Monday, December 17, 2012

ERIE Review

I wasn't sure what to expect upon starting up ERIE. Possibly because of that, it ended up being a very neat half hour gaming experience. The game is pretty simple overall. You begin in a pool of water with no idea of where you are. Quickly, you read papers scattered around which start to inform your understanding of the location and what happened.

Unfortunately I'm still not completely sure as to the specifics, but it seems like a game best played when you are unaware of the story anyway. Without knowing anything you can enter the game with a fresh perspective! I would recommend that as it helps make everything a bit scarier and interesting as events unfold.

In regards to gameplay, it is quite simple. There's little you ever have to do aside from marking your pathways as well as collecting a few key cards. Well, you don't have to read letters or mark your way, but it just seems something most players are going to do. Although you are not given explicit goals, it quickly becomes easy to understand what to do. Level design is also not bad. Even for someone like me who tends to get lost without looking at a map every second I was able to get a feel for my surroundings (eventually).

The game is very eerie and contains a few "boo" moments. For a little while, I felt legitimately annoyed, until discovering things were not as hard as I was making them up to be. Overall, this is a great little gameplay experiment if you want to play something spooky.

PS: The video up top is my first playthrough of the game, which took around 30 minutes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Won a Copy of PlayStation All-Stars!

If you are on my blog, then chances are you're well aware of Bryan over at The Gay Gamer. If not, then I don't know how you found me but you should totally check his site out. A little bit ago, Bryan had a contest to win a copy of PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale for Vita. As I have been pretty interested in checking it out I threw my name into the pot. Someone else actually won but apparently never responded. He drew a new name and... it was me!

So here's a post to say thank you Bryan for hosting the cute little contest! I'm thinking of doing my own (for a less popular game) soon, but we'll see if that works out. In the meantime, I'll be fussing around with PS All-Stars and hopefully becoming good with one of the characters. Even if I do, I'll still probably be too scared to try hitting up an online match.

As a final note I will say that anyone who is still interested in getting a Vita should make sure they grab a high capacity memory card along with it. Although I only have a few digital titles on it, I'm now required to regularly uninstall them to make room. Of course, it doesn't help that Persona 4 Golden is one game that has taken residence on my card... It is over 3GBs by itself! Here's hoping that the prices for Vita memory come down drastically in the next year.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill REMASTERED Review

When one attempts to come up with a list of good adventure games there are a few names that tend to come up. Series like Monkey Island are obvious choices, as are many other LucasArts and Sierra titles. But who out there who loves adventure games would think to try out something from the Nancy Drew catalog?

I gave Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill Remastered a shot and found it to be surprisingly great. The "Remastered" in the name comes from the fact that is a full on remake of the very first Nancy Drew adventure game released in 1998. This version arrived in 2010 and signaled the end of the original game. This is because, after the launch of the remake, the original was no longer available digitally from Her Interactive. However, as it will not run easily on modern machines, this was probably the only option they had left.

How is the game overall? The characters are more interesting than I expected. I have never read Nancy Drew books but they must do something right to have so many available. As such, I can't compare the characters to the fiction but they seemed fairly "real" and worth listening to. If anything, strangely Nancy Drew herself ended up being the most unrealistic of them all. I'm not sure what it was, but she seemed wholly unfazed by the fact that a murder totally occurred, and that someone was after her life as well. More than anything, she seemed haughty and above everything, including the awkward flirting from men in the game.

What really stole the show though were the puzzles. I had an expectation in my mind that the puzzles would be ridiculously easy. As such, I almost chose the harder difficulty of the two. Thank goodness I didn't though because a few puzzles ended up being fantastic and difficult. In fact, very few games I play manage to scratch that puzzle itch so creatively at any point. I would almost compare one of the puzzle ideas to things that Team Silent would put together. They worked on Silent Hill 1-3 primarily and those were the games which included the most creative and worthwhile puzzles of the series.

If there's one detriment to the game it is simply that it ends too quickly and with a silly twist. At least, it sure felt silly to me. Apparently this Remastered version features a different ending from the original and makes me wonder what the end for the first game had been before. I wonder if it was better, or somehow managed to be even worse. It's a shame, because as soon as the game starts to get into a great groove, it ends. Still, the two or so hours leading up to it are a blast.

Overall, Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill Remastered is a perfect introductory game for a "gamer" into the more casual world. Obviously the puzzles are not casual, which would appeal to them, but I assume they grow easier as the series goes on. Or perhaps these puzzles are actually much harder than the original game! I don't know as I haven't played the rest yet. Still, this is a fun, if brief adventure game.

PS: Pay attention to the little things in this game. There are a handful of Easter eggs (including one literal egg) which are quite cute.

Friday, November 30, 2012

All I Wanted to Do Was Play Nancy Drew

Yesterday, I wrote about how I have been putting my attention on "casual" games more and more lately. Excited by the post, I decided to start with the Nancy Drew series of games. There are some twenty (maybe even thirty now) titles in the series. It seemed a good idea to me to simply start with the first game! The very first Nancy Drew title is subtitled Secrets Can Kill and looked fairly promising. At least, if you listen to Nancy Drew game diehards, they seem to say the originals are the best.

The original game is not available on Steam (only the Remastered version). Thankfully, I already had it available to me so I went to work installing it. It didn't work, so my next step was to go to Her Interactive's website to see if they could help. Now, they did give tips for running their games on Windows 7 but it still wasn't working. What was my next step? Install a Windows 95 virtual machine!

The first two games are apparently the hardest to run on modern machines. As they were made for early Windows systems, it seemed to me that 95 was my best bet. It's actually harder than you might think to install an old operating system, though. I have a disc-based version of the OS, but it initially only sold as lots and lots of floppy discs. My current machine doesn't even have floppy drives but thankfully it's incredibly easy to create virtual discs and drives.

Either way, I'm not going to get too much into the installation process, but I did it, although certain features were unable to be installed. I put the game in and installed it perfectly. Unfortunately, when the time came to run it gave me the same error received from my modern Windows 7! The error is that the game cannot pump sound through my speakers. It seemed to me I could make it work on 95 because you can set up different audio methods and whatnot to better recreate the actual environment. However, I was unable to find out how to install them, even though Windows detected the old school sound option.

In the end, I was unable to get the game to run. Maybe later I'll try to learn how to properly install 95... Or I could just play the Remastered version.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Think I'm Turning "Casual"

Video games have been my go-to hobby for as long as I can remember. Basically all my earliest memories revolve not around school or family but playing Atari 2600 and Apple IIe games. I don't remember everything about them, but little moments like being mystified by the Apple command line being used to call up games are easy to visualize even now.

I never really classified myself "hardcore" in the typical sense as that makes people think of Call of Duty or whatever FPS is in vogue at the time. However, I definitely have felt very hardcore when reflecting on my gaming habits. If nothing else, I think anyone who manages to collect some 2,000 video games and maintain them must have some serious interest in the hobby. But lately I've really started to shift toward liking games I never would have cared much about before.

During the latest Steam sale I loaded up my wishlist with items that would make me really happy to buy. Obviously it was initially too much, so my actual cart of digital goodies was whittled down until only a few were left. The main things I struggled with purchasing/putting away were the Nancy Drew, Mumbo Jumbo, and Popcap bundles. Nancy Drew games are basically adventure games but for a certain type of crowd. As such, they're fairly easy experiences overall. My interest in Mumbo Jumbo came from wanting to play simple games like Luxor but also hidden object games like the Midnight Mysteries series. All of these games are decidedly "casual".

Even when playing Persona 4 Golden for Vita I've been taking a very simplified approach. Setting the easiest difficulty available and letting most battles play out automatically, I really have little to worry about in the game aside from listening to the story unfold. In a way, it makes me nervous to see my game play style as well as interests change, but on the other hand, does it really matter? As long as I'm happy with what I play then I don't think it does. It's a bit odd that titles like Sleeping Dogs, Dishonored, and others are no longer enticing me, but I'm sure I will still get around to them. Just for now, when I need something to play it will probably be much simpler fare.

This, too, I think has complicated my personal blogging. Between writing reviews of more (serious?) games for sites, I leave myself time for easy, casual titles. But who wants to hear about my time spent playing Criminal Minds' hidden object game? Perhaps seeking out such easy gaming experiences is a reaction to the forced nature of reviewing. Either way, I'm curious... Are "casual" games something that anyone really wants to hear about? If I were asked this question a year ago I'd say no, but you'd be surprised at how good some of them can be.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Indie Test Drive: 0 A.D.

Because I simply don't have enough games I decided it would be interesting to try playing more indie games. Sure, I actually play a fair bit of them once they come to Steam, Desura, and GOG but that's not quite indie enough. Why not try out other titles that have yet to find a publisher - or might not? So, yup, that's what this and future "Indie Test Drive" posts are about.

0 A.D. is a title being independently developed by a team of volunteers. It has apparently been worked on since 2001. Back then, it was a "total conversion mod" (meaning they took an existing game and overhauled it) but it changed later into a wholly new project. The game will probably appeal most to those who enjoy historical RTSes. If you love Age of Empires or Empire Earth then this is something worth looking into.

Initially, it didn't seem like there was much new brought to the table. You have your choice of various historical troops to choose from and then can go about growing your town into a society and going to war, or forging alliances. Apparently there is a multiplayer mode which would sounds like a lot of fun, but I was unable to test it out. There are multiple gameplay modes, but I was only gave one a shot and was a bit disappointed because the "AI controlled" enemies didn't actually do anything until I came and stormed their cities.

The version I played was a bit goofy. There were birds but they simply were stuck in place and didn't ever move across the screen. Upon killing a camel, it just stood there (upright) as my troops picked at it for food. Animals also did not have any walking animation and simply slid across the ground. However, in between me playing the game and looking up the 0 A.D. website I found that a new beta was just released earlier this month. It appears to fix up a lot of stuff and even upgraded the graphics.

0 A.D. is completely free in beta stages and will be once it finally launches as well. The game runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I enjoyed it but just wish there was some sort of story function instead of simply focusing on multiplayer.

Monday, September 10, 2012

68 - Chains

Genre: Puzzle
Rating: N/A
Publisher: Meridian4
Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Year: 2008

Chains is one of those games I put off playing every time I saw it in my Steam collection. It just sounds so dull, the graphics didn't look very great, and overall I didn't know what it was. Out of boredom (and a bit of inspiration) I decided it was time to give the game that has sat in my library for 3 years a shot.

The game is fairly interesting, and full of various gameplay mechanics, despite having only twenty levels overall. Basically, the title is a match game where you must connect orbs of the same colors together. The basic amount is three, but you can often find yourself chaining many more if they're all touching. The mechanic itself isn't the creative part as there are many games like that.

What is interesting is how many gameplay modes can be created out of it. For example, there is one mode where the circles are situated on top of gates. You must manage to keep clearing circles well enough so that X amount don't fall through the gates as they open up every few seconds. Another mode gives you a small tube for the circles to fall through and asks to keep it flowing for five minutes. If you're not able to connect them fast enough they'll clog everything up. Most of these modes are a lot of fun and only a few annoyed me.

I haven't beaten the game yet and that's just because one of the modes is a fairly confusing. I'm hoping that's the only one like it because otherwise the game is much more fun than was anticipated. Those who are fans of matching puzzle games should give Chains a look especially since it's only $5.

Would I play it again? Sure.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Transitional Gaming: How Game Culture Changed as I Became a Man

I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. At two, I was fussing with the secondhand Apple II e and Atari 7800s placed in front of me. Unlike many other parents, my mother was more than happy to let me play these games. There were times when it became an issue, such as me playing The Sims from morning to night, but otherwise it was viewed as a positive hobby. The friends I had in school, both male and female, all gamed as well. I never felt out of place due to gaming.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Game Center CX DVD Up for Preorder

Game Center CX is a Japanese television show which has spanned over 10 seasons so far, but with very little attention in the US. It only really had a "test run" with one season of episodes being translated and shown via Kotaku. However, they blew it by using shoddy translators and not really caring about the property at all after the first season was done with.

What's the show about? It focuses on this guy named Arino who plays video games week after week for the show. The goal of each show is typically to finish a video game (sometimes to get a certain end in a game). However, his main focus is on retro games so it's often very hard to get to the end. Because Arino is also a comedian, he manages to make the prospect of watching someone play video games a lot of fun.

I started watching it a couple months back and it definitely is a fun show for gamers. Most of the episodes are slowly being translated by fansub teams and are even on Youtube (although some have recently been taken down for copyright). If you watch an episode though and like it then maybe you'll want to grab the upcoming DVD release sometime.

Even though it's rather expensive at $41 for 14 episodes, that's not so bad in comparison to the prices I remember spending for anime. The main bulk of episodes included are the Kotaku ones, except translated by someone much more skilled, which is a big plus. Why mention the DVD? I'm just hoping that enough people will buy it that they might consider releasing more episodes officially over here. It's fun enough to watch online but there's something about owning things you enjoy.

PS: If you've played Retro Game Challenge for the DS then you already have experienced a bit of Game Center CX. The game was based off the TV show and Arino is the polygonal "king" in the game.

Friday, June 22, 2012

3DS XL is Coming

You know, I'm not really sure how to feel about a 3DS redesign. I think it's safe to say we all knew that there would be some, like there have been for previous Nintendo handhelds, it was just a matter of when. What interests me the most about the 3DS XL is that it's not an attempt to streamline form factor in a more compact form. As the name implies, it makes it larger.

The DSi XL never seemed like a system I would want. I definitely saw its use for people who perhaps were not as mobile with their gaming, or needed a larger screen for sight purposes, but since those don't apply to me I wasn't interested much. I still only own my own "fat" DSes, though. Either way this new 3DS doesn't appeal to me much more as the screen is fine. One thing this might help with is my hand cramps on the system but that's not worth $200 to me.

What do you think of this updated system? Is there a reason that more people should pick it up over the original 3DS?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What is Nintendo Land? Is It Any Good?

One of the most interesting things to come out of Nintendo during this E3 was Nintendo Land. Well, perhaps most "interesting" isn't the right word. If anything, it seems like Nintendo Land was unveiled and subsequently misunderstood by gamers. Basically, it is a bunch of minigames which showcase different functions of the Wii U GamePad. In principle, this is a lot like Wii Sports which debuted with Wii systems back in 2006. However, there's a lot more to it than that, as surprising as it may seem.

The idea behind the game is that it's an amusement park of sorts where each minigame is it's own attraction. There are twelve included in the package, although only five were playable on the E3 show floor. Four of the five on display were based off famous Nintendo franchises. From what I played though, it seems like the title is shaping up to be a really entertaining party game, with only a little bit to tide over single player gamers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Watch Speedruns Live

Video game speedruns are not everyone's cup of coffee. Most never attempt one themselves, and many don't even like that people can rush through their favorite games. For most of us though I think it's fair to say they're fun to watch from time to time. It's amazing to watch people blast through games since chances are we've never accomplished such a feat ourselves.

Anyway, I bring up speedruns because Speed Demos Archive is having their annual speedrunning marathon right now. I've caught it for the past few years and it's a lot of fun to watch. It'll be live for a few days and they're accepting donations for charity (Organization for Autism Research). If you're interested in seeing what games they'll be playing here's a list.

I know I'm going to be tuning in for some Portal, Resident Evil, and Hitman: Blood Money.

Monday, May 14, 2012

67 - 50 Cent: Bulletproof

Genre: Action
Rating: M
Developer: Genuine Games
Publisher: VU Games
Platform: PS2 (Also: Xbox, PSP)
Release Year: 2005

50 Cent: Bulletproof is an odd game. If there were any way to describe it it would probably be the sort of thing that musical artists 50 Cent dreams about. I don't know how much he contributed to the project, but it definitely seems like a kind of game made to fulfill some wishes.

In the game you're 50 Cent, of course, and are simply living your life out in your hood until one of your homies is gunned down. Except he's not gunned down by a rival game but some sort of super soldier guys. 50 deduces that there's someone more on his tail than usual, assembles his crew, and sets off to destroy all those involved.

Gameplay is probably where 50 Cent: Bulletproof is the worst so many people have probably never even finished it. It's basically a very simple first/third person shooter but very little is thrown in to spice it up. That means you'll be awkwardly firing at hordes of racially stereotyped gangsters. The objectives, too, are a bit difficult to understand at times. You'll get them all posted to your cellphone but from there it's often hard to figure out where the trigger for them is.

If the gameplay is lacking then why would anyone other than an obsessive 50 Cent fan play? As odd as it sounds, the story is probably the best part of it. Although the first few minutes seem dull, after the catalyst of his homie getting killed, things quickly progress into stranger territory. There are some really odd characters in the cast and it was always interesting seeing what they were up to.

I wouldn't recommend the game to most people but there is something about it that kept me playing. Now I've got to get my hands on a copy of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand and see if it improves upon the foundation of Bulletproof.

Would I play again? No. Beat it.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yay, Thrift Stores!

I wasn't expecting much when I went into my closest thrift store yesterday. Basically the one incredible score I made there once was a PlayStation 1 development system. That was at least a year ago now and since then the shift has been toward the mundane. Recently, there was an X-Arcade controller but someone grabbed and purchased it about a minute before I could.

Anyway, there isn't typically much here. However, today there was a big garbage bin filled up with boxed (most new) PC games. They weren't exactly recent games for the most part but they were complete games all the same. Each title was a paltry 99 cents. It seemed like a bargain to me so I snapped up a boatload of 'em.

After coming home with my haul I immediately set off to PriceCharting and eBay to see what my sealed games were worth. Unfortunately, most of them aren't worth anything since nobody is interested. However, a handful of the games seem to fetch $15-$25 so that's good to know. Of interest, the one game I almost didn't even see/pick up is worth the most of them all. The Movies: Stunts & Effects Expansion Pack for some reason goes for $35-$45 on average. And yes, that's actual final bids, not just people's wacky Buy It Now prices. I'm quite happy with this and don't mind parting with the game to make back all that was spent on the PC games to begin with (plus some). Besides, The Movies doesn't even work on my computer anymore so there's really no need for me to hold onto the expansion.

Every once in a while there are some great deals to be found at stores. Sometimes I can search for months to no avail, but these moments reinvigorate me. Have you ever found a great score at a thrift store? What was it?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jane Jensen's Kickstarter

For those who aren't adventure gaming nuts you might not be aware of who Jane Jensen is. Well, she's one of the cooler names in the world of the genre with such titles under her belt as the Gabriel Knight series and Gray Matter. Gabriel Knight games are so intensely good, even all these years later so I recommend trying them out (at least the first two) if you're ever in the mood.

Anyway, a Kickstarter has popped up today. It's for Jane's Pinkerton Road development studio. By donating you help fund the company, games, and even help choose the first game that will get worked on. It might not seem like a huge deal to many, but to me it's incredibly cool. Aside from Gray Matter, Jane has mostly been wrapped up in doing Women's Murder Club games. Now, that's fine and all but it's not a series where you have the creative ability to make any story you desire. To hear that she may be returning to making her own games is fantastic and I hope it happens.

With all these Kickstarter projects out I continue to worry they will fail. When I saw the Leisure Suit Larry one I was almost certain it would not make its $500,000 goal. I thought that only I and older gamers would still care about the series. However, it's already racking up mega money. Jane Jensen seems like an even more niche part of the adventure game world. Still, I'm hoping the goal is reached so I, as well as everyone else, can enjoy more stories from her.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Assassin's Creed III and Women

This isn't going to be a long post but just a sort of mini rant based on something I stumbled upon yesterday. Earlier in the week I saw a handful of gaming posts that had something to do with Assassin's Creed III and women but I filtered it out. ACIII looks like a super cool game but that's not really something I'm a big fan of. Either way, I finally settled down and read a Forbes article about it and was rather surprised.

They discussed a bit of why a woman lead wouldn't jive with this game. In particular, creative director Alex Hutchinson said:

“In this period it’s been a bit of a pain. The history of the American Revolution is the history of men. There are a few people, like John Adams’ wife. They tried very hard in the TV series to not make it look like a bunch of dudes, but it really is a bunch of dudes.”

Just this would have been irksome enough but then the Forbes author added on:

"Of course, this applies to essentially all of history up until the very recent past. History is largely the story of a bunch of dudes, though this is hardly the point."

Okay, what? I can almost expect that developers aren't going to think outside the box. I have come to mostly accept that they will add in all sorts of unrealistic elements to a history (league of assassins spanning the globe and time periods, hello) but not allow women to take a leading role (you can be a woman assassin in multiplayer). This is expected even though it's a cop out. However, to see the Forbes writer suggest that women have played only a small role in "all of history" is incredible.

For some reason I thought Forbes was a smart people publication written by other smart people. Anyway, this barely has to do with games but I thought I'd point it out. Of course history we get in schools is full of men - who do you think is selecting topics to write about for the textbooks?! You'd think with women being, you know, half the population that they would obviously have a large contribution to the world around them.  I guess people who accept their history classes as the complete history of everything worth knowing just assume women sat around doing nothing for centuries like they were supposed to and only started becoming autonomous lately.

It's just so incredible. Without any thoughts otherwise, both these men completely accept what they've been taught over the years. Sure, the things that do get taught are highly factual but what they leave out is telling. Gosh, I hope sometime people with different mindsets and life experiences will be given the chance to create triple A games. We need to see truly different stories told and dispersed to the gamer masses.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dys4ia Deserves to be Played

For a while I've been in love with the works of Anna Anthropy - known often as just "Auntie Pixelante". Lately she's been focused on making a lot of "mini" games but they're still pretty fun all the same. For a while now though she's been talking about work on a game about her trans experiences and that really interested me. Finally on Friday it arrived on Newgrounds so I thought I'd share a link to it now.

The game's called dys4ia. "Dysphoria" is often a term used in the trans community to describe someone having feelings of dysphoria with their own body. Dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria, which of course would be joyous emotions. One of the common labeling of "transgenderism" these days is "gender dysphoria". So that's where the title comes from.

While it is really just a bunch of small interactive vignettes, it stands as a very strong piece of work. It's certainly not a typical game but how could one be made over such subjects? The game travels through Anna's life pre-transition, attempting to transition, and where she is heading now. Although I'm not a transwoman I could certainly understand where she's coming from. Aside from woman-specific things I definitely have felt like she has, such as feeling like a spy in the bathroom or being so thankful to have someone with me along the way.

There's just so much about dys4ia even though it only lasts about 5 minutes. It brings up things that I'm sure most people have never even thought about, much less expected to be reality for certain people. It also leaves with a nice message for trans and non trans people. If you have a few minutes to spare I strongly urge you to try it out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Vita Impressions

The PlayStation Vita is a system that I knew I needed from the moment it was announced. The PSP never did me wrong even though it took a great deal of time to build up an excellent gaming library. Because of that past positive experience I was fully prepared for a more modern but equally wonderful affair with a Vita.

So, on launch day I picked up the Wi-Fi version. I grabbed a memory card and game (Lumines) a few days later. These are mostly the things I realized while messing with the system without having a game to really "enjoy" the system with. As such, I was able to focus much more on the hardware itself as well as the basic functionality.


It's heavy. Much heavier than I expected after reviews came in suggesting that it really wasn't as bad as you might expect. Sure, it's still not going to knock you over but it's strange to hold such bulky tech after getting accustomed to things like MP3 players, smartphones, and a PSP-3000.

Holding it in the way my hands naturally want to is wrong. I have no game to check this out with but when I rest my fingers in the way that seems the most comfortable they are all over the rear touch pad. You're meant to curl your fingers up onto the little pads near the edges of the unit, but that is so strange to do. It didn't hurt to move my fingers there initially, but I haven't spent any good amount of time with that position. I'm hoping it doesn't turn out like the 3DS where holding it cramps my hands up after a little bit.

The system is too big! Now, this seems odd because honestly it is quite a luxurious thing. The problem for me is though that the system is so wide that my fingers can't reach the center quadrants of the screen. I only noticed this when trying to use the on-screen keyboard for hammering out messages. Although I don't really like on-screen keyboards, at the moment, that's the only way to type on the system it seems. Either way, with the giant touch screen it should be no problem! Except when I tried I realized my fingers couldn't reach to the middle parts of the keyboard! It was quite a hindrance and I had to shift my holding of it to get there. By then it had killed my whole flow. Probably won't use this feature much at all then, although chatting with other Vita players in a party via text would be fun.

What an awful camera. Okay, the 3DS also has a pretty poopy camera. Still, why even bother when you're going to have such wimpy quality? Cell phones these days are coming out with fully HD cameras, as shocking as that may seem. Sony probably couldn't afford to splurge on the component though, and it still works well enough for augmented reality.

I hate Content Manager Assistant. For those without a Vita, the CMA is a program which you use whenever you want to transfer pictures, video, music, and whatnot between your system and computer. The reason it exists seems to be an attempt to curb piracy. PSPs were exploited via memory cards (as well as batteries - which is why the Vita has no removable battery). Anyway, I understand where they're coming from but it is cumbersome. Not to mention in order to use the program you have to set the Vita to not charge via USB. Charging via USB is convenient as well, so if you want to do that regularly you will have to constantly be switching the setting between charging and transferring. Beyond that annoyance though it just takes too many steps to work this program. You have to set libraries so you can't even just drag items on a whim to the Vita. CMA also requires an internet connection when transferring specific files (save data and games) so it may be able to update your Vita without you even knowing, or at least eventually possibly ban you from transferring certain files it marks as "bad". Open CMA exists to let Vita owners transfer content to and from their Vita without having an internet connection. Of course, that's not a program which was made or certified by Sony so use it at your own risk.

It can barely handle any media file types. I haven't used my PS3 for a while, but from what I recall it could handle all kinds of video files. I'm pretty sure it could tackle AVI and codecs like DIVX and possibly even WMV files if you enabled that. The Vita can handle a couple HD video formats. By a couple I literally mean a couple - two. They are MPEG-4 and H.264. I'm not a video fidelity snob so most of my VHS transfers are AVI files. Why can't you play the most prevalent video format, Vita? I was ready and excited to put some videos on for watching, but now I have to go the extra step of converting them before use. That, or waiting for a media server to be coded so I can stream content straight from it (although that won't work outside the house!).

Vita updates itself. It won't always do this, but the system is able to update system files and games in the background without prompting the user. So far it seems to be the case that we will always be asked for firmware updates, but beyond that Sony has no qualms updating other content on the fly. This is for the best, really, but sometimes game updates tend to bork games further. Beyond that, it worries me that Sony might accidentally flag or ban certain user accounts because they *think* the system is tampered with. For anyone who has Windows and has been flagged by "Windows Genuine Advantage" you're probably understanding my fear. For those unaware, WGA is a program which was included on a necessary Windows update which was meant to target only users who had pirated/unofficial Windows installations. Instead it harassed many legitimate users.


This screen is incredible. It's huge! I'm not used to seeing a screen this large on a portable device. It's so shiny and pretty and looks fabulous when I stream Netflix content to it. Sony really made an excellent choice for splurging on it. Just make sure to pick up a screen cover so you don't damage it.

The styling is pretty nice. The system might be a bit bulky, but it's still pretty gorgeous. It definitely looks like a fancy piece of technology. Somehow, it even manages to make the PSP look kiddy, although the system never really looked that way before. If there's one thing to dog the system about in looks it is for the awkward PS, Select, and Start button sizes and positions. As they don't stand out it is hard to just feel where they are, as well as to push your thumb down and toward your hand to trigger them. Also, they kind of remind me of the superfluous buttons on an original Xbox controller.

Thank god they got rid of UMDs. UMDs were always one of the strangest choices to me. Why would you have a spinning disc in a portable device? Do you remember CD players skipping? The same principle applies here so it seems a bit wild. Of course, the UMDs had a plastic casing around them to help with this, but still, disc based media in portable devices seems quite the dated concept. The SD card-like games are a big improvement. They should also help with loading times I think, although apparently there's still some slow loading going on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Oh Kotaku, I Thought You Changed

Well, no, I didn't think they really changed but it seemed that there were good changes going on as of late. Some of my friends and writers I admire have now written pieces for the site (or were even hired!). It seems a lot of good things will be coming to Kotaku in the future, although I still feel antsy keying in the URL.

Anyway, they posted "A Salute to Dani Bunten, a Transgender Video Gaming Pioneer" yesterday and I just about fell over. In case you don't know, Danielle Bunten Berry is most famous for having created M.U.L.E. She was such an important force in the industry that Will Wright even dedicated The Sims to her. Oh, she was also trans.

I think that would have been a fine way to talk about her. She was certainly not quiet about her transition (how could you be when you must have yourself out there with your gaming contemporaries?). But that doesn't mean you can make a gigantic production about the trans aspect and then barely discuss the impact of her life as a DEVELOPER/PROGRAMMER. This post is on a GAMING website after all, right? Oh, but this is Kotaku. Of course they're going to focus on the most "interesting" aspect of Dani - her transness.

The original post called Dani "he" up until discussion of her transitioning. Of course, APPARENTLY only having genital reassignment surgery (GRS) makes you a real man or woman. Although Stephen Totilo defended the use of "he" for pre-transition talk of Dani and "her" for post-transition, Luke Plunkett (the writer of the article) has since changed all instances of "he" into "she". I'm assuming Luke made this choice after seeing people blow up over the use of the wrong pronoun.

Dani passed away in the 90s and gaming lost a great visionary. And in a well-meaning post the headline image is Dani pre-transition. I would be happy to have people remember me after I am gone. I would also be happy to have people know that I was trans, because that helps show the world that we exist and are great people. But if someone posted a picture of me pre-transition, that wouldn't feel like I'm being honored. That would feel like drudging up the worst times of my life. Kotaku, you need to learn a thing or two before you post this stuff.

I may post a larger response to this for the site I write for. I'm not sure yet.

Update: Aside from changing all instances of the pronoun "he" to "she", Totilo is now searching for a "terrific 640x360 pic of Dani" for the headline image. Well, that's nice but a little too late. I find it surprising that like an hour after the Twitterverse was hammering him about this story, and he basically said it was all "valid word choice" that he is now changing his tune. He defended himself in that past hour all the way and never appeared to see the light of what people were trying to impart on him. Either someone else on his team made a choice, or he is just giving in because the side riled up against him is greater than he thought. His current statement is now "We never meant disrespect w/our Dani Bunten tribute. Tried to tell a clear story."

It wouldn't have been a hugely confusing story if you had female pronouns used to begin with. The title is still "transgender" pioneer after all, so people must have come into the article expecting it. That said, I still have an issue with a whole paragraph devoted to talk about her GRS. If Dani weren't trans, would there be a paragraph to talk about the genitals of any other game developer?

I hate how if someone is defined as trans that talk suddenly always MUST shift to the genitals. Trans people are still people. We are not some completely other or alien being. It is often considered disprespectful to ask questions about these private body parts with anyone, so why wouldn't it be the same with us? Dani did speak about her GRS before, yes, that's true, but I'm not sure if she would have wanted that to be the byline of her life.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I'm going to Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven Fever Party!

A lot of times I find myself a little sad when game parties/conventions/etc take place on the East Coast or even Northern California because that means I can't go to them. I may be a California native, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that San Francisco is about 7 hours away from me. Anyway, I'm lucky this time around because Nintendo is hosting a pre-release Rhythm Heaven Fever celebration in LA. Now that's something I can go to!

As such, come tonight, that's exactly where I'll be. Don't really know what to expect though aside from the game being set up for us to play. Still, it'll probably be fun to mingle around with other rhythm gaming fans and grab some free snacks and shirts. It probably won't be as cool as Sonic Boom though which had a decently sized venue and live DJ.

If anything interesting is going on then I'll snap some pictures. I'm expecting it to mostly be a small event though so who knows. Might tweet a bit about it so if you're interested in that then follow @marcusboi. I hope everyone has a nice weekend and that Wii owners pick up RHF next week.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Good Gaming Start to the New Year

This year seems to be really good for game releases already! And no, I don't mean things like the upcoming Mass Effect 3 and all that jazz, although those certainly will be huge for fans. For me, this year has been off to a stunning start thanks to all the visual novels coming out!

First there was Katawa Shoujo which I adored and gobbled right up. Then there was Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom which will hit store shelves on Valentine's Day (my review available here). Now I'm fussing with Analogue: A Hate Story and that too is a great time. Finally, after getting in touch with JAST USA (a visual novel/dating sim localizer) thanks to Anne of ChicPixel I've got even more games waiting to greet me throughout the year.

I've enjoyed VNs for a while now, but never has it seemed like America was really ever in sync with them. Most of us don't seem to care for things that aren't "typical" games and it's such a shame. That's why I think those of us who do care about unusual titles should be sure to support them however possible. Despite getting a review copy of Hakuoki I'm still happily waiting to pick up the special edition once it's out.

So yes, I'm really happy with my January of gaming. I'm going to probably break for VNs for a bit once I finish up Analogue to play some of The Simpsons Arcade Game. How has your month been going gaming-wise? Is it equally as pleasant or are you perhaps waiting for an upcoming title?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The PS2 Lives On

When I first discovered emulators in high school I absolutely lost my mind. It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen and ever since then I've felt really good about all that stuff. It might not be the most legal thing in the world if you're downloading games you don't own but it seems that emulating up NES or Master System games is a harmless activity.

Anyway, recently I was reminded of the PCSX2 emulator. I tried it way back when it first came out and immediately stopped. It was horrible! The compatibility with games was measly and the games that did run were buggy, slow as sloth messes. Shortly after that I deleted the program and quickly wiped it from my mind.

It's been some years since then though so I thought it was time to try again. The emulator is much harder to set up than most. If you can manage it though then it will be revealed that the PCSX2 emulator has finally grown up. Yes, there's still many incompatible games, but there are a great deal more that do work then don't. If you trust their compatibility guide, at least 1668 known games (this includes different regions of the same games) are completely playable. The best thing about the emulator though is that it can make PS2 games look and perform better than they ever could on actual systems.

I've only tried a few games so far but they both run well. I'm giving the emulator its biggest test by playing through Final Fantasy X. There has been one goofy issue though. During boss fights it seems one character in the party will always be facing away from the enemy. Who knows what causes that, but it's silly to see.

Beyond that, I've resumed ripping my PS2 games to an external drive. Initially that project was started to combat the eventual death of my discs. Sure, I might be amazing with disc care, but it's nice to have some peace of mind as well. What makes this useful though is that PCSX2 works best with disc images rather than running through the disc drive. So, if all my games get digitized I'll have quick and easy access to my PS2 library whenever. I can't wait!

Friday, January 13, 2012

AMY is Sure Getting a Lot of Hate

AMY is a recently published survival horror game for XBLA and PSN. Although it comes out on PSN next week basically anyone in gaming press (or gamers) have checked it out on 360 and have a lot of negative things to say about it.

Mostly, reviewers don't seem split at all. They know what they feel about the game and demonstrate it in the best way they know how - a horrendous score. Now, I've spent around 6 hours with the game so far and it is pretty bad. But is it the worst game ever? Is it worthy of scores of 0 to 3 (yes someone did rate it zero)? Now 1 and 2 seem basically like scores for something that is completely unplayable. AMY is definitely playable - how else would reviewers supposedly beat the game otherwise?

What the game does wrong is how strangely retro it is. It takes from the old school of survival horror design, which was never very popular. No one will ever be found applauding the control scheme and design choices of AMY nor would they be happy about Resident Evil's tank controls. It's so odd that the game is this awkwardly controlled. Did the team play any games in the past few years?

Still, the game works and you can get accustomed to the controls. I have a feeling that most people who put out scathing reviews only sampled the first few chapters. The first few are the most rage-inducing. Even I was seeing red when traversing the same sections of level over and over again due to stupid deaths and mistakes. Taking a full day away from the game though and coming back to it I can see that it is not a steaming pile of poo. It's not good, but it could have been worse. Vampire Rain, Onechanbara, and Siren are three games that come to mind that are in the horror genre and are worse. Yet nobody seems to bring them up. AMY is the "worst game ever!!!!!1!";  except it isn't.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Katawa Shoujo is Too Good

Original Katawa Shoujo artwork

Okay, back when I first heard about Katawa Shoujo I was more than a little concerned. It bloomed out of 4chan, which is well known as a site full of crude, creepy, and immature people. Members of the video game-specific board are always talking about getting into groups and making games, so I mostly just brushed references of this one aside. What set it apart from every other idea that bloomed there weekly before disappearing forever?

I guess it took a great deal of years but the game is finally out now. I wholly expected it to be a very trite dating sim experience which would probably insult a lot of people. Somehow though it's come out and been an amazingly caring experience. The writing isn't the best in the field, but it's a lot better than the majority of officially published releases (which isn't hard to do). Some parts of the game show obvious indie-ness (such as one character being drawn sketchier than the rest) but otherwise it is a very well put together package. There are points when I was very impressed with this as being an indie endeavor - such as some rather high quality animated sequences.

More than anything I was scared of what this game might be. Somehow though it's managed to treat each disabled character just like anyone else. They also seem to have done their research with working out how people adapt around this all. I'm amazed that something born out of 4chan isn't a degenerate piece of work. I think that's what impresses me the most. Even if you didn't know of its roots though the game is already on the list of my more favored VNs. I've not completed it yet but once I do I hope I'm left feeling happy about the game. I expect to write a piece later about how respectful and tasteful this game is sometime next week.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...