Monday, September 19, 2011

Where Have We Been for So Long?

And what have we been up to?

Well, Stephanie (and Adam) had a baby, which has proven to be a far more time consuming activity than finding all the skulls in Halo 3. And Renee has been inexcusably busy, so much so that when she had to start prioritizing activities, blogging fell (unfortunately) by the wayside.

But this does not mean, blogosphere, that either girl has stopped gaming. In fact, once Stephanie went on maternity leave that was the only activity (aside from watching Netflix instant) suitable for baby waiting, and then (post baby) baby tending as it can be done while sitting and in short (or long) bursts allowing time for snack breaks.

Renee has also continued to game, mostly with the Halo Reach. I call it 'the' Halo Reach because I am secretly a very old man. However I've barely even had time to do that, restricting gaming sessions to those nights when I have a partner (defeating the purpose of the big flat screen television I got for my birthday this year specifically because I couldn't read the Halo Reach writing on the old one. That may be the nerdiest fact to know about me) because gaming alone is not nearly as fun (and for some reason--high fives if you know how to fix this, we've tried everything on the Internet to no avail) I can't connect to folks online anymore because my NAT type is not open.

But I still play, and both awesome (when playing against a bunch of noobs) and awful (all other times). You'd think that after 5 years pretending to be Master Chief I'd be better at it.

Have we gotten any new games? For sure. I will leave it to Steph (once she finds the time) to go over which games are best to play while babies are sleeping on your lap because I'm sure she and Adam have accumulated a good stockpile of new titles since Tractor was born (that's the baby. Not really, but that's what we like to call him).

I have only 2 new acquisitions, both only moderately satisfying. The first was a complete Rock Band set up (including 2 games) that I picked up in a consignment store for $40 of store credit (WIN!). Unfortunately the drum pedal doesn't work, which takes all the fun out of being the drummer, and I haven't been able to justify buying a replacement one because when do I have time to play the pretend drums? I can't even find time to play the real piano in my apartment.

Moving on, I also came across a Power Gig guitar and game on sale at Big Lots (who knew they sold bargain bin electronics? $8 Blue Tooth anyone?) which I got and promptly decided was not very fun. This is the one place I can actually offer some valuable perspective (though I'm probably the millionth person to mention this): the stupid game is billed as being akin to playing a real guitar, and providing you with transferable skills to become an actual guitar player, however this is not the case. It's essentially Guitar Hero (or Rock Band) with strings instead of buttons. You can push the strings down, or you can strum them, but the strings in no way correspond to real notes and playing the game will bring you no closer to being able to actually fumble your way through Stairway to Heaven than Dance, Dance Revolution will get you ready for Juilliard. I played it once and now it's sitting in the box next to the tv stand, like it's waiting for the day I sell it or give it away.

So those have been the majority of my recent adventures in gaming. I also finally joined the rest of the world and picked up a smart phone last month, allowing me to see what all the fuss was about Angry Birds. We actually played it on a train in Italy, of all places (way to be jerky American tourists) and of all the phone games, I can see why it's super popular (can't say the same for the sequels, though. There's only so much fun to be had from sending birds flying into wooden blocks).

I'm definitely excited about the new Halo game, though. Maybe I'll actually play through the campaign on that one (though I doubt it).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Demetri Martin's Best Video Game Ever

I like video games, but they're very violent. I want to design a video game in which you have to take care of all the people who have been shot in the other games. 'Hey man, what are you playing?' 'Super Busy Hospital. Please leave me alone. I'm performing surgery on a man who was shot in the head 57 times.'
It's funny because its true. Its even funnier that this the only video of it I could find.

Monday, November 15, 2010

GLAG Review: Plants Vs. Zombies

This is the most addictive game since Peggle.

Friday night Stephanie and I gorged ourselves on sushi and then, in a nigiri induced coma, stumbled back to her house, curled up on the couch, and played Plants Vs. Zombies for four and a half hours.


If that's not a good review, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On-site Review: Playstation Move

Right, Kinect is totally THE THING right now (even Ellen is giving it away to her studio audience...not that we are jealous), but in flipping through my camera pictures I realized I totally forgot about that one above. It was taken at the Sony Move storefront marketing spot on Market Street in San Francisco, a couple of weeks ago. I'd walked by the two giant controllers (which by the way still look like a girl's best friend) that graced the doorway a couple of times but finally went in. Sadly, that picture was the result of my excursion.

Neither Renee nor I own a PS3. We're XBOX girls, mostly due to financial constraints, but also because no one has yet to have the brilliance to hire us to play video games all day which means we have to spend forty hours a week doing other stuff and a second console (or third in my case) would mean we'd probably forget to eat.

But, I figured it was there, I might as well give it a go. I was with honorary GLAG member Adam so we were excited to give the 2-player a shot. Especially since there were only two other people in there besides the bored looking promotion staff.

There was a reason there were only two people there.

The first thing we came up to was Little Big Planet. Yay! I've wanted to play this! Oh, never mind, its broken.

I get that free video games on Market Street in San Francisco might get used a little harshly and not be in the best shape, but it was a Thursday at noon and there was no one there to play it. Sure it probably gets a lot of use on the weekends when the tourists descend, but you've got four days to fix your keystone game which you have placed front and center as potential buyers enter. Not a good move. So we moved on.

The next set up was a basic shooter. Only it was so basic we felt like we had played it before. Target shooting with a western theme? Yup, they've already got that on the Wii. The art was almost identical, and when I play it on the Wii I don't feel like I'm waving my Hitatchi magic wand around in public.

Speaking of the wand...I was not impressed. Sure, it was tethered to the console with a cord that came a third of the way up the shaft (hee, hee) so you couldn't really get a feel for it, but even with the added weight, that giant-ass glowing ball made one end way heavier than the other. Also? It's a giant glowing ball. That is pretty damn distracting.

We moved on again to some racing game that didn't want to load, so we moved over to the Sony version of Wii Sports. This seemed potentially exciting since they added archery which included having to load your bow from your quiver on your I said, "potentially exciting." Adam tried it first but after one shot it failed to recognize his movements to pull the arrow out of the quiver. The sensor was at my eye level so it was pretty high, but Adam is super tall so he tried bending his knees a bit. No luck. I tried, too. No luck. They two guys next to us tried. No luck there either.

So yeah, sorry Sony but we'll hold out until we can afford Kinect.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


We may not be cosplayers, but we certainly love any excuse to dress up in costume. We also tend to commit to whatever person, character or theme we'll be embodying because what is the use of going half way? Accessories and props are key. This year we didn't have much time to DIY but that did not deter us.

Behold the Game Like A Girl Halloween Get Ups!

If you can't tell who I am, then you must have that *other* console. I have seriously wanted to dress up as Zoey since the very first time I played Left 4 Dead. A biologically proportioned female character who kicks ass, looks a hell of a lot like me, and whose outfit I already own half of? Sign me up.

But, here's the thing. I only figured out I was going as Zoey at 10am on Friday morning and I had to have the costume ready by 7:30pm the next night. Luckily, the shotgun and pistol we're already in the costume closet (yes, it takes up both a bureau and a steamer trunk, too) and the jeans and converse are petty much my standard M.O. I managed to pick up the red jacket for 12 bucks and modded it with a new zipper and white accents Saturday afternoon. I also threw together a pretty awesome looking health pack (if I do say so myself) mostly out cannibalized old projects.Yay, me. Also, this is perhaps the forth utility belt I've created, but the first out of duct tape in thirty minutes. When it comes to costumes duct tape is the way to go.

Unless of course you are Renee.

For those not familiar with 1960's B movie classics, that is a spot on replica of one of Jane Fonda's costumes in Barbarella. This is the second incarnation of the costume. A few years ago, Renee cut each of those pieces from a piece of sheet metal, sanded them down, painted them, and hammered holes into them so she could connect each with a soldered jump ring. That my friends is dedication to your craft.

I'd only seen this costume on a dress form, where it had been taunting me since we met so I begged Renee to don it again this year. Unsurprisingly, she totally rocked it. She even dyed her hair to boot.

I tried to convince Renee to be the Witch to my Zoey, but there is enough creepy fan art on the interwebs about those two characters that its probably best we not add fuel to the fire. Instead, that lurking figure in the background is Adam (my husband and the honorary third member of GLAG) who put together a pretty convincing Smoker by modding a cheap mask with insulating foam and creating a convincingly creepy (and stinky) tongue out of nylons and moss. Like I said, props - particularly interactive props - are key.

So, what was everyone else? Leave your pics and links in the comments!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quote of the Day: Girl Gamer Motto


From one of the ladies in the girl gaming twitterverse, @southerligthts1, when we asked her about how she got into gaming:
If you can't beat 'em, beat 'em at Tekken.
You said it, sister.

photo via Flickr user henry9112

Friday, September 24, 2010

GLAG Review: Halo Reach

After months of speculating on whether or not to give in and pre-order Halo Reach, the crew at Game Like a Girl reached a conclusion.  For Stephanie, it was go with Amazon and get a $20 game credit toward future purchases.  For Renee, it was continue to be poor and sponge off her friends until she could scrape together a few extra bucks to buy her own copy.

Last night (after hectic and exhausting weekends) we finally got the chance to sit down and play together.  And now, for the first time, we present a GLAG tandem review, by Renee and Stephanie.

Renee: Is Halo Reach the best Halo ever?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But is anybody surprised?  Probably not.  From my experience (as an avid Halo 2 and 3 player) Bungie is a company by Halo players, for Halo players.  And all the things that the general public wants, Bungie wants, which is why everything (as far as we can tell) that you would've changed about Halo 3 has been changed for Halo Reach.

Stephanie: Well mostly. Because I'm the cynic of the pair...but, we'll get to that after Renee shows off her Halo knowledge.

The game is, obviously, beautiful, and the increased crispness of the game play makes certain things much easier, especially head shots.  The maps are one of my favorite aspect--Bungie brought back suped up versions of some of my favorite Halo 2 maps.  I'm thinking specifically of Ivory Tower

Halo 2

Halo Reach (fuck yeah!)

which went from looking like an office building with a cool layout to looking like an awesome nouveau French-Asian fusion restaurant (this is a good thing, as anyone who has ever wanted to kill everyone in a French-Asian fusion restaurant will know).  The new maps are also slick and stylized throw backs to previous games.  Pinnacle (below)

calls to mind Halo 2's Ascension map

and The Cage is a floating base that looks like it's situated just around the corner from Valhalla.

Apart from just maintaining what's become a clear Halo aesthetic, Bungie's choice to weave the old in with the new also makes the game feel immediately familiar, which is what you want when you're playing a sequel (alright, prequel...) to a favorite game.  When Halo 3 came out my friends and I had to spend a few weeks adjusting, learning the new maps and figuring out how to play on them without being completely disoriented.  After one or two games last night, I already felt pretty oriented, and I credit that to 2 things: 1)Bungie's call backs to older maps and 2)Bungie's designers having finally gotten really good at what they do.

As much as I love the rehashed maps, I (and most of the community if you can tell anything by map voting trends) also really like the new maps.  Boardwalk

seems to have already become a crowd favorite and (before we muted them) all the little boys kept yelling at us to vote for it.

Speaking of voting, the voting thing has gotten even better.  In Halo 2 a map would come up and you'd have to play it, but you'd be happy about it because hey, playing on Xboxlive is awesome!  When Halo 3 came out and you suddenly had the option to veto the map, fuck yes!  And if your veto resulted in an even less popular choice well then, oh well.  Play it anyways and be happy that you even had the veto option--remember Halo 2 where you just had to play the first thing that came up?

But, like I said, Bungie is very FGBG (for gamers, by gamers) so this time around you get not one, not two, not even three, but four options as far as the next game goes.  Three games will come up (this is in Team Slayer, FYI) on different or sometimes the same maps, Classic Slayer, Elite Slayer, Swat, Snipers, etc., and your team (because if you're playing on the same console you automatically put all your votes into the same map) can choose to vote for one of those maps, or go for the fourth option, None of the Above.  It feels so S.A.T. multiple choice section, only in a good way.

Frankly, I think the potentially best new feature of multiplayer happens before you even enter matchmaking. The great thing about Halo is that because it is such a popular franchise there are approximately 3 billion people playing at any given moment. The downside is that approximately 92% of those players are potty mouthed homophobes, racists or misogynists - or the fourth option, All of the Above. It feels like a junior high PE class, only in the worst way.

The new psych profiles aims to reduce partnering respectful players with people that want to tell you to make a sammich (aka: people who will only ever make sammiches for a living), by determining if you are quiet or talkative, cooperative or a lone wolf, here for fun or competitive, rowdy or polite. This doesn't really seem to work all that well since we ended up with chatty cathys in most matches. However, the best news is that if you end up with some gay-bashing jackoff you can mute them. And if you mute them and enough of the poor souls paired with them also mute them, they will eventually be permanently muted. And to that I salute Bungie.

Once the game starts, there's a whole bunch of new fun things to do in addition to the old fun things.  Everyone's absolute favorite is the amped up assassination (watch video for montage of many different ones).

It's hard to choose a favorite--I'm torn between the shank (where you stab someone through the chest with a knife, unlocking the "That's a Knife!" achievement) and the jump-on-their-back-and-twist-their-neck-til-it-snaps version.  Both are so incredibly satisfying that if you kill someone that way it almost erases the fact that you only killed one person during the entire game.

But, seriously, it is an awesome kill. There also seem to be a lot more gravity hammers available which in my book is always good.

Also sweet: the load out feature, where during deployment (not just in the opening round but in every respawn) you can choose the weapon you're sent out with (in some instances) or the special ability you want (sprint, active camo, jetpack...).  The special abilities are a pretty sweet idea, especially since they include the jetpack, which isn't really that awesome in terms of game play (though it might just be that I don't know how to make strategic use of it yet) but is awesome because it's a fucking jetpack.

Speaking of jetpacks...I was really bummed to find out that Grifball isn't a permanent feature in Reach.  It looks like some folks have created Grifball courts through the Forge feature, and some include jetpacks! Thanks guys!

There's also some minor tweaks--having the scope widen out on the sniper rifle for up close shots=BRILLIANT, and fewer power ups and shields scattered around, but who cares when you've got jetpacks?--but apart from that, I can't think of much more to say about Reach, except possibly that I have zero complaints, and that's kind of the best thing you can say about the most recent addition to a very successful series of games.  At $60, it's totally worth the purchase price, and I'm happy to report that (being a total genius) I managed to convert my credit card rewards points into a gift card that I will use to buy a copy for myself ASAP. 

Minus my gripe that Grifball isn't a permanent option and my criticisms of the co-op campaign, I agree. Now, lets go find some gravity hammers. 

But with limited Grifball access, the game does retain a certain Christmas type specialness--it's Grifball weekend, it's Grifball weekend, the children cried!  Oh, and there's one more thing I forgot to mention entirely: the flippin' campaign.  How, might you ask, did I forget to mention it?  Well, truth be told, I could take or leave the campaigns in any Halo game.  Wha-wha-what?! you ask?  It's pretty simple, actually: when I started playing Halo, I played it with friends, against random other real people online.  And this is what hooked me--not the graphics, not the style, not the dorky sci-fi plot, but the fact that for the first time ever I could pit my skills (or lack thereof) against other REAL people.  It's my favorite thing about the game, and most of the time I completely forget that there's anything else to it.  Lucky for you, Stephanie didn't.

The best thing about Halo games is that you know that when you drop 60 bucks on the game you are going to get your money's worth and then some. Online multiplayer is the heart and soul of Halo. With tons of different types of games, and hundreds of thousands of people to be paired every minute of every day, 60 bucks breaks down to fractions of pennies for the hours of gameplay you will get out of it. And at Game Like a Girl we like getting our money's worth.

But, I felt like Reach was worth my money just in the campaign - well almost. While most folks hate cut scenes I love them. Being immersed in the world that has been created and learning about the characters is part of the fun. The Reach cut scenes are beyond gorgeous (though it makes the animated cartoon seem like a wasted opportunity) and they are substantial, mini movies to give your thumbs and right index finger a rest (which gets a lot more action now that melee has smartly been moved to the right bumper).

Unfortunately, there is a fatal flaw in the campaign storyline. At Game Like a Girl our motto is pretty much Co-op 4 Life. Part of the fun of playing video games is that we get to play them with our friends, whether they are sitting on the couch next to us, or an ocean away. That is one of the reasons we loved Halo 3 - not only could you play with 8 friends online you could also go through the co-op with a buddy.  The great thing about Halo 3 was that multiplayer awesomeness continued in the campaign. When you played the campaign in co-op it made absolute sense within the story, now it seems like whoever logs on second functions as a permanent version of the Hologram Armor Ability, which in the scope of the storyline really doesn't make much sense.

The fun of the prequel is you get to be a part of a team of Spartans. Granted, the characters are somewhat sterotypical (the hard-ass lady, the black guy, etc) but the storyline relies on only one player going through the campaign for it to work. You supposedly play as 6 who joins the unit after the previous 6 is killed and you are immediately initiated into the team and told to get over the "lone wolf stuff." Well, sure, except that we aren't alone. Looking at each other during a second of down time we figured out, nope we were the same person just with different colored armor. This was a bit confusing at first because it seemed like with 6 characters to work with the second player would just become one of them. Even as you move through the different missions you are always with one of the other five characters, and while that would be kind of weird for player 2 since that character is usually dead at the end of the mission it could also be kind of awesome since they all have different specialties.

As we neared the end and our team was dropping off like flies we figured the reason that player 2 was a hologram or player 1 split personality was because the last Spartan standing would be Master Chief. That would be awesome, right? Nope. I'll save the details but lets just say every one gets it in the end...or rather the postscript. I'm sure Bungie thought this storyline was imperative to the Halo universe, but it seems odd to make it so unconducive to co-op when the greatest strength of the Halo franchise is its players love of multiplayer.

If you can get past this weirdness in the story, the campaign itself is pretty fun. It seemed a bit harder than the Halo 3 campaign, but in a good way. You really had to strategize to get through some of the missions and in some cases that meant having to start them over. Did you get yourself and your tank blown up halfway through? Better start again, cause that is a really long walk and some big guns ahead of you. You also get to play with new guns and toys. I was really excited by the mission in space, but it seemed really short and didn't give you the opportunity to get familiar with the controls. Also a lot of the missions that involve flying cut away just as you are about to land, which seems an odd time for Bungie to decide to baby us. If we are going to suck and crash land and kill ourselves and the remaining Spartans, let us do it.
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