Friday, August 21, 2009

Hatred is Never Helpful

I logged into Twitter this afternoon and found a link to this article: Why Do the Press Hate the Sony Playstation 3? It's from an Australian site (so don't get confused by the prices they quote) and may be the most overdue piece in gaming journalism today.

"As you can see, the arrival of the PS3 Slim has done nothing to quell the fires of hatred from the gaming press. For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, fair and balanced journalism seems to have gone out the window when it comes to Sony, with many commentators treating the Nippon conglomerate with as much distaste as a sniffling swine flu victim. Just what has Sony done to tick you all off, exactly?"

It truly is baffling. As far as I've ever been able to tell, the only mistake Sony actually made was releasing the PS3 later than the 360. That's it. They also gave gamers plenty that we want and need with this generation, like wireless networking included and wireless controllers that can actually survive a pretty long night of marathoning, and of course, the all-important lack of online fees. The only things I've ever needed to buy were an extra controller and a long HDMI cable to reach our TV. Our PS3 was a present, but even if I'd paid for it the grand total expenditure, minus games, was about $500. That's BEFORE the new price cut, obviously. I may buy two more controllers at some point, but as we mostly play single-player games on it, they're only needed for LittleBigPlanet parties around here.

One of my closest friends ended up spending about $2,000 on 360s and necessary accessories. I say 360s because he has owned 3. All got the infamous RROD, one took about a year to die but the subsequent two died in about a week. I would LOVE to get a 360 for about 2 or 3 games, but that is just too rich for my blood. I have no hatred of Microsoft or their consoles, I just can't afford to own a 360 as things stand. Gosh, I wish it was different.

Still, I find it baffling that anyone who would call themselves a journalist wouldn't jump on that story. Why is it that everyone is so quick to call out any tiny "evil" thing Microsoft does in the computer arena but no one in the gaming press ever calls them out on making a console that can die so quickly and easily? Why does everyone scream, "Monopoly!" when it comes to Windows but at the same time seem to want Microsoft to have a monopoly in the gaming world? (On a side note, why do so many people seem to want an Apple monopoly? Just as baffling.)

Console competition is healthy, it makes engineers and developers search for new inspiration and directions to move in. If one company truly won the war we would never have all these wonderful features and choices because there would be no impetus to design them. Heck, we would likely be content to just play our PS2s forever if it weren't for all these smart people needing to find ways to differentiate their next product.

Not only does modern news need a new Walter Cronkite but the gaming world sure could use some of his ethics.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indian Giving by Accident and Addiction

I have a confession: I bought my boyfriend a PSP last Christmas, saved up my pennies because he'd wanted one for years, and he has yet to get to play it. I even bought him some cool games and one of our friend's filled out the collection a little more as she knew about his gift. A wonderful trick I learned from my mother, let select people know about a big gift and they can get things to go with it (of course, you need friends who can keep secrets for this to work).

I even bought him a whole football-themed set of accessories, from case to car charger. I got really sick of football a few years back and figured that all the accessories would make it clear that it was his PSP, not mine. Great thought, but it hasn't played out well.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am addicted to Patapon for the second time, and in-between I played a lot of Echochrome and Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters and used it as a media player and even as a browser when my computer was in the shop (whenever the TV and PS3 or Wii were being used). I take it with me any time I think I'll have even a few minutes to game and enough room in whatever bag I'm carrying. It's getting to the point where I can't live without it.

My boyfriend, bless his heart, keeps telling me he doesn't mind, but I still feel quite guilty. He's hogged a few games he bought for me, too. We share pretty much everything, as you should when you share a home. Still, this was supposed to be something special just for him. I thought it would be great for him to take to work and use during his breaks, but he never does.

Maybe it was inevitable that I would co-opt it then?


When Patapon 2 came out I got all excited. I adore Patapon in a way unlike almost any other game. It amuses me on so many levels, from the ego boost from being called "Mighty" all the time by those funny little eyeballs to the way the Patapon's react to my drumming. I'm trained in percussion, so obviously I'm a bit predisposed towards it, although you would think that means I play other rhythm games and I haven't tried them. Nope, not even Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

But back to Patapon 2. I was all set to buy it and realized that I had never finished the first game. I got close, but set it aside for a time. It just didn't seem right to move on to part two without getting all the pleasure I could out of the original, and of course, I hadn't played for awhile so I didn't want to start right where I had left off. On a rainy Saturday I pulled it out and started all over again, tutorials and all. I'm so glad!

I'm back to near the end of the game again and played it so much smarter this time. Careful material holding has allowed me to build a fantastic army with lots of rarepons and everything is both easier and more fun. I've worked out the secrets to all of the bosses' movements. I have lots of materials to build more rarepons before I enter the final stage and am confident I'll have this thing beaten soon, even though I can't help but dither around with the bosses a little more.

It's just too much fun! Now, that is a great game value. When a game only gets MORE fun after months of play it's pure magic. Even better, the game makes me smile, which is sort of rare these days (a lot of fun games are a little depressing, you know? Serious subject matter and dark graphics can be wonderful but hardly make you smile a lot).

I just hope the sequel lives up to it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

WHY Am I Enjoying This?!?!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been playing Order Up! all night tonight. I threw it in thinking I would play for about an hour to check it out and then turn on TS3 and dig into the pile of shows my DVR recorded while I was out last night. Ah, the best-laid plans!

How did this silly game suck me in so hard? I've logged 2 hours of game time with no end in sight. That's actual play time, it's been more like 3 since I've turned it on.

It turns out that cleverness can make up for almost anything.

The gameplay is fairly obvious in some ways, especially if you have ever cooked in real or virtual life. The Wiimote is wonderful for this, you actually chop, flip items in the pan, tear off lettuce leaves, and so on. Does it feel like the real thing? Of course not. It's a pretty good video game version, though. Some of the bits of cooking are quite difficult to get just right (my bane is the lettuce thing), but quickly the game gives you the option of skipping the onerous tasks by giving them to an assistant to prepare. It's a nice feature even though I realized early on that by not practicing these motions I will never get better at them. Oh, well, that's why you get to hire more assistants as you need them and earn enough "coin".

Even a cooking game with nice controls and a bit of a challenge gets boring after a bit, though, which is where the cleverness comes in. Every so often they throw you a mini-game, from a mid-shift game to shake your assistant awake to a very funny rat-flicking challenge. They come up frequently and you can't get out of them. I actually had a lot of trouble at first figuring out how to flick rats and I still don't completely have the hang of it, but luckily, if you fail to rid your restaurant of rats the health inspection mini-game is quite easy. Yep, the Health Inspector will shut you down until you prove you can really get your plates clean!

The point, though, is that these games wake you out of your cooking stupor and get you more engrossed. The monotony that most games suffer from is decimated.

There is also a tiny bit of management to your restaurant ventures but it is very rudimentary, involving mostly upgrades and spices. The game gives you a mini-tutorial on all of these different gameplay aspects as they open up, which is nice. They don't take long and they usually tell you just what you NEED to know.

I just got to the end of the first restaurant, where the food critic comes to evaluate your greasy spoon. It's a little bit crazy how excited I was to manage a perfect recipe and plenty of praise from the critic.

I wanted to stick with the game to this point at least just to see what happens when you open your second restaurant, a Mexican one.

Oh, it's so wonderfully kitschy (cactus chairs!) and just adorable. This game may have the worst graphics I've seen on a home console (even for the Wii) but it manages to take advantage of the crappiness somehow. Even the food is cute and is kind of making me crave some tacos.

With a new restaurant comes not only new recipes but new spices to buy and more assistants to choose from. There are also some new characters and a really tough (for me) folding technique.

Oh, did I mention the characters? To add complication to all matters, your customers have personal preferences like how well done they like their meat and what spices should be in their food. You end up memorizing them a bit and the names are rather Rowling-like, obvious clues to their favorites, like "Tex Porterhouse" liking barbecue sauce and "Sweet Tooth" loving all sweet things (even when completely inappropriate).

You can go back and forth between your restaurants, too.

So, I should get to bed but it's been a fun night. Do I think I'll hang on to this game for all that long? No. Would I recommend it to a friend? Maybe, if they like this sort of thing. I would recommend it for kids, for sure, because it's definitely got some good basic lessons for them and they'd probably have an easier time mastering the motions than I did. Still, it's a nice, fairly mindless distraction that I will enjoy right up until it goes into the mailbox.

Today's Surprise

The thing I think I love most about games is that they are always surprising me. Not just in the sense that technology is catching up to imagination more and more every day, the actual games often surprise me. You can read reviews, listen to your friends, and even follow the development of the game and still have no idea of what you will experience while playing it. Games that look phenomenal turn out to be uninspired and games that look absolutely idiotic entertain you more than you could have dreamt.

Either way, it's always an adventure.

Thank goodness for GameFly! I am willing to put so many games in my GameQ that I wouldn't look at twice in a store. I mean, why not? There's only so many A-list titles out there. Sometimes you don't even want to play a "great game" (using the term like "great books"), the really good ones make you think a lot. They're also ridiculously addictive, and some days you just don't have time to get sucked in.

On the other hand, sometimes you pick up a casual game and do get REALLY sucked in. I'm experiencing this right now (well, I'm typing this during load screens, obviously you can't type with a Wiimote in your hand). I will now make a rather embarassing confession - cooking and food-related games seem to have become my favorite casual games of all. My phone is filled with them and months ago, on a whim, I put Order Up! in my GameQ because I heard it was the best one for the Wii. Still, when it got here I made so much fun of myself and considered sending it back right away. After all, cooking games are great on a subway, but do I really want to dedicate my precious home gaming time to one?

As it turns out, yes. I really do. For the first five minutes the game was on I was cringing at the over-infantile graphics and feeling, and then I did the tutorial and realized this game is HARD. To do okay is pretty easy, but who wants to do okay? I don't care if something is absolutely stupid, I would like to excel at it.

I'm going to start a new post with my review, as my musings have made this one so long already. I think the real point, though, is that you shouldn't shun a game just because it looks dumb. If you can try it out without unloading a bunch of cash you may as well give it a spin. Who knows? You just may be surprised.

(I must remind myself to read this every time I fall into that trap.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Who Ya' Gonna Call? ME!

I finally got a chance to try out Ghostbusters! First off, it's amazing how much the theme song still gets me excited and that is amplified by being able to participate in this story. I also think it's really cool that they added a "casual" mode for people who don't want to play the game but do want to experience the original storyline created for this. Not what I would pick but I have a few friends that I think would really enjoy that. Just might be a good way to suck more people into gaming, too, as you apparently do have to catch a few ghosts in that mode. I always appreciate things that might get people into gaming, you know?

I chose "experienced" level play, which is the middle option, and I'm very glad I did. This game is HARD! There are so many facets to catching ghosts and a lot of options for screwing up. You can completely destroy the area around you and even accidentally let ghosts loose from containment if you damage the firehouse. It's also likely a bit harder for me because I don't play shooters and in games where I have the option for ranged or melee combat I usually go with melee (said it before, but I really do love a good swordfight). My aim is not the best, particularly with a PlayStation controller (as opposed to a Wii-mote) and third-person perspective.

Speaking of perspective, that's my one real complaint about this game so far. It's an odd one, not the usual third-person view where your character is centered. It's more like looking over your character's right shoulder and that creates this disorienting sense that you are never looking straight ahead. Instead of the usual HUD all the meters you need are on your proton pack, which I'm assuming is the reason for the bizarre perspective, and that's also a little disorienting.

However, that's all window-dressing, what matters is the story and the gameplay. Even more important, this game does make you feel like you're a Ghostbuster. I imagine real ghostbusting in this manner would be difficult to learn and the game gives you a real feel for that. When I say it's hard, I don't mean the kind of frustrating that makes you not want to play, I mean the kind that makes you want to master it.

I didn't get very far into the game on this first session, I don't know if this will be a marathoning sort of game because it feels like you do need a break. I had a bunch of ghosties slamming me like crazy and couldn't even tell where they were coming from on the first three or so attempts at the level I was in and it was a little tiring. Still, I'm excited to give it another go!

The story is fun so far. It seems to be pretty much what you would expect from this series of stories, filled with ghostbusting cliches that you can't help but giggle from and the personalities we fell in love with so long ago. It's also funny to see all the guys portrayed as they looked back then, as I've gotten used to their older selves. I can't wait to get deeper into it and see where it goes. Glad it's almost the weekend!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ghostbusters Dilemma Solved!

I've been away for about a week because my birthday this year turned into an extended whirl of fun and family visits and I sort of took a break from the internet during it. Everyone should do that once in awhile, it's so easy to forget that there's lots of world right outside when you're constantly checking Twitter and email. But I digress...

One of my birthday presents was the PS3 version of Ghostbusters. My wonderful boyfriend decided enough was enough with the hemming and hawing and went for the one I couldn't really afford. Very smart guy, he is! Even better, he got the Prima guide for it so I don't have to scrounge the 'net for tips on this one. I'm avoiding the guide until I get into trouble (I think I've mentioned I hate spoilers?) but it's nice to know it's there.

The sad thing is that I haven't had a chance to play it yet. Our DVR has been packed with stuff and my obsession with the STS-127 space shuttle mission and NASA TV kept me from watching the backlog for a bit, so playing games on the TV was a little out of reach. It's okay, Patapon and The Sims 3 kept me gaming and I'm going to schedule a night or two of ghostbusting into my week.

I also found my missing GameFly games (lost right inside our entertainment cabinet, truly pathetic) and sent those in, plus added the Wii version of Ghostbusters to my GameQ. Perfect! Being able to use my GameFly account again is very nice.

I will definitely post my first impressions of both games once I play them, but for now I'm just going to give my boyfriend kudos on the perfect present. Screw jewelry, I just wanna play!