosters are updated in real time. There are modes to create your own player, and an online multiplayer mode to compete against other people online. The controls are impossible for a noob to learn, but I recognize that if I am ever able to get good at this game, I'd probably really enjoy it. I'm too frustrated to keep playing right now, but maybe I'll find someone I know who is good at it, and they can give me some pointers.

I posted a little video of my adventure trying to get a million dollars: It's pretty funny.

Achievements? Somehow...I managed to get a few.