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.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Demi Review: So Many Girls, So Little Time


After we were done with our baking adventure last weekend, Renee and I decided to spend the rest of the time before the party going through the indie game demos on XBOX Live and well, this popped up.  Seriously? Come on...

See, I have an advanced degree in Gender Studies, which means I am a pro at identifying misogyny, getting pissed about it and then deconstructing why it exists in the intersecting structures of oppression. Renee has a degree in Anthropology which means she is a pro at identifying cultural signifiers, laughing at their mere existence and placing them into context within the larger cultural structure. In other words, if the two of us are sitting on my couch, with controllers in hand and some time to kill, sh*t like this is really hard to pass up.

Unfortunately, the game totally did not live up to the hype (and by hype, I mean our hope that it would be truly god awful and offensive).

Yes, its mere existence is an example of the lack of value placed on women as living breathing human beings with...oh, I don't know...feelings and intelligence, as well as, the continued belief that all gamers are dudes with a 14 year-old mindset and beings with...oh, I don't know...feelings and intelligence, but it is also extremely B-O-R-I-N-G.

The gameplay consists of stock footage headshots that flash over some sort of undefinable map while you get texts asking to go on "dates" (9am on a Tuesday? Awesome date time!). You then have to decide if you can fit the date into your schedule; where to go on your date from a list of exciting locales such as your living room, the mall and the gym; decide what intellectually stimulating things you will discuss such as drinking, shopping and exercise; and how long you will do each thrilling activity for. You get points by keeping the headshots entertained by arbitrarily picking their favorite boring topic to discuss and then making sure you don't double book your "dates."

So, rather than getting your yahoos through indie game sexy-time, you instead get to practice your scheduling skills as a personal assistant to some douchey boss who likes to give women his work number, needs you to keep track of all the pesky details about his "associates" like their names, and can take a two hour "lunch" at 9am on Tuesday. Fun times!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Vegan Avocado Chocolate Cake is Not a Lie

At Game Like a Girl we don't just play video games and do video game embroidery. We also like epicurean adventures. I like seeing just how far I can push the edible boundaries of cupcakes - bacon with maple frosting anyone? And Renee likes hosting movie nights with themed snacks - highlights have included every kind of grilled cheese imaginable for a viewing of Gigli (get it, cheese?) and Red Sonja Vines. So whenever one of our friends has a birthday we usually show up with cake.

This weekend was our friend Oleg's birthday. While not a vegan - his birthday celebration also included Kobe burgers - Oleg appreciates vegan food. He also has a somewhat unnatural love of avocados. Luckily, someone on the internets has managed to combine these two things, so we spent Saturday gaining a better understanding of chemistry (we deduced that the cake didn't need eggs and very little oil since the avocados provide the necessary fat - are we right?) and giving my kitchen a good dusting of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. This was the result:

PS: Bringing a cake that looks slightly like something a Boomer would cough up (in the best way possible) to a bar is also a great way to make new friends.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Renee's New Favorite Game: Bayonetta

Last night (after watching the ridiculous final disc of Tru Blood's second season) Stephanie and I decided to play some video game demos.  We tried a few that were ho-hum, some that were plain irritating, and then finally Adam said "You have to see this's like an insane anime hentai movie on crack," and pulled up Bayonetta.

Stephanie is not a fan of this game.  So far.  I think it has something to do with the boobies, and the fact that the character's clothing appears to be made out of her own hair and occasionally comes flying off while she's fighting.

I, however, was in it to win it from the red glittery training session.

Not only is the gameplay glittery, it's really easy to get the hang of, and anyone who's ever played Street Fighter or Tekken games will already understand the concept of combos, which result in crazy awesome gymnastic moves (including upside down shooting from the guns on her shoes).  I also like her ridiculous RuPaul strut and propensity for occasionally pausing in a model-pose.

Once the game starts, you find yourself falling through space on a series of giant chunks of ancient buildings, fighting hordes of angels (apparently Bayonetta is some sort of witch.  With Tina Fey's head).  It's visually stunning, and again the gameplay is fast paced yet simple to pick up on and full of variety.  I also loved that the demo kept giving me clues as to what combos I should take advantage of (the Torture attack was pretty gory but also hilarious--done right, out pops a giant guillotine for Bayonetta to use) and that even with everything going on, I could still see them clearly and easily.

After falling, you land in an Oblivion-esque building and then you fight some more angels.

I didn't get past that part, but I didn't really need to--I already wanted to buy the game.  Demo win.

Other people, however, are not as excited by Bayonetta's gymnastic fighting style.  One of them (who, in spite of her alarmist critique feels the need to dress exactly like the character while making it...) complains that this is just another cog in the sexualization-of-women machine whose marketing techniques are sure to lead to rampant molestation on subway cars, and who points to Bayonetta's being a single mom as the sole redeeming part of the game (because apparently it's better for a kid to have just one parent--as long as it's a female--than two).

I wish this wasn't even a thing I needed to bother commenting on, because the game is really fun, and for me that should be the bottom line.

Is the game awesome?  Yes?  Then buy it.

But because sex in gaming is an issue, and because Steph has an MA in Women's Studies, I feel like I have to at least mention that yes, Bayonetta's a sexy character, and yes, for some people that's problematic.  But I'm a feminist.  I believe in equality for women.  And I don't think that a game is exploitative just because its character is a sexy lady, or even because its character is being marketed as a sexy lady.

And that's pretty much all I'm going to say about that, because it's the kind of thing that people can go around and around on without ever coming to common ground.  Vilify them if you want, but in my opinion the creators made a pretty awesome fighting game.  And if you disagree, talk to Steph.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Demi Review: Shank

Here at Game Like a Girl we like to give games the benefit of the doubt and give them the chance to be awesome before we write them off, but sometimes you can't even get through the demo, which is why we have created the Demi Review.

2D side-scrollers are back. That's cool. But if you are gonna do it, then it need to be more than just a high-res button masher. Unfortunately, and somewhat unsurprisingly, Shank is a full out button-masher.  Sure, at some point I was able to do a pretty sweet move where I pounced on someone and proceeded to stab them repeatedly while simultaneously shooting some other guy, but that gets old after about a minute and half.

I'll give it credit for having unique and consistent art, and maybe I've just spent too much of my time in San Francisco, but the opening sequence looked a lot more like a leather bar than one frequented by bad-ass luchadores (huh? yeah). Evidently at some point there's a lady or two, but where I'm from that many tiny waists, well developed shoulders and well groomed facial hair means something else. Too bad it doesn't take place in my neck of the woods, it would probably be a lot more interesting.

Kittens Love Duck Hunt

There, did that make your Monday better?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

I'll be honest. This is the first Lara Croft game I have ever played. It was a little hard to pick up any of the Tomb Raider games when the protagonist is the epitome of impossible biology and poorly planned outfits. But, this blog is called Game Like a Girl, I HAD to download it. And I have to give Square-Enix credit (or XBLA or whoever made the decision) that there are no gravity defying boobs in the promo pic (above). That gave me hope. Did they finally figure out that a lot of people play video games to, oh I don't know, play the game rather than get their yahoos over a bunch of pixels?

Yeah, nope. This is what you're lookin' at for the majority of the game:

This position is also a recurring theme:

Sure, Totec ain't wearing much either, but if we are going to get all deconstructing exploitation here (Oh, we are? Yes, just a little.) lets discuss the fetishization of oppressed peoples that just happened to have an advanced civilization until the conquistadors, as the intro so helpfully explains. His outfit at least makes sense in "historical" context. Lara's does not. I mean really, you just told us about hiking through the "dangerous Yucatan" for three weeks. I don't think hot pants are gonna keep the creepy crawlies out of your undies.

But, back to the game play...since its an arcade game with a third person perspective, the action isn't totally thrilling, however it lends itself well to the puzzle aspect of the game. The levels are designed to be visually interesting and complex. The strength of the game is by far the co-op mode. My first run through was in co-op and after that the single player version seemed very stale. The puzzles are exactly the same, only instead of having a partner whose strengths and weapons you have to coordinate to succeed, you work your way though assisted by giant balls. Yep, giant balls.

I think the single player mode could have been helped by levels that Lara has to navigate on her own (sans balls). The intro tells us all about her finding the mirror and fighting with tomb raiders who are also trying to steal artifacts (for profit, not education like our heroine). That storyline would have been awesome to play, but then it is an arcade game you download for about 15 bucks, we can't expect too much.

So yeah, an archeologist smashing around ancient Mayan ruins in a crop top and being condescending to a 2,000 year-old revived member of the original civilization. Whatever, Indiana Jones does the same thing with added Nazi's and more appropriate clothing choices. In the end, its a video game. A fun, cheap summer download that has a great multiplayer option.

But come on...if Wonder Woman can finally get rid of her skirt, isn't it about time Lara found some pants? Those holsters really have to chafe the inner thigh.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New Favorite Thing

A free game (or $3 iPhone app...) featuring robot unicorns, rainbows, and a soundtrack by Erasure?


(Also awesome: this is what shows up when you fail)

BTW, this is strikingly similar to my most recent favorite piece of art work by honorary girl gamer, Adam (featured in this sweet ass concert promo poster).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Exciting (and Terrifying) Bit About Metroid

We are pretty excited over here about the forthcoming Metroid: Other M, another installment of the game that tricked all the fan boys into playing as *gasp!* A GIRL, and made all the lady gamers holler in delight. You betcha -even if its not in HD (we're talking to you Nintendo).

However it seems there is good news and bad news (besides the fact that the Samus and her new companion's bust lines keep getting bigger):

The Good News: Our enjoyment of the game will be enhanced by an uninterrupted version of the cut scenes that is two hours long.

The Bad News: We now have to reconcile ourselves with the fact that if it takes two hours to watch just the cut scenes we are gonna sacrifice A LOT more than two hours of our lives to this game.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

GLAG Review: Blur

After getting hooked on racing with Split/Second I felt like my game collection (which is admittedly small and particular) was lacking the high-speed element, so I went online to buy my own copy. This is when I came across Blur, a just-released Mario Kart for grown ups (though what grown up doesn't like Mario Kart?) and after watching some of the game demos and reading a few reviews I decided that since Steph already owns Split/Second, having a duplicate copy would be kinda dumb, and I decided to get Blur instead.

Lucky for me, I snagged it from an Ebay auction for $30, and it arrived the day I got back from vacation (feeling ill and prepared to take the next day off work to recuperate, which gave me plenty of time to sit on the couch and race).  My first impression was that it wasn't as fun as Split/Second, and that it seemed a little too easy.  Second impression was I definitely need to get a high-def television if I'm going to buy new Xbox games--I'm positive the tiny fonts they're using are part of a greater electronic conspiracy to get all gamers to drop a few hundred on new plasma sets.  Jerks.

Anyways, a few hours later I decided my first impression had been wrong.  Blur was not too easy, was in fact just the right amount of difficult--but if you've got any sort of gaming skills the first section of the career mode will probably feel a little simple for you.  If you have this same response fear not, it will improve.

Like Mario Kart, you're responsible for driving through power-ups that you can then unleash on robot drivers in front and behind, smashing and flipping them enough to allow you to pass them but (unless combined for the one-two effect) not really ruining their shit.  On the one hand this is kind of lame because you don't get the extreme satisfaction of completely annihilating another car, but on the other hand when you're hit with a mine or a shunt and it doesn't blow your face off you feel particularly grateful.  Plus, like I said, if you hit 'em with a combo you can totally wreck them, which is satisfying.

There are a whole boatload of power ups to drive through, and a whole ton of cars to help you do it, however most of the cars are pretty janky to average for the first four rounds of career mode. Yes, there are a lot to choose from, but I want cars that go fast and handle well--I couldn't give a shit about the crappy farmer's truck that goes negative miles per hour and drives like a roller skate, and I seriously doubt anyone else is wetting themselves over it.  Seriously, why do you even include this in the game?  Is it a pity nod to Chevrolet?--so even though Blur is promoting the huge number of cars available to drive (and it is really huge), it's a little misleading.

That said, there are a fair number of fast, well-handling cars to play with.  I've been liking the Nissans and Audis quite a bit.  I also like that when you're choosing the car, there's a stats summary like "Drifty" or "Balanced" or "Off-Road" to help you decide what's best for the course (but again, go fast, don't crash are my priorities).

I've gotten nearly half-way through the career mode (which is long, and that's good because you don't want to finish the game in a single sitting) and finally feel like I'm unlocking some cars that are really, really fun to drive.  There's a new Audi in the most recent level I've been playing that is so fast and tight it's almost too good for the course I was using it on.

Another thing Blur does well (which is a trend I'm liking in the gaming world) is the mini-challenge thing.  Within the race, and apart from trying to wreck cars with your power ups, there are also Fan Targets, which is the target number of fans you're trying to accumulate over the course of the single race.  Fans get added to your total number of fans, which in turn helps you unlock more cars and levels.  Sounded lame at first but I'm starting to get more into it.  To help you hit your fan target there are Fan Runs, which are 12 gates along the course that you have to trigger by driving through a happy little arrow (happy because it bobs and bounces around to get you to notice it).

There are also Fan Demands to complete, which are signaled by a happy little stick figure with a heart on it.

The more of these you complete, the more fans you get, and eventually hopefully you'll complete enough to hit your Fan Target.  The one thing no one mentions, though, is that if you don't also come in at 3rd place or above during the race, your fan-related accomplishments don't count.  You can still keep those fans, but you don't get credit for it outside of your total fan number.

Like Split/Second, there's also Destruction mode, which is less race, more ruin.  For this game you use only Bolt power ups, and you try to drive around wrecking cars in front of you.  This is what I was playing with that new Audi yesterday, and I was going so fast I kept passing all the cars I was supposed to shoot and they kept newly spawning ahead of me.  This one is more fun than the Checkpoint mode, where you have to drive fast and well enough to run through a series of checkpoints over the course.  For me, this mode has been the hardest and least fun--I crash a lot, and there's always a crapload of sharp turns that I completely blow, which in turn leads to my completely blowing the whole course.  I'm hoping I'll get better at it in the upcoming levels thanks to the newer, better cars though...

Within both Destruction and Checkpoint races, you still have the same fan stuff going on--targets to hit, runs to complete, demands to satisfy.  Doing all of that and still managing to win the race is a pretty hefty challenge, and I'm relatively sure it will take me the next few years to finish all of it.  Game longevity FTW.

One thing that Blur has over Split/Second is the presence of nitro.  Adam made this observation when he played it the other night at my place (after watching Gigli...I shit you not), and I have to agree: the nitro is bomb, and I wish that it existed within Split/Second, too.

One of the main reasons that Blur appealed to me, however, was that unlike Split/Second, you can go four-player with this game--yet insanely I still haven't tried it!  I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to bring the game over to Stephanie's place so we can use the big tv (where the tiny writing will be readable).  I anticipate it will be just as fun as the single played mode, however.

There are a whole mess of things that I have yet to explore with this game, yet I still feel entirely confident giving it 4 out of 5 stars.  The longer I play it, the more fun it's getting, and isn't that really what you want from every game you buy?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IRL: Stephanie Has Died of Dysentery

Nerd alert: These are honest-to-goodness tracks left by wagons on the Oregon Trail.

Oregon Trail was my first introduction to gaming and PC's and it was awesome. I blame it for fostering my love of learning. History? Yes, please!

You would think it would have prepped me for RPG's what with the slow pace due to it's text-based nature. But really when it comes down to it the best part about that game was seeing which of your friends, or crushes, or enemies would have the most horrific four word death (Renee has died of gangrene. Adam has died of diarrhea).

That and bagging a buffalo:


Yep, totally prepped me for first person shooters...oh, and the updated version totally sucked. Too many pixels.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Girls Suck at Video Games

The work/life balance and shortcomings of FMLA in 8 bit - complete with dead babies.

We get the sarcastic jab at both the modern woman's dilemma and ZOMG! girls know what a joystick is? But, um yeah, we're not quite sure what the take away is supposed to be with the mutilated babies on the sidewalk. A reference to ill fated latch-key kids? A commentary on the absent father who glides into his CFO position without looking back?

Steph's friend, Starr C., who is managing to raise three awesome kids, maintain a healthy marriage, kick butt at her super geeky job, get a masters degree, and oh yeah, do a stint as an Army captain in Iraq, gives St├ęphanie Mercier props. What do y'all think?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Start the Insanity

A few minutes ago Adam pointed me in the direction of some pretty fantastic insanity: someone has created a new map for Left 4 Dead based on the Indiana Jones Ride at Disneyland.

Because they are even cooler than the kind of people who would simply make a map based on the Indiana ride, they also made a "free ride" version of the map so you can experience it the way Disney intended--without zombies.

The free ride is what the YouTube video is taken from, but you can download the actual map here.

Sorry, other Xbox users, this works on the PC only--but, as Adam noted, "If valve was smart they would license some of these and release them as DLC."

Amen to that.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

GLAG Review: Split/Second

The first time we played this was after Adam downloaded the demo from XboxLive.

"I think you guys will like this game," he said.  "It has drifting."

"I can't play racing games," Steph said.

"They're easy," Renee said.  "Just go fast and keep your car in the middle of the screen."

After everyone else took a few turns around the track, Steph finally gave into our prodding and picked up the controller.  The rest of us had been coming in at 7th place on our first, second, and even third tries. 

So of course Steph came in first.

"Did I win?" she said.

"Yeah," Adam said.  And then, "I think you need to own this game."

Two weeks later she does, so tonight we finally made good on our plans to start a regular weekly game (and blogging) night and set to playing.

Split/Second is really pretty, but this isn't the only reason we liked it.  I'm torn between getting ridiculously specific with technicalities or just boiling it down to the simple aspects that made the game fun.  Since there are nerdier folks out there who can probably delve deeper into the geekery of gaming, I think we'll stick to the simple stuff.

1.  Explosions!

Racing games can get kind of boring when all you're doing is trying to drive progressively better equipped cars around progressively more difficult tracks.  Split/Second gives you more stuff to play with, namely the ability to explode or drop things on the track to hopefully wreck the cars in the lead.  This isn't the first time we've seen this kind of thing in a racing game (Stuntman: Ignition, anyone?  Or maybe Mario Kart?) but the designers make good use of them.  It's fun setting them off, and it's also fun trying to dodge the debris.

2.  Drifting

Adam was right--we did enjoy the drifting.  We suck at it, but it's still fun to try.  And when you do it right, you accumulate power that allows you to unleash the number one fun thing about the game, explosions!  We think with practice we will get better at drifting, and the possibility to learn and improve at a game is key when you're thinking about long-term playability.

3.  The Race Tracks

In addition to being pretty, the race tracks in S/S maintain a good balance between ridiculously confusing and pleasantly straightforward.  There are tons of things that you can, and will, run into, and these things mostly break apart and toss debris into the air.  When you're trying to see around or through this debris, and take a tight turn, and blow someone up, and not run into a bus, there's a nice air of chaos and potential disaster that's fun to experience regardless of the outcome.  And pretty quickly afterward you'll run into a straightaway and be able to recover (assuming you didn't completely eat shit) and regain your bearings.  And in spite of the hectic nature of the race, figuring out where to go is relatively easy even if you're on a short-cut or someone has triggered a route change.  Also, we liked that there's the occasional short cut and route change.

4.  Game Play Variations

While you're obviously trying to win races (and get newer, fancier cars), there's a good bunch of interesting twists to the simple go-fast-come-in-first game.  The one that's been hardest for us tonight isn't a race at all, but an attempt to avoid getting blown up by a helicopter mounted with missiles.  There's also elimination rounds where the player in last place is automatically eliminated when a certain amount of time has passed, time limit rounds where you're alone and trying to finish a lap in a certain amount of time, and of course the usual go-fast-come-in-first game.  And all we got to tonight was the single-player campaign--we haven't tried anything on XboxLive or two-player split-screen.

5.  Slow Mo!

Actually, we're not sure we like this.  Whenever you set off an explosion the game drops into slow motion for about five seconds, partly so you can appreciate the awesomeness of the explosion (we think) but also (probably) to give you a chance to see what you're about to drive through and plan accordingly.  At times it's very helpful, and other times it's a little annoying. 

The one thing we're definitely leaning more toward not liking is the length of the cut scenes and loading screens.  If they exist just to fill up the time that it takes for the game to load, that's fine.  If the designers put them in because they thought we needed a reality game show sub-plot to have fun with a racing game, that's retarded.

Overall everyone at GLAG (Adam included) thinks Split/Second is a solid 4 out of 5 stars.  It's beautiful to watch (whether you're playing or not) especially on Steph's fancy plasma flat-screen (though would probably be near unplayable on Renee's--both of us ran into pylons and buses more than once because we failed to notice them in high resolution; imagine that on a regular old boob tube...) and maintains just the right balance between fun and challenging.  We also never felt annoyed when we lost a race; after nearly three hours of playing we'd crashed countless times but continued to come up laughing because the extravagance of our failure was so hilarious.  If a game can be fun even when you (occasionally) suck at it, that's definitely a win in our book.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Play Halo, Help Haiti

Bungie has a few different ways the bajillion and one Halo players out there can help relief efforts in Haiti.

You can buy a special t-shirt, the proceeds of which will go to the American Red Cross and you can help raise awareness (from your couch).

Bungie is also donating all profits from the Bungie store throughout the month of February to the American Red Cross. So if t-shirts aren't nerdy enough, you can get other gear.

You can also help by not spending any money at all. If you play Halo 3 or ODST today (and technically yesterday, too) make sure to wear a special emblem that shows your support. Bungie will donate $100 for every $1,000 "heroes" who participate - in other words you are worth 10 cents. They are only doing it up $77,000 which is okay, I guess, considering that most of the time I play there are a few hundred thousand other folks waiting for their turn to shoot me in the head.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PlayStation Knows How to Get the Ladies

Is it just me or does the PlayStation Motion Controller pictured here:

look just a bit like a girl's best friend?

That is one way to get more women into gaming.

Images via Joystiq and Amazon.
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