Saturday, January 31, 2009

Finishing Force Unleashed

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Games: Polished off Star Wars: the Force Unleashed this afternoon, and it was a pretty fun thrill ride from start to finish.
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I have to admit that I had heard the gameplay had some problems before I started it, so I set the thing to Easy and I'm glad I did. The developers have a real over-reliance on snipers and people firing from a distance which wouldn't be so bad except that it's far too easy to get knocked down and fall into a gang rape as you bounce back and forth between enemies. There's nothing more frustrating than getting ping-ponged without the chance to really do anything, and even on Easy it happened to me more than I like.
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fried Rancor smells delicious
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I had also heard a lot of people griping about Force-resistant troops, but I didn't find this to be a big deal. Evidently in some of the “expanded universe” books and such that go beyond what the movies covered, people come up with some Jedi-proof gear. Really, it makes sense to me. If the Empire is always fighting those rascally upstart Jedi, then of course they would pour resources into building up some special troops that can fight back effectively. Besides that, those Sith are always backstabbing each other, so I could totally see the Emperor keeping a small cadre of guys around for when Vader’s feeling surly.
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she's tougher than she looks
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Anyway, rough edges aside, the graphics were pretty phenomenal (especially the environmental design) and the music was classic Star Wars stuff. From a production values standpoint, it was sharp, but the real draw here was that the story was excellent. Better than anything Lucas has turned out since he started crapping all over the Star Wars mythology with the new trilogy, I really liked the main character (although ‘Starkiller’ is a pretty stupid name) and I also got quite a kick out of his super-cool droid sidekick, Proxy. These characters were great, and the way the events of this game blended into the series timeline was quite clever. The developers did a great job fitting the pieces together.
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this could have been SO cool, but it... wasn't
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(I hate to turn this blog post into a laundry list, but I do have to say that most of the boss battles were pretty impressive, except for the terrible static camera views. Still, there is a certain thrill when locking sabers with some of these enemy Jedi, and the endgame combat bits are pretty stunning… EXCEPT for the incredibly stupid “crash the Star Destroyer” sequence. Positioned to be an awe-inspiring display of the Force, it's instead a completely pointless and boring exercise in frustration that totally misses the mark.)
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Proxy is a fantastic character
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All in all, I enjoyed the game a lot more than I thought I would, and the Force Unleashed can certainly sit next to Knights of the Old Republic in the “games that should be official canon” club.
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Oh, one last thing… there’s one DLC mission pack available entitled Jedi Temple. Costing 800 Microsoft points ($10) it's grossly overpriced. Although a slew of new costumes are included, the mission itself is only ten or fifteen minutes, long and includes a few really frustrating sections thanks to infinitely respawning enemies. It looks pretty and centers around the “battle your dark side” conflict that every Jedi must go through at one point or another, but for the amount of content provided, it's highway robbery. The Force Unleashed is Recommended on Easy, but the DLC is Not.
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he just paid for the DLC and he's pissed
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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Force Unleashed, Halo Wars, and The Goon

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Games: I'm still catching up with games from 2008 that I never got a chance to get around to… this week, I'm trying Star Wars: the Force Unleashed on the 360. I'm definitely a Star Wars fan (although less so since the new trilogy ruined everything) but I've got to say that so far, this one fits into the canon pretty well and I really like the tone. Playing as Darth Vader's secret apprentice is a neat concept, and Lucasarts nailed his character design-- his costumes all exude a sort of low-level wraith-like quality, and although I'm sure that there are only a finite number of ways to carry a lightsaber, this new "behind the back" style is pretty hot.
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I've also got to say, I'm not much of a graphics whore, but the work done on the main character’s face is pretty stunning at times, and the level design is absolutely beautiful. Seeing the junk planet of Raxus Prime was quite impressive, and every other level seems as though it was ripped from one of those panoramic scenes from the first three movies. It may have some problems with the gameplay (do yourself a favor: put it on Easy and feel like a Jedi) but being so easy on the eyes certainly doesn't hurt.
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One other bit while I'm on the topic of games, Microsoft’s Major Nelson has been giving away codes via Twitter over the last two days. What do these codes unlock? The demo to Halo Wars.
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catch a tweet and start bragging
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If you haven't already signed up with Twitter (which is a fantastic service, actually) this might be a good time. Catch a tweet at the right moment, and you could be playing this highly-anticipated demo before anyone else.
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Comics: I've been a fan of Eric Powell’s The Goon since the first issue, but I've got to say that it's really lost its magic. Originally striking a great balance between comedy, horror, and just plain bizarre elements, the series has sort of lost its way. The overarching mythology behind some of the recurring characters is just not interesting at all to me, and the usually-punchy storytelling has gone soft.
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not as cool as it looks anymore
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I read through three issues back-to-back a few days ago, and felt like there was nothing substantial said in any of them. Besides that, Powell isn't even filling the whole comic book these days. Instead he's coming up with half or three quarters of a comic, and padding the back end with a random filler. The man can draw like a mofo (his pencil work is FAR superior to the way the comic looks after it's been colored… I seriously don't know why he ruins his work the way he does) but I'm sad to say that I really don't feel like I'm getting my $2.99 plus tax’s worth with this book anymore. The next time I hit the comic shop, I'm dropping it.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Writing, Walking Dead, and GLBT in Persona 4

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Writing: Work has been progressing on the current STILL SECRET project fairly well, although my usual evening productivity has been somewhat annihilated by a disruption in the routine. Even still, it's coming together bit by bit and it's kind of interesting to note that the writing process, though still difficult, seems to be getting easier with time.
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It took somewhere in the neighborhood of four years to finish my first book (although having a major life catastrophe happen in the middle of it delayed the entire process significantly) but since then, I've knocked out about a third of the sequel, done three short stories, and gone full-bore into what I'm working on now, all in about a year’s time. It's not like lightning, but it's definitely going faster. Getting back on caffeine would probably help.
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Comics: I keep meaning to do a comics rundown, but the aforementioned evening routine disruption has basically eliminated my reading time in addition to messing with my writing schedule. I have a stack of comics on my nightstand I haven't touched yet, and I really need to get back to the comic shop… I'm sure my file there is disgustingly full. Anyway, just a quick shout out for Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead in the meantime.
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I know everybody and their brother has already heard about this and read it, but I never got into it before because I missed the first few issues and I never found a good point to jump in. Now that there are several volumes of the collected version in trade softcover out, it was the perfect time to see what I've been missing, and it's been some pretty fantastic reading. I'm not too crazy about the art-- it's good enough, but it doesn't have a lot of style and I find that it's hard to tell the characters apart based solely on facial features.
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That said, the writing is tight and I'm totally hooked… can't wait to see what comes next. It's basically your standard end-of-the-world zombie survivor tale, but Kirkman has done a great job in fleshing out his characters and making them feel very human and relatable. A lot of the things that happen are very common-sense and believable, as well… always a plus in my book. Anyway, if you haven't read it yet, that means two things: one- that I wasn't the last person in the world to get turned on to this, and two- that you need to go out right now and buy a copy.
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Games: Just finished Fallout 3’s new add-on DLC Operation Anchorage this afternoon and wrapped up the review right afterwards. Look for it pretty soon at GameCritics, and I'll post a link here as well.
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Also, the always-worth-reading Tera Kirk posted some comments at GC that were inspired by an article over at Gamasutra. The original piece was about a character from super-RPG Persona 4, Kanji Tatsumi, and his struggle to identify as a homosexual.
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Tera’s got some good thoughts on the matter, the article itself is pretty solid, and the comments that come after the actual article are pretty superb. Not only are they well-written and intelligent, they also bring up transgender issues and how they relate (or don’t) to another P4 character, the potentially F-to-M Naoto Shirogane.
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Persona 4 is an awesome game any way you slice it, and the fact that these kind of issues can be not only included in the gameplay, but included intelligently and in a sensitive way speaks highly not only of developer Atlus, but also of the potential for games to continue to evolve and grow along with (hopefully) the audience. In any event, go check it out.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Flash Update: New Podcast and Fallout DLC

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Games: Just wanted to let y'all know that the new GameCritics Podcast (Episode 8) is now up and available... you can go RIGHT HERE and get it for free.
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Also, the word on Twitter is that the new Fallout 3 DLC, Operation: Anchorage, will be available for download starting TOMORROW, January 27. I dunno about you, but I'm considering calling in sick for this one.
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EDIT: It actually became available around 11pm this evening, just a little bit shy of the expected arrival time. Downloaded it, and started playing... Having a blast so far.
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Early (semi-spoilerish) rundown: After starting up a saved game, just walk around for a few minutes and a radio transmisson will come in, alerting you to a group of Outcasts who need help. After making your way to the (all-new) location, the Outcasts say that they've found a cache of high-tech gear, but they can't loot it without someone completing the simulation that keeps it locked. That person is, of course, you.
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The sim is a recreation of the US wiping out Communist Chinese during a pivotal battle in Fallout's fictional timeline. You enter the battle in the role of a grunt, armed with only a silenced pistol and a knife...
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I make no secret of the fact that I'm a definite Fallout 3 nut, so going back to the wasteland (sort of) is definitely a good thing in my book. This icy, mountainous new setting is definitely a big departure from the grey, irradiated ruins of D.C.
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I can't wait to see what's next.
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Flash Update: RE5 Demo is up on Live

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Games: The Resident Evil 5 demo is now available on Xbox Live. I just had a few minutes to go through the two separate trial areas before I had to dash out the door, but from what I played, it looks like it's going to be every bit as sweet as the trailers and screenshots suggested. Time to start practicing my headshots and knife swings... Go check it out!
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Preview: TrackMania DS

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Games: I've got a couple different irons in the fire, but for tonight, a little preview coverage courtesy of my dear friends over at Atlus.
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Trackmania DS is a quirky little racing game whose hook is a pretty feature-rich track creation system. Bits of track can be unlocked through gameplay, opening up options for the other modes.
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Naturally, custom tracks can be shared with other players and the official press release states that up to four people can race on the same track at once.
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Looks like gearheads have something portable to look forward to from everyone's favorite niche publisher. Check it out on March 17, 2009.
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kill Whitey, The Guild, and a Weapon of Choice

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Books: Finished Brian Keene’s Kill Whitey a few days ago. I have nothing but respect for the man for a number of different reasons, but a big one is that he just doesn't write bad books. When you pick up a Keene book, you know it's going to be an entertaining read, at the very least. Kill Whitey is no exception.
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The story starts out as a standard crime drama. A group of working-class Joes start frequenting a strip joint run by the Russian mafia, and the main character becomes enamored with their star attraction. When this knockout dancer escapes the club by hitching a ride with him, things start going to hell in a hurry as the Russians try to get her back. About halfway through the book, things take a supernatural turn as Keene reveals why killing the mob boss named Whitey turns out to be a lot more difficult than anyone would expect.
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Most of the action takes place over the course of a day, and once things start cracking, there’s hardly a break in the pace. Events flow from one to another, and I particularly liked the book's ending. I won't give away anything here, but it was really in tune with the book's overall tone, and I admire an author that doesn’t puss out at the finale. Pardon my French, but there's not really another way to say it.
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It's not my favorite Keene book, but it's a fun ride and one worth tracking down.
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Misc: A while ago, a friend turned me onto The Guild, a series of short videos found on Xbox Live. Totally free and available in both HD and SD flavors, The Guild is live-action comedy (yes, it uses real people for actors) that spins a pretty hilarious tale about what happens when a group of MMO players get together in real life.
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I'm not an MMO’er myself, but the humor will be readily apparent to anyone who plays games-- and I hate to say it, but the writers are exactly on the money when it came to crafting the characters. This show may be fictional, but I've met people in real life who are exactly like what is portrayed on screen. Recommended (and free!)
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Games: My latest play obsession is Weapon of Choice, a fantastic sidescrolling shooter available in the 360’s Community Games area. Reminiscent of Contra and other games like it from the 16-bit era, WoC actually incorporates a number of innovative features that turn the formula on its ear.
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Besides the extremely clever decisions in game design, the game is basically batsh*t crazy with weapons that go to 11, and all sorts of large-size action. As an example, the primary weapon of my favorite character is a jet engine that kicks in an afterburner for extra damage and lets the hero hover above the ground. Like I said, it’s nuts… but nuts in the best way.
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Check back soon for an interview with the man behind the game, former Running With Scissors and Insomniac developer, Nathan Fouts.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

(Face 334)

Quickie on... The Maw

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Games: It's been another long-ass day for yours truly, but before I submerge myself in my nutrient-rich vita-bath in order to prepare for another arduous labor cycle, I wanted to give you a heads-up that Twisted Pixel's The Maw hit XBLA today. I just finished it a few minutes ago, and had a great time with it. It's cute, it's clever, and the production values are pretty superb. This is some quality DL here, so go check it out if you're inclined to play fun games.
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While we're on the subject, you can check out the interview I did with Twisted Pixel right here. These guys are some good folk, and I look forward to what they're cooking up next.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Manhunting Defibrillators

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Kids: This is sort of a games thing, but it's also a family thing… anyway, the wife is playing Tomb Raider: Underworld right now (not linear enough!) and my son was watching her pilot Lara through some ruins for a bit. He really enjoys watching it, and since the bulk of the action is Lara climbing up walls and jumping chasms, we think it's fine to let him take a short peek once in a while.
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So anyway, my son and I were at the airport the other day walking down one of the concourses when he suddenly grabs onto my leg and starts pointing at a wall.
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“Dad, look over there!”
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I looked in the direction he was gesturing, but I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. I asked him what it was he was talking about.
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“Right there on the wall, it's a life pack just like in Tomb Raider!”
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Mounted near the bathrooms was a portable defibrillator in a red box, and I have to say, the package inside looked a lot like a life pack. As a dad who plays games as much as I do, that was definitely a pretty cool moment, and I couldn't help but crack a big smile.
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We didn't run over and collect it, though.
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Games: Now for something totally not family-appropriate, I just sent back Prince of Persia having been thoroughly disgusted with it, and with nothing else to do, I went to my “to-play” pile to find something to chew on for a while. I was planning on starting up The Bard’s Tale for PS2, when Manhunt (also PS2) caught my eye instead.
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I played a bit of Manhunt when it first came out, but I absolutely hated it. The thing I remember most was that the camera controls were completely squirrelly, and that it was really hard to get a decent working view of my surroundings. I didn't make it very far that first time around, but I held onto it figuring that I would get back to it at some point in the future when I was just that bored.
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A ton of time has passed since then and I've seen the “Piggsy” sequence referenced by enough people that I figured I should probably play through the thing in its entirety, so I started yesterday and at this point I'm at the beginning of the zoo. (For anybody who can remember that far back.)
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The thing that strikes me the most initially is that A> the camera controls are still completely squirrelly, and B> although it’s still bloody and violent, I think plenty of things significantly more bloody and violent have come down the pike since then, with not even a fraction of the controversy that Manhunt generated. Perhaps it was the snuff film setting that set most people off, and of course it was pushing boundaries back then that we have long surpassed, but I just found it curious that the red-tinged range of acts committed by James Earl Cash in Carcer City seem to have been completely overshadowed by what I think most people would call “normal” games these days.
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Something to think about.
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Katie (Face 331)


Ok. I think that's the last of the Katie's for now. Back to normal service...




Katie (Face 330)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

PoP & Mercs 2: A Fine Pair... of Duds

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Games: 2008 was a pretty strange year. Most of the “big” titles ended up being overblown duds, and the string of high-profile failures continues as I continue to work my way through my to-play list… cases in point:
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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames - 360
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I realized that the first Mercenaries was a game that had its head in the wrong place when I got to a particular mission where I needed to get inside a compound walled-off by a chain-link fence, and the tank I was driving couldn’t break through.
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I realized that the second Mercenaries game was not for me when I discovered that the developers used magical huts that respawn enemies with rocket launchers as a way of preventing players from steamrolling through every mission.
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I like open-world games and every time I look at a Mercenaries title, it seems like it should be something I would get into… but they're just not.
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Prince of Persia - 360
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What the hell happened here? I finally got a copy from GameFly today and put a few hours into it, and to be perfectly honest, I have no desire to pick it back up.
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The level design is an abstract, empty mess, and jumping chasms and scaling walls doesn't feel anywhere near as engaging or as exciting as it did in the previous trilogy. Collecting light seeds after you defeat a boss is pointless busy work, and the combat feels completely disconnected from the inputs I’m performing on the controller. It's almost like I'm watching a long cutscene instead of doing any real fighting.
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I actually don't mind the new female companion's auto-rescue feature since it's basically like an automatic time-rewind and it saves me the hassle of reloading a previously saved game, but the game overall just feels loose, and messy, and aimless… it must've gotten infected with the Assassin’s Creed virus that seems to be plaguing the Ubisoft offices.
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The PS2's Prince of Persia: Warrior Within may have gotten on some players’ bad side with its S&M leanings and incessant rock music, but even as the weakest of the past trilogy, it was ten times the game this new Prince is.
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Next!
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Late To The Party: Twilight

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Film: The wife and I went to see Twilight tonight, after long delay. We had made plans to see it at least three other times, and for one reason or another we were never able to make it until now. Our long-awaited mutual impressions of the film: OMFG.
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I had originally picked up the book to read for myself when it had just begun its rise to the top, but the wife got to it before I did (I should never have left it on the shelf unattended) and as soon as she finished the first book, she went out and bought the second. When the second was done, the third, and the fourth not long after. She didn't fall in love with the books the way that most of female America seems to have, although she found them quite readable and entertaining. After seeing her devour all four books in short order, I decided to hold off until I had enough free time to read the series back-to-back… and as a result, I haven't even read one page yet.
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Anyway, there's not much to say about the film. The direction was atrocious, with too many moony-eyed scenes of the main characters gazing into each other's face. Some of the most “dramatic” moments actually had the audience laughing out loud, and the romance itself was limp and unbelievable. The wife's take on the direction was that all of the important scenes were accounted for, but all of the stuff holding it together didn't make it… sort of like what happened to the first few Harry Potter films.
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The acting was stiff, unbelievable, and utterly uncompelling. The two leads didn't seem at all comfortable or natural with each other or themselves, and I certainly didn't buy either of them as relatable young people in love. Everything was so stiff and stilted, and with some of the bizarre mugging that I guess was supposed to be emoting, it was almost as though I was watching a parody of a vampire film instead of something that has allegedly captured the hearts of so many across the country.
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Twilight was by far one of the worst films I've paid money for in quite some time, and after seeing the result I can certainly understand why the director refused to sign on board for the sequel… she should be ashamed of the drek she turned out. If it wasn't for the hard-core devotion of the massive Twilight fan base, this film would've disappeared after its opening weekend into a big, black hole of unrecovered cost.
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As crappy as the movie was, I still plan on getting around to reading the actual books, though... I mean, hey-- nothing could be worse than what we just sat through.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back to work...

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Writing: I'm officially climbing back into the fiction-writing saddle tonight with a new project, so time spent on this blog is actually procrastination in disguise… in lieu of actually writing something more substantial, I leave you with these two links:
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My new Princess Debut review
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and
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A discussion on what makes a good Critic
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Discuss.
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Katie (Face 329)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book Review: Off Season (And Wik Achieved!)

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Books: Just finished reading Off Season by Jack Ketchum last night. I hate to admit it, but I hadn't really heard of Ketchum until sometime last year or so. After doing a little digging, it seems that the guy is pretty highly regarded in most circles, and being the Horror enthusiast that I am, his first book made it into my to-read pile pretty quickly.
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Off Season is about a woman and a group of her friends who rent a cabin on the coast of Maine to get away from the city for a weekend. Unknown to them, there is a local legend about a group of people who were left stranded on a small island offshore, and became feral cannibals. Naturally this legend has some fact behind it, and when these cannibals leave the island… well, let's just say that “bad things happen”.
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At the back of the book, the author has some notes that talk about Off Season’s first printing. Evidently, the novel was poised to become something of a blockbuster until the author and publisher started clashing about the violent and explicit content in the story, in addition to certain story events that the publisher wanted changed. The author’s description of the struggles he had in bringing a book to shelves that remained true to his vision is quite interesting, and equally telling. I'm glad that I never read the censored version, since the copy I have (the author’s unedited cut) was a great read, and the ending was something I could absolutely get behind. I don't want to spoil things for anyone, but the philosophy and the message Ketchum was trying to get across in his story is quite similar to something I've been trying to get across in Speaking in Forked Tongues.
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Ketchum’s prose is polished and evocative, and he has a real talent for communicating just the right bits of information in order to give the reader a clear sense of personality and purpose in a very short time. The pace of the story was quite rapid, and I appreciated that there was very little fat to slog through.
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Interestingly, I didn't find the graphic content to be particularly, well… graphic. I mean, blood is certainly spilled and there are recipes for preparing human flesh, but I wouldn't say that it was any more extreme than a dozen other novels I've read. I find it curious that a publisher would buy a book like this and then try to clean it up so much. I certainly don't envy Ketchum his struggles, though I am heartened to see that he eventually had his way and reprinted the book the way he wanted it done in the first place. Overall, it was a very entertaining and satisfying read, and I look forward to catching up with the rest of his work.
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An interesting sidenote: I found Off Season (1981) to have quite a few things in common with Peter Benchley’s The Island (1979)… I wouldn't say that they're the same novel (and Ketchum’s is certainly the more intense of the two) but a lot of the ideas and themes about small colonies of people being stranded mirror each other. If you read and liked one, I would definitely recommend the other.
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Games: It may have taken me a few years, but I am quite proud to say that I finally earned every achievement in one of my favorite XBLA games, Wik and the Fable of Souls.
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I beat the game in just a few days after I originally downloaded it, but finishing the story mode with 100% crystal collection and finishing the challenge mode were both pretty tall orders. The developers were more than a little sadistic in both cases, and there were long stretches of time when I simply had to put the game aside and not play for while so that my rage gauge could cool off and get back into the blue zone. Still, I never gave up and would come back to it periodically, and although I will admit that there were several times when I felt like it was never going to happen, I finally got past the few sticking points that had been ticking me off and finished the entire game completely.
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It's extremely rare that I take the time or put out the effort to finish every last bit of any game that I play, but I have such enthusiasm for the title and I think it's such a fantastic, quirky gem that I couldn't sleep well at night knowing that there was content left to conquer. If for some strange reason you haven't tried it yet, I strongly encourage you to at least download the free demo and give it a whirl… there are very few games that require such split-second precision and manual dexterity these days, and of those that do, even fewer have the charm and appeal to make it worth putting up with the spikes in difficulty. Wik is definitely one of the rare ones.
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Now, on to completing CarneyVale Showtime
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RPG Preview: My World, My Way

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Games: Atlus was kind enough to share some info with me about their upcoming DS RPG “My World, My Way”, and I’m passing it along to you.
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Launching February 3rd, My World, My Way is the story of Elise, a spoiled-rotten princess who finds that the one thing she can’t have is a boyfriend. Why not? Because the boy who has captured her fancy is an adventurer, and he’ll never settle down with a bratty girl who has everything handed to her. Naturally, the first thing Elise does is set out to have adventures of her own in order to land that boyfriend, once and for all.
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The story is absolutely on the comic side and far from the usual RPG fare, and the mechanics follow suit. Eagle-eyed readers will notice the “Pout” option and PP points in these screenshots. In a strange twist, Elise is such an effective pouter and tantrum-thrower that she has the power to affect change over tons of things in the game—everything from skipping random battles, to completing quests just by saying that they’re too annoying to finish legitimately.
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yes, that option does say 'pout'
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For readers who crave their RPG a little off the beaten path, My World, My Way is definitely one to keep an eye on.
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by selecting the last option, this random battle is instantly skipped
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...And as I'm sure most of you know, Atlus RPGs can be notoriously hard to find after their initial release. Don't say I didn't warn you, K?
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Year-End, GameFly, and Parenting Young Gamers

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Games: Although it's a touch late, GameCritics.com’s Year-End Wrapup and Games of the Year coverage is now up, and you can check it out here. It's all condensed for easy reading, and we won't make you click through twelve pages of ads to read three pages of content.
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Take a look, and let me (or us) know what you think… if nothing else, I guarantee that there will be a few games on our short list that you probably won't see on anyone else's top ten.
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Games: Anyone else out there getting a little frustrated with GameFly? I've had nothing but good things to say about their service since I joined up with them, but I've got to say that their ability to ship out games over the holiday season has been less than satisfactory.
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They allow up to fifty selections in each person's queue which is just fine, but it's a little annoying to have Gears of War 2, LittleBigPlanet and Prince of Persia at the top of the list, only to keep getting things from the bottom. I don't think I've gotten anything ranked higher than number fifteen on my queue since November, and I’m getting more than a little tired of it. It's pretty obvious the demand for the “big” games is there, and running out of those is going to piss customers off faster than having a long delay for Red Bull BC One or Pipe Mania.
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Parenting: My son Rhys is seven, and he’s just now getting to the stage of development when he can fully process what’s going on in video games. Along with the increased cognition ability, he's now got the manual dexterity needed to perform basic functions like hitting the right button at the right time, and so on. It's been very satisfying to see his development and witness how his skills have increased over the last few years. He's always been interested in playing games and the wife and I are only too happy to accommodate him, but frustration in the early years was a big deterrent in addition to the fact that it's pretty damned hard to find quality games that are appropriate for younger players.
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good for kids
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Right now we've got him on Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus for the PS2. It's a great game (just like every game from Sucker Punch is a great game) and it's one of the very few titles that I feel sports a high level of quality along with being accessible and interesting to younger players. He had a bit of trouble here and there (the vehicle sections tend to be too hard) but the combination of combat and platforming is superb, and I don't feel like I'm giving him something completely dumbed-down.
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I'm glad I had a copy of it on hand because it seems like this kind of software is becoming extremely hard to find. I can appreciate a mature-oriented title just as much as anyone, but I don't really want to leave development of family-friendly games up to Nintendo or the tard-tastic Wiimote flailfests that have been clogging shelves lately. We need more varied developers to step up to the plate and remember that we don't get more adult players unless we cultivate the younger players, and we can't cultivate younger players if all we have to choose from are bloody shooters, MMOs, RTSs and text-heavy RPGs.
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good for kids
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For someone like me who has a pretty healthy game library to draw from, it's not a problem to go back and dust off Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario World, Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, Jak & Daxter, and the sorts of things that as a parent, I would want my son playing. However, I doubt the average parent has quick access to most of these titles, and these games don't stick around forever at retail.
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not good for kids
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Without solid development houses creating new quality platformers and other kid-friendly titles that don’t treat players like hydrocephalic morons, I think parents all across the country are going to have some problems… and a big P.S. to the parents out there who don’t take the time to do their due diligence- GTA’s not a good fallback.
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