How to get me to buy a Steambox...

This past week, Valve finally unveiled their long-awaited Steam Box. Of course we don't have a picture of the "box" itself because there are different ones from different manufacturers. Now I know everybody's hyped on Steam and their constant fire sales and Windows sucks, but who is this for? People would probably either rather play on the PC they already have or just stick with consoles. Also Linux is hardly a big operating system, with most AAA games not working on it, so that would take some effort developers like EA might not bother with.

But as someone who is a gamer, wants to get into PC gaming but would like to play it on my TV with minimal hassle, I think there is potential here. It sounds like at first the use would be as a simple sling box for your computer to your TV. While  I could certainly do that and play a ton of indie pc titles on my TV, what would make it really attractive to me is a competitively priced stand alone box that got me access to those great steam sales, the indie titles and the AAA titles. That is something that would really peak my interest and if the next gen exclusive titles for PS4 & Xbox One aren't all that appealing, I would be more likely to pick up than a next gen console. My guess is something like that might run significantly higher and may not even be a possibility for awhile due to the Linux-based OS. But one can hope.

So I'm a little more than halfway through Scribblenauts Unmasked and while it's a fun title, there are some nagging issues. Being that supervillains constantly pop out and attack you, it's a lot more combat heavy than the previous title and the combat works poorly. You can of course summon other superheroes for help, but if you hit them, which is very easy they will turn on you. Also occasionally I'll summon a hero (usually one of the more obscure ones) and they will just sit there and do nothing and the villains won't attack them either so they won't get involved. Otherwise I still highly recommend the game for anyone who is a comic book fan. I'll often just dig through the library to call up some hero I've never heard of before. And granted, I'm far from an expert but having seen most of the animated shows and movies I've got a decent working knowledge and there's still a ton of cool characters I've never heard of.

That's it for today, but there's a Nintendo direct tomorrow and I'll probably watch something for gamer cinema so expect something tomorrow.


Gamer Cinema: Silent Hill

I admittedly do not have a great history with the Silent Hill series of games, I've only played a couple of titles in the series, none of which I found particularly engrossing(and yes that includes the highly revered II). The last one I played was the fairly mediocre The Room. I don't generally get scared by horror movies or video games, but I can appreciate ones that are entertaining or clever. And the basis of the Silent Hill series certainly had the potential to be that.

In case you are unfamiliar, the movie is loosely based on the first game, where a man searches for his adopted daughter in the mysterious town of Silent Hill, where unexplained freaky stuff is happening. In the movie, a woman's adopted daughter keeps having nightmares about a place called Silent Hill, so against her husband's wishes, she takes her daughter there to try figure things out.

And it probably could've worked fine had they decided to stick with one main plot, but the film can't seem to decide what Silent Hill even is. Sure it's a small town where a terrible accident happened where there are still toxic fumes to this day, but apparently it's also exists in multiple dimensions (what?). A town with a dark history of burning "witches" and really just about anybody else they felt was "impure and somehow that leads to constantly falling ash and freaky things like scary looking nurses and a guy with a pyramid for a head, etc. So it introduces all these crazy inexplicable elements and then of course tries to half-hazardly explain it all with a throwaway twist you would never see coming only because it makes no sense. Did I mention that only the mom, the daughter and one other character see it this way? The father follows them to Silent Hill, teams up with an officer who used to live there to look for them, and when they are in the town, it simply appears as a deserted ghost town. Now again, it's explained that the "fumes" cause hallucinations, and the husband and officers wear masks to prevent themselves from seeing things, but obviously that doesn't even explain half of the stuff that goes down or the fact that they never run into anybody else in the town, but the mother runs into the wacky cult of fanatics quite often.

Probably the one positive I can give is to the visuals. The falling ash is a cool and eery effect, and they actually have managed to recreate quite well some of the series most memorable monstrosities like the nurses and especially series mainstay Pyramid Head. Admittedly for big fans of the series that alone might be enough, but for anyone else it's a pretty mediocre and ultimately nonsensical film, even by cheesy horror standards.

That's it for today but expect another post up sometime this weekend.


Word Games...

Arguably the surprise of the Wii U launch, Scribblenauts Unlimited was a hugely charming and just plain fun adventure game that had me completely hooked. And has been documented well on this blog, I wasn't really a fan up until the last entry, where I felt they finally delivered on the potential of their concept. Probably my only issue was that after I was done with the game (which admittedly wasn't very long), there wasn't a really big hook to keep me playing because I did most of the acky creative stuff already. So how do you fix that? Scribblenauts Unmasked has the rather creative solution of claiming to be a virtual DC encyclopedia, featuring not only multiple editions of the more popular heroes, but even guys as obscure as Matter Eater Lad. Will you be able to find heroes it doesn't have? It's completely possible but it'll be incredibly fun to find out who is in there and have them interact in addition to solving really fun puzzles centered in the DC Universe.

Another thing I realized with the imminent release of Scibblenauts: This may very well be the last home console game I buy this year. I have the new Zelda 3DS game pre-ordered in November, but that's pretty much it for the forseeable future. I have repeatedly stated how little the next gen launch line-ups impress me, and I sure as hell don't care about the new Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed. Arkham Origins? Meh. The new Mario and Donkey Kong look pretty uninspired too. I'd be excited for South Park: The Stick of Truth if it had a release date. At this rate it's probably being pushed to next gen if it comes out at all. Watchdogs? The more I see (and we've all seen a lot) the less I'm convinced this will be anything that interesting. I'll be sure to rent some of these and hopefully be surprised, but very few of these titles seem worth buying day one at $60, so barring any really good holiday sales or something really surprising me, I'll pretty much be set for the remainder of the year at least. Hell if focus on mostly completing my backlog, it could be well into 2014 before I really pick something up.

That's it for today, I should have a new post up either tomorrow or Thursday, most likely a gamer cinema.


Gamer Cinema: Code Monkeys, The Complete Series

Back when G4 was still at least somewhat of an actual network for gamers, they dumped out Code Monkeys. I guess the idea was an workplace comedy taking place in the early days of gaming about a gaming company animated in sprite form would have a certain appeal. And honestly the premise does. The show's first few episodes aren't terrible, and there are some clever nods to gaming (and some not so clever nods, like a 10 year old David Jaffe showing up for an interview and pitching his idea for God of War, which would've worked fine if there wasn't another character screaming "OH MY GOD IT'S DAVID JAFFE!" several times). But then it quickly devolves into absurdly stupid nudity and fart jokes and nonsensical shit that makes family guy look like the most coherent show on television. I'm not saying random humor can't work but resulting to nudity and puking or farting every time you clearly don't have a punch line is more like the worst version of mad libs ever.  I suffered through the full two seasons over a long period. I started watching this about two months ago, figuring it'd be good material for Gamer Cinema when I was done, after the first few, I couldn't take more than a couple at a time, so it took way longer to get through it than I initially thought it would. It doesn't even do that good a job of cashing in on nostalgia because again rather than make clever jokes and insights about the gaming industry, it just goes into random plots that have little to nothing to do with gaming and feel more in place in some sub par version of Family Guy, which I'm not even that much of a fan of. Just another example of how low G4 went before they bottomed out. This is one of the worst sitcoms I've ever seen, and that's saying a lot.

That's all for today, I should certainly get another post up this weekend.


Back on top?

GTA IV was released waaaayyy back in 2008 and at the time, it pretty much set the standard in open world games. There was almost no limit to the stuff you could do. The problem is a lot of it was executed pretty poorly. The camera was bad, the cars controlled terribly, the shooting was awful. The cops were on your ass for the slightest infraction. Then there was the relationship aspect, where you had to hang out with friends and significant others when they called you on the phone or your relationship suffered. In the meantime, we've had games like Sleeping Dogs, Saints Row III (and IV) and even Lego City Undercover (and to a lesser extent games like Infamous 2 & Arkham City) that all improved on at least one aspect from GTA if not several. Is it even fun to drive around in a city anymore with semi-realistic traffic and physics anymore? You can get way crazier in other games.

Basically I hated GTA IV and was really, really ready to hate on GTA V. But you know what? They fixed a lot of stuff. No longer is the camera your enemy. The auto-aiming works incredibly well. The driving still kinda sucks but is also a lot more forgiving. The hand-to-hand combat is non-existent so if you are looking for something deep there you won't find it, but that's pretty minor. Probably the best part is unlike IV beyond a few opening missions you really are free to proceed at your own leisure. You have a cell phone but it's a helpful tool rather than an annoying obligation. It's also really funny in some incredibly dark ways, but that's GTA. If anything, like many grand scale open world games, it may offer a little too much in ways to truly waste time (playing the stock market? watching a movie? playing golf?) but since all that is very optional it doesn't bother me.

Probably the only big negative I can point to is that I find the 3 central characters to  be extremely unappealing. Granted for somebody who just wants to cause mayhem in San Andreas that means nothing, but I do care about story and I won't get heavily invested with characters I don't want to spend time with. But at the end of the day, this is a great step up from GTA IV and a really fun open world game overall that has that Rockstar presentation and polish you don't get from any other developer, so it's well worth your time. If my plate wasn't so full already I'd probably spend a good month or so on it myself, but as is it's better for me to wait for a sale or the GOTY next-gen edition everyone is predicting.

And just some quick thoughts on Wonderful 101-It's really fun. Like weird Japanese games, it doesn't explain itself extremely well, but once you get the hang of stuff you'll be making awesome heroic morphs in no time. What I don't get is why it's getting knocked for that when other games that don't explain jack and punish you way worse like Monster Hunter or Dark Souls get praised. Whatever. Granted I can't highly recommend this over huge titles like GTA V but I'm enjoying it more than Pikmin 3 and it's a very worthwhile purchase for Wii U owners.

That's it for today but I should have a Gamer Cinema up tomorrow.


Everything is Wonderful now...

Sorry for no posts for over a week, but a lot of personal stuff went down and I didn't have a whole lot of time to right. Stuff should be back to normal for the forseeable future for now.

But yes, another week another Wii U title. This is almost becoming a regular thing. The Wonderful 101 is easily one of my most anticipated Wii U titles and if you own a Wii U or are picking one up soon it should be on your radar as well. The game looks incredibly fun and bright and colorful in contrast to the more serious overdone grim "gritty" stuff we usually get, and the demo was a ton of fun. Reviews are already out, with many praising, but some damning it for not explaining everything. It at least seems like the kind of game that allows for plenty of experimentation and figuring out how you want to play rather than holding your hand. I'm picking it up later today and will give impressions in the next couple of days, most likely Tuesday.

Exceptional big platformers has been few and far between this gen, but there seems to be a pretty good last-minute burst of them coming out at the end of this year with the releases of classics like Ducktales and Castle of Illusion, major new titles Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong on the horizon and recently Rayman Legends (and arguably even the new Ratchet & Clank hopefully). One title that has sort of just quietly come out with little buzz is Puppeteer, but if you are a fan of great platformers or just unique games and gameplay in general, you should check this title out. I've only played a few levels so far, but it's incredibly charming and has a great hook with these magic scissors you use to get around. The presentation is like if you are watching a high-quality puppet show and it works incredibly well. I highly recommend at least renting it and it's got a fairly attractive budget price of $40, so it's probably worth it for anybody looking for a great unique game.

That's it for today, but I'll almost definitely post some thoughts about GTA V pre-release tomorrow and hopefully have impressions up not long after that. And I'll fit a gamer cinema in there somewhere so there should be plenty of posts in the coming week.


Gamer Cinema: I am Street Fighter

Street Fighter has been around for over 25 years now. It kickstarted an entire genre and pioneered the fighting community and tournaments such as EVO that are around today. Last year with the release of the Street Fighter 25th anniversary collectors set was included I am Street Fighter, a documentary talking about the history, the fans and the fighting game community that exists around Street Fighter and its ilk. They just recently released it on youtube so if you aren't a hardcore SF fan you don't have to have that expensive collection in order to watch it.

I am Street Fighter covers plenty of ground in it's relatively short running time of just over 70 minutes, showing some history, some super fans, developer interviews and some pro gamers interviews as well. The result being that it's not really in-depth on any of it. It briefly talks about Street Fighter, II and IV but barely discusses the numerous releases in-between or the spin-offs. It mentions arcades and briefly talks about how they barely exist anymore but doesn't talk about what arcades meant to Street Fighter in the beginning and what their decline means now.

However what is there is pretty good. It is pretty interesting to see the super fan who owns nearly anything with any connection to Street Fighter, the process of sound effects selection from one of the staff and how the game influenced the creator of Virtua Fighter. I found the interviews with the pro gamers to be a little uninteresting but then again I'm not really into the fighting game scene.

Make no bones about, this is pretty much a fluff piece made by Capcom to celebrate just how awesome Street Fighter is, and it would be nice if more of the actual history of the series, but I think anyone with at least a passing interest in fighting games will find it decently entertaining and possibly even fairly informative depending on your familiarity with the genre.

That's it for today but I should have a new post up tomorrow,


It's gonna be Legen, wait for it...

Another week and another Wii U title! It's almost like it's getting a regular release schedule. Of course, Rayman Legends was due out over 6 months ago on the Wii U. But apparently Ubisoft got nervous because ZombiU sold incredibly poorly so they decided to delay the release and port it to every other system. Which made no goddamn sense and will mostl likely hurt it in the long run. September is jam packed with new releases and much like it's predecessor Origins, Legends is likely to get buried in the avalanche as opposed to it's original release date of February, when there was pretty much nothing else out.

That aside how is it? Pretty much like a fine-tuned version of Origins, which was already excellent. The visuals are gorgeous and the music is some of the best I've heard all year and the gameplay is mostly top notch. The gamepad-specific Murpy levels, where you move platforms and distract enemies to guide a character through a level have a nice initial novelty to them, but get old quick and don't add a lot to the gameplay. But it's a really minor complaint. It's just insanely chaming. I've stated before that at least in the 2D platforming space, Rayman has been handily outclassing Mario lately, and that trend continues here. New Super Mario Bros U (and subsequently Super Luigi U) were perfectly solid games, but this is the kind of sublime 2D platforming that harkens back to the glorious days of Super Mario World. Yes it really is that good. Unfortunately my plate is too full at the moment to really delve into it so I just rented it, but I'll be sure to pick it up when I whittle down my backlog a little, probably come Christmas time.

For the first time in what seems like ages a Blizzard game is on consoles. Granted, it's the controversial and divisive Diablo III, but it's a big start. But the console version strips away a lot of those issues by completely dropping the auction house and coming with a lot of the initial bugs fixed. The good news is if you are into hack-n-slash loot fests, this is right up your alley, and I can certainly see getting into this if I had no other big rpgs on my plate. Blizzard really knows how to make me want the shiny loot and there's just a good level of polish in the presentation and gameplay that very few games achieve. That being said, the gameplay does feel just a bit too old school. There isn't a whole ton of difference between this and Torchlight or even Diablo II with an HD coat of paint. But that's also the genre, you know what you are getting with this title so if you are interested a really polished but certainly not revolutionary or anything hack-n-slash lootfest this is a pretty solid bet. Especially on consoles where such picking are incredibly slim.

Finally, I played the demo of Brothers, which has been getting a lot of great reviews and came out this week on the PS3. The control concept is somewhat novel, as you control each brother with one of the analog sticks and solve puzzles in order to save your father. Maybe this speaks more to why demos are a bad thing, but I wasn't horribly impressed with what I played. The puzzles weren't clever, they were insulting simple and while the analog controls themselves working fine, having to press and hold the trigger buttons didn't work so well. Also the game seemed to be plagued with some bugs as I just got stuck at a couple of certain points. Again maybe it's just a poor demo, but I'm at least holding off til there's a good sale because this is a game that just doesn't seem worth my $15.

That's it for today but look for a new Gamer Cinema post this weekend and possibly a little something else if I have time.


Castle of Mouse....

Another classic Disney game remade in HD? Awesome. Reviewers giving it low scores because it's the essence of that classic game? Sounds familiar. I still haven't finished Ducktales because I just haven't been gaming a bunch lately, but I've played over half of it and aside from Ms.. Beakley repeating the same dialogue every time it's a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And reviewers hated it for being goddamn Ducktales with a few added (and very skippable) cut scenes thrown in.

Castle of Illusion goes a little more in the reboot direction and if you pre-ordered on the PS3 you can really tell because it's comes with the Genesis original, which gameplay-wise holds up pretty well but it is DAMN ugly. The remake looks gorgeous and rather than full cut-scenes has a narrator (who I think sounds quite a bit like Dumbeldore). It's a bit more modern mechanics, like a mostly 2D Crash Bandicoot with the occasional 3D bit thrown in. And it works. So what if it's only a few hours long? People talk about amazing yet quick experiences like Journey and Gone Home and Papers Please and all these other games that deliver short bursts of really enjoyable experiences. I'd also argue that platformers and 2D platformers especially are in short supply so ones that are good are certainly worth $15 for those that will enjoy them for both the tight gameplay and the nostalgia factor.

Game length vs. cost is a very subjective matter, there are very few games I'm willing to pay $60 for because many can beaten in a couple of days (Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite and Last of Us all come to mind, rented and beat all those well before the rental period was up).  But I think that kind of goes away once you hit the sub $20 level. At that point it's really a question of did you have a good time with the time you had with the title, however short it was?

That's all I've really got for today, hopefully I'll have some impressions of Diablo 3 tomorrow (plan on renting it today) along with some other stuff.