Still have more Wii games than anything else.

I know I have strange tastes, but I do love my Wii. Games like Boom Blox, Blastworks, Okami, and Nintendo's usual round up have me enjoying the system just fine. Frankly all of my consoles have been taking a backseat to my new addictions City of Villains/Heroes and Team Fortress 2. If Nintendo doesn't have any hardcore games for a while, whatever. I try and look at things from a more rounded perspective: I have a lot of games accross all platforms that I still really want to play, and they'll keep coming. Please tell me I'm not the only one who sees it like this?


Three Course News Piece

Appetizer: 'Samba De Amigo' Maracas

   For those of you bored with wailing on guitars, there's another rhythm based series out there called Samba De Amigo. Originally released for the Dreamcast, it was a quirky take to the genre, bouncing maraca peripherals to very upbeat, generally Latin-themed music. The game is coming back for Wii, and Sega recently shared the new Maraca shell for your Wii-mote and nunchuk.
Wii-motes: Now with 20% more maraca!

   I appreciate the novelty of the shells, which will be launched with the game and sold for $14.99 seperately, but I wonder if I really need another pair of plastic shells lying around my living room. Hopefully us gamer folks can help pick up the game and really make it fly, pushing Sega to release sequels to make these shells worth it. Either way, it's hard to decide if you look more stupid for playing a maraca game with or without the attachments. I suppose if you're going to look like an idiot anyway, you probably should have them... (To be clear: you look like an idiot no matter what rhythm game you play. That's right, Guitar Heroes, you too.)

Main Course: Valve delays 'Left 4 Dead,' Surprises Nobody

Oh I get it, cause a zombie bit off his thumb and now he only has 4 fingers.

   Have you seen Left 4 Dead yet? If not, you are missing out on what is shaping up to be one of the most intense games to come out this year. It's a survival-horror FPS wherein you and three other people are fighting to survive a zombie appocalypse. The other three people, ideally, are other players all connected online. If you want to trust your life to bots, than be my guest, but we all know how that ends up.
   Well for those of us who have been incredibly excited for this title, we'll just have to wait a little longer. Valve has recently stated that hte game will be delayed from November 4th to November 20th, tacking on two and a half weeks onto the wait. They claim that it is a great time because it marks the 10th year anniversary of Valve's first game Half Life, but I'm sure it's more based on Valve's commitment to the quality that we all love them for.
   Right now, I charge anybody who is good at modding to make a Team Fortress 2 version of this game. Being a Pyro, a medic, a Heavy, and a Scout vs. the hordes of the undead? Yes please!

Dessert: 'Halo Wars' Box Art Revealed, Laughable

What's cooler than one Master Chief on the cover? Three dudes who LOOK like Master Chief on the cover!

   That's really all I have to say about this. It's a really generic looking box art, in my opinion.

   But what say you, my faithful reader(s)? Does any of this news pique your interest? Am I perhaps missing some greater important topic you wish to discuss? Should, by chance, I talk about hamburgers instead? What are your thoughts? Please, leave some comments.

   It's so very cold here, by myself.

Boom Boom Boom Boom
Pushing all the buttons
Mooooore Tiiiiime

King Kong & D. Jungle Girls - Boom Boom Dollar

Games: Unplugged Presents...

Killer Bunnies and the Journey to Jupiter

(First off, an apology. This didn't publish like I thought it did last night, so here I am writing it again.)

   Games: Unplugged is my new segment where I bring you the best and brightest of games that don't require an outlet to play. (Maybe batteries, in the case of The Omega Virus.) This week I highlight the sequel to one of my favorite non-collectible card games, Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot.

   For those who are not familiar with the original, allow me to give a quick rundown. The Killer Bunnies series thus far has a simple enough premise: keep your bunnies alive and grab as many carrots as you can in hopes that you grab the winning (or Magic) carrot. Players have a five card hand and two card run that allows for some interesting delayed tactics. It's a madcap game to begin, and only gets crazier with every expansion pack you buy.

   Killer Bunnies and the Journey to Jupiter expands on this formula by forcing you to worry about a ship so you can leave earth and venture through space, in order to obtain more carrots. Players must jettison their tiny mammals into the closer reaches of space in order to nab carrot tokens and bring them back to Jupiter to claim the actual carrot cards. Thus, this game adds a large board to be played on, making it a card/board game hybrid. The strategy is a bit deeper in this game, and further expansions will not only add to your deck but your board.

   I had the pleasure of playing this game with it's creator, Jeffery Neil Bellinger, at GenCon last week. I had a wonderful time, part because the game is a blast, and part because Jeff is the best guy to play it with. The game ended with a desperate struggle of me vs. him. I had a carrot token and was jetting for Jupiter with him trying to take me down. He kept gaining the upper hand, hitting my ship during the attack phase (which consists of a simple roll off, the size of your die depending on your ship level) while I made a break for it. Eventually I was out of running and had to fight, with only one hit left before I went down. He said he would let up on me if I gave him my carrot token and threw away my best weapon the Hal 900 (which forces your opponent to drive into the sun, and in retrospect I should have used on him). I neglected, saying that if he wanted that carrot token he'd have to dig through my space debris to find it. And find it he did after setting me ablaze in the depths of space.

Me and Jeff, the creator.

   The game isn't perfect, there are often a lot of rule clarifications and trying to introduce somebody to the whole expansion-loaded package at once can be a bit overwhelming, but eventually anybody with half a brain can catch how the game is played. It's interesting to have a game like this that evolves as youp lay it. And the depth at which Jeff lays out the entire structure is amazing. When you have just the original set, cards will refer to rules and things that aren't available up until the very end of the game. So while you have a complete game, it always evolves up through all of the expansions, and the same will be said of Journey to Jupiter when it comes out soon.

   You and your buds can pick up the Killer Bunnies card game, Quest for the Magic Carrot, at any typical hobby shop, and look forward to Journey to Jupiter when it soon releases.

GenCon '08: Champions Online Hands-On

Championing the Way for a Better MMORPG

  Math isn't my strongest suit, but I'd say that from a sheer examination of the facts, the numbers are looking good for Champions Online. City of Heroes/Villains was their MMO until they sold it off to NCSoft to start development on what used to be a Marvel MMORPG. Now we have a company with many solid core values, a larger team, an entire license to work with, and (hopefully) the lessons learned from having already one rather successful game under their belt.
An example of the muted, yet lush, backgrounds of Champions Online
   At the most recent GenCon in Indianapolis, I had the pleasure of playing, and watching others play, a still early version of Champions Online, a super-hero themed MMORPG based on the Champions pencil/paper RPG. If you are not familiar with Champions, allow me to glaze over by stating that it is to super heroes what DnD is to fantasy: the best tabletop RPG of it's kind. With ever-popular characters like Foxbat and The Destroyer already lined up, Cryptic has been able to devote more resources to creating the world, physically, rather than creating it phillosophically.

   Part of that creation includes the already vast number of areas one can explore. While the only real place anybody was allowed to go to was a West World inspired theme park filled with haywire cowboy robots, just on this singular map you could see numerous other areas. There was a prison, a radiated wasteland, and a ghost town, just to name a few, and it was all on one map. While fans of World of Warcraft may be used to varrying terrains, one heavy complaint weighed against City of Villains is the fact that it doesn't really have any varrying locals. The overworld is all cities, and the instances are all office buildings and caves: not much to really work with. The newest expansion for the tabletop Champions showed off Monster Island, an area the staff of Cryptic on hand stated was inspired by the MMO version of the game. In fact, many of the monsters in the manual for this new realm were shown off through character models in the book, rather than traditional hand-drawn pictures.

    With that in mind, I was told that
This is but a small flavor of the unique character creator.
many of the monsters, especially Dr. Moreau's animal-people, can actually be constructed, 100%, in the character creator. While I couldn't tell you what he was showing me exactly, I remember my jaw dropping when one rep showed me exactly what kinds of things I would be able to make. Okay here's a tasty bit, I remember a rhino-man. To say that Cryptic has gone above and beyond with their ideas of customization in this game is putting it dimly. Atop from the appearance of your character, you can change things like colors of your attacks, where a laser blast could shoot from, and even the types of running animations your character has. Want to make a zombie who actually shambles? A werewolf who runs on all fours? Now, you can!

   I didn't get a whole lot of time with all
Glowing hands never bode well for your opponents.
the different power sets, and there wasn't a whole lot on hand. If you're unaware, you'll be able to pluck your powers individually rather than get shoehorned into a class. If you want to be a guy who lifts tanks but also can pull up bubble force fields, you can. If you want to throw fire and ice, you can. Likewise, if you want to focus on all types of healing powers, more power to you. It all goes back to Cryptic's idea of absolute customization. Along the way you can pick up armor pieces, similar to WoW, that allow you to customize your powers and maybe add to your sets. From there, you can choose whether or not these pieces display on your character, only further enhancing the level of customization even further. Instead of having to collect potions or inspirations, power ups appear out of knocked-out enemies and are used as soon as you pick them up, similar to the more action-oriented beat-em-up games that Cryptic is trying to recall in Champions.
   Your specialized character will come to life in the glorious cell-shaded visuals. Like a real comic book, the characters and special effects are bright and vibrant, really popping out from the purposelly muted backgrounds. Again, all I saw so far was the desert area, so it wasn't the most visually inspring: sand and sky. However, it still looked much more vibrant and lively than most any areas in City of Villains.

   There wasn't a whole lot else mechancially I was able to get out of them. For the most part, it is a relatively typical MMORPG. However, they managed to remove cooldowns on your attacks, when you want to attack you can, only a very select few powers have to cool down. In further trying to harp on the more action-oriented gameplay, you can reduce damage by blocking on the fly, as well as break out of holding moves by spamming the block button. Some powers use this more action heavy pace to their advantage. There are some pieces of destructable environments that brutish characters can pick up. The example I saw was watching a girl pick up a stage coach and whack a baddie with it. Tell me that's not awesome... Liar! You know it is. One last random thing, the game will feature what they're calling "Perks," similar to City of Heroes' badge system, so, achievement whores are welcome.

   My overall impressions are very positive. I personally hope there is a way to purchase the character creator seperate and before the game comes out, similar to Spore. I'm an alt-aholic as it is on City of Villains, and I know this game is just going to be way better at letting me create interesting and original characters. The game has plenty of time to come out, and it's already looking rather smooth. I didn't have a good look at a large majority of the group mechanics, though I was told that whoever starts a group has all their teammates level off to them to save the hassle of not being able to play with friends or what not. There's room for fatal errors as well as improvement, that much is certain. However, right now, it seems that Champions Online is right on track.

   Tomorrow: I rave about Killer Bunnies and the Journey to Jupiter, and Friday will bring about my thoughts on Bioware's newest epic Dragon Age: Origins.

I was struck by lightning
walking down the street.
I was hit by something last night
in my sleep
It's a dead man's party.
Who could ask for more?
Everybody's coming,
leave your body at the door.
Leave your body and soul at the door!

Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party

Programming Note

Busy, Busy, Busy

   Packing up for an out-of-town trip to GenCon this weekend, so pardon my lack of blogging this week. Hopefully I'll have something great for Friday, though. I'm hoping for some hands on impressions of Champions, maybe some other games, as well as (fingers crossed!) an interview with somebody from Champions.

  Either Way, I'm as busy as a Smash Bros. screenshot, so pardon my quietness on this front, but hopefully it's just the quiet before a storm. A storm of awesome. I'll also have to find a way to put together some sort of photo session, as I finally will have a camera with me, this year. I want to avoid Flickr... but I might not be able to. We'll see.

Maze Dude - Ice Climber: Snow Cone Heaven (OC Remix)

On Review Policies

Let Me Show You Mine

There has been a lot of hubbub, not just recently, but for a while about the whole line of ethics of video game reviewers and review processes. Most of it is just mud slung by know-nothings on the message boards, but some of it does have legitimate merit. With this in mind I thought I would take this otherwise slow news period to talk about my policies.

I am fortunate enough to not work for anybody, so I get to make my own rules and set my own deadlines. I will not give a review if I do not think I am ready to. What makes me think I know what's best? Well honestly, it's what little arrogance I actually have. I think I know better. Maybe I'm wrong, but if you do not like it, I apologize, and ask that you go somewhere like IGN or read the reviews here by professionals at Giant Bomb. If you want just one more honest, unpaid, because-I-want-to opinion, than please feel free to hang around. I invite you to stay, and ask you to make yourself at home.

If, in some crazy series of events, I am capable of receiving free copies of the game: I assure you that I will only take it if it is indeed the final product. It's not that I'm super paranoid, it's mostly me not wanting to deal with the hassle of debug units or any of that. Plus, I like reviewing finished products: 99.9% is still not good enough. (That being said, it's not like all retail copies are finished products.. I'm looking at you, Alone in the Dark (whom I do still love without reason)). Wow, double parenthesis? I sidetrack alot. Also, side not, swag? I'll take it. I love free stuff, who doesn't? I assure you that i pride myself on integrity, and would never let it detour my vote. That being said, I love me some video game paraphenilia, and I'm not going to give it up because some weirdo thinks that it somehow comprimises my intellect. That's fine if they know that it will detour them, so they keep away from it. That's good, even. But that's not me.

Other than that, my goal is simple: I want to deliver a straight up review of games. I'll tell you a little bit about it, avoiding as much of the details of story and secrets as I can, while telling you what things I think work and do not. In the end I will always tell you if a game is likely worth your time or not. I usually will recommend at least a rental for all games, because I think you should really sample the market.

But I am not without my flexibility (which I am renowned for). So perhaps you think something should be different? Perhaps I was unclear about something, or left something you think is important out? A view perhaps, that I failed to share here? Please, please, leave me your thoughts.

I asked him "how is everything?"
He grabbed a cigarette and roll his eyes,
"Oh man I'm desperate to get laid"
He said his boyfriend left,
He said his name was Jeff,
He couldn't stand the traffic in L.A.

Red Elvises - Happy That I'm Straight

Bargain Bin Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins

Criminally Entertaining

One part CSI, One part first-person/survival horror, Condemned is a game that relishes in it's visceral delight and dense atmosphere, while trying to tell an interesting mystery teetering on reality and insanity.

You play as Ethan Thomas, FBI crime scene investigator who is following The Matchmaker serial killer. You arrive at the newest crime scene and begin the first of what will be many somewhat useless crime scene investigation sequences. I say useless because the game pretty much tells you when and where to use them, all you do is point the tool and click the button. I almost would rather have the information gathered this way cinematically, or given to the player instead of having my hand held, but I could see how other people wouldn't mind.

In any case you're soon accused for the murder of two FBI agents and are now charged with the task of finding the true killer with only the aid of the one agent back at the office who believes your innocent, and helps you identify evidence found along the way. The story ends up being rather interesting, with a few twists and turns, as well as some really Se7en-like creepy moments. It teeters into a very Indigo Prophecy segment towards the end, with less psychic powers and (thankfully) no robots. It gets weird, but not that weird.

Visually, the game is an older X-Box 360 title, so it still has some stiff movements, and very plastic looking character models. Character models that, by the way, probably achieve more realism for being rather ugly. You know, like real people tend to be. The enemies take this to advantage though. The army of crazed, violent, homeless people get more and more disturbing looking as the game goes on. The environments themselves are probably the highlight of the game. Both in layout and physical design they are very realistic... except for the part where certain doors can only be broken down by certain weapons... Other than that, they are very dark, very dirty, and very convincing.

Gameplay is your typical first-person perspective, however, kiss your endless ammo and one-man armory good-bye. What Thomas gets to defend himself is whatever happens to be lying around, be it a 2x4 with nails in it or a shovel. The majority of the game features such melee weapons, however some of the guns are apparently fortunate to have obtained guns (from a black market, I can only imagine). If you are lucky enough to down the grimy punk before he takes too many shots, the weapon is yours. Congratulations! You now have 3 bullets to defend yourself before the gun is mostly useless! It's a very interesting system, but if Alone in the Dark's inventory system dissuaded you, this is only going to be more aggravating. You are granted a taser as back up, stunning enemies long enough to get a good clean swing in or two. The overall difficulty is rather high, as it's you and your crowbar against an army of insane bums and a cereal killer, so fair warning.

The soundtrack is fairly lax, the game focuses more on delivering an incredibly paranoia inducing atmosphere with quick, rustling audio cues and dark tones. The voice acting is pretty decent. Nothing particularly special, and perhaps a little out of character with the models, but that's not to fault the audio.

In the end the choice is simple: the game is cheap. If you're looking for an interesting toss up to the typical FPS formula, feel free to at least rent this one, although for as cheap as you can find it (roughly $15 to $20), it won't break the bank to just pick it up and keep it in your collection. The visceral atmosphere and nature certainly deserve a look, even if the game is not quite as polished as it could have been.

Team Fortress 2 Impressions

Fortress of Awesometude

Alright, I know I'm late to the party on this one. TF2 has been out for several months now. Here's the deal: I have The Orange Box on my 360, but I refuse to pay for a gold membership just yet. So not only did I not feel like shelling out another 20 bucks to play a game I already own elsewhere on my PC, but up until a few months ago I didn't even have a computer that could run it. Plus I have a built-in aversion to PC games.

I'm over it, happy to say. I picked the game up and happily spent far too much time playing it yesterday. (I apologize for not sharing my thoughts sooner but I had to work much later than I expected.) That should say something for the quality of this game right off the bat: I sure did not want to put it down. It's more or less everything you want, control wise, from an FPS: fast, frenzied, and fun. What TF2 does right is an incredibly balanced class system (it's not perfect, but who is?). Each class really feels completely different from the other. It really helps you feel like you're contributing more than just a straight up death-count when you're the engineer and you set up great defenses, or you're the Medic who can keep your teammates from being fragged. On some other notes, the game is quite intuitive and the maps are very easy to navigate. Even somebody who has a terrible time getting lost, such as I, was able to get my bearings and learn the layouts almost immediately. A sign of Valve's trademark brilliant designs.
Speaking of brilliant design, let's talk about the art style of TF2. The core design is amazing to look at, but when you start taking details apart and analyzing them you really have to respect Valve's process. Each character looks unique: incredibly unique. No matter how fast and frantic things get, you can still always identify the characters immediately. So now, not only is each class it's own character, as the "Meet the" videos have proven, but their immediately identifiable, which helps the players stratagize on the battlefield. It's not just a mindless run and gun, because your class can't just gun down every class, so you need to be able to know exactly what you're fighting and quick. My hats off to Valve for their excellent work both visually and intellectually. This game looks brilliant, in more ways than one.

Have you had a run at TF2? What are your thoughts, I'd love to know. Also, feel free to look me up, my steam account is DrRandle.

GrayLightning - Donkey Kong Country Machina Anesthesia (from OC Remix)

Too Human Demo Impressions

Can one really be Too Human?


      I’m not sure how I missed this one, as I have been greatly anticipating the titles release, but in any case here I am to tell you, my faithful reader(s) my thoughts on the Too Human demo.     

Combat is fluid when you really get the hang of it.
   The combat is interesting, and certainly feels fresher than most games these days. You move about with the left stick and guide Balder gliding from one enemy to another by pointing in their direction with the right. Some people have stated that it looks a little goofy watching him glide, but I happen to find it quite… majestic. Yes. That is how I would describe it. If beating the hell out of your foes with your melee weapon of choice is bothering you, or you need to pull some distance, using the L and R triggers whips out a delightful little pair of firearms. The targeting is handled similar to the melee, in that you use the right stick to aim your weapons and fire away. It’s rather simplistic, which may turn some folks off, but I find it to be quick and gratifying.     
The game itself seems to run smooth enough, at roughly 30 fps, but what I wouldn’t give to have those in-engine cut scenes move at least the same. Like many instances of games that are just more powerful than they should be, the otherwise gorgeous scenes chug along at a less than desirable rate. I am reminded of Mass Effect, sans the appalling texture pop.

It’s really disappointing, too, because the story is really interesting. What little bit I have tasted is flavorful, mixing the archaic with the future-tech and bringing you a very wonderful world. All of your favorite Viking myths are used tied into this new-old world. I don’t want to talk to much about it, because I myself don’t like people talking too much about a game’s story, and I would not want to do this with you. Surely, if you wish to know more, there are venues for that sort of knowledge.
One of the things this game does well, in general, is really immerse you into this setting. It is gorgeous, the music is perfectly epic, and the dialogue is engrossing. All I could possibly ask for is a tighter framerate, but I’m not sure that is in the cards at this point.

   I highly recommend that anybody who is a fan of story-heavy action/RPG games download this and really give it a chance. I know this title has been steeped in negativity for years now, but I ask you to put aside your feelings and walk into this with a fresh mind. Dennis Dyack has earned enough brownie points with Eternal Darkness to at least have you give it a shot.

More human than human
More human than human
Richard Cheese - More Human Than Human

"Invaders! Possibly from Space!"

My Review of Space Invaders: Extreme

((Note: this is taken directly from my official review of the game, posted here just because. I am aware that the official review wanted a score, so I gave it one, but here I am free of such things. Please enjoy.))

Anybody who has the tiniest inkling of video game knowledge more than likely is aware of Space Invaders. It predates even Mario, back when a time when games were simpler. Well that was then and this is now, and people tend to demand a little more bang for their buck out of video games. The Invaders are back for the second time on DS, and to say Taito has kicked things up to a whole new level would be an understatement.

Off the bat, you should be familiar with your goal in Space Invaders Extreme. You are a tiny cannon at the bottom of the screen who wants to shoot the descending mass of invading aliens before they reach the ground, dodging their shots all the while. What Space Invaders Extreme does is add a ridiculous number of features to that simple mechanic to turn it into a highly addictive arcade shooter. There are now multiple colors of Invaders, and shooting up groups of the same color drops power ups, like the ability to shield yourself from attacks or fire off giant death-rays. Racking up multiple groups of colors can cause a flashy UFO to fly overhead, and destroying it breaks up what you're doing for a quick mini-game round where you have to perform a specific task, like beating up only red invaders in a sea of white ones. Your reward for completing this is a fever mode where you can just go absolutely berserk and rack up serious points.

For the record, this game is all about the points, a tradition that has grown strangely uncommon in video gaming these days. Multiple kills grants you combo point modifiers, fever mode grants you a ridiculous number of points, and there's even a roulette wheel that, among other random things, can boost your score. In the end, this isn't just for fun, as you can take it competitively and upload your score onto the Nintendo WFC to see how you compare to the insane Japanese players.

Probably the best part of this game is the Boss fights at the end of each stage, which generally consists of shooting at a massive invader while dodging some Gradius-level bullets. These are easily the highlight of an already supreme package. Sadly, the game is lacking a straight-up Boss Rush mode, which is unfortunate since there is a mode where you just plow straight through every stage without dealing with Bosses. It would have made sense to give you the complete opposite... Oh well.

There is a multi-player aspect of the game, both online and locally, though it's not really robust. It mostly consists of who can die less. Simple, but appreciated none the less, especially since you only need one cartridge. While I'm double-checking the back of the box here to verify multiplayer count, I am reminded that this game supports the Rumble Pack, a rare feature in DS games. Using this causes the pack to vibrate too the beat, which as far as I can tell, has no real impact other than making it feel more bass heavy.

It should be mentioned that this game is difficult. Very difficult. Somebody who is originally worried about the lack of content should be happy to know that this game doesn't need a lot, because you will not be getting through it very quickly. It's very easy to pick up but insanely difficult to master. It is truly deserving of the name "Extreme."

The music of the game is fairly good. It's mostly a few generic techno beats, supplemented by the sound effects. Every shot you take is meant to sound like a note, similar to the way Lumines operates. It helps really pull the game together, and with the crazy flashing backgrounds, really pulls you in. Something about the whole audio-visual experience is ridiculously engrossing, and it's hard not to get lost once you've started.

There really is no complaint for this game, unless being too hard is a complaint. If you prefer games that give mercy, you should move along but for everyone else, I can't recommend you pick this up any more without being considered obsessed. It's a great game to always have with you, because it doesn't require you to take up a lot of time, or remember a convoluted story. It's pick up and play at its best.