Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Massive Sins of a Solar Empire Balance Changes

Ironclad released today a crazy-huge set of balance changes for Sins of a Solar Empire and the Entrenchment expansion, viewable in the forum announcement. I think it's great that they've listened to the community and addressed game balance, now a year and a half from initial release. Real service to their customers.

Still reading over the changes, and while many of them seem beneficial (in that they just generally increase abilities or ship damage) a lot of the changes address shortcomings to ships in relation to abilities and starbases found in Entrenchment. Specifically, the siege vessels have all been increased in power and reduced in cost due to their difficulty in operating against starbases or other defensive installations.

The most exciting change I see is the update to the Halcyon Carrier of the Advent faction. The note from Ironclad reads: "Halcyon Carrier:
Adept Drone Anima reworked - now grants 1/2/3 extra squadrons instead of 1/2/3 extra strikecraft per squadron." More squadrons = goodness! Now it can be a serious carrier.

Gonna have to try these options out in multiplay soon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rolling on With Katamari Forever

Great LAN party. I had my fill of Demigod, and Company of Heroes and Team Fortress was fun as well. Mostly it was great to get to see people from out of town, and get some serious discussion of PAX done!

Had a chance to close out the weekend with some more Katamari Forever. The game is cool and real casual, but I take it way too seriously. Some of the levels are pretty tricky with how you should go through them (specifically the Venus-building money level in the forgetful King's Cosmos), and I just can't do it well. Even though it's a little frustrating, it's fun to keep retrying.

However, a couple of the levels I managed to score a 120 out of 100, and that's supremely satisfying. The King dialog is great as well, his feigned surprise at your scoring over the total amuses me greatly. The dialog throughout the game is great, and I especially like the insulted tones in which each of the kings address you if you start rolling before they're done telling you the goals of a level. It's the details on this game that make it more than just rolling up a bunch of crap on a ball.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 2 of LAN Begins

Liveblogging for Saturday below:

Friday, September 25, 2009

LAN Party Begins!

Let's do it up right. Liveblogging below:

That Little Guy Is So Cute!

I don't know if it's the wagging tail, the boundy leaps, or the fact that flowers sprout where footsteps fall, but that little creature from Okamiden on DS is adorable. New trailer below shows cuteness glory:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gratuitous Space Battles

I laughed so hard when I saw this game: Gratuitous Space Battles. At first glance it looks like a ridiculous concept, but the strategy occurs before the game. You design your ships from modular components, set their behavior, and then let them fly. Big emphasis on huge explosions and laser blasts. Pretty much it's how Strong Bad would design a video game.

Release Dates Keep Dropping

New Super Mario Brothers Wii now coming November 15. Perfect time for a holiday release. This game will sell like if you could have a game that would make hotcakes come out of your Wii.

Splinter Cell: Conviction comes out for PC and 360 on February 23rd. Once a month only for so-so movie releases, February may contain releases such as Mass Effect 2, BioShock 2, Dante's Inferno, and White Knight Chronicles.

Finally, although not exactly a release date, Nintendo has announced that the Wii will officially be $50 off, and now retails for $199.99.

I Can Deal With That

A release date for Gran Turismo 5 actually really really really officially no kidding announced. Yes, it's March 2010, and yes, that's the Japan-only date, but hey, it's within the next twelve months! Hopefully we'll see it in the US by June. There was a 3-month lag (Dec 28, '04 and Feb 22, '05) for the Japan and North America releases for Gran Turismo 4, so hopefully this will be pretty much the same thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Wow so I'm a little ashamed I completely missed the release date of Katamari Forever. Which was yesterday. Which I missed. Blah.

But never fear! I picked up the game at the game hut, and popped it into my Pea Ess Three. The insanity picked up from there. I was treated to flying bunnies, pink pandas, and the Prince himself, along with the Kind and Queen of the Cosmos, and the new RoboKing.

We've played through the first couple levels and the same charm and gameplay is there, with some new twists. There are additional goals along with the typical "Grow really big in a short time" goal, making your strategy different from level to level.

Huge graphical update of course. So many objects on the screen at once, the levels are much fuller than the PS2 incarnations. Plus I love the cartoon, brushed art style, really smacked of the hand-drawn look of Valkyria Chronicles, which is a plus in my book.

Glad to be rolling up a katamari again on the new system. Should be fun to play with a group this weekend at the LAN!

Gold Trophies in Mario Kart all Grand Prix Events

At long last, I finally managed to make gold in all events in Mario, woo! I hope Laura has newfound respect for me. Of course I don't have even close to a decent grade in any of those races, but hey, once step at a time. At least I unlocked a bunch more stuff.

Only took a year and a half.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Live Coverage of Fall LAN

Getting geared up for gaming this week -- live coverage of LAN activities starts Friday.

Demigod Update 1.19

New Demigod update today, along with a new Impulse app update. The Demigod update adds a very nice feature -- a replay viewer. Should be able to record games and replay them so I can take video of my massive kill count as Regulus, like I did in the last game yesterday evening! The replay feature allows you to view the replay at different speeds, remove the fog of war, view upgrades purchased, standard stuff. I will personally be very happy to use this new feature.

Along with the match recording, new balancing changes are in, specifically different purchase prices for a lot of one-use items, along with ability changes on some items. Lots more bugfixes.

Glad to see the devs keep working, because we keep enjoying their game!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wolf of the Sea in Silent Hunter III

Last week I picked up Silent Hunter III as part of the 5-year Anniversary deals. Silent Hunter has a steep learning curve, and I was certainly frustrated by the game at the start. There's very little in the way of explanation, and the main game menu leaves a little to be desired. Now that I've gotten into it a little bit, I'm having a great time preying on Allied shipping coming through the Atlantic. Some screens!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Completed

I also forgot to mention that I completed Uncharted: Drake's Fortune last week. The ending was good, but man it was frustrating at times. I probably did the end sequence a dozen times before I figured out what I had to do. I was just throwing my hands up going "WTF?!" But I was glad I played it. Turns out there weren't nazi undead, but there were undead and nazis, much to my surprise! The creepy sequences weren't that bad, and didn't make me stop playing. In all, a decent shooter and fun action-adventure game. The sequel comes out in October, but I'm likely to wait on that one for a while.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

When I picked up Scribblenauts last week, I also picked up the new Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Initially I played Scribblenauts, but once I started in on Bowser's Story, I have not been able to put it down. It's just a lot of fun.

For starters, it manages to meld classic RPG elements of equipping and levelling up characters with action and timing gameplay elements characteristic of side-scrolling Mario adventure games. When I found myself as Mario and Luigi returning adrenaline particles into Bowser's arm muscles via hammer bashes in a kind of rhythm game in order to pump him up enough to lift an entire castle, I knew the game was pretty special. There are so many crazy gameplay moments that you just can't see anywhere else. Bowser's towering hulk blowing massive fireballs, so cool. So many others, they're all great action elements and are a good break from the turn-based combat.

However, even in the "regular" turn-based combat in the game, you barely sit still. This ain't Final Fantasy where you hit "Attack" and come back twenty minutes later with a sandwich. You have to jump and hammer enemies in evasion and counter-attacks. As Bowser, you have to shield yourself or punch out those foolish enough to step up to the Koopa King. Long Mario's punching bag, you get the feeling that if he had a little more brainpower to match his brawn, Bowser would have been running the Mushroom Kingdom a long time ago, because he's a rough dude. It's a blast to get to play as him.

Bowser just steals the show. The character portrayed in the game is this kind of dimwitted but intensely strong anti-hero that you can't help but laugh at and cheer on. Yes he's just plain mean, but hilarious to watch do it.

So much of the game is just plain funny. The RPG tropes that get stomped all over in several sections really cracked me up. My favorite was the boss who advised you to go and save your game, because you never really know what's going to happen next! From Bowser's funny dialog to Mario and Luigi's emphatic gestures and fast Italian speech, all the elements are there for an amusing, quirky ride.

The game looks great, too. Mario and Luigi are bright and animated, Bowser is hulking and detailed, and the environments are lush and cool. Soundwork is the same high quality, from hammer bashes to flame bursts.

Wow I just can't say enough about how good this game is. Six hours in and not once have I been frustrated or lost or unhappy. Every combat is interesting and crazy, from the enemies to special attacks to shifting internal and external combat.

I'm really happy I picked this game up, and if you like RPGs at all, this is not one to miss.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Need for Speed Shift... Good?

Uuuuuuggggh dammit. After the travesties that were Need for Speed: Undercover and Need for Speed: Prostreet, I'd just about sworn the entire series off. Although I'd had a great lot of fun with the Undercover and Carbon issues, the last two were just awful. And I was sad, because I really liked the series, and as a great arcade racer on the PC, it couldn't be beat.

So now the new issue, Shift, is out, and I assumed it would be crap. I thought I could just go on drooling over Gran Turismo screens and waiting for that to come out. But noooo, Shift comes out and is actually good, begging me to experience its loud, revving action.

The problem is I have Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Scribblenauts, Silent Hunter III, Uncharted, a LAN party coming up, and a Microsoft exam to study for. Probably gonna have to wait on it...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Unmatched Potential of Scribblenauts

Just picked up Scribblenauts, and it's adorable. It's also a great game. It's a great game because it really allows you to play. Not the WoW / Sacred 2 whack-a-mole "play" type, or the Call of Duty / TF2 shooting gallery "play", or even the Company of Heroes / Sins of a Solar Empire crank-out-units "play". No, I'm talking about like when you were a kid throwing things down the stairs to see what would happen play. Like when you would pit armies of Lego bricks against stuffed animals play. Running arou nd outside hide-and-seek play. Scribblenauts allows you to go nuts, to just try new things, to be creative and play a game like a child, with few objectives and a story only you create. It's just a heck of a lot of fun. Sometimes we take our gaming way too seriously. I'm glad to see a game like Scribblenauts on the unserious spectrum.

Monday, September 14, 2009

WTB: One Change of Pants

... Cause I just got really excited.

The intro video for Forza 3 is circulating, and it just looks incredible. This is probably the only game series that makes me sad I don't own a 360.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Boy and His Blob Trailer

Although I'd heard about this game a while back, I hadn't posted anything about it yet. Another bright spot on the Q4 2009 Wii release schedule, A Boy and His Blob is an adorable puzzle platformer based on the NES game of the same title. The trailer shows a bunch of gameplay, and I love the puzzle elements combined with classic jumpy platforming. Plus, the game, art design, and full-motion video is just adorable. The game releases October 6th. Trailer below:

Late to the Party with Uncharted

Two years too late I know, but I just picked up Uncharted: Drake's Fortune this week. Waiting for Scribblenauts is giving me the shakes, so I needed something to take the edge off!

Uncharted is fun, it's a solid action game. I enjoy the platforming elements, a little bit like Prince of Persia styles, probably more like Tomb Raider but I never really played those. The gunplay is satisfying, and the melee attacks are rewarding -- love the slow-mo action.

What really impressed me is the look and sound of the game. Obviously it looks good, but it's just really detailed. The water effects are great, and the tombs and jungles you bounce around in are alive. The voice work and sound effects are just top-notch, especially Nolan North as Nathan Drake.

Uncharted is a solid experience -- it's no Metal Gear Solid, but it's a fun action game that doesn't have to do with zombies, undead nazis, or children scaring you to death.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Okami for DS?

Although I wrote about this game a year and a half ago and still haven't picked it up, the news of a DS version gets me excited. Okamiden is a shrunken version of the original game, and just looks adorable. Not much info yet, but the preview below shows promise:

Legal Woes for Mech Warrior 5

Let the trouble begin already. It seems that the guys who hold the Robotech patent are suing the MW5 devs about some IP infringement. Let's hope this doesn't delay the development of the new Mech Warrior game.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Completed

I picked up the second Professor Layton game last week. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box sees the Professor and apprentice Luke seeking out the Elysian Box, a supposedly cursed artifact of a mysterious origin that kills all who open it. Once the box kills his mentor, Layton promises to find the box and its origin in the hopes of explaining his teacher's death.

I enjoyed the game a great deal. First of all the writing, voice work, and visual design are all top notch. The presentation of the game is incredibly polished and unique, blending anime style with old English conventions. The full motion video sequences are a delight, and add greatly to the text-driven conversations in presenting the story.

And what a story it is. The characters within are interesting, if a little caricatured, but Layton and the other main story characters are nuanced and likable. You're forever rooting for the cool and calm Layton and his plucky apprentice, along with all the other protagonists. Predictably, the story takes a huge twist, but ends perfectly.

The puzzles that make up a huge majority of the gameplay are satisfying. Few take the cop-out of tricks, but just enough to make yourself feel clever. The best are three-dimensional visualization puzzles, such as filling boxes with irregularly shaped objects or imagining how an unfolded cube would look folded back up. The rope and maze puzzles are also fun, made easier by a memo function that allows you to draw freely on an overlay without interacting on the puzzle below, tracing the paths of wires, ropes, and other objects. A few puzzles deeply puzzled me, but not so much that the hints didn't help, making the search for hint coins a fun and necessary part of the game.

The additional mini-games, such as the camera assembly and subsequent photo mode, hamster exercise, and tea brewing games are a fun distraction, adding to the main story and giving great benefits if you choose to complete them.

In all, the second puzzling adventure from Level-5 Games is a fun time, and you won't be able to put it down once you start because you, just like Layton and friends, will want to find out the real mystery of the Elysian Box. The final puzzle is a fantastic payoff not to be missed!

Scribblenauts Creative Director Interview

Good interview with the creative director of 5th Cell, the crew behind the much-anticipated Scribblenauts. Video below:

Scribblenauts releases next week. I have my pre-order ready!