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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gaming Break: Morning Sky

It's so easy to get wrapped up in the video gaming universe that sometimes I tend to forget to appreciate the little things in life - like staring outside of the window of my Game Room to catch the early morning sunrise. The two large windows on the left wall are normally my enemies since they tend to bring an overabundant amount of sunlight into the room, resulting in unwanted glare on my television screen. There are many wonders to be found when I do take the time to stare through them: like seeing people walking along the street individually or in groups, or watching the police cars stopping traffic violators - this seems to happen a lot on the street just across my home. I took the picture below this morning and sent it to my significant other who always enjoy a pretty view of a landscape. Life can be beautiful, but of course, my passion for video games does make life a a lot more enjoyable.

A beautiful image generated not by my high definition display, but through my window frame.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Console Cameras/Sensors Solution

With Microsoft and Sony joining in on the "motion control" gaming arena, if you have all 3 current generation consoles. you know that placing the camera/sensor for each of these consoles at the center of your entertainment center can become somewhat of a hassle without having a tiered shelf space. For my setup, the best location to place all of these cameras/sensors would be right in front of my LCD on top of the entertainment center. That was where the infra-red bar for the Nintendo Wii used to sit for a long time before the arrival of the PlayStation Eye  for the PlayStation 3 and the Kinect for the X-Box 360. The funny thing about the PS Eye camera however is that its placement used to be a bit more mobile - for capturing footage for the Eye Create software and sitting on top of the camera stand for The Eye of Judgment game - but now that the PlayStation Move is here, the camera must now occupy a more permanent area on the entertainment center. I am not going to spend any money on a TV mount for the Kinect or the PS Eye so what I have been doing since the Kinect arrived in my Game Room is to place the infra-red bar for the Wii on top of my receiver while letting the Kinect takes center stage. When I wanted to use the Move controller, I would then place the PS Eye on top of the infra-red bar.  I just got an idea today to stick the infra-red bar right at the top of the receiver's shelf space and that actually solved the space issue. I used double sided tapes on top of the infra-red bar to hold it neatly in place. With that being done, I finally can have peace and order in my Game Room again. It's so hard being a poly-gamist sometimes.

Maybe they can make these things a lot smaller in the future.

Games Played 11/22/2010 - 11/28/2010

- 11/22/2010 -
Kinect Adventures! - X-Box 360

- 11/23/2010 -
Kirby's Epic Yarn - Wii

- 11/24/2010 -
Dance Central - X-Box 360
Kinectimals - X-Box 360

- 11/25/2010 -
Dance Central - X-Box 360
My French Coach - NDS

- 11/26/2010 -
Dance Central - X-Box 360

- 11/27/2010 -
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC
Time Crisis: Razing Storm - PlayStation 3

- 11/28/2010 -
Monopoly Streets - X-Box 360
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Kinect Effect: Full Body Sore

I have found myself playing Dance Central a lot over the last couple of days and it's definitely the most fun Kinect games compared to Kinect Adventures! and Kinectimals. Since I haven't included an exercise program into my daily routine (even though I know that I am in need of one), the physical effect of Dance Central can be felt on my body. I played it for about 30 to 40 minutes on Thanksgiving and later that night, my legs were starting to hurt and the next morning, my entire body was sore. Dance Central is not just a game, it's an aerobics exercise class. Still, that didn't stop me from playing a good session of the game yesterday and I am definitely feeling it this morning. Just like any physically demanding  activity, the body will eventually adjust to it and I am sure that will happen very soon with this game. It's really a good time for me to get back to Eye Toy Kinetic and Yourself!Fitness now that I am getting a bit more active. It's just so hard to get a daily exercise routine going!

Dancing like a fool is always fun until someone gets hurt.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Best Buy Halloween?

Black Friday means serious business for those who are selling costumer products, especially electronics, and to ensure bountiful earnings over the upcoming days, Best Buy is currently using a... gnome(?) to lure their customers in:

Aaaaarrrrgh! Get away! Get away from me! Don't touch me! No!

Seriously... What the heck is that thing? Why is it looking at me like it's going to kidnap me and then take me to an old abandoned house? Why is it so child-like but has a disturbing, bushy goatee? Why is its nose and ears so pointy? Is it supposed to be a turkey? I am sure it isn't an elf because it just looks too freaky instead of inviting. I am so scared. Best Buy, this better not be your new mascot!

Claim Your 5 Free PC Games!

Steam is doing "The Give & Get Sale" starting today all the way up to the 29th of this month. Every day, a large selection of games will receive a variety of price discounts but more importantly, 30 randomly selected users will receive the top 5 games on their wish list for free! Better yet, there is no price limit on your selection and you don't have to buy anything to qualify for the drawing! Even if you have never used Steam before or that you don't have any plan to to make any future purchases via the service, you really have absolutely nothing to lose here. All you have to do is open a free Steam account, work on your wish list - you have to add at least have 10 items to your list - and wait patiently every day during the promotion period to see if you are the lucky 30. Yes, the chances of winning is rather small but this is definitely one of the most generous sweepstakes in gaming history. I sure hope that I'll be one of the winners!

Here's my Steam Top 5. Have you created your wish list yet?

New Games Alert: Offbeat Dancing & Pet Loving!

It has been a busy month for new games and today, two more are inducted into my Game Library. Both are Kinect-only games: Dance Central and Kinectimals. I have yet to try these out because it's been a bit busy running around getting stuff for Thanksgiving tomorrow as well as getting the house ready for the get-together. Now I am not known for my natural ability to dance - I am one of those goofy guys who barely moves when I get on the dance floor - but I do like my Dance Dance Revolution games so Dance Central should be pretty interesting since it incorporates real dance moves into the routines. Now that I have this game, I am no longer interested in the Kinect's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved because this should provide enough exercise for me and I have a better exercise program anyway. As for Kinectimals, I can't resist pet games, especially when the pet in question is this cute! Not as adorable as those critters in Nintendogs however, but just look at the game's cover art... There is just no way an animal lover could say no to that cute little fur-shaded face!

I have been told that I have no sense of rhythm but the loving tiger cub doesn't care!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Game Room: Kinect-Adjusted

Since my Game Room didn't fare too well with the Kinect when I first set it up yesterday, I decided to do some extensive furniture rearrangements to gain more space in front of the sensor: Yeah! More physical work for the Kinect! I had to completely remove the computer rack that I just placed next to the entertainment center back in September and then positioned my futon along the right hand wall. I had placed a small chair where the futon used to be so that I could still sit comfortably right in front of the entertainment center and when I want to play a Kinect game, all I have to do is push the chair to the side or back. Now that the adjustment has been made, Kinect Adventures! is definitely more responsive than ever before. As a side note, apparently, the whole "controller free" idea doesn't appeal to all non-gamers: I could not convince my significant other who is very impressed by the technology to play Kinect Adventures! with me. Perhaps it's time for me to pick up Dance Central?

This new layout ended up being a lot more functional that I thought it would be.

I don't like this part of the room though: Not much can be done to hide these wires/cables.

Games Played 11/15/2010 - 11/21/2010

- 11/15/2010 -

- 11/16/2010 -

- 11/17/2010 -
Monopoly Streets - X-Box 360
My French Coach - NDS
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC
Sonic Colors - Wii
Sonic Unleashed - X-Box 360

- 11/18/2010 -
Monopoly Streets - X-Box 360
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC
Sonic Colors - Wii

- 11/19/2010 -
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC

- 11/20/2010 -
My French Coach - NDS
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC
Start the Party! Demo - PlayStation 3

- 11/21/2010 -
Donkey Kong Country Returns - Wii
Kirby's Epic Yarn - Wii
Kinect Adventures! - X-Box 360
My French Coach - NDS
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC

Kinect Adventures! Spy Cam

It is rumored that the Kinect sensor is actually a sentient being that gets some kind of high watching you moving in front of it. At opportune moments, it would snap pictures of you in compromising positions so that it could relive those selected special moments over and over again while the X-Box system is turned off - the fact that the power light for the sensor always remain green after you are done playing the system is very telling indeed. The Kinect's voyeuristic tendencies seem to be harmless however since the sensor doesn't have the ability to develop a set of arms and legs or galaxy forbids, a sexual organ. Be careful when playing Kinect games while naked however, you may accidentally upload the image for everyone to see.

Not only do you look freaky playing Kinect, you are also mocked by the sensor...

...since it likes to give your poses some totally embarrassing names.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Games Alert: New Era of Proper Platformers!

Just as the classic formula of the Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog is being celebrated by yours truly with Sonic Colors on the Nintendo Wii, two more popular 2D platforming mascots are now joining in on providing me with an overwhelming sense of wonderment: Kirby's Epic Yarn and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Just like Sonic Colors, these Wii titles offer some of the best graphics ever seen on the console, especially Epic Yarn with its very stylish, incredibly creative look. Kirby got transported to a world made of yarn and all the yarn yanking, button pulling mechanics in the game is just so much fun to play. This game is a great example that a successful graphical experimentation can triumph over console hardware any day of the week. Epic Yarn is so pleasing to the eye and it is so satisfying to experience.

The Wii is the new haven for platform game lovers.

DKC Returns is a great example of why full 3D gameplay is not a necessary progression of a true and tested gameplay formula. This game is designed to play just like the classic DKC games on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System - which means pure 2D platforming bliss - only with full 3D graphics. The game is hard too, which should surprise those who never played platform games from the 16-bit generation. In Returns, you are tasked to help Donkey Kong get all his bananas back from a group of evil floating voodoo masks. I have only played through the first 2 stages since I couldn't help but get back to Epic Yarn. Fans of pure platform games should not be without the current Wii gaming trio of Sonic, Kirby, and Donkey Kong. Please keep them coming Sega and Nintendo!

Kinect in the Game Room

I am just glad this wasn't bundled with Kinect Joy Ride...

Yesterday, I wrote that the Kinect for the X-Box 360 (or any other "full-body gesture-based" gaming devices of the future) will never replace the game controllers and now that the device is sitting in my Game Room, my conviction is still as concrete as ever before.  The Kinect sensor comes with Kinect Adventures! which is a collection of mini games where you become a member of "The Kinect Adventure Team" as they travel the world looking for random things to do like busting blocks with balls or bursting balloons in zero gravity - I know, those are seriously adventurous! The game is fun to play but it's nothing too involving. Kinect Adventures! is really just there bundled with the Kinect to showcase what the sensor can do and it serves its purpose well.

A fancy looking camera that takes up a lot of space for itself and its applications.

Now let's talk about my Game Room versus the Kinect sensor. I actually have 6 feet of empty space between my entertainment center and my futon. The best possible scenario recommended by Microsoft is for you to have between 6 feet to 8 feet of room available. By the way, those marketing materials for the Kinect that show people playing it being just 3-4 feet away from the device are just pure lies: The Kinect will stop working when you are standing that close to it. In theory, my room should have been more than sufficient but upon setting up the facial recognition as well as a spooky smiley face card calibration, the camera still wanted me to move back into the 8 feet range to complete those settings, which in turn forced me to kneel on my futon. Things get a bit worse when I was playing Kinect Adventures! Even though during the initial setup, the game recognized that I was in the "good" zone of 6 feet - 8 feet is considered to be optimal even for this game - sometimes the camera just failed to see me while I was flailing around and jumping about. So right now, I am in the process of perhaps moving my futon further back, which is not a good alternative since that will almost block the access to my walk-in closet turned video game treasury. Realistically though,, I will have to just take the futon out of the room and replace it with something smaller. Even with this problem with space, I could still play Kinect Adventures! properly if not perfectly.

Unfortunately, "good" is just not good enough.

The Kinect's technology continues to impress me ever since I saw it being showcased at a local electronic store and having spent some personal time with it, I have to agree that the wizardry and magick behind it are quite impressive, especially when you see how it is able to track the shape of your moving body rather accurately. There is definitely a bit of lag before your action is replicated on screen but there were actually times when it seemed like the lag was nonexistent and that creep me out a bit. It could have been caused by the fact that I was just staring at the screen too intently and perhaps I was anticipating what I should be doing too much.

Purple is the color for fall 2010.

To me though, the PlayStation Move is definitely the best when compared to Microsoft's and Nintendo's "motion control" offerings because of its clever camera plus controller design. And oh, it doesn't require you to renovate your gaming space either. The PlayStation Eye camera can also be manipulated similarly to the Kinect, though with less body tracking accuracy, as showcased by Sony in EyePet and even the old Eye Toy games. The Wii-mote comes second and then the Kinect, third. But I know that I am being a bit too harsh: the games that will be utilizing the best that the Kinect could offer will be unique compared to the Move and the Wii-mote, even if it means less control and more muscle-pain.

FIRST IMPRESSION: 3 out of 5

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kinect: A Post-Launch Observation

The Kinect for the X-Box 360 has been out in the video gaming market for 2 weeks now - well, technically, it was only readily available at the launch date unlesss you are willing to shell out a lot of cash for the Kinect + console bundle - and I must say that I do want to get one based on how the actual hardware has been proven to perform post-release. The large electronic store that I frequented has the device out for people to try out, as long as you are not shy to flail about looking like a fool grooving to Lady Gaga in Dance Central in front of a crowd of shoppers, and actually seeing the camera's tracking ability live, I was very impressed with the effectiveness of its full-body recognition technology. Still, I was disappointed to also see the signal lag between the player and the camera but Kinect definitely has its potential and place in gaming.

It's that time again to charge people a lot of money for something that is supposedly out of stock.

The one thing that really bothers me to no end now that the Kinect has been released to the masses, is that there are a lot of articles that actually dare to suggest that the controller-free device is a contender to the game controllers. I just cannot believe that these perhaps brain-impaired critics have the audacity to think that the Kinect has even a remote chance of replacing the controller. They were paid by Microsoft maybe? The Kinect doesn't deserve such comparison: It is a simple, yet effective device that could be used in addition to the controller - for example, you move your character about using the controller and perform a variety of different actions via the buttons but then when you open the menu screen, you can swipe it left and right using your hand or something stupid like that. But! The Kinect will never, ever replace the game controller. Ever. The precision and split-second immediacy provided by a controller in your hands can never be matched by full gesture-based applications: even in year 20001000 if humanity would even survive that long. Yes it looks manly cool when Tom Cruise used exaggerated, sweat-inducing gestures to navigate through a complex holographic screen in Minority Report but note that the character he was portraying wasn't playing a game, he was at work, working! Shoot, I would probably be excited to use a Kinect-like application at work but no, I still want an awesome controller-like device in my hands to play my video games! I am not denying that the Kinect has its allure - motion gaming can be fun, even during its PlayStation 2's Eye Toy era. But, please don't be deluded to think that it can even come close to replacing the controller. You lose your credibility for saying nonsensical things like that. It's like claiming that your religion is the one true religion: funny to think that there are many religions out there isn't it and that every single one of them claims to be the one and only real religion?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Performance Report

After playing Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit for the Personal Computer extensively today, I can safely say that it is the most beautiful racer I have ever played to date. Hot Pursuit doesn't have the hyper realistic look of the graphical perfection found in Dirt 2 but what makes up for it are the expansive and imaginative environments that provide a truly grandiose sense of space within the game unlike anything I have ever seen before. You can see so far into the distance and the vistas are usually composed of prominently stunning landmarks.

You can always find a huge satellite dish or two in the desert.

I am able to run the game at native 1920 x 1080 with all of the graphics settings set to maximum on my PC at  a constant 60 frames per second but the frame rate stutters every so often where it could drop all the way down to the low 30s for a couple of seconds at random moments during the race. There are very little customization options that can be accomplished graphically however, a clear sign that Criterion Games didn't fully optimize the experience for us PC gamers beyond the usual resolution bump and perhaps some possible texture and shadow detail improvements.

What are you going to do when you see this in your rear view window?

There is a very strange glitch in the game where the pretty flare and bloom effects would sometimes be disabled when I start the game (there is no toggle for it in the options menu) but it can be remedied by minimizing the application and then maximizing it again - a solution that I discovered by accident while I was switching between the game and something on the desktop that I needed to check on. The game also doesn't offer an anti-aliasing option but I hardly ever use that on my PC games so I didn't enable it via my graphics card. The aliasing is hardly noticeable due to the high resolution but you can probably see it in these screenshots I took because I had to resize them at a 50% reduction. Many have complained on the official forum that the game crashes often and I experienced that twice within the span of an hour. After the second crash, I reduced the memory clock speed of my graphics card and that seems to work so far.

♪Blue blue skies...♪ Wait, that's a different game.

I have only tried the online play briefly and as expected, there were not too many people playing the game the last time I joined the matchmaking queue. Maybe people are just enjoying the single player so far since I am really loving that myself. Still, I need to find people to add to my friends list since the single player mode has a very competitive friend leaderboards that everyone should take advantage of to awaken the social aspect of the game.

Tricks = Boost, Boost = Speed... Wait, that's a different game as well.

Update Note: 11/27/2010 - The first patch for the game has been released. and now, the lighting effects issue mentioned above has been resolved.

New Game Alert: Game-Packed Wednesday!

4 new games were inducted into my Game Library yesterday but they came sporadically throughout the day that I decided to just combine them into one announcement. The first is Sonic Colors for the Nintendo Wii. And I just started playing Sonic Unleashed again! I still plan to keep Unleashed in my gaming schedule however. Colors is certainly a better return to form than Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I could ever be. Though it includes modern elements like cut-scenes that would interject before or after a stage, the game doesn't have the unnecessary exploration sections found in recent Sonic titles. The stage design is very traditional where each world is comprised of many stages before a boss fight and you access these stages via a map. No unnecessary hub stages here: just pure fun. Is it better than Unleashed? Well, it doesn't have the Werehog so the answer to that is a definite yes.

Sonic is finally on the right path towards redemption.

Why perform it when you can "preform" it? Never trust the spellchecker!

Next is Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit for the Personal Computer. This game is more Burnout than it is Hot Pursuit since it was developed by the good people at Criterion Games but it is a lot of fun and has a really robust online feature. One thing to note is that unlike the disappointing Blur, the online profile creation here doesn't feel tacked-on compared to its console counterparts since you can still take the picture of your own face to customize it. The last two games are Monopoly Street and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction for the X-Box 360. As you may know by now, I love my Culdcept and Culdcept Saga but that also means that I love the original Monopoly since those games are just clever variants of the original formula. There have been a lot of previous Monopoly titles in the past but none of them interest me due to the lack of graphical innovation and online play. Well, Streets have both where the board is transformed into a 3D city that changes as the game progressed and the game can now be played online. This 360 version allows you to use your Live avatar to represent yourself in the game so it is definitely the better version compared to the PlayStation 3 release.

Loving the twist on the series' iconic imagery.

The version that I got for Conviction is the Collector's Edition release and it comes with a fancy USB card, extra in-game contents in the form of an armor and a weapon, some throwaway decals, a badly made art book, and most importantly, the Steelbook DVD case! The USB drive was supposed to contain extra materials but apparently, there was a problem with this ever since the release day. Many people have found theirs to be unusable and thankfully, mine still works - it's just that it contains nothing inside of it. The content was made available for everyone to download from the game website so I decided to do just that and installed all of them into the USB. As for the game itself, I like the Splinter Cell series. I have pretty much all of them since the X-Box days. I do like the fact that Conviction is a bit streamlined and less complex to play. I sure hope that I will be able to find fun people to play the online co-op mode with since this game is pretty much past its prime.

So stealthy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Return of the Unleashed

Looking at my Daily Game Log history, it looks like the last time that I have played Sonic Unleashed was back on the 25th of February this year. For the January 2010 Gaming Analysis, I named it the best new game of the month and at that time, I was really looking forward to explore the game in its entirety so that I could justify the strange love I have for it. True that I reacted negatively when I Sega first revealed the "Werehog" gameplay (I am very protective of my Sonic) but that part of the game is actually rather fun. Of course, it usually is hard for me to concentrate on just one game at a time - only those highly distinguished titles like Culdcept Saga and League of Legends can hold on to my attention span for a very long time - so I never did reach the end of Unleashed because I jumped to another game and then another, and then another.

Though I wouldn't give him an "A", the Werehog is actually A-OK.

With the major disappointed felt by the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, I have decided to commit myself to indulge in Unleashed to get my dose of what is definitely the better Sonic games between the two. When I stopped playing the game, there were only a couple of stages left for me to complete though Unleashed has a lot of side missions that I barely even touched. Since I haven't played the game in a long while, I have decided to start over from the very beginning and so far, I am enjoying the experience. I really rather play this a million times over than Sonic 4. Unleashed is definitely the best new Sonic game this generation... Well, both of the recent Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii releases of Sonic Colors do look promising however.

This "mini-game" boss fight in Unleashed where you are just matching button inputs to destroy
the fotress is light years more fun and a whole lot better than all the Sonic 4 bosses combined.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Riot Games... I Love You So Much!

Wow, another announcement from Riot Games today in regards to the Summoner's Code for League of Legends on the Personal Computer. I just love how these guys are very local about telling players that they just cannot ruin the game for everyone else playing it by being rude or doing other unacceptable things in the game. The best part of the message:

"That being said, even if you have the patience of a saint, you're eventually going to run into a player who's extremely determined to be rude. If you've tried being patient and polite with a problematic individual, and they've just plain hit your last nerve, please help us enforce the code by taking a moment to send us a player report at the end of your game by right clicking the summoners name, and selecting the Report option. We read your reports, and make a diligent effort to suspend those persons who are potentially ruining games for others."

The one clear message here is that those who have experienced playing with the not-so-nice players should have the instance reported and this is something that I do very diligently. Just the other day, this person just came out of the blue during the champion selection screen telling me that he wanted me banned for picking the champion I picked without even telling me why or giving me a suggestion of which champion could benefit the team more. Then, I reminded the player that we need to start the game with a positive attitude and also that the player is not adhering to the Summoner's Code. Of course I got a very hateful "F%$k your Summoner's Code" as a response. I didn't argue with that person after that: I always make sure that I keep my behavior in check but after the game was over, I reported the player. If enough people are doing this, I am sure that the troublemakers will think twice about being rude in this game. But yes, my love for LoL has just been multiplied by the millions, thanks to this latest announcement!

Review: Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trials (2002)
Genre: Historical Drama
Format: Netflix HD Stream
Director: Joseph Sargent

For a made for television movie, I am very impressed with the quality of work done on Salem Witch Trials from both the excellent cast which includes a brilliant Kirstie Alley and the highly polished production values. Perhaps the greatest praise that I could give the movie is its emotionally raw content that spans through its 2+ hours of runtime, bringing a personal look into one of the most well-known judicial crimes in the history of humankind.

The movie jumps straight into the trials after a fast expositions of those who would become a part of the intricate tapestry of this entire travesty. Everything seemed to be peaceful enough in a colonial era 1692 Massachusetts but things were about to get real creepy for those living in the village of Salem. Living an orthodox Puritan existence, coupled with the arrival of a sadistic new reverend - but aren't they all across all religions? - these villagers became enraptured by the fear of god. After being subjected to a countless number of depressing religious sermons, a group of young girls became afflicted with a wild case of mass hysteria and what could cause such horror? Witches of course. That would be the only logical explanation. How could a bunch of innocent youths be subjected to such misery if not for some sort of satanic intervention via their agents, the witches. As baffling as that whole logic may sound, we are talking about a religious community here - for galaxy's sake, these people still exist today everywhere around the world - so they started hanging "witches" left and right to cleanse the population from such evil. In this movie, we get to see how the witches were determined by a group of messed-up young girls, lead by Annie Putnam (a haunting performance by Anna Paquin's doppelganger, Katie Boland), how they were left with no way to defend themselves in the trials, and later, how they were executed. Thankfully, the whole thing could have been more widespead if not for a late intervention by the secular governor of the colony.

The senseless injustice found in the tragedy depicted in this movie should still bear a major significance in our modern life for such things are still happening on this earth in a variety of different forms. It is a grim reminder of the type of merciless evil that the human heart is capable of accomplishing. The movie's somber nature definitely helps in bringing this human dilemma into the spotlight. Whether you are interested in the historical element of the film or you are just looking for a thought-provoking drama, Salem Witch Trials is a choice that should not be overlooked.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Monday, November 15, 2010

LoL: Delicious Evil, Delicious Happy

Ah, League of Legends on the Personal Computer... The fun of playing this game will never ever end. Just when I thought that the fat drunk Gragas was my favorite character in the game, I have now switched my attention to another champion. It's all about Evelynn now, the blue vampire undead whatever she is who is pretty nasty to fight against but a lot nastier to play as. Her most useful talent is her ability to disappear out of sight and when she attacks her target while in stealth, that target will be stunned. She is definitely very useful to set up ganks and kill off lonely champions, especially ones with low health. I feel really evil playing her, especially when the other team just ignores getting sight wards or oracle elixirs that will grant them the ability to see invisible units.

Many call her "The Widowmaker" but I have heard a player called her the invisible hooker.

Tomorrow, another new champion will join the LoL roster but she is actually less impressive than a new skin for an existing champion... And that's the Monarch Kog'Maw. You will see from the screenshots below the utter lunacy of this new skin. Kog'Maw went from a menacing creature to a butterfly chasing sissy! Since there was a caterpillar skin for Kog'Maw previously, this new addition does make sense but just look at the artwork for the butterfly version of this champion and you know that those guys at Riot Games must be a little crazy... in a very good way of course! What's that? You still haven't played this awesome game yet? Please click here to sign up for your totally free summoner's account!

Okay, Kog'Maw is ugly but evil monsters should not look pretty to begin with...

...but oh my. That is just totally disturbing! Those long eyelashes... Aaargh!

Games Played 11/08/2010 - 11/14/2010

- 11/08/2010 -
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes - PlayStation 3

- 11/09/2010 -
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game Demo - X-Box 360
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes - PlayStation 3
Spore - PC

- 11/10/2010 -
Guwange - X-Box 360
Spore - PC

- 11/11/2010 -
Call of Duty: Black Ops - PC
Nanostray 2 - NDS

- 11/12/2010 -
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage - PlayStation 3
Vanquish - PlayStation 3

- 11/13/2010 -
Call of Duty: Black Ops - PC
Vanquish - PlayStation 3

- 11/14/2010 -

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Prototype is Final, The Chapter is Not

Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype for the PlayStation 3 is one amazing game but if you were a bit underwhelmed by the game's anti-climactic ending like myself, there was actually a reason why the game seemed to have ended rather abruptly. There is a new add-on content called "The Last Chapter" for the game and for $4.99, you can experience 3 additional levels and get what could be the real ending to the game. The reason why I said "could be" is because the game seems to be hinting that things are not totally over yet. Still, I haven't collected all the "Secret Keys" for all the stages, so perhaps there is something that I am missing at this point in my overall experience of the game. The last two stages are shorter than the first 8 and the last boss is a bit weird though the action of fighting it is indeed satisfying. I don't like the fact that SideQuest Studios had intentionally segmented the game like this, forcing their fans to download the new content to get the full blast from the game but at least these additional stages are really fun. I really hope that there won't be more add-ons for this game in the future - give us part 3 instead... and please make that into a full game.

I don't agree with the business model but I still agree that this game is incredible.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Games Alert: Raging and Redemption!

Two new games have been inducted into my Game Library today and they are both for the PlayStation 3. The first is Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage, another Dynasty Warriors clone made by the same people at Omega Force. I just love the one versus an entire nation's army type gameplay and this game delivers the same amount of thrills only with a better stage structure, nicer looking graphics, and a more deliberate pacing. Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes that I got not too long ago is definitely superior in comparison to Ken's Rage however. It does have one thing that Samurai Heroes doesn't have: the ability to make your enemies' bodies bloat in agony before they burst into glorious explosions of blood and guts. Next is Vanquish, a third person shooter that utilizes the cover/shoot mechanics popularized by the Gears of War series. Vanquish is fast-paced, futuristic, and features a hot looking robot suit worn by the main character. I really like the manic, all-or-nothing feel of the action but things can get a bit too hectic in the game. One thing that should be noted in regards to this game is that Platinum Games used the PlayStation 3 as the lead platform for its development, thus the PS3 version got one advantage over the X-Box 360 release in the form of vertical sync. I suppose this is a way for them to repent for that horrible, despicable thing they did to the PS3 version of Bayonetta.

Deaths by fists and bullets.

Review: Skyline

Skyline (2010)
Genre: Sci-Fi
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: The Brothers Strause

After releasing the cinematic abomination also known as Alien vs. Predator: Requiem three years ago, I was sure that the directing duo of the Strause brothers would be too embarrassed to actually helm another film project and just stick to their special effect works. Unfortunately, that piece of garbage actually made a lot of money in the box office so here we are again with another vanity project that looks great but does absolutely nothing in terms of providing us with any sort of narrative excitement.

This movie may have borrowed quite heavily from the enjoyable Independence Day as well as the stunning masterpiece Cloverfield but its mimicry doesn't even come close to the effectiveness of any of those superior titles. It's another alien invasion film that focuses solely on a group of survivors who found themselves trapped inside an expensive apartment building in Los Angeles. I do like the fact that the movie follows a small group of people but the problem here is that there is little emotional payoff given to the audience due to poor characterizations and shockingly boring moments in between the action sequences. There is this weird "bromance" versus "romance" thing in the movie that is used as the main element of tension - at least for a good chunk of the running time - that feels extremely forced and it is obvious that the writers were trying too hard to make the forgettable characters cool, hip, and current in which they are not. Then, there is also that silly ending that almost worked until the final "twist" happened and when it did, the movie just could not be saved anymore. Not even the incredible special effects can entice me to watch this movie ever again.

The Brothers Strause have apparently focused too much on visual works in their career that it becomes impossible for them to retain their audience's attention via other cinematic means. If only the great looking alien ships and creatures found here are put into use with a decent screenplay, it could have easily been a winning combination. Also note that if you have seen the trailer for this film. you have pretty much seen the bulk of the special effects - another disturbing pattern for the directors because they pretty much spoiled almost all of the cool moments in AVP:Requiem via the trailer as well. Apparently, they don't have any confidence in the actual story setups that they are selling so they just had lure us in by using all the pretty moments they could find from the films.

RATING: 1 out of 5

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Game Alert: More Black Ops Than the Game!

I was in for a major surprise today when I received a package from a good friend of mine: It was an early birthday gift in the form of an issue of "Gamer" magazine as well as a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops for the Personal Computer! This friend of mine is no gamer himself - like I mentioned before, I don't have any local gaming friends - but of course he knows just how much I love video games so when he heard all the hoopla about Black Ops, he thought he would beat everyone else - including myself - to the punch by getting the game for me immediately. The magazine is of course, a very pleasing gesture - he would get me a game magazine for my birthday sometimes. Black Ops is Steam-activated and that is of course, the preferred method of PC gaming distribution for me. Here's the problem though: it was impossible for me to install the game from the actual disc. After many tries - which include me repeatedly stopping the Steam client from accessing the online files for download and deleting the partial downloaded data - I gave up on the disc and just allowed the client to install the game for me, a process that is estimated to take around 4 hours. The gift is still very special indeed and I never would have guessed that I would actually own this game any time soon.

Activision spent very little in packaging this game for the retail market.

League of Legends: Replay Get?

You can probably tell from my review of the game - as well as the fact that I play this game almost every day - that I am in love with League of Legends for the Personal Computer but if there is one thing that LoL for the Personal Computer was missing right now compared to its closest competition, Heroes of Newerth, it would be a replay database where all the past games played can be viewed by the community. Unless you are live streaming or live capturing the game, there is no way right now to watch past matches in the game and I have not felt that exclusion until one epic game last night that took 1+ hour to finish.

I was playing Mordekaiser and the rest of my team were: Akali, Sona, Tryndamere, and Dr. Mundo. The other team was comprised of Akali, Vladimir, Ryze, Tristana, and Miss Fortune. My team was doing poorly at the beginning - and I myself was being very careless while doing mid against Vladimir that ended up with two deaths in his favor during the laning phase. Things got bad to worse when Vladimir began owning everyone else on the team and this lead to us eventually losing every single one of our defensive turrets. Then, the huge mega-creep waves got our nexus down to 10% after a big team battle that we aced (killed off all the enemy champions) at our base but we were able to clear the creep waves as the other team shouted "Go creeps, go!" in the all chat. But then, we made our comeback - we started winning every single team fight while playing very defensively, and we progressed slowly but surely towards the enemy base after each successful ace. It took us a while - including one team fight where I scored my second quadra kill in this game (the first was when I played Nidalee) - but we were able to completely turn things around and won the game! This match would have been one heck of a show to watch for fans of the game but I suppose it's just going to be just a special memory for all 10 of us involved in it. Riot Games, we need that replay function immediately, pretty please.

Another surprising quadra kill performance and an incredibly satisfying comeback game.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spore Madness

I found myself playing Spore on my computer again since yesterday. Spore is an interesting yet inconsistent game where you get to evolve your chosen species from its early forms of life into its most advanced existence. The real star of the show is the game's robust customization feature where you pretty much can make any form of creature imaginable. I like making horrific looking ones however and I kept finding myself laughing hysterically watching how physically humorous my creatures ended up looking. I never really played this game extensively though and I want to invest a good amount of time making custom adventures using the Spore: Galactic Adventure disc that I got last year. But now that I am diving into the game again, I rediscovered the frustration I had with the game in the past: the lack of auto-save. The game requires you to manually save often because if it crashes, you have to start again from the point where you last saved. Since I had forgotten about this problem since the last time I played it, I went through several physical metamorphosis before the game crashes on me and when I restarted it, I had to start the whole process all over again: which of course almost made me insane. Well, I am going to be a bit more careful now and hopefully, I will not be further discouraged by this issue because I am looking forward to messing around with the adventure portion of the game.

I like turning something cute...

...into something totally disgusting. You got to love evolution.

New Game Alert: Demon Baby Win!

Cave's Guwange is finally out on the X-Box Live Arcade today and of course I have the game safely downloaded into my X-Box 360 hard drive. It's a bullet-hell vertical shooter where you can choose from three mystical Japanese characters whom each control a unique shikigami. The use of your shikigami is the main element of the game where you need to move it towards the enemies to slow down bullets and chain score multipliers. For a Live arcade release, this game is packed full of options and features, with 3 gameplay modes and a plethora of display customizations. Perhaps Cave should consider releasing all of their shoot-'em-ups via this method of distribution in the future to satisfy both their fans in Japan and beyond instead of punishing the latter with their nonsensical region-locked releases.

Shoot your human enemies into sad puddles of blood!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Games Played 11/01/2010 - 11/07/2010

- 11/01/2010 -
Children of Mana - NDS
Heroes of Newerth - PC

- 11/02/2010 -
Pinball FX 2 - X-Box 360
Zen Pinball - PlayStation 3

- 11/03/2010 -
Alien Crush Returns - Wii
The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match Demo - X-Box 360
Pinball FX 2 - X-Box 360
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Decade Duels Demo - X-Box 360*

*I am very disappointed that the artwork for the cards is not in high definition.
As a matter of fact, they looked better in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dawn of Destiny on the X-Box!

- 11/04/2010 -
My Aquarium - PlayStation 3
Nanostray 2 - NDS

- 11/05/2010 -
Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 - PlayStation 2
Karaoke Revolution Party - PlayStation 2
Nanostray 2 - NDS
Sega Superstars - PlayStation 2

- 11/06/2010 -
Karaoke Revolution - PlayStation 2
Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 - PlayStation 2
Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol - PlayStation 2
Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore - PlayStation 2
League of Legends - PC
SingStar '90s - PlayStation 2
SingStar Pop - PlayStation 2
SingStar Rocks! - PlayStation 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I - X-Box 360

- 11/07/2010 -
League of Legends - PC
Nanostray 2 - NDS

The Super Mario Characters Figurine!

My Platinum Club Nintendo reward has finally arrived today! I was expecting this Super Mario Characters Figurine to be a bit larger but who cares when it looks quite adorable! Better yet, it came in a super epic question mark block! Despite some imperfection on Mario's nose - it looked as if he had some disgusting warts there - the attention to detail is remarkable. I highly enjoy the spikes on Bowser's shell. In terms of location, I have decided to place this figurine next to my Nintendo Wii since it's small enough not to block my view of the display behind it.

It's really temping me to uppercut it!

One big happy family. View the reveal video here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: Saw 3D

Saw 3D (2010)
Genre: Horror
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Kevin Greutert

No, don't expect to see to see a giant statue of the death-traps obsessed serial killer being built in the movie - the posters for the recent Saw films have always been misleading - but you can certainly expect another round of delicious nastiness that you usually get from this impressive horror series. With its continuous success and its ability to defy the horror sequel curse with the movies getting better and better with each entry instead of the other way around, I don't understand why this movie is being marketed as "The Final Chapter", especially after seeing how everything ended. Still, if that claim did end up to be true, Saw 3D is certainly a worthy final entry into the best horror franchise ever made.

Saw 3D continued where Saw VI left off: with two of Jigsaw's "followers" trying to kill each other off. The internal struggle between the Jigsaw family members has been a very intriguing addition to the plot formula ever since it was introduced in Saw III. If you have been paying attention to it, you should get yourself ready for a cathartic payoff here thanks to a very special trap that seems to keep reappearing from one film to the next. Of course just because there is a dysfunction within the Jigsaw hierarchy, it doesn't mean that the "sinful" members of the public are safe from Jigsaw's wrath. This time, the main player of the game here is a self-proclaimed survivor of Jigsaw's trap who has found wealth and popularity thanks to his "survival" book publication and media appearances. The traps that this guy faces are truly no match in comparison to those found in part VI in terms of pure evil but there are couple of really horrific ones and just when I thought that things tamed down a bit at the very end, the sudden grandiose and exaggerated nature the final trap's closure will go down in history as one of the most sadistic deaths in horror cinema.

The movie was shot using a specialized 3D camera but more importantly, the 3D effects found in this movie are well implemented and done so in a subtle fashion. This is the first Real-D movie where the 3D looks very natural and there was no sign of that flat layering that I come to expect with this technology. Kudos to Kevin Greutert for understanding the importance of realistic depth perception: the 3D here is not just a distraction, but it is a natural part of the experience. This is certainly the best looking 3D movie I have seen thus far, second only of course to James Cameron's legendary Avatar. Though you should expect some blood and body parts to come splattering all over your face, the occurrence of that is set to a minimum and when they happen, they look quite realistic. Speaking of blood and guts, this is the goriest of all the Saw films. I heard that the movie had to be edited down rather heavily to get the "R" rating so I cannot wait to watch the original cut when the movie is released on Blu-ray.

Saw 3D is not the best of all the Saw films, but that is because it is probably impossible to top off part VI. It is however a well-made film that should never have been as good as it ended up being. We are talking about the 7th entry of a horror franchise here and if you look at all the past horror series that came before it, the Saw franchise is definitely a landmark achievement for the genre. I would say that if they could keep this up, there should be no reason why we can't have a Saw VIII, with or without the 3D.

RATING: 5 out of 5


Not all Saw films are equal to each other.
Here's how I rank them from top to bottom:

Saw 3D
Saw
Saw IV
Saw III
Saw II

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

October 2010 Gaming Analysis

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

OVERALL BREAKDOWN:


Total Games Played: 51

Another month of dominance for League of Legends on the Personal Computer. After writing the review last month, I truly doubt that there is anything else I could add to just how incredible and addictive this game is. I haven't even reached the peak of the entire experience yet because that would be finding four friends to team up with as an arranged team instead of just using the solo matchmaking queue and play the game with random strangers.

The second most revisited game last month was My Aquariuim on the PlayStation 3. What can I say, randomly swimming digital fish makes me smile. I still haven't unlocked all of the different types of fish available in the game so I am sure that I am going to go back to it every so often. There are additional fish to download too but I believe some of them are just mere color swaps and I have to wait until I have unlocked those that are already in the game to confirm my suspicion. Tied at second place was Sonic Advance 3 for the Game Boy Advance. This should really tell you how disappointed I am with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I since I am looking to find my Sonic fix somewhere else.

In third place for October 2010 was EyePet. I really do enjoy messing around with this virtual pet though I have seem to stop visiting him after the 5 days recorded from last month. It mostly has to do with the camera placement - to play Time Crisis: Razing Storm and Heavy Rain, the camera has to be placed on top of my entertainment center underneath my LCD and to play EyePet, the camera is positioned lower. Sometimes I just get lazy moving things around back and forth but rest assured that I will not abandon by sweet Moo Moo for too long!

Best New Game of the Month:

Unexpectedly Forgotten New Game of the Month:

I Missed You I Want You Game of the Month:
Kirby's Epic Yarn (Nintendo Wii)