Sunday, October 31, 2010

Finally Simming

I installed The Sims 3 on my computer again on Tuesday but I never get to play it until today. I like to pack a lot of sims into a house normally but this time I am going to take a different approach to playing the game. I am going to focus on just one person and see where the adventure is going to take me. So I created this character named Todd Arlington, a flirtatious yet clumsy man who had a terrible childhood. I usually like to assign anti-social traits to my sims but Todd is the friendly, outgoing type. The fact that he is also a great kisser will help him tremendously I am sure... But I don't know, I have a feeling that he's heading down towards a tragic path. Bad things happen to good people too unfortunately.

Ah, the joy of reading in your underwear while no one is watching...

A X-Box Live Kind of Halloween

Microsoft wants to deliver a purely horrifying experience to those who wish to cancel out or change their Live subscription service for the X-Box 360 before the rate increase that will take into effect tomorrow. If you try to access your account details via the console or on the, you will encounter an error and you will not be able to proceed. Apparently this problem has occurred since earlier this week and many have expressed their dismays on the official Live forum: It should be obvious why this is happening - Microsoft may be telling you that they are working to update the website and dashboard to the new Kinect-inspired design but they just want to hold on to your money! That is truly nasty and evil, just perfect for Halloween. My current subscription doesn't expire until sometime next year - but I did get two funny emails from Microsoft that my subscription was cancelled and reactivated (from the $49.99 setup to $59.99 I take it). The one troubling thing here is that the email stated that my current subscription will auto-renew once it expires next year which is of course something I don't want to do. I hope that they will "fix" everything soon so that I can change that back to no on the auto renewal.

The one thing that shouldn't have happened my dear Microsoft
is your ridiculous X-Box Live subscription fee increase!

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Game Alert: Campy Samurai Action!

When I first played Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes for the PlayStation 3 this evening, I just couldn't believe just how good the gameplay was. This must be the best Dynasty Warriors clone ever made. The basis of the gameplay found here that focuses on fast action and continuous rewards can be seen in Devil Kings that Capcom released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2005 but everything has been reworked to perfection. SBSH is an action game where you control one of the totally incredible cast of characters and fight a huge number of enemies. The graphics may not be that cutting edge but everything looks really nice, especially the over the top super moves. If you love the Dynasty Warriors series, you will love this game a lot. If you are new to the genre, this game is definitely the right place for you to start.

"Thousands stand before you... Thousands Must Die."
Now that is hardcore.

S-Slap! But I Just Bought PlayStation Plus!

Admit it, we all know that the PlayStation Plus was not a good idea from the very beginning. Sure, you do get the occasional discounts on games that you will probably never buy and access free games that you will never get to keep but why do you have to pay for these things in the first place? Well fear not PlayStation Plus subscribers for Sony is now punishing you for paying them money: A new program will soon arrive in town called the PlayStation Rewards: It is in the beta phase at the moment but it will grant all - I know, that concept is hard to grasp - PlayStation Network users with goodies for just playing new games and buying stuff from the services offered by the PlayStation 3. It works similarly to Nintendo's own Club Nintendo (complete with tiered levels) but without having you registering codes into a website because everything is tracked via your PSN profile. The rewards include exclusive themes, avatars, sweepstakes, and other giveaways... Sounds rather familiar huh? I am sure that this service is only going to grow with better rewards because the current promises don't have enough pizazz. At least Sony is learning that the best way to get people to really engage in their world is by providing us a worthwhile service without the need to squeeze out the remaining amount of cash we have. They still need to cancel out PlayStation Plus though: I am so glad I am not a member. Maybe they will have to do just that once this new program is up and running.

Another reason to avoid the PlayStation Plus. Thanks Sony?

Platy Reward 2010 Here It Comes!

It looks like my ultra awesome and super cute Platinum 2010 reward - the Super Mario Characters Figurine, gasp! - from Club Nintendo will be arriving very soon! Since the message I received from Nintendo is not account specific, it is going to take some time before I get it. Once Nintendo actually releases it from their reward store, it normally takes a day or two for that item to get to me - which is of course, something that hasn't happen yet. Still, that doesn't stop me from getting very excited though!

Send me my shipping confirmation email already!

Update Note: 4:00pm - It just shipped! Oh yeah! I better figure out where I will place it in my Game Room!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oh Yes Ban 'Em!

I just opened up my League of Legends client on the Personal Computer to get some awesome player-versus-player action going before I head to bed when I saw this news entry! I am very impressed that Riot Games is keeping its promise of creating a friendly environment while playing the game:

"...the past week alone, over 1,000 players have had their accounts suspended for poor behavior, player harassment, and other breaches of League of Legends Terms of Use. If you're a stickler, our TOU can be found here, but remember that we've provided you a blueprint for how a good player behaves..."

Wow! This is one of the reasons why LoL is light years ahead of Heroes of Newerth. Still, I am being a bit unfair because I haven't played HoN for a while but judging from the recent live streams that I have watched, the overall interactions between players seem to remain very poisonous, negative, and devoid of common courtesy. It looks like all of my hard work with reporting players with nasty behaviors is not insignificant after all. Others should be encouraged to do the same - don't allow yourself to be abused without that instance being reported! This marks the second time that Riot Games announced such a thing - they really want to make sure we know that they are really listening to us. The Summoner's Code is just so very easy to follow... So make sure that you are always on the right track while playing the game!

A news update that is more exciting than a new champion announcement? No way!

New Game Alert: Not So Calm After the Storm

I got Time Crisis: Razing Storm for the PlayStation 3 today. I am so pumped up about this game because I really want the rail gun shooter genre to be popular again - perhaps we can finally get the true high resolution release of Sega's The House of the Dead series now that the PlayStation Move is here. This "Namco Shooting Collection" includes two other games: Time Crisis 4 and Deadstorm Pirates. I did pick up Time Crisis 4 when it was bundled with the GunCon 3 light gun back in 2007. Unfortunately, unlike Heavy Rain, that original release did not receive a Move patch but at least Namco's providing us that option here, even though it is only limited to the arcade version found in this release. The coolest thing about this disc is that I can also use the GunCon 3 to play these games as well - it is time like this that I wish I have a local gaming buddy to play co-op with since I basically have 2 light guns. I must say that my favorite out of all these three games so far is Deadstorm Pirates because it has that epic sense of arcade adventure and the fact that it arrives totally out of the blue - I have never heard of the game before but it is certainly the most exciting, new, and colorful out of the bunch. What a great collection of light gun shooters!

It may be the game cover art but Razing Storm is not the real star of the show.

You too will learn to love the power of the Golden Guns!

The Sims 3 Console Rush

It's funny that something like today's release of the console version of The Sims 3 got me thinking about the game again.I am glad however that I embrace gaming on the Personal Computer because the PlayStation 3 and the X-Box 360 versions of the game still cannot match the highly superior PC version. From what I understand, the load time is horrendous, the virtual community is smaller, and that sense of open world is diminished on the consoles since the different areas of the map are not seamlessly connected. I have seen so many messages on the social networking sites describing how excited people are about this release, with a majority of them already planning to pick up the game today. It is strange to me that those who are so interested in a simulation game to not game on the PC in the first place but then settle for a bad, overpriced port of a game released more than a year ago. At any rate, I am going to reinstall this game and start playing it again since I had abandoned it so unfairly for such a long time.

It's time to create a household of sex addicts again...

What to Do with Your Netflix Streaming Discs

Now that Netflix subscribers can stream videos directly to their Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 consoles without the use of those silly instant streaming discs, one question remains... What are you going to do with those professionally printed discs? And the Loner Gamer solution is:

A modern, cool wall art or a bold reminder of a misplaced Microsoft exclusivity? You decide!

Monday, October 25, 2010

PlayStation Move: Rainy Weather and Low Visibility

I played a couple of hours worth of Heavy Rain last week using its new PlayStation Move mode and I must say that the game is certainly better with the new control scheme. Since the game is all about motion controls to begin with, there's nothing realistic about performing many of them using the DualShock 3 controller. Though there are some inaccuracies and a steeper learning curve using the Move controller due to the constant switching between the vertical and horizontal orientations, the overall experience is improved. A good example is the scene at the very beginning of the game where you are supposed to be brushing the main character's teeth: Instead of shaking the DualShock 3 up and down, you now have to hold the Move controller horizontally and and then shaking it up and down - the fun is multiplied if you actually pretend to do it right in front of your face (but yes, that is one huge toothbrush). I do like the opening and closing motions in the game where you have to thrust forward and then retract the Move controller backward. One thing I noticed is that the Move controller works pretty well even in a dim lighting condition. The light in my Game Room is not very bright and even during the calibration, the PlayStation Eye camera could barely make out what was in front of it... except for the bright glowing orb from the tip of the Move of course. I have played through Heavy Rain once but playing it again using the Move makes everything somewhat new again.

The magnificent glowing orb. Staring straight at it will cause damaging eye strain.

More Discreet Than Ever Before

I used to have two surround sound setups in my house: one is my Game Room of course, and the other in my living room. Sometime last week, I decided to downgrade the surround system in my living room from a 5.1 into a simulated surround thanks to the Sony HTCT1000 unit (one surround bar and a subwoofer) that my significant other got from a family member. The 5.1 setup was just a bit too messy for the living room due to the overall design of the space so I am sacrificing the sound quality to accomplish a sleeker looking area. My Game Room on the other hand, has been hooked up to a 6.1 setup. Now that I have the extra speakers to use, I am able to add an additional surround channel to the back of the room. Getting the speaker wires neatly tucked along the wall and across the walk in closet was not fun of course but now that everything is done, it was so worth it. I have been wanting to have a discreet 7.1 sound setup ever since I got my Onkyo TX-SR674 several years ago so I am glad that I am able to fulfill that dream now.

My Komainu statues are now both guarding the entrance to the Game Treasury.

I had to relocate the Xenosaga II poster because of the placement of the extra back speaker.

Games Played 10/18/2010 - 10/24/2010

- 10/18/2010 -
Baten Kaitos: Origins - GameCube
My Aquarium - PlayStation 3
Panzer Dragoon Orta - X-Box
Polynomial: Space of Music Demo - PC*
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor - Wii

*It's very pretty space shooter that acts more like a musical visualizer than anything else.

- 10/19/2010 -
Sonic Advance 3 - GBA

- 10/20/2010 -
Frequency - PlayStation 2
Plants vs. Zombies - PC
The Shoot Demo - PlayStation 3*

*Oh yes, old school light gun fun! Works great with the PlayStation Move.

- 10/21/2010 -
Costume Quest Demo - PlayStation 3*
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage Demo - PlayStation 3
My Aquarium - PlayStation 3
Sonic Advance 3 - GBA
Sonic Mega Collection Plus - X-Box

*This Halloween-themed role playing game lite is cute but it gets boring really quick.

- 10/22/2010 -
Dynasty Warriors 5 - PlayStation 2
Fatal Fury Battle Archive: Volume 1 - PlayStation 2
God Hand - PlayStation 2
Sonic Advance 3 - GBA

*I lost all of my save data because they were transfered into my broken PS3.
So now, I have to recollect all of the cards again. Still a lot of fun to play.

- 10/23/2010 -

- 10/24/2010 -
Final Fantasy XII - PlayStation 2
Sonic Advance 3 - GBA

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Favorite Eggman Battle Part I

I started playing the original Sonic the Hedgehog games again recently to wash off that bitter aftertaste of playing Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I. Forget those extremely lame, copy and paste boss fights in that latest Sonic entry... The original bosses are the real deal!

Waterfall Hide and Seek: Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Dr. Eggman thinks that he's so clever by going in and out of the waterfall to confuse our beloved Sonic but our blue hero can see him through the transparency of the moving water. The epic flying bomber chase that leads to this encounter followed by Eggman rushing across the background to get to the location made this fight one very special indeed. And oh, love that cute plopping sound of the weak fire shots that come out of Eggman's cannon attachments.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

PlayStation Move Navigation and Attachment

I got two PlayStation Move accessories today: The Navigation Controller and well as the official Shooting Attachment. Let's talk about the latter first because this device impresses me so. I really dig the design - the top transparent portion of the gun is removable so that you can easily slot your PlayStation Move controller in from above. The gun controller just looks cool and it's perhaps the nicest looking one I have ever seen. Red is never my favorite color but for some reason it works paired with the strip of white lining the back portion of the device. Since I plan to pick up The Shoot and Time Crisis: Razing Storm - and I do hope that there will be more light gun games coming to the platform - the Shooting Attachment is a no-brainer addition to my gaming setup.

The bulb from the PlayStation Move adds to this attachment's futuristic look.

With all of the high praises I have given to the PlayStation Move, I am on the other hand quite disappointed with the Navigation Controller. I like that it has double the amount of input keys on it (plus the brilliant addition of a directional pad) compared to the Nunchuk on the Nintendo Wii, but the fatal blow here is its girth.  The controller's vertical thickness runs consistently from top top bottom, making for an uneven grip in your palm. The Nunchuk has an ergonomic curve on the back portion that falls right into the hand grip so naturally and the Navigation Controller is seriously lacking this. It just feels a bit awkward. I am sure that I will get used to it after a while but Nintendo won this round. I will be putting the Navigation Controller to the test when I pair it up with the Move to play though Heavy Rain again since it received a Move patch last month.

It's a bit too stiff. At least it's wireless...

A LoL Halloween

Yesterday, the great League of Legends for the Personal Computer received a special spooky update to celebrate the Halloween season. The game's map has been given a nice color tweak as well as creepy decorations and the creeps are now wearing cool looking masks! Even the battle music is switched to something a little more ghoulish! The best part here is all of the Halloween skins that can be unlocked for several of the game's champions. These skins will only be sold for a limited time but once unlocked, they can be chosen any time you play the game. LoL is just getting more and more attractive each time I play it - as long as I don't end up in a game with a bunch of negative people of course. Great job, Riot Games!

Even the title screen is twisted and nasty!

My favorite new skin is Dr. Mundo dressing up as Dr. Mundo for Halloween!

The changes in the scenery almost made it feel like you are playing on a new map!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Goodbye Netflix Discs!

Finally, watching Netflix direct streams on both the Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation 3 will no longer require the usage of that ridiculously-conceived Netflix instant streaming disc anymore. I am not going to install the new downloadable Netflix software on the Wii however since I mostly watch the streams on my Personal Computer but I did so for the PS3. The menu interface on the PS3 is different from those found on the X-Box 360 dahsboard and everything is very slick. The addition of Dolby Digital soundtrack is great but of course, I am not going to use this service here that much. Some of the high definition streams are only offered via the PS3 or the 360 so those would be the only time that I would use the console to watch them. When those situations come up, I am definitely going to use the PS3 now to watch them.

They printed a lot of those discs too... It was a really bad idea to begin with.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Games Played 10/11/2010 - 10/17/2010

- 10/11/2010 -
My Aquarium - Wii

- 10/12/2010 -
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Demo - PlayStation 3
EyePet - PlayStation 3
My Aquarium - PlayStation 3
Peggle - PlayStation 3

- 10/13/2010 -
EyePet - PlayStation 3

- 10/14/2010 -

- 10/15/2010 -
Sonic Advance 3 - GBA
Sonic Rush - NDS
Vindictus - PC

- 10/16/2010 -
Sega Genesis Collection - PlayStation 2

- 10/17/2010 -
Sega Genesis Collection - PlayStation 2
Sonic Advance 3 - GBA
Sonic Mega Collection Plus - X-Box
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria - PlayStation 2

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Ultimate Dynasty Warriors?

Today, I downloaded and played Dynasty Warriors Online by Koei for the Personal Computer, an online "Free to play"  faction-based player versus player version of the popular action game that just entered closed beta a couple of days ago in North America and Europe. Though new here in the United States, the Japanese release of the game happened way back in 2006. Since it is a rather old game, the graphics are not the best though it does looks better than any of the console Dynasty Warriors releases with less occurrences of environment pop-ups.

You get a fancy victory dance when you have successfully won a battle.

Finally, for the first time in Dynasty Warriors history, you can fully customize your character's looks. The game still involves that repetitive hack and slash action where you fight our way through never ending waves of enemies but everything has been packaged a bit differently. From what I have played so far, the game mostly involves faction wars between the three kingdoms where up to four players can join a 10 minute bout with varying objectives - like capture the base or kill the most number of enemies - and they are pitted against four other players from a different faction. Both teams are provided with the support of a massive computer-controlled army. The winning team will gain victory points for the associated faction but I have yet to see what all of this means.  The game fully supports the X-Box 360 controller and the controls are similar to the other games in the series. Interestingly, you don't level up in the game though your computer-controller personal bodyguard does. It's all a matter of equipping the best equipments that can be earned by winning battles and doing crafting. There is a power-up system during the battle that works like Gradius where each pick-up enables you to activate a variety of different character improvements.

The shorter battles make the game easier to digest.

So far, this game is very promising but since it's "free to play", I am approaching it with extreme caution. If all is well, this could be the best Dynasty Warriors ever made and I don't see a reason why new entries should still be produced in the future. Since this game didn't stop the continuation of the series, the fact that new releases existed after its 2006 Japanese release, I am sure that the game has some flaws in it. I have noticed one catastrophic problem with the game: The match-making is horrible and I kept joining battles against opponents with advanced equipments. There's definitely some promise with this game and I do plan to keep playing it for a while. If you are interested in checking it out for yourself, please click here.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Not Lux Enough!

With the recent announcement of Lux, Lady of Luminosity, as the latest champion to join the already overflowing cast of characters in League of Legends for the Personal Computer, Riot Games was quick to pull down the character's original art design from the official website. Apparently, a lot of people in the community didn't like the rather slutty "Sailor Moon" look of what was supposed to be a pure, holy character judging from her lore and her set of abilities. Days later, a newly redesigned Lux has finally emerged! I personally don't see a problem with the character's original vision - sure she looks odd but there are a lot of strange looking characters in the game... Just look at Gragas for example! One thing is certain however: Riot Games really, really cares about LoL's community - it's very heartwarming!

The original vs. the redone Lux.
I bet Riot Games will make the original available later as a skin purchase.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Game Alert: Sell Till You Rise?

This induction shouldn't be too surprising - Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale for the Personal Computer is now a part of my Game Library. I really enjoyed the demo of the game and I am glad that I didn't spend too much time on it then because the save file from the demo didn't get transferred to the full game [Update Note: I was able to find the demo save file and I am now playing from where I left off]. I was playing Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland for the PlayStation 2 almost the entire day last Sunday and all of the addictive money making mechanics from that game really reminded me of Recettear. I am also in a bit of a foul mood at the moment and I just wanted to cheer myself up. I'll be playing this game until it's time for me to go to bed tonight.

A bit too gung ho about capitalism aren't we?

Review: League of Legends

League of Legends (2009)
Developer: Riot Games
Induction Date: 04/03/2010

Have you ever heard of Defense of the Ancients? I never did until I started playing one of its clone for the first time, a great game by the name of Demigod. And I thought that it was one of the most fun games ever until I started playing both Heroes of Newerth as well as League of Legends. The fact that LoL is being reviewed first - not to mentioned being played most - should be a good indication of which game is superior between the two DotA successors. I am not going to explain how the free to play mechanics works for this game here: If you are interested in that, please click here to read my detailed analysis of that. Suffice to say that this game is 100% free to play - I have probably stated that so many times in my previous LoL posts.

Teamwork is mandatory and it's great when everyone on your team understands this.

LoL is a multiplayer online battle arena with two modes of play: 3 versus 3 as well as 5 versus 5. Each of these modes comes with their own unique map. The point of the game is to destroy your opponents' Nexus, which is located deep inside their base. The first team to destroy that structure wins but this is where things quickly gets really exciting. To date, there are a total of sixty-one unique and imaginative champions (and that number keeps on increasing) that you can choose from and creating the most formidable team takes careful planning and skill. Once you are transported into the "Field of Justice", you work alongside the computer-controlled groups of fighters (creeps) that follow a set path leading towards the opponent's base as well as your teammates to systematically destroy enemy defense turrets and gain map control to achieve the end goal. You start each match at level 1 with the maximum level being 18. You level up by killing enemy creeps, neutral creeps that are camping in the jungle, as well as by killing enemy champions. With each level, you gain a point to unlock and improve upon your champion's four abilities. You also gain gold along the way that can be used to buy items to equip your champion with. Death by an enemy champion should be avoided whenever possible since your loss of life will reward the killer with a hefty amount of cash and experience. All of this may sound overwhelming but the more you play the game, things will only get easier and easier.

The loading screen can be lengthy, depending on the other players' connection and hardware.

The battle can take up to an hour to complete and I absolutely enjoy the fact that each session feels like a complete gaming experience that starts up slow but then builds up into an escalated climax - whether you are winning or losing. It will take a while to master each of the many champions, thus the replay value for this game is nearly infinite. Unlike DotA, HoN, and even Demigod, LoL's action is not only in-game but outside of it as well. You will gain access to a summoner profile that levels up all the way to the maximum level of 30. You obtain Influence Points with each battle that can be used to buy modifiers for your unlocked rune slots and you also gain talent points that can be assigned to over three different skill trees. You get to also select two summoner spells to bring with you to the match and these are additional abilities on top of your champion's own. Depending on the champion that you choose, you will have to reassign both the runes, masteries, and summoner spells for the most efficient impact, so the success of your battle starts outside of the Field of Justice.

The effects of your mastery selection may seem subtle but they are definitely there.

Havng played both HoN and LoL, there is no doubt in my mind that the latter is the better game. First and foremost, the community is a lot more cohesive. DotA is well-known for having some of the most inhumane, rudest player base in gaming history and that same group of people flocks towards both Demigod and HoN mostly. This is not to say that everyone is polite and respectful in LoL but the community is a lot friendlier and Riot Games is always on the lookout for those who betray the Summoner's Code. Secondly, the masteries and runes add a lot more depth to the game. Thirdly, the game is a lot more action oriented from the start, thanks to the exclusion of creep "denies" where you could stop your opponents' experience intake by killing your own creeps: Instead of eyeing over both creep factions, you can just focus on the enemy creeps while harassing the enemy champions. Lastly, the lore is expansive and there is even a cool bi-monthly Journal of Justice newsletter from Runeterra, the game world where LoL takes place. The champions even have elaborate background stories and their ever-developing existence are often times featured in the newsletters. Those one-liner descriptions of the champions in HoN just can't compare - at least more efforts were made story-wise in Demigod.

A big team fight becomes the true test of your team's overall synergy.

LoL is certainly a must play, especially the fact that it's free. As cheesy as this may sound, it's really true what they always say: The best things in life are free. For a game that will cost you nothing to play, the amount of gameplay it provides surpasses anything with a price tag that are available in the gaming market today. LoL is without a doubt, one of the greatest games ever made and the most astonishing thing about this is that there are even a lot more contents coming our way. Truly the stuff of legend.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review - Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (2010)
Developer: Sonic Team/Dimps
Induction Dates: 03/27/2012, 10/13/2010
*Screenshots are taken from the X-Box 360 version.

Sonic Team is one bitter developer. Even when they come so close to actually reviving Sega's darling mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, they just had to mess it up somehow. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I stays true to its classic roots but the title of this game is very misleading. Let's clear out something first - this game is technically not a direct sequel to Sonic & Knuckles  even if the official storyline tries to say otherwise: It's more of an excuse for laziness. The proper title for this game should have been just Sonic the Hedgehog since it is really more of a remake or perhaps Sonic Remix which describes the content found here very accurately. The stages are merely the reconstructions of those found in past Sonic games but that fact is the least problematic thing about this game.

Shouldn't that say "The Adventure Continues"? Oh I get it...

Sonic 4: EI is a pure 2D platform game, just like the Sonic games found on the Genesis and the Game Boy Advance. The story elements have been completely stripped away and there are no fancy cut-scenes to connect the stages. This resulted into an incredible Sonic experience that I have sorely missed - especially when the adventure elements started to invade even the recent 2D Sonic games on the Nintendo DS. Basically, the game is designed where you traverse one stage after another, collecting rings on your way to the finish line. You can access the bonus stage to unlock a chaos emerald if you reach the end of the stage with a total of 50 or more rings. Once you have completed a stage or a bonus stage, you are free to revisit them at any time from the game's map. The great thing here is that you can choose to just play the game from the beginning until the end without going to the map screen to get that classic continuous experience. The stages have that perfect balance of speed and platforming sections and they are some of the best in the entire Sonic series, second only to those found in Sonic & Knuckles. Sonic has a new move now where he automatically locks on to the closest enemies as well as interactive objects and you can then choose to smash into them: This is a similar gameplay mechanics found in those awful 3D Sonic games but it works perfectly here. As a matter of fact, this provide the game with more precision, making Sonic faster and deadlier as well as a lot more fun to control.

Running across a corkscrew bridge will never get old, ever.

I was very harsh about this game when it was first announced, especially after the horror of seeing Sonic's running animation back then. This animation problem has been fixed now and the sense of speed is definitely there. Sonic as well as his enemies are rendered in 3D while the stages are drawn in 2D. The game looks nice but the background elements are just too simplistic sometimes. After seeing great usages of 3D graphics in 2D games such as in Trine, Sonic Team really needs to step things up. The game's soundtrack is definitely a throwback to the old Sonic games, with catchy tunes that perfectly accompany the themes of the game's stages. None of them are that memorable however.

They managed to make the casino levels a lot more exciting now!

Now on to the troubling part of this game: The boss battles. One of the things that I cherish the most in the classic Genesis games are the battles with Dr. Eggman (Robotnik). It's always fun to see what new contraptions he has in store to destroy Sonic and unfortunately, since this game is more of a remix than a progressive new title, Eggman's contraptions are merely repeats from past Sonic games. Sure, they altered some of the attack patterns but I have mastered these encounters probably more than 200 times in the past and encountering them again now is shockingly boring. Even if the locations of the game's 5 stages are similar to the old titles, at least their layouts feel very fresh and exciting. These boss battles however are a total disappointment. I thought maybe Sonic Team was saving the best (or at least the only original boss fight) for last but unfortunately, even the final boss is not new! I feel really cheated!

It looks like Dr. Eggman was heavily impacted by the recession as well.

Sonic 4:EI is still a good game however but I cannot help but feel that Sonic Team is just acting like a vengeful brat. So they know that Sonic fans crave for the ultimate 2D Sonic comeback and that we prefer 2D gameplay design over 3D so they decided to just put together a new game using bits and pieces of old materials and said to us, "There! You like an old game, you get an old game. How do you like those same old boss battles, huh?" Since Dimps was actually involved in the creation of this game, I have a feeling that the good stuff like the exciting stage designs were made by them instead of Sonic Team. After all of those bad 3D Sonic titles, Sonic Team has lost their way and their pride and they probably think making this 2D game is just below them. So at the end of the day, we get a Sonic game that is so very close to being really good but it got turned into mediocrity due to it being too stringent and confined. We want the gameplay design to stay the same but we do want new Eggman battles and more creative contents! It's easy to see now that the next upcoming episodes will be remixes as well. For now, I just hope that Dimps can just take over the whole project and give us something better from this whole episodic venture.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Teeth

Teeth (2008)
Genre: Horror
Format: Netflix Stream
Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein

If you are looking for a horror movie that is a little bit different but still has a lot of bite, you should definitely check out Teeth. This fascinating tale about vagina dentata, or toothed vagina, is brilliantly told and as menacing as the subject matter may be, it is actually quite humorous.

The owner of this very interesting case of dental mutation is Dawn, a teenager who spearheads her local high school purity ring organization. She begins to question her commitment to the group however when she becomes attracted to a new student who is also a bearer of the abstinence ring. This section of the movie is just hilarious and very well-acted - as Dawn and the guy becomes closer and closer, it is funny to watch the two of them trying to justify their devotion to purity until... it happens. It is then that Dawn discovers that she is not normal sexually and things just go downhill from there as one after another, unfortunate and horny males get to experience a horrible type of separation anxiety.

After the first accidental castration, I really didn't know where the movie would take me and this made the film rather unpredictable. The movie doesn't shy away from showing the audience the aftermath of the violent bites, and if you are a male, you may find these scenes undeniably disturbing. I do like the fact that Dawn is not portrayed as a monster, but as a confused young woman who is just trying to understand her sexual organ and resolve her feminine dilemma. The movie could have taken a darker route however but what we ended with is something more comedic even though losing a penis is no laughing matter. Dawn's eventual understanding of who she is turns her into a heroine of sorts and that takes away her predatory status.

Teeth took a light-hearted approach to an old myth and turned it into a realistic modern horror film. Though it has its blood-soaked moments, it toys around with the viewers' imagination to deliver the goods. Teeth is a strange and unique movie - I am sure the fun is multiplied when it's screened at a bachelor's party.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Review: Art of the Devil III

Art of the Devil III (2008)
Genre: Horror
Format: Netflix Stream
Director: Ronin Team

Having seen the first two movies in the series, I went into my viewing of Art of the Devil III with high expectations. Those movies have shown how nasty Thai horror tales can get and things do get a lot messier here. The gore is not the only star of the show but the team of seven individuals who are responsible in directing this sadistic movie got very creative with the storyline as well.

Art of the Devil III is a prequel to the second movie and it focuses on the vengeful teacher from that film before she exacted bloody retaliations upon the group of students who had wronged her. Despite having a consistency problem in terms of what actually happened to her family, the plot is quite intriguing because it shed a different light on the motivation behind this woman's venture into the realm of black magic. Basically, III is another revenge horror film but it's clear that the definition of who actually deserves a nasty comeback is rather vague. The teacher uses black magic to capture the heart of a married man and that lead to the husband killing his wife. Then, the wife's family uses black magic on the teacher who is able to eventually get back at them herself. Who is the real victim here? Perhaps everyone is but one thing is certain, when the bloodletting starts, there is certainly no mercy shown to any of the film's well-developed characters. The movie includes a couple of what your average western audience would consider to be taboo deaths and the way that these were filmed with sheer brutality made these deaths more horrific than a majority we normally see in western horror films. It does take a long time for the movie to get to the killings but the story remains interesting leading to that point, especially with the sometimes confusing but always intriguing scene changes that may or may not be chronological in the movie's overall timeline.

You don't have to watch the previous movie to find enjoyment from Art of the Devil III though having done so will bring the movie a lot more impact. It is not recommended however for the viewer to watch the previous movie after watching this one because of the spoiler finale. Art of the Devil III is another solid Thai horror movie and I sure hope that this movie gets another sequel because there is so much that they could do with the rather tragic backstory of the killer teacher.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Monday, October 11, 2010

Games Played 10/04/2010 - 10/10/2010

- 10/04/2010 -
League of Legends - PC
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers - PC

- 10/05/2010 -
League of Legends - PC
My Aquarium - PlayStation 3

- 10/06/2010 -
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies - NDS
League of Legends - PC

- 10/07/2010 -
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies - NDS
EyePet - PlayStation 3
League of Legends - PC

- 10/08/2010 -
EyePet - PlayStation 3
Folklore - PlayStation 3
My Aquarium - PlayStation 3
Shatter - PlayStation 3

- 10/09/2010 -
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies - NDS
EyePet - PlayStation 3
League of Legends - PC
Sonic Advance - Game Boy Advance
Vampire Chronicles for Matching Services - Dreamcast

- 10/10/2010 -
Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland - PlayStation 2
My Aquarium - PlayStation 3
Taito Legends 2 - PlayStation 2

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Start Playing LoL Now!

If you have been curious about League of Legends, this weekend is the best time to start playing the game since Riot Games has unlocked all the champions for play until midnight Pacific Time tomorrow. Normally, only a small number of champions are available to be played for free every week - except for those that you have unlocked using the currency you can accumulate for free from just playing the game (or you can only pay using real cash if you are rich). Why is Riot Games so generous this weekend? Because League of Legends has won 5 awards from the Game Developers Choice Awards on Thursday, including "Best New Online Game". League of Legends is completely free to play, so sign up for a summoner account by clicking here and start playing this awesome game!

All 61 (yes, sixty-one) champions are ready to do battle for you!
You probably would not have the chance to try them all before the event is over.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: The Human Centipede

The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009)
Genre: Horror
Format: Blu-ray
Director: Tom Six

If you follow your horror movie buzz, you must have already heard about Tom Six's The Human Centipede. I waited a while for this to finally get a home release and though the movie delivers in its centipede abomination, everything else about this movie is actually more disgustingly frustrating to watch instead of just being merely disgusting.

As announced proudly by the title, this movie is about several people who are unwillingly turned into a "Siamese triplet" and are connected to each other either orally or anally - sadly, for the poor person in the middle, both! Dr. Heiter, the movie's creepy villain, is a renown separation surgeon who has a dark desire to actually do the opposite of his specialty. So he got himself several dumb victims to work with to create his rather ingenious albeit disturbing flesh and blood masterpiece. As if the fact that they are sewn to each other's flesh is not bad enough, these victims are then abused physically and mentally by the lunatic who absolutely enjoys playing around with his creation.

The best part about the movie is its sick imagination. Just the thought of being one of the victims is downright chilling, especially with the great make-up works found in the film. That is unfortunately the only good news about this movie. The actions that were taken by the victims both before and after the catastrophic operation are just ridiculously stupid and after a while, it's hard to sympathize with them - especially after one scene where escape was sure to be certain if any of them actually had a brain. As evil as Dr. Heiter may be, he is only slightly smarter than his pets, which is of course a very fortunate thing for him. At least he is very fun to watch: Dieter Laser's portrayal of the psychotic German doctor is just pure perfection. The ending is highly disappointing and I feel that Tom Six who also wrote the screenplay, had completely wasted all of the nastiness invoked by the whole centipede situation.

Tom Six is currently working on the next installment for this movie which will supposedly feature a longer train of human victims connected to each other in a similar fashion. That may sound totally disturbing but let us hope that he will improve upon the actual storyline so that the movie can become truly horrific instead of being shocking but easily forgettable like this one.

RATING: 2 out of 5

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Loving the PlayStation Move

It's here and it's going to make a permanent mark in gaming history.

At long last, I finally got my PlayStation Move controller for the PlayStation 3 today and I am very impressed with the way that it is being implemented into EyePet, a virtual pet game that I picked up not too long ago. First, let's talk about the Move's design. The controller's cylindrical structure has a more natural grip to it than the sharp rectangular build of Nintendo's Wii-mote. The Move also has four input buttons right on the top portion of the controller versus the one "A" button on the Wii-mote. Though this controller is obviously not original in its conception, the Move surpasses what inspired it to begin with design-wise and we have not even discussed the controller's unbelievable performance.

It's the grown-up version of the Wii-mote, shying away from the television remote look.

Though it quite apparent that certain parts to EyePet can be played by using just your hand gestures as captured by the PlayStation Eye camera now that I have played the game, using the Move made the experience more playable and realistic. Also, the Move provides the game with deadly precision, especially when handling objects within the game screen where the controller magically changes shapes right in front of your eyes. The camera adds not only a different dimension to motion controls - not to mention its ability to detect the depth of 3D space - but it is also the main reason why the Move is amazingly accurate in its 1:1 movement replication. This is due to the fact that not only does the controller able to detect the movement of its own mass, but its location is constantly tracked in real time by the all seeing camera. There is no doubt now that the Move is the best motion controller there is in the gaming market to date and there is absolute no way that Microsoft's upcoming Kinect for the X-Box 360 could come even close to the complexity of motion expression that the Move can accomplish due to its thoughtful design (which includes - just like the Wii-mote - the rumble feedback) and its focus on giving gamers one thing that is most important in the gaming experience, both casual as well as hardcore: the power of being in total control.

I also enjoy using the Move to navigate through the Xross Media Bar. Movement is facilitated by holding the trigger button on the back of the controller and then tilting the controller in the direction of where you want to go. It feels responsive and though it may seem a bit awkward at first try, the whole thing becomes second nature rather quickly. At the end of the day however, I rather just use the DualShock controller for such functions. I am definitely looking forward to use the Move in other games and I surely hope to see the revival of light gun games from this - now Namco can abandon the complicated and expensive setup to play their light gun shooters. I loved the idea of the Move when it was first announced and I am certainly loving this awesome controller now that it is in my hand.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

L4D: The Sacrifice Update

What is this? Another free content update for the Left 4 Dead games on the Personal Computer? I am so glad I didn't buy these games for the X-Box 360 since this content will cost 560 Microsoft Points on that console. I haven't played through the entirety of the regular campaign on both the first and the second game because the whole thing does get really old really fast for me - all you do is shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, and shoot without anything really clever involved in the whole shooting process. So yes, it's fun to shoot zombies using some variety of weapons but it feels too repetitive. I know what I am lacking with this game: three good friends to play it with because I know that is the real allure of L4D. As a matter of fact, you can turn anything fun - like maybe a bad party game - when you are playing it with a bunch of your good buddies... So is L4D a bad party game? Maybe it is. How very curious.

It's time to revisit the world of nonstop zombie killing it seems.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Do I Dream of Games?

With the many game experiences I have had ever since I was around 8 or 9 years old, I know that I pretty much live and breathe video games. I play them whenever I get the chance to and yes, though that may seem be the most ideal and dreamy situation for a lot of gamers, this activity does take me away from my other interest, most predominantly my drawings and writings. Getting this website started was a way for me to infuse creative writing into my gaming habits but there are other subject matters that I am so interested in writing about in both fiction and poetry forms. Growing up, I used to write and draw comic books and though I have tried to get this going again throughout these years, all of the time spent on playing video games has taken its toll of that aspect of my creativity. Perhaps the only exception when I tend to do other things beside gaming these days is when I am doing something with my significant other and that normally involves watching movies/television shows, spending some personal time together, as well as going out of the house for whatever reason. Of course, I also don't game when I finally go to sleep.

Since a majority of my life is spent on gaming, it is fascinating that I don't often dream about anything video game related in exception of one thing: Every so often - perhaps once every 2 years - I would dream about buying a new console or game and then bringing it back home only to wake up just as I was about to start playing it. Of course, that is not a dream. It is actually a freaking nightmare. What I do dream the most about however is being back at my undergraduate years at the university and actually being late or worse, skipping a class. Again, this not really a dream but a nightmare. For such scenario to keep reoccurring to me in my sleep must speak volume about my inner psyche - that I am a control freak with a massive obsessive compulsive behavior and that I like to be able to have total control over time and space in my daily life. It is my biggest fear to lose the ability to "keep up" and "maintain" an orderly scheduled life and of course being able to do so was such an important thing to me during those undergraduate years. I have not lost that rigid discipline in my professional life - though things are far less stringent now - so it is quite intriguing how my brain tend to revert back to that ancient time period instead reimagining a situation from something a little more current.

Dreaming electric is just a fantasy.

It is obvious that there are enough games for me in my conscious state that warrants not a sub-conscious excursions. I probably already have enough games at this moment to really last me a lifetime. Human years are so very short. In between gaming, living life, and dreaming, there is that state of non-existence when I would blank out as I slip into sleep and then suddenly become aware again in a state of consciousness. So it is that I don't dream of games, which makes me realize that it is a perfect fit for that eventual infinite time when I could only dream of nothing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

September 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.


Total Games Played: 40

I played League of Legends on the Personal Computer almost every day last month and I don't think that this pattern is going to stop any time soon. This game is just extremely fun, pure and simple. To think of all the expensive games being sold other there and here we are, a truly free to play game that plays better than any one of them. To think that I was about to give up on this genre due to the bad experience I had playing Heroes of Newerth. I am glad I went back to LoL. I keep reminding myself to return to HoN however because I am very curious to see if S2 Games made good on its promise to clean up the community.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the Nintendo DS took the second place slot. I try to play the game about an hour or two before I go to sleep at night mostly. The game wasn't that exciting for its first several hours but things definitely picked up after the solo section was over and more adventurers joined the party.

Tied at third place were My Aquarium for the PlayStation 3 and Rogue Galaxy for the PlayStation 2. I recently had a renewed interest in Rogue Galaxy and that interest is still going strong. I must say that the "factory" section of the game where you have to design mechanical production lines to create new items was a bit of a turn off for me because it was unnecessarily complex at the beginning.  As for My Aquarium, I am definitely planning to keep that on my display whenever I am relaxing in my Game Room.

Best New Game of the Month:

Unexpectedly Forgotten New Game of the Month:
Alan Wake (X-Box 360)

I Missed You I Want You Game of the Month:
Recettear: An Item Shop Tale (Personal Computer)