I got a whole stack of games for Christmas this year, and I’ve spent a lot of time playing them instead of blogging.
So now you get to read my “mini-reviews” of the games that I received.
NiGHTS Journey of Dreams. I’ve been anticipating this game since the rumors first broke. I haven’t played much of it yet, but my experience is a positive one. If you liked NiGHTS on Saturn, this is not that much of a radical departure. All the reviews have mentioned that the cinematics can’t be skipped, which is quite annoying. I haven’t tried the motion controls yet, since the game itself recommends using standard analog joystick controls. Verdict: Good.
Super Mario Galaxy. My expectations were not very high since I’m not a big fan of 3d platforming to begin with, and Super Mario Sunshine wasn’t outstanding. I was extremely suprised to find an incredible masterpiece of a game. This game easily deserves the glowing reviews that it’s getting. This is easily the best Super Mario game in a long time, and surpasses Sunshine by parsecs. Verdict: Must play!.
Beautiful Katamari. I never got to play the original Katamari very much, so this is my first opportunity to cut loose on this game. It’s suprisingly challenging. The game is very unique and fun. The game’s sense of humor makes the game even more enjoyable. There’s plenty of replay value here, but this game probably isn’t for everyone. I recommend playing the demo a few times to see if it’s right for you. Verdict: Good.
Elebits. I already reviewed Elebits when I rented it. Now I own it. Enough said. Verdict: Good.
Carnival Games. This is a mini-game collection for Wii from Rockstar. The graphics are horrendous, and the voice acting is comical (maybe on purpose?). However, there is a large variety of games to play, and lots of unlockables and stuff to make this a fun game for multiple players or parties. Verdict: Great casual game.
Game Party. This is another mini-game collection in the “budget” category. The graphics are even cheaper that Carnival Games, but the sound effects and music are suprisingly good. The real gem of this game is the Trivia mini-game which is really fast to pick up and play (up to 4 players). The other games range from so-so to good. Verdict: Good casual game for the price.
Alien Syndrome. This is an overhead shooter from Sega based on the 1986 arcade title. It’s an overhead arcade-style shooter. I haven’t played it much, but there is some potential here. I think a multiplayer Alien Syndrome is where it probably shines the most. The conrols are pretty tight: analog controls movement, Wiimote pointer controls aim. It has a Gauntlet/Smash TV feel to it. There are some mini-games that interrupt regular gameplay that I haven’t quite figured out the point to yet. Verdict: Rent if you like arcade shooting.
Portal deserves consideration for game of the year.
Yeah, you heard right. It’s such a fantastically crafted game experience that I played through the game three times in two days.
Portal is nearly flawless.
- The level designs and escalation of complexity make the game accessible to just about any gamer.
- The character(s) and storyline are very rich, but you hardly drown in story.
- The challenge to the game comes almost 100% from thinking and not from action, a huge plus in my book.
- The voice work is stunning. The game is worth playing for the song at the end alone.
- The extra features make this game very replayable: commentary, advanced levels, challenges. Yes, this game is short (perhaps it’s one minor flaw), but not short to a fault, and these extras more than make up for it.
- The portal device itself.
The last feature listed cannot be stressed enough. You will not understand the sheer coolness of this device until you play the game. Yeah, the concept is easy to grasp, but until you fling yourself across chasms, through the air from pedestal to pedestal, and make gun turrents suddenly sink into oblivion, you won’t understand.
The weighted companion cube. What can be said about him that hasn’t already been said?
GLaDOS. Such an atypical computer game villian, but so memorable, unique, and entertaining.
The only two very minor problems with this game: it’s too short, and you have to get the whole Orange Box to play it (if you are like me and not very interested in Half-Life or Team Fortress).
The cake may be a lie, but the hype around this game is not. Get Portal by any means necessary and play it immediately.
Verdict: Good. Really, really good.
If you recall, the first Xbox 360 game that I bought (besides XBLA games) was Blazing Angels. The game got average-to-poor reviews, but I really enjoyed it.
I also tried to rent Blazing Angels for Wii multiple times, but was thwarted. However, I recently picked it up on sale. So yes, I now own two copies of the same game for multiple systems.
I think if you like Blazing Angels for 360, you’ll like it for Wii. Ubisoft made bad decisions on both versions, so I guess it’s a “pick your poison” situation, since both versions have weaknesses. Here’s a brief rundown of the differences of the Wii version as compared to the 360 version:
- Two new missions (Georgia & North Sea). The Georgia mission is a really good idea (protecting and assisting multiple ground divisions on multiple islands), but Ubisoft either biffed the programming or made a bad decision here. Because of the sheer amount of targets in the Georgia mission, there is noticeable slowdown, which sucks. I haven’t got to the North Sea mission yet.
- 10 new planes. This includes the awesome F-82 Twin Mustang.
- There are subtle differences in many of the other missions. For instance, on Guadalcanal, when you have to land and switch planes, you get hit by flak (part of the mission) which makes it much harder to land. The first Normandy mission is considerably harder with faster advancing ground targets.
- I didn’t think it would be possible to make the “sandstorm” mission any more annoying, but Ubisoft did just that with the Wii version. Instead of listening to the Germans banter (in English) over the radio, you get a wonderfully loud, piercing stream of morse code for the whole mission that cannot be turned off. I turned off my stereo. In exchange, it’s easier to find the German bases with an on-screen indicator/radar thing. And thankfully, I achieved Ace rank on the first try, so I will never, ever have to play it again. Honestly, this mission should have been excluded from all versions of the game.
- In most campaign missions, you can choose which plane to use. Why anyone would turn down the Spitfire V and/or P-51 for any campaign given the opportunity is beyond me. So yeah, you can fly Spitfires and Stukas against Zeros if you want.
- The controls are obviously the biggest difference. You can choose between 5 control schemes. My favorite is the Wiimote motion to control direction with the nunchuck for throttle/weapons. Additionally, I switch hands because I was so used to the 360 controls. This seems to work fine, though it takes a half-dozen missions and ace battles to really get the hang of motion controls.
- The graphics are significantly worse than the 360. The planes still look fine, but in general the game looks more jagged. I probably wouldn’t have noticed this if I hadn’t played the 360 game first.
- There’s no online play. (The 360 version has online play, but good luck finding opponents).
- The voice acting was redone, for whatever reason. The script is largely the same, but now Germans speak German and Japanese speak Japanese. So there’s less stereotyping, and more realism. Fine. Your wingmen have less exaggerated accents as well, and your player has a large speaking role in this game as a sort of narrator, as well as an in-game persona.
- There’s a cockpit view. I found this completely worthless as I do with every other air combat game, but some people like it.
So there you have it. I highly recommend it if you like air combat and have a Wii.
I’m writing this post via my new toy, the Mogul 6800 cell phone.
It’s a little cumbersome to write HTML, but not too bad. I’ve been lusting after this phone ever since Joe got one and let me drool over it.
This phone is incredible and has an impressive set of features including:
- Windows Mobile 6
- 2.0 megapixel camera, photo (with flash) or video
- MicroSD slot (comes with 512meg card)
- Mini-USB port
- Slide-out keyboard
- 320×240 screen
- 802.11b/g WiFi
So yeah, pretty good.
I already installed an emulator on it, PocketSNES, which runs fine, but I haven’t determined the optimal button configuration yet.
I also installed Opera (of course), which is again superior to the built-in IE in almost every way.
Herein lies the very first (as far as I know) ever review of the elusive Game King-II personal media player game system gadget thingy.
I’ll step through the feature list as it appeared on Geeks.com (and exactly how it appeared on any other site selling this thing), and then I’ll list some things that I didn’t know before buying. Finally, I’ll weight in with the verdict: should you buy this?
1 GB memory – SD Card slot: supports up to 2 GB SD Card. True. There is 1 gig built-in and 1 SD slot that I tested with a 2gb card. You can switch “modes” between Flash and SD Card and there’s an “explorer” mode too, so using the expansion space is not difficult.
Game: supports 16-bit GB/GBC (Game Boy) games, 8-bit NES games. Kinda true. Saying “16-bit GB/GBC” is wrong, because the Gameboy is 8-bit. However, the Game King-II is also able to emulate SNES ROMs, which is not mentioned anywhere on Geeks.com or in the hilarious instruction manual (more on that later). I could probably write a whole post on the emulation features alone, so I will. The only other information I know at this time is that it does not emulate Sega Genesis or Game Gear games.
Built-in camera. True. It can take pictures at 320×240, 640×480, 1280×960, and 2560×1920. So, around 4.9 megapixels. However, don’t get too excited, it’s not a great camera. The 2560×1920 mode might actually be some sort of software enhanced 2x version of the 1280×960, which means that it’s actually a 1.2 megapixel camera. Also, there’s no flash.
USB Interface. True, but not all that exciting. It functions as a perfectly usuable flash drive, which I guess not all MP3 players do, even today.
2.3-inch color TFT screen (320 x 240). I don’t know what TFT mean (beyond the acronym–Thin Film Transistor), but it’s a very nice looking screen. There’s a nice picture of seashells as a default wallpaper on loading, and it really impressed me right off the bat.
Video Format: AVI. True! It comes with a CD that has a “VideoConversion” program which will convert your video files to whatever codec this thing uses at the appropriate resolution. The program is very nifty, so far it’s worked on WMV, MPG, and even FLV files right off of YouTube and Google Video. The video plays nicely.
Audio Support: MP3, WMA, WAV, ADPCM, AMR. I haven’t tried anything except MP3, but I don’t really care about those other formats. I know it also plays WAV files, because that’s the format it records sound in.
Picture Support: JPEG, BMP, GIF. Does not play animated GIFs. Not even the first frame. Just sends you right back to the file listing.
FM Radio. Doesn’t support AM radio, which is kinda weak. Does support “Japan band”, which is 76.0 to 90.0 FM. It can do seek and presets. I think it uses the headphones for an antenna, and also sounds like it downsamples the output for whatever reason, but otherwise functions adequately.
E-Book: support TXT format files. Yep. Pretty much.
Built-in microphone for recording (stored as WAV file). Records at 32kbps. I didn’t see any way to increase the quality.
There were also some things that I think are pretty important that are left out of the description.
Battery. Yes, it has a battery. This might seem obvious, but it is conspicuous by its absence in the Geeks.com description. According to the instruction manual, it is an “1100mAh Build-in Lion Battery”. I don’t see anyway to easily replace it, and good luck finding a replacement anyway. Take good care of the battery, is my advice to you.
Speaker(s). It has at least one speaker built-in to the thing. I say “at least one” because I think the other “speaker hole” is where the microphone is. So, having a speaker is kinda a double-edged sword. You can share the audio easily with others. But be careful when fiddling around with it if you are in an environment where a sudden burst of sound would cause embarrasment.
Size. This thing is really quit tiny. According to the book, it’s 4.6in x 2.5in x 0.66in (119mm x 64mm x 17mm), but it’s rounded on the ends. By comparison, a standard iPod is 4.1in x 2.4in x 0.43in. So, very comparable in size, and would probably fit in an iPod sized MP3 case okay (though I wouldn’t recommend it).
Weight. It’s not heavy at all. According to the book, it’s about 2.88oz (80g), compared to an iPod Nano at 1.41oz (a standard iPod weighs a bit more, but also has 40-80 times the storage capacity).
Hilarious Engrish user’s manual. I really get a kick out of these types of things, so it’s a bonus gift in my book. I can certainly imagine that the casual user would be extremely upset with the obtuse and downright nonsensical language in this book, but I find it a delight. I will probably post about it later, but here are some gems from the “Precautions” section early in book which certainly set the tone:
- A. Do not use the device in extremely thermal, cold, dusty and watery circumstance
- C. Prevent the device from colliding with hard objects
- D. Turn the power off before push in or pull out the SD card
- L. Turn the power off before inserting or pulling out the SD card ( game card)
Yes, there are actually two almost identical precautionary points.
Anyway, here’s the verdict: buy! This is a very qualified “buy” rating, because the Game King-II certainly isn’t for everyone. If you have a deep love of obscure gadgets, emulation, fiddling around, and you are budget-minded, this is the perfect MP3 player (and then some) for you. If you need a practical, fashionable, reliably supported device, this is not for you.
My coworker told me that the only reason I bought this thing was to make blog posts about it, and I think he’s on to something. I’ve already mentioned two future posts that I could write about this thing. So, stay tuned for future information about the Game King-II. Or, as the Game King-II itself would say, “please waiting…”
In the little city of mgroves.com blogging city this is a pretty bold statement. Never afraid of angering people, I’m making it.
Two years ago I watched an episode and was disappointed. It didn’t seem funny then. After flicking through the channels I settle on Family Guy, good episode. Then I see it, Up Next: Aqua Teen Hunger Force. In a frantic rush not to burn my eyes I reach for the remote, it’s not there! I search and search, checking down the sofa, under the sofa, in the fridge. It’s nowhere to be found. I then realized, as a 250 pound fat lazy human, I just used all my energy trying to find the remote. I’m screwed!
The show starts. I see it takes place in New Jersey, oh cool I figure. Any show that takes place in Jersey gets a few points from me. That’s where the fun stops. The story was so hard to follow I can’t even give you a recap. All I know a glowing square parked its ass on their lawn and refused to leave. Compelling story to say the least…
I don’t know if America has just become that retarded, or I just don’t get the show. I’ll leave you with this, how the hell does anyone understand that meatball?
Elebits is a vaguely Katamari-ish game for the Nintendo Wii in which you ransack your house in an attempt to find these little electricity producing creatures called Marklars. Wait, I mean Elebits.
You play the role of some dopey kid, desperate for his parent’s attention and jealous of elebits. You get some sort of Ghostbusters gun that acts as a lifting device that gets stronger the more elebits you find and capture (with the gun).
If you’ve ever played Psi-Ops for the PC or Xbox, the game is basically like that. Except that you can pick up and toss around a lot more stuff. If Konami had a name for this game that came in second place to “Elebits”, it would probably be “Wreck Up the Place” (either that or “Super Happy Kid Shoot Lift Revolution”), because that’s basically what you do is pick up the furniture and dishes and hair dryers and throw them all over the house in a desperate attempt to find Elebits.
After a good 4-5 hours of gameplay, I gotta say that this is perhaps my favorite game for the Wii as of right now. After you pass a level, you can replay that level without a timer. I played in this mode for a good hour, just throwing crap around. The game has more features and unlockable features than you can shake a lifter gun at, including screenshots (that you can send to your Wii friends), edit mode (where you can create your own levels, and send them to Wii friends), multiplayer mode, etc.
I’m a puzzle game fan, I admit, and this game is exactly what I’ve been looking for in the Wii.
Things I like about this game:
- Throwing crap around. This is so much fun that it makes me giggle like a 13 year old girl at a Skillet concert.
- The game mechanics. You can’t throw around the piano right away, first you gotta throw around a few potted plants and electric drills. THEN you can smash the piano into the LCD TV.
- The powerups. You can get a homing gun, noise damper, crazy elebits knock-out thingy, and a bunch of other stuff. To use a powerup, you grab it and throw it around until you smash it. Tee hee!
Things I don’t like about it:
- Opening doors. You have to aim for the door handle, turn the Wiimote, and then pull/push. It sounds simple, but it’s ridiculously cumbersome. And the doors don’t even stay open whether you want them to or not.
- Tiny rooms. Some of the rooms are small and packed full of stuff, so it’s hard to manuever the camera around to find the elebits. Throwing crap around in the room only makes it worse, but I really can’t help myself.
- Voice acting & storyline. Weird, creepy, sad. Fortunately, it’s meaningless to the game, so just skip it.
- Aiming reticle. The same problem as I’ve mentioned before: the cursor can go off the screen. WHY? It’s so much of a pain.
Verdict: A! This is a great game for puzzle fans or for fans of throwing crap around for no reason. I highly recommend at least a rent, but you’ll need to own it to experience all the depth of play.
A friend of mine recently launched a dating/social network site called Astromance. Yeah, yeah, another one of those. What makes this one unique? It’s based around astrology and numerology.
In case you aren’t familiar with astrology and numerology, here’s my quick, inexpert overview. The idea behind astrology is that various celestial bodies (stars, planets, etc) have an effect on one’s personality and events in life (Astro+Romance=Astromance. Get it?). Numerology is similar, except it’s numbers (and equivalent letters) instead of planets.
So the idea is that you can tell a lot about a person based on their name (numerology) and when they were born (astrology). Ah! Now you see that it’s a good premise for a social networking/dating site.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “But Matt, isn’t astrology a soul-harvesting tool of The Prince of Darkness himself?” Well, yes. And personally, I don’t believe in any of it actually works. But there are a ton of people who do. And if you are one of them, you should totally make a profile, and see how well you match me. Even if you don’t believe in Astrology, this is still an incredibly well-done site (I should know, as I helped program it a little bit), and you know you’ve read at least one horoscope (admit it!), so check it out anyway.
Here are the things I like:
- Tagging (anyone can tag anyone with anything)
- Very flexible preferences
- Graphically speaking, it’s a well-polished gem. It looks like he spent a whole year on the icons alone.
- Humorous, well-written content
- The matching criteria are extremely detailed and well-researched
- The creator has his own blog on the site.
Here are the things I don’t like:
- Astrology and numerology–I don’t believe in ‘em.
- The match descriptions were spookily accurate. I feel dirty.
Verdict: thumbs way up! If you’re dating and/or an astrology enthusiast, this site was made for you.
I must admit that although gaming and gaming collection is my primary hobby and one of my core interests, some people might not consider me “hard core” enough. A hard core gamer would be one who spares no expense at enhancing their gaming, and while I certainly spend a lot on gaming, there are lots of other important things to spend that much money on.
So, let that be a warning to you who are about to read my review of the Beast Breed X gaming PC from Beast Computers.
Let’s get these impressive features out of the way first:
- Intel Core 2 Duo X6800 2.93GHz
- nVidia 680i SLI
- 2gb PC8000 DDR2 1066MHz
- 2x BFG 8800 GTX 768mb GDDR3 DX10 (side note: what’s up with the naming conventions, people? Looks like a George Lucas movie title up in here)
- 2x 320gb HD (nice)
- Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Music (that’s a little more like it)
- 6 USB ports, 2 ethernet ports
- Does NOT come with monitor(s)
Price: 3029. Pounds. That’s about $5900 in U.S. dollars. I’d have to write 197 more of these reviews to buy the thing. Speaking of which, I don’t have one in front of me to give you a first-hand review. They didn’t send me one, and I sure can’t afford one.
A coworker of mine once blew a similarly large amount to construct a PC that he also named “The Beast”. It turned out that he really wasn’t into high-end gaming and didn’t need such a contraption. I think he later sold it at a significantly reduced rate.
Alright, enough stalling. Here’s my review:
Things I Like:
- This thing is a hoss. It’s totally boss. It’s the bossiest, hossiest PC that you can probably import from the UK. This thing is so boss, it should be named The Over-compensator or The Midlife Crisis.
- It’s an all-in-one (except monitor) package gaming PC. Building PCs is nice if you have a lot of time on your hands and enjoy that sort of thing. But what if you have more money than time to hack around and you just want to enjoy the top of the line model immediately?
- It will “put a hole in your wallet for a time being but that is the price you pay for power”. This company is not making any effort to market to the price conscious consumer, which means that price doesn’t play a role in what parts they use.
Things I don’t like:
- No monitor(s). For the kind of money I’d be shelling out, why not include at least one monitor? After all, if it’s the entire gaming package, why not make it usable right out of the box?
- Expensive as hell. If you’re spending this much on a gaming machine,
- I would almost never buy a package PC when I can build one myself. They offer “custom builds”, but nothing is as custom as what you do with your own hands.
I would probably not recommend a package PC without actually using it first myself. If I had this amount of money to blow on a gaming machine of any kind, then I might consider it. While they offer 100% customer satisfaction guarantee and included technical support, they’ve also only been around since 2005. If I was dropping $6000+ for a package PC, I would be more likely to buy from an established brand. A read through the “About” page is charming and quirky, but I guess if you’ve heard of these guys (professional gamers?) before, then you might be more likely to buy.
Disclaimer: This post is an advertisement sponsored by ReviewMe.
Puzzle games are some of my favorite games to play. They challenge me mentally, provide entertainment, and are easy to pick up and play in a spare minute to kill time.
I was recently referred to a puzzle game compilation created by Simon Tatham. Many of these games are just copies of other popular puzzle games, but some of them are fairly unique. They are all very simple, minimalistic games that might only take a few minutes to learn and a few minutes to play.
One of the games I’ve been playing recently is called “pattern”. It’s just like Picross, which is itself similar to Sudoku. The “pattern” game, however, actually randomly generates the puzzle. So instead of getting some sort of picture/icon when solving the puzzle, you end up with more of a random pattern. A mini-Pollock, if you will. It’s fun and more challenging than regular Picross because there is no predictable patterns and very little symmetry.
None of these games will blow you away with innovation or creativity, but it’s a solid collection of games to keep on your laptop when you have a few minutes of down time.