Monthly Archives: January 2010

Two new AAA, 5-star, blockbuster Nintendo DS games!

I’m visiting my family for the weekend, and that means checking out my mother’s DS collection while home. Now, we’re two completely different DS gamers; I like the big name, mainstream action/RPG games like The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Scribblenauts, and she’s very heavy into the puzzle/mystery games. I’ve played some of them, and they each have their highs and lows. Zenses Ocean is nothing more than a small collection of uninspired mini-games, but Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir, while formulaic, was actually a lot of fun. You found things, you played a mini-game, and then you went back to finding things. I dunno, I guess I’m a sucker for hidden item pictures…it’s been an ongoing love, which started by reading the comics section of the newspaper every Sunday morning.

Anyways, my mother’s stuck on two of her newly purchased DS games and rather than plow through them, she’s just giving them to me. Cool, cool. Alas, I’ve never heard of them: Titanic: Secrets of the Fateful Voyage and Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Clue Bender Society. The former title says, “Feel the ship deck creek as you search for hidden objects, decode secret puzzles and solve the greatest sea mystery ever.” Pretty sure the ship sinks. Mystery solved!

Also, it actually says “creek” on it:

Apologies for the crappy quality. But, uh, Activision…I’m available for copy editing!

Odin Sphere is Beautifully Bloated

Last night, I unplugged my Xbox 360, dusted off my Playstation 2, and popped in Odin Sphere. Then my eyes had multiple orgasms.

See, Odin Sphere is just about one of the prettiest games ever made. Feel free to quote me in fanboy rants or whatever. But it is. The game’s visuals are, irrefutably, its strongest feature, it’s reason for existing. Gameplay eventually falls into recurrent levels and tasks (and complex alchemy), but soldiering on is fine as wine for the mere fact of wanting to see more and more. A new location or character arriving–it’s all a treat in terms of eye-loving. Is this the case for everyone? Probably not. I am an artist (I draw webcomics and do illustration work), and that makes me biased, but I find it hard to believe that seeing these whimsical characters all colorful and beautifully animated won’t get some jaws a-dropping.

Anyways, not gonna say much more about the videogame because I’m doing a first hour review of it for…hmm, The First Hour. There’s no way to really phrase that sentence without sounding repetitive. Which is what Odin Sphere is all about! Hey-o!

But yeah…stay tuned.

First Aid Specialist in the House

That’s right, readers. I guess I can push Y like a true pro because I finally unlocked the following achievement last night:

First Aid Specialist (15G): Use medi-gel 150 times

Funny, considering that the previous achievement unlocked for Mass Effect was eight months ago and it was this:

Medal of Honor (100G): Complete Mass Effect Playthrough

Er, but yeah…all this recent excitement about Mass Effect 2 brought me back yet again. This time I saved more frequently because the biggest problem for me was I’d forget to save, go on these long planetary treks, and then get shot in the face and have to restart from the very beginning. If you don’t know what that feels like, stick a wrench down your throat and twist. You’d think Fallout 3 would’ve taught me more about frequent saving, but then you’d be assuming…and we all know you’re a monkey’s uncle.

Right, moving on. Finished up Noveria last night though with the turian Garrus and doofy-faced Kaidan. That was a tough section to get through. Frustrating, to get the wording right. I died twice just driving the MAKO to Peak 15, and then I further died six times trying to take down Benezia. Call me a n00b (editor’s note: please don’t). I was so annoyed by this that the Rachni Queen felt the full brunt of my frustration. Death to all hive-minded insectoids! Genocide FTW!

Not sure where I want to go next. Continue with the story to Feros or to find Liara? Hit the Citadel back up for those 1,067 sidequests? Explore some boring planets for things like minerals? Funnily enough, all the planets I want to explore I can’t, like the ones tinted blue from way too much methane. Boo to that.

Also, does anyone know if the achievements for biotic skills (i.e., Lift, Throw, Neural Shock, and so on) carry over into the next playthrough? I’m not actively keeping track of how many times I’ve used them, but between this playthrough and the previous one…I suspect I’ve Thrown enough Geth to get it. Seriously, I love Lift and Throw.

No POTM for January 2010

So, January 2010 is coming to a close…and I didn’t make a single purchase this month. Nor do I plan to.

Between getting four games for Christmas (TouchMaster 3, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, BioShock, and LEGO Indiana Jones 2) and winning a free download of Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, I’ve had plenty to play and keep me busy during those rare moments when I have what you slackers call “free time.” Plus, I’m still loving Fallout 3, as well as picking up some bereaved games for future reviews at The First Hour.

I generally allow myself the purchase of one game a month, whether it’s a big AAA retail game or more like a $10 used bargain binner. It’s like a reward for myself for making it through another day or whatever excuse sounds best. But this ultimately doesn’t mean I’m picking up two games come February. Gotta stick to my guns.

Possible titles and why though for Purchases of the Month for February 2010 are:

  • Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare fantasy with lots of swords and blood and dragons and…stats)
  • Assassin’s Creed 2 (reviews say it improved a lot of things, but I still just don’t know if I’d enjoy it)
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (seems like a fun, quirky action RPG for the DS)

Got a suggestion? Try me in the comments below. Word of warning: I’m not just ready for Mass Effect 2 yet so you can cross that off your speculative list. Sorry, spaceheads!

Cautiously Optimistic about Mass Effect 2

Evidently, there’s some crazy popular new game coming out tomorrow that everyone’s super excited for…I think it’s this one, but I’m not 100% sure:

No? Hmm…well, I’m surely stumped then. Oh wait. Wait a sec. It might be Mass Effect 2. Yeah, I think that’s releasing tomorrow, too. Poor epic sci-fi game. It’s gonna get lost in the flood as sales of Horrible Histories: Ruthless Romans take over, forcing BioWare to go bankrupt immediately. I kid, I kid. It’ll do just fine.

Anyways, I just checked out IGN’s video review of the game. I also dropped Mass Effect back into my Xbox 360 earlier in the week, and between these two things…I’m cautiously optimistic. To set the scene, I’m still trying to finish a second playthrough of the first game, with a mean Shephard and a strong supporting cast of biotics brutes. It’s not going well. I hate driving the M35 Mako, I hate having to wait between rooms as I ride the Elevator of Boring, and I hate trying to navigate the inventory system, which, ultimately, is completely useless and all I do now is turn everything I get–and I do mean everything; I don’t even care what it is–into medigel or whatever it is that heals you. These things really do work against me and my brain and the idea of having a good time. On the other hand, I love everything else about Mass Effect.

And from what early reviews and impressions hint at, BioWare kept what I loved and dropped all the bad. A new menu interface, no more aimless Mako excursions, elevators are a thing of the past, and even more customization for characters. Plus, you can transfer your character and his/her decisions over. Still, early reports say that not all is great, with glitches and freezing occuring, but I’m gonna keep my mind open. I know I said this was a game sequel I was not interested in, but if BioWare was able to fix the broken and make the shiny even shinier…well, I guess I will just have to eat my words.

Maybe just knowing that things will get better will be enough for me to push through Mass Effect for the second time. Or maybe not. I could always give Dragon Age: Origins a try, too.

Spirit Tracks: Blowing, Not for the Faint of Breath

Recently, I brought my car in for an oil change. Normally, since this place is right next door to a shopping development, I’d wander for an hour or so until it was time to come back and mosey on home. However, I decided to use this hour to my benefit instead of wasting it window shopping…or worse, actually shopping. So I sat uncomfortably in the dealership’s tiny waiting room and took out my Nintendo DS, the cartridge for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks ready to go. All I had to do was ignore the blaring TV and few other waiting souls in the room. Easy enough to do…until I had to play the Spirit Flute to continue playing.

For those not in the know, the Spirit Flute is one of the first items you’ll receive in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. To play it, you have to slide the flute around via the touchscreen and simultaneously blow into the microphone to hit the different colored notes. Some songs will perform special actions in-game while other songs are vital to plot progression.

Unfortunately, the song I had to currently play to continue was not a simple one like the first two or three were. This song involved skipping a colored note and playing the one next to it. A tricky manuever, I can assure you. Why? Well, blowing into the mic and moving the flute around are two actions that work against each other because, naturally, you’re also trying to do a third: see. Yup, fight as you must, you will be trying to look down at the touchscreen to see where you’re moving the flute, and when you do that, if you’re exhaling, your breath will miss the microphone hole considerably, setting yourself up for EPIC FAIL. Well, maybe not that hardcore. I just never get to write EPIC FAIL, y’know?

And I was hoping to get it right on try #1…because, while simply playing a Nintendo DS in front of a bunch of manly men talking about gears and tire pressure and engine noises got me some looks, the ones I got for raising a tiny device to my mouth and then blowing at it like a candle gone wild were, more or less, variations of the following:

But I didn’t get it right on the first try. Or the second. Not even the twelth attempt. Practicing didn’t help much either. Each time I failed, I grew more exasperated, and I think one of the fellows sitting across from me suspected I was having a panic attack. I wasn’t. If only I could have told him the truth. If only the truth wasn’t so ridiculous.

So I stopped playing and wasted the next forty-five minutes watching TV.

I later got past the tricky song part when I was home, in the comfort and silence of my apartment, where the only mocking looks I got were the ones I gave to myself in the mirror. In short, I’ve never much liked DS games that implemented the microphone, and now I have another reason why to add to the list. The Spirit Flute is fine when used optionally, which most of the time it is, but a pain in the jaw when forced down our throats.

REVIEW: Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

Developer/Publisher: CroTeam/Devolver Digital
Platform: Xbox 360 [reviewed], PC
Genre(s): PEW PEW PEW/Samicide
Mode(s): Single player/online co-op
Rating: M
Time clocked: Around 10 hours or so

Last week, I won a free download code from That Videogame Blog, and all I had to do was follow them on Twitter. My prize? Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, a shooter à la DOOM that is hardly serious and was seemingly inspired by a combination of sugar rush speedtrips and masochistic tendencies.

I’ve voiced before on here that I’m just no good at first-person shooters. Let me clarify that more. Fallout 3 is the kind of shooter I’m decent at because it’s not really a shooter at all. I did moderately okay in the single player modes for games like Red Faction and Killzone, which were slower, zone-to-zone sort of adventures, and I have many fond memories of taking down Nazis in Wolfenstein 3D. However, scenarios where you have to be quick on your metaphysical feet and spinning like a madman while still shooting with precise accuracy as hordes of enemies barrel down on you—yeah, not my favorite dish to order.

That said, with numb hands, I recently completed Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter. It wasn’t a good time. Continue reading to find out why.

Continue reading

Hating the Greatest Videogames

Over at BitMob, folks are talking about great games that they hated.

In general, I only play games I suspect I’ll like or love. On occasion, there’ll be a game that disappoints me, but hate is such a strong word. I mean, I hate global suffering and depression and money woes and the looks puppy dogs give you when you walk by their glass prisons in the mall…but a videogame? Chances are, I’d only hate a videogame if I spent $60 on it and it took my soul and shat on it. But, as previously mentioned, I only go after games that I will probably enjoy.

That said, here’s some “great games” that I found to miss the mark.

Grand Theft Auto III/Grand Theft Auto III: Vice City

For sandbox value, the GTA series is fine. Amazingly fine. Ever want to do 70 mph down the sidewalk? Go for it. Where I felt short-changed, however, was in every single mission, and more specifically, the clunkiest and most unforgiving boat races ever to grace an ocean’s tide. Not only did these repeat themselves, but controlling boats and cars was always way too slippery for me.


Savage. Sums up Contra well, I think, and I grew up playing this game at a friend’s house during a time when neither of us knew about the extra lives code. We’d run, we’d shoot, we’d die by the end of the first level, and then we’d go outside to ride bikes.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Button-mash here, button-mash there, button-mash everywhere. Don’t even try to form a strategy. Just hit those buttons and stare in wonder at how a Pokemon is kicking the crap out of Donkey Kong. I don’t know. I know folks love this series, but it never resonated like other fighting games did.

Devil May Cry

The same reason I didn’t like the Bayonetta demo or Super Smash Bros. Brawl: mashed potatoes. Er, I mean…mashed buttons. Frenetic gameplay, bad camera angles, and room after room of enemies just didn’t make for a fun time. I dug the gothic style, but ultimately gave up on this hack-n-slash pretty early.

Mass Effect

There’s a lot to like about Mass Effect; conversely, there’s a lot to dislike. Let’s start with the positives: the world, the lore, the voice-acting, the alien design, many of the combat scenarios, which can be both tense and exhilarating. Now the bad: elevator rides, a horrible inventory system, the constant loading of textures, the way faces look like they’ve been punched one too many times, and driving that car-tank with buttered wheels from place to place. I’m looking forward to reviews of Mass Effect 2 to see if some of these problems were addressed.

Again, these aren’t really games that I hate, but they just didn’t do it for me like they seemed to do for others.

What about you, silent reader? Got a supposedly great game to hate? Hmm? Speak up!

Still haven’t found what I’m looking for in Assassin’s Creed

So, over the weekend, I popped in Assassin’s Creed. I looked at this as my last attempt to play the game to completion (or, rather, the closest completion percentage I could obtain), and after plodding around on horseback and stabbing soldiers for nearly an hour or so, I unlocked the following two achievements:

(25G): You’ve discovered every Reach High Point.

Eagle’s Dive (20G): Nothing can hinder the descent of an Eagle. Over 50 people have fallen to your relentless attacks.

These will, most likely, be the last achievements I earn for the game. I’m at 37/44, with the final ones being the “kill every Templar” and six “find all the flags” type. It’s not that doing these tasks is impossible; in fact, there’s plenty of online guides and maps showing where everything is (I even printed one out for the kingdom)…it’s just no fun at all.

The problem sits in the game’s design. Unless you yourself are keeping track of everything, there’s no way of knowing how many Templars you’ve killed or flags you’ve collected in a specific area without killing another Templar and/or finding a new flag. This, gaming readers, is dumb. Especially when one takes a few months off from the game.

Coming back, I tried to use a map to make things easier. It didn’t. I instead found myself heading toward Templar/flag locations only to discover nothing there. Now, fine, I must’ve already collected them, but the maps are pretty big and it’s just frustrating to have to travel here and fro to maybe, maybe find what you’re looking for. At least in Prince of Persia, when one is collecting light seeds, it is clearly marked how many light seeds are left in the area, giving the player some guidance, a nudge, a “hey, look over here, silly” instead of forcing aimless wandering on them.

But I don’t have the time (or, surprisingly, the patience) to check every single spot in every locale again and again for something that I may or may not have already collected. If you do, feel free to come over. Key’s under the mat. Game’s all yours. Just don’t raid my fridge.

“Fortune and glory, kid.”

Just unlocked the last achievement needed to get a full Gamerscore for LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues. Not a terribly tough climb considering I only got the game a few weeks ago. Sure, it took time, but there wasn’t any hiccups along the way. In fact, I was surprised by how few achievements one will unlock while playing the game normally. There’s some for beating hub levels and the “do X so many times” ilk, but the rest revolved around collecting a lot of studs to buy everything, replaying story levels (yawnsome at that point), and a timed level that just took practice to get right.

I’ve now unlocked all achievement for three games in my collection; they are all LEGO games. Go ahead and try to make fun of me in the comments below. Your words will never make it out alive.

Game to break the mold…Fallout 3, all achievements. I can do it, I can. Again…it’s more about time than anything else.