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Archive for May, 2010

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 5-26-10: Blur, Galaxy 2, we’re all junkies!

Posted by nfinit on May 25, 2010

Hey Mark, what have you been doing instead of updating your blog?
Playing motherfucking Red Dead Redemption, that’s what!
I’ve poured something like 20 hours into this game over the past three days and I’m actively avoiding story missions for as long as possible for the sole purpose of making the game last longer– and that’s ignoring the point that I know full well that it’s a fairly long game in and of itself even if I were to plow through the story missions.
It’s rare that a  game makes me regret advancing its story and thus inexorably diminishing the time I get to spend with it– in fact, I can remember doing this all of three times before.  One was last year’s all-too-short Batman: Arkham Asylum.  Before that there was the pangs of regret that caused me to put off the last couple hours of the first Suikoden for the PS1.  The first time this happened was with Sonic the Hedgehog 2– although in that case it was mainly because the game was supposed to be a birthday gift and I was in danger of finishing the game before I was to technically receive it.
Suffice to say, Red Dead Redemption is an amazing game– These might be the best visuals I’ve seen out of a videogame.. well, ever, this is the first game I can really remember looking at and thinking that this would be utterly impossible to replicate on PS2-era hardware.  The draw distances are simply staggering and the fauna is quite literally crawling with wildlife, most of which is intent on feasting upon your rapidly cooling corpse.
I’m not  willing to say it’s my game of the year over Bayonetta as of yet.  It has  problems, not the least of which are clunky, imprecise controls that force you to question your ability to make it out of any given situation.  Also. Rockstar badly needs to understand that it’s not necessary to map multiple functions to a single key, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been violently murdered because James Marston was too close to a patch of weeds and became suddenly entrhalled with picking the flowers in the middle of a firefight.
It’s one of those games you have to enjoy in spite of its controls, and it’s difficult to give a game like that unqualified praise, especially when you’re dealing with something that  wants to define itself as an action game.  There’s a problem when a game like Mass Effect 2 has far superior core gameplay elements than an open world action game epic.
Also the game is hilariously glitchy
But glitchyness and clunky controls are problems endemic to open world games, and it’s not fair to damn Red Dead for these faults.  It is probably the finest game if it’s type to ever be crafted, although in all fairness I’ve yet to play Just Cause 2.

I have a simple metric for judging if a game is great:  If I’m playing it, I lose track of time, and when I’m not playing it I’m thinking of playing it.  So that’s why it’s 8 pm on Tuesday and all I have written for Wallet Abuse is this rambling love letter to Red Dead Redemption, and that’s pretty bad as this was an important week for games, including at least one title that’ll probably wind up on a lot of GOTY lists, that being Super Mario Galaxy 2, and all I can really think about are the intricacies of playing Liar’s Dice in Chuparosa!

But I also wanted to go over this amazing thing that happened this week:

Now don’t get me wrong, gaming ruined my life and I’m -okay- with that, but I can’t recall ever pushing an old woman down a flight of stairs to get my hit of Forza 3.

Although I probably would for Rallisport Challenge 3.

Anyway, since I’ve not done a gimmick in a couple weeks, and seeing that we actually have a decent list of games this week, I wanted to judge this week’s slate of games against the equivalent addictive narcotic effect, starting with–

Backyard Sports:  Sandlot Sluggers
Publisher: Atari
Developer: HB Studios
Platforms: Everything (but I’m blaming it on Nintendo)
k, let’s try that again.

Anyway, since I’ve not done a gimmick in a couple weeks, and seeing that we actually have a decent list this week, I wanted to judge this week’s slate of games against the equivalent addictive narcotic effect, starting with–
Publisher:  Activision
Developer:  Bizarre Creations
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Combining the best elements of Project Gotham Racing and Wipeout is a good start for a great \game, and I can’t complain about any game who’s advertising campaign revolves around bashing Mario Kart for the simplistic party game it is. But I do wonder if there’s any appreciable single-player component to be found within Blur, or if you’d really want to bother dipping into it if you have access to Live Gold or Playstation Network– Paying full MSRP for a game that’s basically a shell for the online lobby always bugs me, and you run into the very real problem if the game’s community drying up inside of two weeks– and that’s before you deal with the possibility of Split/Second laying claim to the same pool of online casual racers.
It’s a slow period for console racing games though, and provided we don’t see GT5  Blur could well be the only significant racing game to be released between Forza 3 and Test Drive Unlimited 2.  I don’t know if that will help the game’s popularity and keep the community from wandering off inside of a month, but if you’re going to buy this it’s probably best to do it sooner rather than later.



Much like Blur’s relationship to Mario Kart, crystal meth was first synthesized in Japan before coming to America and taking over large swaths of suburbia, trailer parks, and abandoned hillbilly shacks.  Also, much like the events within the game of Blur itself , over time a meth lab has a 100% chance of exploding violently.

City Builder
Publisher:  Virtual Play Games
Developer:  Collision Studios
Platforms:  Nintendo Wii
I can either find interesting things to say about a game who’s developer’s last game of note was Daisy Fuentes Pilates or I could spend my free time dragging prostitutes across the Mexican wasteland from the back of my horse.  This is all you’re getting.


Huffing Krylon!
I’ll be perfectly honest– I find this picture personally hilarious at some core, fundamental level and the entire purpose of this entire theme is to share it with you all.  Seriously though, don’t huff paint and don’t buy this game.

Dawn of Heroes
Publisher:  Majesco
Developer:  Wicked Studios
Platforms:  Nintendo Wii
At first i was convinced that Dawn of Heroes existed entirely to confuse people who came into Gamestop looking for the far more interesting and genuinely good Might and Magic:  Clash of Heroes, but further research proves that Dawn of Heroes first popped up at Tokyo Game Show three years ago.  How in the hell you can put a game in development for thirty-six months and still wind up with something that looks like this:
is quite frankly beyond my ken, but whatevs.  The biggest problem Dawn of Heroes has isn’t its generic name, or the fact that it’s drop dead hideous, but that in that there’s approximately five billion games doing the simplistic JRPG/SRPG thing on the DS right now, all of them better and without the shame that buying a Majesco product brings upon your family.

Also only one site has bothered to do a review of DoH so far, and that’s Nintendo Power with a 7.5.  This thing is going to blow goats.


Whip-it Cartridges!

Mostly harmless, slightly embarrassing to everyone involved, and there’s far better things you could be doing with the same equipment (in whip-it’s case, just eating whipped cream instead, in the case of your DS, playing quite literally any other JRPG ever released for the system)

Hexyz Force
Publisher:  Atlus
Developer:  Sting
Platforms:  PlayStation Portable
A super-deformed JRPG released on a failed system who’s main selling point is twenty minutes of anime cutscenes.  It’s like I’m playing Lunar on the Sega CD all over again except there’s more than 16 colors on-screen and the president doesn’t suck.
Seriously though, how the fuck does Atlus stay in business releasing stuff for systems that they know full well has something like a 99.99% piracy rate for all games released upon it?  Did the game seriously cost Atlus less than $80 to translate and they can count on the three vehemently Libertarian weeaboo PSP fans to buy this stupid thing?
As far as the actual game goes, this is by the same guys that developed Riviera: The Promised Land and Yggra Union, so at least it (probably) doesn’t suck


I was going to post an anime-related fictional recreational drug here, but the only  relevant item I could come up with was Red Eye from Cowboy Bebop and I respect CB too much to associate it with whatever the hell it is we’re being sold here in this game.  So, much like games with anime cut scenes, here’s something that wore out it’s welcome in the late 90’s, although to be fair to Hexyz Force it didn’t kill Steve Belcher getting there.

ModNation Racers
Publisher:  Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer:  United Front Games

Platforms:  PlayStation 3

Unless you’re really into Playstation fandom why are you buying this instead of Blur?

Nectar!  (from Haze!)
If your Sony fanboyism leads you to purchase forgettable PS3-exclusive racing games in lieu of far superior cross-platform alternatives, you may as well resort to the fictional drug that powered the most forgettable PS3 exclusive game that no one admits buying.

Super Mario Galaxy 2
Publisher:  Nintendo
Developer:  Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Platforms:  Nintendo Wii

Shigeru Miyamoto can use leftover bits of Super Mario Galaxy and manage to make something that sits at 98% on Metacritic but refuses to do anything interesting with Starfox.  Jerk.



UFC Undisputed 2010
Publisher:  THQ
Developer:  Yuke’s
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Apparently Undisputed 2010 is a solid purchase if you’re heavy into UFC, but it also seems clunky enough to ward off the UFC’s dudebro audience.  The 12 year long career mode sounds intriguing and apparently Joe Rogan will even mention stuff that happened in your previous fights, but the presentation and fighting engine seems simish to a fault.  These are all the sorts of mistakes that EA’s Martial Arts game probably won’t make,  but then again it won’t have Anderson Silva, so what’s the point, really?


Red Bull!
Much like I’m unconvinced people actually enjoy playing clunky sim fighters such as Undisputed, K-1 kickboxer, and Fight Night, there’s no way I believe anyone actually enjoys drinking Red Bull.
Witch's Wish
Witch’s Wish
Publisher:  Natsume
Developer: TryFirst
Platforms:  Nintendo DS

Fuck you there’s no way I’m talking about this game when there’s Mexicans to be sho
Oh my god this thing is adorable

I question the quality of WW however, as all the major gaming sites are clearly reciting from the same paragraph-and-a-half of Natsume’s press release, and while this paragraph tells the story of a strong collectivist, working-class plot, it doesn’t really explain what this thing is supposed to be.  But it’s a Natsume game, so I’m going to assume it’s something to do with agriculture.
Mandrake root!

I’m going to run with the farming thing here, and seeing as how this is a game clearly based on neopagan poppycock, mandrake root works quite well.  Also mandrake has a solid traditions in videogames, appearing in everything from Odin Sphere to Final Fantasy to– for reasons as yet unexplained– a boss in Mega Man Zero 4.


Oh man I hope ALPHA PROTOCOL doesn’t suck but it’s been delayed sixteen times and that’s never good.
BACKBREAKER lacks NFL license; snowball’s chance in hell.
Holy shit it’s 2010 and SYPHON FILTER:  LOGAN’S SHADOW is a PS2 exclusive!

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 5-19-10

Posted by nfinit on May 19, 2010

Alan Wake
Publisher:  Microsoft Games Studios
Developer:  Remedy Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360

Alan Wake may turn out to be a good game.  It may, in fact, turn out to be an outstanding game– Brad Shoemaker at is in love with what Remedy took five years to produce, awarding the game four of five stars. However, anyone who anticipated the game Remedy was selling the public on at E3 2005– a highly innovative detective story with a deep investigation element and day/night cycles– will be highly disappointed to learn that what we’re actually getting isn’t so much a detective thriller as it is Twin Peaks meets Resident Evil 4– which, I have to admit, isn’t a bad idea at all, it just feels like the game is massively pared down from what we were told to expect.

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.

Attack of the Movies 3d
Publisher:  Majesco
Develoer:  Majesco
Platforms:  Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360

Gaming is a weird medium.

In pretty much any other worthwhile pursuit– movies, television shows, comics, drunken redneck adventures– if you start off with the premise of “let’s go out and shoot at some sharks with machineguns” you’d be guaranteed a fun couple hours of entertainment.

Gaming, though?  You wind up with shit like this:
Thanks, Majesco.

While this game makes perfect sense on the Wii– after all, pointing a cursor at a screen and watching things happen is pretty much the entire reason for the console to exist– it’s presence of the 360 confuses and angers me.  If we learned anything from post-Columbine Massacre Dreamcast games, waving around a cursor using an analog stick instead of using a light gun isnt’ fun in the least.  If you’re going to release a 360 game with horrible graphics and a shaky premise why not wait for the Natal launch?

Prince of Persia:  The Forgotten Sand
Publisher:  Ubisoft
Developer:  Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms:  Everything

Back before Price of Persia became an emo-tastic self-parody or a laughably easy children’s-first-3d-platformer, there was Sands of Time, which for my money was the absolute best 3d platformer of the last console generation, if not all time.  In an attempt to re-create some goodwill for Price of Persia leading up to this Summer’s Sands of Time movie, it would appear Ubisoft has decided to revisit the last fondly-remembered PoP game and came up with The Forgotten Sand, which plays more like a high-definition DLC pack for Sands of Time.

I don’t see anything wrong with that, but you may find this to be a regression in the evolution of the 3d PoP formula.  There’s also the inherent danger of a developer openly aping a previous game in order to recall some of their lost magic– it almost never works well.  Indeed, I’m sort of left wondering exactly what point Price of Persia serves Ubisoft anymore.  It’s clear that Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed series  has taken PoP’s throne as the go-to title for swashbuckling 3d platforming, leaving the Price of Persia games with no real direction or marketing budget.  That said, if Ubisoft would have done well to release big budget PoP games in between releases for Assassin’s Creed– but the summer appearance of The Forgotten Sands along with the upcoming release of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood makes it pretty obvious that Ubisoft considers PoP an afterthought.

Which is a shame.  The Price of Persia series deserves better than to be quietly shuffled out of the way for its own movie, and you have to figure the series can’t possibly have a lot of reboots left it in anymore.

Publisher:  Disney Interactive
Developer:  Blackrock Studio
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

At first I thought the Split/Second demo was going to be one of those rare demos that actively turns me off of a game I had previously been anticipating.  What’s more, it would be even more rare in that the demo itself is perfectly fine– there’s lots of Really Cool Shit going on at any given time, the racing model fun and arcadey, the game itself is fucking gorgeous– But it’s main problem was that while I was playing it, I wished I was playing the Blur demo instead.

So I was ready to write off Split/Second as yet another perfectly acceptable racing game to fall victim to unfortunate timing (the same fate befell most of the racing genre in 2007)– Yes, Split/Second is mindless arcade racing fun, but Blur is sitting right there and actually feels like a proper videogame instead of a string of largely unrelated explosions set about a racetrack.  The fact that Bizarre Creations released a proper multiplayer beta for Bur didn’t help matters, whereas Split/Second is a demo in the truest sense– one track, one car, and you’re instantly booted back to the menu screen upon completion.

Then came the point where the game tried to land a careening, spark-spewing, flame-lit 747 on top of me and I jumped back aboard the Split/Second bandwagon quicker than Bill Simmons became a Celtics fan following game five of the Cavaliers series.

That said– of the two high-def, big-budget, multiplayer arcade racers to be released in the next two weeks, Blur’s probably going to be the better game.  But it’s going to pull this off mainly by being an Audi-licensed Mario Kart, whereas Split/Second looks like it’s trying something intriguing and new, even if you don’t really get the feeling you ultimately have much control over what’s going on.

Red Dead Redemption
Publisher:  Rockstar Games
Developer:  Rockstar San Diego
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Fair warning for what you can expect here for the next few weeks at Big Red Coat:  I have fully and irrationally bought into the Red Dead Redemption hype train and I full well understand that I will go to unreasonable lengths to justify my love for this product based on gameplay videos alone.

I mean I’m about to pay sixty fucking dollars for this thing– I don’t think I’ve paid full MSRP for a retail game since Bayonetta, and I wouldn’t shut up about that stupid thing for a solid month.

A lot of comparisons have been made between Red Dead and Grand Theft Auto IV, most of them by Rockstar itself, and I can’t help but imagine these comparisons do a disservice to Red Dead.  GTAIV was by necessity a very constrained game.  You were stuck within the confines of Manhattan Island Liberty City, surrounded by a watchful and fearful populace.  You didn’t really have a lot of freedom to do much of anything without instantly arousing the suspicion of local law enforcement– and while the ensuing car chases and fire fights were exciting, it made experimenting sort of a hassle.

Red Dead Redemption isn’t like that.  It’s set in the wide open frontier of the American Old West.  You want to rope up a nun and tie her to railroad tracks?  Not a problem.

And also you’re not going to be bothered every five minutes by a growing collection of lifeless losers looking to play darts while you’d rather be off racing bikes through Queens.

I’m starting to form an opinion that there’s a quantitative difference between open world games like Grand Theft Auto 4 where you’re confined to an almost linear set of corridors and the pure chaos of stuff like Just Cause 2 and Red Faction Guerrilla.  The problem with massively chaotic open world games is that while they’re far superior games than the tightly controlled narratives of Grand Theft Auto or Infamous, they’re by their very nature impossible to control as an actual story, and wind up more a set of loosely related side missions scattered around a map.  I’m curious to see if Red Dead Redemption can straddle these two extremes, providing the boundless freedom of an open world game set in the Old West with Rockstar’s superb storytelling acumen.  If so, we could be looking at the definitive open-world game.

Regardless, what we know we’re looking at with Red Dead Redemption is the first decent– if not downright good– Old West game since… well, I don’t want to say ever, because I know someone will come along and mention some godawful obscure PC game from 1996 or whatever, so I’m going to say the first good Old West game since Sunset Riders, and that’s sort of cheating in that Sunset Riders was basically Contra with Horses, and you can combine 2d sprite-based Contra with anything and wind up with a good game.  It’s baffling why the Old West setting has proven so barren for games– You’d think the combination of wide-open spaces where you don’t have to draw a lot of art assets and horses and general lawlessness would make for a classic game developer destination, but the only games that really seem to visit the idea to any great degree is the Fallout series.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 4-12-10: 3d Dot Game Heroes, Don’t Buy Lost Planet 2!

Posted by nfinit on May 11, 2010

3d Dot Game Heroes
Publisher:  Atlus
Developer:  Silicon Studios
Platforms:  PlayStation 3

I’m a big fan of the idea that some games should be periodically re-visited to keep them knocking around in the minds of the gaming public– games that maybe weren’t ahead of their time so much as could benefit from periodic re-structuring to keep them relevant with new hardware advances.  New Super Mario Brothers Wii and Bionic Commando Re-Armed were perfect examples of games deserving modern-day retoolings, and the original Zelda is as worthy as any title to receive the same treatment.

Whereas Nintendo itself seems unable or unwilling to do anything with Zelda that doesn’t involve remaking Ocarina of Time every three years, outside developers have taken the Zelda idea from either end and are trying to drag the franchise into something resembling modern-day relevance.  One one end you have Vigil Games who used Darksiders to pool a disparate collection of gameplay ideas into the dark Zelda I’m not sure anyone ever really wanted. on the other end you have Silicon Studios traveling all the way back to 1986 and wrangling the original Legend of Zelda idea from its dusty roots and attempting to make something fresh out of it again.

It’s a brilliant idea– take Zelda and deconstruct it into a 3d spritework sandbox.  What I find issue with is the concept that you can take the original Legend of Zelda and attempt to force it into a compelling gaming experience in 2010.  Silcon Studios is stuck between two basic problems– one, taking the core game of Zelda and pitting it against a market rife with 12-20 hour gameplay behemoths or secondly, stretching out Zelda to the length of a modern-day game without overstaying its welcome.

This problem could have been neatly solved had the game included an actual map creator– at that point you’re just begging the gaming populace to remake as many classic 2d top-down action RPGs as corporate lawyers would allow.  For whatever reason that idea is missing, although you do have the ability do create your own 3d sprite hero  using 3dDGH’s character creation tool.  It just seems like a lost opportunity.

It’s overall a surreal idea.  Here you have the ultimate lovesong to 8 bit Zelda exclusive to a Sony platform, and moreover a platform where it’ll be forced to do battle with stuff like Modern Warfare and Red Dead Revolver.  In a more perfect world Nintendo itself would have bought these guys out the moment screens for 3dDGH hit open air and at this very moment you could download a greyscale 3d sprite map of Link’s Awakening.

That said.  3dDGH currently sits at an 80% overall on Metacritic, which is just on the good side of average.  So the idea at least isn’t terrible, and a good many of the bad reviews are more of an indictment against the original Zelda than 3dDGH’s merits as an actual videogame.  So if you’re interested you probably wont’ be burned, especially as Atlus is only asking forty bucks for the experience.

Batman:  Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition 3d
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer:  Rocksteady Games
Platform:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

I can’t tell if this is a new thing or not, but it would appear that publishers are attempting to undermine used game sales by re-releasing console games well after the original street date complete with all the DLC present from that game’s release.  And while this is a good idea in theory, you run into an obvious problem– if you’re releasing a game this long after it’s release date, there’s simply no real way to match the value to be had via buying used.  Resident Evil 5 had this same problem– yeah, you were getting all the DLC releases for the game in one complete package, but you were also being asked to pay fifty bucks for a game that was being sold for less than half that price if you just shuffled over five feet to the used games rack.

B:AAGotY3d has this same problem, only worse.  RE5 actually had a fair amount of DLC released for it, ranging from multiplayer modes to multiple 2 hour-long added scenarios.  You could at least talk yourself into owning the complete version of RE5 on one disc– or, at the very least, you could talk yourself into buying RE5 Gold when it hit a non-stupid price.  B:AAGotY3d doesn’t have that luxury– only six “maps” (Which turned out to be single-shot challenge rooms) were ever released for the original Arkham, and all six of those were available for free the day the game was released.  Okay yeah, B:AAGotY3d is the comprehensive Arkham experience (especially for 360 owners who will finally be able to play the erstwhile PS3-exclusive maps), but you could get the comprehensive Arkham experience via leaving your connection running for ten minutes after you bought the game.  And Eidos wants to sell you this package for fifty dollars.

Okay sure, B:AAGotY3d comes with a 3d mode– a godawful 3d mode using a pair of those horrible red/green cardboard glasses that tear in half after thirty minutes, but it’s there.  That’s the sole concession to a real value proposition over the original Arkham game and at least if you bought the used game you won’t have to suffer knowing that this box art lurks somewhere on your wall unit

All this said, Arkham is a fine game, an excellent game even, and if for some insane reason you’re opposed to used game sales and you’ve yet to buy it this is as good a reason as any to finally pick it up.  Just be aware that if you’re a PS3 gamer that there’s absolutely nothing new in this box.

Lost Planet 2
Publisher:  Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

I was badly needing Lost Planet 2 to be a good game.

The original Lost Planet didn’t get nearly the amount of love it deserved.  It was a sci-fi 3rd person shooter before Gears of War went and forced large swaths of the industry into this same mold, and I felt that with some polish and an actual attempt at something resembling a coherent storyline it could have even rivaled Gears at least in the hearts of the enthusiast community.  As it was the gameplay was better and even had something of a 3d Bionic Command vibe before GRIN came along and somehow managed to ruin “3d Bionic Commando”

But the point is, the foundations for a fantastic game were laid down by Lost Planet 1.  A little more coherent single-player experience was all that was needed to make the entire package sing.

So naturally what Capcom decided to do was make a co-op 3rd person shooter with no worthwhile single player function to speak of.  Oh, single-player is there– just that much like Resident Evil 5, your CPU co-op partners are wholly useless.  So thanks for ruining that, Capcom!

While we’re on the subject I want to throw this out there– when’s the last time Capcom made a worthwhile single player console game?  I mean something with an actual single-player storyline that wasn’t intended for co-op play?  Monster Hunter, Street Fighter 4, Resident Evil 5, Lost Planet 2, these were all meant to be played either co-op or competitively– they were never intended to be enjoyed by a single player.  Dark Void, Bionic Commando, Chop Til You Drop were all godawful– you have to go all the way back to Devil May Cry 4 and Dead Rising before you find single-player Capcom games that you don’t have to talk yourself into enjoying.  What I’m saying here is that I have very little hope in Dead Rising 2 being a good game.

Skate 3
Publisher:  Electronic Arts
Developer:  EA Black Box
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

The only skating games I’ve ever played was Sega’s Jet Grind Radio stuff, so unless a skateboarding game allows me to take on a main battle tank I can’t really find much to be interested about it.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 5-5-10: Fat Princess, Stephen Hawking, The End of Humanity

Posted by nfinit on May 4, 2010

No theme this week– there’s only three brick-and-mortar games in stores this Wednesday, and ever since I’ve aquired a PS3 I’ve been playing an unhealthy amount of Demon’s Souls (note: for healthy, non-masochists-any- amount of Demon’s Souls is an unhealthy amount) instead of writing, but I wanted to address this bit where Stephen Hawking is now openly speculating on a possible alien invasion.

For those unaware, Stephen Hawking has gone on record that actively signaling for contact with alien cultures (note that there has been some confusion as to how this relates to SETI:  Namely, it doesn’t.  SETI merely searches for possible signals) is a foolhardy and ultimately fatal exercise in that the moment an alien civilization is made aware of our existence they’re likely to open up a wormhole and proceed to slurp our brains out through bendee straws.

This speculation would in itself be rather harmless–I’m of the opinion that any civilization that’s mastered interstellar travel probably has no need for whatever we’ve got left and is far better served by scooping up comets in the Oort Cloud and/or dismantling Jupiter, but Doctor Hawking went and upped the ante by giving detailed instructions on how to build a time machine.

Now, keep in mind, Doctor Hawking is not insane.  He’s not a nutjob.  He’s not a shlub sitting in the basement of an abandoned paint factory in a hand-built Faraday cage monitoring government telephone traffic.  No, Doctor Hawking is a board-certified genius. Probably smarter than the next hundred people dumber than him combined.

What I’m trying to get at here is that Doctor Hawking knows something, and we’re fucked.

So enjoy this week’s slate of games, because as meager as it is, they’re probably our last!  But we had a good run and maybe Wal-Mart will break the street date of Red Dead Redemption before we’re all converted into peat moss.

Picross 3d

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer:  HAL Laboratory

Platform:  Nintendo DS

It’s Picross but this time instead revealing of flat images you uncover charmingly blocky 8bit 3d sprites.  So that’s fun.

The great tragedy about the Picross concept is that it was pioneered by Nintendo, and as result the images you’re treated to tend to be fairly safe.  Puppies, hearts, horrible Italian stereotypes, music symbols– It’s the sort of concept you wish a morally bankrupt development studio like, say, Team Ninja would steal.  You’d wind up with a better game than Dead or Alive Paradise and you could just skip the annoying interstitial relationship bits and just build the entire game around revealing softcore pornography.

Come to think of it, maybe Tecmo should skip the entire fiction around the Dead or Alive universe, buy the Panesian back catalog and give us Bubble Bath Babes 3d.

(this is the part of the article where I post a relevant screenshot but it turns out there exists no worksafe Bubble Bath Babes screenshots.  So here’s the nearest thing to a worksafe boob I could find)

I hate to play the “amuricans r dum” card but maybe there’s a good reason why North America was the last market to get hold of Picross 3d– Nintendo has no faith in our ability to process this game.  After watching gameplay footage I still have no idea how you’re expected to operate this thing. and

I can only assume that Picross 3d is part of Nintendo’s ongoing attempt to make gaming unpalatable to gamers, this time by employing mathematics and non-euclidean geometry.

Fat Princess:  Fistful of Cake

Publisher:  Sony computer Entertainment

Developer:  Titan Studios

Platform:  PlayStation Portable

This is an attempt to bring the robust PS3 Fat Princess experience to the PSP, and it’s as slimmed down in the process as you might expect.  Yeah, you get a handful of new maps, but the game shrinks from a 32 player experience to 8 players on the PSP and you lose the ability to invite players into the game or to chat with them once they’re there.

To put in terms that Fans of Fat Princess can easily digest, it’s like going from Exit to Eden-era Rosie O’Donnel to post-Kabbalah Madonna.  Not fun at all!

It’s one of those ports that’s baffling as to why it should exist in the first place.  It’s an ugly, dumbed-down Fat Princess that brings a five dollar premium over the PS3 version for the privilege to play it on your PSP.  It feels like one of those projects that Sony blatantly money hat-ed into being to justify the existence of the PSP Go, and had Sony the good sense to keep it on the Playstation Network (and not charged more money for the experience) that would have probably worked well.

That said, all this is probably being unfair to Fistful of Cake.  Fat Princess is a great concept and had it evolved from a PSP game (where it seems like it’d be in its natural habitat) to the PS3 via PSN, probably no one would complain about the PSP version.  But the fact that the PS3 version is established, there’s little justification for Fistful of Cake to exist unless you happen to be a Fat Princess fiend.

Iron Man 2

Publisher: Sega

Developer:  Secret Level

Platforms:  Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, Playstation Portable

You’d have thought that after the commercial and critical success of Batman Arkham Asylum that comic book IP holders would have realized that forcing a comic book game around the release of movies based on that same IP was a broken and invalid business model.

Furthermore you’d think after Sega managed to fuck up an Iron Man game to the point where it was voted IGN’s 2008 “Worst Game Everyone Played” that maybe Marvel would hand the license over to someone who could figure out how to make a decent game based on flying around as a robot and  blowing things up.

Amazingly Marvel has done neither, handing the exact same IP to the exact same publisher who then handed the development to the exact same developer who couldn’t get Iron Man right the first time around.

untitled-40.jpg picture by bigredcoat

In case you’re wondering if maybe, just maaaaaybe Secret Level was capable of producing a competent game after being given a second stab at making an enjoyable game based around flying around as a robot and blowing things up, keep in mind that Sega has already dissolved the studio (and possibly the physical developers as well).

Secret Level’s incompetence was marvelous to behold.  not only did they manage to fuck up Iron Man twice (again!  Robots!  Flying!  Stuff!  Explodes!) but these were the same guys who were given the Golden Axe franchise and managed to fuck up Devil May Cry + raptor mounts.

If Secret Level and GRIN still existed I’d like to have seen along the lines of a competition between the two, giving them the most braindead easy game design ideas and seeing if they could manage to fuck it up.  Also we could throw Double Helix of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra fame into the mix.  Give them all a copy of Renderware and tell them to remake Joust and see what sort of abomination comes out the other side.  I’d play these games– hell, I’d pay money for these games, and more importantly they’d exist to show budding young game developers what to never ever ever do.

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