Cry-ing For Help
- Apr 9, 2013 12:51 pm GMT
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I didn't think I'd be writing a lot about Crysis 2 as after a couple of hours I was so bored of it I was ready to give up on it. It was really boring and seemed like another generic warfare shooter which I've now played a million times over. I went and read a couple of reviews and they seemed to suggest the game got better a few hours in. I decided to stick with it and it definitely rewarded me for my patience. By the time I hit the last third of the game I couldn't wait to play the next level and then the one after that.
The main difference between the early part of the game and later on is the introduction of the aliens as an enemy. Too much of the early game is spent shooting soldiers which are incredibly dull and very similar to COD which I'm also bored playing. Luckily once the aliens make an appearance and require different tactics to dispatch them the game takes a turn for the better. By this point I'd gotten used to the shooting mechanics and it was getting easier to kill enemies and a lot more satisfying. The aliens also died a lot more interestingly and seeing them fall was a lot more rewarding than the soldiers.
The guns in the game had some variety although as with all army type shooters there are only so many conventional weapon types to play with. There are a couple of alternatives to the mainstream weapons which I didn't have much hands on time with but they offered a decent break from the norm. Whilst the game did a good job of chaperoning your weapon choices, it left you to your own devices to take on enemies however you pleased.
The story started like the rest of the game by not drawing me in but over time I learned what the story was trying to portray and what the game was leading towards and I took a liking to it. I did think that early on there were a few cut-scenes that went on way too long without telling you any interesting but I just kept myself busy during those moments.
The graphics, whilst impressive, have definitely been outdone in the years since this game came out. I understand it's a beast of a game on PC but has clearly been pared down for console. Whilst looking great it didn't particularly blow me away like Rage did. I'd be interested to see how Crysis 3 looks on console but I haven't had the chance to check it out yet.
The last thing worth mentioning is the main break away feature that sets it apart from other military shooters and that the nano suit powers. I'll admit it wasn't until late in the game that I realised the true potential that the powers had to offer. I definitely prefer a sprint ability where I can visibly see how much I have 'left' as I often get annoyed that I run out of sprint in say the middle of a battlefield. The armour ability was my least used feature but it definitely came in handy when I was low on health. It came in very handy for staying alive in the heat of battle! Last and definitely not the least is the cloak ability which got me through the end of the game very nicely. The sheer amount of enemies pacing around would've taken a long time to get through all of them!
I would've given the first few hours of the game a 6.5 but the second half saved it so much I gave it an 8.0. Thankfully it ended on a high rather than a negative otherwise I might've forgotten how good the game was at its peak.
My other game since my last blog was F.E.A.R 2 which was in no way as scary as I was expecting it to be. It's scary how incredibly generic a shooter it is and I think it could win an award for being the most average shooter on 360. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it though. The one thing that saved this game was pretty decent shooting mechanics. Shots felt fairly satisfying and it took the right amount of bullets to take down an enemy which some games always seem to get wrong.
From what I understand from what I've read and comments other people have made, the original F.E.A.R was far superior to this sequel. The Alma story didn't really seem to be that interesting and it was the type of game where I just enjoyed it for the actual gameplay. Cut scenes were pretty much non-existent which was a saving grace as I was just able to blitz through it.
The graphics are very under par for even a game made 4 years ago. I'm not overly fussed about cutting edge graphics so this didn't bother me. Enemies were easy to make out which is all you really need for a shooter. I think that the game did a good job of mixing up the environments although none were particularly inventive and have all been done better in other games.
There's not a lot else to say about this game. It didn't blow me away but served a purpose and not once was I frustrated by the gameplay or annoyed about getting stuck. For me that's more of a benefit to a game than looking good or having an interesting story. I often play great games that I get so angry with for getting stuck for no apparent reason so I'd definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a shooter to play with ease. It's like the gaming equivalent of watching a soap or sitcom in that they don't require any taxing brain activities but they can easily get you hooked and enjoying for hours. I gave the game a 7.5 which is an average score for an average game.
I couldn't decide what to play next so I took the easy option and opted for F.E.A.R 3.
To The Moon and Interactive Narratives
- Apr 8, 2013 7:20 pm GMT
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To The Moon is the most powerful game I have ever played. As I went through this incredibly affecting and stunningly powerful tale of love, loss, and redemption I found myself near to tears several times. That beats the previous record held by Mass Effect 2 of me being momentarily sad when Tali's father dies. To The Moon features outstanding writing and one of the greatest musical scores I have ever heard in any medium. To The Moon also was made in RPG Maker. It's simplisitic and often poorly drawn sprite graphics might turn away more visually minded gamers, but To The Moon is an incredible example of a game whose graphics don't make or break the experience. Unfortunately, the gameplay also is largely inessential to the experience. And herein lies my problem with To The Moon. The "game" part of To The Moon borders between boring and downright bad. The only real gameplay present outside of walking around the environment to progress the story, is a simple flip puzzle where you have to flip squares on a grid to create a picture. It's incredibly simple, easy, and boring. By the third or fourth puzzle I just wanted to finish the damn thing and get back to the story. And I began to question how big of a problem this was.
To The Moon doesn't even have the excuse of games like The Walking Dead that the interactivity comes from making story choices. To The Moon has a linear narrative. The question is, really, would To The Moon work better as a visual novel? If the gameplay does nothing to enhance the experience, and, in fact, hinders it in several situations, why have gameplay at all? It's an interesting question and one that many people will argue over. For my money, a good game narrative is one that works best as a game. It's the type of narrative that is either enhanced through gameplay, or makes some sort of commentary on the game you are playing. A great recent example is Spec Ops: The Line. The story in Spec Ops was linear, but it forced the player to question the nature of modern military shooters and their sense of bravado. It is a story that would be an average movie, but because it is a game it works incredibly well. To The Moon gains nothing from being a game.
All that said, I have to return to my original statement that To The Moon is the most powerful game I have ever played. It is something that makes me pause. The recently deceased Roger Ebert said that games couldn't be art because of their interactivity. He said that the author of a piece needs to be able to direct the experience of the person entirely for the piece of art to have its intended effect. Looking at many of the non-linear narratives in gaming, I can't say that the story itself has been enhanced by non-linearity. It gives the player greater agency, and a sense that he or she is truly having an effect on the world. But as far as telling a compelling story goes, most of these stories would be as good or better without the interactive element. At the end of To The Moon a character makes a choice. It was a choice that could have been left to the player. But in doing so, the developers would have had to forsake the powerful ending that was the perfect conclusion to this tale. In letting the character make their choice without player input, the game was able to keep their motivations hidden, and the result is something that makes this story as amazing as it is.
So I guess the question on my mind is, is it possible to create an interactive story that has the same effect on the player as a linear story does? Or, is the addition of player agency a compelling enough reason to ignore the lower quality narrative? It's a question I am curious to explore and I'm curious to hear what all of you think about this. Regardless of my feelings that this "game" is much less a game and more of a visual novel, I would highly recommend it to anyone who values story in their games. This is the most powerful story ever told in a game. It combines a great premise with realistic dialogue and a musical score that is worth listening to over and over long after the game has finished. In fact I am listening to it as I write this blog. If you need action, excitement, or challenge in your games then stay away. This game isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you are willing to put aside the weak gameplay to experience this incredible story then please do so. It is worth your time and your money and will affect you like few other games you have played.
I'm Halfway There Adam
- Apr 8, 2013 4:06 am GMT
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Do you remember when there was all that fuss about always-online DRM? Companies like Ubisoft pushed it with their PC ports of Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed but nobody was worried. No big exclusives would bother with it surely? Then Diablo 3 was released and furious gamers reacted in force. The massive boycott that followed saw Blizzard taking a massive hit, having to can a World of Warcraft expansion that allegedly had cute kung fu pandas. As if that would have worked! Six months later they patched the game so that Diablo fans could finally purchase the game without having to worry about a constant internet connection and always-online DRM became a footnote in history next to 3D or virtual reality. Now if you don't mind I am off to play the excellent Sim City, have you seen it? Its enormous!
Wait, that's not how it happened.
A few days ago a Microsoft exec went on Twitter and made some insensitive comments surrounding the idea of always-online DRM and how we should all just deal with it. Personal reservations about how throwaway, brain-dead Twitter comments are given far more attention that they deserve aside (I am looking at you Joey Barton), this sort of press couldn't come at a worse time for Microsoft as Sony has been winning the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere by abandoning the always-online model, not blocking second hand games and embracing the indie market. However, the most frustrating part of Adam Orth's banal comments was that they represented, to some extent, the truth.
The fact is that most people ARE online all the time. What's the first thing you do when starting your new console for the first time? It's not playing a game, it's setting up a PSN or Xbox Live account. My consoles are online all the time and Microsoft know it. They know my gaming habits, they know what I buy, when I play, what I play, how long for and who with. In fact this month's Xbox Live Reward is for playing and buying Live Arcade titles. We are not just already dealing with it but actively embracing it! Games companies want us online all the time and will sneak it in the back door whenever they can. Surely though, this brazen move by MS is one step too far and as consumers we will exert the power of veto.
Well the track record says otherwise. When Diablo 3 came out we did just #dealwithit, we made sure that we would #dealwithit when EA insisted on Origin or when Blizzard pushed Battlenet and although we hated the idea that we needed to #dealwithit with Sim City we did that too. How is it that we are all happy to take to Facebook or Twitter or Gamespot or whatever digital mouthpiece to legitimately moan about all the unpleasant business practices that big companies engage in, but when it comes to the real opportunity to exert some power, the boycott, we don't. Despite all the big-boy claims that Blizzard or EA or whoever can go and do one, we still give them our cash. Its a model that not only works but one whose success we are all complicit in.
Microsoft have distanced themselves from, but not denied Adam Orth's comments and they now face an uphill PR battle. Although nothing has been confirmed, if they do announce that they are putting out an always-online console then there will be a lot of frustration but when it comes down to it are they really just using the stick when Sony are using the carrot? If you want to play Halo you have to get a Microsoft product. Want the full Journey experience? Then get a PS3 and then get online. In principle I hate the idea of always-online DRM but now I realise it is harder than ever to distance myself from it as I am already a part of it.
Always online..... or nothing at all
- Apr 7, 2013 10:13 pm GMT
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Both the PS4 and the XBOX 720 aren't even released yet and already they're getting a lot of buzz for things outside of what is typically expected. Thus, anticipation is heavily overshadowed by an enamored sense of worry over how these consoles are putting measures in place that might stop them from even playing games at all. The PS4 has had to deal with rumors regarding pre-owned games not running on the unit, and although Sony assured consumers that used games can be played on a PS4, it is far too early to tell at this point. Today, the rumor mill is churning over Microsoft's upcoming new console, and the issue stems with the concept of "always-online", requiring a game or a machine to be fully connected to the internet to function. A notable Microsoft employee took to his Twitter account to call into question gamer's concerns about 'always online', concluding with a rather snarky hashtag "#dealwithit". Granted, the tweet wasn't specifically aimed at the new XBox in particular, but his comments prompted an immediate pouring of outrage from both gamers and developers like Bioware, citing the launch disasters of both Diablo 3 and Sim City; two high-profile PC games associated with DRM (digital-rights management), which is the defacto technical term for "always-online". It also raised questions over whether or not the XBox 720 will fully adopt the feature, and that's not including the other possible fact that it, too, may not play used games. The Microsoft employee in question later apologized for his comments before changing his Twitter profile from public to private to avoid further scorn. So far, Microsoft hasn't publicly commented on the rumors and speculation. The so-called XBOX 720 is due to be revealed in a few short months, leaving many to wonder if Microsoft is purposely waiting until then to either confirm or dispel the rumors.
The industry never duly intended for "always-online" to be an affront to honest gamers, though it is certainly understandable why gamers may feel that way given the circumstances. It may have been designed as a countermeasure against potential hackers, pirates and opportunistic cheaters. These unsavory elements have been a collective thorn in the backside for both companies and their consumers, costing the industry millions---if not billions---every year. It may be that the industry is pushing for more social aspects to their games. They might have this assumption that gamers who play with others have more fun than people who game by themselves. Whether you like it or not, we're living in an era of Facebook and Twitter, where more and more people are glued to their smartphones and tablets, wirelessly keeping in touch with friends and strangers from every corner of the world. In a gaming sense, the industry probably wanted to force the idea of social networking in single-player games because they viewed solitary experiences as no longer being relevant or profitable in this day and age. Companies have made it abundantly clear that they are willing to adopt any newfound idea if it has the potential to generate a foreseeable profit margin, and you can only guess that they're also crossing their fingers hoping gamers will not cause too much of a fuss over it. Looking back, most ideas and proposals forced by the industry have been met with fierce resistance and criticism for fixing what was never broken, only to end up breaking it.
If every internet connection worked perfectly 100% of the time and every household on the face of the planet had access to the internet, always-online DRM would have been a fine idea. The reality is not every person can use the internet in their home, and it doesn't always work as intended; even for those who have top-of-the-line connections like DSL and FIOs. Another thing to consider is that not everybody wants to embrace the social aspects of gaming right away---if at all. That doesn't necessarily make them anti-social; it is merely their preference. When you think about these things, you come to understand why DRM and always-online is problematic in its current stages. Even more troubling is the possibility of games refusing to work at all if the internet decides to have a bad day. Case in point games like Diablo 3 and Sim City, and consoles like the XBOX 720.
When Diablo 3 first launched with the DRM component firmly intact, the high volume of people who purchased the game on day one lead to its in-game servers suffering from immense overcrowding, ultimately shutting down in various portions and preventing the entire game (even the single player modes) from running for a good several hours. Disgruntled consumers took to the message boards to vent their frustrations before Blizzard finally addressed the issue, but the damage had already been done. The same goes for the recently released Sim City reboot. The game launched with an impressive out-of-the-gate sales record, and that also lead to a debilitating server flood that crippled the single-player portion of the game almost entirely. Maxis argued that they could have deemphasized the digital-rights management, but they ultimately chose not to because it didn't fit with their vision. Angry gamers took to task those comments, claiming that their so-called "vision" of Sim City didn't correlate well with their own experience because disparaged servers stopped them from even accessing the game in the first place.
It's often said that the video game industry is slow to learn from their mistakes. In theory, there's some truth to that claim. The industry is aware of the problems associated with DRM and "always-online" components for single player games. Yet, I tend to think that they're more insistent and stubborn in their own beliefs than they are dumb or uneducated. They insist the idea can work, because they likely poured a lot of money into the idea, and their reputation in on an invisible thread. And, by God, they'll see to it that it's either their way or no way at all. So it's really not so much the industry turning an intentional blind eye to the concerns of gamers but, rather, the industry giving you a plate of lima beans and doing everything they can to convince you to eat them so that, maybe, you'd one day grow to like them. Otherwise, you won't be getting dessert.
However, it needs to be clearly understood by both game companies and gamers that, as it stands now, DRM and "always-online" is fundamentally and technically flawed. It becomes an even greater issue if an internet connection is required to even play games at all, and this is a concern that I have for Microsoft's upcoming console. If the rumors prove to be true, then Microsoft will need to answer to an influx of angry gamers who have thrown their lima beans to their puppies begging for scraps underneath the kitchen table. There's nothing inherently wrong with playing games with an internet connection so long as it fulfills its intended purpose well and doesn't serve as a distraction to the experience. But an internet connection shouldn't be a requirement to even run a game at all, because if it only takes a modem to ruin the fun for every single gamer on the planet, regardless of your preference, then we as consumers face a very bleak outcome. As I alluded to before with the industry in general, I don't believe Microsoft is stupid. I think it's very likely that they're perhaps stubborn and insistent. If all the speculation and rumors are to be believed, and should they be confirmed, then they're going to sell you the notion that DRM and always-online is the "way of the gaming future"---an appropriate and necessary measure that protects consumers and the industry at large. And they're hoping against hope that gamers will see it their way.
I can tell you right now that is far from being the case.
Stupid people saying stupid things.
- Apr 6, 2013 12:06 pm GMT
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So yesterday the internet exploded when MS Rocket Scientist Adam Orth decided to tweet his feelings about fans reservations about the next Xbox requiring an online connection at all times. Now after the disaster that was SimCity 4 (as I stated in a previous blog of mine) you'd think MS would see that mess and say "maybe forcing people to be online all the time to play non online stuff isn't a good idea."
So by now we all know about Mr. Orth's rather insenstive comments most notably critizing people who lived in smaller rural towns who don't always have the best internet service saying "why would you live there?" In the linked article MS came out and made an apology but didn't dispell the rumors of an "always online system" but most people agree the damage is done. Going on various sites and reading user comments, alot of long time Xbox fans responded to his "deal with it" comments by saying "I'll deal with it, I won't buy the next Xbox." or something along those lines to which I say "more power to you." Companies exisit to make money but if consumers aren't happy with your product and you don't acknowledge their concerns and act all flippant and arrogant, they'll move on to something else. This is how the free market works.
I've never been a big fan of the Xbox or Microsoft's business practices when it comes to gaming. I don't like that they charge for something everyone else can do for free. (My PC and PS3 online gaming work just fine, thanks) My husband and I had 3 Xbox 360's die on us. 2 got red rings and the third glitched out and erased our entire hardrive to which after that we said "screw it" got a PS3 and never looked back. Their Points system that makes no sense. I hate that on top of that monthly fee you get a dashboard cluttered with ads (don't have that with my PS3, Wii or 3DS) and their most grievous crime watching: Rare's slow crippling death under their mismanagment killing all hopes of ever seeing a true Banjo or Conker sequel. Also I don't like FPSes meaning the 360 had little that interested me in terms of exclusives. So yeah if the next Xbox goes the way of the Dreamcast, I won't be crying.
But seriously to flat out insult consumers and their genuine concerns with such a flippant attitude is inexcusable for any company. It would be like Ciggarette companies responding to all the health problems smoking causes by saying "well something's gonna kill you." I get that companies are worried about piracy but forcing everyone to be online and DRM do nothing but punish those who did nothing wrong.
More and more I watch video blogs and read articles and the tone of gamers in general is the thought that the industry is going to crush itself under the weight of it's own bloated greed and that it doesn't seem to care. The industry has this mindset of "hey if we're going down, get all the money we can then!" As opposed to trying to asses the needs and concerns of its consumer base.
But I honestly didn't want to get into this. I had plenty of more lighthearted topics I could be writing about. So here's my favorite internet cat right now, Grumpy Cat who celebrated her 1st birthday on April 4. Let her adorably grumpy face cheer you up.
Happy Birthday Grumpy Cat. Your face expresses how a lot of us feel about Adam Orth's comments.
The Bad Gamer Soap Box - On Reboots
- Apr 5, 2013 8:41 am GMT
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Perhaps Christopher Nolan was a bit more of a trend setter than any of us expected. Sure, series' have seen multiple iterations, especially in comics and TV shows. With video games seeing reboots of franchises such as Sim City (does that count?), Tomb Raider and the upcoming Thief, chances are good that gamers will be caught in a loop of what's old is new again limbo. What would come with that could be a lot fewer new franchises with the next generation right over the horizon.
Let's put one fact out their: gamers are fickle beasts. Arguably more of a niche hobby than even music collecting (I spent years obsessed with music... and movies), gamers are very hard to stay consistently pleased. This could be due to the fact that as opposed to music, comic, or movie hobbies, gaming is the most pricy. As gamers, we expect to get our hard earned $ out the product. Due to this, we tend to stick with what we know. Franchises such as Mass Effect, Tomb Raider, Need for Speed and Call of Duty have become familiar in a lot of our homes, even with those who don't necessarily play games.
The continuation of a franchise means things need to eventually change. Gamers often complain about the carbon copy feel of Call of Duty. When Devil May Cry was rebooted, however, people complained that the game had changed too much: Dante apparently wasn't Dante and the game play was toned down. The recent Tomb Raider game, however, seems to be praised as a better balanced continuation/ retelling of the franchise. In these examples, to me it appears game play hasn't changed much with the continuations, rather it's the stories themselves that changed and evolved.
In the Sony conference announcing the PS4, a large majority of games highlighted were franchises already established. There were new franchises announced as well, but for the most part it seemed to be a continuation of Sony franchises that fans know and love. Sure, the new properties were teased, but the bulk of time was spent on the new Infamous and Killzone.
Original franchises being introduced at the end of the current generation, such as Watch Dogs, Fuse and The Last of Us show promise as to what we can expect in new stories going forward. The proof will be in how well they hold gamers interests. As a creative person, it's hard not to compare anything with anything else anymore. Originality is a lot harder to come by and you can't talk a new franchise to publishers without heavy reluctance. I don't believe that game play and originality limitations are due to technology limitations, rather that they're more market driven depending on what the largest niche is. First person shooters, action and strategy games will always headline because they have massive followings.
The thing I love about being a gamer is there's such a thriving community. Sure PC gamers and console gamers don't always get along, but if something important in the franchise needs to be spoken on, for better or worst, it's mostly widely discussed. I look forward to seeing the new franchises and sequels/ reboots that come about, I just hope there's a lot more new than what we've seen in recent years.
Is The Vita Failing That Badly?
- Apr 4, 2013 4:53 pm GMT
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So today I was in Wal-Mart and I stopped by the electronics section just to see if they had any good deals. As usual they didn't. As I was looking through the gaming section I passed by the 360 section, the Wii section, the Wii U section, the DS and 3DS section, and the PS3 section before arriving at the end of the row. I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something. Then it hit me. Where was the PSP and Vita section? I walked back along the row thinking I must have missed it among the PS3 section but it wasn't there. I searched the accessory section, the new releases section, the strategy guide section, and even the discount PC games section but couldn't find any trace of Sony's handhelds.
Then I happened to look at an odd angle at a glass cabinet that mostly contained big box stuff that no one wanted. Sitting on a shelf that was certainly not viewable when normally walking by were the Vita games thrown hapazardly in no order and with no prices on them. There were no accessories for the system, and I honestly didn't even see any traces of the system itself. Just a handful of games tossed out of sight and out of mind. The PSP meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. I knew the Vita was struggling but is it really doing so bad that Wal-Mart has more shelf space for discount DS games than it does for brand new Vita games? I've heard Wal-Mart has been having shelving issues across the US so maybe this is just a case of not having anyone to shelve the games properly. But it was kind of shocking to see a system that is only a year old shoved out of sight while the DS had half a row worth of shovelware that must have been sitting there for several years.
So I'm curious. Has anyone else experienced anything similar at their local Wal-Mart? How about other stores? Is the Vita really doing that bad or was this just a single case of a poorly run store?
Chinese Knock-Off Gaming: Pikachu Y2K
- Apr 4, 2013 1:56 pm GMT
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Gaming has evolved quite a bit over the years, hasn't it? Big franchises have popped up like fleas on a mangy junkyard mutt and, like fleas, there are some black sheep (or black fleas, whatever I dunno) in the family that are considered completely foreign from their family. Case in point: Chinese knock-off games.
Chinese knock-offs span every category of product, so it's probably not going to shock you that games are not exempt from its scope. However, what's really shocking is what kind of bizarre, crappy, and sometimes even cool games you can find on the Chinese knock-off market. The first in this series of spotlights is a fun little platformer called Pikachu Y2K:
Pikachu Y2K is, in all essence, a classic Mario-styIe platformer starring the titular electric pocket monster mouse thing. Going by the aforementioned description, you'd think that this all would be a fun, neat little game that, in essence, would give you a generic experience. HA, joke's on you: this game is nuttier than squirrel feces.
First off, Pikachu Y2K doesn't immediately drop you into the action. To start off with, you're given a short cutscene in which a mad scientist and his pet cat phone Pikachu at his home because they want a magic purse back. Oh, by the way: did I mention that the text says that Pikachu's real name is Felix?
So, er, I guess Pikachu will now be referred to as "Felix?"
After promptly hanging up and using the force to reel in his magical purse, Felixchu sets out on an adventure to...erm...not try to let the mad scientist guy get the bag from him? Honestly, he could have just stayed home and called the cops on him, leading to an arrest and avoiding all the ensuing nonsense but hey, I'm talking about a Chinese knock-off 8-bit platformer so why should I be caring so much?
Anywho, Pikachu Y2K's gameplay is pretty standard platforming fare, ridiculous premise aside. Sadly, it's a little sub-par for a side-scrolling platformer since its rules aren't very in line with Mario, as you can die from jumping on enemies. With stomping on their heads out of the equation, how can Felix-the-Pikachu deter people from snatching his purse?
The purse, of course!
Yes, instead of jumping on enemies, PikaFelix disposes of his foes via a Tom and Jerry-styIe boxing glove that pops out from his bag of wonders.
The animation doesn't include the bag, though...
Given all this, the game seems pretty disappointing, right? Well, what makes Pikachu Y2K a little bit cooler is the ability to collect power-ups that transform the bag into various weapons such as singing, driving a car, riding an air balloon, and even driving a freaking tank.
Also, it shoots bombs with faces.
Take a moment to soak all this in: there's Felixchu in that image up there driving a tank in a happy pixelated 8-bit world. Yes, there exists a game where you can actually play as Pikachu driving a tank. Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? Seriously, the war game market is virtually untapped for the entire Pokemon franchise and here you have the Chinese knock-off market taking the initiative while Nintendo sits on their duffs, scratches their heads, and puts out a Gamecube game consisting entirely of watching fake television shows with Pikachu all day. Y'know, because we really need something like THAT on the market, while the idea of Tankemon goes completely over their heads. In a way, this instantly makes Pikachu Y2K better than a good deal of the franchise's official games from recent years.
Aside from the brilliant idea of putting Pikachu in a freaking tank, the rest of the game, like I said before, is pretty generic. The regular enemies aren't even other Pokemon, just some stupid little bird sprites and regular fishes...though there are a few walking trees here and there for no real reason. Ents aside, there isn't really that much to talk about in terms of enemy design and, on that note, there isn't much to say about the level layout. Really, the only thing on showcase here is how bizarre the overall premise of the game is and, beyond that, it's a sub-par platformer.
One last thing, though: the Game Over screen kind of bugs me:
...What's in that garbage can to the left? Seriously, can anyone give me an idea? I don't have one.
Graphics: 8 - Pretty decent representation of Pikachu. Besides, the entire thing's running on an NES, so I'm not that picky.
Sound: 6 - There's a fun little tune in the first level, then it repeats in the second, the third, fourth....yeah.
Gameplay: 6 - It's functional, but there's no pizzazz beyond the power-ups.
Story: 10 - PIKACHU IN A FREAKING MAGIC PURSE TANK!
Overall: 7 - It's worth checking out for about an hour, but not farther beyond that.
So that's all for Pikachu Y2K! Be sure to stay tuned for more showcased Chinese knock-off games!
(also, please someone tell me what's in that garbage can)
Bioshock Infinite: Baptism of the Human Heart
- Apr 4, 2013 12:39 pm GMT
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SPOILER WARNING: Reading this article will spoil the ending of Bioshock Infinite. If you haven't finished the game and dont want to know what happens, dont read this article. Nothing in the content of Bioshock Infinite is off limits in what follows.
One of the toughest questions people ask me is the question, why? Why did my daughter die? Why do I have cancer? Why cant I find a job? Why are people sometimes so nasty to one another? I work in a church. And a church is supposed to be a safe place. It's supposed to be a place where those genuinely longing for meaningful answers can go to sincerely struggle. So, naturally, as the caretaker of a local church, much of that struggling happens right in front of me, and I consider it a privilege to sit with people in the trenches of their inner wars. It is a war indeed, for the question that needs an answer, that persistent question, why, often has no answer accessible to finite human beings. And so in the absence of any kind of peace with God over his, sometimes inscrutable, often painful plan, people of faith struggle. That's not always a bad thing, I think.
So what does that have to do with a video game? I finished Irrational's excellent game this past Sunday night, and I have had a couple of sleeps since then for my mind to process the intense, Levinian (after Ken Levine, the games lead writer and creative director) spaghetti of story, character, setting, and atmosphere. My mind has gone to the places it is prone to wander to, the theological. Religion is a huge theme of Infinite. Religion touches almost every aspect of the games narrative. The antagonist, Comstock, is a self-styled prophet and leader of a pseudo-Christian, religious cult-city, Columbia, suspended twenty thousand feet in the sky by a mysterious, quantum, science-fiction-y, force. Booker DeWitt, the protagonist, seems at first to be motivated by a desire to wipe away a financial debt by rescuing a young lady from a tower in Columbia but the game wastes no time at all in indicating that DeWitt has a deeper, moral debt that is not so easily erased. Images and language of water, baptism, washing, rebirth, etc. all build upon one another in the telling of this story. Theres even a baby who turns out to be the lamb of Comstock's prophecy.
Let me stop here and say that as a Christian and an ordained pastor, I was not in the least bit offended by the use of these decidedly Christian themes. For the most part things like Christian Baptism, for example, were used to move the story as well as I have ever seen them used in secular media. Levine appropriately tied rebirth to baptism. Part of what Baptism represents in Christianity is dying to an old self and being raised to a new life. In Infinite, baptism is explicitly used three times as far as I can remember. As of the writing of this blog I have only played through the game once. The first time is when DeWitt is admitted into the city of Columbia. The second time is at the end of the game when DeWitt is offered baptism, which he rejects. The third and final time is when it is revealed that DeWitt and Comstock are really the same person, Comstock being the seemingly inevitable product of Booker's religious rebirth in baptism. Baptism in that instance is the means by which DeWitt dies for the sake of undoing all the evil which he/Comstock will bring about.
In each instance, baptism is used as an appropriate symbolic plot device for the point at which the players find themselves in the story. It's the initiation of a new and profound mission, a rebirth of DeWitt towards an ultimate destiny. It's the rejection of a salvation which DeWitt finds cheap and inadequate, preferring to seek the accomplishment of his mission in order to wipe away his debt, an ultimately futile effort. It takes Elizabeth (the aforementioned girl needing rescue) bringing him back to the baptismal pool for him to fully grasp the profundity of his true debt and what that debt has earned him as a result. Even though there is death but no new life in the final baptism which ends DeWitt/Comstock's life/lives (head asplode!!), it functions quite well as a plot devise given the kind of setting which these characters and their story inhabit. Levine wasn't aiming to speak theologically about the true meaning and use of Christian Baptism. Therefore, I have no problem with him taking baptism and using it to tell another story separate from the Christian story.
These Christian themes and the religious tone of Infinite serves a story that seeks, I think, to answer a fundamental question about human existence; What effect does my free will have on reality? One of the huge revelations of Infinite was that the setting of this Bioshock game and previous Bioshock games exist in the same universe. So that in an instant the players find themselves transported from Columbia, the city in the clouds, to Rapture, the city from the original Bioshock at the bottom of the sea. These two dystopian cities exist in this universe in which the will of man has created an infinite number of branching universes. There is no road untraveled by the choices of humankind. Each road and each fork is itself a separate reality, a distinct universe of existence.
In case you are thoroughly confused, welcome to the club. Let me try to explain. The premise behind Infinite is that every choice each person makes leads to a new reality, much like the reboot of the Star Trek movies. Spock traveling back in time started the new cast and crew of the Enterprise on an entirely new timeline and new set of adventures, a new Star Trek universe if you will. Similarly, in Infinite, the reality of Comstock's Columbia and all the evils that flow out of that city in the clouds exist in a universe created along one branch of one choice made by one man, Booker DeWitt. Interestingly, it is baptism that is the vehicle by which this choice is made. If DeWitt accepts baptism, he will rise from the water having taken a new name and new life. He is no longer Booker DeWitt, but he comes out of the water Zachary Hale Comstock, the Prophet of Columbia. And so reality branches for the millionth time in a nanosecond and another new universe of existence is born, this one not so pleasant as the games opening hour would lead you to believe.
So what does this game have to do with the person in the pastor's office asking the hard questions of life? What does it have to do with you as you try to be a good friend to someone who is hurting? Or what does it have to do with your own struggles? Why is my life like this and not the way I want it to be? I think this game is an attempt, in a purely secular way (I dont mean that disparagingly), to offer hope and comfort when our lives branch in a way that we dont expect or in a way that brings suffering. It offers hope for us to think that there is a reality and a version of us that isn't suffering in whatever crisis we find ourselves. At any moment and with every choice we are creating universes of possibilities of happiness, misery or something in between. What we do has meaning outside of ourselves.
As I experienced Bioshock Infinite I found hidden within the story it was telling a narrative of human choosing apart from the existence of God. It was a moment both precious and profoundly sad. It is precious because I believe that behind the searching questions this story has explored through the medium of video games is an impulse that comes directly from our creator. It is the impulse to search, explore, and pierce to the marrow of the mystery of our existence as human beings and seek an answer to the question, why are things not the way they are supposed to be? This game has left me thankful for Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games for so beautifully telling this story, and taking me along as they explore creatively. It is sad to me because the multiverse their exploration has led them to is hellish. Just below the luminescent, idyllic surface of Comstock's Columbia is a nightmare of racism, oppression, greed, and violence which the player must survive to reach the end only to find out that the whole time Booker was doing battle with the products of his own heart.
What do you want from Gaming Journalism?
- Apr 2, 2013 6:04 am GMT
- 0 Comments
At the start of this generation, I came to Gamespot because it was one of about three websites that did decent video reviews. I wasn't one for reading hundreds of words on games and the sight of Jeff Gerstmann making hand gestures and saying "kind of" a lot satisfied all my requirements for gaming information.
As the generation progressed, so have my 'tastes' regarding the kind of editorial content I like to consume. We've all progressed from the video review to the livestream, from the 40 second gameplay clip to the hour-long demo and long-form writing about games is back in fashion. The question is, does Gamespot or any other gaming site provide what you want regarding gaming-related content?
Come November when the new consoles roll out, do you want a slick set of videos detailing every inch of each console's relative strengths or do you want some guy with an iPhone filming a hasty unboxing of a PS4? Because blogs, twitter, reddit and forums can get you the nuts and bolts of what's going on in video games faster and more efficiently than anything that professionals are paid to provide. If you're coming to a gaming site you're not just coming for editorial integrity and accurate reporting, you want something more than that.
What is that special something? Why are you reading this on Gamespot rather than on Eurogamer or IGN? You obviously came to this site in particular because it does something you like. What is it? And is that the sort of editorial content you want to continue to see in the future?
Personally I spend more time on Giant Bomb than I do on Gamespot because what I want out of my gaming-related journalism and content consumption is getting honest and frank opinions from people I feel like I know. I like to know what those knuckleheads are thinking about and because I identify with their tastes I find what they have to say about games interesting and insightful. The work that Gamespot UK does here also scratches that itch, delivering that same raw slice of personality-infused coverage that's both entertaining and informative that I find so appealing. I like long videos, lengthy editorials and terrible in-jokes in that order. That's what I want out of gaming journalism, but some people may prefer the exact opposite.
When this industry explodes again in seven months time with the excitement of a new generation; what kind of content, editorial or otherwise, do you want from the professionals?
I know how much my tastes and preferences for editorial content have changed over the years and I know what I want from the professionals in the years to come. I'm just interested in what you want from gaming sites in the future, especially when there are so many other ways for you to read opinions and find out what's going on in the industry without coming to a site about videogames.
This is purely a human interest piece on my part. I couldn't find a better way to express "content" so everything editorial or otherwise that a site like Gamespot does I've grouped under "journalism" so hopefully that all makes sense.
This is also technically not an editorial. However, somebody gave this soapbox to stand on so until they yank it out from under me I'll use it to ask these questions because I want answers en masse. Maybe someone important on this site will read your comments and make a few notes, maybe.
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