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.
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