Gaming Update has bronchitis. Fo' realz.

Sorry, gang, not much of an update this week.  I've got bronchitis.  Or is that brontosaur?  Whichever one is meatier and trims my neighbor's hedges from forty feet.


WHAT I"M PLAYING

  • My faithful monster of a laptop crashed
but good last Thursday, leaving me to do a factory image scan.  So far, the only game I've re-installed is The Sims 3, but I'll be downloading Lord of the Rings Online as soon as I'm feeling better.   Right now, I can hardly focus enough to write even this paltry little blog.

OK, the unnumbered list buttons won't pop up after I hit enter after a paragraph, nor will it outdent to the left.  What am I missing?  Microsoft Word's Auto-Format has also become one hell of a mess lately.  Ugh.

When I've been feeling well enough to game, I've been going between Worms 2 on XBLA and the last batch of Fallout 3 content, which I'm finding pretty amusing.  I love Fallout 3 enough that I've supported Bethesda by purchasing all the DLC, and my most anticipated game is Fallout Vegas.  The only thing I'd still like more of from Fallout is weapon types, but there are a ton already, so I'm pretty happy.  Fallout Vegas could repackage Fallout 3 with new settings, characters, and weapons,and I'd still gobble it up.  Worms 2 continues to be a great game, and now that more and more people are picking it up, the early multiplayer issues are starting to level out.  It can still be frustrating to find a four player game, but that's really the last of the niggling issues left, other than some technical crashes when exiting out of the multiplayer options.

I'm also a good chunk of the way through my second playthrough of Devil Survivor for the DS, which is proving waaay easier with the New Game+ option.  Leveling is a breeze with the exp. reduction eliminated for weaker enemies, so I'm having fun trying out some different teams.  I've also been thinking about going back through and finally finishing up Final Fantasy IV, but the thought of that one cavern where you can't wear any metal still annoys me.

That's it for this week.  Your question this week, dear friends, is what would you love to see in an MMORPG or MMO game in general?  Personally, I'd love to see some kind of MMO based upon Tad Williams' Otherland or Memory, Sorrow, and Thorne novels.

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About my reviews

I want to get something crystal clear about my reviews.  Someone recently wrote and asked me if I value graphics and sound over gameplay mechanics, since the basic layout of almost all my reviews is:

Intro
Graphics and Sound
Gameplay
Conclusions

Actually, I value gameplay far more than I've ever valued graphics and sound.  There was absolutely no thought, rhyme, or reason in putting graphics and sound before gameplay, so no, I certainly do not have a bias towards graphically superior games.  My recent reviews of Devil Survivor and Covenant of the Plume should be fine examples of how I prefer gameplay over graphical power.  However, with every game, I do feel that graphics and sound are important enough issues that they need to be seriously examined.  If a game doesn't have powerhouse graphics, does it animate well?  Does it have a nice artistic style?  Or if it's plain vanilla, is there a good enough reason (indie developed, etc.)?  Those are the kinds of questions I hope to answer as best as I can with that particular section.

Kinda nice to know at least one of you out there is reading some of my reviews.  Always feel free to leave comments, positive or negative.  I can always use the feedback.  As an aspiring novelist, it's always kind of nice to have my ego stroked a bit when it comes to writing of any sort.  Hah!

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Gaming Update thinks it's turning Japanese (it really thinks so)

Quick update this week, ladies, gentlemen, and things of a vague sexual nature.  Today brings us thoughts on two DS games and Worms 2: Armageddon.  Read on, oh patron of Sparky, and be entertained.  Or bored.

What I'm Playing:

  • I talked a bit about Devil Survivor last week.  I'm still hooked on it this week.  I still think one certain boss battle is a royal pain, but the New Game+ option makes leveling insanely easy, and it feels like I'm doing a bit less level grinding this time around.  My only complaint with the game is the lack of multiple saves.  You can only save one game at a time, which means I can only experiment with one team setup at a team (technically, I could do more, but it would be tedious).  If you own a DS or enjoy SRPG's, definitely give this game a go.
  • I've also begun a playthrough of Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume.  It's another SRPG for the DS, this time from the Square Enix team.  It's a good game, with some great visuals for the genre and an easy-to-grasp combat system.  However, it can be frustratingly difficult at times, especially given its few-and-far-between side quests.  There are no opportunities to level grind or earn more cash on the side, so if you're not happy with the team you've been developing for several chapters, you're kinda screwed.  On a technical level, it looks better than Devil Survivor, but gameplay wise, I'd say Atlus's little gem is far superior.  Still, if you enjoy the genre, it's a decent enough purchase.  Look for a review later when I get into the latter parts of the game.
  • Worms 2: Armageddon is both a blast and incredibly frustrating.  Single player-wise, it's the best to date in the series.  However, the online multiplayer matchmaking needs a patch, and I mean NOW.  When the game isn't crashing from the matchmaking, it's taking upwards of three to four minutes for me to find even a one-on-one match.  There's no excuse at this point for this kind of shoddy matchmaking, and it really kind of bogs the whole thing down.  I'll post a review once I've played through more of the modes online - if I can get it to work for more than twenty minutes.


Thoughts:

  • I didn't realize the new Monkey Island episodes would be released so quickly.  I'll be picking these up as soon as I buy an external hard drive (which might mean sometime next month).  Really looking forward to playing this.
  • The other big news for me this week is the announcement of LucasArts reaching a distribution agreement with Steam.  Puzzle and adventure fans should definitely pick up The Dig, which isn't the best of the LucasArts library, but it'll definitely work your brain for a few hours.  Looking forward to seeing what else is released in the future.  The minute Full Throttle and Grim Fandango are released, I'll be on Steam downloading them again.  I own physical copies of both, but having Steam support would be nice... and hey, I support just about any halfway decent adventure game release.


Until next time, chilluns, keep it gangsta.  Or at least keep it hoodsta.  Or maybe just, you know, keep it white and nerdy.

EDIT REGARDING WORMS 2: ARMAGEDDON -

It appears as though the online matchmaking has evened out, and wait times are far less than just a few days ago.  Perhaps it's because more and more people are playing.  I can't claim to know the specifics.  However, my prior gripes about the multiplayer have now been admirably addressed.  I do recommend using the "Custom game" button rather than trying to search for a quick game, as it definitely runs quicker, and if you're playing Player Matches instead of Ranked, you have quite a few options to choose from.

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Gaming Update - Now with half the calories and twice the flavor!

Imagine this gaming update as one giant, delicious, freshly baked cookie that you can take your sweet, sweet time devouring.  Maybe it has chocolate chips.  Maybe white chocolate.  Maybe M&M's.  Just no damned raisins, thank you.  Now go ahead.  Take a bite.  You know you want to.

What I'm Playing:

  • Tiger Woods 10 is all-consuming, all-knowing, and all-powerful.  Yes, it's light on a whole lot of features, but seriously, this is the most polished version of TW yet, and I think I'll be satisfied with it for a couple of years.  If you ever meet the created Zen master of +14 rounds (damn those par 3's on the Play the Pro tournaments!) known as Chin Feng, be warned - he has a mean chip shot.  It's just too bad I always have to follow up the chips with, oh, five or so putts.  But you know what TW needs?  Zombie golf.  Imagine a fairway full of mumbling, half-eaten zombie types, and you get points for however many you hit within a certain amount of time.  Hell, that's just the tip of the iceberg for zombie mini-games.  Golf cart rampages, anyone?
    • I picked up Devil Survivor for the DS this week, and let me tell you - it's strategy RPG joy-tastic.  It's a teensy-weensy bit light on environments, but it's a hell of a good story and a very solid SRPG game.  Fans of Disgaea, Final Fantasy Tactics, or Giant Bomb's very own Endurance Run may want to take it out for dinner and a few drinks. 
  • The Sims 3 works beautifully on my computer.  A friend sent me a copy as a belated b-day gift, which was way too generous of a gift for this mean, old, cantankerous bastard.  I'm still getting into it lightly, but the more I play, the more I like.  I'm still trying to figure out a few of the intricacies, like if I create two Sims in different family trees, can they interact with each other?  Or are they like seperate game worlds?  One of my fondest things to do in the original Sims was to create a few different households for friends and family.  Anyways, the Sims 3 looks to be a hell of a lot of fun.
  • For those of you Worm-ites out there, Worms 2 Armageddon should be released on XBLA this week.  When it comes out, you'll notice me stopping any sort of other gaming for about, oh, three months.  When Armageddon first came out on the PC, I was like a junkie being given the keys to an LA county evidence locker.  I was in heaven.  The Worms games are pure strategic bliss, and I'm looking forward to all the additional weapons and landscapes.


What I'm Thinking:

  • Good God, I wish game consoles had less cords, or that I could hire some kind of professional to come in and rework my setup.  At one point, I'd thought about buying another TV for my bedroom, so it might eventually work itself out if I move one of them, but still - three consoles hooked up to one CRTV is bad news.
  • While I love the remake and re-releases of games like Monkey Island, I want more!  There's a huge back catalogue of games out there that deserve new games or updates, so hopefully we'll see more of this in the future.  In the meantime, I want to see more releases on all three consoles of decent games from their older libraries.
  • IGN recently released a great list of their top 25 picks for the Wii.  I recommend all the Wii-haters out there read it, because this really is a great list of games.  I don't agree with Conduit being on the list, but other than that, I've played most of the games, and they're all a blast.
  • Still have yet to download the Tex Murphy games from GOG?  Do it.  Do it now!  Download them!   You know you want to!


That's all for this week.  Here's your slow-broiled, honey-glazed question of the week: which gaming mascot would you want to punch in the face and why?

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Gaming Update Said to Knock You Out, So I'm Gonna Knock You Out

06/23/2009-

One game, and one game only, dominated ol' Sparky's play time this last week.  Pop it, lock it, and drop it.  It's update time.

  • I received a copy of Tiger Woods 10 this weekend as a b-day gift from my numero uno homie, my brother.  I got the 360 version, which was by design so that we could compete against each other (read: so he can kick my ass royally).  It's just as crazy addictive as '09, and the new putting system is an absolutely fantastic change to the game.  This really feels like the most polished version of the game to date.  I'm a bit grumpy with EA for releasing courses so close to the release of the game that obviously could have been included, but there are plenty of great courses included on the disc, so it's a minor grievance.  And now I'm going to be a bit hypocritical, since I'd love to see EA release more DLC in the form of golfers, clothes, and courses.  I just don't want to feel like the stuff should have been included in the disc.
  • My DS got some love this week, but only in fits.  I've been playing through New Super Mario Bros., which was a riot on its release and holds up extremely well.  I'm really stoked for the Wii version.  If it's a straight port of the DS version, I won't be buying it, but if they include new stages and enough new content to warrant its release, I'll be buying it on day one.


That's it for this week.  Short, I know, but now you have time for more exciting ventures in your life.  What could be more exciting than reading my blogs, you ask?  Well... uhhh, how about repeatedly banging your head against a hot stove or figuring out trigonometry problems while a rabid wolverine chews on your toes?  The world is your oyster!

And even though no one has yet to answer one of these damn things, here's your question of the day.  If you could take two games on vacation with you, what would you pick and why?

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Gaming Update to the Face - Mega Happy Forza 2 Fun Time!

06/18/2009-

Welcome, one and all, all and one, to the latest nonsensical update from your favorite sleazebag, Sparky.  Have not been able to do much gaming this past week, but let's jump in, shall we?  We shall.

  • Really been concentrating mostly on Forza 2 this week.  I've got almost all the career races finished, and should have those knocked out in the next few days.  I don't know how many damn races I'll have to finish in order to purchase every available car, but that's the next step.  The auction house is still going strong, though I'm seeing a lot of repetition in the car designs and a few old ones that have been passed around since the launch of the game.  I'm sure the looming Forza 3 will cut down on people's car customization work, so now's the time to pick up some cheap cars on the auction house.  Forza 2 had a pretty decent stable of cars, though I'd love to see more muscle and earlier show cars.  I know, 50's Lincolns and Caddies aren't exactly race cars, but I'd still love to see the inclusion of more show cars for custom paint jobs and auction house bidding.  Or a Lead Sled.... mmm.  I enjoy Forza 2 because it allows me a chance to get my hands on some cars without doing any real damage.  In real life, I'm legally blind and can no longer drive, so this is a huge bonus, especially since Forza allows me to hire drivers to do the longer and more complex races.
  • Tex Murphy is now on GOG.com.  I've only played one of them briefly, but I'm excited.  Any old adventure game released over there is going to get my hard earned cash, and the Murphy adventures were classics in their day.  They've aged, like most games in the genre, but for a die-hard adventure gamer who grew up on Sierra and LucasArts, these are a real treat.  Check 'em out if you're into retro gaming.
  • Debating between purchasing The Sims 3 or Red Alert 3.  I know I want a new PC game.  I'm leaning towards Sims 3, but I have some doubts.  My laptop was a beast two years ago, running games like the Witcher without breaking a sweat.  However, when I installed the Sims 2, it would run incredibly slow when I booted up the game.  The slow speed would only last a few minutes, but the load times on my laptop were freaking ridiculous.  I need to do some research and find out if the Sims 3 will have the same trouble on my laptop, or if anyone is experiencing that same sort of slow boot time.  Anyone out there playing it?  Having any trouble running it?


Well, that's it for now, folks.  Stay tuned.  Next week, I should have Tiger Woods 10 for the 360 in my mitts.  Here's this week's question... what games are you really looking forward to in the next three months?

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Gaming Update 06/09/09 - Broken Steel, revisiting older games

Howdy little cowpokes!  Grab some chaw, pull up a stool, and park your bottom while Big Daddy Sparky tells you all about his latest gaming exploits and shenanigans.  Not with 100% more bean flavor!  Also, if anyone has any tips on the "Create an Unordered List" button, specifically how and if I can go to the next button without having to tinker with backspace and enter, let me know.  Thanks!

  • Went ahead and finished up the Broken Steel expansion for Fallout 3.  It's far and away the best expansion yet, especially with the added goodies like the increased level cap and the enhanced enemies.  My character was still ridiculously overpowered, so it wasn't too terribly difficult, but I did run into some fun little hard spots in the White House metro.  I'd say it's a must-buy if you own the game and have a few extra bucks.  Bethesda's continued support for Fallout 3 continues to impress and amaze me, and I hope to see the same next year when Fallout Vegas is released.  Right now, that's probably the game I'm most excited for, unless someone decides to announce Suikoden 6 for consoles... please?
  • So, after this last month's steady stream of on-the-cheap games, I've decided to hold off for a few weeks on any more purchases and play through some older games.  I'm revisiting Dead or Alive 4 for some of the easier achievements, and have ripped through story mode with about half the characters.  It's as fun as I remember, but for some reason, I remember the character models looking better than this.  Hmm.  Beyond that, I've got Oblivion on tap, and I've been interspersing DOA fights with Forza 2 races.  I'm terrible at Forza, so I stick to hiring drivers on the single player.   All Forza 3 has to do to please me will be to keep the same crazy level of paint customization options, up the number of cars, and up the physical car customization options.  If it does any of those things well, I'll be a happy camper.  My prized cars I've picked up on auctions are an RX-7 modeled after Han's car in Fast & Furious Tokyo Drift and a few movie and video game inspired cars.  I've got one of the Joker holding up a card, which rocks my socks off.
  • Boom Blox Crash Party is wayyy harder than I initially thought.  That's a good thing, but holy toledo, I wasn't expecting it.  The paint levels are probably the hardest for me, but I'm getting them done.  It's definitely a game that benefits from more than one person playing.  Outside help has been my saving grace on a few levels.
  • I said last week I was going to probably avoid comments on E3 this week, but I just wanted to say that I think each of the big three knocked it out of the park this year.  There's something to look forward to for everybody, it seems, and I think it's an exciting time to be a gamer.  I wish the PC had a stronger showing, but with Blizzard not at the show, it wasn't surprising.  Though it does look like my most hoped-for game, Jagged Alliance 3, is probably on permanent hiatus with yet another no-show.  Sigh.


And that's it for this week.  I think I'm gonna start signing off with a question for you all to answer, if you're up for it.  So this week, let's go with E3 - what were the highlights for you?  It can be anything you like, so have at it!

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Gaming Update 06/02/2009 - inFamous, Devil May Cry, and Boom Blox

You're getting the update a day early, since I'm not entirely sure I'll have a connection to the 'net tomorrow.  I'm also withholding any E3 comments until next week (if at all -I've already posted a few thoughts on Giant Bomb's forums specific to the MS and EA conference).  Let's dive in.

  • To know inFamous is to know addiction.  If you played Crackdown and, like me, thought it had a lot of untapped potential, try this one.  I'm cranking through the story pretty fast, and I'm already looking forward to my next, much slower playthrough as a baddie.  Not a lot that hasn't been said, but if you enjoy sandbox games, give this one a go.
  • I picked up a few cheap games over the weekend.  I had posted about a Gamestop sale, but I had a chance to get out of town (no gaming shops in my little community - or for sixty miles).  Turns out my favored shop, a Play and Trade owned by a friend of the family, was having a Customer Appreciation Day, complete with some good deals on all their used games... and free burgers.  Mmm... burgers.  I picked up Devil May Cry 4 and Dynasty Warriors 5 for the 360.  Shouldn't have spent the ten bucks on Dynasty Warriors, but Devil May Cry was totally worth the seventeen or eighteen bucks.  Dynasty Warriors has way too goddamn many menus for what is essentially a simple action game.  With no manual to help me get into the nigh-impregnable menus, it's going to be relegated to the "shouldn't-have-purchased" line of games on the bottom level of my DVD rack.  Devil May Cry 4, however, is great mindless fun, and the cutscenes are right up my alley.  I don't mind Nero, save for the typical Japanese emo loner hero personality.
  • If you own a Wii and have guests over on a regular basis, give Boom Blox Crash Party a go.  It's a hell of a fun game with a surprising amount of replay value.  It's easy to get into, easy on the eyes, and is pretty darned fun.  Sometimes, a game just has to be fun to succeed, and this is one of those games.  My Wii is quickly becoming my console of choice for what I call my "quickie" sessions, when I just need to relax and have fun with a game for half an hour or so.  Between this and Mario Kart, the Wii is getting a hell of a lot of love lately.
  • Finding a bit of time still to cram in a few hours of Lord of the Rings Online.  I'm hoping to push past the 19-32 level droll that set in the last time I played through it.  They've decreased the amount of XP needed to level, and it seems like I'm blowing through the early parts of the game with a lot more ease than I used to.  I'm not an equipment whore (at least until Diablo 3 comes out), so I'm basically playing for the atmosphere, story, role-playing, and the great community.  However, I do find myself really looking forward to some of the late content of the game, like legendary weapons.
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Gaming Update 05/28/2009 - Xbox Customer Support and LOTRO

I'm going to stop posting these on the forums, unless I have an update that really addresses something I think people will want to hear about.  If anybody does read this, comments are appreciated just to let me know it posted or if there are any thoughts.

  • After a week and a half without my Xbox 360, it arrived via UPS yesterday.  Microsoft must have replaced the entire console, as there were a couple of minor dings and scratches now missing.  That's actually kind of cool.  Their support was fast, pleasant, and other than some English issues with the outsourced employees, I think it went just fine.  Although the fan problem was regrettable, at least MS did their best to replace the system quickly and with ease.
  • I've been playing a ton of Lord of the Rings Online this week.  I've been a player off and on for a little over a year.  I'm surprised I'm not thoroughly addicted to it, as it's the sort of game I could easily sink hundreds of hours into without coming up for air.  I enjoy it more than my brief venture with World of Warcraft simply because the text and general interface is easier to see.  I'm legally blind with a small amount of color blindness, so having a pleasing, easy interface is a must in any game.  Plus, I love Tolkien and the lore, and the developers obviously do too.  Now if only I can get a Tad Williams or Robert Jordan MMORPG, I'd really be set!
  • I just got a copy of inFamoous in the mail, so I'm looking forward to playing that tonight or over the weekend.  Not much else to say, really.  I enjoy open-world games, and Crackdown was a riot, so here's hoping I enjoy this one.
  • Out of shame for the direction the Leisure Suit Larry games have taken, I've changed my avatar from Larry Laffer to Roger Wilco.  I'm always going to enjoy the LSL up to Love for Sail, but damn it, I just can't support the two recent abortions.  Folks like Al Lowe, Ken and Roberta Williams, and the Two Guys from Andromeda were sort of geeky childhood heroes, and it's a shame to see Lowe's baby be treated like shit.
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