Thursday, June 30, 2011

My PC Temperature is Rising!

How I hate this nasty hot summer weather... But at least all of this deadly heat brings about crazy deals and discounts for digital games courtesy of my favorite direct download distributors, Steam and Direct2Drive. "The Steam Summer Camp Sale" has begun today and different game deals will be offered per day until the 10th of next month while Direct2Drive's Summer Sale starts tomorrow and will feature 31 days of deals. The Steam offerings are definitely a lot more attractive because by buying and playing the games that are on offer, you earn tickets for the grand prize drawing where 100 lucky gamers - that is right, one bloody hundred - will receive the top 10 games on their Steam wish list! You get one free ticket by just joining Steam's official community group for the promotion! If you are still not doing your Personal Computer gaming using Steam, well, you must be crazy. My poor wallet is trembling right now: Things are going to get a bit rough for the little guy!

The "summer camp" concept is so very endearing.

Mafia II Giveaway Winner!

Apparently, not a lot of people want to win a free Personal Computer game. It's an old game so I shouldn't have expected too much. I know that a lot of misinformed people just don't like Steam but anyway, I have decided to cut the deadline short because I don't think I will receive any more comment submissions - both the qualified and non-qualified ones - for the giveaway that I posted up a couple of days ago. I just want to reward the winner with the ability to appreciate this game earlier than expected. Congratulations to...

I will be sending you the Steam activation code using the email address you have provided. I hope you will have fun playing the game on your second play-through with the benefits of the improved PC visuals. For the other two participants who placed comments on the giveaway article, thanks for trying.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Point to Pathos - Chapter 1, Part 4

     The woman held the memory pad up for a moment and then started walking towards Clac and Jupiter to hand it back to them. She suddenly gave Clac a strange look that soon turned into an ecstatic smile.

     "Is that you, Clac?" The woman asked excitedly as she gently placed the memory pad onto Clac's extended right palm. "I really didn't expect to see you again."

     "I beg your pardon?" Clac said, confused. "Do I know you?" He turned to Jupiter for a quick second and he noticed that she was looking back at him with a mild sense of amusement.

     "Well, silly me. I shouldn't have expected you to remember... but it's me, Molly!"

     "Holy moly... Molly?!" Clac squinted his eyes as he tried to find the visual similarities between the person who was standing in front of him and the person he knew from the past. He remembered the clear blue eyes and and the dimples. "But how?"

     "Last minute draft. Apparently they forgot to send the g-mail to my family until like several days before boarding," Molly explained. "Crazy huh?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Switching Stance

Okay, so I always thought it was funny for me to obscure and censor the face of my X-Box LIVE avatar whenever I have him in a screenshot. Well, if you have always wondered how he really looks like, now you are fully invited to drool over the handsome bugger:

It's a little too warm to wear the kimono right now.

I have decided to open myself up a bit, thus the reason why my gamer profiles for the three major gaming services are now being displayed underneath my profile on the right hand side of the blog. What prompted this? Well, my spouse thought that I needed to be a bit more personal in my approach to my writing here. I thought I already did that but who knows, maybe good things may come from all of this.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mafia II Giveaway!

I have an extra activation code for the Personal Computer version of Mafia II by 2K Czech and I am giving it away to one lucky reader! Bear in mind that you must have a Steam account to activate the game but if you still don't have a Steam account (better admit yourself to the closest psychiatric ward), it is free and it is a breeze to install. Just click here to sign up for it. Only those who register themselves as a "Follower" are qualified for the game giveaway but just simply occupying the "Other Gamers" space to the right hand side of the website will not be enough. You must communicate your interest by commenting on this article. The deadline for comment submissions is 10:00pm PST on the 4th of July next week. Please make sure to include your email address in the comment if it is not already available on your blogger profile. The winner will be selected randomly on 07/05/2011 and there will be an announcement for it on that day. Good luck!

Note: 06/30/2011, 10:36am - I have decided to end the giveaway early. No new submissions will be accepted for the drawing. Click here to view the nail-biting, thrilling result.

Warning: Kissing up to (or just kissing) me will not increase your chances of winning.

Celebrate First Amendment with Steam!

Today marks a victory celebration for the video game industry with the Supreme Court ruling against the ridiculously conceived California law that would penalize retailers for selling "violent" games to children - the retailers do not sell games that are rated "M for Mature Audiences" directly to kids in the first place - and cause a lot of complications in terms of video game distributions. Steam has decided to flaunt the result of this on its store page as you can see below. Click here if you are interested in reading the complete official document in regards to this ruling. For those who still think that "violent" video games should be censored, well I will politely say that you do not understand the system that has been established by the Entertainment Software Rating Board and paranoid parents, you do know that you have the power to directly control of your kids right? If you don't well, that's a different problem than video games is it not?

FTW indeed!

Games Played 06/20/2011 - 06/26/2011

- 06/20/2011 -
Titan Quest - PC

- 06/21/2011 -
Beat Hazard Ultra - PC
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/22/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/23/2011 -
Alice: Madness Returns - PC
Child of Eden - X-Box 360
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/24/2011 -
Alice: Madness Returns - PC
Champions Online - PC
Child of Eden - X-Box 360
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/25/2011 -
Alice: Madness Returns - PC
Child of Eden - X-Box 360
League of Legends - PC

- 06/26/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3
Terraria - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Secret Gaming Hobby?

When it comes to cellular phones, I am way behind the times. I know that gaming on the mobile phone is a profitable market for developers but if I started having video games on my cellphone, I think that would just be a bit too much. I can always carry my PlayStation Portable or the Nintendo DS with me if I want to game on the go. My spouse however always wants the latest and greatest when it comes to mobile communication gadgets. While I still carry around a 2-3 year old cellphone, my spouse currently using the Samsung HTC EVO, which from my understanding is capable of some fancy gaming graphics. Well apparently, someone has been keeping a secret about gaming on the cellphone because I was able to find this application on the phone today:

What is this?!

And no, the game wasn't already pre-installed on the phone because I have used the phone before and in the game, there were already high scores for the first initial stages (go baby, go!). So what do you know, I married a gamer after all. Even after this revelation however, I still couldn't convince my spouse to have a gaming Sunday with me in the Game Room! What a tease.

What's on the Wallpaper?

From the deepest reaches of space to the darkest recesses of the mind, the new desktop wallpaper on my Personal Computer has now been occupied by Alice's sudden arrival in Wonderland from Alice: Madness Returns since Friday. I have been playing this game over the past several days and it has been a magical - albeit disturbing - experience. I just love how beautiful Wonderland looks - thus the screenshot - and how that beauty hides so many hideous things to come. American McGee needs to make more games, that's for sure. Time to add some fun yet psychotic statistics! The previous wallpaper was able to stay on my desktop for 23 days! Let's see how long this one will last.

Alice has such vivid imagination.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Child of Eden

Child of Eden (2011)
Developer: Q Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 3X-Box 360
Induction Date: 11/04/2014, 06/22/2011

Child of Eden is the sequel to Rez and just like its predecessor, it is a blending of two genres: music/rhythm action and rail shooter. Unlike Rez however, you no longer see a representation of a ship on the screen and instead, you are given a first person view of the action as you are taken through one scripted stage after another, shooting down anything that can be destroyed by moving a target cursor around the game screen. You are given access to two weapon types: the lock-on laser and the rapid fire shots and some of the enemies are immune to one of those attacks. Enemy bullets must be destroyed using the rapid fire shots, making for an interesting weapon switching dynamic. Some of the enemies will drop off two type of spheres: one that increases your health and another that grant you the "Euphoria" attack, which is a much fancier name for a super bomb. Though you can lock on and shoot the enemies with careless abandonment, locking on to the maximum of 8 targets and then releasing the laser on the appropriate beat of the background music will grant score multipliers - understanding how this works will not only improve your high scores but it will also provide much pleasure to your audio-visual senses as you groove along to the hypnotic music tracks from game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi's own band, Genki Rockets, that are remixed beyond recognition.

The landscape is less Lumi and a bit too much Eden.

This game can be played using the regular 360 controller or the Kinect. Each provides a unique experience for the gamer: the conventional controller provides more precise targeting and the rumble feedback while the Kinect provides a level of immersion and responsiveness that is out of this world. Q Entertainment is very smart to separate the leaderboards between the two control schemes and though you may prefer one control method over the other - I wholeheartedly agree with the label on the game cover that the game plays "better with Kinect" - the division between the two means that you will play a slightly different game depending on your "controller" of choice. Now that I have gone over the gameplay mechanics, I want to focus the rest of this review on the conceptual design of this game that actually made it less spectacular than Rez. The game's story is vague enough that it can be interpreted in so many ways and I am reading this game like Rez because of the similarities between the two titles. Basically, a group of scientists in the future is trying to create a human persona within a vast matrix of knowledge database known as Eden. Now why would they want to do that? Didn't they learn from their past mistakes? Eden gained self-awareness in Rez and as soon as that happened, it began collapsing within itself because it cannot identity its own existence within the confine of that which created it. One would think that the people involved in "Project Lumi" would know that the same could happen when another sentient program is activated within the matrix. If you are not familiar with who Lumi is, she is this fictional character of the first human to be born in space and she is the muse for Genki Rockets where all of the songs they composed are supposedly written and performed by Lumi in the future and are transmitted to present day earth. Apparently, Lumi is such a significant figure during her lifetime that they proceed to store her memories in Eden when she died while her body is preserved somewhere - which is fine but why would they want to recreate her? Isn't it cruel to provide self-awareness to a "creature" based on the memories of someone who was already dead a very, very long time ago? In this game, when Lumi started to emerge within Eden, she was immediately attacked by "a virus of unknown origin" or as I see it, she was overwhelmed by the perplexing dilemma of her sudden existence.

Are we splitting atoms or just splitting cells today?

I think it is a mistake for Tetsuya Mizuguchi to revolve this game around Lumi because it turns the game into another experimental Genki Rockets concert instead of something a lot more profound. The 5 stages that represent the different levels of Lumi's persona don't really make much sense compared to how coherent the stages were in Rez. Things are less emotional this time around though there are still several brilliant moments involving Lumi's images dancing away in ecstasy pulsing on top of the game's bosses and these moments are definitely quite effective and touching. But the "person" you are trying to save isn't really Lumi even though she has all of Lumi's memories, which well, makes her... Lumi. Oh, this is depressing. The final stage in the game's story is also highly disappointing because the brilliant story revelation that was used in Rez was nowhere to be found here. You basically get multiple boss battles leading up to the finale and everything feels a bit anti-climactic. I would always cry, even to this day, whenever I go through a full gameplay session of Rez but I didn't drop a single tear playing Child of Eden. I did come close to doing so however when the phoenix symbolism was used in one of the game's stages: a rather dramatic statement about Lumi's revival within Eden.

I would gladly pay to have this as a screen saver for my Personal Computer.

Child of Eden is an extremely good-looking game and just like Rez, its striking "digital world" visual style will remain graphically stunning forever. The soundtrack is strong too though they are more melodic and calmer than the ones in its predecessor. The game contains a lot of things that you can unlock and that will keep you playing it for a long time but you will likely be hooked by the gameplay by itself that will take a massive amout of repeat play to truly master. Or you can just choose to enjoy playing it over and over again as a way to unwind at the end of the day since there is an option where you can play through the game without dying. The stage selection menu or "Lumi's Garden" is an aural wonderland but to fully utilize it, you have to unlock creatures to occupy the garden with by playing the game and there are five different varieties of these gardens. Overall, there is definitely a lot to do in the game on top of its addictive gameplay. The Child of Eden may not be as perfect as her mother, but she is most definitely very beautiful in her own right.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Double Milestone Celebration!

So what do you know... As I was cataloguing my latest gaming inductions from yesterday, I found out that both games have provided a new milestone respectively for my Personal Computer and X-Box 360 game libraries. Child of Eden is my 200th X-Box 360 game while Alice: Madness Returns marks my 300th PC game! Now how exciting is that? Click here to see the full list of my X-Box 360 games and click here for the full list of my PC games.

Two flavors of psychosis.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

There is Eden in Kinect?

When Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Child of Eden was first announced for the X-Box 360 as a Kinect-based game, I was worried. Its brilliant prequel, Rez, that was released on multiple systems had shown us that rail shooter games require precise control of an analog stick to be played properly. Later, it was revealed that the game would not be Kinect-mandatory and that the regular controller can be used for the game - I was very relieved to learn that. Then, another twist: a PlayStation 3 version will also be released and that the Sony iteration will utilize the Move controller. I was definitely aiming to get the PS3 version since then but I had a change of heart. For one, the release of the PS3 version has been pushed to a later date this year while the 360 version had already hit the stores since Tuesday of last week. Since I had planned to use the regular DualShock controller to play the game on the PS3 anyway, I went ahead and pick up the 360 version of the game because I didn't see the point of waiting if I was going to just play the game conventionally, without the assistance of motion controls.

A hidden surprise inside the game case...

Child of Eden follows the same formula as its predecessor: it is a rail shooter where you move forward automatically and all you have to worry about is shooting the enemies that show up on the screen. When I first booted up the game, I decided to give the Kinect mode a try. So that should have been a really horrible experience right? Well, wrong! The Kinect controls are actually really, really smooth. Sure, Q Entertainment cheated a bit by enlarging the target cursor on the screen but the responsiveness of it being controlled by the movements of your hands is just amazing. Playing the game with the gamepad provides an extra sensory experience in the form of the vibration feature and it cannot be denied that the controls are a lot more precise using it but playing this game with the Kinect actually makes you feel like you are involved in a progressively futuristic activity, especially the fact that the game has a high philosophy sci-fi storyline as well as a collection of psychedelic music and graphics. The Kinect makes things extremely involving. I am definitely impressed by the Kinect implementation for this game and I am glad that I have made this decision because this experience just cannot be replicated using the Move controller.

But Wonderland has always been a peculiar place...

By the way, I also inducted Alice: Madness Returns by Spicy Horse for the Personal Computer into my Game Library today. American McGee's Alice was a wild ride and who doesn't love Alice in Wonderland? Of course in this continuation of the classic tales, things got a lot darker for Alice and the inhabitants of Wonderland. Unfortunately, my adventure in Wonderland will have to wait... Eden is awaiting my return!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Beat Hazard Ultra

The original Beat Hazard by Cold Beam Games is such a clever hybrid of the shooter/music genres that I still consider it to be one of the best video games ever made. Is there a way to make the game a lot better than it already is? The answer to that will cost you about $5 in the form of the Ultra upgrade that was just released last Thursday. What you will get with your small investment is a massively improved gameplay experience: Ultra makes what was already a wonderful game even more incredible.

More Players = More Fun = More Flashing Lights

The greatest additions here are the versus and co-operative modes that both can be played locally or online. There were not a lot of people playing this online unfortunately but I was able to connect with several players yesterday thanks to a convenient notification feature that informs you when someone has created a game room while you are playing the game: all you have to do to join is hit F1. The online experience is really smooth with hardly any lag. You can even use your personal music collection to play the game online with others as long as that they have the same collection of musical tracks in their hard drive. Experiencing the game with another player makes the game a lot more fun and of course, a little easier though you can get a little confused now with more shots and unexpected explosions filling up the screen. Ultra also comes with several more new enemies and bosses and they definitely bring more variety to the game. Still, I do wish that there were more of them because you can pretty much see all of the new enemies after playing through a couple of tracks. It is a bit bewildering as well that the new enemies seem to show up more when they should have been mixed around with the original baddies more evenly. There are now three additional weapon power ups that you can use in addition to your screen-clearing Super Bomb: Micro Missiles, Reflect Shield, and the Ultra Beam and they all add much needed survivability in the game as well as being so much fun to deploy. Ultra also comes with new gameplay perks to unlock as well as a Boss Rush mode.

Behold! Optic Blast!

As a downlodable content,  I was expecting a little more from Ultra because the game can certainly benefit from a lot more enemy variety - maybe one unique enemy and boss for every classified track length? Speaking of which, the game's leaderboards is still not as robust as the ones found in Audiosurf. It would be great to be able to have one for each of the music tracks instead of the length of the track. Apparently, this is not a big deal for the developer but it's the little things that could propel the game even further. Still, the Ultra upgrade is a must have for those who already own Beat Hazard because it does make the game a lot more fun than it ever was before.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Click here to read the review of the original Beat Hazard.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Games Played 06/13/2011 - 06/19/2011

- 06/13/2011 -
Titan Quest - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/14/2011 -
Champions Online - PC
Forsaken World - PC
League of Legends - PC
Titan Quest - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/15/2011 -
Champions Online - PC
League of Legends - PC
Spiral Knights - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/16/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

- 06/17/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/18/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 Demo - PC
Titan Quest - PC

- 06/19/2011 -
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

6... 5... 4... *Pressing Start Button*

Last week was a very busy week for me and everything went perfectly on The Big Day. Despite the possible implications that the coinciding "Father's Day" may have on the event, I am not going to be a dad anytime soon. The date just happens to have a tremendous significance to my spouse and nothing else. I know it has only been a week but writing a new post feels a bit foreign to me now because it seems like I have been away for a long time. I did keep up with my gaming the best that I could while I was away though I did not acrue any new games during that period of time because it was impossible for me to do anything else but squeeze a bit of gameplay time here and there.

Yes honey, we've come a long way together...

The most exciting gaming development that occurred last week was Valve's surprise offerings of "free to play" massively multiplayer online games via the Steam client. Of course, one does not need to even have Steam installed to get these games in the first place because you can just download the games from their respective developers but the idea of having everything organized and managed via one application is a defiuitely an example of some clever forward-thinking. Unfortunately, the excitement waned sooner than I expected because Valve really missed the mark on this venture. The fatal flaw here is that from the four games (out of five total) that I downloaded and played, only one of them was automatically registered with my Steam account and that game is Spiral Knights. That statement may be a bit confusing so allow me to explain - when you first log in to Spiral Knights, you don't have to register nor open a separate account with the developer which means that you can jump straight into the game using your already established Steam account.

Valve is on to something big here but they really need to capitalize on this opportunity.

This is not the case for the other 3 games: Forsaken World, Champions Online, and Global Agenda where you have to create an account separately for each of those games. This just doesn't make much sense to me. Though the cash transactions are managed by Steam while playing these games via the Steam client, it is baffling that Valve was not able to secure a deal with the other developers to allow players to access the game with just one secured Steam profile. Thankfully, all of these games are throwaways really and you know how much I hate cash shops and these supposedly "ftp" players are just so dependent on them. I deleted all of them soon after I tried them out except for Champions Online because the cash shop requirement is the least invasive out of the bunch... At least for now at the early parts of the game!

Games Played 06/06/2011 - 06/12/2011

- 06/06/2011 -
Fallout: New Vegas - PC
Titan Quest - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

- 06/07/2011 -
Dungeon Siege III Demo - PC
League of Legends - PC
Split/Second - PC
Titan Quest - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/08/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Titan Quest - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/09/2011 -
Dead Nation - PlayStation 3
Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony - PC
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/10/2011 -
Aion - PC
League of Legends - PC
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalker - PlayStation 3
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/11/2011 -
Aion - PC
Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony - PC
Fallout: New Vegas - PC
League of Legends - PC
Titan Quest - PC

- 06/12/2011 -
Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony - PC
League of Legends - PC
Titan Quest - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Monday, June 13, 2011

Continue? 9... 8... 7...

The Big Day is fast approaching. I am going to take some time off from the site so there will be no new post here for a period of a week or so. Happy gaming!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Strike While the Aion is Hot?

I have been playing Titan Quest on the Personal Computer over the last couple of days because I have that craving to play some massively multiplayer online role playing action again, in which of course something that Titan Quest just cannot hope to satiate. In my search for a quick fix, I found out that Aion by NCsoft, a fantasy MMO that was released in late 2009, now offers a 10 day free trial so I went ahead and downloaded the game.

Because you need to stab monsters with the biggest sword you can find.

This game was hailed as the best looking MMO when it was first released and I was definitely impressed by the robust character customization. You can even customize the character's size so it's possible to create little children with big heads in the game and I did just that for my first character although I made the mistake of making the head proportionate to the size of the body so she ended up looking particularly strange. Soon after, I deleted that character especially after seeing the running animation: When you have a small character, he or she would move at the same speed as large players so your character would move his or her feet quickly and run around like little rats. Urgh, it was not a pretty sight. So I made a new character with an adult body but that really didn't help with the foreboding cheap "free to play" MMO feel of the game. The writing is just bad and the throw-away beginner quests are just so uninspiring becausethey really don't do anything to introduce the lore of the game to the player. Perhaps I have been spoiled by the absolutely epic introductory level from Rift. The game also lacks racal variety. There is pretty much just one race divided by 2 factions: the "evil" Asmodians and the "good" Elyseans" and they both look like humans unless of course you distort your character's body so much then he or she could look like living dolls or aliens. The combat is at least fast paced but your character yells out things with each strike of your weapon and each cast of your spell. These voices cannot be muted so during a drawn-out fight, it may sound like you are constantly torturing something that may or may not be human in your house.

Your character's battle-cry is so loud that the enemies should be running away in fear.

Now let's go back to the graphics. This game is not the most beautiful MMO at the moment and even back in 2009, the generic Korean art style and the uneven color scheme just cannot compete with something as stylish as World of Warcraft. The character models  are detailed for sure but the shading on them sometimes look a bit flat. I am able to run the game with all the settings maxed out on my PC and for the most part, the game runs smoothly. Sometimes, there are some frame rate chugs while I am just running around the game world with nothing happening around me.

There are 4 classes in all and each class offers two role types.

Overall, it is safe to say that I am disappointed with Aion. I still have 9 days to go with the free trial though so before I delete this game, I will make sure to jump back on it to continue my adventure. Who knows, I may have a change of heart but it is clear however that if I want to go back into a MMO at the moment, Rift or WoW are definitely the superior options.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review - Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony

A 2D shoot-'em-up is a rare thing to come out of a western game developer but Final Form Games is showing us that it can be done properly with their recently released Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony for the Personal Computer. This top-down shmup borrows the best elements from their Japanese counterparts in both visual presentation and gameplay system to ultimately create a game that should feel very familiar to genre fans.

That Jamestown sure looks like a fun place to be...

Jamestown does feature a storyline that is presented using static cut-scenes between the levels. The story is an alternate universe twist on the exploration of the "New World", which in this case being Mars. It's a bit odd but it works, especially with the stirring soundtrack that accompanies the story slides which later echoes throughout the game's five stages. The story is as nonsensical as what you would normally find in other games in the genre but at least it is presented with style. The gameplay is the real story of this game with 4 different ships to choose from, each with their own set of two unique weapons. When you destroy the enemies, they will leave behind gold coins that you can collect to increase your "Vaunt" meter. When that meter is full, you can charge up a temporary shield that will absorb enemy bullets. Activating the shield will also grant you a score multiplier as well as increased weapon damage as long as the meter is not depleted so you can keep destroying enemies and collect coins to refill the meter. You can also choose to completely deplete the remainder of the meter by activating another shield while in this mode but this will result in your Vaunt meter being disabled for a brief period of time. This system creates an interesting gameplay dynamic because you have to lean the stage layout and enemy patterns to know when it is best to keep the score multiplier up and when it is best to gain access to the shield. You can also activate the Vaunt early and see if you could keep the score multiplier up throughout the length of the stage. The game does provide access to online leaderboards so you can check how you fare against other players.

The road to redemption can take you to unexpected places.

The game offers quite a number of unlockables. As a matter of fact, you have to buy 3 out of the 4 ships to begin with. Gaining ducats to unlock things from the shop is easy - all you have to do it keep playing the game. It is cool that the final stage can only be opened up if you are able to defeat the previous stages in "Legendary" mode. The game can be very easy at the lower difficulty levels but bump it up and you have a hardcore bullet-hell shooter in your hand: don't worry, the hit box on your ship is quite small. The best way to play the game is via the "Gauntlet" mode where you have to go through all the game's stages with a limited amount of credits. Jamestown uses clean, pixelated 2D graphics but despite the purposely aged look, it carries a classic charm with it. Though I prefer my modern shmups to use state of the art 3D engine on a 2D plane, the art style found here is quite pretty to look at and everything from the ships, bullets, and explosions is animated beautifully.

This one is called "Lady of the Lake".

Jamestown is a really fun and incredibly polished shmup. These guys at Final Form Games may not be original, but they certainly know what they are doing. I surely hope that they will continue making shmups because if Jamestown is any indication, things can only get better from here on out. The game costs only $9.99 (there is also a 10% discount being offered for it if you hurry) and it is certainly worth more than that. It can be played up to 4 players simultaneously. Unfortunately, the multiplayer option is only for local play and that is the only blemish on this extremely competent shooter.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

May 2011 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: 28

Apparently, I exercise more than I game. Well, that is not entirely true. Yourself!Fitness on the original X-Box was the most played game of last month and it would have been guaranteed that spot every single month until I have decided to keep Saturdays as my day off from exercising despite what Maya had suggested to me. After increasing the duration of my workouts, I started to feel drained when I was working out every single day of the week and since I do not have a real workout diet to go along with such intensive physical training, I knew that it was time to slow things down a notch.

Next is League of Legends for the Personal Computer. Since the introduction of "The Tribunal" system where the community can review reports of players misbehaving in-game, things are a bit of calmer in-game but of course the problem is still there. I review Tribunal cases on a daily basis and hopefully, others who are eligible to do so are doing the same thing. I am sure that it's just a matter of time before a majority of the game's problem players are eradicated. Since LoL is a free game however, they can always open up new accounts but hopefully they will do as a better person unless of course they don't mind just playing with the free champions instead of those they have unlocked after playing the game for months on end.

The third most played game last month was Dirt 2 for the PC and this is because while switching between Windows XP to Vista Business to Windows 7 Professional, it was the second game I reinstalled after LoL. With the operating system upgrade came the added graphical enhancement for the game in the form of DirectX 11 and the game looks a lot better now, giving me ever the more reason to keep playing it.

Best New Game of the Month:
Darkspore: Limited Edition (Personal Computer)

Unexpectedly Forgotten New Game of the Month:
Toy Story 3 (PlayStation 3)

I Missed You, I Want You game of the Month:
MotorStorm: Apocalypse (PlayStation 3)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finally! A Use for My Kinect Camera!

Well, that is actually an unfair statement because to be honest, Dance Central and Kinectimals are great games that utilize the Kinect technology and I just haven't gone back to them in a long time. During Microsoft's E3 conference held earlier this morning, Kinect Labs was announced and it was easily the highlight of the show for me.

Bravo Microsoft! Finally, a noteworthy dashboard feature.

Kinect Labs is a place where free, fun, and creative gadgets for the Kinect camera are housed in. You have probable seen a lot of clever ways in which the Personal Computer community has been manipulating the Kinect camera - a memorable one was turning the floor into a piano keyboard that you can step on - and Microsoft doesn't want the  360 users to miss out on the fun. There are only several gadgets available at the moment and they include tools that can create an avatar and a bobblehead based on what the camera sees and a very cool object scanner. They are so much fun to mess around with and achievement whores should be excited to know that they can get achievements from playing around with these applications. There is even a social aspect to these because you can choose to share screenshots and/or videos of your creations with the community. I am really loving this and I cannot wait to see more additions to Kinect Labs in the future!

The Kinect was able to replicate my clothing properly but oh my galaxy, that is not my face!

It's 2,222 Already?

It seemed like it was only yesterday when I inducted my 2,000th game into my Game Library with Borderlands for the Personal Computer. That happened on October 31st, 2009, which was about a year and seven months ago. As of 06/04/2011, I am now up to 2,222 games. I know I have slowed down somewhat in my gaming inductions but an additional 222 games in that period of time just seems like a lot. I do keep an eye out on the numbers from my Yearly Gaming Analysis and I do know that I can reach about 100+ inductions a year but it's just a bit more revealing when looking at the overall number. Still, there is nothing wrong with having a large gaming selections to choose from and that has always been the intent for me.

The one thing that I do notice though these days is that it is getting harder and harder to select what game to play because, well, there are just too many of them. I don't force myself to focus on a particular game - I let the games speak for themselves as they are being played. I know that I have a strong interest in every single game I have - whether that turns out to be a good thing or not - and it is just a matter of being in the right mood for me to fully experience them. When discussing game numbers, the one thing that is most often misunderstood by a lot of people is the reason "why" and my answer to that is not the usual one you normally find within the gaming community. A lot of gamers with a lot of games like to "collect". They get games because they can - they primarily aim for games that the community deems "worthy" and games with "special packaging" (the reason why they are called "Collector's Edition") so that they can be "showed off". I don't doubt that they do play a lot of games but they also get games that they know they are just going to leave untouched or even factory-sealed - some games are to be played while some are just being collected as trophies. I have seen individuals buy two copies of the same game so that they can leave one sealed for "collecting" purposes.

This can be a rather challenging activity sometimes.

Well, that is not how things work with yours truly. I want to be able to experience everything that I have in my Game Library and I unsealed all of my physical games as soon as I get them home. I do not plan to sell any of my gaming items - they are here as a part of my desire to have the ability to gain access to them whenever I want. Though I love a beautifully packaged physical game like any other gamer, I am a strong supporter of digital distribution of games. This is the reason why I love Steam and the concept of having your digital games attached to your account. Sure, there is nothing wrong with the idea that we should be able to transfer our gaming licenses between accounts but even if that was available, I sure wouldn't be doing that. It's all about having that access and total control over my gaming experience.

It's more convenient to select digitally then to search for the physical game.

Two thousand two hundred and twenty-two. That sure is a mouthful and that is a lot of games. I have done the math earlier this year estimating the amount of gameplay that I can get from my Game Library and it looks like the lastability factor is only increasing by the induction. This only means one thing - I do need to step it up and game more while doing it harder to keep up with myself.

Games Played 05/30/2011 - 06/05/2011

- 05/30/2011 -
Split/Second - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

- 05/31/2011 -
Minecraft - PC

- 06/01/2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC
League of Legends - PC
Total War: Shogun 2 Limited Edition - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/02/2011 -
Fallout: New Vegas - PC
League of Legends - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls Demo - PlayStation 3
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/03/2011 -
Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga Demo - X-Box 360
League of Legends - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/04/2011 -
Dead Nation - PlayStation 3
League of Legends - PC
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - PlayStation 3
Strania: The Stella Machina - X-Box 360

- 06/05/2011 -
Fallout: New Vegas - PC
League of Legends - PC
Terraria - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Spent Digging Dirt

I have spent the last 3-4 hours playing Terraria by Re-Logic for the Personal Computer non-stop after inducting it into my Game Library. When time just flew by so fast without you noticing it, you know that you are playing a great game. Terraria is the 2D equivalent of Minecraft where you are given the freedom to alter the terrain of your game world to your liking, one block at a time. Though the game lost a bit of the immersion found in Minecraft, it is still a very addicting endeavor. You are given a huge, randomized 2D world to explore and you must gather resources and start transforming the world to your liking. Unlike Minecraft however, this game is a bit easier to play because you don't have to worry about 3D space and the crafting system is a lot more forgiving because you don't have to figure out the item formulas. The game also has a heavy focus on combat and there are actual body equipment slots for your character. Terraria has that classic 2D feel to it with its adorable simplistic pixel art, so it is perfect for those who miss the olden days of gaming. More importantly, this is another excellent sandbox game for those who are looking to explore their inner creativity. It's slightly more inviting than Minecraft as well. The game is currently available exclusively on Steam.

A platform action adventure game where you get to make your own platforms to jump on.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Worth the Strania on My Wallet

I did it again - my reckless abandonment of the X-Box 360 ever since I stopped subscribing to X-Box LIVE Gold almost cost me another awesome shoot-'em-up. Strania: The Stella Machina was actually released at the end of March of this year and I didn't even know about it until today while I was rummaging through the list of Arcade releases on the LIVE marketplace. Developed by G.rev, Strania is a vertical shmup where you can equip your flying robot with 3 weapons at a time while using two of them simultaneously. As you destroy enemy ships, your shield meter increases and when it is full, you can choose to become invincible for a short period of time and killing enemies while this mode is active will earn you score multipliers.

All the Strania without the hernia.

When I was playing the demo, the game had that incredible adrenaline rush to it where the scenarios were constantly changing while the level designs were varied and packed-full of unique enemy patterns. I should have known by the way the game started - with waves of circular enemies flying towards you in a tunnel environment - because when I researched the game further, I found out that the galaxy's gift to Earth Mr. Hiroshi Iuchi from Treasure was actually involved in this project! No wonder the game is so good and the weapon system seems suspiciously Radiant Silvergun like the sword-swiping and how clearing the enemy waves is heavily dependant on the weapon you choose to equip. I got the game immediately after of course and I also went ahead and unlocked the game's "expansion" called Side VOWER that includes completely new stages and enemies. If Microsoft can keep getting us more Japanese shmups like this, I may reconsider going back to LIVE Gold just to reward them for providing an attractive platform for the genre developers... Maybe.

The first stage boss is ridiculously huge!


NGP Redefines Bad Touch

I was watching this interesting little video on the official PlayStation blog in regards to the new Uncharted game for the "Next Generation Portable" and I was disappointed by the forced implementation of touch screen mechanics for the game. Sony needs to really get over their PlayStation Portable epic failure to the Nintendo DS brand because their attempt to put the touch screen gameplay into the forefront, as exemplefied by this game, just seems desperate. It's like they are little kids trying to get their mother's attention: "Look mom! We can do touch screen too just like daddy!" The developers being interviewed tried to justify that the implementation was natural but when they started describing how they experimented on the touch mechanics, you know that Sony strictly mandated them to do so when the game clearly can be controlled perfectly with just the buttons and sticks on the handheld. Since neither touch mechanics nor motion controls were needed for the PlayStation 3 releases, the touch screen will not bring any enhancement to the gameplay. What you do get with the touch mechanics however is this:

What do you rather see? You fat finger running across the screen or the NGP's beautiful graphics?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bad Hero Edition: Infamous 2

A lot of people out there would just love to become a hero. The easiest way to do that of course is to play video games where you play as one. Infamous on the PlayStation 3 is one of those games where you are granted powers beyond that of a pedestrian mortal and you are given the opportunity to be an anti-hero as well. The first game was alright but it sold well and now the sequel is going to be released next Tuesday on June 7th. According to Sucker Punch (still waiting for the real current generation Sly Cooper)  and Sony, you can be a hero in real life by paying them $99.99 for the "Hero Edition" of the game's release. Let's look at how horrible this package really is:
  • Infamous 2 game on Blu-ray disc
  • Exclusive limited edition 8.5" Cole MacGrath statue
  • Replica Cole MacGrath sling pack
  • Super voucher that gives access to in-game content, including the Lightning Hook Power, Electrocution Grenade Power, Kessler Skin, and 24K Gold Amp weapon variant
  • Mini infamous #1 comic from DC Comics
  • Official infamous 2 soundtrack
The only cool thing about this package is the small Cole statue - which should really just come standard with the regular release. So the extra $40 that you are paying for is for the ugly duffel bag. Seriously, the thing only looks cool in the game but not in real life unless of course you are into cos-play but then they should have just included the whole Cole outfit. By heroically spending the extra money, you are also encouraging developers to restrict in-game contents that should have been accessible by everyone from the standalone game like those that can only unlocked using the "super voucher". I really cannot wait for games to be only digitally distributed so we don't have to deal with poor special releases such as this one ever again.

The horrible-looking duffel bag wants to hug you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What's on the Wallpaper?

When playing games on my Personal Computer, I would normally capture screenshots of beautiful moments of gameplay that I would then use as my desktop wallpaper. There are a lot of pretty games out there but for a screenshot to actually be worthy of dominating my PC workspace, it has to have the perfect combination of mis-en-scene and graphical prowess. I was going over my old folders yesterday and I found one of them. Even if I find more though, I probably would just keep one image on my desktop instead of creating a desktop slide show out of them because I like a little bit of consistency in my life. If another worthy image is found to replace what I have at the moment, I will then post an article to announce the change. What I love about the scene below from Mass Effect 2 is the serenity and calmness it presents as well as its clever representation of open space. Combined with the sleek futuristic decor, it's a real winner:

It's like peering into a space and then peering into space.