Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time

I haven't been into many of the Ratchet & Clank games in the past, and I'm not sure why. Probably because I did most of my platforming on the Wii. But I recently tried out the demo of the new Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time on the PS3, and was really impressed. It's reviewed very well, according to Metacritic ratings.

The demo takes about ten minutes, but shows off some great puzzle platforming and a boss fight. The time-shifting puzzles and slow-down really add a great gameplay element, using copies of yourself to perform cooperative actions -- sorta like Braid. Makes getting from point A to point B much more interesting.

And controlling your character is a blast. The controls are so tight, you feel really in control of your actions. Never once did I think I was a victim of awful controls or camera views, like I have in other recent puzzle platforming in games like Prince of Persia, Uncharted, or Assassin's Creed.

The game is also funny, good-looking, and kid-friendly. Alex really has a lot of fun watching the beat-em-up action and platforming. The environments are lush and full, but never distracting and never unclear about which direction to head. It uses a good, short, room-by-room method where you never wonder about which way to go. It's a bit linear, but each room is so interesting you don't care.

While I'm probably going to wait a bit to pick this up, it's definitely going on my wish list.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guild Wars Halloween 2009

Been so so so long since I played any Guild Wars, but around this holiday season there are a bunch of good reasons to play a bit -- namely, Halloween treats! Starting last Friday, the Halloween events are ongoing in Guild Wars, and you can get all sorts of yummy and useful items just for normal adventuring. In addition to the bonus drops, you can also do quests and games for more prizes, including the yearly hats! I'll have to dig out the scarecrow mask and jump into the festivities.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dragon Age Journeys: The Deep Roads

The first installment of Dragon Age Journeys went live last night, and is now upon us like a horde of darkspawn. I played through the first chapter, subtitled The Deep Roads, over the course of a few hours last night. The best way to describe it is a flash version of Diablo only with turn based combat a la Final Fantasy. The gameplay is satisfying, and a neat feature is the unlocking of items for use in Dragon Age: Origins. Completing a certain quest can unlock an item, as does taking three short surveys throughout the course of the game. I thought that was an interesting idea... trade feedback for an in-game goodie. There is also a very nice helm that can be unlocked, but doing so requires completing 5 achievements. I've managed 3 of the 5 so far, with only one of them seeming to be dificult to accomplish: Killing an Ogre with full party health remaining. THAT will be a serious challenge. I've tried and failed several times. Regardless, it's a fun diversion. You can find it here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Command and Conquer 4 Preview

Great preview at Gamespot for the upcoming Command & Comquer 4: Tiberium Twilight. I really like the previously-announced commander class system, allowing you to choose your specialty -- either offense, defense, or support. There's also a greater emphasis on a rock-paper-scissors combat mechanic where different weapon and armor types have greater or lesser effect. A visual effect, showing colored tracers of fired weapons of certain types, clues players in to their effectiveness. Along with the mobile bases of some of the factions, there really seem to be some interesting refinements to the RTS gameplay of the title. Looking forward to its release in early 2010.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Glowing Blobby Reviews for a Boy and His Blob

A Boy and His Blob released last week, and the reviews have started coming in. I had posted the trailer of this game before. Reviews have been very positive, with rankings in the 80% range. Although it's a simple platformer, the art and animation is so adorable, you can't help but love it. There's literally a hug button that does nothing else but make your child avatar hug his blob companion.

At its core, the game is a platformer with strong puzzle elements. The blob can take various forms to help you get past these puzzles. Fighting isn't a strong mechanic, as most enemies, save for bosses, can simply be bypassed. The game is much more forgiving that the original NES title, and a checkpoint system, infinite lives, and infinite jellybeans allow you to play as you will without worrying about losing progress.

I'm certainly adding this game to my wishlist.

Monday, October 19, 2009

RPG Fatigue -- Demon's Souls and Dragon Age

Couple of hot new medieval fantasy RPGs have come or will come about this fall. Demon's Souls is a PS3 exclusive and a hard-core gamer's wet dream come true. A level-grinding and body-grinding experience, the difficult gameplay turns death into a reward, through the unique multiplayer features by allowing you to learn from other people's deaths as a warning.

Even more highly anticipated is, of course, Dragon Age from RPG master BioWare. Dragon Age is billed as the spiritual successor to the Baldur's Gate series, and promises to have the strong story and quality voice acting for which the blockbuster developer is known.

These titles come on the heels of other critical and commercial successes such as the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3, Persona 4, Fable II, Risen, Sacred 2, Dragon Quest IX, and more. And while each has its own twist, its own claim to fame, they each have a core gameplay mechanic: smack things and get stuff so you can smack bigger things. Yes it's a gross oversimplification, but it's close to the truth.

And I'm just tired of all of them.

I feel like I should be really excited for Dragon Age. It promises to be an epic event, a visual masterpiece, and an intricate story in a detailed world. What's not to like? As a PS3 owner, I should be proud of the Demon's Souls exclusive, buy it and crow about my platform's ascendancy. But I don't care about either. And I can't exactly pin down this general feeling of apathy.

Looking back over my recent purchases, I can't stand on any high horse and claim moral victory over the piƱata-bashing RPG horde. Katamari Forever is a game where you just roll things up, over and over and over. Scribblenauts is a game only of what you make it, with flawed controls. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is a RPG, which I loved, pretty much making me a hypocrite. And Defense Grid is such a narrow experience that it is literally a game made as a copy of a modification of another game.

The only correlation I can make is that the older I get, the less I care for adult titles. I've long given up on first-person shooters, with Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 the only ones I've played recently, along with Crysis and UT3, with those still a rare event in a long dry spell, as they are mostly LAN party titles. Dragon Age and Demon's Souls are just about as M-rated as you can get without straying into AO territory. Maybe I just don't have the stomach for the visceral, well-rendered violence, or just don't care to simulate acts that too closely mirror the awful events in our real world. I think parenthood has really affected my sensitivity to violence, and the decreased desire to expose my kid to those kinds of games before he's ready.

And maybe it's not only their content, but what's missing. These games frequently eschew any cooperative multi-player features as well, officially relegating themselves to sitting all alone in your basement or computer room. When I sit in my basement or computer room alone gaming in Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Mario Kart, or Katamari Forever, I can at least get on Ventrilo and yell at people cohabitating my virtual world.

Here at the end of my ramblings, please know this is not a criticism of either the games specifically, either Dragon Age or Demon's Souls, the people who play them, or even RPG games in particular. Rather, I'm trying to figure out why I don't care for them.

Maybe it's because I'm old and uncool. I certainly am old and uncool, but whether that's a contributing factor, I don't know. Is it time to hand in my PS3 and unregister my Steam account, because surely I won't do anything cool with either? Am I a bad person for not lining up to buy Demon's Souls, Dragon Age, or Uncharted 2? I always wondered if I would play video games for my entire life, my tastes never changing and staying forever young -- at least at heart -- by staying current with gaming and Internet trends. It seems that maybe my wondering can end, answered by a barely audible and disinterested "No."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story Complete

Finished Bowser's Inside Story this afternoon. The last fight was a lot of fun, but certainly tricky. Had to pull out all the stops. Just tough enough -- it was the first battle I'd actually failed.

I was expecting one more battle, but the ending was very appropriate. Funny to the end.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mass Effect 2 Release Date

Looks like we'll be seeing the second chapter of Mass Effect 2 here in North America on January 26, 2010. Really looking forward to this title. A little concerned about this "dark, gritty" feel we keep hearing about, but hopefully they stick with more of a space epic RPG than a grungy shooter. Only a few months until we find out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bowser's Inside Story Nearly Complete

Finally had some more time to play the wonderful Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Crazy busy weekend and beginning of the week, but now I'm back at it.

I've made it back to Peach's Castle, trying to rescue the princess and clear out the evil lord. No, this time it's not Bowser. Crazy, I know. The enemies here are the toughest yet, and a mini-boss trash robot fight was crazy. Luigi getting shoved into a trash can cracked me up.

But, my game just told me to take a break. What gives?

Oh now it's ringing at me. Better pick it up!

I get the feeling there's only a little bit left of the game to play, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Defense Grid Awakened

Finished the story mode of Defense Grid: The Awakening. Last missions was a great finisher, took me a couple tries but I knocked it out.

It's worth going back and re-playing the missions, as there are different modes to try out, including the Grinder mode where you face 99 waves of creeps, and tower-limited modes where you can only have either 10 or 20 towers at one time. Have to give some of those a shot.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Supreme Commander Pickup

Wow the Direct2Drive deals have been good to me lately. Defense Grid, Silent Hunter III, and now Supreme Commander all for $5. That's some good savings!

Played through the first mission of the campaign in Supreme Commander on normal difficulty. This is an old-school tough RTS. Even the first mission throws you into the thick of things quickly, and just rushing the front door doesn't do the job. I need to refine my skills!

Absolutely love love love the camera operations. Finally playing this game two years later on a great PC makes the experience fantastic. I can zoom all the way from orbital satellite view down close very quickly, makes navigation a snap. I think it's goofy that you can drag-select buildings and engineer units, though. I really like how in Sins of a Solar Empire drag selections only get combat units.

Much more to play of course, but it's a good start. Hopefully I can put up with the highly stereotyped "tough colonel" long enough. He's already grating on my nerves.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Defense Grid: The Awakening

Defense Grid: The Awakening has been out for a while, but it recently went on sale at the Direct2Drive 5-year anniversary event. Not a super value at $19.95, but at $5? Yes please.

Defense Grid mimics the traditional tower defense genre, with a futuristic theme. Aliens are trying to steal your power cores, and it's up to you to capital A Awaken your, uhm, defense grid. But hey, to be fair, it's a pretty tough defense grid.

Towers are varied, if a little indistinct. Maybe that's just me. There are only so many ways of making a tower-like structure. However, the maps and environments are detailed, from dusty plains to ice fields to fiery lava expanses.

The missions have ranged from straightforward to tricky. Some have nearly limitless tower placements, while others are single paths. You can really maze the aliens around in the open maps, but they're certainly tougher. The challenge throughout the game is good, and I've had a little trouble where my strategy has been weak.

You get awards and because it's a Valve-published game there are Steam achievements as well for people who dig that. Medals are available for certain scores on the game, and you get a better score for using the fewest resources possible.

In all, Defense Grid: The Awakening is a fun tower-defense style game for fans of the genre. While it doesn't radically reform gameplay, it has refined it, picking up where more-limited mods and web-based flash games have left off.

Monday, October 5, 2009

More Fun With Mario, Luigi, and Bowser

Only had little pieces here and there to play more of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, but it continues to delight. The game can be pretty tricky, meaning the difficulty of the fights can be tough I think if you don't do the timed battle responses well. I have some trouble getting the timing right for counter-attacks dropping down from the top screen, but I guess that's the point. However, a little practice makes perfect.

I have the feeling I'm well over half-way through the story of the game, with most areas unlocked. It still feels very fresh, and I love the way that additional abilities and ways of moving around the game world continue to be unlocked. The world itself isn't very big, but because you keep opening up new ways to jump, swirl, burrow, and slide, you can reach farther and higher to access previously unaccessible areas. Makes me really appreciate the design of the world.

The Bowser boss fights have been a lot of fun. Particularly the last fight I had with a train rumbling down the tracks. The train entered into a hill and transformed the hill into a living construct that healed when clouds rained on it. Really imaginative. And satisfying when I slammed that hill into another barrier, exploding it. I finally got that train and those traitors inside! They'll think twice about crossing the Koopa King!