I'm COLLECTING EVERYTHING AND GOING EVERYWHERE: Assassin's Creed III (Wii U)

Ever since the second game in the franchise, Assassin's Creed has always provided a plethora of extracurriculars for the globe-trotting assassin. Feathers, treasures, recruits (after Brotherhood), real estate, synchronization events, the list gets more and more bloated with each new iteration. Outside of the recruits you can draft into your cause, the results of this collect-a-thon are largely superfluous. So why, then, did I spend an entire evening (roughly four hours) doing nothing but rampaging through the Frontier, slaughtering and startling various fauna, and tearing up old-timey New York, leaping from rooftop-to-rooftop, synching up nearly the entire city in one go?

If petting puppies were a mappable quest, you can bet I'd get all of those.

While I wouldn't quite call these jaunts fun, they do provide a sufficient dopamine drip to keep me from turning in for the night. After all, how could I go to bed when there is a church I haven't climbed yet just half a mile away? Smarter people and better writers have researched the addictive properties of certain types of games (the best I can immediately recall was from the now defunct, relaunched GamePro, so link can be provided), but it doesn't matter as much to me why it's so engrossing to my peabrain, but rather how much of the story is lost in this useless minutia?

There is plenty of evidence to state that a directed video game experience can be just as entertaining as an open-world, make-of-it-what-you-will adventure. Typically, I've forgotten why I was tracking down Benjamin Franklin, probably from the five haystacks I leapt into from 10+ stories up; I imagine cerebral hemorrhaging like that isn't easy to overcome in such a short period of time. With each new game, it feels like this is a story that shouldn't be told in this format. Heck, maybe any story worth telling shouldn't be conveyed in an open-world game (look to the strong narrative in the open-yet-focused Tomb Raider reboot, for example).

I remember bits and pieces of Saint's Row: The Third because the story beats were a) manic and b) bat-shit insane. If you can't be either of those things, maybe your open-world game needs to tighten things up? Ditch the 20-team development onslaught and bring it back to the core of the series' compulsions? Sure, I went everywhere and did everything in Just Cause 2, but it sure as hell wasn't for the story.

You can bet I sure as hell didn't do this for the story.

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I Finished: Saint's Row: The Third (PS3)

Glitches can be fun. They can help alleviate frustration with some well-timed slapstick (cue the Yakity Sax), they unite us under the umbrella that we are all playing a broken game and they show that not even the best game is free from some busted-ass gameplay. The bugs and gameplay oddities that I experienced while playing Saint's Row: The Third go beyond fun and mirth.

No, these infestations kept me from properly playing the game on more than one occasion. I might start a mission and find that the helicopter had taken off with out me, though a few restarts revealed that I was clearly supposed to spawn inside before the scene played out. Even worse, some might play out during the endgame of a particularly vexing assault (I'm sorry, Oleg, but if you jump on that VTOL, there's absolutely nothing I can seemingly do to save your ass). I broke my time into several chunks, and it seemed that at least one major bug would creep up in each session.

Yeah, I'm shooting an RPG out the window of a moving car. Ain't no thang.

Soul-crushing code maladies aside, Saint's Row: The Third provides just as much raunch and insanity as the Giant Bomb crew intimated it would. Zombie apocalypse? Got it. TRON look-alike where you're a toilet, bouncing through the third-person landscape in search of a foe? Mmm-hmm. Masked luchador ally voiced by Hulk Hogan? What the hell, why not? It seems there was no idea too silly for the writers of this game to say, "No, we can't have that in our game." Normally, this could lead to a watering down of all included elements, but because both the creators and the avatars in the game embrace this ludicrousness fully, it just seamlessly works.

GTA: Vice City is the most fun that I've ever had with an open world game (Just Cause 2 being the close second), and Saint's Row: The Third now falls squarely in between those two as a game that's a joy to just pick up and go nuts with. In the days of 30-40 hr. AAA titles demanding more time than is available (for this relatively new father, at least), a quick distraction like that is a welcome one, indeed.

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I Finished: Mark of the Ninja (Steam, PC)

Going into this game, the hype and praise was deafening. "Best stealth in a video game ever!" "Finally, stealth in a game that doesn't suck!" "The team from Shank gets it right!" It's dismissive to say this didn't inform my playthrough, though I will admit it was quite a bit of fun wholly based on its own merits.

Please, check on your buddy. That seems like the logical thing to do here, right?

Doing stealth right involves getting the controls and mechanics out of the way as much as possible so the player can execute exactly what they want to do (to a large degree, this could be said to be the ultimate goal of an game developer). If the button presses don't toss the guy over the railing when I want to, or grab a guard from the safety of the bright lights and slit his throat before anyone notices he's gone, the experience is broken. Klei understood this tenant and adhere firmly to it, using 2D trappings to keep things simple, yet oh-so-deadly.

Throughout the game, your upgrades (re: cooler and more effective ways to slay and/or deceive dudes) are based on your performance, so perks are what you make of them. Want that noise maker with the remote trigger? Be a better ninja. And that worked for me; I wanted to be the baddest, most equipped ninja I could be, so I adhered to their rules and raised as little hell as possible. The late game mechanic (I assume, maybe it comes earlier if your play is better than mine) to reveal more outfits to you, all of which demand drastically different play styles, was too much for my blood-craving mind to comprehend. After running through them all, I resorted to the original set and finished with that.

Sticking to the code of the ninja gets you far in this game, but there are so many different ways in which to do so, the game never plays through the same way twice. But each play is sure to be just as satisfying as the last.

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Co-op is the worst

Since the day my wife and I brought our Wii home (this after we both squatted for the console on launch night) , we have craved co-op experiences on Nintendo's inclusive gaming platform, devouring the best multiplayer games that Nintendo offers. Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 offered at least a hint of a reason for one of us to pick a Wiimote and tag along, and Kirby's Epic Yarn had her in stitches. So when we decided to go all-in on the next Nintendo system, New Super Mario Bros. U was the key to that agreement. Unfortunately, like a tandem butt-stomp, it may also be what fractures our happy home.

Succinctly put, co-op play in the New Super Mario Bros. series is the worst. The decision to have all on-screen characters occupy their own space means I can't stand with my partner on a precarious ledge. No, instead, I am left to either sail just over that ledge and into the bottomless chasm we'd both been so carefully avoiding or bounce off of their head and end up in the same position. "But you can spin up and lift your partner to make two characters one, albeit much taller." True, but good luck living with the stare down that results from taking the initiative and proving my Neanderthalic, chivalrous ancestors' instincts to be correct. "When you fall down the pit, just bubble and you can pass through the section with no effort and resume on the other side." Two issues here; one, rarely can I trust my partner to successfully navigate the upcoming section, resulting in a companion bubble to join mine, and two, bubbling is the highest form of emasculation. I may come through the moment unscathed, but my manhood certainly doesn't.

I'm sure this choice was made to keep things kinetic and entertaining for all players involved, and with more than two, it goes from rational and insane so quickly that the only recourse is laughter. But two makes it seem just possible enough to make those "we can't both be here at the same time" moments just the worst.

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In A Matter Of Hours: Metroid: Other M (Wii, micro-review)

After listening to countless gaming podcasts and reevaluating my enjoyment with the gaming industry, I've decided to leverage my GameFly subscription on the side of quantity, not quality. To that end, I provide these reviews, formulated In A Matter Of Hours.
  

Having heard so many divisive opinions on this game, I figured it was time I add it to the queue and form my own. Ultimately, this Team Ninja-helmed take on the classic franchise forges some bold, new steps but fails to catch with me for a variety of reasons.


It's well known that many female reviewers have had issues with the subservient role which Samus is forced into when faced with a team of capable men, and I couldn't agree more. The new voice that she finds in this iteration is a dull and monotone one, lacking in any of the action and drama that even the voiceless Prime series somehow provided. It's a great step forward to try and provide a voiced narrative to the Metroid saga, but this isn't how it should be done. Having her powers unlocked by a man who simply tells her they are finally, nearly fatally authorized is further proof that in  this  man's world, Samus is faced with a glass ceiling that will end her life again and again and again.

 
 The reasoning for the "thumbs down" idea is a perfect example of how adding a superficial story to a game like Metroid only brings it down.

Combat is mostly a plus, and holding the Wii Remote sideways does the job nicely, though I didn't really feel the rush of nostalgia that I think they were hoping for while doing so. One of the biggest complaints leveled at the mechanics of the game, that being a forced point of the Wii Remote towards the screen to enter first-person mode and thus, fire missiles, is troubling in high pressure situations but actually kind of cool in moments where time and danger are not factors.


What did me in with this title was the backtracking that is now a staple of the Metroid series. If I have to step away from the game for longer than 24 hours, a very real possibility after nearly every play session, I completely lose track of where I was going and have to retrace my steps or resort to relying on a FAQ (*shivers*) to find my way once again. Too many other games have my attention to allow this tried-and-true-but-still-annoying-as-hell game mechanic to dominate, so it was time to pack it in and say goodbye to Metroid: Other M, at least for now. I would love to return to this when I have the time to dedicate to a nearly non-stop playthrough. Older franchises rarely take the time to try something as new as what Team Ninja has tried here and that deserves to at least be sampled, if not thoroughly enjoyed.     
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Cave Story: Have YOU overlooked this retro gem?

I played two games and a demo last night, and though Zeno Clash (demo) and Just Cause 2 (game) are great in their own right, the one that really continues to wow me is Cave Story. I downloaded this after hearing all the low-level hype and watching the Quick Look on it. Not only am I having a blast with the throwback art style and gameplay, but after getting stuck for the first time, I've discovered via a walkthrough (yes, I am ashamed) that there are multiple branching paths to be found.
 
Is anyone else enjoying this as much as I am or did it go largely overlooked in lieu of larger profile blockbuster releases?

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Favorite open-world glitch

After having to restart my Just Cause 2 session when my NPC escort character refused to move forward, even after I blasted him in the face TWICE with my previously mounted mini-gun (sending him hilariously careening into the jungle backdrop), I was quick to recall all the other similar glitchy moments I've had in open-world games over the years. GTA, inFAMOUS, Fable, etc., what do you recall as your favorite of these nearly unrepeatable gaming moments?

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Play it fresh or savor the flavor?

The style with which I play my games has been bothering me in recent years, pretty much since the advent of the podcast. It seems that these gaming shows, Giant Bombcast included, are so intent on covering what's new and fresh that I, as an avid follower, want to keep up with them so that I feel like I'm in on the conversation. This drives me to play the latest and greatest games, which as we all know is a pricey proposition, especially when the prices of games drop drastically within two or three months of the initial release. I'm trying to alter this play style to include other old, but great games that I never got around to, ignoring the hot items of the day in lieu of enjoying games for what they are. 
 
But I'm curious, what style of play do you enjoy? Do you play everything fresh and rush it back to GameStop to earn points towards the next big hit? Or do you take it slow and savor each game, not caring how old it is or how dated the conversation about it might be?

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FIRST!

Oh, that's not how that works, is it? I stumbled onto Giant Bomb through the guys over at Rebel FM (Arthur Gies mentioned it's the funniest podcast he listens to, so I had to give it a shot) and it turns out I have another connection to the fellas in that I'm friends with a guy who helped put together this very website (what up, Django?). I'm a huge fan of sites that display their character for all to see and no gaming site exudes this quite like Giant Bomb. As this is now my main gaming home (sorry, 1up), I figured I'd make a footprint here.
 
Currently I'm playing through Just Cause 2 on the 360, inFAMOUS on PS3, and Cave Story on WiiWare (loved the Quick Look the guys did on that one, drove me to pick that game up, highly recommended). Look for looks at these games and more in the future!

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