Friday, April 30, 2010

PSP Battery Death... Ewww!

My PlayStation Portable is probably the most untouched of all my "active" video gaming devices. Recently, I have been using it quite extensively due to my recent interest in playing Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force and of course, now the battery decided to die on me. It cannot retain its charge anymore so I had to go out earlier to pick up a new one. I got my PSP at launch and I always thought that the default rechargeable battery would last 20+ years... But I suppose Sony would not be able to make the extra cash they are making if that was the case.

The new battery is called "Extended Life Battery Kit".
Let's hope that "Extended Life" means "More than 10 Years".

Forming a Good Habit Takes Time

So, I was supposed to start my Yourself!Fitness routine today: I had planned for an evening session - around 5:30pm to 6:00pm - and now, it's close to 10pm and I still haven't done squat (no pun intended). I know I am just making excuses but my game room at this moment is still a bit of a mess. I need to get a bunch of things off the carpet before I can exercise in this room. I normally keep the room pretty neat and organized but every now and then, it gets to look like this:

These were supposed to be put away...
Notice how Maya is giving me the evil stare in the background.

One thing I have learned from the past with my success with Yourself!Fitness is that it will always be hard to make the daily session a habit. During the two intervals of time that I have used the program in the past, I had a tough time "showing up" to my "appointments" and I would skip them quite frequently during the first several weeks. It's probably going to be the case this time around but that will only result in my total adherence to the workout routine. I am however, a bit disappointment in myself. I want to do better tomorrow!

New Games Alert: Out of Keys Edition!

Steam is selling Codemasters' racing games at low prices for their weekend special and I took this opportunity to induct Grid and Fuel into my Game Library. Grid has been on my Purchase List since sometime in 2008 and it's nice to be able to finally get the game. I have heard mostly negative things about Fuel - it's a racing game that features an open-world design - but I can see myself enjoying it because of its focus on exploration and travel. I normally oppose the open-world design in games across genres when it makes playing those games a chore but it seems like Fuel promotes mindless, casual driving within its vast environment and that could into something fun.

I am still loving Steam's new look.

I played Grid for a bit earlier and it is interesting to see that it doesn't look as great as I remember it back in 2008. Dirt 2 has spoiled everything it seems. I couldn't try out Fuel yet because Steam ran out of Microsoft's Game for Windows Live keys to unlock the game. I don't think the problem was that too many people bought the game today. I think somebody just messed up and didn't check how many keys were left before this sale started. Hopefully, I'll be able to get into the game soon - like tonight perhaps?

That's actually quite embarrassing. We should really be compensated for this.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Maya Assistance Get!

In addition to doing Maya's recommended workout sessions from Yourself!Fitness, I have decided to add Eye Toy: Kinetic for the PlayStation 2 into the mix. Because I encountered some troubles setting up Kinetic in my old apartment due to space limitation and poor lighting condition, I had never really used it in the past. Since Yourself!Fitness was successful, I didn't even bother to try to make the game work. So now would be a good time to check it out again and hopefully it can deliver on its fun factor and make exercising a little less of a chore: Yourself!Fitness is pretty hardcore, it's not fun at all - the only fun I have felt while using it before was when I saw how great my body looked after sticking to it for a long time.

I doubt that this will be as kick-butt as Maya's torture sessions.

By the way, Wii Fit will not be a part of any of this...

Be quiet and stay hidden from my sight!

A Maya Intervention

Looking at my Daily Game Log history, it looks like the last time I exercised was in August of 2008. I don't go to the gym or anything, I just stayed home to do my workout thanks to the incredible Yourself!Fitness for the X-Box. Though I have made mention of returning to the healthy routine back in November of the same year, I never did. So I was sitting down on my futon today and noticed that there's a bulge on my tummy - oh no! My significant other caught it too as I was laying down on the couch while watching television.

Place your hand on your stomach. Next, move it in a circular motion...

So I have decided to get back into Yourself!Fitness again... Well, starting tomorrow anyway! I have used it twice in the past and it worked both times. This time around, I want to continue using it indefinitely since it is good to exercise regularly now that I am getting older: I noticed how I get aches and pain more frequently now than I did in years past. Here's to a "thinner" and more importantly, healthier Loner Gamer! I want to keep gaming for as long as I can!

Maya is going to whip me back into shape!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Culdcept's Gender Crisis Continues

So, you are a woman who sounds like a guy. Everywhere you go, it doesn't matter who it is that you interact with, everyone seems to have mistaken you for a guy because of your voice, even though you have a woman's face. When you wear a Cepter armor, all of a sudden, you become rather flat-chested, making it more difficult for people to realize that you are a woman. So, you meet this girl who seems to be interested in you. You are a slave being sold to a Cepter gladiator arena and she is lending you her magic cards so that you can win your way to freedom. One day, in the dark, wet dungeon where you are being held captive, she comes to visit you. She explains to you that you are the man in her dreams, the person who will change the world... At this point in your life, you realize that there is probably nothing you can do to convince people that you are a girl, but you convince yourself to keep trying... Thus:

But isn't it better to be a golden boy instead of being one of the golden girls?

Now with 30% Less Chance of Blindness

If you have read my recent review of Beat Hazard, you know that I love the game a lot but then you probably remember the reference I made about "epilepsy" when I inducted the game into my Game Library. The game's usage of violent strobe effects is just insane and playing the game for extended period of time can be a blinding experience. I wouldn't be the one to complain about it since the game, as much as it can be an eyestrain after a long day, is beautiful to look at but apparently there are enough concerns out there in regards to the game's visual feedback overkill that prompted Cold Beam Games to release a patch today that include an option to reduce the game's visual intensity by 30%. The game is definitely easier to stare at for a longer period of time now. After using this option though, I found myself missing the super intense eye bleeding moment that the full blast, uncensored experience can provide so I increased the option back to 100%. I will definitely have to use the reduction option after I play the game continuously for more than an hour.

But what's the fun in that right?

With Beat Hazard being such an addictive experience, I have been busy ripping music CDs left and right into my hard drive. It would be great if the game can retrieve music straight from the CDs - this advantage belongs to Audiosurf. The developer is actively working on future improvement for the game, like iTunes support and local co-op play so this limitation may also be addressed in the future.

This game is tempting me to rip my entire CD library into my Personal Computer.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones (2009)
Genre: Drama
Format: Blu-ray
Director: Peter Jackson

It is good to see Peter Jackson directing another drama. After all, I consider Heavenly Creatures to be one of his greatest works. Perhaps Jackson thought that he could easily get away with doing a film with a pretty dark overtone after his mainstream successes from the incredible The Lord of the Rings trilogy and disappointing King Kong remake. After all, the film contains some outlandish, imaginative scenarios involving the "afterlife" but those who are only familiar with Jackson's Hollywood productions should approach the movie with caution.

The Lovely Bones is a story about a fourteen year old girl's demise at the hand of a pedophile and what happens afterwards as told through her observation. The beginning of the film is really bleak and even though the girl's fate is clearly foretold from the start, the heavy sense of dread is definitely palpable and the moment of lost is incredibly sad. From that point though, the genuine portrayal of intense emotion as well as the seriousness of the situation are downplayed somewhat by Jackson relying too heavily on cheap looking CGIs. The "afterlife" sequences are done quite poorly and since they are interwoven in between the scenes involving the living, the difference in visual quality between the two types of scenes become rather jarring.

What I do like about the movie is its concept of life after death and the way everything unfolds in the end - well beside this one unnecessary scene that I think was just put in there to make people feel a bit better about the whole proceeding. I don't believe in an afterlife and this one is as far-fetched as those taught by the many religions of the world but only without the intrusion of a so-called "god" and its staffers. I am not sure how close of an adaptation this movie is to the original novel by Alice Sebold but if it is, I think Sebold really has an important message to her readers about life. It is bold to portray death as what it is: the end of everything. Not everyone get to live a long and happy life: there are many of us whose lives end as horribly as the girl's death in the movie. Not all lives are provided with meaningful resolutions which is what the movie tries to hint at to its audience.

The Lovely Bones is an interesting film. It would have been so much better if it was visually consistent. There are some problems with the storyline too because it tends to contradict itself during some of the film's most critical moments. A special kudos to Susan Sarandon for stealing the show as the girl's wild grandmother. I have never seen her with so much eyelashes since the her naughty "Floor Show" performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. How divine!

RATING: 3 out of 5

Review: Beat Hazard

Beat Hazard (2010)
Developer: Cold Beam Games
Platform: Personal Computer
Induction Date: 04/19/2010

Music engagement and visualization at their best.

So we have seen how our favorite collection of music would look and feel like as a racing track and a puzzle game in Audiosurf but have you ever wondered how they would manifest as a shoot-'em-up? Games like Rez and Every Extend Extra have both experimented with such combination before - with Rez ended being a total masterpiece - but they both fall short compared to this little indie game called Beat Hazard. After first making an appearance on the X-Box 360 last year, the game is released in its complete form for the Personal Computer and if you like listening to music or you enjoy shmup or you like them both equally, you will absolutely love Beat Hazard.

The game has twin bosses! These guys know their shoot-em-ups really well!

Beat Hazard is a game where you control a tiny ship on the screen, shooting at asteroids and ships of a variety of different sizes while listening to your choice of music track. The game comes with a soundtrack of its own which feature nine rock/trance influenced selections but to really enjoy the game, you want to use your favorite music to play the game with. The pattern of enemies and the graphical effects on the screen are all generated from the data analyzed from the music that you use. Since the same pattern will be used for each unique track, you can truly "master" a song and get the best score possible from that particular track. When enemies are destroyed, they would drop +1 score multipliers, volume increase pick-up (the game starts off with the music track a bit muted), and power-ups. The changes in the music directly affect your shots so if you know a song well, you can strategically position yourself for the most effective offensive maneuver, especially during boss battles. It is easier to see this works in music that comes with a vocal track - the longer the vocal notes, the more intense your bullet stream becomes. There are several difficulty settings that you can select and the harder settings will generate crazier visual feedback and more enemies to shoot at.

Some tracks produce more color-variations than others.

Visually, the game is breathtaking. During the busier sections of a music track, the screen can easily be filled with flashing lights and exploding particles. Sometimes, it can get very difficult to see where your ship is but that is part of the game's challenge. It is nice that the game can also be used as a functional visualizer if you want something pretty to look at while you are listening to your music while doing some other things. As if the core gameplay itself is not addictive enough, playing the game will earn you points and you can continue to rank up the more you play the game. You will receive helpful perks at higher ranks that will make you enjoy the game more while giving you slight advantages over the enemies. The game can be played on a track to track basis or if you want to experience something more continuous, say a whole entire album, you can always play the Survival Mode - as long as you are able to get through it before your lives run out.

I am proud to be this kind of Master Chief rather than that other, more popular one...

Beat Hazard is one of the best games ever made. For me, when it comes to the music-fusion genre it has bested Audiosurf, Lumines, and even Rez. It is so easy to play and it is a lot of fun to master. The game is only limited to the amount of music you have. Beat Hazard feels a lot less random than Audiosurf when it comes to the actual play mechanics because of its adherence to the beauty of precision and simplicity. Not a lot of games could bring tears of joy in my eyes and playing Beat Hazard using tracks from Tori Amos and Happy Rhodes is truly an otherworldly experience. If you have already own the game on the 360, you still should to invest in this version because it comes with Leaderboards access. You can buy the game straight from the developer's website as well as other direct distribution channels. If you like achievements, go for the Steam version. The only flaw to this game is that the Leaderboards are grouped by the length of the track when the Leaderboards in Audiosurf are listed by every single track ever played by the game's community. Maybe a future update would fix that but even in its current form, this is a game that no gamer could afford to miss. A masterful musical shmup with endless possibilities and replay value.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Click here to read the review of the "Ultra" downlodable content.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Opening Limited Edition Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards

I am a big fan of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series since the first time it arrived on U.S. shores because it is really fun to see the origin of the clever trading card game and most importantly, it is engrossing to watch the highly stylized and imaginative duels found within. I don't collect the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards myself. I only did a little bit of Magic: The Gathering and the only trading cards I do seriously collect are the ones for The Eye of Judgment for the PlayStation 3. All of the Yu-Gi-Oh! games that I purchased came with 3 Limited Edition Cards. I have always felt that I should just keep them sealed so I have never had physical skin contact with them before. Today, I have decided to open and touch all of them. I will never sell anything from my Game Library so I don't see any reason to keep them sealed anymore. Not that they are worth that much anyway but that is beside the point. Life is too short to worry about silly things and I really like the idea that I get to "experience" these special cards now while I am still alive. Interestingly, it looks like I already opened the sealed trio from Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist of the Roses. If I remember correctly, I must have done so while I was writing the Random Game of the Day article involving that game earlier this month.

The mostly sealed cards and their respective games.

Awww... Not enough for a deck. They are real pretty.

Games Played 04/19/2010 - 04/25/2010

- 04/19/2010 -
Beat Hazard - PC
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
Halo Wars - X-Box 360

- 04/20/2010 -
Crimzon Clover Trial - PC
Ironclad - Wii
Monster Hunter Tri - Wii

- 04/21/2010 -
After Burner Climax - X-Box 360
Crimzon Clover Trial - PC
Monster Hunter Tri - Wii
Plants vs. Zombies - PC
Puzzle Chronicles Demo - X-Box 360*

*I love the fighting animation between characters
but the left to right gem drop orientation is and plain stupid.

- 04/22/2010 -
After Burner Climax - X-Box 360
The Eye of Judgment: Legends Demo - PSP
Fairy Tale Fights White Room Demo - PlayStation 3*
Mario Kart DS - NDS
Pokémon Diamond Version - NDS
Thexder Neo Demo - PlayStation 3
Tomb Raider: Underworld Demo - PC
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PlayStation 3

* Love the gore but I don't like the feel of melee attacking using the right analogue stick.

- 04/23/2010 -
Aegis Wing - X-Box 360
After Burner Climax - X-Box 360
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
Left 4 Dead - PC
Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour - NDS
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force - PSP

- 04/24/2010 -
Left 4 Dead - PC
Raiden Fighters Aces - X-Box 360
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force - PSP

- 04/25/2010 -
King's Bounty: Armored Princess - PC
Left 4 Dead - PC
Weapon of Choice - X-Box 360
Pure - X-Box 360
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dawn of Destiny - X-Box
Yu-Gi-Oh! Destiny Board Traveler - GBA
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force - PSP

Sunday, April 25, 2010

From Culdcept to Yu-Gi-Oh!

The life of a Culdcept Saga Cepter is not all fun and games, especially for one who has troubles finding people to duel with. I refuse to get into the competitive side of the game where the game's organized communities are flourishing in because all I really want is just to have casual fun with the game - no restriction, no raging, no elitism, and please... no schedules. Thankfully, one of my friends is now a new owner of Culdcept Saga. I have already given up trying to convince people to try out the game these days but during a conversation, he had told me that he likes Monopoly - a positive Culdcept trigger - and after I explained the game to him, he had secretly placed an order for it! He made a surprise announcement that he received the game today, which really made me happy, but he didn't have time to play it yet so we planned for our dueling debut sometime next week. Not sure if he would be as crazy about the game as I am but it's nice to have a glimmer of hope when none could be found before.

My recently renewed passion for Culdcept Saga has made it very hard for me to play other games. So, revisiting it has good and bad side effects apparently. It's frustrating to go back and play against the computer because they become too predictable for me. Due to this, I have made a commitment on Friday to myself to stay away from Culdcept for a while because of how it is "zombifying" me. I decided to get back into playing Yu-Gi-Oh! video games: I have so many of them but of course I want to replay the ones that use the original trading card game battle mechanics. It is not surprising to discover that I have never played much of the more recent YGO games in my Game Library: Yu-Gi-Oh! DX Tag Force for the PlayStation Portable and Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour for the Nintendo DS. I started off with playing the latter but it was apparent that the former was the superior game - not to mention it has more cards in it. The card battling fun that I was able to get from Tag Force is indeed effective in curbing my appetite for playing more Culdcept. I think if the friend I mentioned previously did not end up a committed Cepter after we play the game together, I now have a very comfortable place to fall back on and that has made me a much happier person.

My Yu-Gi-Oh! family is happy to take me in again.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

360's Dashboard Fun: The Brash & the Dead

Just a couple of odd things I found while browsing the X-Box 360's Dashboard last night. The first item is an advertisement slot for Left 4 Dead 2's new downloadable content. It looks like one of the stars of the game was feasted upon by the zombies before he arrived at the shoot:

Coach isn't all there and that wrist looks like it's about to fall off at any second.

I found the advertisement below for Kanye West very perplexing. Yes, we know that Kanye has no class nor does he have a good singing voice but does he deserve to be called "brash" by the same people who are trying to make some money out of him?

Wow, that was a bit too blunt Microsoft.

Left 4 Dead Performance Report

Today, I finally played an online game of the first Left 4 Dead for the Personal Computer that purchased yesterday. It was only me and my 1 friend playing it and it was a lot of fun. With the right people to play with, the game is total blast - with hilarious yelling and screaming and cursing oh my galaxy - and I don't remember having so much fun with it when I played the game's demo a long time ago. The game runs smoothly at a constant 60 frames per second and it is hardly demanding on my gaming rig. I was able to maximize all the graphical options, including anti-aliasing, and play the game at native 1980 x 1080: I don't remember the 360 version looking this sharp and beautiful. Most of the textures looked incredibly detailed but since the stages are pretty huge, I did see the occasional low-resolution nastiness here and there. The blood and animation look awesome and there is no slowdown even when there are hordes upon hordes of zombies running all over the screen. The computer controlled characters are actually pretty impressive when it comes to the shooting but the path finding needed a little work: sometimes, my friend and I would jump out of a window and the A.I. characters would look for a staircase to get to where we landed instead. I can't wait to play this game again! I hope that Left 4 Dead 2 will perform similarly - it should because there's hardly any graphical jump between the two titles but we shall see!

Stop staring at my exquisitely detailed tattoos!

Never buy cheap wallpapers for your living room.

Friday, April 23, 2010

260 What?

A new game just arrived on Steam called Booster Trooper. It is a third person multiplayer shooter played on a classic 2D plane and the trailer looks mediocre at best. But here's something about the game is just unprecedented to say the least though that is not necessarily a good thing:

Is that really necessary?

That's right achievement whores and trophy sluts, this game has 260 individual Steam Achievements, which I found to be rather strange because it is obvious that this game is trying to entice potential customers using its incredible number of achievements but there is hardly any achievement whoring done on Steam because of its sublimely ingenius system of rewarding unlocked achievements. I bet if a game is released with this many achievements (or increased points over the usual 1000) on the X-Box 360 or this many trophies for the PlayStation 3, that particular game would be guaranteed to sell by the millions on day one.

New Games Alert: Double the Zombies Edition!

I didn't really like Left 4 Dead when I first tried the demo on the X-Box 360. The one thing that disappointed me the most is the game's restrictive first person perspective and the fact that it's a bit too manic. When I saw this video on YouTube, my perception of the game changed. The game looks like it could be fun with the right people playing with you. Then came another dilemma: I have a couple of good people playing both the first and the second Left 4 Dead on the X-Box 360 and none on the Personal Computer. At the end of the day though, the PC version wins because of the creative mods available for it, the better graphics, and the free contents: even The Passing that was just released yesterday is free to download on the PC. It helps that the games are now bundled together at a nice discounted rate on Steam and I just learn that one of my Steam friends have just purchased the game today! It's a 4-player game so it will be interesting if the A.I. would be sufficient companions for the two of us. I have a feeling that we would have to venture out and find two other non-zombies with us to have full-blast fun with the game. Maybe I should invite that gift-giving person to join in on the fun?

This particular "Passing" is truly a cause for celebration!

The Nintendo DS Back on the Network

What is this, Nintendo repentance week? Well, I have to admit that I have been a naughty, naughty gamer for my shameful treatment of the Nintendo Wii of late. But that is all in the past now. What I didn't mention in the previous article however is that I have sinned against the Nintendo DS as well. I have been ignoring the Wi-Fi capability of the DS and I have not been online on that handheld ever since my move. The reason behind this is that my new wireless access uses the WPA standard which is not compatible with the DS and just like what I did to the Wii, I just didn't bother to take the time to correct the problem.

So months have gone by and I have fully abandoned the idea of playing the DS online. This is why I delayed picking up Phantasy Star Zero and I didn't even have Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's World Championship 2010: Reverse of Arcadia - whoa, that was a mouthful - listed on my Purchase List. Well, all of that is going to change because soon after I worked on the Wii last night, my focus shifted to the DS. I have purchased Nintendo's Wi-Fi USB Connector a long time ago - I never used it because I had a wireless router at my old place - so I went to look inside the boxes of my Nintendo consoles: I always try to store things in places that make sense. I found it sitting deep inside my Nintendo GameCube console box. Setting up the Wi-Fi Connector was a hassle and after hours of fiddling, I was finally able to make it work. As soon as that happened, I jumped on Mario Kart DS and played a tournament round with three other players.

I knew there was a reason why I purchased this to begin with.

It felt good to play an online game on the DS again. Also, I like the idea of a "quiet" socialization on the DS. I think voice chat is great and Skype (as well as other means) is always there to help when a game doesn't provide us with that feature but it's only fun when you are talking to like-minded people. I am glad that the DS is back online. Perhaps the next Nintendo project for me is to hook up my Nintendo 64 and the Super NES to my entertainment center? Nah.

Took me about 5 minutes to get a match going. Not too bad for 4+ year old game.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Nintendo Wii Back on Its Feet

I think that I have been so unfair to the Nintendo Wii ever since I moved into my new home last October. You see, I have placed the Wii on my entertainment center using its horizontal orientation next to my PlayStation 3. I am not sure why I did it in the first place. My gut feeling is telling me that this probably happened because I wanted to get my game room done as quickly as possible and it was just very convenient to just place the Wii there without much thought. Those who own the Wii knows that the console look incredibly hideous when its laying on its side - definitely a contender for the worse looking console ever in that passive position.

My Wii looking so limp and lifeless.

I am happy to announce that earlier this evening, I have given the Wii its dignity back. I have removed it from its lazy, rectangular sleep next to the majestic PlayStation 3 and from being slightly hidden underneath my LCD screen. I have placed the Wii on top of my Personal Computer where the color white and gray blend together harmoniously. Wii, I am sorry for the misery and pain I have placed upon you. I promise that I will not take you for granted anymore. I think this change should have happened sooner, especially after seeing just how nice the X-Box 360 Elite and the PS3 look standing on each side of the LCD screen without the sudden white block ruining the well-accomplished, classy color scheme.

An erect Wii looks sexy... Wait!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Game Alert: A Sega Comeback Edition!

2010 seems to be a good year for Sega. Bayonetta was average for sure but Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is such a company redeemer. Today's release of After Burner Climax on the X-Box Live Marketplace makes me want to love the Sonic-killing company again! Climax is an arcade port - it was originally released in 2006 - with extras added exclusively for this version. It's a pure arcade shooter and it truly redefines the original game by leaps and bounds. The PlayStation 3 version will be released tomorrow on the PSN Store. I would have purchased the PS3 version but it is very apparent now - as if the Bayonetta disaster wasn't telling enough - that Sega likes to play that preferential treatment game: The 360 version contains a couple of unlockable avatar items! One of the items is a gold helmet - I can't wait to have my avatar wearing that silly-looking thing.

Oh my gakaxy... I haven't played a good rail shooter in a long while!

Seeing Crimzon

I guess the "z" is supposed to make the title a tad hotter.

I have only found out about Crimson Clover yesterday while I was browsing the Internet, researching Personal Computer shoot-'em-ups. The game is a combination of Layer Section, with its similar looking player ship as well as lock-on system but without the two separate planes of play, and the bullet-cancel, score multiplier mechanics usually found in Cave shooters. Crimson Clover is an independently made game by Yotsubane and the trial version of the game is available for download but it is unclear if the final product would ever find its way into the marketplace because the developer's blog seem to have ceased all activities since January of this year.

Break away from that laziness and finish the game already!

Which is shame because of the exquisite quality of this game. The 2D graphics are amazing and though they are not HD-quality - the highest native resolution it could conjure up is 720 x 480 - they easily look very modern. Crimson Clover is a "bullet-hell" shooter and the screen is filled with explosions, shots, and score multipliers constantly. The gameplay is addictive because of its "Break Mode" system. Basically, the more you shoot at the enemies, the more your Break Gauge will fill up and when it's completely filled, you can enter Break Mode where your ship becomes very powerful, invincible (only for a brief time), and you gain higher score multipliers. Using this mode also clears all the enemy bullets on the screen so it's great to use strategically for both survival and for scoring points.

The game rewards aggressive play.

The trial version only comes with 3 stages and a couple of unlockables from the in-game store that must be purchased using the currency you get from playing the game. It's a brilliant system that encourages repeated play, especially the fact that continues must be individually purchased from the store and can only be used once. Crimzon Clover is highly polished and is seemingly ready for sale. All it really needs is the rest of the stages to be included in it and more unlockables to keep the customers happy. From what I have played in this trial, I would buy the final release in a heartbeat. I visited a couple of organized shmup communities and found out that the game is quite popular amongst them so there is definitely a market for the game ready and waiting for it to take over the shmup world.

One of the best shmup bosses ever! Especially with its wicked arrival sequence.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Classic Controllers

The arrival of the Wii Classic Controller Pro today that came bundled with my copy of Monster Hunter Tri is truly one of the best things that could happen to the Nintendo Wii. Though there is always the option to use the Nintendo GameCube controller with the console, doing so just feels a bit awkward because the controller needs to be connected straight into the Wii itself. In an era where game controllers are mostly wireless, I prefer to do so with my Wii and that was why I picked up the original Classic Controller when it first came out.

Once again, two controllers, one local player.

The original Classic Controller is definitely convenient to use but due to its small girth and thinness, it is one of the most uncomfortable controllers on the market. Sometimes, I had to abandon playing the Virtual Console games using the Classic Controller altogether and used my Wii-mote instead because of how how weird the controller felt in my hands. The sideways Wii-mote doesn't fare so well either. Now that the Classic Controller Pro is here, I can say goodbye to the aforementioned controller frustrations. The hand grips on both sides of the Pro feels just right and suddenly, I feel encouraged to just turn on my Wii and play my Virtual Console games. The Pro is as weightless as the original even with its bulkier build. I am disappointed to learn however that the Pro still doesn't have force feedback support so it still cannot fully replace the GameCube controller with games that provides controller vibration. I am also disappointed that I didn't have the audacity to just buy the white Pro separately even though that would be more expensive than buying the black one that is bundled with Monster Hunter Tri because now I am stuck with this:

Oops. I guess I didn't plan that out so well...

New Monsters Alert? Poké and Non-Poké Edition!

I picked up my copies of Monster Hunter Tri for the Nintendo Wii and Pokémon: SoulSilver Version for the Nintendo DS today. I was hooked on the whole monster hunting idea presented by the Monster Hunter series ever since I beta-tested the original game on the PlayStation 2. It was unfortunate that the original didn't generate enough interest amongst mainstream gaming thus, the PS2 sequel never arrived in North America. The PlayStation Portable entries have been a bit confusing too me because they feel more like revisions than true sequels but I am glad that Tri is here so now I can remove Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for the PSP from my Purchase List. I must say that I am disappointed by the game box for Tri because the cover looks horrendous and Capcom pretty much just dropped the game and the new Wii Classic Controller Pro into the box without any cardboard dividers that you would normally see in such packaging. Apparently, Capcom love their European audience better.

Lugia used Shiny Box... It's super effective! Tri Box Monster fainted!

After that Tri box ugliness, I am so glad that I also got Pokémon: SoulSilver Version because it is super effective in its yumminess! I really like the textured silver embossing on the box - it makes me want to run my hands all over it over and over and over again. The Pokéwalker that is included with this latest Pokémon adventure is such a great idea. It is basically a pedometer that can help you gain experience points for your Pokémon and yes I will be wearing it wherever I go! I love my Pokémon games... What can I say?

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Game Alert: Hello Epilepsy Edition!

Beat Hazard was first made available on the X-Box 360 as an indie release and I really liked the demo when I tried it out last year. It's basically a clone of Every Extend Extra Extreme: both of them are music games that play like a shooter and both will hurt your eyes if played for an extended period of time. Beat Hazard comes with a selection of music track but the beauty here is that you can use your own music collection to play the game with. Beat Hazard has now been released as a digital download for the Personal Computer and even at its current discounted price on Steam, the game is still $2.49 more expensive that the console version. I decided to get the PC version of the game because compared to the 360, it's more convenient to access my music collection from my PC hard drive and it would also be easier to add more tracks to it as well. The addition of online leaderboards definitely make this superior than the console version.

Beat Hazard is like the shmup version of the classic Audiosurf.

A rare moment when the screen stops flashing crazy colors for half a second.

Games Played 04/12/2010 - 04/18/2010

- 04/12/2010 -
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
ESPGaluda II Black Label - X-Box 360

- 04/13/2010 -
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
Dirt 2 - PC
Heroes of Newerth Open Beta - PC

- 04/14/2010 -
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5 - X-Box 360

- 04/15/2010 -
Culdcept - PlayStation 2
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
Final Fight: Double Impact Demo - X-Box 360
Ratchet & Crank: A Crack in Time - PlayStation 3

- 04/16/2010 -
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5 - X-Box 360
Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing with Banjo Kazooie - X-Box 360

-04/17/2010 -
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
Madballs in... Babo: Invasion Demo - PC
Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time - PlayStation 3
Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing with Banjo Kazooie - X-Box 360
Zombie Apocalypse Demo - X-Box 360*

*A simple shooter where you clear waves of zombie hordes. Could be fun in multiplayer.

- 04/18/2010 -
Alien Breed Evolution Demo - X-Box 360*
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
Decimation X Demo - X-Box 360**
Halo Wars - X-Box 360
Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5 - X-Box 360

*Great graphics for this claustrophobic shooter. I'm waiting for the PC version.
**It's Space Invaders on crack but it can't beat Space Invaders Extreme.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Steamy Gift

I was pleasantly surprised to see a gift notification when I logged on to Steam tonight. I don't have any close friends there and I hardly know the people that I play with so a chance for this to occur should have been an impossibility. The funny thing about this is that I was actually planning to buy Madballs in... Babo: Invasion later tonight - I played the demo yesterday and I enjoyed the game. It's a third person shooter where you control strange looking round balls. Perhaps this guy/girl saw that I played the game on my stats? I would have to find out the reason behind the gift soon.

Now that was truly unexpected.

Culdcept Saga: The Voice of Innocence

I have been back on Culdcept Saga recently because a friend of mine had a renewed interest in the game. Though we don't play as frequently as we should (at least, from my side of things: I am a true Culdcept addict), my return to the world of card battling has resulted in me doing a lot more experimentation with my custom decks. I have already received all of the available cards in the game - that's nearly 500 unique cards - but since you can bring 4 of the same card with you in your deck, I am still hunting quite a number of them to improve upon my current strategies as well as creating new ones.

In between playing online matches with my friend, I would play the past stages of the story mode. Today, I decided to play a brand new story mode using my current card collection just to see if I could skip over the storyline because I have completed the game before. I was surprised to see that replaying the game from the beginning allows you to choose a number of different creature skins including the ability to play the game as a female human character. I decided to choose the latter. I was curious to see if the story would change because in the game, there is a love story element between the main character and one of the female cast. Once I was in the game, it was hilarious to discover that the original male voice was still used for my new female character! To hear my girly girl character talks like a dude - well, he has that typical innocent anime guy voice - is just totally bizarre and I am loving every second of the atrocity that was being committed on my television screen. This actually makes me want to get to the end of the game with my new character because those romantic scenes will become very interesting indeed because of this! Though in actuality the mismatched voice is the result of a bit of laziness in the part of the developer, this must be one of the best "Game+" option in a video game ever!

It is a really confusing world, isn't it?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review: The Collector

The Collector (2009)
Genre: Horror
Format: Blu-ray
Director: Marcus Dunstan

The Collector is another byproduct of the Saw movies where you see a bunch of characters trapped within a labyrinth filled with deadly traps and one wrong move could result in a certain death: a horrible one too at that. The movie has a lot of potentials with sheer brutality that goes beyond the franchise that inspired it but it is a bit too overambitious for its own good. Director Marcus Dunstan who co-wrote with Patrick Melton were also the ones who penned the last three entries of the Saw films (they are also the writers of the upcoming part VII) so it was really disappointing that this movie turned out to be rather mediocre.

A guy named Arkin wants to help out his ex-wife pay off her debt and since he's making only a small amount of money doing construction work at an isolated family home, he decided to take a more desperate attempt to collect some cash by planning to rob the same house he is currently working on. In the darkness of night, he sneaks into his employer's residence, only to find himself trapped alongside everyone else in the house by a brutal killer. As if that wasn't bad enough, the killer likes to set up nasty traps all over the house to make it harder for anyone to escape. Since the lives of an entire family are at stake here, the movie definitely feels very sinister. The killer wears a simple mask but his glassy eyes and psychotic smirk sent chills down my spine. There are a couple of good gore scenes but the real thrill of the film only happens before the killer realized that Arkin was in the house with him. It's very suspenseful to follow Arkin around the booby-trapped house as he tries to avoid being detected by the killer.

The fatal flaw of The Collector is that it is not a complete film. By the end of the movie, it is obvious that Dunstan has a lot more to show us. This wouldn't have been a problem if the film provides at least a small amount of closure but instead, we are given glimpses of the movie's grand puzzle still scattered in pieces. There are small hints given throughout the movie about the killer's modus operandi but it just doesn't make any sense. I don't think that a killer's motives require any real explanation to make a horror movie works - it's actually best to leave it like that - but since this movie is built up around the mystery of the killer's "collecting" hobby, the audience deserved to be given more than what the movie is willing to reveal at this point in the tale.

The whole idea of turning a family home - a symbol of safe haven - into a palace of pain is an intriguing one. The deconstruction of a family is a bleak subject and thus, the sequel to The Collector could be limitless in its horror. It's unfortunate that this movie came into existence a little too early before its ideas could mature into something more cohesive. I would recommend waiting to see if a sequel is truly coming for this movie because if not, watching The Collector becomes almost a complete waste of time.

RATING: 2 out of 5

Friday, April 16, 2010

Steam: Your True PC Gaming Destination

When it comes to buying Personal Computer games via direct download distribution, I tend to favor getting them from Direct2Drive and Microsoft's new Games on Demand instead of Steam. Though Valve's Steam client comes with great functionalities like being a part of the well-established community of gamers as well as having an organized place to find all of the games purchased from the service, I just prefer not having to log on to it to make my game work. The Live client is a little different because it is integrated within the Live-enabled games themselves. I have never had the fear of being locked out of my Steam games if my Internet connection is down or if Valve's server is unavailable though because the Steam client still allows players to access the games offline: so that was never a factor for me.

Steam is ready to take over the PC's direct download market.

My purchase preference is about to change though because the Steam client is finally evolving from its plain and lifeless form into something that rivals the slick interfaces found on the X-Box 360 dashboard and the PlayStation cross media bar. This major overhaul is still in open beta and anyone with access to the Steam client is welcomed to test out the new look. The Steam service is free so if you have never used it before, it is time that you join in on the fun. I must say that I am quite impressed with how attractive everything has become and it made me want to favor Steam as the destination for all of my future PC game downloads. Well, at least after Direct2Drive's "Spring Gaming Fever" sale event is over. If only Steam can do price matching... Then everything would be perfect. Click here to check out the details of the "New" Steam.

I am loving the bold design and the "subtle" push of self-importance.

Much better than clicking desktop shortcuts or browsing the start menu tabs.

Söldner-X 2 Hotness

Who knew that developer SideQuest Studios had been quietly working on the sequel to the fun but flawed Söldner-X: Himmelssturmer. This sequel is slated to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive - the predecessor was released on the Personal Computer first before it was released on the PS3. By looking at the gameplay trailer, it surely takes advantage of the PS3's graphical firepower and it is shaping up to be the most beautiful looking 2D shooter to date. Judging from what I have seen and read, the game is more dynamic this time around with balanced enemy formations and intense bullet pattern memorization. Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype is set to be released on the PlayStation Network Store this May! What a great year for shoot-'em-up fans! You can read about all the details by visiting the game's official website. It looks like the developer is currently working on another project. Let's hope that it's another shmup!

Final Prototype is all about spectacular bullet patterns and precision dodging.

Nintendo Posters Up!

I have finally posted up the Mario posters I recently received from Club Nintendo on the walls of my Game Room. It's challenging to work with these posters because they are too pretty to work with. They belong in a large picture frame but double sided tapes will do for now. Since I have never shown where I have posted the Zelda posters from last year, I have included them in the pictures below.

Mario is going to show you a good time in there.

The prominently Nintendo corner.

The Elite has recently enrolled in the Zelda 101 class.

I hope this will discourage further fraternization between the plant and Vault Boy...

Sailing the high seas and the high ceiling.