Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Terraria

The building. The mining. The crafting. Terraria has finally ambled its way out of the sanguine depths of PC gaming to the dirty back alley known as the Android Marketplace. Yes, the 2D Minecraft-like has all the thrills of putting blocks on other blocks that you have come to expect in a game like this.

Even if you are only tangentially aware of this sort of game, you’re probably familiar with the mechanics already. You dig stuff up out of the ground and combine that stuff with other stuff to create brand new stuff! The sky’s the limit! Or whatever the developers decide is the limit. Under 600 items? Get out of here with your inferior game, you peasant!
And there’s combat. Oh there is combat if you can call it that. You can swing your sword, axe or pick at your choice of zombies, slimes, other zombies and even more slimes. Eventually, you dig down deep enough into the center of the earth where you get to do battle with goldfish, bunnies and the Eye of Cthulhu. But just his eye. Presumably because Cthulhu himself was off sipping tea with his skeleton army.

Terraria features a wide variety of weapons aside from the sword, axe & pick. Weapons like guns, swords, chainsaws, other swords, and even more chainsaws are yours for the taking if you’re willing to take the time to go mining for it. You can even build a lightsaber. Yes, that is a thing in the game. Because every game needs to have a lightsaber. Because when your game relies so heavily on The Thing That Made Minecraft Famous, you need to differentiate yourself from the pack. And what better way to do that than by co-opting another popular franchise?

Aside from weapons, there are plenty of other things to craft as well. You can craft hats, for example. Just imagine being able to wear a hat in a video game! And of course there are the requisite armors, rulers, bookcases & other useless items that come along with this sort of thing.

So it’s more of the same. But don’t let that dissuade you. Some people just happen to like more of the same. More of the same got Nintendo to where they are. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of that.

As would be expected, the graphics are neither better nor worse than any version out there. Visually, it’s bright and colorful in all the right places. More importantly, the world still feels big. Big, big, big. Enormous. Gargantuan. Big, huge and empty. The major difference between playing on a phone versus your computer is how small everything is once the game begins. Of course, this all could be fixed with the inclusion of a zoom function.
While I can’t speak for how it plays on the iPhone, the controls are simply terrible, almost rendering the game unplayable. Even as something as simple as making a jump is rendered much more difficult than it needs be.
The issue stems from the implementation of the control scheme. The directional pad & action buttons are not in fixed sections of the screen. Any time the screen is touched, the directional pad & action buttons will appear there. However, this presents a few problems. Particularly during harried sections of the game where the player is forced to flee, this can be particularly aggravating. Your fat thumbs, sweaty from hours of mining Birkenstock sandals out of the ground slip off, causing the aforementioned bunnies to gang up on you and nibble your toes to death. You try to jump away from them, but it’s too late: you’ve lept backwards into the Nostril of Satan and have lost all of your adamantite.
The Terraria Experience Now Available On Android
Aside from the horrible vanishing D-Pad, controlling exactly where you want to place blocks is also an exercise in frustration. Oh you didn’t want to lay down 15 blocks all on the same spot? Well too bad. At least your house will have plenty of protection from the unrelenting swarms of pink and blue slimes.
Without a mouse, you are left to guess as to where your character is going to place a block down. Attacking & mining fare better, both requiring less precision than house building but still face the same problem of shifty controls when armed with anything other than the chainsaw swinging between your legs.
This is the very reason Terraria simply doesn’t adapt very well to the Android environment. Being a PC game, it relies on PC game controls. Touch screen controls are finicky at the best of times. While the developer has admirably attempted to bridge the gap between the PC and the mobile world, the execution is flawed, ultimately.

Still, I don’t doubt that for its intended audience, Android Terraria will still be an enjoyable experience. Many of the issues facing the game could be addressed in patches. But most unwilling to adapt to the game will likely find the game in its current state to be a frustrating experience.

Buy it on Google Play | iTunes | Amazon

Released: 2013-09-26
Publisher: Re-Logic, 505 Games
Developer: Re-Logic

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

As if trying to make a career as a writer wasn’t bad enough, I get to my new town in Animal Crossing: New Leaf and find out I am being forced to become the mayor! Well, this sounds like it’ll be much more stressful than any other Animal Crossing game ever. 

So, why can’t I stop playing it? Seriously, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is crazy-addictive. It’s good ol’ life simulation fun.

As per usual, you have to pay a certain raccoon a fair debt for your house, and you can do it by mindlessly grinding, or by grinding a little less mindlessly. The payments don’t end there, though. After getting a house so you can move out of your tent, you can keep adding to your house and expanding it and making it more and more to your liking. You can collect fish, fossils, weird little Tiki things, bugs, you name it. And you can keep them, you can get money from them, or you can give some to the local museum. I personally keep bugs in containers in my house. I’m not really sure why.

But, hey, you’re the mayor now. You can do whatever you want! Kind of. You’ll probably want to keep up with your responsibilities, of course, with the help of your adorable little secretary. Before, you were doing favours for the other characters to make friends. Now, such actions can often be business moves. And now, not only can you customize your looks, right down to the pants you wear and the shoes on your feet. You can customize the look of your town. There’s the age-old planting of foliage. There’s also creating paths and adding things to pretty your town up, like lampposts. And it’s all in the name of making the people of your town happy.

Your citizens come and go, too. There’s a lot of random chance in this game, like what fossils you’ll find, or how many. Who lives in your town is random, too. Although, if you want, you can basically kick someone out. I mean, they’re all still adorable little talking animals that make weird, cute sounds. If you decide one of them is being a real jerk, though, it’s possible to use your new-found power as mayor to essentially give them the boot.

Your friends can come and visit your wonderfully decorated town too, and help you with accomplishments, give you things, or take things. If you want, you can even go to an island where you can find different plants, bugs, fish, and items from those in your town. See, not only is Animal Crossing: New Leaf addicting and endless, new features have been added so that playtime per session is extended. If you like life simulation games – games like The Sims, Harvest Moon, or other Animal Crossing games, you could get stuck playing this for hours and hours each day. It’s great for long bus rides – say to school or to work. If you do manage to play for only five or ten minutes a day, you could play it on your breaks at work. You could kill hours with it alone in your room, too. As long as you like life simulator games, because not everyone does, this is definitely worth your money. You’re guaranteed to clock tons of hours. And since it’s in real time, you’ll probably have several play sessions with it per day. So keep that 3DS charged for Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Find it on Amazon | ebay

Released: 2013-06-09
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo, Monolith Soft

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Humble Mobile Bundle 2 is live

The second Android Humble Bundle has gone live, and it's a special one. Star Command and Time Surfer are debuting with this bundle, making it a great opportunity to play these two new games at any price you'd like. Punch Quest and Bloons TD 5 are also part of the minimum package, with Ravensword: Shadowlands and Carmageddon thrown onto the heap if you pay more than the average price of $4.51 at the time of this post. All but Carmegeddon come with digital soundtracks as well. As always, a portion (or all if you choose) of the proceeds go to Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. For anyone that hasn't yet pounced on this incredible deal, you have 13 days.

UPDATE:  QWOP, Karateka ClassicGod of Blades, and a “The Making of Karateka” eBook have been added for those who beat the average.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Organ Trail: Director's Cut

Organ Trail is a re-imagining of the classic, retro title known as Oregon Trail. Chances are, you know what Oregon Trail is. TO CAULK OR TO FORD?

Well, caulk and ford is sort of here, too, in Organ Trail, but instead you have to cross hordes of zombies. You can either fight your way through or go into stealth mode. Not as cool as caulking and fording, but still a good way to add the 'rivers' from the original game and stick with the theme, which, yes, is zombies.

We all love zombies, apparently. Zombies, zombies, zombies.

Well, the good thing is that this isn't an incredibly rushed, amateur iOS title that attempts to suck out your money with the lure of the undead. Instead, it is a fairly well put together port of the original PC version, and provides an experience full of retro charm, dark humor, and a few (decent) minigames. The controls are a tad awkward, though.

I found myself playing it more often then other iOS games. Just like the original Oregon Trail, you will most likely fail your first few times. It makes you want to play again, in an attempt to win or get further than you did the last time you played. This is a fairly simple way to keep people playing, but it works, and I didn't feel as if the game became a sort of 'chore'.

You will find yourself figuring out how things work. You'll only scavenge when the activity is low and you'll value supplies previously  deemed worthless. You will trade more often, in search of good deals. You will always check for car upgrades in each town and landmark, looking for something useful to upgrade your station wagon with. For a retro-styled 'parody' of an old simulation game, it can be surprisingly strategic.

Your party members can get infected, which means you are most likely going to have put them down. I'm also pretty sure the game has a built in mechanism that causes you to become infected around halfway through the game, but only if you kill all your fellow survivors. Just assuming this, as with a car upgrade specifically made to prevent zombies from biting your party members, I still got infected when I reached the west.

May have just been bad luck, or could it be a super secret, evil ploy by the developers to remove the incredible advantage to killing off your party at the start of the game?!

Probably not.

Also, speaking of that specific advantage, there is no reason to not kill off your party. Why? Well, its rather simple. Let me list off some of the reasons why you aren't really punished for getting rid of the in-game leeches that you for some reason are required to take with you.

-The less people alive, the less food you will lose per hour. With one survivor, that one being you, you will only use up 3 ounces of food per hour, if on 'large rationing'. With all party members alive, and on 'medium rationing', you will use up 10 ounces of food per hour.

-Your party members do NOTHING for you. You can't send them to go scavenge, you can't assign them to different roles, you can literally do NOTHING with them. Their only purpose is to offer you a few extra lives during the final minigame when you reach the safe haven.

As you can see, there is no disadvantage to offing your 'friends'. They are literally food-eating leeches that follow you around for the entirety of the game. Better to spend the four bullets needed to kill them, if you want to play this game as strategically as possible.

The soundtrack is fantastic, as well. If you like retro-styled tunes, you are going to love this game. The music is absolutely wonderful.

I generally felt myself getting sick of the most common minigames after playing them a few times. Scavenging can be frustrating due to the awkward controls and I feel as if it would be better to be using WASD or the arrow keys for the minigames that involve navigating your car through various hazards. Plus, they all get redundant after a while. They're really simple and can be mastered easily. You'll find yourself bored of them after playing the game for a while.

The loading times are frustratingly long. For some reason, a game composed of very simple 8-bit graphics can take a whole minute to load up. I do not know if the expansion pack fixes this, as I have not purchased it, yet. This may be just me, but my loading times are horrendous. You may have the same issue, you may not.

If you like Oregon Trail, retro graphics, and zombies, this is the game for you. If you don't, welp, this probably wasn't made for you in the first place.

It has a few flaws, but is overall a well-made port for iOS.

-Well ported
-Retro Charm
-Well done twist on the Oregon Trail concept
-Easy to pick up and play, yet can be extremely difficult
-Fantastic Soundtrack

-Unusually long load times
-Awkward minigame controls
-No reason to not off your party members

Find it on iTunes

Developer: The Men Who Wear Many Hats LLC

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Play these old LCD games in your browser

We've all had an experience with LCD handhelds growing up. Back then, we didn't know any better. They held our attention, but the nature of the technology meant they quickly grew stale. Granted, some were better than others. Nintendo's Game and Watch line, for example, were the first to popularize the concept, featuring original titles and conversions of existing hits like Donkey Kong. They, as well as games from Tiger Electronics and others, can be played for free on Pica Pic. Many of these handhelds are not cheap, so it's nice to be able to play them for free. The buttons animate and make clicking noises when pressed for a very authentic feeling, and while there are far more LCD handhelds than represented on the site, it seems they've been adding more over time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Apple's 64-Bit iPhone Won't Change the Mobile Game

Apple is perhaps the greatest company in the history of the world when it comes to making people think they make revolutionary products when in fact they rarely do. Of course, by making people think this way, their products do become revolutionary as a result, but that is a different topic for a different day. Since the reveal of the new iPhone 5S there have been countless headlines featuring the words "64-bit" and "iPhone". "A 64-bit chip in my new iPhone, that's the same chip I have in my desktop computer!", says the uninformed consumer. The uninformed consumer that games then assumes that the power of the next iPhone will be extraordinary and revolutionize mobile game. Please, don't humor me.

The key to understanding the present is looking at the past. Why did desktop and laptop computers make the switch from 32-bit to 64-bit chips? Aside from the obvious answer, that being that a 64-bit chip is generally more powerful, the bigger reason was that 32-bit chips only support 2GB of RAM. Computers of today often have up to 8GB of RAM, making the necessity for 64-bit processors obvious. So that means the new iPhone 5S must have more than 2GB of RAM right? Wrong.

So did everyone just fall for a big Apple marketing scam again? Seems like it, but the lack of a need for a 64-bit chip is not the primary reason this will not revolutionize mobile gaming. The primary reason is the same reason games look way better at the end of a console's lifespan than they do at the beginning. As of now, developers have nothing to do with this grand new hardware. If every other phone out there, even the other iPhones, still have 32-bit processors, developers will optimize their games for those phones since all together they have a much larger install base than the iPhone 5S by itself. If no games actually take advantage of Apple's new hardware, what is the point? In fact, Apple somewhat shot themselves in the foot with the iPhone 5C because now it will take even longer for developers to start optimizing games for 64-bit chips due to the fact that the 5S will have a smaller install base than most new Apple iPhones.

I said mobile gaming is the future on this very website not too long ago. I still stand by that. That does not mean it will be an immediate leap from casual puzzle games to massive 3D open worlds. Apple's 64-bit iPhone 5S is a sign of what's to come, but nothing game changing as of now.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Evolving Your Pokemon Gameplay

Pokemon is envisioned as the game that far too many people have spent far too many hours of their youth playing. The nostalgia holds strong within our hearts when we hear of the new games that will be released. It makes us unsettled. We begin to ask ourselves questions. Will it be as good as the first/second/third generation?  Will there be new features? Will the new Pokemon just be reskins? The main question that will be asked is simple. Will it be as fun as it was when I played it at the ripe age of 10? The answer, unfortunately, will probably be no. When we are younger, we are much more creative and see things as greater than what they actually are. Our minds roam as the stories wander. We don’t question the biases or the realism or stop for a second and think “Why should I have to walk ALL the way back through that cave just to get an item? What a waste!” We just do. We go with the game, delve into the story, and dissolve into the Pokemon world.

Pokemon was also released when the first in-color portable gaming systems were becoming more mainstream. It was new technology that our young eyes hadn’t seen before. It was fantastic, amazing, and we didn’t even bat an eyelash when we used flashlights to play the game in the dark. Now technology has advanced as we have grown. We are now accustomed to playing with back-lit longer-lasting portable devices with 3D screens and more easily interact-able games with graphics that rival real life.

Playing the old Pokemon games just aren’t quite the same anymore. They can get a bit tedious and boring. They seem too easy and a bit meaningless. Who cares if the Pokemon faints or gets poisoned? It just adds another boring trip to the boring Pokemon Center to talk to the overly-friendly Nurse Joy and pray to Arceus that you won’t accidentally press A and have to go through the same, droll process all over again.

Pokemon: Hardmode throws all that traditional humdrum style of Pokemon out the window and launches Taurus feces at it. Pokemon: Hardmode is not a new game. It is the process in which Pokemon is played. You start with any Pokemon game you have, but you give yourself rules. The most famous rules come from The Nuzlocke Challenge, a webcomic about the creator’s adventures back to the original Pokemon games with a twist to make them more interesting. The rules are simple to follow, but are guaranteed to rip your heart out.

The first rule is easy, you have to catch the first Pokemon you encounter in an area and cannot catch anything else. The second rule makes it a bit harder. When a Pokemon faints, you must release it and it is declared dead. You are very limited on Pokemon and will end up running from many fights because you don’t want to lose your newly caught Zubat. To become one with your Pokemon, it is highly recommended that you give them a name. Instead of possibly losing Zubat, you are now risking Bobette’s life.

As rules go, they are meant to be broken. The point of Hardmode is to make the game a challenge to you. It’s to get you attached to the story and your Pokemon as you experience a journey that is unique to you. Mix up your playthrough, add new rules and remove some. Make the game a game that you want to play. Make it so that you can delve back into the story that you remember from your youth, and do it in a new way.Before you know it, you’ll be rushing to get to the once-annoying-and-still-sort-of-annoying-but-useful Nurse Joy when Weedle poisons your precious Pidgey, Shiva, on your way through Viridian Forest. You’ll be crying when you didn’t make it in time and you have to release or “bury” your dead teammate. You’ll remember the personalities of all your Pokemon and all the battles they fought. You’ll remember that time you fought your rival and nearly lost Gregory, your Bulbasaur that has been with you since the very beginning. Every battle fought and every item you get will mean something. Each Pokemon that joins you will become a friend. All of the emotion that you used to feel when you were a kid will be there. It will be in a different form, and it will certainly remind you why Pokemon is such a great game.

Hardmode stays true to its name no matter how your rules go. The game gets hard emotionally and strategically. You know that you need to beat the Elite Four at some point, but right now your main concern is not losing another Pokemon. Not today, not tomorrow. You couldn’t bear to lose another. Your party isn’t strategically powerful against them, but they are your teammates and they mean the game to you. Hardmode does make the game tough, but it makes it worth playing through five more times with a Mankey jumping on your back.

Take a chance, try Pokemon: Hardmode. But know this: once you go Hardmode, you can never go back.

Pokemon games on ebay | Amazon

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Enhancing Android Gaming: Controllers and Consoles

A large portion of Android users see with gaming as an afterthought; an added perk of their web-enabled smartphone. Because the top shelf Android smartphones cost hundreds of dollars and often require a long-term contract, they're inaccessible to a large portion of the gaming population. There are prepaid Android phones and budget tablets mass produced overseas, but they won't run the higher end games and often have software issues. The biggest hindrance to Android gaming though, on both ends of the spectrum, is the lack of physical buttons. Tactile feedback provides a level of accuracy necessary to master a game's mechanics. Touch-centric games don't suffer in this regard, but there are far too many more traditional games that are hard to enjoy without being able to "feel" the game world. Luckily, there are plenty of solutions.

MOGA Pocket/Pro

There are dozens upon dozens of Bluetooth controllers designed to augment Android devices but few can boast the level of quality seen by MOGA. Both the pocket and pro versions have a convenient, adjustable clip that will fit almost any smartphone (up to 3.2 inches). Regardless, these controllers will work with any Android device running Android 2.3 or higher. MOGA should be the first stop for a quality Android controller, but those who do a lot of public mobile gaming might want something even more portable.


It doesn't get more compact than the iMpulse Bluetooth controller. Designed to be taken anywhere, the iMpulse fits nicely in the pocket and has a minimal, streamlined design that'll work well with plenty of games. It has a range of one hundred feet, and, should it get lost, can be made to emit a chirping noise. iMpulse works on multiple platforms, can be flipped for left-handed gamers, and can be used two-at-a-time on a single device to game with a friend. It can also be used to control media apps, making it one of the most compact and versatile controllers on the market.

PS3/Wii Controller

Dedicated Android controllers are a fine investment, but anyone with a PS3 or Wii will find they don't need to spend money on superfluous hardware. Using the free Wiimote Controller or the inexpensive Sixaxis Controller Android apps, gamers can get their Android gaming groove on with an interface they're already familiar with. For PS3 controllers, the GameKlip will attach the device to the controller, much like the MOGA does.


Talk about minimal. The JOYSTICK-IT acts as a miniature arcade stick for any device with a capacitive touch screen. For only $5 it's probably the cheapest way to instantly improve gaming on Android. It's easily removable, repositon-able, and won't damage the screen. Just stick it on the digital control pad and go to town.

JXD Handhelds

No, that's not a Vita, but an Android look-alike made for hardcore Android gaming. With a 1.5ghz Dual Core CPU, 5-Point capacitive touchscreen, the above pictured JXD S5110B can handle all the latest Android games compatible with the Android 4.1.1 OS. They also offer devices modeled after the original PSP and the WiiU controller, each with their own specifications. While Bluetooth controllers are a cheaper investment, not every game will support them. Because the controls of JXD Handhelds are inherent, this is not an issue. For those who aren't interested in spending hundreds on the latest Android smartphones and don't like the idea of using an external controller, the JXD line of handhelds are the obvious choice.


NVIDIA SHIELD Gaming Portable, 5" 720p Retinal Display, Tegra 4 Mobile Processor, Android Jelly Bean, 802.11n 
Typically known as a manufacturer of PC graphics hardware, Nvidia have entered the handheld market with SHIELD. Boasting an NVIDIA Tegra 4 Quad Core Mobile Processor with 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, a 5 inch 1280x720 multi-touch retinal quality display, and the Android Jelly Bean OS, this beastly machine is less portable gaming device and more of a handheld PC. Oh yeah, it can also stream PC games over WiFi. Never again will toilet time be uneventful. Instead of reading the ingredients on that bottle of handsoap for the nth time, scare the shit out of yourself with the SHIELD and a great horror game.

Regardless of the misguided criticisms coming from more "traditional" gamers, Android has become a well-established platform for gaming. With so many ways to play, there's no reason mobile gaming has to be such a divisive topic. It's obviously here to stay, and can simultaneously appeal to the casual gamer playing Angry Birds on a lunch break and the gamer who wants to sit on the couch for three hours playing an epic RPG. Most of us fall into both of those categories anyway.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: Okamiden

What can I say about Okamiden? Well, it sure ain’t Okami, that’s for sure.

I mean, when you have a sequel to something, you can expect to say, “it was the same, yet different”. But Okami was a huge cult classic. There were fan expectations to meet. Okamiden could never be its own game, it’ll always be the sequel to Okami. And when I heard about what was in store, I was intrigued. Playing Amaterasu’s kid makes sense for a sequel. You could be this just-as-epic-but-slightly-smaller version of Ammy. There was so much potential.

Instead, you play as a little chibi wolf… seriously they even call you Chibiterasu. It’s not like it doesn’t work at all. The game’s still going with the Japanese theme. It’s just not traditional Japan now. It’s cutsie stuff. And I’m sure some people loved it. But it was enough to make me put down the game for a while. Once I picked it back up, I wasn’t completely disappointed though.
This game would never live up to my obscene expectations. I realise this now. Part of what made Okami great was its originality, so of course I don’t know what I could have been expecting.

So, other than the fact that you can never duplicate the awesomeness that was Okami, especially with Clover Studio gone and chibis running around everywhere, how good is Okamiden?

It’s pretty cool. They brought back a lot of the right stuff, and changed things in interesting new ways. Like, the world is pretty much the same layout as before, but now there are new places, and certain characters have had kids, which is really fun to see. Maybe some people won’t like that it’s much of the same world, especially since there can be some backtracking, and you start to wonder how many times you’re going to see certain parts of Nippon. Then again, some might like that. We’re brought back to that beautiful world that we love, with slight changes. For example the beautiful Yakushi Village. Certainly, the world has the same beauty as last time, whether you’re in the new or old parts.

Of course they brought back the Celestial Brush and the whole painting objects into existence thing. If that weren’t back, I couldn’t have done the review, because I would have thrown the game out the window then demanded my money back.

And it works just as well as the Celestial Brush did in the PS2 version of Okami, and way better than the Wii version, which gave me enough trouble that I stopped playing the game on the Wii. I sometimes found the simple act of running to be tough. You’re playing as a puppy and I feel like maybe they made the controls just a little bit difficult on purpose, which is cute but also hellish. I learned to walk properly twenty-something years ago, and I really prefer it to derping around.

The fight mechanics are also a little clunky. It can be hard to point your character in the right direction, for example. And this isn’t really the game’s fault, but my right button is starting to crap out, so using the Celestial Brush can be tough, which can makes the battles slow and sometimes make me lose a good hit or combo.

The characters and story were pretty fun, though. There’s still a lot of charm, like there was in the first one. A little less of the tranquil beauty brought on by playing a wolf with a long, flowing gait, but lots of people who aren’t me like cutsie stuff. It’s forgivable in most cases.

The Nintendo DS is really the perfect fit for the game, too. No, you can’t see glorious Nippon on your giant flatscreen this time, but since it’s already a chibi version of everything else Okami was, why not make the screen and console smaller, too? The only real flaw with the DS is, like I said, that buttons tend to stop working, and one of the main parts of the game, the Celestial Brush, uses them. Can’t blame the game for that, though.

So all in all, Okamiden isn’t Okami. I played Okami every single day until it was done. It took me months to get through Okamiden. This is not the same cult classic. But it’s not a bad game. A little rough around the edges, maybe. But not bad. Not bad at all.

Find it on Amazon | ebay

Released: 2011-03-15 
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sony unveils PS Vita 2000, Vita TV

The Vita has been getting a lot of flack for being a forgotten handheld with nothing but ports, but weren't the same criticisms directed at the PSP? The PSP was a slow burn, but looking back on its library now, there are loads of games worth playing, particularly if you're a fan of RPGs.

Sony's recent announcements indicate the Vita is far from dead. A slimmer 2000 model should come as no surprise, but nobody expected the Vita TV, a bare-bones Vita that turns a handheld experience into a couch-based one. The Vita TV will allow gamers to play Vita games on a TV with a PS3 controller. PSP and Playstation games are also available for download, effectively combining three consoles into one affordable piece of hardware. It'll also stream your PS4 games from another room. It looks like touch-base games aren't supported, so there's still a reason to own an actual Vita. Here's a list of currently supported games. The Vita TV is set to hit Japan in November for 9,954 Yen or around $100.
The 2000 model Vita is 20 percent thinner than the original, and 15 percent lighter. It will retail for $190/$200 for the WiFi/WiFi 3GS versions. It will also have 1gb of onboard storage and an extra hour of battery life.

With the announcement of Nintendo's 2DS and now the Vita TV, this truly is a generation full of surprises.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pelloni throws us a Bob's Game bone

Robert Pelloni is arguably one of those most interesting indie developers the in the industry. He's taken us on a ride in the past with his viral marketing campaign for his game, Bob's Game, and teased his very own handheld, the nD. Until now, things have been quiet on all fronts, and the nD's website went dark long ago. Was it just another part of the viral marketing narrative? Are we still in Bob's Game?

A demo for Bob's Game was available for download a while back, and it left us wanting more. Now, a new piece of the puzzle has been given to us.  I won't claim to know what it all means, but my interest is once again piqued.  Head on over to to sign up for Bob's Game and to have your mind fucked.

Choosing Handhelds Over Next-Gen Home Consoles?

The last time I played a portable game was nearly a decade ago, when I rediscovered my Gameboy Color and played an old copy of Dr. Mario.  It was summer and it rained quite a lot that week, so playing outside was figuratively out the window.  Old episodes of Disney programming got tiring and Madden was getting boring scoring half a century on the CPU, I didn't want to deal with frustration so I never changed the difficulty.  Going in my room was as foreign an idea then as it is now. The most time I spent there was dedicated to sleep and changing clothes but that week I stayed in playing various Gameboy titles I once adored and I was delighted for the change of pace.

In 2013, gamers around the world might consider re-discovering our portable dreams once again with the Nintendo 3DS and the PS Vita.  The Nintendo 3DS has been on the rise throughout the summer, the highest selling gaming hardware to be exact, while gamers are wondering if the PS Vita is even worth owning.   Both consoles have only just learned to walk, with the 3DS and VIta turning 3 and 2 in February, so they don't have the miles or the demand for hardware like the 360 and PS3.

The XboxOne and PS4 come out in less than two months. The games have been previewed, the pre-orders have been up since the consoles were announced, the comparisons have been made and the war will come forth on November 30th when the PS4 is released (XboxOne releases a week earlier).  But should you join the battle?  With games like Super Smash Bros, Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Pokemon X/Y coming out for the 3DS and Final Fantasy X and Oddworld for the PS Vita, both portables are prepared for a fight of their own that will keep their fans happy. 

One thing I have to commend Nintendo on is making franchises that continue to deliver with each release.  We all know Mario and the universe that Shigeru Miyamoto has created around him for over 25 years. Each of Mario's friends and enemies have received their own titles. Pokemon will remain a go-to game for any Nintendo fan and with Pokemon X and Y dropping next month in October, they might bring back old fans of the franchise with the return of the original lineup of Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle.

Are handhelds the best option for gamers looking for a new piece of gaming hardware? They both cost around $200 after tax which is about the same as Microsoft and Sony's current consoles.  Games are being pushed out at a steady pace with at least one trademark character from Nintendo every 3-4 months and the there's always a handheld platforming game to dive into, which is something Sony and Microsoft's home consoles seem to lack.  The only notable platform game that has come out on consoles is Rayman Legends in the first week of September, and even that's available on Vita. The next gen consoles have announced first-person shooters, driving, sports and fighting games but the platformer is one genre I wish these graphically advanced consoles would consider.

With new gaming hardware, new titles from big franchises, the potential return of old fans, do you pick sides in this new gaming war or do you continue playing your aging Xbox 360 and Playstation 3?  Come November, gamers have a choice to make.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Finally, there exists a game that allows me to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer. Okay, while that’s not completely true, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is still a fun and enjoyable game. this quirky, rather-on-the-Japanese-side DS/Wii/GBA game, you take on the role of young, bumbling defence attorney Phoenix Wright. With a name like that, could you really have any other than to defend the innocent? Throughout the five cases, Phoenix comes into his own as a lawyer, solving crimes, making friends, and making a few enemies, too. He stays bumbling, though. Just to keep your ego in check after saving innocent people from jail, I guess.

This game really stands out when it comes to characters and scenarios. Let’s face it. Ace Attorney is basically an interactive novel. It can be a little linear, and you can’t move on until you’ve uncovered every available clue and plot point. This means that in order for it to be a good game, it has to be as well-written as a book. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney does this, well. The crimes are inventive – defending your nemesis who is wanted for murder, or helping a young girl clear her sister’s name of a murder she’s already confessed to, for example – and the characters stand out. Maybe you dislike Phoenix for being an idiot, or Larry for being a total tool, or Sal for… just being Sal, but these characters are fun. They’re hilarious, but they all have their dramatic points, their serious characteristics that make them matter. This is kind of important in a story where the main character making a wrong move could mean someone’s imprisonment.

In order to solve these crimes and free your clients, you investigate the world and people around you. A little unorthodox for a lawyer? Yes, but it beats taking a bar exam. You have the option to talk to characters to learn everything you can, look for clues in a point-and-click fashion, move around the world, and present your findings to characters to try to figure out all you can about the case at hand. The exploration can feel a little limited, since you’re pretty much just pointing at a one-dimensional page and going, “what’s that? What’s over there? Who’s she?” at everything, but the silly dialogue and inner monologue certainly make it worth doing, and you do still learn a lot. Some people really enjoy the exploring portion of the game. Others prefer the other main component.

See, once all the learning’s done, it’s off to the courtroom, where you must use logic and attention to details to disprove witness testimonies, argue with the prosecution (with a firm OBJECTION!), and prove your client not guilty. Careful, though: too many wrong moves and you’ll try the judge’s patience. You have what could be described as lives, and each time you show wrong evidence, you’re liable to lose a life, and when they’re all lost, it’s game over. The difficulty increases at a nice, easy pace, allowing players to firmly grasp the logic of this unique game. The opening case does a very good job of getting players used to this new world, which is good, since there’s no game exactly like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and one has to get used to the logic of the universe.

By the fifth and final case, you might be wracking your brain for answers and clues though, as it does eventually get tough, especially if you’re not a logic or detail-oriented person. Just be happy you’re not actually in the courtroom, so no one can see you looking up the answers. 

If you choose to figure everything out on your own, this game offers a fair amount of play time to enjoy its fun world. Even though some characters may be annoying, you might get stuck here and there, and there isn’t always a lot to explore during the exploration portion of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, this cult classic is charming, entertaining and original. And man, do you feel smart once you finally, finally come up with that one piece of evidence you needed to prove a character innocent!

This game is for people who are willing to sit around and think before they reach a conclusion, but what’s nice is that if you’re not that kind of person but you’re still interested in it, it’s just as much fun to watch a friend play it, thanks to its book-like nature. 

Sorry... I had to. 

Find Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2005-10-11
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pokémon X/Y: Mega Evolutions or Mega Out of Ideas? The Digimon/Pokémon Debacle

Nintendo is no stranger to sticking to their guns. It's the reason that they're still a relevant force in the game industry today. Rather than trying to compete with the the two behemoths, Microsoft and Sony, they always strive to innovate hardware. The same can not be said of software in recent years. I, like many other twenty-somethings, grew up with the timeless question: "Which is better – Pokémon or Digimon." My answer, to this day, is and forever will be Pokémon. Just when I had lost interest in Power Rangers, Nintendo publishes Pokémon Red and Blue in North America on September 30, 1998. I didn't get my Red Version until Christmas that year, but when I did, my hand-me-down gray block never left my pre-pubescent paws.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have dabbled in all five generations of Pokémon leading up to X and Y being released next month. The only time I've wavered was in the wake of Black 2 and White 2, which are the only two versions that I have missed. But my qualm, as a fan of both Pokémon and Digimon growing up, is how blatantly Nintendo is stealing the term "mega" from Digimon fifteen years later.

Those familiar with Digimon know that the word "mega" is used in many different varieties of the television and video game series dating back to series one. Sometimes it was used as a prefix to a monster's name like MegaSeadramon and MegaKabuterimon. Sometimes it was used as a way to describe a Digimon's absolute, final evolved form. They evolved many more times than Pokémon do. But Nintendo is introducing a new feature in Pokémon X and Y that is such a blatant rip-off of Digimon that it rattles my 10-year-old self to his very core: "Mega Pokémon".

To explain my frustration, you have to realize how beat for beat this mimicking is. To initiate a Pokémon's "mega evolution", a trainer must possess a mega ring that he or she activates during battle while the monster is holding a "mega stone". The stone part I'm fine with. That's on theme for Pokémon and I'm okay with that, but the trainer must activate a "mega ring". Does anyone remember crests from the original Digimon series?

If that wasn't enough, the mega evolution can only be activated if the bond between you and your Pokémon is strong. The Pokémon Direct announcement below is unclear on whether or not this is related to your Pokémon's happiness, a mechanic introduced during the second generation, but that's my best guess. If true, mega rings are a direct rip-off of crests from Digimon, because, like mega evolutions, crests allow Digimon to evolve into their Ultimate forms. Anybody who knows who Apocalymon is can tell you that the reason the Digimon evolved was because of the bond between the DigiDestined and their monsters. Finally, mega evolutions aren't permanent. The Pokémon reverts back to its former state once the battle ends. The exact same is true of those digital little buggers. It has been true for the past fourteen years.

I get that these monsters you collect are supposed to be an extension of yourself through the medium of the game. You are supposed to feel bad when your Squirtle gets K.O.'ed. You just are. That's called teaching children empathy. That's why Digimon began instilling that idea from the get-go by allowing the monsters to communicate with their humans and through crests. I love Pokémon, but with such a vast back catalog of monsters, it seems like new ideas on how to keep its audience hooked are running thin. Now make an MMO already. Final Fantasy did it fifteen years after it became a household name. Pokémon can too. I'm sure X/Y will be the same perfect game it has been since '98, but my 10-year-old self is screaming "Rip-off!" over and over again in my head.