Tuesday, February 26, 2008


My computer has been beyond ill. Since August I've been having problems...first a memory stick, then Vista problems (o rly?), then more memory issues...it all started to amount to something my mind was neither prepared or willing to grasp. Finally, I said (defiantly) "fuck it!" and bought a new motherboard and power supply. Did that fix my misgivings? No. But a simple BIOS update after that did. It's the little things that make up life.

So now I'm typing on a fully functioning, monstrous gaming leviathan. And it feels good. Unfortunately, I couldn't backup my Crysis saved games, so I'll have to play through the first few hours over again (darn?). I see that as half re-reading a bad story, but half re-living the first chilling taste of beer. It's something I'm willing to do.

But it's been a while since I actually wrote anything here, so let me start with something new for me--a review.

I gave Audiosurf another try to win over my $9.95 this weekend, but it just couldn't do anything for me. Let me make something very clear first: I love audio games. Hell, I even have Gitaroo Man and will gladly argue the awesomeness of that game to any opposition (that is, if anyone knows the game so much as to oppose it in the first place). So, when I first heard about Audiosurf last year, I felt a definite flutter in my chest. Here was a game that boasted to be interactive with anything you had to throw at it. Dodging/matching blocks based on music? Puzzle aspect? Yup, it had all of that, too. At that wondrous point in time, Audiosurf seemed to float somewhere between "dream come true" and "perfect."

My excitement mounted as I loaded up the beta, and when I imported up my first song, that excitement was well-founded. I played through The Smashing Pumpkins' "Today". The short opening build before the explosion of music was accentuated tenfold thanks to Audiosurf's killer visual presentation, and the consistency throughout the song made for a truly unique and memorable music experience. My roommate, too, standing behind me couldn't help but utter "cool" at least twice throughout the song.

Audiosurf's basic premise is kind of like Lumines, or the ancient multiplatform classic Klax, but with a fun, fast(er?)-paced presentation (well, depending on the song you choose). The music you pick is transformed into a physical medium as the game creates a literal track for whatever song you decide to play. That track is then given unique characteristics (elevation and falls--think old-fashioned roller-coaster) based on how that music sounds (tempo mostly). Thus, you are surfing your audio. Do you see what they did there?

You "drive" a sort of hover vehicle that's akin to Wipeout's futuristic hover-things. In fact, the actual visual presentation is quite similar overall to Wipeout. It's the gameplay that sets this very, very far apart. As you fly/hover through your audio's track, the game uses your music to create blocks that appear almost as barriers in front of your vehicle. Driving through these blocks absorbs them into a grid under your vehicle, Tetris-style. Matching three or more of the same colored blocks either vertically, horizontally, or a combination of the two causes those blocks to disappear, and awards you with points. Certain colors are worth more points, too--for example, red pieces (that only occur during fast parts of songs) are worth the most.

So, the strategy in this game comes with how you maneuver left and right through your musical track, matching colored pieces and trying not over overload your grid's columns with nonsensical color combinations. It's certainly an interesting and never-before-done concept. But I didn't like it.

Why? Well for two main reasons. First off, this game's ability to be fun is heavily dependent on your personal taste in music. If you don't have a certain kind of song, with a certain kind of music tempo or sound, the track that's generated for you will be annoying and unplayable. For example, I played The Smashing Pumpkins' "1979" and had a terrible experience. Because the song has a low bass line coupled with an articulated drum beat...the drum beat was brought out the most in the gameplay. This meant that the speed that my hover-thing cruised through my track was anything but cruising. Whenever the drum beat peaked, the vehicle would suddenly thrust forward, but them immediately slow down when the drums weren't as prominent. The track was also comprised of a small hill every few "feet" for the same peaking-drum-beat reason, so on top of jerking fast and then slow, I was wavering up and down and up and down like some nightmarish boat ride. Couple all of that bullshit with trying to figure a puzzle aspect into the game, and you have ultimate failure. The game wasn't remotely fun.

So, I went through my collection and played a slew of other songs. Some worked well (Slayer's "Raining Blood"), but most didn't (Pearl Jam's "Even Flow", AC/DC's "Thunderstruck", several Nirvana songs). It seems like this game really doesn't like rock music all too much. At least not the kind with definite drum beats or changes in loudness and softness. For some reason the game seems to think that "loudness' translates to "tempo speed". Just because a song is loud doesn't mean it's faster. But in the game, that's precisely what this means.

But even with the songs that are fun to race through, the puzzle aspect slowly becomes kind of shallow. It's fun to match the colored barriers to the notes and beats of your music, but it's soon tiring to properly formulate a strategy in order to do this. This is especially precedent on the harder difficulties, when you're zipping back and forth trying to concentrate more on the colors than the music that's producing them. Maybe this is just me, but that's annoying as hell. Thankfully, there are several different game modes attached to the various vehicles you can play as, which really pushes the gameplay a lot further. So, for me, the puzzle-ness failed after a while, but for you, it might be a never-ending nirvana. But I doubt it.

And when I played the final, updated final version...the same problems were front and present. Thus, Audiosurf is a great idea and possibly a fun-as-hell game for some people (and at only 10 bucks, you don't have much to lose), but not me. There's a demo out there on Steam--I'd try that first.

I give this game 8/10

There, I wrote a game review. Not bad, eh? I'll try and get better with time.

Till next time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This is awesome on so many lev... dimensions.

This is a short post because...it just is. But that video above, whew. It's like someone played Super Paper Mario (great game, by the way) while high on narcotics, said, "Woah, this would be, like, totally, like...awesome if it did every dimension. Woah," and then remembered saying that. AND that person just so happened to know how to make games. I want that game right now.

That's all. I'll post something intelligent sometime soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Crack, crack, crack the eggs into the bowl.

For no reason at all, there's a picture of my eye. I can SEEee you. ooOOoo. Okay.

So Puzzle Quest is superb. I've had it for the XBLA for a while now, but man. I must have wasted hours playing it the other day. Took me back to a dark, swampy period of my life where I played World of Warcraft. ::shudders:: Only with Puzzle Quest I'm not shelling out a small section of my soul every month and wasting those countless hours killing stupid fucking dragon welps. Or wolves. Or yetis. This is a clean feeling. I have to think with Puzzle Quest. I have to pay somewhat actual attention. And when someone sees me playing it, and subsequently asks what I'm doing, I can give them an intelligent, interesting answer. As opposed to "WoW," and then something littered with one-sided terms and references that leaves the other person rolling their eyes and hating themselves for inquiring. Amazing.

I love games like Puzzle Quest. Games that are relatively simplistic in their nature, but offer so much to be loved. Rez HD is like this, and you know how I feel about that. But even not-10/15-dollar-arcade games can pull this off. Unreal Tournament 3 is a good example. I could very well include the entire UT series in that statement, but as all fans of the series know, UT3 is the only one that matters right now, anyway. I only ever played the others off-handedly, so this game is my first "real" (get it?) delve into in the whole UT universe. I'm glad I joined in.

In a world where games (especially FPS games) are demanding realism and complexities as much as possible, it's nice to see something as artistically crafted as UT3 succeed in it's...unreal-ness. I say artistically crafted because, well, the game is gorgeous. I almost feel bad running and gunning through some of the maps in that game. Almost. I'll be honest: my first time playing I died several times while gaping at the details put into a "simple" deathmatch game. The Oriental-style maps (don't ask me to name map names, please) are particularly brilliant.

I think it's tremendously difficult to craft a complex game that works, and when it's done properly it's really something to behold. I think it's more impressive, though, to see a simple, easy-to-play game do just as well. Well, not just as well (they never do just as well), but comparable at the least. Grand achievements often start with very simple ideas. Wolfenstein 3d started with horizontal gameplay that was limited to essentially six buttons and three guns. I remember playing that game when I was seven years old. PaRappa The Rapper was "bad" music timed to four buttons (not bad as in bad--I loved that game.. Kick, punch, it's all in the mind...). I could go on.

I really think that to develop a truly awe-inspiring game you have to start with something very basic. I also think that sticking to that basic formula, whatever it is, is never a stupid move to try out. And as long as good games keep coming, simple or not, I'll be here waiting in wet anticipation (ew?). I'd be an idiot to ignore something because it isn't triple A and over-the-top.

On an unrelated note, Valentine's Day blows. If I see another jewelery store commercial I'm going to find those corny actors and stab them in their lame, fake-kissing eyes. Oh, he went to Jared, did he? Fuck him. I went to Taco Bell.

And don't you feel bad for someone in this? I don't. Awesome.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sly as a FOX

Allow me to take a moment here to make a general statement about the news: It sucks. All of it. I say this not because the people that report the news are bad people--one could argue that they're just doing their jobs. That they're paid to sit in front of an audience of cameras and parrot the scrolling teleprompter as best they can. Well, that argument isn't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the news as a whole...the networks, the presentation, and the assholes that sit behind those big desks and may or may not be wearing pants.

Tonight I sat downstairs and watched a news report on CNN about a Muslim mosque that was burned down and defiled somewhere in Tennessee. Tragic, yes, I know. After the story was done, the anchor did the obligatory "Hmm...that's sad" remark before suddenly brightening up and exclaiming that, "Coming up next is our salute to LOVE! With Valentine's Day right around the corner!" Man, what a killer segue. That's the kind of crap I can't stand, and unfortunately it's always on the news.

Now let's turn to another news saga for a second. I'm not going to dwell here because I don't think I need to, but a short recap: FOX News reported that EA's Mass Effect is basically brimming, nay, overflowing with sex (even wittily titling Microsoft's platform "Sexbox" .. get it!? Like.. sex, in box form!), branding it as some kind of Antichrist of videogames that goes above and beyond all moral realms of thought. Unfortunately, they were wrong, and went so far as to have an "open" discussion, on air, with someone who actually knows what they're talking about. But they didn't want to believe they were wrong, so they did what FOX News does best--snubbed him out of any actual relevant words and overwhelmed him with idiots who were on their side. Brilliant.

Of course, one of the idiots took her words back after actually playing the game. And now there's this stagnant lake of drama between EA and FOX news, one demanding an apology and the other being FOX News, respectively. The whole thing is teeming with unclean feelings, but at least it reinforces my opinion that the news, in general, sucks. FOX News especially, but everyone knows that.

So, put that whole thing aside and make room for this. Oh FOX News, will you ever stop being assholes? Here's another tragic story: Post war vet flips out because he sees something that reminds him of the war. Hm...has that ever happened before? Oh wait, that "something" happens to be a videogame-- Call of Duty 4 (though I'd imagine any wargame could set someone off, and the report isn't specific of which CoD game he was playing). The stupid thing about this story is you know FOX is going to happily blame videogame violence for doing this. "If only games weren't so violent in the first place," I see a reporter saying, "maybe the world would just be a better place."

No, no... less wars in general wouldn't make the world a better place. It's the games. But I'm not going to fully jump to any conclusions about FOX that haven't happened quite yet. If I did, I'd be just like them.

All of this leads me to one single point: mainstream news really, truly blows. It's hard to get facts about anything in general, though. But watching the nightly news in any state can't be good for you. The news starts with death, rape, fire, and war to grab you attention, then keeps it by discussing the local adorable Kindergarten Bakeoff for Kittens. They have uneducated people join their discussion shows to talk about videogames they haven't played. In short: if they have a message they want to report, it overrides what they should report.

And that's never going to change. So long as there are TV ratings up for grabs, they will fight to the bitter end to cause controversy and get viewers. Just look at how many websites have commented on the Mass Effect bullshit, mine included. Sure, it makes a whole ton of people hate FOX, but it still puts FOX in their heads. Maybe some will flip over there while watching TV just to see the next stupid thing they report. FOX doesn't care; a rating is a rating.

This is why I just don't watch the news. I have the internet. Sure, that's tainted, too. The story I linked is from FOX, after all (they've infected the internet!?). But it's better than nothing. If you're smart, you know where to go for news and your options are limitless when compared to local broadcasts. Remember, folks, there was a time that Mortal Kombat was so violent that the news just couldn't stop talking about it. Funny how things change.

Now I think I'll make myself some Hot Coffee and watch The Daily Show...wait, it's Sunday. Fuck.

Friday, February 8, 2008

High Rezolution

So, I was sitting at my desk this weekend feeding an indispensable and overwhelming boredom by scanning the internet until it, to me, ran dry. So, before Sunday's Superbowl and...other post... I turned to this white, vertical mesh of plastic and metal on my desk called an Xbox 360. Assassin's Creed? I thought. No, not yet. I need to be in a mood to play that. Usually a repetitive mood, but a mood, nonetheless. Mass Effect? No...I haven't started that yet, and I need to finish at least one of the other games I have in progress before I mount that Behemoth. I wanted something short but new, so, thanks to the previously mentioned internet-scouring, I zipped to the XBLA and stared intently at Rez HD.

I grabbed the demo. 5 Minutes after firing that up, I bought the game. It'd be easy to describe the game thusly: You're a guy (girl?) that flies through a world of stuff and shoots at... things. But that wouldn't hardly do the game justice. Go ahead, stare at that screenshot up there and try to figure out what's going on. With the plethora of reviews spread over the internet, there's no reason for me to add to them except to say this: go get the demo, and if it slightly piques your interest, buy it. It's 10 bucks. Don't buy pizza that week if you're on edge. This game will reward you more. And for me to place something above pizza, it must be something special.

I also had a stick of memory die on me over the weekend (hooray for Newegg RMAs), so I'm stuck on 1 gb, and thus, am back on XP (not that there's anything wrong with that--I use Vista for DX10 games only, trust me). But the plus side to loading back to my XP install (I have dual boot) was that I re-noticed a little gem a friend of mine had given me a few weeks back sitting on my desktop--the zip file of Super Columbine Massacre RPG!. For most of you, this will be old news, and admittedly, it is for me, too. But for the rest of you...Yes, some wonderful asshole (I use the term loosely) made a game based on that whole thing.

Now, I work at my college's tech department in the faculty service desk fixing (faculty) PC issues, etc. It was here that I decided to play this game for the first time. Over the hour or so I played it pretty much everyone in the vicinity of my desk stopped by to stare at the amazingly "offensive" game. The creator used RPG Maker 2000 to craft the game, but the real effort goes into the pictures and presentation, rather than the gameplay. It's the little things: if one of your characters (Eric or Dylan, the two boys who shot up the school back in '99) equips a copy of Doom, for example, they get benefits to their accuracy. And MIDI renditions of Nirvana, Marlyn Manson, and Radiohead ("Creep") tracks as background music? Too funny.

Unfortunately, once the massacring sets in, the game gets kinda stupid. After all, you have shotguns, pipebombs, knives, semiautomatics, and rifles while everyone else has...nothing (a slight nod to reality). I don't know about later in the game, but I don't have the patience to bare through monotonous gameplay (Undertow), so I stopped after a short while. Regardless, it kept me occupied for a good hour or so, and I laughed in the face of controversy, so, go check it out yourself, if you want to see what I'm talking about. Again, I know that it's old as old can be old, but fuck it. I thought it was cool.

That's all for now. Go try Rez HD. Go. GO.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Why "Clark Gable" ?

Well, I finally sat down and played Undertow this weekend--that game Microsoft decided to give out for free because of their lousy XBLive service over the holidays. It's a good game in the same way that a Mitsubishi Mirage is a good car. If you didn't have a car, and were given one of those, you'd probably drive it and be accepting, but if you already had something else, you'd probably ignore the gesture. I can see why Microsoft picked Undertow, though...it seems to say "I'm sorry, I guess, so, here, I found this, take it." Gee thanks, Microsoft, how...thoughtful.

Anyway, moving on to something completely different. I don't know if anyone noticed, but my nickname for posting here is "Clark Gable," and I thought to myself after the first post, "Hm, that might confuse some people." I mean, it isn't really reflective of the blog as a whole, doesn't have to do with video games, etc. Well, this past summer I watched Gone With the Wind (all four hours--yes, four hours) of it and after questioning why I had just subjected myself to that, realized that all the parts of the movie that were actually good had Clark Gable on screen (Rhett Butler for you uncultured losers... the guy that says, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."). Considering I had never seen anyone named as such online (though I'm sure someone, somewhere is) I decided to adopt it for myself.

So that's my excuse. I saw something I thought was original, and pushed it upon my video-gaming self. We all tend to do this. Names are very important to our gaming selves. Just ask any WoW player. Even I can admit guilt to taking over half an hour just trying to come up with the "perfect" name for some character.

Game character names are an identifier. They are the easiest, quickest way that the other people you're playing with can get to know you. Think about it...if you're playing a game online, say, a team-based game, and there are two people on your team, one named "Pvt. Parts" and the other named "NickyQ714", who are you going to want to play with again (assuming they have equal skill)? Names tell people something small and infinitely important about yourself. If you name yourself something clever or obscure, then you probably revel in the fact that some person will notice, point out your name's reference, and praise you for it. It makes you feel good.

Most people have no idea who Clark Gable is/was, though. Once, in a session of Call of Duty 4, someone in the server told me, "Clark Gable was a terrible actor." To which I promptly replied, "Well, I'll try to make him a better sniper." The other guy simply said, "Fair enough," and I went on to go 21-5 (hell yeah). Those small interactions are sometimes the only interactions people have in games. I can't tell you how many times while playing Counterstrike someone with a weird name would join the server and a conversation would erupt because of that (hell, I would change my name to "Jeffery the Efeminine Penguin" sometimes).

So the next time you're stuck thinking about naming yourself/character, let me offer some tips:

-Please avoid numbers are the end of your name. Unless you're coming up with your next AIM screen name, it just looks stupid. For example, Clark_Gable344. Gross.
-Stay away from well known stuff. This isn't because it looks like a bad name, but because chances are a lot of people will have something similar, and then you'll get lost in mediocrity. Though most games today don't allow duplicate names, which leads to the number thing. If that's the case, be more creative.
-Don't be afraid of inside jokes. Just because no one else will know what your name means doesn't mean you can't name yourself that. It'll make a nice conversation piece, anyway.
-Chicks need to accept that they are chicks. I don't know if this is as annoying as the number thing, but for some reason most of the girls (not all) I see out there announce their gender within their names. I always see "RockerGrl223" or "CutieSlayer" or, I don't know... "Ig0tT1ts". We get it, you're a girl that plays games. Amazing.
-The letter "X" does not mean you're hardcore. xXxMETALGUNN3RxXx. ..No.

I'm sure there's a bunch more I could come up with, but then I'd start getting really picky (and starting to rant, and I hate rants), and that isn't my goal here. In fact, I wasn't even planning to make that list until just now. Hm. Anyway, the next time you're playing CoD4 and Clark Gable headshots you, you know who did it. And my gamertag for XBLive is Petey Greene. Who? This guy.

Now, I told myself I would finally finish Assassin's Creed this weekend, but I don't think that's going to happen. Stupid Superbowl. Oh well, go Patriots? I guess?