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Friday, December 31, 2010

Don't Get Hammered, Get Steamrolled Instead!

Today is a great day to shop at Steam thanks to its Holiday Sale that is still going on until this Sunday and I ended up with six new additions to my Game Library. Looking at some of these prices is really changing a little bit of my perspective when it comes to video game spending. Sure, I have accepted the $59.99 (plus tax) norm for console games or the $10 less for the Personal Computer games but my gaming habits seem to work better with waiting for new games to drop down in price versus getting them immediately while they are hot on the market. Well, it is a fact that some games will never take too much of a dip in price but the occurrences of that will be rather minimal, especially knowing where the industry is eventually going to go - hint: direct download will become a prominent method of distribution. I still believe that if you have the money, you should never limit what you want to do with yourself in life. You don't know when your life will end. Being responsible and having fun while you still can is the way I am living mine. There is validity however in paying for games at lower prices even if that means waiting for a while before that happens. It is not like I don't have enough video games occupy my time with...

Got to end the year with a bang.

Perhaps a good way to manage my future ongoing gaming inductions is to attach a higher severity for older games on my Purchase List. I should seriously consider about doing just that but for now, the new games that I got today are Far Cry 2: Fortune's Edition, Napoleon: Total War - Game of the Year Edition, Empire: Total War - Game of the Year Edition, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - Uprising, and Guardians of Graxia. I have so many games on Steam this week that I haven't even installed them all to my hard drive yet. Out of the current batch, I have only installed and played Guardians of Graxis. I love my magic card games and Graxia is no exception. You summon units onto a small grid-based map and move them around to conquer lands and battle it out with your opponent's creatures. There are spell cards to use on and off the battle sequences. The game is rather simplistic, the artwork on the cards doesn't look that impressive, and there is no deck building but it's actually quite entertaining because I am a bit partial towards the genre.

Show me some magic cards and I'd be a happy customer.

As for tonight, I will be celebrating the arrival of the year 2011 - no, still no flying cars and in case you haven't figure out the logic of such prospect: it's not going to happen - in the safety of my home, drinking champagne with my significant other just like we did last year and the years before that. If you plan on going out, stay safe but whatever it is that you have scheduled for this evening, hope you will have a blast! 2010 has been another good year for gaming and I am looking forward to work on my Yearly Gaming Analysis because it's always so much fun to write it, not to mention that it will provide me with invaluable insights about my ever-continuing video gaming experiences.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Games Played 12/20/2010 - 12/26/2010

- 12/20/2010 -
Super Meat Boy - PC
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors - NDS

- 12/21/2010 -
World of Warcraft - PC
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors - NDS

- 12/22/2010 -
Dead Space 2 Demo - PlayStation 3
World of Warcraft - PC
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors - NDS

- 12/23/2010 -
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors - NDS

- 12/24/2010 -
BattleForge - PC
World of Warcraft - PC

- 12/25/2010 -
Alpha Protocol - PC
Dead Rising 2 - PC
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors - NDS

- 12/26/2010 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors - NDS

Monday, December 27, 2010

Game Avalanche at the Mountain of Steam

Got in a bit of a game frenzy today with 5 new titles for the Personal Computer inducted into my Game Library, thanks to Steam and its current "Holiday Sale" promotion. First is Lost Planet 2 - a futuristic third person shooter where you get to battle against many monstrous beasts. I heard that that the console version of this game contains a lot of broken gameplay elements and the release note specified that Capcom has given the game a "rebalanced gameplay and streamlined control mechanics" compared to its console counterparts. I am looking forward to the co-op mode for this game, which plays a little bit like Capcom's own Monster Hunter series where four players can team-up to take down huge enemy monstrosities. I have not been able to find anyone playing Dead Rising 2 online these last couple of days so I hope that will not be the case with LP2. Next is Serious Sam HD: Gold Edition which is the HD remake of the first entry to the series which was comprised of two separate parts. Contrary to the game's rather somber title, this game is hardly a serious first person shooter. It is a tongue in cheek representation of the genre and a throwback to the good old age when gameplay simplicity equals fun. The coolest thing about thing about this release is that it even comes with the really ugly and really blocky originals though I doubt that many people would actually spend a lot of time playing them.

Crazy, irresistible Steam deals! Valve wants you to spend, spend, spend!

Next is Mirror's Edge, a first person platform/action game set in a futuristic society ruled by an oppressive government. The first time I played the demo in 2008, I really didn't enjoy the short experience I had with it so whenever I see this game being offered for a very very cheap price, I would always be torn because I am not the type who would just get a game just because it's available and is within my reach. Over the past several years watching the game's video footage, I became intrigued by the game more and more. Several of my friends claim to really love the game so now the the opportunity to get the game has returned, I decided to just go for it. I hope I won't regret that decision. The fourth game I got today is Machinarium, an independently developed point and click adventure where you control a cute little robot in a world populated by machines. I really don't know what the game is all about - even the official website is devoid of the game's plot - but that's a good thing because these kind of games should always reward you for your own explorations and discoveries. Last but not least, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, the supernaturally-themed first person shooter (there's going to be a lot of screaming from yours truly). I liked the demo that I played on both the PlayStation 3 and the X-Box 360 early last year but I never got around to pick the game up. I always wanted to get the PC version of course and I like the fact that the wait was richly rewarded with a ridiculously low price that it was sold for... $4.99! Too many games in such a short period of time, aaargh! Love it!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Curse of Game Abandonment

Well, after playing a little bit of World of Warcraft earlier this week, I have been in a level-up mood. Browsing through my Game Library, Dragon Age: Origins for the Personal Computer caught my attention. When I looked at my Daily Game Log, the last time I booted up Dragon Age: Origins was in March of this year. I have played this game for a combination of 100+ hours across 5 different characters but sadly, I have not completed the campaign for any of those characters yet! I tried loading up my favorite character, the cold but sensitive female Champion/Berserker but I felt so lost playing her again. The battles just didn't flow as smoothly they used to because I am no longer familiar with the team synergy of my party members. I am sure that if I continue playing the character, everything will eventually come back but it was just not fun at all. So I decided to create a new character and after hours upon hours of creating and then deleting my new characters - hey, if I didn't like the character because of his/her looks from a particular angle or if I messed up his/her skill builds, why should I continue right? - I think that I may have finally found my one true hero! The funny thing about this character however is that he is a human warrior - a dashing Cousland - so he shares the same back story as my favorite character mentioned earlier. What is going to be different however is that I am going to have this character skilled in two handed weapons versus dual-welding, so that should create a big gameplay difference between the two. Also, this character will not be distracted by the forever popular Alistair. Once I have finished playing this new character, perhaps I could even go back to the others and complete their tales. I have abandoned this game for way too long and it's time to finally honor it with a complete playthrough.

I am certainly enjoying the subtle changes to the conversations...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chillin' on Christmas

Me and my family wanted to do something different this Christmas. So instead of that traditional dinner at the house, we decided to have one at a restaurant this rime around. It was a welcomed change for my significant other and I since we would always be the ones hosting the get together. The family still gathered at my place afterwards but we didn't have to decorate the house this time around to make the dining experience more festive.

Normally it would have been a busy morning for me but since we were going to eat out,
I was afforded some time to do some gaming, which involved some zombie killing mayhem.

As you may have already suspected, I don't celebrate Christmas for its religious significance. I only celebrate it for its social reasons. Generally speaking though, I don't think that people need to wait for a particular date to arrive just so that they can have fun with their family and friends. Life is too short for that. I don't even believe in celebrating birthdays because surviving another day on this planet should be reason enough for a big celebration. Why do you have to wait a whole year to make someone you care about feel extremely special when that day may not even arrive for you nor that special someone. But enough of that for now. People want to feel warm and fuzzy on Christmas so for whatever reason you are celebrating it, I sincerely hope that you are having a merry old time and that you get what you wanted for Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Three Games Before Christmas!

This Steam Holiday Sale is just too much! Earlier this morning, I got Alpha Protocol and Dead Rising 2 and then later this evening, since the available selections was updated at 10am, I decided to also get King Arthur: The Role Playing Wargame Complete Pack. Out of those three, I only had Dead Rising 2 listed on my Purchase List. The easy access to own these games via direct download coupled with the ridiculously cheap prices are enough to convince me to get the other two games listed above. The main attraction here is definitely Dead Rising 2, a game where you are thrown in the middle of a zombie apocalypse where you must survive as well as help others survive through a period of time before rescue comes. The best things about this game are the ability to kill zombies using a variety of different objects that you can find in the game world as well as the freedom to dress up your main character however you like... Alpha Protocol is "the espionage RPG" by the "sequel experts" Obsidian Entertainment. It's basically an action role playing game that takes place in a unique setting of the world of secret agents. Apparently, a lot of people are getting this game because the download rate is very slow so it is still downloading for me at the moment. Lastly, King Arthur: TRPWC which is bundled with the 3 downloadable contents currently available for it. It's a strategy RPG and as the title is any indication, the game includes magic and sorcery into the mix... Lovely! 3 Steam games in one day... and there are still 9 more days left leading towards the end of the promotional period!

Steam is definitely the best place to shop for PC games at the moment.

The Love and Hate of World of Warcraft

Deathwing is awesome and seeing him in the game world is just incredible.

No, the reason why I haven't posted anything in the last couple of days does not have anything to do with World of Warcraft addiction. It actually had to do with my significant other being rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and though  it ended up as nothing serious, I was heavily impacted by that whole episode of course. I did play WoW occasionally over the past couple of days and I have decided that it's not time yet for me to take a permanent vacation to Azeroth. The reason is simple enough: League of Legends. Though they are two separate games, the end game for WoW for me has always been the battelgrounds and the same kind of action, maybe even better, has been supplimented by LoL. It looks like there is a new reward system now for participating in the battlegrounds in WoW but it doesn't seem attractive enough: the gears that you can get from them are still a bt underwhelming at least in terms of their overall appearance. I do like the big changes to the game -the talent tree restructuring, the updated graphics, and the oh so adorable goblins (surely my favorite race now in WoW) - but I know that I will not be playing it as often as I would like.

I don't remember getting experience points from farming herbs. Maybe I have been gone for too long.

Returning to WoW did bring back an overwhelming sense of nostalgia though and it was hard to say no to the whole experience. I used to love this game and I can't say that I don't even to this day. This is something that a lot of people will not be able to understand if they never tried out the game. WoW has its unique charm and it is still the best massively multiplayer online game in existence. I want to level up my new goblin shaman, especially after experiencing the epic new starting point. I have not created a Worgen character yet but they are not that appealing to me, which is shocking because I was jealous when that race was first introduced for the Alliance. Maybe it's my love for the Horde that is causing such change, but I know that it's because I have witness how awesome the goblins truly are: great personalities and detailed, expressive faces.

How can anyone say no to the goblins?

I will not rule out the possibility of playing WoW again in the future. It would be a lie to say otherwise. Perhaps when Blizzard finally decided to cut the subscription fee in half (yeah right). I really can't use the time constraint justification because during my peak WoW career several years ago, I was able to balance out playing the game alongside others. It's just that I know that I will not be maximizing its potential at this point in time. I will miss Azeroth - and my adorable goblin shammy - while I am away.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Back to World of Warcraft... Noooooo!

A friend of mine sent me a "Scroll of Resurrection" today for World of Warcraft on the Personal Computer. That scroll is a free 10 day subscription that you can send to anyone who has left the game for more than 90 days and like a fool, I accepted it. So now, I have 10 days to allow this game to convince me to stay and worse still, I signed up for the Cataclysm trial which means that I can play around with the new races as well: Goblin for the Horde and Worgen for the Alliance. To be honest, I really don't see myself playing this game as obsessively as I have in the past. It just takes too much time. It would have been okay if I have no interest in other games and if it doesn't require a monthly subscription. I guess we'll see what happens when the trial period ends. I must say that I am impressed with the new launcher for the game. It was able to update my vanilla WoW that I installed using the discs into Cataclsym quite fast. It also allowed me to play the game while it was downloading the game data in the background. I remembered waiting almost an entire day for the game to get patched the last time I returned to Azeroth.

I left my Shadow Priest floating on his flying mount and that was exactly where I found him. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Game Alert: So Meaty?

Now that "The Great Steam Treasure Hunt" is over, Steam is now pushing out some impressive end of year "Holiday Sale". One of today's offerings is Super Meat Boy that is being offered with a 75% off the regular price. I don't think that the game is worth $15 but at $3.75, why not? You play a boy made of meat, trailing blood whereever he goes, who is off to save his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the clutches of an angry Dr. Fetus. Basically, you must make your way to Bandage Girl on each of the incresingly difficult stages. It's a platformer at heart but the kind that has become a bit popular of late: the stages are short and it's all about hitting you in really, really hard in the head with sadistically designed deathtraps one after another. You are given an infinite amount of life but when you die, you have to start the stage from the very beginning, which could be a maddening process since the stages are riddled with very tricky terrains and your character will die in one hit. It's a game that demands deadly precision and is definitely not for those who don't have much patience. I think the game doesn't deserve all the hype surrounding it but I am in love with its insane sense of humor and its brilliant references to classic games.

Don't be fooled by that smile. This game will punish you to no end.

Games Played 12/13/2010 - 12/19/2010

- 12/13/2010 -
Left 4 Dead 2 - PC

- 12/14/2010 -

- 12/15/2010 -
Sacred 2: Fallen Angels - PC
X-Men Arcade Demo - X-Box 360

- 12/16/2010 -

- 12/17/2010 -

- 12/18/2010 -
Just Cause 2 - X-Box 360
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors - NDS

- 12/19/2010 -
None! Didn't feel like gaming for some reason.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: Black Swan

Black Swan (2010)
Genre: Psychological Drama
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Ever since he blew my mind away with the masterpiece Requiem for a Dream, I have been waiting for Darren Aronofsky to give us something extraordinary again. The Fountain was good but it was emotionally-lacking because of its far-fetched science fiction concept and The Wrestler was just too timid of a story. With Black Swan, Aronofsky is definitely closer to greatness again though it still isn't incredible enough to be his second master work.

Nina Sayers is a ballet dancer who dreams to make it big and she finally gets her wish when she is selected to be the Swan Queen in a major production of Swan Lake. A fragile, innocent soul who is an obedient slave to her art in the first place, the added responsibility threatens to destroy her life and she begins to suffer from paranoia and delusions. You see, Nina is a perfectionist who lacks self-confidence. She has no life outside of ballet and even at home, she spends most of the time practicing in front of a mirror with her overly protective mother always close by so she is never afforded any privacy of her own. At the ballet theater, the arrival of a new dancer brings escalating insecurities and the sexual tension between herself and the director is not helping the situation. All of these things eventually lead an exhilarating climax of the film where the viewers are left unsure of whether or not Nina would survive the entire psychological ordeal.

The film's idea of the double becomes really obvious once it starts the whole discussion of Nina playing the roles of both the White Swan and the Black Swan but the way that the theme is presented throughout the movie is less so. Aronofsky likes to use mirrors in a lot of the scenes to show the defragmentation of Nina's psyche. One thing that I found really fascinating is how the film is able to showcase the sinister side to the strict discipline of ballet. The pointed feet in ballet are supposed to be a thing of graceful beauty but the way that they are presented here comes across as incredibly menacing. Natalie Portman, who was horrible in those Star Wars films she's well-known for, redeemed herself in this film with a raw, emotional performance as Nina. She captured the essence of a young woman struggling to make everyone happy while sacrificing herself quite convincingly and some of the really desperate moments truly transformed her into something else - the variances of facial expressions even made her unrecognizable at times. Mila Kunis who played the rival dancer however was her regular jovial self, nothing too special there. Look out for the impressive appearance from Winona Ryder though. After that shoplifting accident, she has been been really, really good with her acting performances it seems.

Black Swan, just like Aronofsky's own The Wrestler, is a story of what could happen when one is just too obsessed with one's work. That is not necessary a bad thing however because sometimes to achieve the best, one has to lose oneself somewhat in the process. There is a fine line between genius and insanity and that is the major dilemma here. The film itself is a little bit of both but that is what you get when you put on a pair of ballet shoes of a woman who is slowly losing her mind for the sake of art.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: Tales From the Dead

Tales From the Dead (2007)
Genre: Horror
Format: Netflix Stream
Director: Jason Cuadrado

So what do I do when I am home alone in the evening and it is windy and raining outside? I watch a horror movie of course. To be honest, it has been a while since I have done just that actually. The last time I did so was probably about 10 years ago because these days, I couldn't stand watching horror movies alone, thanks to all those horrific horror video games that were able to completely made me very sensitive to fear-induced stimuli: I am looking at you Fatal Frame series! Thankfully, Tales from the Dead only contains only a couple of creepy moments so I think I am going to be able to sleep well tonight.

The movie is a Japanese horror anthology. You are introduced to an angry wife who later found herself hitch-hiking in the middle of nowhere until she got picked up by another woman. The driver just happened to be a spirit medium who claimed to have spoken with the dead on many occasions and after successfully convincing her passenger to allow her to share that rather morbid experience. we are presented with four distinct horror tales. The first is a story of a haunting in a house with a history of a double murder. The second, which is pretty boring, follows a police investigator who is working on the scene of a murder. The third is a very unique time travel story about a man who has given up on life. The final story is about a despicable little club with a really sinister membership qualification. As I mentioned earlier, none of these are really scary but they are well-written and contain some pretty cool twists at the end of the each tale... Well except for the second story that should just have been omitted out.

Perhaps more interesting than the actual movie itself is its production. This movie, with its full Japanese cast, was actually shot in its entirety in Los Angeles. I couldn't really tell while watching the movie to be honest but the end credit really made me curious because there were a lot of Western names involved in the project. Supposedly the writer/director Jason Cuadrado doesn't even speak any Japanese but he took all the writing credits for the film. Weird. Still, Tales from the Dead ends up being rather entertaining and it does feel very Japanese thanks to the cast and the focus on atmosphere and storytelling.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Games Alert: But It's Not Christmas Yet Honey!

My significant other surprised me with three new X-Box 360 games today that are supposed to serve as early Christmas gifts. Apparently, the discounted prices for these games were reasonable enough to justify spoiling me with them. They are Halo: Reach, Just Cause 2, and Red Dead Redemption. My significant other seemed to have enjoyed accessing my Purchase List on this website to make the determination on which games to get - they were all listed under "Severity 1"... Oh yes! And thanks for hiding Red Dead Redemption underneath my keyboard for me to discover after I got the other two games.

An action-packed gift set, presented with care and love.

Now I am not a big Halo fanatic but I do follow the series closely and that is why I wanted to have Reach. Though the Halo games are indeed excellent since I do enjoy the strong story-driven campaigns, I have always felt that they are way overrated. With Just Cause 2, I originally wanted to get the game for the Personal Computer but due to its restrictive operating system requirement and the fact that I am still stalling the inevitable Windows 7 update, I have decided to just get the console version. This open world action adventure is supposedly much improved over the rather repetitive but still fun original so I should be in for some wild time. Red Dead Redemption is one of the most hyped-about games of this year and I have to admit, I was intrgued by its success. It looks like I can finally see for myself if this Western-themed shooter is as good as everyone claims it to be. I did like Red Dead Revolver on the PlayStation 2 so history may repeat itself in this case.

But I haven't spent any money on the site yet?

By the way, I have also accrued 4 additional games today courtesy of GoG.com (GoG stands for Good Old Games). I was looking for an old PC title there and I decided to open up an account in case I need to use the service in the future. I was surprised to see 4 games already entitled to my account: Beneath a Steel Sky, Lure of the Temptress, Teenagent, and Tyrian 2000. So if you are interested in some free goodies, make sure to visit the site and open up an account there!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A.R.E.S.: 2D Shooters Are Not Extinct Yet!


I was looking for some hot game deals for my Personal Computer on the Direct2Drive website today when I encountered A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda by Thai developer Extend Studio, a newly released shooter with that classic 2D gameplay design. I visited the game's official website and downloaded the demo of the game and I must say that I am mighty impressed with A.R.E.S.

The story interludes are kept short and sweet.

You play as the suspiciously orange in that Metroid's Samus kind of way robot named Ares who is sent to a space station under siege by some robotic infestation. The game is a horizontal shooter and your character can aim his shots freely around him. I ran the game in 1920 x 1080 and the combination of 2D and 3D graphics run very smooth as well as looking really pretty. The camera zooms in and out depending on the stage layouts. The game encourages you to not take hits from enemies with its hit combo system where you have to continuously shoot down your enemies to build it up but then it would reset if you get hit. Defeated enemies drop off materials that you can use to create health items and upgrade your weapons as well as special moves: This results in a slower-paced action since you are not rushing just get to the end of the stage. The demo only allows you to play through the first stage of the game.

The game fully supports the X-Box 360 controller.

It is always encouraging to see that developers are flocking back to the 2D gameplay design these days and if this game ended up being truly successful in its complete form, it may propel this unknown developer into stardom amongst the shoot-'em-up community. The one thing that I am worried about is the game's length since it is being advertised as the "first chapter in a full featured episodic" game. To be fair, I don't expect a hardcore shooter to last more than half an hour or go beyond one hour and a half mark as long as it is addictive enough to warrant multiple play-throughs. Still, developers need to stop teasing us with content - please don't try to mimic Sega's stupid move with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I - and just give us the full game already. A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda is currently available from the official webpage, Direct2Drive, as well as Gamersgate for around $14.95. I hope that it will hit Steam soon. And oh, it is planned to be released on the X-Box 360 in the future as well.

It can't allude to its classic roots without giving us humongous boss encounters.

FIRST IMPRESSION: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Cataclysm Conviction

That was really close. For some reason, I was seriously considering picking up the new Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft. Apparently, I am a bit starved for some role playing action and if you still haven't figured it out, I have given up on the supposedly "free-to-play" massively multiplayer online RPGs that I discovered in August of this year. They were great at the beginning until I discovered their limitations, mostly involving storage space - at least those that I have tried out anyway. So I visited the official WoW webpage and I found out that the game had gotten some nice graphical updates recently as well. Then, I had to remind myself that playing a MMO will take most of my time away from other games - well, League of Legends knows how to do that as well - and that when everything is said and done, once I end my subscription, I will lose access to my characters until I decide to subscribe to the game again. I better find a good RPG to occupy myself with quickly before things take a turn for the worst!

My current desktop wallpaper. That's not a good sign, is it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beat Hazard Going Ultra!

I was playing some Beat Hazard today where I successfully completed an objective to qualify me for another entry into the "The Great Steam Treasure Hunt" sweepstakes and at the end of another intoxicating session with the game, a nice little announcement popped up:

How can you make a masterpiece of a game better? Well, here's one way to do it.

I really, really love Beat Hazard so this is a very exciting announcement for me. If there was a flaw with the game it would be that there were not enough enemy varieties and it looks like the new downloadable upgrade will fix that. The promise of online play is also sweet and that $5 price tag means nothing for what will be an amazing enhancement to the already incredible musical shoot-'em-up experience. I can't wait for Spring 2011!

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Game Alert: Amnesiac AND Delusional!

I inducted Amnesia: The Dark Descent for the Personal Computer into my Game Library today. Amnesia is a first person horror adventure game that is really, really scary. In the game, you control a guy named Daniel who found himself awake in an old castle with a severe case of memory loss. What is worse is that he seems to remember that he is being hunted by something. As if that wasn't enough, your character can lose his sanity if he experiences disturbing events while trying to navigate his way through the strange surroundings or if he spends too much time in the dark. When Daniel's sanity starts to slip, he begins to hallucinate so it is best to not stress him out and to find sources of light whenever possible. The game does a good job at making you feel very vulnerable. There was a message when I first started the game explaining that if the player encounters an enemy during the gameplay, fighting is not the solution. Fleeing or hiding are the alternatives here. That's just wrong.

Don't follow the strange liquid trail on the floor...

Games Played 12/06/2010 - 12/12/2010

- 12/06/2010 -
Sonic Colors - NDS

- 12/07/2010 -
Beat Sketcher - PlayStation 3
Chime - PC
Sonic Colors - NDS

- 12/08/2010 -
Beat Sketcher - PlayStation 3
Kung-Fu Live - PlayStation 3
Sonic Rush Adventure - NDS
The UnderGarden Demo - PC

- 12/09/2010 -
Crash Course - X-Box 360
Harms Way - X-Box 360
Kung-Fu Live - PlayStation 3
Sonic Rush Adventure - NDS

- 12/10/2010 -
Assassin's Creed II Demo - PC
Crash Course - X-Box 360
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers - PC
Shatter Demo - PC
Sonic Rush Adventure - NDS

- 12/11/2010 -
Audiosurf - NDS

- 12/12/2010 -
Audiosurf - NDS
Bio-Hazard Battle - PC
Sonic Rush Adventure - NDS

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Games Alert: 18th and 25th!

Two more games are inducted into my Game Library today. The first one is a gift that I received via Steam on the Personal Computer: The Sega Genesis shooter, Bio-Hazard Battle. I have this game listed on my wish list and one of my friends decided to get it for me since giving a gift via the service will qualify as an entry for "The Great Steam Treasure Hunt" that is currently taking place. Well, she actually did admit that she was doing it for that reason as well as to provide me with much enjoyment.

I like the slick interface when you start off the game.

The second game is Super Mario All-Stars: Limited Edition for the Nintendo Wii. This compilation of the remakes of the first three Mario games (plus The Lost Levels) was originally released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System but to celebrate Mario's 25th anniversary this year, they decided to re-release it for the Wii with the inclusion of a soundtrack disc as well as a colorful and highly insightful "History Booklet". I am disappointed that they didn't use the Steelbook case for this release because the box can so easily be damaged and opening it will always be a chore. I have never played these remakes before so replaying these classic Mario games with slightly better graphics should be a lot of fun.

It's a nice package but it is a bit underwhelming for a 25th year celebration to be honest.

Heroes of Newerth Going League of Legends!

Well not entirely. Tomorrow, S2 Games is releasing a big 2.0 patch for Heroes of Newerth on the Personal Computer and with it, a plethora of changes. The most exciting things for me are the introduction of "Casual Mode" and the ability to collect coins that you can use to buy rewarding things.

Indeed it is then... Fabulous!

Casual Mode makes HoN closer to League of Legends in terms of the gameplay design - most notably, the elimination of experience lost upon the enemy creeps getting denied (killed off by your opponents in your face). You will only lose the opportunity to last hit the creeps to gain gold when they are denied, thus leveling up will not be as frustrating as the regular mode of play. Just like LoL, you also do not lose gold anymore when you die, making it easier to save up money to buy those delicious stats-boosting items to make the game a lot more entertaining for both sides of the battle. The second thing I am looking forward to is the game's new reward system. The more you play the game, the more coins you get. Just like LoL, these coins can also be purchased using real money but unlike LoL, you can purchase the entirety of the in-game shop items by just saving up your coins without paying a single penny. Only those who are impatient will end up paying money for coins to unlock cool things like alternate character models and - oh my galaxy! - alternate in-game announcer voices. The "Fabulous" voice announcer pack seems to be a must have from the preview video I saw. There are a lot of other improvements as well, including a new map, so it looks like it's a great time to start exploring HoN again. I really hope the community has been majorly cleaned up though or I may have to indulge in more LoL.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where Do My Games Go After I'm Gone?

Instead of pondering where I would go after I die - it would be that place where I used to be before I gained consciousness and self-awareness, which is the void of non-existence - I was recently troubled by the thoughts of leaving my huge Game Library behind without no one to take proper care of them. Of course, once you die, there is really nothing that you can do about all the things that you have left behind - nor would you be able to actual feel anything about them for that matter - but since these are really the only material things that bear a significance to me, I just want to make sure that their "transitions" would be handled correctly.

In the end, only Vault Boy will survive us all.

I am the only gamer in my family right now. No one else in my immediate family cares about it. My significant other and I also don't plan on having children so it's not going to be passed down to a Loner Gamer junior. So I know that those who are close to me really don't have any use for them. The thing about video games is that, especially these days, they lose their monetary value as go. Sure, there is always a high-earning market for rare games and I do have a lot of those, not to mention that I do take really, really good care of my games. Unless by some feat of unfortunate accidents, all of my video gaming items are in mint condition and if the demand is right, they could fetch a good price. Unfortunately, with the rise of game remakes and re-releases, like the recent announcement of Radiant Silvergun for the X-Box 360, hard to find games will be a thing of the past. Don't forget that Sony is converting their successful PlayStation 1 and 2 releases to the PlayStation 3. Still, you can always count on those collector-types to pay high prices for these things but to be honest, I rather have the games to fall into the hands of gamers who just happen to collect instead of collectors who just happen to like games. I know that instead of focusing too much on what people actually do with my Game Library, I should just focus on giving an individual the ownership to just do whatever he or she wants with it.

The door to "heaven" is here on earth. Look for it.

Does it really matter though in the end? Well, it really doesn't. Death is only difficult to those who are left behind instead of the person who is going away. There is no fear, no sadness, and frankly, no emotion in non-existence and perhaps that is its greatest blessing. Sure, I wish that humans have longer life-spans or immortality but we don't. Sure, everyone wants a freaking afterlife: it's a tempting rationalization that we actually bear some sort significance in the existence of this galaxy or this planet -  but I know that there isn't one. The only thing that is important  that a lot of people just cannot understand (I blame it all on the beautifully selfish process of indoctrination ) is not what happens after you die, it is really what you do when you are alive. Keep on gaming L.G.!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kung-Fu Live: Now Very Playable!

I am finally able to achieve an almost perfect full body detection for the game by turning on the light from my Game Treasury (the walk-in closet) behind me to neutralize the heady shadowing caused by the ceiling light. I have tried  playing the game using just the natural sunlight earlier today but that didn't to help much. It looks like the most important factor here is the shadow elimination, something to keep in mind if you are thinking about getting the game. After last night's first attempt, I was a little worried that I had to bring another light source into the Game Room to make everything work but thankfully, the solution is far simpler than I anticipated it to be.

When the condition is right, the body tracking becomes eerily accurate!

New Games Alert: Yummy Doritos Games!

There are two free games up for grabs right now on the X-Box 360's Live Marketplace: Harms Way and Crash Course. These games are the final two entries into the Unlock X-Box competition sponsored by Doritos. These games are light years better than the 2008 winner of the same contest, Dash of Destruction, both in terms of their graphical presentation and gameplay depth. Harms Way is a racing game with a twist: you can either play a racer or a shooter and the races comprise of racers trying to get to the finish line and shooters who are trying to destroy the racers. It's definitely an interesting concept and the game boasts a rather impressive graphics engine. I do however prefer Crash Course, a game where you get to help your Live avatar navigates through challenging obstacle courses. It's pretty much a time trial platformer where the goal is to get to the end of the stage as quickly as possible. The controls are tight and playing as your own avatar is just awesome. These games may be free but they are definitely worth downloading. Besides, who doesn't like free stuff? I mean, I even downloaded the dreaded Yaris on my 360. The bonus here is that these games are actually pretty fun to play. Thanks Doritos and good luck to the two finalists!

I'm voting for Crash Course for sure!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Game Alert: Going Back to the EyeToy Days!

Kung-Fu Live for the PlayStation 3 has been inducted into my Game Library today. This hilarious game transports your entire body into the television screen as you fight hordes of stereotypical kung-fu themed baddies like you are some kind of action hero. There is a reason why I thought the PlayStation Move is the better option for motion-control gaming because its partner, the PlayStation Eye itself is capable of doing what the X-Box 360's Kinect does. This should not be a surprise to anyone since Sony had already ventured into the body tracking realm during its PlayStation 2 EyeToy experimentation period a long time ago.

Seeing yourself doing all sorts of nasty tricks on the screen is very entertaining.

The developer, Virtual Air Guitar Company, uses its proprietary FreeMotion technology that enables regular webcams to track the entire human body while applying background removal in the process. Now don't get delusional about this being even remotely as good as the Kinect's body tracking technology. One, it doesn't manipulate depth detection and two, it is very finicky to use. I can't even get my image to be displayed completely at the moment because there is not enough light in my room - something that doesn't bother the Kinect at all. The top portion of my body was shown perfectly but the lower part was all over the place and this is probably caused by the shadows on the floor as hinted by the game. I hope that I can work out the kinks properly and soon because this game is a lot more exciting than anything done on the Kinect thus far... with the exception of Dance Central. One thing is for sure though - playing this game is very, very tiring. All that punching and kicking wore me out after just about fifteen minutes. Definitely a good way to exercise but it doesn't take away the crazy, stupid fun that the game brings to the table.

Update Note: 12/09/2010 - I was able to get everything to work! Read about it by clicking here.

So... It's Not a PlayStation Plus Exclusive Then?

It looks like the PlayStation Plus subscribers for the PS3 are getting shafted yet again. When I visited the PlayStation Network Store earlier today to check on the new releases, a curious little game called LittleBigPlanet: Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves was listed as a PS Plus exclusive - which means that it is a content that is only available for those who subscribe to that stupid service. This title is really just another themed developer-generated stage for LittleBigPlanet that has heavily implemented the PlayStation Move controls into its design. I was of course disappointed that I would probably never get to experience the content until I checked my email: I got a code from Sony that allows me to download the game without subscribing to Plus! There were probably some miscommunication happening behind the scene at Sony because this is just another slap to the face for those who actually subscribe to the service. I have also learned that a lot of other people have received this code as well, rubbing salt into the already bloodied and sore wound. So remember folks: Never subscribe to PS Plus!

Here's something special for all of you Plus subscribers- Oops sorry, we lied!

November 2010 Gaming Analysis

The results shown below are of course based on the combined data from the Daily Game Log which should provide a clear indication of a game's usage frequency. Bear in mind that even if a game is played twice or more during a particular day, it would still register as 1 in the Day Count column below. In a sense, "merits" are given based on how often a particular game can make me play it again throughout the entire period of the month on a daily basis. A game that makes a gamer play it over and over again or at least spend a lot of time with it... Isn't that what we mostly want from a great game? I don't think it's really fair to count all the way down to the number of hours played since some games only require a short amount of time to properly serve their purposes.

OVERALL BREAKDOWN:



Total Games Played: 42

Well, what do you know - League of Legends on the Personal Computer has taken the number one spot of most played game again for the fifth month in a row. Up to this point, this game still feel amazingly fresh every single time I play it and the fact that Riot Games keeps bringing in new champions almost every other week helps that a lot. You see, every time a new champion is introduced, the player has to learn the intricacies of that champion - his or her strengths and weaknesses - and this is true even when you are not playing that champion because one of your teammates or opponents may select that champion. Team dynamics are changed as well with the arrival of new champions. Still, even without these new additions, your team roster as well as the enemy's changes each time you play and these players bring different sets of efficiencies with them, making the game forever unpredictable, keeping the players on their toes at all times. Brilliant stuff.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit for the PC took second place last month. Despite the rather buggy start with the graphics issues, it's hard not to love all the good things about this game: the crazy speed, the mesmerizing locales, the cop chases... This games celebrates everything we love about racing games. The only thing that holds me back from playing this really is that I keep booting up LoL whenever I decided to play a game on the PC!

Three games tied for third place - the first is My French Coach for the Nintendo DS. It's a great tool to supplement my study of the language. I don't use it often enough though when I really should be doing that. Second is Nanostray 2 for the NDS. I was looking for a quick shoot-'em-up to play before going to bed during the Thanksgiving weekend and it was the first game that popped into my head. Last and certainly least is Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I on the X-Box 360 - as disappointed as I was with the game, I did try to give it many opportunities to redeem itself. The result? The stages were still fun but those bosses made me very sad every time I encountered them.

Best New Game of the Month:
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (Personal Computer)

Unexpectedly Forgotten New Game of the Month:
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Nintendo Wii)

I Missed You I Want You Game of the Month:
DanceMasters (X-Box 360)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Game Alert: Chime In!

I got Chime for the Personal Computer today as a direct result of Steam's "The Great Steam Treasure Hunt" promotion. It's currently being offered at a low $1.25 and not only that, just messing around with the first two stages of the game will provide you with an entry for winning some games in Steam's current promotional sweepstakes. The game is a weird but successful mix of Tetris and Lumines where you have to position rotatable odd-shaped blocks onto the screen to create solid quads while producing different musical effects in the process. You can't really fail in the game because you are only given another block after you have actually placed the last available one, which is different than a majority of similar titles - it's all about trying to get the highest score possible. The game can get pretty addictive but the only problem with it is that there are only a small number of musical tracks available here - though they are works of popular artists, I suppose it makes sense why this game is rather cheap. Some of the proceeds for purchasing the game goes towards charity in case if you are looking for another reason to invest in this interesting little musical puzzle game.

It may not be as good as Lumines but it's still a fun game.

Achievements That (Kind of) Matter

I have complimented the Steam achievement system to be the best of its kind because it doesn't encourage Achievement/Trophy Whore-ism Syndrome which has afflicted many gamers these days without them even knowing it, but it looks like at least for a little while, that syndrome may be affecting the Steam community with the introduction of "The Great Steam Treasure Hunt" event that started yesterday. Well at least in this situation, unlocking "objectives" or the achievements actually lead to a good reward instead of some meaningless numbers on your profile. Every other day, Steam will list several activities that you can complete, some involving achievement unlocking, and each completed objective will provide you an entry into the sweepstakes where you can win the top 5 games on your wish list. If you complete any 10 of all the listed objectives and then log in to your account on the last day of the promotion, December 20th, you will be eligible to win 100 games of your choosing! Wow. It's one smart marketing promotion because the games involved will receive a price discount so that you can buy and play the games and unlock the specified objectives. The cool thing here is that even with the achievement unlocking madness involved, the credibility of Steam's leaderboard-based achievement system will still remain intact because they only want you to achieve something that you will probably be unlocking accidentally by just playing the games a little bit. Only Steam knows how to make a beneficial kind of achievement hunting!

One of the current objectives, "Self-Portrait", doesn't even require you to play a game!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Games Played 11/29/2010 - 12/05/2010

- 11/29/2010 -

- 11/30/2010 -
Advance Wars: Dual Strike - NDS
Kirby's Epic Yarn - Wii

- 12/01/2010 -
Culdcept - PlayStation 2
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC

- 12/02/2010 -
Advance Wars: Dual Strike - NDS

- 12/03/2010 -
Beat Sketcher - PlayStation 3
Dance Central - X-Box 360
Kinect Adventures! - X-Box 360

- 12/04/2010 -
Beat Sketcher - PlayStation 3
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor - Wii
Sonic Colors - NDS

- 12/05/2010 -
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors - NDS
Sonic Colors - NDS

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Handhelds Deserve Better Speakers

I was playing both 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and Sonic Colors on the Nintendo DS heavily today in my Game Room with the sound  being routed to my surround speakers. I don't do this very often because I am always disturbed by little things like seeing a messy looking wire on the floor that travels between the DS and my receiver but whenever I do this, the inconvenience of it has always been worth it. I don't use the headphones when playing my handheld consoles at home so I most often settle for the flat, pathetic little built-in speakers. With handheld gaming being more prominent than ever these days, why is it that Nintendo (or perhaps even Sony) is not in a hurry to find a better and more effective internal audio solution for their handheld devices?

Handhelds should not require outside help to deliver the goods in the sound department.

So, Nintendo is giving us the glory of 3D gaming with their upcoming Nintendo 3DS but how come the upcoming device is not installed with a set of super powerful speakers? The concern is probably related to power consumption since handheld consoles are supposed to be able to sustain some prolonged battery life per charge but perhaps the solution here is to actually have a toggle option that could disable the speakers when the user decides to use headphones instead. I really don't mind having a handheld system that has an awesome built-in speakers even if it means that I have to hook it up to the wall if I choose to indulge in some aural bliss when I am playing it at the convenience of my home. Sound is an important part of the overall gaming experience and that fact is still true for handhelds - I really want to see some innovation in this area for handheld gaming in the near future.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Games Alert: Of Colors and Numbers!

Two new Nintendo DS games have now become a part of my Game Library: Sonic Colors and 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Having played the Nintendo Wii version of Sonic Colors, this NDS iteration certainly feels a bit lackluster because of the flat 2D graphics, even though Sonic himself is rendered in 3D and that there are some surprising 3D sections to the gameplay as well. The stage layouts are totally different so it really feels like they are two separate Sonic games. I am glad that the adventure elements have been removed to allow for a more conventional stage map design for both versions. Two good Sonic games in such a short period of time? I'll take it! As for 999, I have heard good things about this mature-themed adventure game. I am really going in blind on this one because other than the fact that it's supposed to be engrossing, I really don't know anything about this game but I am looking forward to playing it. It is rated "M" so despite the cartoonish exterior, I am sure there's something hideous hidden deep inside this game.

A mathematical problem? Maybe Dr. Eggman can help with the calculations.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Milestone Celebration

My PlayStation 3 system is definitely the slowest out of all the current generation consoles to hit the 100th game mark but better late than never I suppose. The induction of Beat Sketcher into my Game Library signifies my 100th game for the console! Beat Sketcher is another strangely curious "interactive art" title that is made available exclusively on the PlayStation Store and if you look at my PS3 collection, you will see that I do love these kind of things. There is some gameplay element thrown into the mix - the game has a musical aspect to it where you create sound whenever you draw a shape on the screen - but the most attractive thing with this title for me is the ability to use my television screen as an art canvas. Basically, you use the PlayStation Move controller as a paint tool that can be altered through a variety of effect options and what you can accomplish visually is only limited by your imagination. Definitely a great software to mark my PS3's 100th game!

Create silly looking pictures in less than a minute!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sony Didn't Test The Tester

Alright, so when Sony created the reality contest show The Tester earlier this year where several lucky gamers can compete against each other in gaming-related challenges to win a position as a game tester, I was not impressed. I mean, seriously... Why can't the winner get a chance to actually be involved in something bigger? Like becoming a creative advisor for future game developments? Something about it just feels fake and I didn't even watch a single episode from that show when they were made available to be downloaded from the PlayStation Store for free. Apparently, the show was successful enough to warrant a second season but it is also clear that Sony really craves for some more attention this time around since they are now attaching prizes for downloading the episodes from the PSN Store. I should have noticed this sooner - one should never miss out on opportunities to win free stuff, especially when a 46" 3D Bravia TV is on the line - so now, I have to force myself to download the shows to qualify myself for the contest.

The worst reality TV show ever? That it is.

After seeing this season's first episode, my original suspicion about The Tester was correct. This show is horrible. The generic "I don't care about gaming, I just look pretty, notice my cleavage?" host is annoying - where's Veronica Belmont? - and the contestants are even worse. I suppose it's just like the other reality television show contestants where they are mostly selected because the producers want people who can create some drama on the show. I was baffled that they actually selected several people who are not familiar with gaming. One of the contestants admitted that she doesn't even own a PlayStation 3 and that she only did research before coming to the show but then... She was not eliminated? Wow. Unbelievable. I guess you don't need that much gaming experience or even knowledge of the brand to become a lowly tester at Sony? Well, I am still going to download all of these episodes to possibly nab the prizes offered but I don't think I can watch anymore of this nonsense. Please Sony, don't go into Season 3 or you will lose all of your credibility in the gaming industry.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

X-Box Live Rewards

It looks like Sony couldn't react fast enough with releasing their PlayStation Rewards program that is currently in beta - Microsoft has beaten them to the punch with their own reward program called the "X-Box Live Rewards". I think it's great that all three console makers have their own little perks for basically ecounraging us to do the things that we are already doing with these consoles like, specifically for this program, renewing the Live subscription or buying new games to play. The cool thing about this particular reward program is that you are rewarded with Microsoft Points that can be used to purchase items from the Live Marketplace. The Netflix activation reward is actually pretty nice - netting you a whopping 100 Microsoft Points - but I wonder if this still applies to those who already have the service activated on the console. I have just registered for the program but it will take up to 36 hours for the reward profile to get finalized so I am not seeing anything on the rewards page as of yet. If you have an X-Box 360 and live in the US or UK, you can click here to visit the official reward website and sign up for the free program.

It will take forever to save up for a nice purchase but at least we are getting something back.