Monday, June 30, 2008

Trophies Rule!

Sony has finally unveiled in full how the PlayStation 3 trophy system would work. Microsoft should be very, very scared:

Nice TV. The shirt needs to be tucked in.

It's definitely more polished than the X-Box 360's Achievement system. The fact that PlayStation 3 gamers can level up their online profiles via unlocking the trophies is quite attractive. It's like a mini MMO! This could easily steer my future software purchase decisions. This exciting new PlayStation 3 feature will be available with the Firmware 2.40 update coming this Wednesday 07-02-2008 alongside the ho-hum but convenient in-game XMB and custom soundtrack additions. There's still nothing on a resizing feature of the PlayStation 3 screen permanently vs. in-game (and not all games provide that option) to fix overscan issues to those affected. The only bad thing with the trophies is of course, it's going to take some time for us to see this implemented in multi-platform games. Well, that and the following:

Oh come one! No ka-plunk sound?
You got to admit: It's like a drug on the X-Box 360.

Games Played 06/29/2008

City of Villains - PC
Everquest II - PC
SingStar - PlayStation 3
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Games Played 06/27/2008

Everquest II - PC
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Friday, June 27, 2008

Review: The Bridge

The Bridge (2006)
Genre: Documentary
Format: DVD
Director: Eric Steel

Beautiful but deadly.

Sometimes the most disturbing things that happened in real life make the best of movies. The Bridge is easily one of the bleakest documentary film ever made, standing toe to toe with the equally menacing Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple by Stanley Nelson. Forget those beautiful documentaries about wildlife when there are still so many unexplored elements that could be discussed about us human beings and our human condition.

A life lost.

The Bridge is a product of the director's effort to analyze the motivations and the devastations of suicides committed by people who jumped off the San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. The location is not only a major tourist attraction but it also the most notorious suicide spot in the world. Using actual footage captured during a whole year's worth of observation in 2004, the film fearlessly shows the eerie and shocking suicides on screen, including the quiet moments that usually precede them. The interviewed family members and friends of the victims as well as witnesses provided the film with fascinating and often times, profound views of each death. The film never tries to interject its own definitive moral ground even though there were a few inappropriate soundtrack manipulations near the end.

Compelling and heart-wrenching.

Engrossing and incredibly sad, this movie is a once in a lifetime experience that cannot be missed. It tells cautionary tales of actual human lives lost due to a variety of relatable circumstances. It reaffirms the fact that though the preservation of life is valuable, it could easily slip between our firm grasps. Like the ever looming images of the Golden Gate Bridge that dominantly haunt the movie, life is ever present as it is ever mysterious and ominous.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Games Played 06/26/2008

Everquest II - PC
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Forgotten Ring

I am enjoying my rebirth in Everquest II but there is now a slight distraction to that experience. I stumbled into a free 14-day trial for The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar last night. I did play it for about a month or two when it first came out last year. I had some graphical problems with that game and I didn't want to turn down the eye-candy settings... I know, I am such a graphics whore but only if a game has the in-game option to look better. I thought that LotRO:SoA was definitely better than the stale and rotting World of Warcraft.

I have fallen in love with EQII again...

I reinstalled the game and registered for the 14-day trial with a new account. The game is now running perfectly with all the settings maxed out. The weird movement/lag glitch that I had experienced frequently before, where the character would be transported back a couple of steps behind every half a minute, is gone - not sure if it was just the game's defect or my PC's previous lack of graphical prowess. What I still don't like about this game is the subtle nature of the special attacks. They look a bit weak and uninspired. I do not care much about the character design either and the armor sets look a bit boring. I do like the heavy story-driven progression and the uber-cinematic instanced dungeon runs. I can't and shouldn't play more than one massively-multiplayer online game at a time so I really have to think about this and decide which game I am going to spend a lot of my time with. In the meantime, I'm off to Middle-Earth in-between my Norrath escapades.

...but will LotRO:SoA steal my heart?

Games Played 06/25/2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Venereal Tale

In an effort to save the X-Box Live population from getting diseased by the recent emergence of a demo download option of Namco's Tales of Venereal, Microsoft has glitched it from ever being downloadable by gamers. Well, if they know how to read, the game is called Tales of Vesperia. So fix the problem and let us contract it, darn it!

Oh my Galaxy! The demo is here!!!

Wow. What a tease.

Games Played 06/24/2008

Black & White 2 - PC
Blast Works - Wii
Everquest II - PC
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The More More Temptation

Aaargh... I can't help it... My MMO craving has gotten a bit too overwhelming. Titan Quest can no longer sustain me (I haven't touched it in a long while). I don't want to ever play the nausea-inducing World of Warcraft again so I decided to go back to Everquest II, my MMO of choice before I jumped on WoW. Earlier, I downloaded the 14-day trial for the game to test out the graphics. Originally, I didn't play it for very long because the graphics at lower settings sucked. With my new set up, I am finally able to easily run this game at the highest setting and it looks incredibly beautiful and engaging... Expect more updates on my rekindled MMO habit. I just have to remember to find balance between it and my other games. Many have claimed that nowadays, EQII supports a more casual play-style and that it is more solo-friendly. We shall see.

I could have opted for Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
but I better give that game some time to mature further.

Games Played 06/23/2008

Black & White 2 - PC
Space Invaders Extreme - NDS
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Monday, June 23, 2008

Preview: Metal Gear Solid 4 - Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
Developer: Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd.
Platform: PlayStation 3
Purchase Date: 06/12/2008

Clever and funny mandatory installation screen.

MGS4:GotP is definitely the first real PlayStation 3 game. It sure has the best graphics yet on the gaming consoles (yes, Crysis on the PC is still better looking). The production value is up through the roof, as evident from Hideo Kojima's exquisite directing, quality soundtrack as well as voice acting, and the weird high resolution full motion videos found lurking about within the game. But is it really fun to play?

The most artistic video game main screen ever, for sure!

I have only played around 5-6 hours into the game and as you can see in my Daily Game Log, I haven't gotten back to MGS4:GotP after the first several days of purchase. The fact of the matter is, Hideo Kojima is talented but confused. Playing this game is really like watching a movie. I will clarify that there are definitely long sections of gameplay found here but Kojima's focus seems to be on the cinematics rather than video game aesthetics. Basically, he shouldn't have made this one into a game. It should have been made into a very, very long movie... Maybe an anime series.

The transition between in-game cinematics and real gameplay is flawless.
Another proof that we don't need any more full motion videos in video games.

Touted as the final chapter in the Metal Gear Solid saga (let's see how long that statement is going to last), players get to control an older Solid Snake who seems to be down on his luck. When his arch enemy, Liquid Ocelot, is found in the Middle East, Snake is sent there on a mission to stop him once and for all. Once the players can finally control Snake, the familiar espionage action gameplay commences. Just like the previous Metal Gear Solid games, the best way to proceed through the game is to crawl/duck/hide away from enemy detection on your way from point A to point B.

Incredible visuals. Can the X-Box 360 ever touch this level of graphical finesse?

There are definitely a lot that can be enjoyed from this game. Though the plot is so convoluted, cheesy, and selfishly self-serving, it is still admittedly engaging with the real-time cinematics rivaling the best of the summer's biggest blockbuster movies... Assuming of course that the player is ready to be overwhelmed by information and dialogues so detailed, it puts the highly demanding biblical and philosophical references in Xenogears to shame. There is an online multiplayer tactical shooter included - I haven't tested this yet since the patch download is so ridiculously slow. As grand as this game may seem to be, with the gaming media so eagerly willing to assist in its hype, the importance of gameplay always triumphs over the misguided ambition of a confused designer who always wanted to become a film director but ended up making video games instead.


Review: The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Genre: Action
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Louis Leterrier

Poor Ang Lee. Many have stated that his Hulk in 2003 was a bad movie and vastly inferior to this latest iteration. To me, except for its highly contrived ending, Lee's version was definitely better than this new film. Hollywood as well as Marvel must have something bad against the previous movie because Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk is not a continuation but more of a recontruction. While Lee tried to give the story a heart and a soul (just think Batman Begins), Leterrier is all about appeasing the lowest common denominator with mindless action.

And the action does run rampart throughout the entire screening time with little time spent on the meanderings of the characters. This is good for the most part and even though the movie carries that ever-dominating PG-13 rating, flying bodies and violent explosions filled the screen constantly. The bad part comes from the mediocre CG work on the Hulk itself. It's hard to imagine how any movie studio can settle for bad CG works nowadays when the technology is definitely capable of more. If Paul Verhoeven was able to make the bugs in Starship Troopers extremely realistic in 1997, there is no reason why anything that is not human should look as unconvincing as the on-screen Hulk.

The storyline follows Bruce Banner's fresh escape from the country after the terrible experiment that turned him into the Hulk. The military wants him back in the lab for analysis and probing, eventually leading Banner back into the United States for an ultimate showdown with one of the military's own creation. With a runtime of close to 2 hours, the film moves rather quickly thanks to the ever escalating Hulk battles. Just like the recent Spiderman movies, the final battle is rather clunky and lasts a bit too long. As an action movie, the film works. Still, Edward Norton + Liv Tyler = awkward while Eric Bana + Jennifer Connelly = hot!

RATING: 3 out of 5

Games Played 06/22/2008

Black & White 2 - PC
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Space Invaders Extreme - NDS
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gamer Alert!

I was about to install Black & White 2 last night when I realized that the first CD was missing. Knowing that I had misplaced it, I decided to look for the disc later. By coincidence, I decided to install The Movies and found that the disc for that game was also missing. I entered a panic mode and I decided that I had to start the search immediately.

Gamer Alert!

I knew that I must have placed the disc inside another game's case because I usually would do that whenever I play multiple games in one sitting. I would take a disc out of the PC/console then place that recently removed disc into the case of the game I just started playing. This action would always resolve itself because by the time I have to put them all away, I would notice that the discs are sitting in the wrong cases... until now.

Because of my poly-gamist nature, I knew that finding these two discs was going to take a lot of work so I planned it out logically. I started by checking X-Box 360 games cases. That didn't yield any result. Then I decided to check my music CD cases. After that, I went to bed frustrated. Today, I started with my PlayStation 3 collection. At that point, I became very nervous. I wouldn't want to do that search with my PlayStation 2 games because of the sheer number at hand. I kept telling myself that it must be somewhere inside one of my PC game boxes. So I attacked those next. Half-way through, a find:

Didn't even noticed that I have left the Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 disc inside
LOTR: Battle for Middle Earth box.

Not what I was looking for, but I took it as a good omen. About an hour and a half later, I still didn't find anything. I started checking my DVD cases when I saw several forgotten large game boxes hiding in one corner of my closet. I search through them right away. They weren't in SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition box. They also weren't in the LOTR: Battle for Middle Earth II Collector's Edition box. I tried to keep a positive attitude as I slowly opened the Warcraft III Battle Chest box:

They were both in there, sitting on top of the proper disc!

Wow. This is the reason why I do my best to put things back to where they belong and keep everything organized at all times. Then it came to me: I recently quit World of Warcraft completely. This must be caused by a voodoo curse placed by Blizzard. Sorry Blizzy but no means no.

Games Played 06/21/2008

Ikaruga - Dreamcast
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Sea Life Safari Demo - X-Box 360
Shikigami no Shiro II - Dreamcast
Space Invaders Extreme - NDS

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Games Played 06/20/2008

Medieval II: Total War - PC
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All - NDS
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes - PC
The Witcher - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sonic Doomed

We are merely months away from the cross-platform release of the less-anticipated, much feared, and seemingly-cursed Sonic Unleashed. Sega recently released a new trailer showcasing the 2D to 3D speedy sections of the game. See below:

Yeah. Uhuh.

Though the gameplay shown here looks good in that Sonic Advance kind of way, what the trailer really hints at is that this game is going to be a total disappointment. Why? Because they have released the Sonic as Werewolf teaser on their website and the images have been all over the internet and magazines for a long time now yet we still haven't been given the slighest of opportunities to look at how the werewolf section is going to play out. The people at Sega know that Sonic fans want Sonic to be revived with the old classic platforming gameplay intact and that is why they are really pushing hard to trick their loyal fans into believing that they have learned from their past mistakes. Imagine watching the gameplay footage of what could easily be the slow and boring werewolf section - the sale of the game would drop tremendously. It looks like my previous hesitation was well grounded.

Holy hell!

Here's the deal, Sega. Show us the crappy werewolf half of the game or scrape it off from the final product. After admitting to fans' disappointments in the previous 3D outings, there is no reason to keep the werewolf element in the game when you know that it is terrible (thus the no show). This is really becoming another Nights: Journey of Dreams fiasco. The game's Lead Director Yoshihisa Hashimoto is full of gas. Sega sucks. And I used to be their number 1 fan.

Games Played 06/19/2008

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All - NDS
The Witcher - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Games Played 06/18/2008

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All - NDS
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Preview: Ninja Gaiden II

Ninja Gaiden II (2008)
Developer: Team Ninja/Tecmo, Ltd.
Platform: X-Box 360
Purchase Date: 06/08/2008

A fiend flirting with the Statue of Liberty... What's next?
I miss the old 2D Ninja Gaidens. The sweet platforming/shooter mechanics... The tough but nicely patterned boss fights... The games' one-sitting lengths. The temptation of reviving classics in 3D is just too overwhelming for the weak of hearts I suppose. The 3D Ninja Gaiden is back! To be honest, I haven't been paying attention to the game's cheesy storyline since I started the game. All I know is that our super ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, is trying to stop a terrible apocalypse from taking over the world. Everything just seems to be randomly thrown in, from the attack on the big-breasted CIA agent Sonia at the beginning all the way to Ryu's arrival in New York where I am currently at.

Weak rain effects. Come on, the X-Box 360 can do better.

The game is a bit easier this time around. After each wave of enemy attack, Ryu's health bar is fully regenerated. Some of the damages done on Ryu would permanently diminish his health though and this can only be recovered using health items and blue essences. The fighting is similar to what it was before but now, Ryu can easily chop off his opponents' limbs. The result is extremely gory and not for the squeamish. The combos are magnificent and satisfying. Many sites claim that the camera can get extremely evil: It doesn't bother me so much. My advise - just remember that there is always going to be someone trying to filet your backside at all times. So far, I only have three primary weapons in Ryu's disposal. These weapons can be upgraded, making them hit harder and look nicer.

"Built from the ground up by Team Ninja for X-Box 360..." I don't think so.

Graphically, the game is disappointing. With something like Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of the Patriots gracing the PlayStation 3 right now, the last thing I want to see on the X-Box 360 is a game that looks like it can be made on the old X-Box. Though the game moves fluidly, the textures and the architectural geometry are lacking in both its technical and artistic potentials. There are also too many places that look like stages found in the Dead or Alive series. I am not sure if this is accidental or intentional because of the overall lackluster presentation. The game is off to a rough start. The arrival of stage 3's boss did excite me a bit because it was really quite unique. Maybe better things are awaiting me after this tough (and cheap) encounter.


Games Played 06/17/2008

Block Breaker Deluxe - Wii
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All - NDS
The Sims 2 - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Review: The Happening

The Happening (2008)
Genre: Thriller
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

I became a fan of Shyamalan's works after I watched The Sixth Sense. The ending was a total shocker but the heartfelt human stories told within it were the real deal for me. I thought Invincible was a great reworking of the superhero movie and Signs was truly genius when it comes to mood/tension. Then came The Village and at that point, I knew that Shyamalan was running out of steam. The pain of sitting through the second half of that movie made me skipped Lady in the Water (I recently placed it in my Netflix queue just to be fair). The Happening looked mighty promising in the trailers and it reminded me a lot of Signs, which I consider his best movie. Well, the only thing that should be happening from the movie is Shyamalan losing the rest of his last remaining fans.

When people started killing themselves in New York's Central Park, a science teacher, his wife, and friends decided to escape the city to avoid the possibility of a biological terrorism as it begins to spread quite rapidly. Things get from bad to worse when the problem seems to be chasing after them wherever they go. There is definitely some potential to the storyline but other than the terrific first act of the film that showcases the spreading madness and destruction, the remainder of the film just doesn't work. There is little sense of urgency or fear since it is apparent that nothing bad is going to happen to the seemingly too brilliant protagonist. If you have seen the trailer, then you have seen all the disturbing scenes in the movie minus the little blood squirts and spatters (Wow, Shyamalan must be pretty desperate).

I thought Mark Wahlberg did an okay job though he should never be the one to play the role of a smart teacher. His on-screen wife, Zooey Deschanel, on the other hand shows us why she should be called the worst actress of all time with her now trademark confused, irritated look and one note bug-eyed expression that she seems to inherit from the disastrous made-for-TV Tin Man. I didn't even noticed that she was the object-of-desire teacher in Bridge to Terabithia, which means that she must did okay in that movie and perhaps she has hired a new but terrible acting coach. Without spoiling any plot details, the ending is completely idiotic, further solidifying what Shyamalan has become. Rental-only on all Shyamalan's future films from this point forward.

RATING: 1 out of 5

Games Played 06/16/2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Review: Pinball Hall of Fame - The Williams Collection

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (2007)
Developer: FarSight Studios Inc.
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Purchase Date: 06/03/2008

The camera zooms in when the ball is at the top portion of the table.
During my teenage years, I frequented the arcades almost on a daily basis. Back then, I was often curious about the big, flashy pinball tables but I always felt intimidated by them. They all looked too complex to play and they were mostly played by adults. Thus, I never touched any of those gigantic devices. Devil's Crush on the Genesis was the one game that made me fall in love with console pinball games and ever since then, I was always on the lookout for the genre's next digital revolution that led me into the purchases of games like Metroid Prime: Pinball and The Pinball of the Dead.

The virtual arcade presentation is cool.

PHoF contains the recreation of 10 Williams pinball tables released between the 1970s - 1990s. As I mentioned previously, I had never played a real pinball table so I cannot comment whether these have been faithfully translated. I don't even remember any of these "classics" during my arcade visits because I never really paid close attention to them at that point. The tables have distinctive themes ranging from those that are fantasy related (Black Knight, Sorcerer) to the sci-fi inspired creations (Firepower, Space Shuttle). I can definitely say that all of them are a lot of fun to play with. The gameplay is made sweeter by a fascinating and very detailed instruction tutorial that accompanies each table. These instructions encapsulate all the scoring system using clear visual and audio presentation and they definitely show how brilliantly these tables were actually configured. I never knew that these things have very deep gameplay elements. The game also includes a number of unlockable table features, a tournament mode, and a large amount of goals to reach.

"Sorcerer" is one of my favorites.

The table graphics look great but this game cries for a 1080p native resolution upgrade to really enjoy the exquisite art details. An online ranking could have completed the overall experience as well. It makes me wish that the game was released on X-Box Live or the PSN Store. The beeps and bumps sounded great, complete with badly compressed yet charming digital voices. The game uses both the nunchuck and the wii-mote to trigger the left and right flippers. Shaking each will also shake the pinball table to help steer the ball while risking a possible tilt. If this collection is fun to someone like me, I can only imagine its value to diehard pinball lovers out there.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Games Played 06/15/2008

The Sims 2 - PC
The Witcher - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Games Played 06/14/2008

Castle of Shikigami III - Wii
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - PlayStation 3
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All - NDS

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wii Anorexic?

A very disturbing Wii Fit campaign ad by Gamespot. The Miis shown below are not fit... They are anorexic. It's bad enough that we have to fight through the everyday people trying to get a Wii Fit, now we have to battle those paper thin international top models as well.

Look mom, those school bullies won't bother me anymore once I get THIS thin with Wii Fit!

Games Played 06/13/2008

Castle of Shikigami III - Wii
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - PlayStation 3
SingStar - PlayStation 3
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Friday, June 13, 2008

Review: Dr. Mario Online Rx

Dr. Mario Online Rx (2008)
Developer: Arika/Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Purchase Date: 06/11/2008

Am I a winner for spending 1000 Wii Points on this game?

To be honest, I would still have zero Wii Ware game at this point if not for a friend's invitation to play this game with him online. Wii Ware has not presented to me anything that is reasonable exciting. The Dr. Mario brand is really only nostalgic instead of a classic. It's really a mediocre puzzle game at best when compared to recent masterpieces like Lumines and Puzzle Quest and can barely even hold its ground against the likes of Tetris or Columns.

And the point of this Virus Buster mode is... what?

The game is like Columns with the addition of viruses to exterminate. There are a number of different colored ones that needed to be cleared by stacking up falling medicine capsules. It gets tricky trying to line up 4 of the same colored capsules or viruses but that's about it. The game is very limiting and even with the "new" Virus Buster mode - which is the same game only ridiculously zoomed in and wii-mote controlled - Arika/Nintendo didn't make any attempt whatsoever to further improve the rather stale gameplay.

The Japanese are dominating the top ranking spots.

The graphics are simple. The usage of the player's personal Miis is adorable as always: all developers should try it, it should be a standard in all Wii games. There are several background tunes to choose from but they are all quite repetitive. The real value here is the online play. As rigid as the game is, playing it against other people online is fun. There is an online ranking system to make each battle meaningful. Dr. Mario Online Rx is not a bad game. It's just one of those games that would not have seen the light of day again if not for its association with Nintendo.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Games Played 06/12/2008

Dr. Mario Online Rx - Wii
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - PlayStation 3
Ninja Gaiden 2 - X-Box 360
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Solid Senility Continues

I spoke too soon. The Gamespot ad shown earlier has been corrected (at least the last time I checked) but the one on now carries the broken and misleading countdown.

Only the biggest advertising blunder for the biggest game release I suppose...

Solid Senility

And I thought that Nintendo's timing for announcements was bad. Please take a look at this one for the highly-anticipated release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots:

The game is already out... Why is the countdown a day behind???
Pre-order? It's in stores now!

I also saw the same countdown on the site earlier this morning but when I looked at it again to take a screenshot for this article, it was finally changed to "In stores now". It's quite funny.

I was able to pick up the game at Circuit City this morning. They offered a free guide book with the purchase of the game while supplies last. I do not believe in reading guide books: What is the point of playing the game if you are going to passively "watch" through it? But since it's free, I can look at it once I have completed the game to enjoy the the artwork and screenshots found within.

If you actually spend money on a guide book to play through a game, I feel sad for you.
Only get them when they're free and read them when you're done with the games!

Isn't it funny that this over-hyped game is so easy to find compared to the offbeat and evil Wii Fit? By the way, Gamestop is selling a Limited Edition of the game for $84.99. Extra $20+ for making-of documentaries and a soundtrack CD? Yeah right!

Games Played 06/11/2008

Dr. Mario Online Rx - Wii
Heroes of Might and Magic V - PC
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Supreme Commander - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Preview: El Tigre - The Adventures of Manny Rivera

El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera (2008)
Developer: Blue Tongue
Platform: PlayStation 2
Purchase Date: 06/09/2008

I really do not have any clue about the TV show this game is based on. All I know is that the game is supposed to play like an old school platform game. What? An old school platformer in this day and age? Blasphemy! Fortunately, the previous statement is true. El Tigre is pretty much a 2D platformer with 3D graphics. The wacky storyline reveals that El Tigre's father and grandfather are kidnapped by some evil villains and it is up to him and his friends to rescue them.

The story is told through a simple 2D slideshow. Classic homage or budget cuts?
Blue Tongue should be commended for the efforts shown here. El Tigre is focused purely on platforming with a little bit of simple combat added into the mix. I have only completed the "Miracle City" stage and I am already reminded of the gaming classics of old. There is a lot of jumping, double jumping, triple jumping, falling platforms, one hit kills, and collectable tokens - you name it, it's here. The game gets quite hardcore as you move along from left to right towards the end of the stage so expect to die many, many times. The strange thing is, the player is granted with unlimited life and the death count is later subtracted from the total score for completing the stage. Player can switch between two characters on the fly but the difference between El Tigre and Frida/Black Coervo are just cosmetic.

Black Cuervo seems to be a bit moody.

The problem I found so far in this game is that the stage I played on was just a bit too long so it felt repetitive even though the obstacles and complexities of the platforming evolve as I progressed through it. The first boss came up as a big disappointment: the boss stage acts just like another level with your character avoiding upcoming projectiles before killing the boss with one simple hit. Maybe this will change on the other levels. Developers need to make more games like this and experiment with what 3D games with 2D perspectives can really do.

Sweet platforming and here, there is no sign of a werewolf hedgehog to ruin it all.


Games Played 06/10/2008

Battalion Wars 2 - Wii
Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors - Wii
El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera - PlayStation 2
Heroes of Might and Magic V - PC
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Preview: Dragon Quest Swords - The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors

Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors (2008)
Developer: Eighting Co., Ltd./Square Enix Co., Ltd.
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Purchase Date: 06/09/2008

Gotta love the Akira Toriyama hair.

This game is a great example of what would happen to a hardcore series when it is slated for a release on Nintendo's casual-focused console. Gone are the labored, old school turn-based battles and huge exploration elements in exchange for a fast-paced first person hack and slash action and a straightforward level-based gameplay progression. The good news is, this game is still fun to play and it does retain most of the look and the basic feel of a Dragon Quest adventure.

Why is it that we can't just turn into an adult man naturally?

In the beginning of the game, there is a hint that the Queen of Avalonia is in some sort of trouble but then the game quickly switches its focus to the player-controlled 16 years old hero who is preparing to complete his right of passage into manhood. For this early part of the game, the hero doesn't have any companions yet and I am curious to see how the other characters would jump in to help in the real time battle. There is no explanation on how that works in the instruction manual.

Dragon Quest fans know that the slimes are cute... and dangerous!

The real time battle control is fun and easy to pull off. The Wii-mote has to be held upright when doing the swiping motions for the sword attacks. It was tricky at first but it didn't take long for my hand to get used to it. Holding the B button brings out the hero's shield that can be used to block enemy attacks. What's awkward though is using the control pad and some of the face buttons on the Wii-mote because of its vertical positioning. Unfortunately, only the Wii-mote dictates everything on this game as if the developer has completely forgotten about the nunchuck. The game is a bit on the easy side: I was able to get to the first boss and beat it into submission without much of a problem - I can sill remember slamming my head against the wall when I was repeatedly killed by the first boss of Dragon Quest VIII. The player's performance is evaluated after the completion of a level and this seems to encourage repeat play, a promising gameplay propect. So far, the game is more fun that I anticipated it to be.


Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Genre: Action
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Stephen Spielberg

Spielberg has completely lost his mind. The latest addition to the epic Indiana Jones franchise falls flat on its face and ends with a big blast of fart. I won't say old fart because Harrison Ford is not to be blamed here. In fact, for someone his age, he never looked and acted better for his legendary role as the ever-athletic, mercilessly-clever archeologist who still has what it takes to uncover the secrets behind an ancient artifact in the form of a uniquely shaped crystal skull. The storyline that follows is serviceable and it is sometimes extremely cheesy (just wait for the monkey scene) but mostly entertaining.

The real problem with the film is the terrible (and I mean TERRIBLE) special effects that made it look like a slightly polished version of a typical Sci-Fi original movie. The badly animated CG animal in the film's opening credit is a potent and evil omen for the disasters to come. Intervals of real and CG sets are used but unlike the technical marvels we have seen in Spielberg's own Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds, only a small fraction of the overblown and overused effects utilized here are great looking. Spielberg seems to have an unhealthy obsession with blooming effects where you see extreme light halos dominating the screen, making the set pieces look extremely fake. The forced lens flare effects that are evident in almost every single scene don't help either. The heavy reliance on CG has doomed the movie into total mediocrity because they are obvious and are extremely distracting, something that was never a problem in the past Indy films.

Perhaps it was a mistake for Spielberg to ressurrect this franchise. Unlike Ford, Spielberg is clearly incapable of recapturing the magic of the previous films. All the actors seem committed to their roles, each doing his/her best to make this movie whole especially the brilliant Cate Blanchett as she perfectly captures the cocky and militant psycho-woman Irina Spalko down to the distinctive Russian accent and masculine grace. Too bad that once they are placed in front of the horrendous CGs, all of those efforts go straight down the drain.

RATING: 2 out of 5

Games Played 06/09/2008

Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Ninja Gaiden 2 - X-Box 360

*I missed my scheduled Yourself!Fitness session! Oh no!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Review: T-Wireless NW Gamepad

T-Wireless NW Gamepad (2007)
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Purchase Date: 06/08/2008

Using the Nintendo GameCube controller on the Wii has always been a major hassle for me: I have to plug in an ugly extension cord to the console because of the controller cable's short length and it becomes an eyesore during and after play time. I did purchase a Wavebird controller a while back but it is no longer working. Thrustmaster's T-Wireless NW Gamepad is the perfect solution to the unnecessary mess in front of my entertainment center and it is the better alternative to Nintendo's own Wavebird just for the simple fact that the rumble feature is intact. The dual analogue sticks here are different than the default GameCube placements as they nicely follow Sony's dualshock layout. It is also quite similar in terms of its size to the PlayStation controller as well as being lightweight and comfortable. It can be used on any virtual console, GameCube, and gamepad-enabled Wii games. Everything on this controller is responsive, except for four shoulder buttons that require players to press hard on them to register the commands. The old-school "slow" and "turbo" functionalities can also be found here but they are worthless additions to be frank. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to find a wireless gamepad solution for the Wii. If only it accepts AA batteries instead of AAA, I would have given it a perfect rating.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Games Played 06/08/2008

Heroes of Might and Magic V - PC
Mario Kart Wii - Wii
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Games Played 06/07/2008

Heroes of Might and Magic V - PC
Ikaruga - X-Box 360
Omega Force - X-Box 360
SingStar - PlayStation 3

Saturday, June 7, 2008


For quite some time now, I thought that there was something wrong with my Yahoo mail account not properly accepting promotional emails from Nintendo because I always received the Wii Shop Channel News emails late. These emails contain information on the new releases and features of the previously mentioned channel. I never depended on these announcements to begin with so it had never been a big deal though I always thought that it was weird. Today, I took the time to really read the email and I noticed that actually, it is intentionally tardy. Wow. I guess I really do think too highly of Nintendo. What a shame. They should really be announcing the releases for the upcoming Monday instead of releases from the previous Monday!

We have a number of new and exciting stuff for you!
...Wait a minute, this news is 5 days old!

Games Played 06/06/2008

*Started a new exercise routine. Since I have been living a sedentary lifestyle these days, I am aching all over the place from yesterday's 30-minute workout.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Games Played 06/05/2008

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - PC
Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection - Wii
SingStar - PlayStation 3

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Qore: The Segregation Begins

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. For the many who have praised the PlayStation Network's free all access to online play and gaming goods like wallpapers/demos/trailers/features, the celebration has come to a bitter end with the announcement of the "Qore" service on the PlayStation Network. It is Sony's weird alternative to the Gold Level Membership on X-Box Live. With "only" $2.00 per monthly issue or $24.99 for a yearly subscription, "Qore" audiences will be able to access special features and demos that should be provided to gamers for free anyway with the current setup... DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, NINTENDO! Click here to view the full announcement. Supposedly released today, I still haven't seen it on the PlayStation Store yet. So perhaps there is still a tiny bit of hope that Sony might scrape off this greedy little project?

Qore? More like Qrap.

Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
Genre: Drama
Format: DVD
Director: Julian Schnabel

The love and dedication of a speech therapist.

Schnabel almost scored a masterpiece with this third film of his. I am glad that he learned from his previous project, Before Night Falls, and made Diving Bell a full French-speaking film to increase the sense of realism with his characters. If this movie was done in English with the actors speaking with a French-accent, the result could have been less effective.

A day at the beach.

The film is based on the memoir "written" by Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French Elle magazine editor who suffered a massive stroke in 1995 and was left with the "locked-in syndrome" where his brain was still functioning properly yet his body was completely paralyzed with the exception of his left eye. The movie explores what it means to live a life in total captivity and how one's desire to still live that life to the fullest can enable a person to ascend from such debilitating physical constraints. There are many touching moments in the film and I was pretty much teary-eyed throughout the viewing. Bauby's struggles to interact with those around him didn't stop him from being the same person he was before, both in terms of his wit as well as his flaws. He used to be a man of excess and he continued to be that way through the power of his imagination.

Bauby's view of religion.

Most of the scenes are shown through Bauby's first person perspective very effectively using different focus/filter effects. By placing the viewers directly behind his eye, the claustrophobia it induces is chilling and very limiting but at the same time, Bauby's monologues never lets up the pace of the storytelling. Unfortunately, Schnabel decided to shoot some of the scenes outside of Bauby's direct view. This happened mostly during the flashback scenes. The problem with this is that the transition is very jarring and it takes away the sense of realism that has been successfully built since the beginning of the film. I just wished that Schnabel was bolder and stick with the one defining element of the movie: looking at the world through one man's view and imagination. Even with this flaw, Diving Bell is a bleak yet uplifting film that encourages all of us to make the best out of our lives through the good and the bad times.

RATING: 4 out of 5