Monday, April 27, 2009

Episode 4

Here and Now: Race for the Galaxy, GTA: CW, Rhythm Heaven, Persona 3: FES, Red Dragon Inn, Ticket to Ride: Dice

Just a generic walk down memory lane, discussing what games/systems one really enjoyed, and why.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rhythm Heaven - I don't have the beat

"Gosh, the kids love all those music games."

"Yeah. And they really like our Wario Ware games."

"Let's mix the two together!"

"How does it taste?"

And that is the question - how does a mix of music and mini-games taste.

I'm a fan of the music genre of games. I had my Playstation modded so that I could play a retail copy of DDR 3rd Remix. I've played Space Channel 5 and own a copy of the US Bust a Groove. Frequency and Amplitude fell into my hands based on the music along. These days, I have Elite Beat Agents and, naturally, Rock Band 1 & 2 with a bunch of music downloaded.

Meanwhile, I was a convert to the Wario Ware games early on. On my first trip to Japan, I snagged a copy of "Made in Wario" which I played the heck out of. Even my wife enjoyed playing those mini-games.

So when Rythym Heaven came around, it had a big "Jon must play" sign on it. To the top of the Gamefly Queue!

- First taste: Pbhtttt!

Very excited, I popped Rythym Heaven into the DS, fired it up, and launched into the first mini game. Not horrible, but it's the same action with little varition. Flick a rod in time with the music. Only got a Just OK rating though.

Second mini game, Glee Club. I saw Steven Totillo doing this on the MTV Multiplayer blog, this should be fun.

Tap, hold, and flick. Another Just OK rating.

I set it down for dinner - but am not amused.

- Second taste: Well, it's edible...

So far the graphics have been passible for a Wario Ware-ish game, the sound okay, but the game has felt uninspired and difficult for me. Possible a little on the long side too.

The next session had me in a slightly more peaceful state, so I sat down and passed the next game - filling robots with fuel - with a Just OK rating. The game has five ratings - Perfect, Superb, OK, Just OK and Try Again. I'm really not doing too good here.

The fourth game, Fan Club, had a tap-flick sequence that I never got the hang of. Three Try Again ratings later, the game let me progress to the next stage - a remix of the previous four levels.

Three more Try Agains and the game lets me move on. Move on in shame, that is.

- Third taste: It's okay if I hold my nose and chew.

So I get to sit down again and try it out. The third game is "Ping Pong" but really it's a game where you fill in the last beat - with a flick against the screen. And I can't get past the tutorial.

I try again and again and just can't seem to get past it. Until I look away from the screen. Suddenly, I have no problems with it at all.

Thus, the phrase "hold my nose and chew" comes to mind. The best way for me to play this game is to ignore the visual cues and rely on the audio alone. Which is contary to the core idea of a video game.

Unsuprisingly, this isn't the first time I've run into such an issue. Bust a Groove 2 and Space Channel 5 were not easy games for me. Parappa the Rapper never got past the demo for me. Even Elite Beat Agents hit a stalling point - although I hear that the Jamiroquai song is a tough one for many people.

And the Harmonix games kept the rhythm and visuals so closely tied together that I was able to get through without pain.

But the effort of playing Rhythm Heaven really left a bad taste in my mouth. The visual cues actually hampered my play and the idea of struggling through these stages in a continual state of failure has "Bad Idea" written all over it.

So the gutcheck to make here is - how much do you like rhythm/music games and how good are you at them. Then rent it if you think this might be your cup of tea.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and brush my teeth.

Monday, April 13, 2009

100 Minutes - Geometry Wars Galaxies

Oh Robotron, how much do we love thee. Let me count the ways....

Or not, as the number of twin-stick shooters that have come out in recent days is way to high to bother with.

However, props have to be given to the Geometry Wars series. It was a big player in the Xbox Live Arcade and inspired many developers to give their own twist on the twin-stick genre.

From my perspective, I've wanted to play Geometry Wars for quite a while, and it was a reason to consider the Xbox 360 as the high end console choice. Then someone came along and made a release on the Wii, and I was happy.

Although for some reason I never picked it up...

Flash-forward to Gamefly and not needing to spend forty bucks, which put Geometry Wars Galaxies into my Wii.

This was actually a difficult game to put 100 minutes into, as this style of shooter doesn't lend itself to long periods of gameplay. Even broken into two sessions, it was still a long haul - which leads to my first criticism. Games that are meant to be played in shorter bursts should not run forty bucks, which was the release price.

The second item is one that was proclaimed in nearly every review when the game was release - the Wii Classic Controller is just about manditory.

And I don't have one.

My thought was that a Wavebird Gamecube controller would work fine. Unfortunately, the developers Bizarre Creations and Kuju Entertainment, decided not to go that route. Instead it uses the Wii Remote for aiming and the Nunchuk to maneuver the ship - which all results in an exercise of frustration.

Times when I thought I had the system down, would suddenly lead to a brain mix-up and multiple ships lost. This is not the way to play a game, and tacks on a mandatory purchase of the classic controller. But with a 100 minute gutcheck, one does not run out an buy controllers to make it work.

The positives are in the gameplay and layout of the experience. Instead of starting at a specified level and progression, the player selects which level to play, each of which has a different arena, a varying number of ships and bombs, and target scores to reach. Which can provide decent motivation to play the game.

Geometry Wars Galaxies scores in a slightly complex fashion. While a destroyed enemy give a set number of points, they also leave Geoms behind. These Geoms power up the ship, increase a score mutliplier, and are used as a currency to unlock new levels and new drones.

Drones are a familiar concept for side scrolling shooter fans - it's the little helper bot that cannot be killed and does something special. In the game, there are multiple drones to select and each of them gain experience as they are used. Another way to increase longevity in a basic twin-stick shooter.

Yet it remains in my opinion that Geometry Wars Galaxies does not have enough to warrant purchase. Even at the seventeen dollars used, I feel that I would not get enough out of the game - and that would be true if I did own a classic controller.

Worth the rental, to take for a spin. And if you are looking for a good twin-stick shooter, you cannot go wrong with Geometry Wars Galaxy - provided you haven't downloaded one for ten dollars and own a classic controller.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Episode 3

Here and Now - TF2 Jarate, TF2 Meet the Sandwich, Kingsburg, Kingsburg(Java), Madworld, Roll Through the Ages, Alkemy, Dungeon Twister

Today's topic is game disappointments.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A minor delay

Howdy listeners,

We're running a little behind in getting the next episode recorded. Sorry about the delay, but we should be up next week and running regular after that.

Thanks for listening!

Jon BS

Friday, April 3, 2009

Madworld - not a Tears for Fears song

I recently spent 100 minutes in Madworld (Platinum Games) and that was enough madness for me.

The island of [Manhattan renamed] has been taken over by a powerful, criminal organization and turned into a massive arena for a Running Man/Most Dangerous Game television show. The player is Jack, the ultimate warrior with a chainsaw attached to his mechanical right arm, infiltrating the game to succeed in a mission that is not entirely clear at first, but it is implied you are working on the side of good.

Hook: Over the top violence in a three color palette – black, white and red - on the most family-friendly of systems, the Wii.

Gameplay: Brawler with lots of waggle and a point system.

Gut feeling: Worth the rental, possibly not worth finishing.

Madworld is a game that has received a lot of attention on game websites. The Sin City style in both colors and brutality on the Wii seems an unlikely combination. One that almost works and is playable is short bursts at best.

I have read reviews that state the violence as being so over the top it’s ridiculous. I think it really sends a message as to how much videogames can desensitize one toward violence.

When I first saw the John Woo movie Hard Bolied in 1994, I nearly couldn’t handle the Hong Kong level of violence. Two characters firing guns across a crowded hospital room made me slightly sick to my stomach. Three years later, I had the chance to watch it again and it did not bother me in the slightest. I even own the Criterion Collection version on DVD. I am sure that part of the problem is that the Hong Kong genre of action movie was new to me, but I know that my tolerance for violence in movies is much higher than it used to be.

As a game, Madworld is Double Dragon, Final Fight or almost a Heavenly Sword style of game. Bad guys keep spawning in a set environment and you have to take them out using your weapons and the things found around you. But instead of the villains falling down and disappearing, you get to finish them off in various brutal ways – and there are many, many ways to send a bad guy to their doom.

When I first went through the training level, I was stunned and slightly grossed out by what was on the screen. Firing up the game a second time had a reduction of surprise, replaced with a feeling of routine. I had begun to ignore the violent acts and concentrate on how to play the game better. I was numb to the visuals and what my character was doing. Desensitization at its best.

One hundred minutes of play (according to my Wii’s clock) was enough time for me to clear four levels and stop. By the end of that time, I could see how someone might want to finish playing it out – but only to satisfy the need to complete a game. Once I turned the game off, I was completely fine with packing it up and shipping Madworld back to Gamefly. Besides, my arms were getting tired from all the waggle involved in proper chainsaw use.

Platinum Games has release an initially shocking game, that has definitely raised a few eyebrows, and a few more hackles. Take a look if you have a Wii and want to kill mooks in large quantities. But do not drop the cash on a game that will only be remembered for the blood and the quantity of f-bombs dropped in a single minute.

Madworld Official Website