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The Quest For Batteries

Haven't done one of these for a long time, way too busy to regularly write blogs at the moment but I just had to take a break from coding! :D 
Disclaimer: I am not one of those ass-holes who pirate Alan Wake when it leaked over a week ago. It is released tomorrow (14th) in the UK and mine happened to arrive this morning. I wasted no time biting into it like an overripe fruit, finishing it just before writing this. :) Enjoy.  

  Dinner with The Ripper - Sherlock Holmes VS Jack The Ripper (X360)

Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper are two larger than life characters who exist in a similar enough timeframe that it’s not too far-fetched a story to have them pitted against each other. The result should be a fantastic puzzle adventure right? Well, almost. 

Almost everything presented in the game is downright ugly, the textures, the models, and the animations; stiff, boring, sometimes incomprehensible and often comical. The interface is clunky and clearly designed for the PC before being ported to the Xbox with very few changes which results in a game that is somewhat difficult to actually play. 

The game follows the Ripper story quite closely, too closely perhaps. I am not a historian, but I’d say the game strays too close to From Hell for its own good, to the point where I’d rather just watch that instead of playing the game. 

The game does have some redeeming features however, while the voice acting is utterly atrocious in places and just bearable in others, the dialogue itself is reasonable and the puzzles are a delight to solve, even if most of the challenge comes from poor explanation of the game mechanics rather than good puzzle design. 

If you’re looking for an easy 1000 gamerscore, or a nice little adventure game that isn’t too taxing, or you’re a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, you might want to try and pick this up cheap. Otherwise, you’re much better off getting Monkey Island Special Edition from the Xbox Live Marketplace.

  The Quest for Batteries - Alan Wake (X360)

Five years is a long time to wait for anything without the eventual product being a huge disappointment, so I’ve tried to approach this from a fresh perspective, longing for what could have been caused so much heartache when playing Alone in the Dark, I didn’t want the same thing to happen here. 

Journeying to the small American town, appropriately named, Bright Falls to recover from a particularly massive case of writers block, the titular author, Alan Wake finds himself embroiled in a story of horror and mystery as he struggles not only to stay alive, but to find out what is happening to the residents of Bright Falls and what happened to him during the week of time he is missing.   

Let’s not be mistaken, for better or for worse, Alan Wake is a horror/shooter hybrid, and a linear one at that, much in the same vein as Resident Evil or Dead Space, and shares none of the horror or gut-wrenching scare factor of games such as Fatal Frame or Penumbra. Instead it aims for a different way of creating tension, much like Dead Space the combat never fails to leave you feeling tense, and on edge, as if you only just made it through that fight with your life, not matter how easily you actually took down the enemies the game threw at you. While the game no longer purports to offer a massive, free-roaming environment, I was surprised by just how linear the game actually is. There are some places you can see off the beaten path, however most of these are small areas with little to see but caches of ammunition, collectibles and the occasional fight. The combat controls remarkably well and although most fights follow the same pattern, the combat never feels too easy, or too repetitive, the game also offers you a range of weapons to fight with such as flash bangs, flares, a flare gun and various shotguns, rifles and a pistol. I will note, however, that I do not appreciate having all my ammo mysteriously vanish after certain cut scenes and plot points. 

There is a heavy focus here on Light vs Dark, both in the storyline, the general game-play and in the combat. Light is your weapon here, sometimes all you have is light to fend off the ‘Taken’ the main enemies you will encounter throughout the game who are townsfolk being controlled by the darkness. It enshrouds them and protects them from your attacks until you literally burn it off of them with your flashlight. 

While the game focuses largely on combat, the plot is where the game truly shines. Presented in episodic chunks, in the style of a television show such as Twin Peaks which introduces new details and twists throughout these episodes, but usually gives you a cliff-hanger style episode ending, or gives you a key piece of information that inspires you to keep playing. I literally had to force myself to put the controller down at points to make it last that little bit longer. Inspirations for Alan Wake can be felt throughout the game not only in subtle references but in glaring homage too, references to The Twilight Zone, Evil Dead, and writers such as Hemmingway and Stephen King are common, as are references to Max Payne. Perhaps the best of these in the form of a fictional television show called Night Springs which pays homage to The Twilight Zone, even featuring a narrator who attempts to mimic the memorable style of Rod Serling. While I cannot say too much about the characters without spoiling things, I will say one thing. Initially, I was utterly dumbfounded to see a ‘Leo Getts’ style personality in the game. “What?” I hear you cry, don’t worry, he starts out unbearable but actually provides some much needed comic relief after a few tense scenes. 

You will spend a lot of time traipsing through dark, cold, windy forests with little more than a flashlight and the odd street lamp to protect you and guide your way. These environments are nothing short of breathtaking. Just looking at them makes you feel physically cold and alone, the trees bend in the wind, clouds pass overhead, a grim fog permeates every inch of the dank woods, perhaps the shadowy outline of an axe wielding maniac can be seen in the distance. While some of the interior areas in the game might not blow your mind, the exterior locations are an absolute pleasure to behold, even ones as dark as these. Light and shadow interact amazingly well giving such a convincing look to the locations you’ll be moving around and fighting in. The lighting effects in particular, are something Remedy should be very, very proud of. 

The same cannot be said for everything however, there are a few blemishes on an otherwise jaw-droppingly good game. Some scenes require you to drive a vehicle, thankfully these are few and far between, and certain locations (to reveal which would be a spoiler) are absolutely plagued with screen tearing though thankfully the majority of outside locations run smooth as butter. The enemy variety is not particularly strong and while they are quirky and interesting for generic hick townsfolk maniacs controlled by darkness, they do begin to wear a little thin by the end of the game. 

A point I will concede is that a lot of people dislike in-game advertising, but, if I’m totally honest the only thing I noticed here were the Energizer batteries. I don’t know enough about cars to actually notice the Ford’s scattered about the place, and the Verizon billboards either escaped my notice, or were removed from the European release. For the most part though I didn’t mind at all, I felt that this was one occasion where having a recognisable, real product in the environment helped immerse me further into the game. 

For the collectable nuts and completionists out there, Alan Wake, despite it’s linearity manages to offer quite a wide array of things to find. Aside from searching endlessly for manuscript pages to help fill out Wake’s memory and add to the plot, you will find any one of 100 Coffee Thermoses scattered around the various environments. 

Overall I think Alan Wake is a fantastic addition to the Xbox 360 library and a game any serious gamer should be playing right now despite the few flaws it has. In addition I also feel that it’s a little bit of a shame the game does not manage to stray into the territory of truly scary, or truly survival horror but instead aims for the more action oriented take on horror, but I won’t hold that against what is a brilliant game with some of the best writing I’ve seen in a game in years.  Oh, and the song during the credits? Sublime. You'll shit bricks ;)

I'll be interested to hear peoples thoughts on Alan Wake over the next week or so, as for Sherlock Holmes VS Jack The Ripper, anyone played it? If so, what did you think of it?  
I also have to say, the Limited Edition of Alan Wake comes highly recommended by me, the box is so nice, styled to look like a book. It comes with a soundtrack CD (well worth it, the soundtrack is awesome) as well as a real hardback book and a bonus disc full of junk. One thing that is odd however, is that the games case itself does not have an Xbox 360 logo on it anywhere... Something I was not expecting, I was expecting just a regular copy of the game inside.
Coming up in my "To Play" list:  
Red Faction Guerilla - Picked this puppy up cheap the other day. Wondering whether or not I'll enjoy it. 
Red Dead Redemption - Can this really live up to the hype a lot of people seem to be giving it? We'll see I guess.

Super Street Fighter IV - Opening Experiences

So I got my first real chance to play Super Street Fighter IV yesterday, and boy does it rock the house! 
The first thing that really grabbed my attention was how vastly improved the online services are, finding (and staying in) a match are much easier and smoother 
and (so far) people -stay- in the game even if they are going to lose. Out of around 100 matches so far I've had one, just one quitter. The other thing that 
surprised me was that sorting by region actually works in this game, usually I still get paired with people from all over the world, but I've not seen one US flag 
yet, Union Jack all the way. The downside to that is that even though my opponent is probably down the street from me, it still managed to lag something 
fierce during those important reversal moments.  
Again, no idea if this is because of my newfound ability to play people in my region, or the general level of maturity of the community has risen slightly, 
but i'm glad to report that I have not received one single death threat or whiny complaint about throws or other 'cheap' tactics (touch wood!) Something 
I would receive on a quarter-hourly basis when playing MvC2 (Ok so, playing Doom, Juggernaut and Cable does't help). 
The game itself i'm absolutely loving to bits, i'm liking most of the balance tweaks (while WTF'ing at a few, such as Vega's ability to now backflip over almost anything I seem to be able to throw at him) and the inclusion of two of my all time favorite characters (Guy and Dudley) meaning I have somebody to play other than Balrog and Guile.  I still find it a little disheartening that there are 34 other characters in the game now, and half the people I play online -still- pick Ken. But that's life, the dude's a popular character and i'm convinced (based on seeing almost as many as i've seen Kens so far) that Adon will soon replace him. People looooooove that Jaguar Tooth it seems. 
So what about everyone else? I'm curious to know your initial experiences with the game so far, what you do and don't like about the tweaks/changes/community/etc and will be interested to hear them. 
Also for anybody who's interested, GT: The A Drain 
But I warn you, I'm pretty rubbish with Guy and Dudley :P


Is Back! Wiggidy Whack!

It's been a LOOOOONG Uni year, well, 6 months :P 
But i'm back y'all! And i'm more obtuse and opinionated than ever :D and a much much better game programmer too. 
You may also be happy to hear that I did in fact -not- return to WoW, Uni work was simply too much fun. MMO's in general have gone on the  
back burner, which is why i'll be churning out some more blog posts soon enough, why? Because I enjoy it :D and I finally have 
time again to involve myself in the community before running back off to write my dissertation in October. 
I'm very impressed with how the site is looking, my hat is off to the team behind all of it, it's sleek, sexy, works perfectly, very impressed  
and i'm sure to enjoy delving into the myriad new features that have been introduced while I was away. 


I Bid Thee Farewall. Retroactively.

Anyone who knows me or cares the slightest what I have to say (possibly just me :P) will have noticed that I dropped off the face of the earth a while ago, the morning Blizzard announced Cataclysm to be exact. 
Despite vowing I would never again enter the realm of Azeroth, my instincts overwhelmed me and before I even knew I was doing it, I had downloaded the client and was blasting away again with my hunter, racing to 80. As I usually do with these kinds of things, I became horribly addicted and have proceeded to do nothing but play World of Warcraft for the past month, not even taking a break to post on my beloved Giant Bomb. 
Now that University rears it's head again, I am afraid I must bid you all farewell, I will be leaving Giantbomb until next summer (you guys know how much I post ;) and cannot deny that amount of time wasting would not affect my uni work) and I will continue to play World of Warcraft until I have become burned out on it again (it's approaching already, i've got pretty much all the best gear before Ulduar, and can't get to Ulduar with my current guild, so i'm pottering around playing the AH and doing Daily quests) so that I can put it down and concentrate solely on my work. Until Cataclysm of course :P 
That said, after a rather depressing summer I decided to buy myself an iPhone. I must say i'm incredibly impressed so far. Obviously, I have purchased the Giantbomb app! So while I will no longer be posting upwards of 50 messages a day (addictive personality? I'd say so) I will be supporting the team by visiting their site through the iPhone app every day. 
So bye bye everyone, see you all next summer!

Zombies + L33T spelling = Awesome

Forgive me, I don't normally blog about random small games, flash games, indie games, java games, iphone games, mobile phone games, etc etc I have not, and do not, and am only slightly likely to buy lots of them in the future. (On account of my plan to get an iPhone this year) 
But this one is the exception. 
I MAED A GAME3 W1TH Z0MB13S IN1T!  is a recent addition to the Xbox Indie (formerlly known as Community) games tab, and what a game! 
Obviously taking a note out of the pages of other highly stylised games like Portal, Splosion Man and similar, simple gameplay, catchy music and great style.  
Gameplay wise it's very similar to Geometry Wars, by all accounts it's a standard (and initially, shitty looking) dual thumbstick shooter, it probably has more in common with Smash TV however than Geometry Wars. Initial appearances can be decieving however, for the first 3 minutes it seems like whoever made this game has a basic understanding of how to assemble these mechanics in XNA, and has written (or a friend has written) a catchy song which he knew would take the internet by storm. However, by no means does the game ride on the back of that alone, after the first few minutes once the songs played out and you've been introduced to some zombies, it kicks everything up a notch, some clever and nice looking lighting effects kick in, the levels morph seemlessly into each other and after a while another song will kick in. 
The enemies vary pretty nicely, initially obviously there are zombies, but then you get slimes which split into smaller slimes, snake-style enemies who wizz around the screen leaving an after-image behind, evil faces (which by that point blend almost seemlessly into the background, fiendishly) and some other odd things, including perhaps the greatest homage to Asteroids i've ever seen. 
The sole purpose of the game seems to be to make you chuckle, give you a good solid 10 - 15 minutes of game time, and then begin to mercillessly kick your ass until all your lives are gone. I'm not sure if there is an end to the game, or if it just keeps spawning more and more enemies until you cave, but damn, by that point who cares it's the best dollar i've ever spent. 
That's right folks, one dollah! 80MSP (around 63p in the UK) 
I can honestly say, if you enjoyed Geometry Wars, or are a fan of Smash TV, or heck, just want 10 minutes of well thought out, off the wall entertainment, send your dollar to this guy, it's well worth it. Personally, I'd say this game is better than Geometry Wars when you consider it's only a dollar, but i've never been very good at these kinds of games, Geometry Wars is obviously the better game, but the fact i'm even comparing an XBL Indie games to Geometry Wars should be a clear indication that this game is worth your dollar. 
Give it a try, you won't be dissapointed. 
Kotaku Link (plus vid):    

I Review Stupid Things #4: Manuals

I wanted to write this a long time ago, unfortunately I did not have access to a scanner, nor the particular images I wanted to talk about, however for once the gods seem to be acting in my favor, and i've miraculously come into the possesion of a lovely little printer/scanner combo machine. I decided it was time to finally talk about these manuals.

First up, we have a very special manual, one that belongs to a game most of you will know, and many of you will agree was under-appreciated. The Darkness. Unfortunately, there isn't an awful lot to actually say about this manual, so i'll let its uniqueness speak for itself.

The Darkness

No Caption Provided

Unfortunately, I imagine Microsoft would not allow them to forego the inclusion of the XBOX360 and Xbox LIVE logos as well as their banner across the top, but it's obvious that it was Starbreeze's intention to have the manual completely blank, there isn't one of their own logos to be seen, and I would imagine again, the legal jargon on the back also cannot be negotiated away.

I feel this is very unfortunate, because in my personal opinion, this is the greatest video game manual of all time, it's quiet, dignified, stylish, mysterious and at the same time normal. It looks like a regular old diary, obviously with a few extra blood stains, and it perfectly fits the theme of the game. 

The manual itself is informative, nicely stylised and a good balance between scrawled notes that you would find in Jacky's diary and vital game information, even that is presented in a stylish fashion, making images look like poleroids that have been stuck into the diary. Equally importantly, it offers all the core information you would expect of a manual, while this doesn't sound like a phenominal achievement you would be surprised how often manuals simply forget to mention important things, like something as stupidly simple as how to open a door.

Some might see it as obnoxious, or pretentious, but I see this manual as magnificent and glorious. I simply adore it, too bad the game wasn't this great.

HITMAN: Blood Money

No Caption Provided
Hitman: Blood Money is going for a similar concept as The Darkness, however, I feel the need to bring it up to point out why it fails to give off such an aura of mystery and daring, and simply looks cheap, tacky and poorly designed. Firstly, they've shattered any and all illusion by including the IO - Interactive and EIDOS logos on the manual, secondly the font is bordering unreadable. It's a shame really because the idea of a training manual for assassins is a pretty good one, and I personally really like that name "The Professional's Methodology: Theory & Execution"

The other major factor that brings it down is that the inside of the manual does nothing to continue the illusion, each page has a rough, chalky pink background and makes no attempt to look like the old, leatherbound book that the cover alludes to, instead it switches to a different style altogether with modern looking silhouted images performing each of the various actions available to the character. Unfortunately, this is not where it ends, even without noticing the change of style, you will notice the bad design, the horrendous page layout, and poor attempts at humor dotted throughout.

Overall i'd have the say that this manual dissapoints on many levels, which is a shame, because at first glance it's a good idea, just poorly executed. Much like the game itself.

Wario Land: The Shake Dimension

It's not often I get excited, but this manual excites me. It makes me want to play, climb trees and run about like maniac, what you might call re-living a traditional childhood. And that's not even the best part, it has stickers. Fucking stickers. (Forgive the scan quality, they look much better for real)

No Caption Provided

Like I don't know how to use stickers?
Like I don't know how to use stickers?
Oh no though, the wonderment doesn't end there. They don't just give you stickers and expect you to be all "Wow, that's fucking AWESOME" ohh no. The bottom third or so of each page in the manual is kitted out to look like each of the various stage themes from the game, and Wario invites you to stage your own little Shake Dimension scene on the very pages of his own manual! It's almost more fun the the game itself. Wario even tells you how to use his own patented Super Stickers.

It hardly even seems worth it to show you, or even mention the cover art itself (but it's to the right anyway), it pales in comparison and could not hope to do justice to the sheer wonder that lies within the manuals pages. Page after page of witty (for Wario at least) commentary from the man himself about his awesome game, and how much he loves garlic. Written in a charming and hilarious fashion while maintaining the informative purpose of the manual, brilliant layout and design manages to entertain and inform while still leaving all that space to use your Wario's Super Stickers. What more could you possibly ask for? This is the level of awesomeness all manuals should aspire to.

In other news, the GI Joe movie looks shit, I tried (and failed) yet again to play Castlevania: SoTN, i've given up on MvC2 due to disconnectors not being good for my blood pressure, and I still do not understand the last 20 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Ten Characters I Hate To Lose To

Everybody has a bunch of characters they hate, and losing to those characters, especially again and again, brings forth nerdrage of epic proportions. I mean just look around the rage that surrounded Street Fighter IV's boss character, Seth. The internet burned for months, and some parts of it are still quietly smouldering away with a burning hot anger.

So I bring you my personal top ten of characters I simply hate to be beaten by. Losing to these characters make my blood boil, my nerd rage, and my feet itch. Yeah I don't know about that last one either.

#10: Yun and/or Yang (Street Fighter 3, Street Fighter Alpha 3):

Smug son-of-a...
Smug son-of-a...
There's just something about losing to one of these skateboarding, baseball-cap wearing, emo-haired teenagers that makes me want to just quit. Their movesets are awkward and difficulty to adjust to, they are fast as well as hard-hitting, and like any characters you'll see on this list, have an overbearing air of smugness about them that just serves to make you angry.

#9: Sheva Alomar(Resident Evil 5):

Ok, so she's not actually your opponent. But at one specific point in the game, she might as well be for all the help she isn't giving you. During the Jill/Wesker fight, on higher difficulties, she is so eager to follow you through the door Wesker kicks you through that she gets herself instantly killed by Wesker almost every single time. And on the rare occasion she doesn't, she will walk right into jill and get destroyed instead. Lovely. Essentialy tis extends to all AI controlled helpers doing stupid things, but even though overall she's one of the best, this particular incident offered me more frustration than any other AI helper i've ever encountered.

#8: The Cyberdemon (Doom):

I ain't fighting that! I quit!
I ain't fighting that! I quit!
Like any good frustration factory, The Cyberdemon takes a long, long time to put down. Unfortunately you see no breaks until he is finally dead, which means until that glorious moment when he explodes in a shower of metal shards, blood and guts, the fight can turn bad in an instant. Even on lower difficulties, take one single hit dead on and that's it, you better kiss each and every part of your body goodbye, because they are all going to be travelling in different directions. 

#7: E.Honda (Street Fighter IV):

The only reason this cheesemonger isn't higher (lower?) on the list, is because I like him, and he lacks that permeating air of smugness other characters have which makes them so infurating. So, what makes this guy so bad then? I'll tell you. The Sumo Splash, or Butt Stomp if you will. I'm a big supporter of finding a way around things instead of complaining about them like a scrub, but this baby gets spammed more than the Shoryuken, the Hadouken, the Wall Dive and the Lariet combined. I played a guy this afternoon for example, who did not use one single move other than the Sumo Splash. Not one. After a long and hard fought match, I eventually lost, against any other character I would have congratulated him and moved on. But losing to te Butt Stomp simply because it flies about like a drunken spitfire? I know I need to learn to anticipate and block cross-ups better, but fuck if i'm not entitled to be very, very angry about it. Especially as the move is almost risk free against my Main, Balrog, at least it seems to be, my uppercut seems to either lose or trade, jumping doesn't seem to work, and my headbutt only serves to escape not punish. 

#6: Matador (Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne):

This guy stopped my progress in it's tracks completely the first two times I attempted to play Nocturne. Both times, well above the average level for that part of the game, with a well trained team and after the lesson I learned the first time, no weaknesses ot force. But he still doesn't go down easy, part of the reason characters like this are so frustrating is because they take so fucking long to beat down, only to gain access to a super powerful move within the last 10% or so of their health. So the moment it looks like you might be getting close to beating tem... BAAM!! You eat some pretentiously named, hyper-damaging and usually sparkly attack, leaving you shitting in your pants, if you aren't already dead that is. This could have been Sephiroth for much the same reasons, but that's far too obvious.

#5: Propane (Various):

I'll do it, don't mess with me man, i'll really do it!
I'll do it, don't mess with me man, i'll really do it!
Propane Gas, Gasoline, Petrol, Hydrogen, almost any gas or liquid that can be ignited has appeared in at least one videogame hiding in a barrel, glass chamber, or canister, and that's fine. Without exploding barrels we wouldn't have half the kill counts we do nowadays. However, sometimes, just sometimes, you as a player are forced to hide behind one of these excitably dangerous cretins, and when the AI decides to stop slapping it's knee and going "Yu-Huk" you better break out the marsmallows boy because you are toast. That's fine once or twice, but some games are repeat offenders, and in those instances, you just want to give the level designer a piece of your mind. Preferably strapped to a large bomb.

#4: Andore (Final Fight):

Andore is not just one character, but a whole slack-jawed, 8 foot tall family. After knocking you on your feet and not even flinching from your attacks, after a long and bloody brawl you finally defeat Andore JR only to discover not only does he have about 42 brothers who want your guts for a skipping rope, but 87 uncles and about a million cousins too. Everywhere you go you will have to fight this humongous slab, and each and every time they will knock you on your feet, grab you and slam you into the ground, jump on your spine, and laugh every single time. The only other characters to ever frustrate me in a beat'em up as much as these guys were the Stage 1 bosses in Streets of Rage, but there were only two of those, so these guys take the #4 spot.

#3: The Devil (Guitar Hero 3):

The Devil, Beelzebub, Lucifer. He appears in many games under many different guises, but none of them have beaten me quite so often, nor as conclusively as in Guitar Hero 3. Whoever thought boss battles in a rythm game were a good idea needs a harsh punishment, but whoever dreamt up this satanic fiddle-fuck needs to be hung, drawn, and quartered. With astounding regularity he will beat you, beat you, and beat you again. Never letting up, never giving you one single chance to recover or even catch your breath. Smiliing, laughing and dancing as his freakish, 18 fingered hands shred you into oblivion. That's just bullshit.

#2: Seth (Street Fighter IV):

Naked? How insulting.
Naked? How insulting.
The only reason this guy doesn't take the number one spot, is because he hasn't been around as long, and everything he does is ripped from another character. At least the next guy on the list beats you with his own moves. Seth, Seth, Seth. The internet went absolutely ballistic with cries of terror, pain and anger when people started hitting the almost literal brick wall that is Seth. Seemingly ignorant of whatever difficulty you have the game set to, he will begin to smack you around, often with your own moves, laughing and taunting all the way until you finally prize the first round from his iron grasp, only to find that he was simply toying with you. In the second round he begins teleporting all over the place, grabs which register almost instantly after his teleport, 3 Shoryukens in a row, stretchy limbs, insane laughter, and a penchant for taunting you wit focus attacks. If that wasn't enough to burst a blood vessel, the bastard is naked...

#1: M.Bison (Vega)(Street Fighter Series):

This pose just says it all really.
This pose just says it all really.
Our good old friendly supervillinous dictator. Due to the international name change he underwent (originally Vega) he is often simply called, Dictator. He takes smugness to a level even Seth couldn't reach with every ounce of persistance in his naked body. Like the psycho power he so confidently wields, smugness just oozes from him, leaking from ever pore as he cackles maniacly, hopping around crossing you up with his knee, throwing out scissor kicks, demon hand reversals and head stomps from almost complete safety behind his iron defense, literally folding his arms at times to taunt you. In fact, his focus attack in SFIV seems almost like a taunt, folding his arms and laughing before clapping his hands together for large amounts of damage. Not just in SFIV, but in every game he has ever appeared in, nothing makes me angrier than losing to this obnoxious, murderous, giant shoulder-pad-wearing monster. Nothing. His massive, massive grin in Street Fighter IV only makes matters worse. It's Nerd Rage Time.

Edit: PHEW!!! Holy shit what a scare. Chrome crashed on me but, oddly, didn't shut down. Lucky star be praised.

Also, Urien gets an honorary mention just for being such a smug son of a bitch, and for having an unblockable combo.

'Splode Thyself Unto Others My Spiky Haired Friend

A JRPG and a platformer comprised most of my playtime this week. But not just any platformers


'Splosion Man!

Not only is this game a mere 800 spacebucks, but it doesn't pull any punched either. This is a platformer though and through, and as such can get really very difficult towards the end of the game. But i'll get to that later.

'Splosion Man is a unique platformer that manages to adhere to most core platformer conventions (platforms, obstacle, enemies, and jumping, and jumping puzzles) with a rather unique twist. You cannot jump. Instead, you 'Splode, the force of which sends you flying through the air somewhat ungraciously. In a good way. The levels themselves are comprised mainly of the same obstacles (machine guns, rockets you can repel, a handful of enemies, platforms, moving platforms etc) and some help along the way such as the old cliche, exploding barrels. These barrels offer a variety of different effects such as exploding high, fast, or mines than you can kick toward enemies.

Even though there are only a small amount of different obstacles and enemies, the game manages to use them in delightfully inventive ways, one minute you are sploding leasurely along your way, the next you are free-falling, dodging lasers and bouncing off walls while a torrent of water chases you, threatening to extinguish your characters lovable flame.

'Splosion Man himself is a rather charming character, somewhat nonsensical, utterly insane, he babbles frequently and utters nuggets of wisdome such as "BACON!!!" or something about a "Sammich" in a manner that will remind Invader Zim fans of Gir. He has a large range of animations that help to exaggerate his hyperactive nature, one moment he's running around like an aeroplane, the next he's babbling like a monkey with the appropriatte stance. 

The game can get rather difficult at times, fortunately it's charm will see you through most of that but if it all gets too much, the game offers you "The Cowards Way Out" after you die a certain amount of times, taking the option will set your time for the level at 99 hours (no speedrun cheating here folks) and force 'Splosion Man to wear a pink tutu on the next level you play. Fitting no? 

In addition to that, the game features a number of large set pieces upon which boss battles take place, all of them a joy to partake in and quite inventive. Once you triumph over the last one, you will be gifted with what is in my opinion, the single greatest ending in videogame history (Yes, even greater than Portal. It took me some thought to come to that conclusion)

Well worth the spacebucks, and well worth your time. Check it out. Now.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope

I said in another thread some time ago, that I play games until they 'bullshit me' until such a point they throw me a ridiculous curve ball, or a voice actor who makes me want to scratch my own eyes out, or a plot twist I could have written by literally vomiting on a page, etc etc. Star Ocean has thrown me 3 such things so far (Once voice actor, one 'side mission' involving time travel and dimensions, and one HUGE HUGE Emo scene that made me ask why the main character, who incindentally looks a little but like Cloud, hadn't just jumped directly in the life stream and done away with himself there and then) Yet, for some reason, I have managed to persist.

Unlike the majority of classic JRPGs, Star Ocean is well known for using a real-time battle system similar to the Tales series. You can select from numerous tactics for your comrades, and you can directly control any one character at a time. In addition to this, you can swap out characters in real time as well, something which again seems to be rare in this genre. Overall it works quite well, when a battle turns bad it tends to do so very quickly, so you need that ability to refresh your roster under pressure in order to keep the games difficulty from kicking your ass. While for the most part it's pretty easy, occasionally that will spike until you level up a bit, or enemies in that particular area will have an attack that is difficult to deal with or something like that.

The story however makes no attempts to distinguish itself from the norm, Earth has been blowed up yet again (who woudla thunk it?) and mankind has to live in space. Having just invented warp technology (with appropriatte Trek technobabble to go along with it) you are blasted off into the far reaches of space to look for a new inhabitable planet. In true Star Ocean fashion, you are immidietely marooned in a planet that is still in the jurassic period. 

For the most part while generic, the story doesn't offer anything that will particularly enrage or annoy (aside from that one mission, you'll know it when you get there because it's unbeleivably stupid) and acts as a backdrop for some scenic exploration and some nice combat mechanics. 

As is typical with JRPGs, there are tons of items to find, make and trade, as well as quests to be done and annoying, incredibly powerful little girls to cart around all day. So the completionist in you will have a lot to see and do, and given an excuse to revisit plenty of worlds once you get access to travel wherever you like.

I won't pretend to be able to comment fully on the game I can only offer my initial impressions, I still have something like half the game to go but it seems like I stand a good chance of seeing this one through, unless I am introduced to any more unbearable characters. Two is my limit. 

For the record, anyone who writes dialogue for a child who speaks in monotone and says the word " 'Kay " at the beginning or end of every other line, and even twice in one sentence on one occasion, will die by my hand. I mean it. Don't do it, the human ear was not designed to take such punishment.

Overall i'd reccomend Star Ocean before I reccomend most of this generations JRPGs, Lost Odyssey being the exception, I would reccomend that above all of them. It's worth playing and comes at a reasonable price nowadays too, the voice acting is good for the most part, the story is alright and the combat is excellent.

That's about it for this time, go out and enjoy 'Splosion Man, I have a feeling it's going to be a smash hit. If it's not, it certainly deserves to be.

Edit: For the achievement whores out there, you had better be FREAKISHLY prepared for Star Ocean. Not only is the game long to begin with (durr, its a JRPG) but you have to play it through a minimum of 3 times. And on at least one of those playthroughs you have to find 100% of EVERYTHING. No small task that's for sure. For simply playing the game to completion, you'll maybe get 200 points, if that.

A Tentative Foray Into Multiplayer Shooters, and Eating Lead

Maybe I havn't made as big a deal of it around here as I normally do, but in most circles I tend to inhabit I am well known for being a strictly single player kinda guy, with Street Fighter being the exception that proves the rule. So while it may come as no surprise that others are playing Battlefield 1943 religiously, it should in fact be a surprise that I spent a decent amount of time getting to grips with my fear and/or loathing of multiplayer shooters.

No Caption Provided
So I cranked up the Xbox 360 version, cursing the fact I only bought it because Eat Lead: the Return of Matt Hazard and The Simpsons Game had not arrived in the mail that morning, expecting the worst. I had been briefly inducted into the world of Battlefield 1942 way back when, by a group of friends who were avid cyber-cafe types and suffice it to say I played for over an hour, didn't get a single kill, got pissed off and never ever returned to multiplayer shooting. Ever. I mean it, I own CoD 2, 4, Halo 3, Counter Strike Source, etc etc, and the only one of those i've even played is Halo 3, purely for the achievements then I ditched it. Multiplayer scares the shit outta me and bar a few rounds of CSS or class UT with friends I avoid at all costs.

So it's no surprise I was apprehensive while the first map was loading (I was late to the party, so no connection problems for me, woot!) and initially all those fears came flooding back along with frustration, I spent a large portion of time in my first game simply spawning, walking outside of a building and being shot in the head. It wasn't until I decided to pick the Scout, and literally run for my life until I could no longer hear gunfire that I began to enjoy myself. I found that picking off targets with the scope was relatively easy, and the ensuing game of cat and mouse once you are discovered can be a lot of fun. So I spent several hours doing this before deciding that A) If I was going to get those achievements, and B) a decent taste for all aspects of the game, I had to switch classes.

Again, initially I was frustrated, inadequate, quick to die, etc etc, but once you realise how vastly different human players are from computer AI you begin to adapt rather quickly, so I set about aiming solely for the face, abusing decent weapons, and generally blasting my way to achievements. I spent a little bit of time with each vehicle, but quickly decided that aside from the plane, they were not for me, and that I would wait until Coral Sea unlocked before trying out the plane extensively. After a while I really began to enjoy the experience, something I genuinely never thought I would be able to do, not because I was suddenly owning everyone, in fact quite the opposite I was coming bottome 5 or so most maps, very rarely did I place in the top squad. I think the main reason I began to enjoy it is because I was able to let go of my fears of multiplayer shooters, sure I get owned by people who are awesome, and in a match where the entire opposing team are legacy players that can be frustrating as all hell, but equally there are players worse than me, and overall it balances quite well and I can actually enjoy myself.

That was boosted tenfold once Coral Sea unlocked (Holy shit, I an Xbox 360 fan but even I didnt expect it to happen as quickly as it did, like 4 days or something, 43 million
kills) and I discovered just how much epic fun can be had flying around like a maniac. Now i've got all the achievements out of the way (Only one left is to play 100 matches) I can happily reduce my activity to simply sniper battles and flying around like a complete loonatic, while I decided the other character classes were not for me, I did however decide the the game was. So watch out multiplayer shooter world, i'm here to stay. Well, until the achievements dry up at least.

Also this week, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard. Or rather, today, the game is pretty damned short, 8 levels to be exact at maybe 30 minutes a piece on normal difficulties. However, like a fucking moron, and an achievement whore, I decided cheating to unlock the highest difficulty and immidietely playing that would be the sane thing to do. Boy was I wrong. For the most part it's smooth sailing, but at a few key points the difficulty spikes to such a high level that it's a miracle I didn't gouge my own eyes out in despair. For those wondering, it wasn't even the final boss who was difficult, the way regular enemies gang up on you is what gets you killed, and the amount of cover you have. You are entirely dependant on the level design and checkpoint feature in order to stay alive, so when you have to go a long time without a checkpoint, through an area with very little or no cover, or oddly shaped cover so you can still be hit, you'll want to throw your controller through your television (although not being a psycopath, I did not do that, but I definately wanted to)

It's lame catchphrase time!
It's lame catchphrase time!
But hey, that was my own fault and I got through it eventually, all I have to do now is turn down the difficulty and mop up the achievements. Overall, I wasnt expecting much, as I tend to when I pick up cheap games, but I found that most of the humor a lot of the general populace wouldn't have 'got', I did because of my knowledge of other parts of the industry, not just game cliches, so my advice is that anyone remotely attached to this industry, whether your an artist, a programmer, or student, heck even if you test games, play this game. It's definately got a lot of great (if goofy sometimes, but by design it seems) humor and most of it is well meaning although theres a few seemingly bitter jabs at GameStop, and a few select companies in there but you have to pick up on most of them yourself. It also helps that the game is self aware, very often I would find myself close to quitting, only to give the game one more try because the main character said exactly what I was thinking at the time "God I wish this game had a god mode" or "What? How did that hit me?", or similar things, it also makes a lot of references to mechanics it is missing. The one I found rather funny, as i've always said single player games should never have multiplayer components tacked on, was the "Multiplayer Master" achievement you get during the end credits "What do you mean there's no multiplayer? Oh well, have the achievement anyway"

As a third person shooter, the game is pretty good, it's a bit of a shame though as another 6 months of polish and the game could have turned out awesome, instead it's pretty mediocre with some unique enemies and humor, but way too frustrating, way too many poorly designed level sections, and had a lot of subpar mechanics such as melee. However, the ability to have the character automatically jump over cover and move up a section, or run to a nearby cover as yours is shot to pieces was pretty refreshing, although it would have been better if he sprinted instead of ran, so it turns out its quicker to do it yourself. Ho-hum. The JRPG pisstake poss was particularly lolworthy for me at least, I love JRPGs but those fuckers talk for hours.

 Overall the bad holds it back enough that if I was going to give it a rating, it would be the lover end of somewhere between 2 and 3 stars unfortunately.

Oh well, i'm off to try the new XBLA release of Secret of Monkey Island now, having never played that before either, wish me luck!

6 Days in Kijuju, And the Great Resi Rush of 2009 Also, Birthday

Ok, so it was more like 6 hours, not days, but hey what's a blog post without a terrible pun?

So, as a present for myself (sad, I know) I bought Resident Evil 5 at a nice, cheap price (£30), I had planned on getting the metal box special edition, only to find that having been in stock moments ago they were then sold out.  So I went with the regular edition and they sent me the metal box by mistake anyway, so, win I guess. By sheer coincidence I should imagine, I was at the local supermarket today to pick up some movie watching munchies when I decided to get Resident Evil: Degeneration, only to find yet again that despite having been overflowing with stock every day the past 2 weeks i'd been in there, they were all gone, not a single copy left. All of a sudden everybody in Southampton (a shitty little city that never really recovered from WWII, before which it prospered) decided they needed to watch a terrible zombie movie right this instant and couldn't get to HMV to pay half the price for Night of the Living Dead. Crazy.

Anyway, so Residetn Evil 5 arrived on my doorstep, and a mere 6 hours 30 minutes later I had finished the main campaign. For the most part it was enjoyable, but the difficulty seems to be all over the fucking place, which is generally what happens when you're given an AI partner and nearly every enemy who isn't a regular spod has some kind of one shot kill potential where you don't even get the option to "Press X Not to Die" which brings me to my next point, in Resident Evil 4 it wasn't so bad, we only had stupid cut scenes to worry about pressing buttons in, but in Resi 5 enemies will often leap at you prompting an often impossible to react to "Press X!!!" to flash on the screen in order for you not to be impaled, torn limb from limb, etc. For everything else Resident Evil 5 does right, why the fuck couldn't they just give us a dodge roll and let us be the masters of our own destiny insteadl of trying to time the stupid QTEs, some of which aren't even necessary, or sometimes don't trigger at all.

That said, the QTE moments in the actual cut scenes themselves are a little better presented as they are used more often and therefore become normal, rather than using them maybe once or twice and essentially waiting for you to begin getting comfortable putting the controller down during cut scenes before springing one on you. Resident Evil 5 uses them mostly throughout, so you're always expecting them, which in my mind at least is a lot more acceptable. Fortunately, in all but Proffesional difficulty, you can just mash the entire face of the controller and it will register correctly. In proffesional mode, you must press that button, and only that button, or you die.

As has been remarked upon many times, so I won't dwell too long, the facial animation and cinematography are absolutely astounding, and I honestly think this is the biggest leap forward in this kind of tech since the Source engine and Half-Life 2/Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines facial animations. That said, unfortunately they wasted a lot of this unique camera control by simpy inserting a bunch of scenes from The Matrix. They even dressed the bad guy as fucking Neo (Wesker for anyone who doesn't know who the bad guy is, duh) Now, I know he has crazy powers because, well, science! But seriously, dressing him up like Neo and waving the camera around just because you can doesn't make it cool. 

Although to make up for it, we have what is in my opinion one of the greatest action sequences ever envisioned, balanced by an unfortunately restrictive (and fucking insanely hard on Pro mode) boss fight. Edit: People who disable embedding on youtube videos can suck a giant dick, so you get the low quality version instead, sorry guys.


Sure there's nothing particularly special about it, but damn, Motorbikes make everything awesome, and watching dudes fall off of them and the bikes crashing and flopping around like that just oozes sheer, concentrated awesome.

Without dwelling too much on specifics, basicly I thought the game was about 70% awesome, 30% bad design with a couple of major offenders being the most noticable, the lack of a roll ability, and being unable to move and shoot at the same time. Now, I understand the reason they did that, to 'Heighten the tension' and I fully agree with the decision, the part I don't agree with is making that decision at the same time as deciding your enemies should be able to run 30ft and then hit you before you can draw certain weapons and pull off a shot. Also, the amount of OSK enemies in the game that simply kill you because they happen to be in the right position to start the animation.. Fuck, let me move and shoot or take that shit out.

I like to pick at negative portions of a game which make my opinions seem incredibly negative, but the bottom line is that i've put near 23 hours into a game i've only had for 3 days, and have all but one achievement which I will obtain very soon, I just missed some of the treasure, and enjoyed almost every minute of it. In fact, the only time I was really not enjoying myself was at the end of the first playthrough when I realised how badly designed the final boss is, and refused to have to farm ammo from previous chapters when it should be available in the shop, so ended up having to KNIFE the FINAL BOSS to death. Man was I satisfied when the fucker finally bit the dust. The other two main areas of frustration came from the Jill & Wesker boss fight on Pro mode, and the Ndesu (Giant ogre guy) boss fight also on Pro mode. Mainly because they dumb down Shevas AI and she doesnt fucking help you, which amplifies the difficult 10 fold because everything already kills you in one fucking hit, without her help it's just insane.

So yeah, i'm gonna watch a few movies and then go back to the last few treasures I missed in order to get the first 1k i'm actually legitimately proud of and I can say was actually reasonably difficult, unlike my other 1k's, which include King Kong, Oblivion, and some crappy 2K6 sports games :P

As some of you know, it was my 21st birthday this weekend (Lot of that going around this time of year it seems) and while it passed without event, I spent the small amount of birthday cash I recieved rather wisely, or unwisely depending on your point of view. I'm well known for enjoying mediocre games when I can get them super cheaply, in my opinion anyone who refuses to buy games rated below an 8 average is missing out on an insane amount of budget priced fun, and is a fucking snob. So, I picked up Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard for £14.99, The Simpsons Videogame for £10.99. Followed by what I hope is a good purchase rather than a mediocre one, Star Ocean for Xbox 360, for £24.99. And Worms on XBLA. I don't know why I bought worms, I hate worms, but... 400 points is cheap.

I would have bought Riddick instead of the two cheaper games, but i've played the original to death and after replaying Resi 5's stages so many times, I need something i've not played before, i'll get Riddick when it's cheaper. I almost bought The Wheelamn for £10, but decided given how recently it was released, it must have been worse than mediocre.

So that concludes this wall of text, i'll finish up by saying that while waiting for Resi 5 in the mail, I did something I never thought I would do, ever. I went back to Command and Conquer 3 after playing the Tutorial mode a long time ago and deciding I hated it. Oddly, and inexplicably, I found myself rather enjoying it and got a good few missions in the morning before Resi 5 arrived, and I fully intend to go back to it while waiting for the above purchases to trickle through my letterbox.

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