Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Plunge Taken

After over two years of Xbox 360 ownership, I have finally played a game online. Yes, I finally burned one of my 'sorry your console turned to slag' Gold Live membership cards in order to play some Too Human multiplayer with my brother-in-law Chuck. He took to the front lines as a Berserker, while I play combat medic as a Bio-Engineer. The game's challenge factor decreases a bit when your health is not at the whims of the loot generator. I can say that I wish the cutscenes had been left in the online component of the game; the now-absent cyberpunk/Norse mishmash was a big draw for me.

I have also liked the ability to chat with someone while playing a game. Since my wife is typically visiting the land of Nod by the time I get a gaming session underway, my choice of in-house conversation partners is limited, and the dog looks unmoved by my cries of triumph or frustration. By the way, the fact that the included headset only lets you hear the person wearing it can make for some really funny stuff.

Game well this week, and may those ping times do the limbo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Quick Look in the Rear-View Mirror

I am still entrenched in Prince of Persia, although my brother-in-law's entry into the world of Xbox Live may induce the use of my free Gold cards to play some Team Fortress 2 or other multiplayer stuff. My innate unitasking has left my other acquisitions of the year on the shelf, awaiting their next chance at my singular attention span.

As I consider my game purchases last year, I noticed a couple of trends. Pleasantly surprising is the fact that the only M-rated title I bought was The Orange Box, which is actually a game from the year before. This marked a decided shift from Mass Effect, BioShock, and their kinfolk during 2007. I also noticed that game buys were often driven as much by political statement as desire for the product. I shelled out full retail for Too Human because I think Silicon Knights can really hit a home run with this material if freed from the albatross of a decade-long development cycle. While I dug what I saw of Mirror's Edge during and after E3, I wanted to tell Electronic Arts that doing more than simply dumping sports games and Rock Band updates on us every year was a worthwhile venture; if only that had worked. Braid's unabashed awesomeness blessedly confirmed my faith in independent game development.

Other than Street Fighter IV, which offers the chance to reacquire my long-rusty skills, and Dragon Age: Origins, which is, well, by BioWare, not much is on my radar for the year as of now. As I had little on my radar at this point last year, that is subject to change. Maybe I should invest in some new radar.

Game well this week, and keep a close eye on each blip.

Monday, January 12, 2009

If You Hate Laughter, Click Back

I promise, you will not hear . . . er, read me use the words 'dudes,' 'shoot,' and 'you' in the same sentence for at least the next two posts. Word is bond.

Anyway, as my family can attest, I am a huge fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, even after the original team was scattered to the four winds. A good couple of Thanksgiving holidays featured parents trying to convince me to stop watching Comedy Central marathons of the show. At long last, through some dark alchemical procedure, the hilarious approach of MST3K has been applied to an often-mocked corner of the gaming landscape: overlong and overwrought cinematics. Check out this and these to live your fantasy of ruining poignant moments and jeering awful dialogue.

Game well, and try to keep your nostrils soda-free.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Look Ma -- No Vertigo!

The past week has been spent hurtling around a fantastical realm which may, in a place or two, resemble Persia. Ubisoft's latest addition to the Prince of Persia franchise addresses one of the biggest issues I have had with Mirror's Edge: the game seems to know its own identity. Guiding Faith around the rooftops of her dystopian city is by no means an unpleasant experience, but bits of its structure seem at odds with each other. Most of the time, the player in Mirror's Edge is driven by flow and momentum, and at its wallrunning and speedvaulting best, adrenaline does indeed get pumping. In the opposite corner is an exploratory element that tasks you with finding manbags which someone has scattered about the city. The search for these satchels, at least at my current level of progress in the game, bludgeon the aforementioned parkour model by slowing you down. Methodically searching an environment for objects while dudes shoot at me (and trust me, dudes will shoot at you) is not a heart-fluttering thrill ride. I tried to ignore the silly things and concentrate on the running and the jumping and the whatnot, but the explorer buried in my psyche kept prodding my mind with the thought that I have left something undone. Ask my wife how well this feeling sits in my stomach.

Prince of Persia has a heavier emphasis on collecting, since its light seed doodads are the key to reaching new areas rather than an aftertho . . . er, aside for completionists like myself. However, most of them (the early ones, anyway) lie along your travel routes from one place to another, and those off the beaten path take on a puzzle element of sorts as you try to figure out how to get the Prince to them. The de-emphasized combat also means that you can search for light seeds without dudes shooting at you.

Game well this week, and may you face a minimum of dudes shooting at you.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Melange of Delights

We had company to help us celebrate the new year, which generated much saliva at the prospect of tabletop gaming. I managed to play a game of Bohnanza and several hands of Fluxx with our visitors, but a D&D session was unfortunately not possible. Times like this make me wish I had ponied up the dough for a copy of Ticket to Ride: Europe during my years in Virginia.

On the electronic front, the Xbox 360 and Wii got quite a workout. Between sessions of Boom Blox, LEGO Star Wars II, and FIFA 07 (yes, you read that number correctly), the television saw little time not on an auxiliary input. The multiplayer focus of the past few days has left my Christmas presents languishing in the background, whispering to me from their shelves. They feel threatened by the addition of a new member to the clan; I picked up the new Prince of Persia title this afternoon with the assistance of a Christmas gift card. As I always say, the more wall-running in your life, the merrier.

Game well in this new year, and may every cross lead to a fierce header.