Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Fighter or a Pervert?

You know that Dead or Alive 5 must have done something right when I am actually playing this game on my PlayStation 3 more than Tekken Tag Tournament 2 with both of them being inducted recently on the same day. I personally almost gave up on the DoA series because they felt too similar when it comes to the mechanics and graphics after the revolutionary second entry but I am so glad to have given it another chance because this latest entry feels quite different - it has finally matured into a serious fighting game so the inclusion of several of the characters from the Virtua Fighter series actually makes a lot of sense now. But today, I just want to discuss the interesting but incredibly flawed photo mode found in the game. You see, even though DoA 5 states boldly that "I'm a Fighter", in which it strongly is now, it should also admit that it's also a quite the pervert.  All the fighters, male and female, are very good looking with nothing but the most perfect of bodies and of course the females have breasts that seem to bounce just for the sake of bouncing without gravitational help... They even wobble from side to side now - it's actually rather sad to know that the developer spent so much time on this and then gave us a really ugly and stiff looking kimono for Kokoro that is not even close to the silky smooth, cloth physics-ladden one she wore in the attract sequence of DoA 4.

"I'm a Fighter" it says as a horny Kasumi stares wantingly at you.
Back to the photo mode: You can take pictures of replays and the computers beating each other up in real time and to view these pictures, you have to load them individually in the Album mode. It's here that things become really ridiculous because to view the photos, you have to scroll down the list of pictures you have, load only one of them into the system, and then select it again to finally be able to view it. You then have to repeat the process to change to a different picture. Wow, really? Why can't we just get a small preview window of all the pictures and then be able to view them immediately when we select the picture? Who programmed this mess? Surely this person should be fired immediately and be banned from joining any game development team ever again? This is a real shame because taking photos in the game is a lot of fun, especially when you realize that the pictures you've taken ended up being a little uh, risque? By accident of course. You know what's worse though?  These photos can't be accessed in the Xross Media Bar because they are archived as game save files and if you exported them to the Personal Computer, you only get a really tiny photo images from them. Disappointing. As you can see in the examples below, there are so many opportunities to share fun shots of the "fighting". I had to use unconventional means to get these pictures here because of the problematic way the game saves all the photos. I surely hope they will fix this problem in a future patch. Since I am already spoiled by the greatly implemented screenshot feature on Steam, this is just unacceptable.

Yup, that's a grope, I mean, a grapple.
Bayman is a great chiropractor.
But the round had merely just begun!
He is obsessed with female hair care products.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's All About the Williams!

Who cares about the Mishimas? At least, I really don't when it comes to the cover art I choose to display on the game case of my recently inducted Tekken Tag Tournament 2 for the PlayStation 3. I really like these reversible cover art and while I prefer my games to be delivered digitally, when they are retail-acquired, they better give me something extra to make it at least entertaining in terms of its physicality. While the original cover art features Heihachi Mishima and Jin Kazama, the one printed on the other side actually has the hot Williams sisters Anna and Nina - the latter being my number one favorite character in the series. It was a no contest and I have decided to once again commit to the alternate cover art. If you were wondering why I took the time to write this instead of playing this awesome game - the first Tekken Tag Tournament is still the best Tekken game ever made and I hope this sequel will take over that title - the game is still slowly installing: Oh PS3, you are such a slug. I am sure it will be worth the wait once the game is ready to go. Sorry hun, I'll be up late tonight.
Choose this cover or Nina will come get you!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Soraka: Bare Bottom to Penta Perfection

Oh my galaxy. This new Soraka model is so very beautiful... I have been playing today using her Divine Soraka skin and she is truly a thing of beauty. Her overflowing black hair neatly tied into a ponytail and it moves around ever so gently with every action she takes. When does her physical attack, she swings her staff with such conviction as crescent energies flies out towards her target. When she heals, a beautiful sigil forms underneath the target's feet and when she silences her enemies or replenishes her allies' mana, she reaches out her left arm towards her target, confidently projecting her inner strength and powers with a degree of calculated finesse as a mesmerizing concentration of pure energy is collected inwards on the recipient of the spell. Soraka now looks a lot taller than before as well. Riot Games, thank you for making my favorite champion ever in League of Legends into the most gorgeous one on the roster. I hope that we get to see more of these visual upgrades in the future.
You are no Starchild, Soraka. You are the Star!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Riot Points Got Reversed Too

The Reverse Annie alternate skin is one of the more creative skins in League of Legends for the Personal Computer and I got it unlocked last night. When it comes to mages, Annie is definitely my least favorite. That whole stack to stun mechanics just doesn't flow all that well to me but hey, the skin was discounted and I do plan to have at least one alternative skin for each champion so if I was only going to get one for Annie, this one would be it. What's so special about this skin? Well, when you play Annie, you get access to summoning her teddy bear from hell Tibbers and here, Annie is dressing up as Tibbers and when you summon Tibbers, he gets dressed up in drags. Amazing right? I think Riot Games should consider creating alternate skins where champions are dressing up as each other like a skin for Karma dressing up as Soraka or vice versa. Oh, I would buy both of those immediately at full price... Maybe!
Perhaps it would have been cooler if you get to control the real Tibbers as the champion?

Wii U Sold Out at Launch? Shocking!

Having signed up for that silly PowerUp Rewards program when I picked up Xenoblade has made me prone to these promotion emails from Gamestop. Urgh. The latest is this notification that the Wii U is sold out right now but you can get yourself into a waiting list... Hooray? Well, let me tell you something ladies and gentlemen, there should not be a rush to get the Wii U. I am not going anywhere near it at launch. You know why? Well first off, read this article I wrote about surviving the modern gaming age. The one reason why you shouldn't touch this launch model is simple - there will be a revised model in some sort of fashion for the Wii U in the not so distant future after the launch. It's now a 100% guaranteed occurrence for a Nintendo gaming device. Remember how the Wii got a better Wii-mote later on with the whole MotionPlus debacle? Remember how that MotionPlus attachment became obsolete soon after when the actual sensor got built into the newer Wiimotes? How about a more recent example: Remember how the Nintendo 3DS got remade with a much, much larger screen? I have a strong suspicion that the Wii U GamePad will receive some kind of revision - perhaps longer battery life, 3D/larger/higher-resolution screen, or more ergonomic shape. So if you are already panicking because you think that you may not be able to secure yourself a Wii U at launch, that energy is better spent going to the store to pick up components to upgrade your Personal Computer. Let the Wii U go. Get it at a much later time.
Aww, really? Watch these crocodile tears rolling down my cheeks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: Jet Set Radio

Jet Set Radio (2012)
Developer: Blit Software
Induction Date: 09/19/2012
November 1st, 2010 was a glorious day for me for it was the day that I picked up Jet Grind Radio for the Sega Dreamcast from the store, a game that ended up being one of the console's greatest releases. The game's clever fusion of roller skating, music, and style felt remarkably fresh and new. The game's original developer, Smilebit, had created a distinctive, unique game worthy of the Sega brand and now, more than a decade later, the game has been re-released with updated graphics. I am a strong believer that great gameplay transcends its initial visual representation and the also ignores the expansive span of time and playing this again via Steam on the PC, that fact is certainly true for Jet Set Radio -  I am very happy that the game is now named appropriately for this release. Jet "Grind" Radio always felt a little forced.
Never underestimate the power of pulsating monster hair.
Of course it would be rude of me to assume that everyone knows what this game is all about and to those of you who haven't played the game, be thankful that you are now given the ability to do so, with improved visuals nonetheless. Set in a futuristic Tokyo-to, you control a group of roller skating teenagers who got themselves involved in a turf war with other gangs in the three different parts of the city. This all develops into something more grandiose and everything is told through a series of crazy broadcasts from the funky DJ, Professor K, who disperses his message of freedom and groove via the "Jet Set Radio" station. The gameplay involves you skating all over the cityscape, tagging and painting graffiti along the way while the police force is attempting to stop you in your tracks with all sorts of exaggerated violence. Understanding the layout of the stages and then traversing them in style is extremely important in the game not only to make it easy for you to move around them but also to rack up your score total since you are given points for performing tricks. It's also necessary for you to collect spray paints along the way and a certain number is needed to complete the each graffiti type. Every so often you will receive challenges from potential recruits who will become selectable once you are able to show off your skating skills. There are additional modes of play on top of the story mode and there is a leaderboard for them all to keep you playing the game.
I like playing as Gum simply because of her cool name.
I am still personally convinced that the Sega Dreamcast should still exist today because it is a great piece of gaming console - remember playing all those games via the VGA cable? This Jet Set radio re-release is a testament to that sentiment. Though it is now presented in 16:9 aspect ratio which means you get an expanded view of the action, the game is a basic port of the Dreamcast version, only with the resolution bumped up. The revolutionary cel-shaded graphics as well as the visual style still look incredible today and if you love this game, it is certainly worth upgrading to this version even if you still have the Dreamcast disc. The unfortunate thing here is the low-resolution textures also made it to this version and it is most apparent on the larger graffiti. It would have been great if extra efforts are put into the game to make it a visual perfection because it came quite close to that. At least the soundtrack selection is still as strong as it was before with an eclectic mix of musical genres. I still think that "Hello Allison" by Scapegoat Wax is still the best soundtrack in the Jet Set Radio series but that awesomeness is something that belongs to the sequel.
At first the over-reaction of the police force seems comical
but if you think abut it, this kind of thing is happening in the real world.
I really love the idea of having Sega's modern classics playable on the Personal Computer - a re-release of Nights: Into Dreams... is coming out very soon! - so fans need to show Sega some support so that this kind of trend can continue. This release is worth more than the $9.99 asking price, especially for those new to the game. It's easy to forgive Blit for not further improving upon the game's graphics because the game still looks gorgeous today. At least the game includes a fascinating documentary that is unlocked from the get go. And oh, there's a cool graffiti editor where you can create your own masterpieces for the game though the option to share them with the rest of the world is not available in this version. Jet Set Radio is a must have title that still feels current and exciting: It will continue to be that way for a long time to come.
RATING: 4 out of 5

It Doesn't Vibrate but It's My Gaming Chair

There was a time, a long long time ago, when I game while sitting on the floor. Then, there was a time when I game with my belly down on my bed. Then, I was gaming while sitting on my futon before I started using a chair - an uncomfortable one that is and now I have finally found something comfortable that I can be happy with a long time to come. The Game Room now has an awesome gaming chair. I can practically just sit on it and game all day long...
Before. Bad for the buttocks.
After. Oh, it feels so soft.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review - FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL: Faster Than Light (2012)
Developer: Subset Games
Induction Date: 09/17/2012

It was on the starship "Staroam-5" that Captain Clac found himself being chased by an entire Rebel fleet as he was desperately trying to get an important piece of data back to the Federation. Having lost his sweetheart, Jupiter, while exploring a wreckage inside an asteroid field, he had to stay strong to protect the ship and its two other crew members. The last battle didn't go over so well, the hull damage was severe. Clac powered up the FTL drive and jumped to the nearest point on the galaxy map only to be ambushed by an overpowered pirate ship that proceeded to kill everyone on board. Welcome to FTL: Faster Than Light.

The auto-fire is your best friend to make things a bit more manageable.

Self described as a "spaceship simulation roguelike-like", FTL is a game where you control a spaceship travelling across 8 sectors of the galaxy with the map layout and the events you encounter in the game being randomized with each play. You only have access to one type of spaceship at the beginning of the game with more available to be unlocked. You are given the choice to customize the names of the ship and it crews so you know I just had to use references to my Point to Pathos novel for my play sessions. You then travel across the map, one jump point at a time until you reach the exit that takes you to the next sector. There may or may not be any event when you arrive at each jump point. Sometimes, everything is calm and your travel is uninterrupted but for the most part you'll encounter hostiles and text-based situations that must be resolved. The ship started off pretty darn vulnerable and it is your job to collect scraps that can be used to power up the different aspects of your ship. These scraps can also be spent at the store for the defensive and offensive necessities of the ship. How you develop your ship is entirely up to you but just be aware that even the best planning may still end up biting you in the thrusters with just one simple mistake or when lady luck is not on your side. Interestingly, you can assign crew members to specific tasks on the ship and as your progress through the game, they gain proficiencies over the chosen field so you can have your dedicated captain and your warp drive technician to name a few.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. That's the basic rule of FTL.

The game's presentation may be simplistic - the layout of your ship doesn't have much details on it and the rooms are differentiated merely with generic icons - but that's just a part of the game's charm. The most visually appealing part of the game is the battle sequences where a picture in picture view of your target is shown on the right hand side of the screen. As both ships are attacking each other, you do get to see weapons being drawn and fired as well as little bits of explosions here and there. Seeing the enemy ship break apart at the end of a battle is quite satisfying while seeing the same thing happening to yours is quite devastating indeed, especially when you are getting so close to the end of the game. The problem that I do have about the graphics is that the full screen is only limited to 1280 x 720 so I pretty much played this in windowed mode on top of my 1080p desktop resolution. In the audio department, the game has a strong space-age themed soundtrack by composer Ben Prunty. One particular track entitled "Civil" is absolutely genius and it is now one of my favorite video game tunes ever. I just love how it started off sparse and rather expected before moving into a whimsical statement and then suddenly morphing into something quite dark and revelatory. Yes I'm obsessed with that piece of music. During the game, the soundtrack switches between two arrangements so the battle sequences always feel punctuated and more exciting.

Fly in style across the galaxy. Beware of space pirates.

A play-through in FTL is not that lengthy especially the fact that you probably wouldn't last that long at first but it's the kind of game that beckons you to come back for more punishment because every little bit of success feels richly rewarding. All deaths in the game are permanent though you can save and resume your play at any time you wish. The game can be rather frustrating because the randomized encounters and to be successful, you also have to make sure that you maximize your time on the map exploring and collecting precious scraps while making sure that the whole area will not be overwhelmed by Rebel fleet when you are ready to jump to the next sector, which is easier said than done because there's impending peril at every single turn.

Unfortunately, the leaderboard is only limited to local plays.

FTL is in-all a fun little spaceship simulator providing that you have both the patience and the will to endure. You will start to notice the little nuances in the gameplay mechanics with every single demise of your ship and with that knowledge, you will forge a new crew and have a little bit more confident that things will go more smoothly on your next adventure. Just don't be surprised when things still go awry but don't worry, you'll get annoyed but you'll find some reason to come back. FTL is currently available on Steam but you can get the most out of your $10.00 by getting the game directly from the developer by clicking here because you will then get the Steam version on top of the Mac, Linux, and the DRM free version. Get the game today and find out why it received so much support when it was on Kickstarter.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Games Played 09/17/2012 - 09/23/2012

- 09/17/2012 -
- 09/18/2012 -
Arc Rise Fantasia - Wii
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition - PC
- 09/19/2012 -
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend - PlayStation 3
Diablo III - PC
FTL: Faster Than Light - PC
League of Legends - PC
- 09/20/2012 -
Critter Crunch - PC
FTL: Faster Than Light - PC
League of Legends - PC
Torchlight II - PC
- 09/21/2012 -
FTL: Faster Than Light - PC
League of Legends - PC
Torchlight II - PC
- 09/22/2012 -
FTL: Faster Than Light - PC
Guild Wars 2 - PC
Jet Set Radio - PC
League of Legends - PC
- 09/23/2012 -
FTL: Faster Than Light - PC
Jet Set Radio - PC
League of Legends - PC
Torchlight II - PC
Screenshot of the Week:
Neon Chun Li... What an eye sore.
Street Fighter x Tekken (Personal Computer)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Relic from 2005

I was doing some late night filing when I stumbled upon a folded piece of check paper. When I opened it and saw its content, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. It was my "Purchase List" from 2005, three years before the birth of the Loner Gamer website. If I recall correctly, this was a print out made by the spouse, who was a significant other back then, who was using it to hunt the games on list. Reading everything that was listed there, I believe I almost got every single one of these items. Notice that the actual X-Box 360 console was listed as well. I used a different priority system back then called "Collection Rank" - how the spouse hated that system - where I rated all the games in numbered sequence based on the games that I wanted to get first and if there were 50 games, well, they would be rated from 1 - 50. When a date showed up under the Collection Rank, that meant that the game was not out yet. The whole thing feels primitive now that I have evolved the way that I track the games that I am interested in. I was really into my games in 2005 and it's still going strong in the here and now.
To think that the spouse was holding this at an electronic store back then made me smile.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Game Boxes: Let's Get Metaphysical

I went to Fry's Electronics earlier this evening just for fun. I just didn't feel like spending the entirety of the evening sitting in front of my gaming display with Yoshi licking my legs every so often. I picked up several cheap games on my way out too since I was already there. I did visit the Personal Computer gaming section of the store and it looked really pathetic but that is of course a good thing. PC games are mostly distributed digitally these days, which is of course proper way to distribute all games. Then I saw the humongous collector's edition box for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and I was reminded of how those things used to matter to me at one point in my gaming life. Nowadays, whenever these "special edition" boxes, I would back away from them knowing that they are such a waste of space.
Physical games... All they do is take up your space and clutter your room.
The magic of game boxes or cases can easily be transferred into the digital realm. For example, all games should have a digital manual accessible from the main menu - I sure do hate tutorial levels in games, they are boring and get in the way of my immediate enjoyment of a game - and developers should work really hard to make that main menu looks ridiculously awesome. I know many like to argue that it's all about having something physical to touch. But really do you like the feel of the cheap materials that they now use to make those cases and manuals? And those manuals can give you paper cuts, which happens to be one of the most intense pain you can experience while being alive in this world. Then there are those who actually threaten to leave the world of video gaming if games stopped being sold at the stores in physical form. I laugh whenever I see people making that statement because you know they have been gaming for the wrong reason and I can't wait for them to exit the gaming universe - that way the developers can focus on making games for the people who matter the most.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: Critter Crunch

Critter Crunch (2012)
Developer: Capybara Games
Induction Date: 09/14/2012
When I first played Critter Crunch on the PlayStation 3, I thought it was great fun. Since I don't frequent my PS3 that much, it was one of the games that got a little lost in the shuffles. Now that the Personal Computer version of the game is here on Steam, I became very excited to play it again. After spending a lot more time on it, I can tell you that my love for this game has increased tremendously.
Nauseatingly disgusting or unbearably adorable? You decide!
Critter Crunch is one of those reverse puzzle games where you shoot something upward into a moving formation to clear them before they reach the bottom of the screen. What makes it unique however is its take on the concept food chain that is presented in a seriously wacky fashion. You play as Biggs, who is half Yoshi with the long tongue and the ability to swallow things whole only to spit them back out, and half uh, bullfrog but all fuzzy and cute. A formation of critters is slowly sliding down rows of vines and you must strategically make those critters eat each other  until they explode, bursting out delicious gems that Biggs craves for. In the adventure mode, a level is completed after you have filled up your hunger meter. The way that you make these critters explode is simple at first - the large critter will eat the medium critter, and the medium critter will eat the small critter. You have to feed the critters twice to make them explode or stuff them with a half-full critter. Critters of the same type and color will also explode as long as they are touching each other in the formation. Also, a critter of the larger size will automatically eat the smaller critter if that smaller critter is fed. Yes, as you have probably realized by now, there are plenty of opportunities to chain and combo things within the formation. Also, when you create a long chain of explosions, one of your little kids come running into the screen wanting to eat your puke. Feeding that needy rascal will increase your score but it is also risky because it takes time to make him full and you have to leave the critter formation unattended. Add power-ups, special critters - oh those wild card critters are so extremely yummy - and you have yourself a game that offers plenty of depths but popping them critters in itself is always so much fun.
I don't blame him for being so obsessed with Biggs.
The adventure mode is presented as a kind of informative animal show and it's very charming throughout. Still, all this talk about exploding critters and regurgitations may seem off putting but thanks to the game's colorful anime style presentation, Critter Crunch ended up being such a hilarious affair. The animations on Biggs and the critters are quite detailed. There are plenty of facial expressions - the critters flinching when someone below it exploded will never get old - and Biggs himself is so cute the way he dashes around the screen swallowing and spitting critters everywhere. The stages always have something sutble happening in the backgound. Equally cheery is the game's playful soundtrack but for the most part, all that you are going to be hearing is the excessive munching sound that would soon be followed by some violent pops. Those popping sounds... So melodic, they will make your mouth water.
Biggs will never go hungry on this island ever.
Though they may be found throughout the adventure mode, you also get access to separate puzzle and challenge stages from the main menu. I will warn you that the puzzles and challenges in this game will test your skill so it should take some time for you to clear them. You can also play the game online competitively or cooperatively, That's right, this is one of the few puzzle games that will allow you to do co-op with another player and it is a beautiful thing. It's very hectic as you screw up each other's chains as the critters are starting to move down those vines so fast but the most important thing here is that it's such a blast to play. Just make sure you are not queasy about the idea of putting a critter that has been in your co-op buddy's mouth into your own. The versus mode is nice too with its crazy power ups but the co-op is my favorite. Make sure you convince your friends to get the game however because it is impossible to find anyone to play the game with using the matchmaking system. The coolest thing here however is that the adventure mode is designed to be played over and over again. Your combined score from each stage is compared to others who play the game so you are encouraged to go back to past stages to get better scores and complete all the extra puzzles and challenges.
Don't be hallucinating on the job!
Critter Crunch is one of the best puzzle games that I have ever played. Its cute graphics, clever gameplay, and weird sense of humor have easily won me over. It's one puzzle game that I want to keep revisiting over and over again thanks to the smart adventure mode leaderboard implementation and the online co-op mode.  Critter Crunch is one of the best $6.99 you will ever spend and it is available for purchase on Steam. Make a critter explode today!
RATING: 5 out of 5

Oh! My Beautiful Starchild!

When I logged on to the game client for League of Legends on the Personal Computer today, I couldn't believe my eyes... Soraka who has the ugliest - no, let me rephrase that - the absolute nastiest and infinitely ugliest character model in the game is finally receiving a visual upgrade! There is no set date but I have a feeling that it will be on the next patch because everything looks like it's ready! Her alternate skins will also get revamped so I am sure she's going to look stunning with that Divine Soraka skin that I have unlocked not too long ago. I haven't been playing Soraka in a long while... But when this happens, it's going to be all Soraka all the time. Oh enemy team, you will be so annoyed by me! Thank you Riot Games, you guys are certainly the best!
Goodbye old Soraka. Your ugliness will not be missed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Berries vs. Games?

What is the best way to get into a gamer's heart? I hate to sound shallow but it's through video game products, more specifically video game titles. No gaming apparels please... I have suffered enough from those. Yes, the best way to show love and appreciate to a gamer is typically by getting him or her more games: We can never have enough of them. Still, the spouse knows how to play this game very well and sometimes, it's not through gaming whatsoever.
As I have mentioned before, the spouse has been in New York since the beginning of this month. Yes, we are talking about close to three weeks of torture here. The tentative return date is set for this Sunday and of course there was no flight available except for the one that would arrive here at midnight, oh joy. Well today, I receive this large package from Shari's Berries and the first thing I did was call the spouse and ask what I should do with the thing. The spouse asked if I have read the card and I said there was no card outside of the box so I opened it and found a cute little note that said:
The spouse knows how to keep it simple and sweet.
And I sounded annoyed too when I called so I felt like a jerk. The package contained 6 chocolate covered strawberries and a cheesecake trio. I really dig strawberries so I gobbled them up pretty quickly - oh my galaxy they are delicious - and my favorite desserts of all time is indeed cheesecake but the one that I have tasted so far was not as good as the strawberries.
Those white ones were to die for.
So yeah, games make me happy but something this unexpected makes me happier. Thank you hun for the surprise gift. I look forward to seeing you home safe this Sunday - or is that early Monday morning?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Miss Playing with My Wii

I have decided to place my Nintendo Wii on the floor next to my Predator after it has been displaced from sitting on top of my old PC. This clearly exemplifies the fact that I am running out of precious space when it comes to accommodating all of my working consoles and this is one of the reason why I have such a disdain for the arrival of new consoles. Why can't they all be like the PC where they are backwards compatible with everything you have purchased from those console makers before. All this focus on the Wii reminded me that I do need to give that console more loving. It's time to hold tight on that Wiimote tight with my sweaty palm and wiggle it hard I suppose.
This just doesn't look right. I'll probably move it somewhere else.
In other news, this is the third week that the spouse has been away and I am beginning to hate this predicament. We got into an argument on the phone the other day because the extended stay ended up being optional and not mandatory. I am selfish when it comes to time because most people tend to forget that this life is not infinite.I don't know, if Yoshi wasn't here, it would have been worse for me. Oh well. I have a new PC to explore, games to play, stuff to write, and a little doggie who likes to bite my nose. Life is okay.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Predator in the Game Room... Rawr?

I received my Acer Predator AG3620-UR20P today so gaming was at a standstill for the majority of my free time because I am working to get this new desktop ready. I added 2 TB of hard drive that contains my Steam games into the setup and I have replaced the low-end video card that comes with the system with the one from my previous setup. The next thing to do here is to run the newer games to see how everything fares. I hope that I will be able to at least test out Guild Wars 2 by the end of the night and get to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings sometime tomorrow. It was a very busy Monday for me so I am a bit tired and I am moving at a very slow pace in getting everything done for the new PC.
A predator is hunting its prey. Watch out Yoshi!
When I tried to boot up the Predator when it first arrived, it gave me three beeps and nothing showed up on screen. I knew at that point that components inside the case must have gotten dislodged during transport so after reconnecting the memory modules, the graphics card, and hard drive, it booted up fine. Installing the additional HDD was easy thanks to the removable HDD tray and there's not a lot of clutter inside the case unlike the previous setups I have built for myself. The only thing that's missing on the motherboard is additional PCI-Express x16 slots but since I never even bothered with an SLI setup on my previous PC with a motherboard that was tri-SLI ready, it's not a concern.
Sorry GT 630. You are just not good enough so into the old PC you go.
Thus far, I am glad that I just got this pre-built unit instead of hunting for components and then dedicating some time to put everything together. It's definitely pretty convenient. That case looks quite awesome as well though I wish some parts of it would light up to give me that extra cool "I'm a nasty beast" factor. The unit is also extremely quiet, which kind of scares me a bit because I have never had such a silent unit before. The fan is hardly audible and I made sure that it was working. I can already feel the difference in terms of the overall Windows performance with the i7-3770 compared to my E8400 Wolfdale. Everything is just blazing fast. Now let's hope that all that improvement is bestowed upon my games. It's not that I have struggled much running modern games but I know that when some games list dual core as a "minimum" requirement, it's time to upgrade... and so I did in a timely fashion.
Now where should I place my Nintendo Wii? It was sitting on top of the old PC before.
Update Note: 11:14pm - Okay, I just tested Guild Wars 2. I almost fainted when I noticed that I got a pretty steady 60 frames per second compared to the heavily fluctuating 40-60 previously. Then, I got ballsy and enabled supersampling... Low and behold! It's playable and averaged around 25-30 fps! Oh yes, getting this unit is a worthy upgrade indeed...

Games Played 09/10/2012 - 09/16/2012

- 09/10/2012 -
- 09/11/2012 -
Intrusion 2 Demo -PC
League of Legends - PC
Turba Demo - PC
- 09/12/2012 -
League of Legends - PC
Transcripted - PC
- 09/13/2012 -
League of Legends - PC
- 09/14/2012 -
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend - PlayStation 3
Critter Crunch - PC
League of Legends - PC
Transcripted - PC
- 09/15/2012 -
Intrusion 2 - PC
League of Legends - PC
Transcripted - PC
- 09/16/2012 -
Intrusion 2 - PC
League of Legends - PC
Screenshot of the Week:
Triple-laser clone action.
Guild Wars 2 (Personal Computer)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Intrusion 2

Intrusion 2 (2012)
Developer: Aleksey Abramenko
Induction Date: 09/12/2012
Run-and-gun 2D side-scrollers are hard to come by these days so when I first heard about Intrusion 2, I was ecstatic. Imagine 9 stages filled with delicious 2D animations that you normally only get to see in a Treasure or WayForward games. Even more impressive is the fact that this whole thing is a Flash-based game and is a solo project of developer Aleksey Abramenko.
Come down here, my wolf is hungry.
The most prominent thing about this game is definitely its striking 2D graphics. Using primarily scaling and rotation effects that wowed us back in the days - still wowing me now - everything in the game animates brilliantly: your character's red scarf is blowing in the wind, the trees bend and sway, and there is a staggering amount of moving parts in both the humanoids and the mechanical menaces found in the game. On top of the silky smooth animation, the game also comes with a realistic physics engine and this leads to some funny, unexpected things to happen like enemies dying from falling debris, but it can also become problematic, like you becoming trapped under heavy boxes and enemy corpses. Intrusion 2 is surely one of the best looking 2D games I've seen. The game's soundtrack on the other hand is not that memorable.
That thing goes to the gym like twice a day.
As for the gameplay itself, I do like that the game doesn't have the need to stop for any kind of story explanation in its entirety. It's obvious that you are sent to infiltrate some kind of enemy group and you get from one stage to the next without interruption until you reach the thrilling climax. Though Intrusion 2 supports the gamepad, it's easier to play with the keyboard and mouse because the aiming is done independently from the character movement. The controls are a little loose however and your character feels a bit floaty. Couple that with the game's insistent physics and things can get a bit awkward at times. It shouldn't take long to get used to the feel of the game however so it's not too big of a deal. Your character has access to quite a number of weapons that can be switched around at any time. The trick here is that outside of your default gun, the supply of ammo is limited to what you can salvage from supply boxes and dead enemies so it is best to save the powerful weapons for larger fights.
Evil mechanical worms love to play in the snow.
I will say that the game loses its momentum during the last several stages save for the "super mega oh my galaxy am I really fighting that monstrosity" of a final boss. The game started with a lot of unique and exciting scenarios but as you get closer and closer to the end, you are forced to fight the same large enemies from past stages. In a game like this, it's best to keep encounters with certain type of enemies unique to a particular location. Having more bosses would have helped this game as well though the ones that do show up here are quite a sight to behold, especially that incredible last boss.
Yes, you can ride mech suits but... beware of fighting the grapple mech!
Just like other shmup, this one doesn't take that long to complete. The game itself is not all that challenging but it's all about pattern recognition.  You do get access to an online leaderboard that encourages repeat play as you strive for perfection. Despite some of the game's problems, Intrusion 2 is certainly worth playing if you crave for this kind of a shooter. Heck, it's worth playing for that final boss alone. Perhaps the game would have benefited from consecutive boss fights without the need for normal stages, since the boss encounters that are here are quite lengthy, unless of course the normal stages are filled with unique events. One thing is for sure, if this game is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to from the game's developer. Intrusion 2 can be purchased directly from the developer by clicking here and purchasing it this way will grant you both the DRM-free version and the Steam version of the game. You do get two dollars off the game if you pick it up straight from Steam between now and 09/18/2012.
RATING: 3 out of 5

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Review: Transcripted

Transcripted (2012)
Developer: Alkemi
Induction Date: 09/11/2012
Don't you ever wish sometimes when playing a Zuma or a Luxor game that you can freely move your "ship" around instead of being stuck rotating from one spot or being confined to just one axis? Well, Transcripted is here to make that wish a reality with its bold gameplay combination between a twin stick shooter and a puzzle game that actually works really well together.
Who knew such deadly strain can look so mesmerizing.
In Transcripted, you control a Nano Probe inside of human tissue samples. For the most part, you are tasked to weaken chains of pseudo-DNA, an ever moving formation of colored cubes, by shooting the cubes you collected from destroying enemies into the chain and matching three cubes of the same color. As you may have suspected, the fact that you are inside human tissues, the game's story revolves around the battle against some dangerous pathogen. The story mode will take you through 25 stages with varying objectives as well as boss encounters and along the way, you are presented with voiced skits between Adam, the guy who is navigating the Nano Probe, Nadia the witty artificial intelligence assistant, and the head of the research, Professor Dahl. The story itself is predictable but it does a nice job providing the appropriate context to what you are doing on screen. The game may seem simple enough at first - you shoot enemies to collect cubes then shoot the cubes into the formation - but there is actually plenty of depths found in the game. The most obvious being the invincibility mechanics - whenever you collect a cube, the Probe slows down to a crawl but enemy shots will bounce off you while you can collide with enemies safely. You can only hold the cube for a short period of time so it's all about strategic positioning when to shoot out the cube. It's almost as hypnotic as switching polarities in Ikaruga and it can get extremely challenging to balance out killing off enemies and breaking the DNA chains at higher difficulties.
You know you are diseased when you find that thing in your tissue.
The story mode also features a Tech Research talent tree that you can unlock using "Experimental Points" - yeah, like experience points - you gathered from the stages. These range from buffing up your health and shield, unlocking new weapons and maneuvers, to increasing your movement speed. The way you prioritize your Probe's improvements is entirely up to you. Even after you have completed the story mode, you can always replay stages to collect more XP if you are interested in maximizing the proficiency of your Probe.
The Tech Research provides a nice sense of progression in the story mode.
I really like the way the game looks. Since the action is taking place on a microscopic level, the stages have that monochromatic feel to it with the most colorful thing on screen being the psedo-DNA chains and everything looks organic except for the Probe itself. More attractive however is the game's ambient soundtrack that really sets the mood for the game with its serious, dark overtone. The sound effects on other hand are a little timid but that's to be expected since this is a game about microbes and not about shooting motherships or giant robots.
Rotating wheel of death.
The story mode comes with three difficulty levels and on top of that, you also get 5 challenge levels where you are granted access to limited Probe abilities as you attempt to climb up the leaderboard. Transcripted is a unique and fun hybrid shooter that has managed to concoct a near perfect balance between shooting and puzzle-solving. The problem is that it's too easy to get overwhelmed by the the enemies after switching in and out of invincibility and I think that providing the Probe with more firepower would have solved that issue. Still, fans of the genres, particularly those who love shmups, will find the game enjoyable. Transcripted costs $9.99 but it is currently offered for $8.99 on Steam until the 09/18/2012.
RATING: 4 out of 5

Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: To the Moon

To the Moon (2011)
Developer: Freebird Games
Induction Date: 09/13/2012
If there was a technology out there that would allow you to relive your entire life one last time inside your own head right before you die so that you can live differently, would that be something that you would be interested in doing even if it means that all of your real memories would be replaced? Wouldn't that mean you would just be living a lie? But wouldn't it be worth it if you have lived a miserable life and you just wanted to feel really good one last time before you perish? Perhaps this procedure is a better alternative than to allow your own brain to do whatever crazy thing it does potentially outside of your control before that trip to eternal slumber? These were the questions that I started asking myself when I started playing To the Moon as I was introduced to the game's premise: You play as Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts, two Sigmund Corps employees who are tasked to give a dying old man by the name of John Wyles his final wish through the aforementioned procedure. His wish? It seems simple enough. He wants to go to the moon.
The two doctors seem to have known each other for a very long time.
To the Moon is a heavily story-driven adventure game where you get to traverse through the important events that shaped John's life before making proper changes to his memories so that the desired outcome can be accomplished. Though you are mostly reading and watching throughout the adventure, the game does a great job of making sure that you feel involved in how things progressed. You are always given time to explore each of the memory segments and sometimes, you are even given a list of choices on what to do. Things may sound too fantastical in the beginning but I am very impressed that there are a lot of thoughts put into the narrative and everything from the actual mechanics of the memory altering procedure to the background story of the client himself makes perfect sense. The game itself only takes less than 4 hours to complete but the brilliant storyline engaged me from the very start and wouldn't let me go until its satisfying conclusion. I didn't stop playing the game since the first time I booted it up until I actually finished it because the story is incredibly engaging. I must also admit that this is the most emotionally-challenging game I have ever played and it tore me up deep within my psyche. To the Moon is an adult-oriented fare filled with astute observations on life's joy and anguish. There are deep existential themes to be found here that are carefully explored and they will stay with you for a long time to come. And all of these were able to be properly communicated with using low resolution pixel art. The game has that timeless classic 2D role playing game feel to it and To the Moon proves that point that you don't need expensive computer generated cinematic or real time 3D character models plus voice acting to get a player to fully invest in the game.
What is life but a continuously fading memory.
To the Moon is an extraordinary creation. It's touching, different, and most importantly, thoughtful. I cried through most of it. There were some clever humor in the game too but they never felt out of place. Kan Gao, the man responsible for writing, directing, and composing almost all of the game's beautiful soundtrack, has crafted himself a masterpiece.  You can get the game for $9.99 on Steam or directly from the developer by clicking here. To the Moon may be one of those games that you will probably play only once - I don't know if I am willing to subject myself to the painful part of this game again - but it is an important one that has to be experienced by everyone.
RATING: 5 out of 5

Thursday, September 13, 2012

PC Upgrade: It's Time

The last time I made a major revision to my Personal Computer gaming rig was sometime in mid-2008. After more than 4 years with a couple of tweaks in between in the form of power supply and graphics card updates, I have decided to really jazz up my setup. This time around though, I am going to make things a little more convenient for myself and just get a pre-built rig. Yeah, it's not necessary but I want to skip the individual labor part and just get to the goods. I did my calculations and the difference between building my own and actually getting this sucker pre-built was rather small and after assembling them for the last 3 times on my own, I think I deserve a little spoiling. My rig of choice? It's the Acer Predator AG3620-UR20P. The most attractive part of this package is its Intel 3.4 GHz i7-3770 quad processor. You can check out the detailed specs by clicking here. When this baby arrives, of course the first thing I am going to do is yank out that nasty NVIDIA GeForce GT 630 and replace it with my beautiful GTX 460, the card that should last me another good year or two.

Arriving to my Game Room very soon. Such a handsome devil.