Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 2-2-11

Posted by nfinit on February 3, 2011

So I’m back.

I apologize for leaving you all without updates for the better part of the past month– those of who who keep up with the (sorta) weekly Beardcast know that I’ve spent most of this time vacillating between a rather abrupt apartment move and rocking myself gently back and forth in the nearest dark corner.

Its been… an interesting experience.  And it kinda annoys me in that between Dead Space 2, Venetica, Lost in Shadow, Little Big Planet 2 and IloMilo, this has been a rather strong month for video games, and with Marvel vs Capcom, Test Drive Unlimited 2 and Bulletstorm, February is going to be amazing as well.

I just, y’know.  Wish I were coming back on any one of those other weeks.  Of the four games vgreleases  will admit to knowing about this week:

* One is a Brain Training knockoff, as apparently it is still legal sell Brain Training knockoffs in 2011

* One is a first party game for the Wii and thus releasing Sunday (and is a god damned dirty Wii Sports derivative)

* One is….

I don’t even know what the fuck

* And one happens to be a sequel (to a remake) of one of the best games of all time.  So let’s start there.


Bionic Commando ReArmed 2

Developer:  Fatshark

Publisher:  Capcom

Platforms:  PlayStation Network; Xbox Live Arcade

For the purists freaking out over the inclusion of a jump button– Yes, it is dumb.  No, it should not be there.  But that’s fine, because you don’t need it.  Consider the jump button the same thing as “casual easy” mode on Bayonetta and never pay it any mind.  It’s there for people who don’t understand that the feature they’re using makes the game inherently less fun.  Its like if you took the whip away from Simon Belmont and gave him Megaman’s arm cannon.   Sure it is basically the same game, but what’s the point?

I got to play a little bit of ReArmed 2 when it was demo’ed at NYCC last year.  And if you loved Bionic Commando NES or ReArmed 1, then you’re gong to love this.  If you didn’t love either, well.  You’re going to hate this game. Also you’re destroying America and you make Michelle Obama weep.

All of which makes the inclusion of the jump button rather odd.  Bionic Commando was the videogame that brought us grappling.  Its entire gameplay is based upon the conceit that you can’t just waltz over to any old platform and leap over to it like some uncouth savage like Mario.  No, you had to find a way to grapple or swing your way over to the platform and if you couldn’t reach it then you were less of a man.  Including the jump button isn’t going to make anyone who hated ReArmed love this game.

Also, I’m concerned about these Fatshark guys.  Why Capcom didn’t tap one of the seven different companies formed after the dissolution of GRIN is baffling; I can only assume someone at Capcom is a huge fan of Lead and Gold and is also a raving lunatic.





Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove

Developer: Natsume

Publisher: Natsume

Platforms:  Nintendo DS

Okay so maybe I was being a bit harsh on this week’s selection, as out of four games released you have one very good game and one that’s at least very fucking weird. In this case, Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove, which is a goth loli Elite Beat Agents.

No, really.

What’s neat about this video is how blatant the Natsume spokesman is regarding Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove’s inspiration.  Yup. This is Elite Beat Agents.  And that’s fine; its been over four years since EBA came to America. The statute of limitation on having to pretend you’re doing anything new there has long since run out.  Also it’s good to see the goth community put in a positive light after the horrible damage done by Stephanie Meyer.

Tangentially; if you find yourself in need of a Tim Burton-inspired EBA– and if you’re not, what the fuck is wrong with you– you may want to pick up Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove as soon as you lay eyes on it.  Gamestop refuses to believe this game exists at all and Amazon randomly fluctuates between being in-stock and listing a release date of sometime in early May.  Like 9 Doors this is probably going to wind up one of those late-release niche DS titles that only ships a dozen copies across all fifty states.


Junior Brain Trainer 2

Developer:  Cyber Planet

Publisher:  Maximum Family Games

Platforms:  Nintendo DS

The gods of Nintendo game quality giveth; the gods of Nintendo game quality take away.

So this is apparently  a kid’s version of the rather more compelling (and better selling) Brain Training, although it’s hard to tell exactly what kids they’re trying to sell to.  After all, if your child is cognizant enough to be trusted with a DS, chances are they don’t need help with:

Moving things from one location to another, or:

Identifying deadly animals, or:

Naming the days of the week.

In fact I’m not even quite sure why you’d need a game to explain any of this at all ; although it’s possible that Sesame Street has given up on teaching children that Monday comes before Tuesday in lieu of selling more Elmo merchandise.  Although it does come with a rather sadistic-looking version of Space Invaders:

So maybe there is some small amount of value to this game for parents seeking to teach their children necessary skills.  Although it should be noted that you could buy your child a copy of Space Invaders Extreme for the same price, but that’s probably more of a “cool uncle” gift.  Not that I’m advocating that you buy your child Junior Brain Training 2.  In fact if you do so you’re likely to cause the sort of repressed childhood resentment that doesn’t become exposed until it comes time to pick out your retirement home.



Mario Sports Mix

Developer:  Square Enix

Publisher:  Nintendo

Platforms:  Nintendo Wii

Hey kids, remember the days when Nintendo would release well-polished, full-sized single-sport Mario sports games?  Yeah well it’s 2011, Wii Sports made more money than Coca-Cola and Squeenix needs a paycheck or they can’t finish Final Fantasy 14.

Mario Sports Mix is probably decent enough; although you’ve no doubt noticed the distinct lack of a Motion Plus sticker.  Also it’s weird that Squeenix has at some point become Nintendo’s go-to third party developer for basketball games instead of, y’know.  Mario roleplaying games.

Square Enix’s collaboration does allow for interesting roster updates.  In addition to the usual incestuous Mario franchise mix, you get a rang of cutsey Final Fantasy figures such as White Mage, Ninja, Black Mage and Moogle, as well as Dragon Quest’s iconic Slime.  This also now means that the shared Mario Basketball universe not only includes every NBA starter from 2005, but also most of the cast of 8-Bit Theatre.

The roster of events in Mario Sports Mix is sort of bullshit.  Nevermind the bit where Reggie had no idea that Nintendo had previously released a basketball game, a lot of these games seem like lazy copies of one another.  Take for instance the inclusion of field hockey and ice hockey.  What sort of asshole is going to willingly play field hockey when ice hockey is sitting right there?  They’re probably even using the same physics and just a green field texture instead of white.  The game has volleyball but also dodgeball, which is basically volleyball where you aim at people instead of the ground.

All of which makes the lack of a tennis mode all the more baffling.  I mean, the Volleyball court is sitting right there. The only rational conclusion is that Squeenix fears Camelot.


This funny feeling in my pants can only mean that TEST DRIVE UNLIMITED 2 is on it’s way!

HYPERDIMENSION NEPTUNE sure does look like a NIS PS3 exclusive JRPG, yessir.

If everyone is playing YOU DON’T KNOW JACK does it mean there’s still time to stop myself from trading in Chrono Trigger to Babbage’s?


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Sadly not Enslaved to Quality

Posted by nfinit on January 29, 2011

I could go on at length about my depths of disappointment in Ninja Theory’s action/adventure/platformer/third person shooter/Andy Serkis simulator Enslaved (and I assure you I will), but I can sum up my feelings for this game thus:

The sequel would have been amazing.

Sadly that sequel was not meant to be. Namco has since sworn off western development.  Enslaved itself became a bargain-bin darling a month after it launched.  Which is all the more frustrating as the basic foundations for an good videogame are there.  But  the things Ninja Theory got wrong, they got very, very wrong.

Behold The Nanny State Platforming Experience

Enslaved’s platforming is unique in that there’s no platforming involved at all.  There’s no pixel-perfect jumps for your character (Andy Serkis’ fine performance as “Monkey”) to perform; no daring leaps of faith as you shimmy from one ledge to another.  Enslaved’s platforming is built around handholds.  Sometimes they’re presented as conveniently placed pipes or chunks of bulging masonry, or unreasonably hard-to-reach access panels.  Or sometimes just highly suspect handles protruding randomly from the environment.

I’m not actually upset at this design.  If it were put into a game where you were encouraged to explore your could lead to a lot of interesting moments where you find your own way through a level by exploiting the game’s geometry, a la Assassin’s Creed. But Enslaved doesn’t let you explore.  There is one path as you move from handhold to handhold.  Furthermore it’s impossible to miss a handhold– the game simply will not let you jump if you’re not aimed at the next handhold in the sequence, even if you see another handhold you know for a fact Monkey is capable of reaching.

Not nearly as dangerous as you’d think

Platforming in Enslaved usually breaks down to Monkey reaching out in random directions as the player mashes the jump button, desperately hoping to find the next valid handhold.  This mechanic is slow and clumsy and teaches the player that the only things worth looking around for are is shimmering edges of an usable handhold.  In any sane platforming game a new area is an invitation to exploration– in Enslaved it’s just something you endure as you wander around trying to start the handhold sequence.

This could easily be made into something that worked, provided Ninja Theory were willing to allow the player to actually fail at a platforming segment.  Open up all the available handholds and encourage the player to explore and abandon the tightly scripted gameplay model that ensures every player will encounter 90% of the game’s content.

Enslaved’s platforming is something you stumble through between combat sections.  That’s problematic, as the combat is also horrible.

Devil May Cry.  (And So May We).

Like any fan of Hideki Kamiya’s Devil May Cry series I was deeply concerned that Capcom had tapped Ninja Theory for the franchise reboot, a decision seemingly based entirely off of Ninja Theory’s name and not their pedigree.  There was nothing present in Ninja Theory’s aggressively mediocre 3rd person brawler Heavenly Sword  to indicate that the company should be entrusted with Devil May Cry.   I came into Enslaved knowing about its particular platforming problems, but I hoped to gain some insight onto what we could expect out of Ninja Theory’s take on Devil May Cry.

The future does not look promising.

Don’t let Monkey’s cool practiced demeanor with the quarterstaff fool you. He’s about to die.

Enslaved’s platforming is clumsy and mash-happy at the worst of times, but Enslaved’s combat is like that all the time.  What’s worse, the  combat is quite difficult.  Whereas you have to go out of your way to find a fail condition in Enslaved’s platforming sections, death awaits at the most basic of Enslaved’s many combat encounters..

Enslaved’s combat isn’t mashy in the fun, cathartic Darksiders sort of way where you could just randomly alternate between strong and weak attacks and make neat stuff happen.  Quite the opposite.  It’s mashy in the way where Monkey doesn’t respond quickly enough in any encounter and you’re never sure what result you’ll get out of any particular fight.  Fighting in Enslaved is clumsy and slow and largely ineffective.  Combine this with a recalcitrant camera and an utter lack of a lock-on targeting system and you wind up with the most frustrating, un-fun combat experience imaginable that doesn’t involve an MMA pay per view featuring Herschel Walker.

Quality Assurance Not Assured

Here’s a litany of other issues with Enslaved that I can’t be bothered to go into length dissecting as I’d rather be playing Bayonetta instead:

* Enslaved may have the worst camera ever devised.  And brother, I know bad cameras.  I played Ninja Gaiden.  Enslaved gives you a camera that will fight all attempts to move it into position.  Want to search around the level looking for upgrade orbs?  “Fuck you”, says the camera “I’m going to firmly affix myself to six feet behind you for no apparent reason”.  Getting lit up by a machine gun somwhere off screen?  The camera thinks it’s far more important you stare at this handhold instead.   Want to pan the camera down so you can see if the ledge your standing on is a valid drop-down point?  No, the camera would much rather you pay attention to the painstakingly-crafted ruins of midtown Manhattan.  The Enslaved camera is a fucking asshole, and if you were to somehow meet this camera in real life you would gladly suffer whatever legal proceedings would take place after breaking its nose.

* The hover board is without a doubt the most fun part of Enslaved.  It’s unique in the world of platforming adventure games, it feels empowering to use, and you could easily see how something along these same basic lines could make a Sonic game work in 3d.  Sadly you only use it a handful of times and the game’s logic never bothers to explain how or why you’re allowed to use it.  In fact there are areas where you cannot access the hover board only to have the hover board at your disposal moments later when you use it to enter a scripted chase sequence.

This! Give me seven hours of this! Sega please….aww, screw it.

* Enslaved has more random texture pop-in than a Mass Effect 1 playthrough operated by someone on a three-day meth bender.  What’s worse, texture pop-in will show up during cutscenes Ninja Theory had to know were plagued with pop-in.  I recall an instance where Monkey finds himself in the ruins of a ballroom, with the camera fixed lovingly on a long shot of a disco ball, a scene no doubt meant to contrast the lush ruins with a glimmering relic of ancient technology.  This would have worked wonderfully had the game not required five seconds to render the disco ball properly; as if it were a castoff piece of level geometry from Mario 64.

* Sometimes the game will autosave after an mid-level checkpoint.  Sometimes the game will autosave after a cutscene.  Sometimes it won’t do any of these things at all and the next time you turn on the game you’ll find yourself at the very start of the level.  It’s impossible to tell as the game gives you noindication of when it’s performing a save.  Heaven help the player who happens to turn off the console during one of these mysterious, unseen autosave events.

* Enslaved is roughly six hours long; but there’s an upgrade system and an achievement for collecting all possible upgrade orbs.  However, there is no New Game Plus system present, meaning there’s no encouragement to play through the game a second time, provided you were masochistic enough to engage in such self-destructive activity.

* I cannot explain the depths of my loathing for this game’s ending without spoiling it.  Instead, just imagine all the most disappointing bits of Matrix Reload.  Then, find or create an open wound and rub road salt into it.  Then you’ll be somewhat close to my experience with Enslaved’s ending.  The emotional trauma induced by Enslaved’s ending is inescapable without psychotropic drugs and/or repeated visits to a mental health professional..

Wait, There Was Something Good Here?

So I started this by saying that Enslaved’s stillborn sequel would have been amazing, and if you’ve read through all this it sounds like I’m ahypocrite.  After all, this game fails spectacularly at the two things an action/adventure game needs to get right– exploration and combat.   But I played through Enslaved in three sittings over two days.  Something had to be there to keep my attention for that long.

Enslaved may not be a fundamentally good game as much as it is a fundamentally good experience.  Enslaved’s level design and art style make tooling through it’s lush desolation an enthralling experience.  Up until the final five minutes the story is decent enough, and the characters are fantastic.

Assassin’s Creed is the best example I can provide.  The first Assassin’s Creed was a dire game.  It was repetitive, the combat was atrocious, and the platforming elements, although fundamentally sound, were not enough to carry the rest.  But the sequel was amazing, a legitimately great game, and all it took was an overhaul to the combat system and a greater variety of stuff to do.  The basic foundation was fine.  All Resident Evil games prior to 4 are also good examples– sometimes all it takes is  fine-tuning one core aspect of your game to turn what is a frustrating gameplay experience into a true classic.

Turning this basic idea into an awful videogame was actually quite impressive and ranks with efforts such as Mirror’s Edge and the final five minutes of Battlestar Galactica.

So should you, the intrepid reader, play Enslaved?  Absolutely not.  I inflict such horrors to myself to satisfy my intellectual curiosity, and now I have no reason whatsoever to be interested in the next installment of Devil May Cry.  Ninja Theory may be excellent at building characters and worlds and atmosphere, but they may not be capable of making a good videogame.  Even as a b-level videogame experience like Deadly Premonition, Enslaved falls short.  There’s entirely too much promise to Enslaved to be enjoyed on an ironic level.

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Wallet Abuse Friday 1-7-11

Posted by nfinit on January 7, 2011

Get Fit with Mel B
Developer: Deep Silver
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: PlayStation 3

The most damning aspect of Move and Kinect is that no longer can you relegate stuff like “Get Fit With Mel B” into the Wii ghetto and move on with your life. No, now this thing is sitting there next to Red Dead Redemption and Vanquish and other real video games, cheapening everyone in the process. But mainly me.

I don’t even know what Mel B brings to the table aside an endorsement from a woman that I want very badly to kick my ass

Let’s see what the official website has to say for itself:

Good Game

Get Fit with Mel B is arguably the best overall fitness game on the market. Unparalleled graphics and replayability.

—DieHard GameFAN

Yeah, y’know, because DieHard GameFAN is your go-to source for news and opinion on sports and fitness products.


Get Fit with Mel B is the best option out there for getting fit with a video game.

—Universal Gaming Database

Okay there’s no way the “Universal Gaming Database” actually exists, right?


So not only did Deep Silver submit a review simply to procure a pull quote for their own game, they couldn’t even be bothered to give their own game five stars. Deep Silver could have pulled this exact same trick with Giant Bomb’s editable database and gave themselves a Giant Bomb endorsement; although that’s assuming Giant Bomb wouldn’t issue a cease and desist within twenty minutes of publishing said pull quote.

The real loser here is, as always, DieHard GameFAN, who’s now been reduced to being mentioned in the same company as The Universal Gaming Database, Gaming Props, and The Totally Gaming Network. Also in wholly unrelated news, my blog at Big Red Coat is totally available for pull quotes! All I require is a modest monetary reward. Or free games. Or Taco Bell coupons.

(Also it’s entirely possible this game was actually a launch title for Move and should not be in this edition of WAW at all. Sometimes is weird like that; stuff will appear in it’s database and not disappear for months despite launching in twelve different territories across all major platforms. To be perfectly fair I just wanted to post pictures of Mel B and take potshots at Dave Halverson.

Lost in Shadow
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Konami
Platform: Wii

The PS3 is getting fitness programs; the Wii is getting third party games I want to play, Pete Carrol is taking a 7-9 team into the NFL playoffs and the President of the United States of America is a an open fan of Micheal Vick. It’s a weird world.

What’s not weird, however, is the idea of you buying Lost in Shadow. Like right fucking now. Put down your laptop or iPad or whatever, give Best Buy forty bucks, and come home with one of the most inventive and charming 2d platformers to come along since… well since Epic Yarn two months ago, but that’s not the point!


Stop being an asshole! Give Konami your money right now! Do it before Hudson remembers they used to make Bonk games! OH GOD TOO LATE

Look, the point is, Hudson has killed before and will kill again. They need to be rewarded for good behavior as much as they need their offices firebombed whenever they release a new Bomberman game.

Also how does it work out that the Wii wound up with the strongest lineup of 2d platformers since the early 90’s SNES? Super Mario Brothers Wii, Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Waggle, A Boy and His Blob, Cave Story and now Lost In Shadow.

Yet somehow Team Meat decided that this was the one platform they couldn’t sell Super Meat Boy on. I mean, I’m usually not one to complain about third parties abandoning the Wii as it’s hard to blame a dev for not wanting to compete against Nintendo on their own platform when XBLA is sitting right there, but it’s hard to imagine there wasn’t some sort of way to sell Super Meat Boy on the Wii given the fact that it’s become the go-to system for retro-themed games this console generation.

Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Osborne House
Developer: Frog Games
Publisher: THQ
Platforms: DS

One of the interesting– well, not interesting. Let’s say “neat”. But “neat” doesn’t mean anything, either. Okay, one of the things I’ve found out while doing WAW every week is that there exists this strange cottage industry of Nintendo DS adventure games; usually based on IP that’s long since passed into the public domain, but all roughly the same; based around a series of rote puzzle mini games loosely tied around a central narrative that only old people and very shy children who’ve spent too much time in the company of old people could possibly enjoy.

While it would be very easy for me to dismiss Mystery of Osborne House as another of these by-the-numbers adventure titles (provided you can even fairly call these “adventure” games without horribly offending the memory of Full Throttle and Grim Fandango), I’m stopped short– With the popularity of Professor Layton, perhaps Frog Games was inspired to create something with verve and artistry instead of an excuse to give retirees another six solid hours of pipe puzzles.

And with that you think maybe Frog games is trying this time– after all, that’s not just good art; that’s an actual art unique art style. Maybe Frog Games finally gets it, maybe they’re willing to pull these poor lost proto-gamers fromotheir comfortable, quilt-lined shells and–


(while we’re on the subject, we’re all in agreement that the mini games in Bioshock/Bioshock 2 were the only interesting pipe maze games, right? There’s something to be said for the tension created when you know if you fuck up you’ll be on the receiving end of a rocket-propelled grenade. Maybe this is the sort of thing Frog Games needs to expand into; providing hacking mini games to other developers. God knows Fallout 3/New Vegas could benefit from an hacking gameplay mechanic that didn’t involve trying one letter combination and immediately backing out and restarting if you didn’t succeed on the first try)

Developer: SouthEnd Interactive (Not to be mistaken for SouthPeak Interactive)
Publisher: Microsoft Gaming Studios
Platforms: XBLA

I’m trying to get into IloMilo but it just seems way too complicated for it’s own good. There’s a lot of mechanics to keep track of in 3d space and the way the two “ends” of each puzzle operate as you bring Ilo and Milo together was difficult for me to get my mind around during the demo. But I rarely “get” this type of game, so don’t let my inability to enjoy IloMilodissuade any of you; it’s obvious the developers loved making this game and that warmth permeates everything about IloMilo. If super-cute 3d puzzlers are what you’re into it’s hard to find a better example on XBLA at the moment.

Developer: TastyPlay
Publisher: Beatshapers
Platforms: PlayStation Network

So I don’t want to say that a downloadable title on PlayStation Network validates Move as a gaming platform, but–


This looks very much like an actual videogame.

The fact that StarDrone also exists on iPhone sort of harms this argument; it’s hard for me to believe that any sort of waggle integration is justifiable if the game isn’t built from the ground up to exploit motion control. But still, I get very much of a Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved feel from StarDrone, and Retro Evolved was pretty much the best (and only) argument for Xbox Live Arcade for months after the 360 was released.

(also, if you’re Nintendo, aren’t you concerned that this thing came out on Move three months after it’s launch instead of on four years ago on the Wii? How does Nintendo keep letting this sort of thing happen? I miss the evil Nintendo of old that would have simply left a Wii Dev kit sitting on Beat Shaper’s doorstep along with a note explaining how many copies of StarDrone they should expect to sell in order to pay it back.)


KINGDOM HEARTS RE:CODED is probably the last thing on earth I want to talk about that does not actively involve bowel movements

VENETICA looks suspiciously like the first instance of an HD videogame someone might want to pay actual money for in 2011.

GHOST TRICK is something you should buy but probably won’t because you’re a jerk who hates good things.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday Year in Review Part 2

Posted by nfinit on December 29, 2010

**June **

It was right around here where we realized something was amiss.

Peace Walker and Sin and Punishment 2 provided quality hardcore gaming experiences on their respective consoles (and no one cared), Alpha Protocol gave a strong argument against any further attempts by Bethesda to develop it’s own intellectual property, and Green Day Rock Band will best be remembered as the slight scraping noise barely heard above the band in the Titanic’s ballroom.

Microsoft unveiled Kinect just prior to E3 in a garish, surreal media event featuring lighted ponchos, levitating suburban families, and a parade of nightmare-inducing forest spirits. This was merely the beginning of Microsoft’s half-billion dollar advertising blitzkrieg designed to promote Kinect, a sum of money sufficient to buy every speck of dry land that comprises Micronesia.


Sony tried to counter Microsoft’s momentum by revealing their own motion controller, simply dubbed the Move. Like everything else Sony’s done since the launch of the PS3, The Move felt more like something Sony was forced into rather than part of an comprehensive strategy, a fact apparent to anyone who has perused the Move software section of their local Best Buy.

Not that E3 was a total parade of failure. During Nintendo’s traditional announcement of DS hardware revisions Nintendo actually announced a brand new system, the 3DS, helpfully signalling to the gaming masses that they could wait at least two years on the 3DSi before buying a new Nintendo handheld.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Alpha Protocol)

But that’s a tangent for another time. What I do find interesting is the parallels you can make between the complaints voiced for Alpha Protocol and the stuff we all overlooked for another, beloved game, Deus Ex. Good writing, fundamentally bad gameplay (until at least you put some points into your skillset), good universe, an abnormal amount of 3dclunkiness– the important distinguishing characteristic between the two being that Dues Ex was released a dozen years ago, before we accepted the idea that a game can have maintain excellent RPG elements and also some semblance of competent shooter-based gameplay. I somehow doubt Deus Ex would have been as well received in a post-Mass Effect world.

I’d like to take this moment to apologize to all fans of Deus Ex; anyone who has ever played Deus Ex; any game store clerk to ever come in contact with a box containing the game Deus Ex; Warren Spector; Warren Spector’s dog; the fictional construct “JC Denton”; anyone reading or associated with Big Red Coat; my mother; and Tim Berners-Lee, for cheapening the internet with my diseased, ill-formed opinions.


I’m not going to say July was a total waste; at least we got Dragon Quest IX and Limbo out of it, but the only boxed console release of note was Crackdown, which was notable for being Crackdown 1, only somehow worse. Somehow I managed to summon enough interest in games to find something to say about July’s releases, a Herculean effort that I’m sure all my fans appreciate, even if none of you actually cared enough to send me money or videogames or booze or high quality nylon fetish pornography.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Arc Rise Fantasia)

Which I suppose is about right, as Arc Rise Fantasia is as generic as a generic JRPG can possibly be, and most of it’s hopes pin on the fact that not very many games like it exist for the Wii and this is possibly the last JRPG release of note for the system until The Last Story, which won’t come out until sometime shortly before President Newt Gingrich’s first midterm election.

This would appear to be a risky foundation on which to build your hopes upon– after all, if you’re a JRPG fiend who happens to also only be a Wii-exclusive gamer is about as common as a Gran Turismo addict who’s Wii-only. Moreover, the supposed success of ARF leads to troubling questions about our own industry– if ARF can succeed on a recipe of exclusiveness and mediocrity, what does this mean for Kinect?

That said, ARF provides what promises to be Perfectly Acceptable Gaming provided you can ignore it’s “Jill-the-master-of-unlocking” level of voice acting, it’s mid-generation PS2-level graphics, the fact that it relies on the Classic Controller to play properly

Turns out ARF isn’t just generic; it’s actively terrible, as archived by Nitrobeard’s own Imran Kahn.

**THE LOST MONTHS: August and September**

Videogame publishing companies are operated by old men who remember a childhood where children willingly spent Summer outside and active instead of inside and in front of an air conditioner; as a result few games are released during the Summer break. This becomes a problem in October when these same people realize they’ve neglected to sell a single game in the preceding three months and desperately scramble to have games out for the Holiday season before they are forced to file for bankruptcy.

The result of this insane system are games like Enslaved which enjoy a three week long window where they can be realistically sold for full price. Whereas if any of the October games had released a month earlier they would own the field because no one releases games in September other than Bungie.

This Summer was especially abhorrent for PlayStation 3 owners. At least Wii gamers got to argue over the relative merits of Metroid: Other M while 360 owners enjoyed the annual ritual of convincing themselves Halo is still relevant. What did PS3 owners have to enjoy? Kane and Lynch 2? That thing lasted all of five hours. Dead Rising 2 came out, but I have a hard time believing it was easy to be excited about Dead Rising 2 without exposure to the first game. Valkyria Chronicles saw a sequel, but that was for the PlayStation Portable.

For my part I spent most of the Summer obsessing over Persona 4 instead of, you know. Writing. Sorry about that.


So after a four month period where the best title released was– what? Dead Rising 2?– we were presented with four weeks of the following:

*Shantae: Risky’s Revenge
*Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
*NBA Jam
*Fallout: New Vegas
*Costume Quest
*Super Meat Boy
*Rock Band 3
*Fable 3
*Bit.Trip FATE
*Super Scribblenauts
*Kirby’s Epic Yarn
*Enslaved: Journey to the West

And that’s not even touching on random shit like Comic Jumper or EA MMA or the sequence of events the lead up to this:

If you’re Platinum Games do you really think it made sense to release Vanquish on the same day as New Vegas instead of releasing it sometime in August and dominating the gaming media for at least two weeks? What’s the point of releasing Rock Band 3 so soon after Green Day? And I’m almost positive Enslaved was already on sale for forty bucks by the time Black Friday rolled around.

Meanwhile between Super Meat Boy, Comic Jumper, Shantae, Costume Quest and Bit.Trip FATE we had the strongest month for downloadable console in recent memory.

On the bright side, sales figures for October would reveal more people cared about New Vegas than did Medal of Honor, so there’s some hope for quality gaming amid the dudebro hordes. On the other hand, over half a million people were tricked into buying Fable 3. I don’t know how to explain that other than either the Xbox 360 userbase is largely comprised of easily fooled simpletons or there is a disturbingly large contingent of English people within North America buying terrible, terrible videogames.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month (re: New Vegas)

I’m trying very hard to stay optimistic about New Vegas, but this is an Obsidian Games joint and in the wake of Alpha Protocol there’s every chance that Obsidian is a bad studio. I mean, let’s look at the record:

Alpha Protocol: Complete, irredeemable shit

Neverwinter Nights 2: Good, albeit fantastically glitchy despite the engine and setting being handed over whole cloth from NWN1

Knights of the Old Republic 2: Fantastic as an RPG, probably better than the first KOTOR, but also buggy as a Brooklyn used mattress store and obviously releasing incomplete (despite again the engine and setting being established in KOTOR 1)

I dunno. It’s entirely possible that New Vegas is an outstanding game, you just can’t deny Obsidian’s dubious pedigree. And it’s not like Obsidian is exactly working with the most stable engine ever created– Fallout 3 had some rather astounding issues with free-world jank:

Turns out I’m an idiot and New Vegas is an improvement over Fallout 3 in almost every conceivable measure. The only problem? Two years is not nearly enough time between open-world CRPGs of this magnitude set in the same universe. Sure New Vegas is by far the superior Fallout 3 experience; but playing it this soon after FO3 almost seems like a chore.

I mean, it’s a fantastic chore full of mohawk-sporting hookers with electrical tape pasted over their jibblies, but still. That’s a whole lot of game, and as with most Western-developed RPGs of it’s nature it’s impossible to see all the sides of the story on a single run. Thankfully sales for New Vegas have been strong and the general public does not agree with my insane opinion on the matter; but I still feel like everyone involved would have been better served had the game went through another six months of bugfixes or at least find a way to make sure buildings make contact with the surface geometry of Nevada 90% of the time.


The good news is, November gave us the year’s best 3d platformer in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the best arcade racer in Need For Speed; Hot Pursuit, and the year’s best game of Snake in Pac-Man Championship Edition Deluxe.

The bad news is everything else fell off a cliff.

That’s not to say November didn’t also have a ton of games; it’s just that the games released were either awful or pandering mainstream crap. November saw the culmination of Microsoft’s five-hundred-million-dollar Kinect advertising campaign, resulting in Kinect Adventures (a high definition copy-and-paste of Wii Sports), Kinect Joy Ride (the racing game that plays itself), and Kinectimals (the Eyepet-meets-Viva Pinata crossbreed brought to you by the shambling corpse of the studio once responsible for Jet Force Gemini.)

Blood Stone was released, resulting in the immediate dissolution of Bizarre Creations. Eight million people people bought Call of Duty: Black Ops. The less said about Epic Mickey the better. After mos of a decade in development Gran Turismo 5 was released, featuring a car list of eight thousand vehicles, seven hundred and ninety three of which were imported from Motor Toon Gran Prix

November served as the culmination to the ominous, shadowy warning delivered by the videogame publishing industry at E3. In October the hardcore had thier fun; November was when the bills were paid, and if rumblings from Microsoft are to be believed then 2011 looks a lot more like November 2010 than October 2010.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month (re: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood)

So I finally got around to playing Assassin’s Creed 2 this year, and I admit I was totally wrong about that game– it’s an improvement in every conceivable way over AC1 and I’d have no problem saying it was last year’s premiere action game over Arkham Asylum.

And the great thing about AC2’s gameplay was that it was solidly a single-player game. There was none of the gameplay or design choices that crop up when you build a multiplayer game in mind– Instead Ubisoft Montreal presented us an open-world Prince Of Persia; a rare combination of intricate sandbox gameplay with intense 3d platforming action. It was so good that I didn’t even mind the silly and distracting sci-fi Dan Brown-meets-Minority Report story that wrapped around AC2.

Suffice to say it’s not the sort of game where I played it and thought “what this needs is deathmatch”

Which is pretty much what we’re getting with Brotherhood. Admittedly more of a good thing is still a good thing– It’s not like they’ve stripped out the single player game for Brotherhood, this game continues Enzio’s story through Rome, which sounds pretty fantastic. But I also have to think that with only a year of development time provided– and Ubisoft splitting the game between five different developers just to get another Assassin’s Creed through the door for 2010– that the game can’t help but suffer. It’s also entirely possible that Brotherhood was what caused Patrice Desilets to flee Ubisoft and that can’t possibly be a good sign.

Yeah, I was wrong about this one, too. Turns out Brotherhood is probably the best Assassin’s Creed to date, even if the multiplayer sections don’t work well. Who knew that slapping a game of Assassin Tycoon into the middle of Prince of Persia-meets-Splinter Cell would work?


No one releases games in December unless you’re Nintendo and have managed to turn trolling your own fanbase into a viable business strategy. Which is also why I’ve spent the past four weeks recapping crap instead of being bothered to find witty things to say about Tron: Evolution and/or Jam City Rollergirls








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Wallet Abuse Retrospective Part 1

Posted by nfinit on December 22, 2010

Alright kids, it’s the final weeks of 2010 and while we’re way past the point in the holiday season where any sane publisher would bother releasing anything, I’m sure that’s not stopped someone like Capcom or Square from–

Okay we are not talking about this week’s games.

Instead since we’re near the end of the year I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back on the year that was in gaming, the regrettable purchases we all made, and the stupid, stupid things I said that I wish I could take back but will leave in here anyway because it’s easy content.  And subce next week’s slate of games looks like this:

We’re going to make this a two-parter.


Two Thousand and Ten started off with what may as well be the best non-holiday month of gaming ever. I mean, just look at this lineup:


*Mass Effect 2

*No More Heroes 2


*Army of One: 40th Day

*MAG (Just kidding. No one ever cared about MAG.)

*Tatsunoko vs Capcom

*and Windy x Windham, a little-known DS fighter based on the similarly little kown Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, who is herself a hot anime lesbian chick.

Even if you’re strictly a Nintendo-or-bust kind of gamer, there’s at least two games released in January that are part of your permanent collection; and chances are if you’re reading this then you own at least four of these games. Two of them– Bayonetta and Mass Effect 2– are legit GOTY contenders and indeed these very two games wound up Nitrobeard co-GOTY.

Of course not even in the month that brought us this

and this

did everything go perfectly. Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond was released, pretty much confirming what we all feared true about Vicious Cycle software and Dark Void was so bad Keiji Inafune left Capcom 10 months later. Okay so those two may be completely unrelated events, but man was that game awful.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Darksiders)

Which is too bad, as Darksiders might not suck– Or at the very least, it’ll suck quantfiiably less than Dante’s Inferno, yet at the same time it’s destined to drop to $20 inside of two months and shoved into that bottom Gamestop shelf where the clerks just stack games with the spines facing out alongside between Brutal Legend and X-Blades. Not that I’m saying you should buy this game– I mean god no, Bayonetta comes out this week– But it’s a solid “hey I got twenty bucks left on this gift card” choice.

Which was, of course, complete horseshit. I wound up buying that thing for $40, and while I don’t regret that decision it’s also something that’s going to be far more well-regarded than it actually deserves, especially come this time next year when the inevitable sequel is released. It wasn’t so much that Darksiders was bad; it’s just doesn’t do anything at all remarkable with the whole “Dark Zelda” theme. It gives out way too many gameplay mehanics, most of which are only used for the level they’re introduced in, and by the time you collect all your powers and feel truly empowered the game is over.


Between Heavy Rain, Deadly Premonition and Dante’s Inferno, February will be remembered as The Month That Tried Too Hard. We hadn’t seen as much overwrought pretentious bullshit since the music video for Bring Me To Life was released and the world became aware of Amy Lee’s boobs.

Not that February was a total loss. Wii owners at least got Data East Arcade Classics, a disc full of games with which I’m still seething with envy that are not present in some way on XBLA or PSN, and Chime was released, an oustanding rhythm/puzzle game hybrid you should probably be playing right now instead of reading this. Also at some point during the month the DS game World Cup of Pool compelled me to post this:

which I assure you all was not some sort of perverse attempt to land google searches for Shanelle Loraine to my site.

Shanelle Loraine.

Shanelle Loraine

Please marry me, Shanelle Loraine.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Bioshock 2)

I’ve already made my disgust for this game clear– simply put, it doesn’t need to exist, it shouldn’t exist, the original game is the very last thing you want to make a franchise out of and it’s all a horrible example of how videogame publishers continue to Miss The Point.

And after y’know… playing the game, I’ve come to peace with Bioshock 2. Okay yes, it probably didn’t need to be made. But then neither do nine out of every ten games you see lined up at Gamestop; it’s not like 2k Marin should be demonized for picking up where Ken Levine left off and getting paid in the process. Yeah, the story doesn’t quite live up to Bioshock 1’s standards, but the final fourth of Bioshock 1 didn’t exactly do that either, and this story is at least better than everything that happens in Bioshock 1 after The Twist. And it’s even a good videogame, even if “being a good videogame” isn’t exactly what Bioshock is supposed to be about. There are some moments to Bioshock 2 that are very human, very touching, and I don’t regret going back to Rapture a second time.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, Bioshock Infinite is going to be the game we were all wanting instead; but we can’t really blame 2k Marin for trying.


Although March gave us a number of standout titles– the excellent Just Cause 2 and Metro 2033 spring to mind– It will mostly be remembered for a trimuverate of disappointment.

God of War 3 was promised by David Jaffe to “look like a painting come to life” and to be an epic conclusion to Kratos’ bloody rampage through Greek mythology. Instead it turned out to be as rote as a very rote thing can be; and was mostly notable for the sheer number of gods that Kratos manages to dispatch without hardly any effort at all. GoW3 added nothing of note to the series in terms of gameplay or refinement; something that was all the more noticeable when compared to Bayonetta and even Darksiders. Even the final battle with Zeus was uninspired and anti-climatic; punctuated with an awkward, hard-to-enjoy 2.5d brawler segment and a finale that allowed you to to wale on Zeus’s skull until you got bored and wanderd off to do something better.

Final Fantasy 13 apologists can finally throw in the towel. Yoichi Wada is now openly apologizing for allowing horrible Final Fantasy games to be made and that the situation is so bad they’re going to have to rebrand everything.

Fuck you, Game Room.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening)

Bioware seems to be taking the best of all worlds approach with Dragon Age Origins, releasing sporadic DLC packs that keeps the game fresh at retail and still providing big hefty expansion packs larger than most full single-player action games. This approach would also seem to reveal a glimpse into how developers are gaming the current economy.

If only. Turns out this may be the last worthwhile thing Bioware is going to do with the Dragon Age franchise in general: Since the release of Awakening we’ve learned that Dragon Age 2 will only have on playable main character with one backstory; that most of the RPG battle elements have been eliminated and that it’s been deemed that enemy stats are too confusing for gamers to be trusted with, so those are gone too. What we’re going to be left with is Dynasy Warriors with an excellent dialog system.


I’m not sure if you can say any standout titles were released in April, although Super Street Fighter IV shipped, which is either awesome because you love Street Fighter and Capcom, or awful because you think Capcom never should be put themselves in a situation where this update had to be released on disc instead of DLC. Also Nier was released– if you can’t quite remember what Nier was, it’s the super depressing Cavia action JRPG that gave us this:

…there’s a guy demon living somewhere in there, which either horrifies you or intrigues you, depending on which end of the Kinsey Scale your sexuality resides on. I won’t judge. Actually April was a rather outstanding month for downloadable titles, Capcom’s befuddling misunderstanding of the nature of DLC aside. Both Afterburner Climax and Final Fight: Double Impact were relased, both of which should reside on your 360 or PlayStation 3 hard drives as we speak. Also Nintendo tried and failed to make people care about Monster Hunter in America; although they probably could have tried harder.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Splinter Cell Conviction)

All this said, there’s not a whole lot of games left that do what Splinter Cell Conviction does. We haven’t seen a new Thief game in roughly forever, Metal Gear Solid is less about stealth these days and more about Hideo Kojima’s insane action movie plots, and Assassin’s Creed isn’t so much a stealth game as it is about parkour and swordfighting. So Conviction might not only wind up the best stealth game of the year, but barring some sort of Street Fighter IV-like revival of the genre, may very well be the best stealth game of this console generation.

I don’t understand why I keep forgetting that Arkham Asylum had an outstanding stealth element bundled into it’s 3d medroidvania brawling and is easily the best stealth game on an HD console. Or maybe it’s not, as there’s no way I’m actually going to spend money on Conviction. But at any rate between the Assassin’s Creed series and Arkham Asylum/City, it’s not actually a bad generation for stealth games; it’s just that developers have stopped making stealth only games in favor of making stealth an element you can partake in instead of killing everyone on the level. Which is kinda the exact opposite tact the end of Conviction takes when stealth becomes wholly useless and you’re forced to gun down every living in Washington DC.


May was another outstanding month for games, as both my other game of the year, Red Dead Redemption was released as well as Alan Wake, which itself is winding up on more than a few GOTY lists. It was also a good month for unintended hilarity as the wonderfully broken Alpha Protocol proceeded to scare the living shit out of everyone who was looking forward to Fallout: New Vegas later in the year. 3d Dot Game Heros was sort of great, and even Wii owners found something to be excited about in Trauma Team Wii. And also something something Mario Galaxy 2 something.

It wasn’t a good month for Bizarre Ceations however, as their otherwise decent Mario-kart-but-with-BMWs racer Blur was released in the same three month span that gave us the far flashier Split/Second and PS3 darling ModNation Racers. In between the failures of Blur and Blood Stone, Activision would openly discuss the necessity of shutting down or selling off the developer before the end of the year.

Most Regrettable Thing I Said During the Month: (re: Alan Wake)

Okay so sour grapes aside– after all, its probably not fair to judge a game based on what was promised instead of what’s presented– Alan Wake has a lot going for it, even if Brad himself said that the combat wears out it’s welcome and it’s entirely possible to finish inside a weekend. Reviews almost universally praise the storytelling elements and the writing, and the atmosphere is frankly incredible. So it looks like it’s one of those games that really needs to be experienced, if not exactly for the gameplay itself. And that’s fine; 360 fanboys need an answer to Heavy Rain. While I look forward to playing Alan Wake there’s no way I’m going to do so for sixty bucks.

As per my premise for Wallet Abuse, I was being entirely too harsh on a game I had yet to actually play.  B genuinely a great, inventive game, and I would not have been disappointed to have spent full MSRP on it when it first came out. I dunno what sort of insane gaming god Brad Shoemaker is when he’s not filming Quicklooks or Endurance Runs, but to took me a solid two weeks of gaming to get through Alan Wake and the free DLC story that comes with every new purchase. Also it was rather ignorant of me to compare Alan Wake to Heavy Rain– aside from for the tenuous relationship they may have in general atmosphere, Alan Wake is an actual videogame and not an overwrought FMV on a quick time event crank.


Instead of talking about the games you absolutely under no circumstance should be buying between now and New Year’s, I try to explain why I didn’t update for like to months.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 12-15-10

Posted by nfinit on December 15, 2010

I’m going to be honest here, I’m having a difficult time summoning up interest in today’s writeup. That’s mainly because this week’s Wallet Abuse consists of:

Lilt Line (WiiWare)

Super Mario Brothers All-Stars Wii (Wii)

Under Siege (PSN)

X-Men Arcade (PSN, XBLA)

Now keep in mind, it physically pains me to say good things about Nintendo and it’s quite possible that Under Siege is one of those PSN games that no one, including the developer, knows exactly when it’ll be available for download. Lilt Line is probably decent enough, but if I’m going to start talking about downloadable Nintendo games then at some point I’ll have to bring up Just Sing! Christmas Songs Volume 2 and no one really wants that, now do they?

You people seriously don’t want me to do that.


Okay,fine. But in protest to today’s parade of irrelevant crap, I’m going to critique the year in shovelware developers as well, because as good as this year was, we need to honor those who remind us of the terrible threat cheap, assessable gaming casual gaming poses to everything we love.

Just Sing! Christmas Songs Volume 2
Developer: Someone actively taking the food out of the mouths Hifumi Kono’s children as we speak
Publisher: Hitler
Platforms: DSiWare

It’s a DSiWare title, which means we don’t get box art or even a unified title card, but this works nicely as we also learn exactly how many public domain Christmas standards Nintendo will allow to be transmitted over their service any any given time.

Also, this is the second game in the series and we’re only just now getting to “Merry Christmas” and “Deck the Halls”. What sort of esoteric shit did Engine Software break out for Volume 1? King Diamond’s No Presents for Christmas? Coffin Fuck’s cover of Here Comes Santa Claus?

At any rate, this is a karaoke game, and if it’s like most karaoke games it doesn’t really matter what you say as the DSi mic is only picking up (at most) your tone. So you could actually sit there and offer forth the most vile swears imaginable to “Deck the Halls” as long as you get the tempo right.


Destineer opened 2010 mocking the hopes and dreams of Wii owners worldwide with Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding; one of the few non-fitness Wii games released this year that actually made use of the Wii Balance Board. As Wii traumatized Wii owners tried to make sense of a world that would allow snowboarding games not named 1080 appear on their beloved hardware Destineer released an unrelenting stream of crap for the Wii, culminating in the late Fall release of Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, a collection of laserdisc games for a system that cannot itself play a Dragon’s Lair DVD.

Among other highlights:

Marines: Modern Urban Combat: a game which basically served to remind Wii owners that Infinity Ward would rather risk a lawsuit from Activision than make games for their system

Harley Davidson Road Trip: The rare title that managed to troll both Nintendo fans -and- Sega fans who wondered whatever became of the Harley Davidson LA Riders license

Statisfashion: Which managed to retroactively make everyone think Style Savvy by Nintendo was also crap.

Destineer’s dedication to breaking the will of Wii owners worldwide was unmatched. Not only did Destineer manage not to release a single worthwhile game all year long, they did so with a style and panache worthy of an artist. We here at Nitrobeard are left in awe at their efforts.


Lilt Line
Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Gaijin Games
Platforms: Wii Ware

Gaijin Games was helpful enough to provide videos of people actually playing Lilt Line on their website, and from what I can gather it involves tilting the controller to move the player’s line through a twisting corridor while hitting “The Button” (said in rather ominous tones) when you cross lines. Sounds simplistic, but these are the same guys who gave us the bit.trip games, so taking simple concepts based on rhythm and turning them into outstanding games is sort of what they do.

On a wholly unrelated note, anytime I see the Gaijin Games name I get a tiny thrill inside as I invariably confuse them for Vic Ireland’s Gaijin Works and I think it’s finally time to swear violently about Working Designs for three hundred words. Sadly it’s not to be. Yet.


South Peak followed up a breakout 2009 (X-Blades, Velvet Assassin) with a frustratingly silent 2010, where their talents at following up on outstanding gameplay promise with soul-crushingly bad execution was almost entirely wasted on the already crowded DS shovelware market. However they were responsible for Blood Bowl for the Xbox 360, where South Peak managed to take the concept of Orcs vs Space Marines playing no-rules intergalactic football and somehow made it less compelling than the board game.

Super Mario All Stars
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform:  Nintendo Wii

A lot has been made about these games not appearing on the Virtual Console instead of being sold sold on disc for thirty bucks, but one has to remember that the way Nintendo operates if these games were on Virtual Console then they’d break up the SNES original into it’s component pieces and charge eight dollars for each game. And since Nintendo is lazy and would rather not go through all that trouble anyway, this was probably the only form you were ever going to get Super Mario All-Stars to appear on the Wii in the first place.

If you’re the sort of person who owns a Wii and buys actual videogames for it, you’re the sort of person who already wants to own these games. The only problem? Nintendo may not be kidding about this whole “limited edition” thing. Already it’s sold out online at Gamestop and Best Buy, and the only way to get it through Amazon is to pay fifty bucks through a 3rd party reseller. In other words if you don’t already won this disc you’re probably already fucked.


Crave has always been on the forefront of crap, and their alliance with the Discovery Channel has lead to amazing new breakthroughs in Shovelware science, allowing the Newport Beach company to terrorize the gaming public with games based on the Alaskan crab fishing industry. This is combined with a strong stable of traditionally shitty games, such as Brunswick Pro Bowling for the Wii and Baby Pals for the DS. I expect no less from the guys who once made a Napoleon Dynamite game for the PSP FOUR YEARS AFTER THE MOVIE ITSELF WAS RELEASED.

I swear to God this happened.

Overall another strong year for the standardbearers of Shovelware excellence.


Under Siege
Developer: Seed Studios
Publisher: Seed Studios
Platforms: PlayStation Network

Every once in a while a developer will get it into their head that they are going to get the whole ‘RTS-on-a-console’ thing right and it usually ends in failure because a thumbstick is a poor substitute for a mouse. Seed Studios has at least incorporated Move support so maybe that will help, but even official PR-approved gameplay video seems to suggest that it’s still a jerky, frustrating experience.

Under Siege abandons base building and resource gathering, none of which is suited for the console anyway, but you’re probably reading this on a computer capable of playing Dawn of War anyway. So why not play that instead?


Usually a strong contender every year; I have a hard time giving props to Majesco’s shovelware efforts when they stumble and release genuinely good videogames. It’s very hard to give credit to efforts such as Attack of the Movies 3D when titles like A Boy and His Blob and Data East Arcade Classics are sitting there providing genuinely compelling gaming experiences. Hopefully a strong lineup of godawful Kinect titles such as Zumba Fitness will put Majesco back in it’s rightful place atop the shovelware heap in 2011.

X-Men Arcade
Developer: Konami/Backbone
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: PlayStation Network, XBLA

Look. I know we all want to sit here and pretend that the early 90’s beat-em-ups are something we actually want to go back to, but do any of you really think this thing is going to provide you with more than an hour of entertainment? I mean, Scott Pilgrim vs The World is sitting right there. It’s a better game. It probably even has better spritework.

Anyway, if you’re intent on buying X-Men Arcade you need to be be aware that the home port is being handled by Backbone, the same assholes who managed to ruin Contra on XBLA. They’ve killed before and they’ll kill again. If you buy this then sooner or later someone will slip up and let Backbone handle something important, like The Ninja Warriors Again or Cybernator.


All the Call of Duty games in the world won’t do you any good when you willingly put your name on this:

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Big Red Coat Game of the Year 2010

Posted by nfinit on December 8, 2010

There are several games that were released this week that you should never play.  Instead, let’s talk about everything  could be playing right now if Black Ops wasn’t rotting your mind instead.



Game That Would Probably Be GOTY If I Hadn’t Bought New Vegas Instead:  Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Game That I’d Buy a System For (Again):  Dragon Quest IX

Game Most Likely to Force Me into Reassembling My PSP:  Persona 3 Portable

Game That Makes Me Wish Nintendo Would Go Third Party  Already So I Don’t Have To Buy a Friggin’ Wii:  Super Mario Galaxy 2

Game That Gets To Wait Until I’m Finally Bored With Forza 3:  Gran Turismo 5



Game of the Year from Last Year:  Assassin’s Creed 2

I don’t think I’ve ever mislead myself about a game’s quality as I did Assassin’s Creed 2.  It turns out Ubisoft Montreal (and more specifically lead designer Patrice Desilets) didn’t just deliver on the sliver of promise behind the plodding, dull Assassin’s Creed I, but improved the original game in such a far-reaching fashion that it’s difficult at first glance to tell they’re from the same franchise.

Not only is Assassin’s Creed II the best 3d platformer I’ve played in years; it’s probably also the best stealth game I’ve played this generation–admittedly that’s not hard to do when the only other stealth games were the first Assassin’s Creed and the two interminable Splinter Cell games, but still.  Plus the combat didn’t suck, although it’s still clearly the weak point of the series (provided you ignore everything that happens while you’re not playing as Ezio.)

And you know the fucked up pa?  I’ll probably have this exact same discussion next year when I finally get around to playing Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.

Game that Defined My Year:  Persona 4

Okay yeah, this came out two years ago.   It’s still the only JRPG I’ve sat down and finished since the very first Suikoden on the PS1, and the 120+ hour long save game file I amassed over the Summer  served as gaming comfort food as forlornly shuffled through Craigslist looking for a new roommate.

Admittedly I’ve not kept up with the JRPG scene since dropping out of college, so I may be talking out of my ass, but is no one  else alarmed that the current console generation has yet to see a definitive JRPG release, or is it time we all admit that the genre’s future is the handheld and Dragon Quest 9 is the best we’re going to see for a long, long while?



Soul Crushing Disappointment of the Year:  Game Room

Remember when Game Room was first talked about by Microsoft and how the entire project started as a way to bring the Dreamcast library to XBLA?  Remember the promises of a n easily-accessible virtual museum dedicated to showing off the evolution of the gaming art?  Remember how we were promised a new game release every day, even if that game was something utterly obscure like Gateway to Apshai, but that’s okay because the next day could bring you an arcade-perfect Joust complete with leader board integration and custom challenges from your friend list through Ranked Mode?  Remember how there were no further games released for over a month after it’s launch?  Remember how almost all those games were some godawful 2600 castoff or a Konami arcade game no one really liked or an Intellivision game that really wasn’t suited to the 360 at all?  Remember how games weren’t released every day, but instead every Tuesday we’d get a pack of seven games instead?  Remember how some weeks most of the games didn’t have Ranked Mode at all?  Remember the day there were only five games?  Then three?  Then there was like two weeks without any games at all?  Remember that week where the three games released were all from Intellivision?  Remember how it’s been six months since we’ve had Game Room and we’ve yet to see anything outside of  the 2600 and Intellivision and ancient Konami arcade titles?

Finally remember how Sega finally said “screw it; we’re selling Crazy Taxi on XBLA and PSN?”

Yeah.  Fuck you, Game Room.

Most Irrelevant System Exclusive of the Year:  God of War 3

You now remember that God of War 3 was somehow released in 2010 and not sometime prior to the Obama administration.

Game Most Unfairly Damaged By It’s Own Release Date:  Mass Effect 2

Did no one at Bioware think maybe it’d be a bad idea to release it’s two biggest titles of this console generation three months apart with nothing to follow up with the following Christmas?  Would anyone really have been all that bummed to have had more time given polishing up Mass Effect 2, maybe adding something resembling a workable RPG and less of a 40 hour long Gears of War campaign?

That said, ME2 wasn’t an awful game.  In fact, now that I have time to think back on Mass Effect 2 I rather like it, despite being disappointed that Bioware had largely abandoned the RPG industry by the time of it’s release.  But Mass Effect2 came out so early in the year that it’s rather hard to imagine it will be in any serious GOTY discussion– which is probably just as well, Vanquish wound up being a better Gears game and New Vegas was the better Western RPG experience.



GOTY:  1982:  Pac-Mex

I’ve talked about this a bit in the Nitrobeard podcast, but nothing can get you into that dilated-eyes, shallow-breathing, sweaty-palmed, I-don’t-care-that-the-house-is-on-fire-I’m-doing-something-important zone quicker than thirty seconds of Pac Man CE DX.  Well that and freebasing moth balls.

GOTY:  1992:  Super Meat Boy

You will never love anything as much as Edmund McMillen hates your ego.  God bless this man.

GOTY:  2002:  Afterburner Climax

Doesn’t this seem like the sort of early 2000’s arcade game fans would have begged Sega to release on the Dreamcast only to see it come out in the first wave of third party releases instead?

Okay yeah, it’s a stretch and I needed to keep the joke going.  But still, this is easily the best Sega arcade game — and possibly best first-party Sega game period– to come out in over a decade.  If AM2 still exists and is capable of putting out something like this, where’s our Space Harrier revival already?

GOTY:  2012:  Just Cause 2

This game was So.  Fucking.  Close.  to being the best sandbox game ever; only the utter lack of anything even remotely resembling a storyline kept it out of the running for a legit Game of the Year nod.  As it stands it’s basically a bunch of standalone faction missions with a tenuous plot holding everything together.  Not that you pay attention to plot in a game where the prime game mechanic involves attaching dudes to propane tanks before setting the tank alight and propelling the dude into the stratosphere; but still.  At least the Red Faction: Guerrilla made the token effort including a story with more than twelve lines of dialog.  Just Cause 2’s story felt like it was developed by a random number generator set to  “Dubious Spanish Gibberish”.

At some point Eidos is going to bring all the disparate parts of Just Cause 2 together and remember to build a videogame around it.  Here’s to 2012.

Game I’m Trying Very Hard To Fall In Love With Despite All Evidence Otherwise:  Vanquish

So admittedly I’ve only owned this for roughly a week, but should a Gears clone be this goddamned complicated?  I’m dreadfully afraid of opening up a weapon upgrade crate for fear of instead of throwing a hand grenade into my own face.  Also for a game that touts arcade-fast gameplay you sure do spend a lot of time cowering behind cover waiting for your dash attack/bullet time meter to recharge.

That said, I’m roughly five hours in and I can see where Shinji Mikami is trying to get to.  Given another week I’d probably have it listed somewhere with the next group; but right now it’s not nearly as fluid as Bayonetta while not quite as cathartic as Gears.



GOTY 2 Years ago Still Counts, Right?:  Fallout New Vegas

The only failing New Vegas ha is that we all played this same game two years ago, only without good writing.  Otherwise everything else you love from Fallout Three is still there, and even the stuff you didn’t really love, like innumerable gameplay glitches and the creaking Gamebryo graphical engine.

Fallout 3 was good enough for my Game of the Year in 2008, but 2010 has been a stupidly good year for games.  New Vegas doesn’t really improve upon the Fallout 3 formula aside from Obsidian’s typically stellar writing and mission structure– which is remarkable, as Obsidian didn’t have time to include any new crippling glitches, even if it’s obvious an emphasis was given to voice cast over quality assurance.

Gameplay King of the Year:  Bayonetta

Yes, the story is silly, yes it’s exploitative at best and tawdry at worst, and yes the characterization is downright silly.  That said.  No game released this year played as fluidly as Bayonetta; no game this year gave as much immediate sense of control as Bayonetta; no game made you feel as much of a badass as Bayonetta and in pure gameplay terms perhaps nothing released since Ninja Gaiden in 2004 can touch it.

What’s more, Hideki Kamiya has crafted a love letter to Sega itself; the game is littered with references to past Sega glories as well as outright gameplay inspirations from classics like Super Hang-On and Space Harrier.  Even better, the game utilizes a purely Sega ranking system, giving grades at the end of every mission, encouraging you not to just slog through to the finish, but to become better at playing Bayonetta.  This is the first game in years that I’ve sat down and immediately played through after finishing it, and after playing through the second time I immediately completed the game a third and fourth time just to see if I was good enough to beat the game on it’s absolute most difficult setting.  And I’m not.  Yet.

So if Bayonetta does everything so well; if it’s a revolution in gameplay and control, why not just stop here?  It’s obvious if Gameplay Is King, then Bayonetta is our leggy, leather-clad queen, right?

Well, the problem is, gameplay might not be everything, and this exits:

Everything Not Directly Related to Gameplay GOTY:  Red Dead Redemption.

Now I’m not going to sit here and say that RDR’s gameplay sucks.  It doesn’t, but it’s not great.  It’s very much a Rockstar game, and if you’re used to that clunky, slightly disconnected feel, you’re not really going to mind the gameplay all that much.  I dropped over a hundred hours into Red Dead and thus became a bit attached to the gameplay; and while nothing Rockstar does can fairly be called a “good action game”, it mates well with the level of freedom offered in RDR.  Simply put I’m not sure if you can create a sandbox game that plays better than RDR, and if anyone were capable of doing so it’d be Rockstar.

This is the first game in years that I simply didn’t want to end.  The characters were too good, the story was too good, the writing was too good.  I didn’t want to leave this world and it’s people behind.  The last time I remember this happening to me was near the end of Chrono Trigger.  You might not be happy with the way the characters acted all the way through, but they acted consistently and logically with the story Rockstar wanted to tell, and that’s the important part.  No one in the industry makes you feel for a character more than these guys; even when your character is acting like an obvious idiot as he’s being shuffled around among power brokers in early 1900’s Mexico.

If games are ever going to grow into something more than an extension of the early 80’s arcade industry, we’re going to need more games like Red Dead Redemption.  Let’s hope we can get there without losing the Bayonettas of the gaming world.


I hemmed and hawed my way between Red Dead Redemption and Bayonetta– in truth New Vegas wasn’t really in the picture with the other two; the current console generation didn’t really need a second Fallout 3, at least not this quickly.

In the end, it came to this.  DLC and expansions aside, I’m probably never going to touch Red Dead Redemption again.  It told it’s story and I’m happy with that.  I don’t need to go back there, at least not until Rockstar is ready to tell the next chapter in the Marston story.  Bayonetta is the sort of game I’m going to replay at least once a year until my launch-window 360 eventually  melts into a puddle of plastic goo and toxic fumes, and the very next day I’ll shop for a new 360 Slim so I can play Bayonetta again one day.  The list of games I can think of that I’d do that for is very short indeed, and it consists of Symphony of the Night, Joust, Bayonetta, and very little else.  It’s that good.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 11-24-10

Posted by nfinit on November 24, 2010

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Crazy Taxi
Developer: Hitmaker
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network

This is a strange era we’re in, where system sellers for the Dreamcast are sold almost as afterthoughts for pittances via Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. It’s also a good era because let’s face it, ten bucks is about where Crazy Taxi should have been sold all along, and if Sega understood this simple fact maybe people wouldn’t have been so annoyed that the Saturn and Dreamcast libraries were filled with largely untouched ports of arcade games that could be mastered and tossed aside in an afternoon’s worth of play.

I’m kind of torn on this most recent revision of Crazy Taxi, however. For one, it’s not an emulated version of the Dreamcast game. Like virtually all halfassed Sega DC-to-XBLA ports, this stems from the PC version of the game, which was not coincidentally also the lowest rated of all Crazy Taxi home versions. Further, Crazy Taxi’s perfect encapsulation of the zeitgeist of the late 90’s is gone. The Offspring’s music is gone, as are any licensed shops and restaurants. Goodbye, Tower Records. Hello, Record Store. Goodbye Pizza Hut, hello Strangely Ominous Building With Extravagant Red Roof. Goodbye KFC, hello FCS, which we can only assume refers to Federated Chicken Services.

That said, it’s hard to fuck up Crazy Taxi. It’s an arcade classic, and has the sort of simplistic gameplay elements that make it easy to enjoy regardless of the pop-in or generic grunge metal. On the other hand, it’s hard to fuck up Crazy Taxi simply because there’s not a lot -to- fuck up. Without trying to justify the fifty dollars you’d have spent in 1999 to enjoy Crazy Taxi at home, you’ll burn through this even quicker. What I’m saying is, buy Pac Man CE DX instead.

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Donkey Kong Country Returns
Developer: Retro Studios
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Wii

Growing up as a Sega guy, there were a number of Nintendo stalwarts I was intensely jealous of. Eventually these games cause me do develop a grudging respect to the SNES until I finally relented and admitted my burning hatred for Nintendo should not override the fact that I was a guy with a passion for videogames and keeping myself from the very best games simply because they were on a system sold by a manufacturer I held umbrage with. Games such as Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger, Ninja Warriors, even, as much as I hate to admit it, the pastel delights of Yoshi’s Island.

Donkey Kong Country was not one of those games.

I didn’t get it. It was fucking Mario with bananas, and what’s worse it kick-started the entire rendered graphics fad that wouldn’t die until Killer Instinct II made everyone feel dirty and ashamed for abandoning traditional sprite-work. I still don’t get it. I don’t understand why Nintendo guys are so excited for this game, I don’t get why this is any more compelling than the three dozen 2d platformers that have appeared on the Wii following New Super Mario Brothers Wii.

Perhaps DKCR is symbolic of the weird mid-life crisis Nintendo has experienced over the past couple years. Not only is Nintendo desperate to remind hardcore gamers of it’s SNES library, it’s doing so by blatantly remaking old SNES games and duct-taping Wiimote integration on the side. It’s like they’re trying to create an idea that there’s a clear lineage between the SNES and waggle and saying “ wouldn’t all those SNES games you loved even been -more- wonderful if we’d simply sawed off the top half of the SNES controller and replaced those same functions by spasmodically shaking your controller instead?”

Oh, the game? It’s apparently fantastic, and sits at an 88% on Metacritic, with a bevy of 4-5 star reviews. It’s one of those games that Nintendo has deemed it appropriate to be difficult, and Retro doesn’t suck, so it’s a good game. I still don’t see where it does anything differently from the DKC games, but in all fairness I never played those games because the art was godawful.

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Micheal Jackson The Experience
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal (HD versions) Ubisoft Paris (Everything Else)
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS (somehow) PSP (why)

So can we get back to the point where we admit MJ was a pedophile again, or are we still in that zone where we have to respect him as an artist because he overdosed on propofol?

Because the dude was totally a fucking pedophile.

Anyway, this game. It’s one of those post-DDR dance games that’s probably going to take over the music game market now that Kotick left the guitar game genre a smoking crater. I saw this demo’ed at New York Comic Con last month and it looks insanely slick and everyone who got through to the stage looked like they were enjoying themselves immensely, so if dancing games are your thing, this is probably an amazing… erm. Experience.

It also totally allows you to dance in the Smooth Criminal video, and if my knees weren’t shot to hell I’d play this thing like a motherfucker, MJ’s penchant for pederasty be damned.

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Spelunker HD
Developer: Irem
Publisher: Irem
Platforms: PlayStation Network

For some reason in my mind I had connected Spelunker HD with Derek Yu’s Spelunky. Turns out this is just Irem’s remake of the NES Spelunker, only using PSN avatars for some reason.

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Also apparently Spelunky was announced for XBLA a year ago but nothing’s been heard of it since. What do we have to do to convince Microsoft or Sony to throw however much money it’d take to move Spelunky or Cave Story or La Mulana to an HD console?

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Developer: BottleRocket Studios
Publisher: Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

At first I was pissed at Namco for taking Splatterhouse HD from BottleRocket Studios, stripping them of their development kits, and abandoning the remaining developers in the California desert to die of thirst, and then I saw this

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And realized maybe Namco was on to something.

This game is a hot mess, an ugly pile that simply regurgitates the worst elements of God of War. At least that’s what I’m going to assume, as the only material from this game comes from Giant Bomb’s Quicklook, which does the game no favors whatsoever.

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Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom
Developer: Game Republic
Publisher: Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

This is probably going to be one of those games I wind up loving more than is warranted given the actual quality of the game itself, but how can any gamer not fall in love with something that infuses the 3D Zeldas with Shadow of the Colossus? And for forty dollars! Even if it winds up sucking wind at least you’ve spent less money than you did on Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Buy this game!

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Gran Turismo 5
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Platforms: PlayStation 3

Yadda yadda, the delays, the fact that only half the cars present on the disc are actually fully implemented, the bit where there are literally over fifty Nissan Skylines in the roster.

Here’s the two things you need to know about Gran Turismo 5:

1: License tests are still there

2: Fuck you, Gran Turismo 5.

You know how I know I’m good enough to drive a car in Forza 3? I buy a car and proceed to win races with it. If I were incapable of winning races with that car I’D STOP USING THAT FUCKING CAR.

It’s twenty ten, Polyphony Digital! You can’t keep doing this shit! You can’t keep locking out vast swaths of content your users have paid for with arbitrary locks that have little to do with the actual act of participating in the game itself. I’ve been playing racing games since Pole Position 2, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the whole gas/break/steer thing down pat.


Do not confuse DIVINITY 2 for DIVINE DIVINITY 2 despite them both being the exact same game.

QUAKE LIVE ARENA for XBLA sure is…something.

The fact that I’m bringing up GOLDEN SUN: DARK DAWN fills me with immeasurable sadness in that this is not a Landstalker game.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 11-17-10

Posted by nfinit on November 17, 2010

Apache Air Assault
Developer:  Gaijin Entertainment
Publisher:  Activision
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

On one hand it’s good to see Apaches make a comeback to the videogame realm because I mean, just look at this fucking thing

On the other hand this is a realistic flight sim.  On a console.  That never works well.  Also why did we have to get this when EA’s Strike series has lain fallow for two console generations?

Assassin’s Creed:  Brotherhood
Developer:  Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher:  Ubisoft
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.

So I finally got around to playing Assassin’s Creed 2 this year, and I admit I was totally wrong about that game– it’s an improvement in every conceivable way over AC1 and I’d have no problem saying it was last year’s premiere action game over Arkham Asylum.

And the great thing about AC2’s gameplay was that it was solidly a single-player game.  There was none of the gameplay or design choices that crop up when you build a multiplayer game in mind– Instead Ubisoft Montreal presented us an open-world Prince Of Persia; a rare combination of intricate sandbox gameplay with intense 3d platforming action.  It was so good that I didn’t even mind the silly and distracting sci-fi Dan Brown-meets-Minority Report story that wrapped around AC2.

Suffice to say it’s not the sort of game where I played it and thought “what this needs is deathmatch”

Which is pretty much what we’re getting with Brotherhood.  Admittedly more of a good thing is still a good thing– It’s not like they’ve stripped out the single player game for Brotherhood, this game continues Enzio’s story through Rome, which sounds pretty fantastic.  But I also have to think that with only a year of development time provided– and Ubisoft splitting the game between five different developers just to get another Assassin’s Creed through the door for 2010– that the game can’t help but suffer.  It’s also entirely possible that Brotherhood was what caused Patrice Desilets to flee Ubisoft and that can’t possibly be a good sign.

Battle vs Chess
Developer:  TopWare Interactive
Publisher:  SouthPeak Interactve (The rare but feared Double Interactive!)
Platforms: Possibly Everything

I have no faith at all that this game actually exists and no clue how or why it popped up at– Both Amazon and Gamestop refuse to admit knowledge of Battle vs Chess’ existence and Amazon seems confused by the whole affair and continually tries to sell me Battle Chess instead, which only leads us to wonder why no one’s tried to sell an XBLA version of Battle Chess yet.

If Battle vs Chess does exist, and it does manage to emerge in some saleable form at some point this week, it appears to be chess with World of Warcraft artwork and gameplay mutations.  I don’t really know if that’s something you want taking up space in your disc drive tray.

Barbie Groom and Glam Pups
Developer:  An as-yet unnamed sinister cult
Publisher:  THQ
Platforms:  DS, Wii.

I’m not sure what dark god I’ve angered that would place me in a universe where Barbie Nintendogs would be allowed to exist, but I promise to perform whatever vile unspeakable acts are necessary to take me from this hellish nightmarescape.

Developer:  EA Bright Light
Publisher:  EA
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii

I’m having a hard time understanding if this is supposed to be a bare-bones version of Little Big Planet or a massively complicated version of the track editor from Exitebike.  Either way this is what the grim future off Wii/PS3/360 interoperability holds for us– $40 interactive stickerbooks designed to be so easy to use your grandmother can be a game designer.

Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing.

EA Sports Active 2
Developer:  EA Canada
Publisher:  EA
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii

As a general rule I don’t like to talk about releases which aren’t actually games (which is why you’ve not seen any Kinect titles in these pages) but I noticed this ans wondered what could possibly be going on in Sports Active 2 that could justify a $99 msrp.  Turns out in addition to a fitness/lifestyle disc of dubious quality, you also get this:

A collar, cuffs of some sort, and what appears to be a sex swing.  So it’s also a bondage dungeon starter kit that easily flies under the radar of a skittish significant other on Christmas Morning.  So that’s probably worth $99 on it’s own.  We can only begin to speculate what’s present on that USB stick.

EA Sports NFL Training Camp
Developer:  EA Canada
Publisher:  EA
Platforms:  Wii

Any reports that the menu selection for the easiest difficulty setting in this game is subtitled “The Albert Haynesworth” is spurious and will result in a lawsuit.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Developer:  EA Bright Lights
Publisher:  EA
Platforms:  Every Fucking Thing

One of the things largely lost amid the general insanity of E3 was the revelation that the newest Harry Potter game would in fact be a cover based shooter.  I feel everyone just sort of shrugged this news off and assumed it was part a larger collective gaming media fever dream but no, it’s real.  The game adaptation of Deathly Hollows is Wizards (of Gears) Of War.  And I’m perfectly fine with that.

More movie licensed games need to take this route, instead of being generic 3d action games that loosely follow the plot of the movie.  In fact you can start to see that happening now– Sega’s Captain America adaptation would surprise no one as yet another 3d beat-em-up that follows the tropes laid forth in Arkham Asylum, but instead Sega is making it into Prince of Persia.  No, the other PoP game.  The 2d one.

No, really.  That’s happening.

And I’m a fan of this idea simply because if we keep it up, sooner or later Scarlett Johanssson is going to star in a movie that winds up copying Bayonetta and there’s simply no way my life improves from that point.

Mario vs Donkey Kong:  Mini-Land Mayhem
Developer:  Nintendo
Publisher:  Nintendo
Platforms:  DS

So I’m going to admit that everything I need to know about Mini-Land Mayhem I gleaned from Destructoid’s review, and as such I’m not terribly interested in this Nintendo-licensed remake of Lemmings as I am the identity of this game’s central kidnapped woman.  Namely, that this new woman is quite clearly neither Peach nor Paula.

I don’t know who this mysterious new woman is, but I am going to speculate that there’s some weird behavior that Mario engages in that encourages those around him to abscond with innocent women, whereupon Mario is then “forced” to rescue them, likely in return for deeply personal favors.  I’m not even sure if Mario understands the role he plays in these events, it’s happened so many times to him by this point that he likely considers it perfectly acceptable behavior.  Indeed, this may in fact be the only way he has to meet with and impress women– after all, he’s a largely unattractive, barely coherent  squat man with limited social access.

Why has Mario yet to impress upon any of the women he comes in contact with the importance of locking their doors at night, or simple self-defense techniques such as jumping atop an assailant’s head?  Why has Mario not given Peach or Daisy a turnip to keep by their bedside?

Distressingly, it would appear events are spiraling out of Mario’s control– now a strange new woman has been entered into Mario’s twisted white knight fantasy.  And wither Paula?  She has not been heard from in nearly thirty years, can it be assumed she met a grisly fate at the expense of Mario’s twisted fantasy world?

Marvel Super Hero Squad:  The Infinity Gauntlet
Developer:  Griptonite Games
Publisher:  THQ
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii

I can’t say anything about about Super Hero Squad.  One, they’re frickin’ adorable, two a stripped-down super-deformed Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a terrific way to introduce kids to both comics and gaming.

That said, isn’t the Infinity Gauntlet a weird choice for storyline?  I remember this being a big important event in the Marvel universe, not to mention sort of morbid, what with Thanos’ ultimate goal being killing off half of the entire universe just just to mack on Death

Is there a comics statute of limitations that allows the medium to poke fun at established events like Infinity Gauntlet?  I hope so, as this means in twenty years time our own children will have to explain to their kids why Steve Rodgers is running around with a gaping hole in his chest following the events of Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Civil War.

Developer:  EA Canada
Publisher:  EA
Platforms:  PlaySation 3, Xbox 360

A lot has happened since we last visited the NBA Elite 11/NBA Jam trainwreck; so let’s recap.

1:  At E3 2010, EA reveals that they now own the NBA Jam license along with a brand new Wii-exclusive standalone NBA Jam title for Holiday 2010.  There is much rejoicing among the Nintendo community and everyone generally feels good that the Wii gets a serious, full-sized game that makes best use of the Wii’s simplified graphics.

2:  Several weeks later it’s revealed that the game will be sold on-disc, for $40, along with new modes.

3:  Also the same game will be given away as downloadable content with NBA Elite 11 on the 360 and PS3, albeit without the Wii-exclusive modes.

4:  Some months later some guy posts a hilarious; damning Youtube video of Elite 11’s demo, featuring notable new innovations such as “shit doesn’t happen when you press shoot” and “Mid-court Kobe Jesus.”

5:  Roughly half an hour later announces that NBA Elite 11 will be postponed until some undetermined date in the near future, possibly within the actual NBA calendar year.  However, in some desperate attempt to actually make money off this entire mess, EA announced that NBA Jam HD would still come to the 360 and PS3 on time.

On disc.

For fifty dollars.

Also without the Wii’s extra gameplay modes.

6:  EA announces that Elite 11 is cancelled entirely and the entire staff at EA Canada forced from thier offices into the Canadian tundra.

And that’s where we stand.  Fifty dollars for what was, by all rights, supposed to be a freebie that also doubled as the greatest troll played against Nintendo fans since Wii Music.  And we have no real idea when to expect Jam HD to unlock into a fully-fledged product, but it’s a safe bet that the box itself doesn’t warn consumers that they’re paying fifty dollars for what at first amounted to the $10  online use tax EA levies against all used games.

The upshot is that EA Canada spent their short time upon the mortal coil producing an outstandingly good version of NBA Jam.  So you have that to look forward to, if at some point in the near future EA can be convinced to spend money on people who’ve already given them money.  Which, you know, isn’t ever going to happen.  In the meantime feel free to speculate as to the sequence of events that would have precipitated EA’s purchase of the Mortal Kombat franchise and it’s inclusion in Rise of the Imperfects 2.

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Developer:  Chunsoft
Publisher:  Aksys Games
Platforms:  DS

So looks to be a fairly bog-standard DS point-and-click adventure game, only featuring a boat that’s slowly taking on water and a cast full of people who have had timebombs sewn into their bowels.  So pretty much the best point-and-click game ever made.

Need for Speed:  Hot Pursuit
Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: EA
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii

I should love this game, right?  You’ve got the Burnout devs working on one of the most popular Need for Speed variants, the much-beloved Hot Pursuit series, which itself would be the first game Criterion’s released in nearly two years.  And has been mentioned previously, I love racing games to the point that I’ll gladly spend my free time playing all those decidedly unfun racing sims like Gran Turismo and Forza; games that people swear are only played because they’re car porn, not because the guy playing grew up reading Car and Driver magazine.

So why can’t I summon any interest at all for this revision of Hot Pursuit?  Is it because Criterion hasn’t interested me since Burnout 3?  Is it because the demo was slow and clunky and brought to mind none of the feel of the earlier Need for Speed games nor anything from the Burnout series?  Is it because Gran Turismo 5 is shipping at the end of the month and I know full well I’d rather play that instead?

I don’t know.  I can’t explain it.  All the pieces are there, I just can’t shake the feeling that Split/Second may be the superior faux-Burnout.

Sniper Elite
Developer:  Raylight Games
Publisher:  Maximum Family Games
Platforms:  Wii

Among the exciting new features exclusive  Wii version of Sniper Elite (Along with Sniper Elite Party, Sniper Elite Karts, Cooking Mama w/Sniper Elite and Sniper Elite:  Other M), famed GBA shovelware developer Raylight Studios has included a thrilling Spot the Sniper mode, featuring your own character model!

Sonic Colors
Developer:  Sonic Team
Publisher:  Sega
Platforms:  DS, Wii

I like that we’ve reached the point in the Sonic cycle where “not awful” seems like an achievement.

I dunno.  I’m not sure if our culture is capable of judging this game rationally.  There’s every indication that it may be the best 3d ever, but that’s akin to saying “there’s every indication that this bowl of cold unflavored oatmeal is the best bowl of cold unflavored oatmeal ever”.  There’s still the possibility that 3d Sonic is just inherently unworkable and we’re merely seeing the best possible example of of a flawed premise.  But if nothing else it would appear that Sonic Team has at least managed to produce a Sonic game that represents the “good” parts of previous 3d Sonic games while avoiding the temptation to include fishing minigames, or melee sections starring lycanthropes or anything relating to highly sexualized anthropomorphic vampire bats.

The question Sonic Colors asks is once you strip all the -bad- parts out of 3d Sonic games, do you have anything left at all?  It may be possible, but I remain unconviced Sonic Team is the studio that should be trusted to finding out.  I still say that Treasure hasnt’ done anything productive for Sega in years, and they’re perfect for this sort of thing.  At this point what’s left to lose?


I  can’t remember if MAJIN AND THE FORSAKEN KINGDOM is something I’m supposed to be excited about or not.


Revel in the joy utter dickery that is the story of Namco’s tortured development of SPLATTERHOUSE~!

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 11-10-10

Posted by nfinit on November 10, 2010

101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix
Developer: Nordcurrent
Publisher: Atlus
Platforms: DS

Goddammit, Atlus.

This game is brought to you by Nordcurrent, famous for 101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix for the iPhone, 101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix for the DS and Robin Hood: Return of Richard, which appears to be a medieval Operation: Wolf gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I’m not sure but I think I kinda hate Nordcurrent.

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Beyblade: Metal Fusion Battle Fortress
Developer: Hudson
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: Wii

So I’m not going to do any research for this game, because doing so will fill my brain with information about Beyblade, information that could potentially be used for more useful purposes, such as providing a buffer if I ever accidentally inhale a can full of Krylon paint.

Instead, I’ll just say that if I were a kid and you were to present me with something that named itself “metal fusion battle fortress” I’d do everything in my power to make sure that my parents spend all of my allotted Christmas funds on this franchise and make a serious attempt at convincing them to use all funds for the next three Christmases obtaining new “metal fusion battle fortress” related material.

Apparently I would be revolving the next three years of my childhood about an anime about guys who fight with tops. This is somehow more ridiculous than Yu-Gi-Oh, which is an anime about guys who fight with collectible card game decks; yet still not as socially ostracizing as basing your life around Digimon.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops
Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS

Reviews and player impressions seem to bear out what we all thought about Black Ops going in– not terrible, not outstanding like a Modern Warfare, about average for a Treyarch Call of Duty effort. Which is just fine, as the timing for Black Ops is perfect– no one cares about Reach anymore and the Battlefield reboot was an embarrassment for everyone involved. Black Ops wins via attrition if nothing else and is probably enough to keep the studio entrenched in Call of Duty until such time as Bobby Kotick kills the genre like he did Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk.

Because I mean, that’s the real question here, right? How much time does this genre have? With Activision’s investors demanding as many iterations as possible and EA releasing two major Battlefield/Medal of Honor revisions within nine months of each other you have to figure it’s just a matter of time before the genre suffers brodude burnout. And if the Skate series and Rock Band Beatles/Rock Band III are any indication it’s not like producing quality software is enough to make people care again. Once people stop caring they stop caring, and the big Western developer’s inability to grasp this simple logic is probably the great untold plot point of this console generation, above and beyond Japan’s console stagnation and any company not named Nintendo’s inability to make money off the Wii.

Just to rattle a few names off the top of my head

Battlefield Bad Company 2
Army of 2: 40th Day
Kane and Lynch 2
Halo: Reach
Medal of Honor
Black Ops

That’s a lot of AAA-level realistic/sci-fi shooters targeting the exact same market to come out since Spring, and thats before you go into the lesser players like Bioshock 2, MAG, Lost Planet 2, Singularity and Tango Down. What’s worse, many of these games rely on healthy online communities to at least some degree– How is it that publishers can expect this same market to support a dozen games in one year, and stick around with each long enough to keep anyone interested past the first two weeks? Furthermore, how do you convince these same people to stop playing Modern Warfare and Left 4 Dead?

The simple answer is you can’t. Activision’s only plan is to burn this market as thoroughly as possible by carpeting it with incremental revisions and monetizing the experience to the nth-degree. There is no long term plan nor have we provided companies like Activision and Ubisoft and EA any incentive to come up with one.

But what can we do? If your’e reading this you’re likely a hardcore gamer anyway. You’ve been aware of Bobby Kotick’s slash-and-burn policy at Activision for months now. I might recommend that we actually do have a recourse here– simply stop buying this crap new and start spending money on stuff like the next three games instead:

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Crescent Pale Mist
Developer: ClassiC Shikoukairo
Publisher: Rockin’ Android
Platforms: PlayStation Network


ClassiC Shikoukario is an independent Dojin soft developer, or at least that’s as much as I could glean from the scant English-language sources available. As near as I can tell Crescent Pale Mist is their first effort at selling a game to North America, and is something akin to a bullet hell 2d platformer. It’s probably the nearest you can get to playing a VanillaWare game for six bucks without, you know. Buying Odin’s Sphere. Which you should go ahead and do anyway.

This is probably also Rockin’ Android’s first high-profile attempt at Playstation Network game, and their efforts to bring the Japanese indie development scene to America is probably worth your money more than anything Activision has released this year.

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Developer: Artoon
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii


You might think paying fifty dollars for what amounts to Araknoid: The Platformer is excessive, but when you consider it’s being bundled with a brand new black Motion + Wiimote, it’s not quite as silly.

My only contention is that this thing is being sold exclusively on disc. If Nintendo was going to sell FlingSmash for what amounts to ten dollars, when wouldn’t it make sense to just sell it on WiiWare for ten bucks as well? Reviews haven’t exactly been kind to FlingSmash, even if it does represent a novel effort from Artoon. Although I suppose if the last thing you were known for was Vampire Rain then you’re lucky anyone’s bothering to print discs for you at all.

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Developer: Cave
Publisher Cave
Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade


While I’m glad that Guwange exists and we’re given the opportunity to play it offically in North America, I find it odd that Cave is using their lesser-known stuff like this and DeathSmiles to introduce their particular brand of shmups to American audiences when the DonPachi games are sitting right there and involve evil robotic bees.

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fuckin’ bees!

I can only assume Cave has tragically underestimated America’s fear and revulsion of stinging insects and our intense desire to strike vengeance against them.

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Just Dance Kids
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Wii

There is no way I can research this game without the very real danger of having the real-life version of Detective Elliot Stabler tracking me down and harassing me to the point where I admit I have paid for sex from schoolboys using crack rocks simply so he’ll stop bothering me. Instead, I offer this challenge to the reader:

Should Just Dance Kids be pronounced

Just Dance Kids, implying that the only thing to be found on this disc are dancing children or
Just Dance Kids, imploring children to stop all current activity and immediately dance?

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Karoke Revolution Glee
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Plaforms: Wii


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Monster Jam: Path of Destruction
Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS

So it turns out monster trucks are still A Thing, and the Monster Jam series is their ruling body, much like NASCAR lords over stockcar racing, or the WWE is the biggest wrestling promotion, or the International Gay Rodeo Association is the premiere sanctioning body for LGBT rodeo in North America.

This game is probably godawful– all the promo videos feature a named monster truck (somehow the actual monster truck circuit hasn’t evolved much in twenty years– Gravedigger is still the only truck you really need to know about as it’s a hearse that kills other cars) tooling around a PS2-era game engine while the announcer repeats said trucks’ name over and over again. Admittedly this is the precise level of intellectual engagement necessary to sell to monster truck aficionados, but for anyone looking in on the outside you’re sort of left wondering if there’s any actual game involved.

What I find interesting is that there’s no developer attached to this title– the official webpage for the game is actually hosted on the Monster Jam URL itself, and there is no information forthcoming out of Activision proper. There is a small publisher in New Zealand called Torus Games that was apparently responsible for the first Monster Jam game on the PS2, but as their own page makes no mention of Path of Destruction we can only assume that Activision simply moved Torus’ original engine to a new studio and summarily had these developers marched behind the chemical sheds as soon as Path of Destruction went gold.

While we’re on the subject, the homepage for Path of Destruction is sort of amazing:

You are now aware there exists a monster truck with a Mohawk who’s driver also has a Mohawk.

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Nickleodeon Fit
Developer: High Voltage Software
Publisher: 2k Games
Platform: Wii

You know, in case your kids were too stupid to figure out Wii Fit.

Also, do kids seriously need fitness programs now? Isn’t this something that solves itself with pixie sticks and/or installation of a swing set?

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Rune Factory 3
Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
Publisher: Natsume
Platforms: DS

I am convinced Harvest Moon fans only ever play Harvest Moon and Natsume has happened upon the perfect release cycle so that whenever these people are in danger of being bored by their current Harvest Moon game then there’s a new Harvest Moon ready for thier consumption. These people may only be tangentially aware of the fact that they’ve spent nearly fifteen years in a trance-like state, playing incremental revisions of the exact same game.

Either that or Natsume is relying on the only pocket of people in the world who’ve yet to make Facebook accounts. Either way they need to sue and/or firebomb Zynga, posthaste.


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The Sly Collection
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: SCEA
Platforms: PlayStation 3

Forty American dollars for all three Sly games remastered in HD sounds like a good deal, but I’d argue that you’re probably only ever going to want to play the first game anyway as the quality noticeably drops later in the series, particularly in the second game where the series takes a decident Sonic Adventures bent as the game starts to rely on Sly’s cast of friends more than Sly himself. Also much like the Sonic series you have to be careful in that this is basically a dangerous delivery mechanism of the furry lifestyle into modern culture. DON’T BE FOOLED AMERICA!


ASSASSIN’S CREED BROTHERHOOD doesn’t need to exist!

MARVEL SUPER HERO SQUAD so fucking adorable I want to put it in a sack and toss it in a river


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