Monthly Archives: January 2010

REVIEW: TouchMaster 3 (over at The First Hour)

I’ve got a new on-the-side writing gig at The First Hour, and my first bit of work for them, a review of TouchMaster 3, is now up. The First Hour is a site that uses a unique structure in reviewing games…they cover only the first hour of the game (or, in the cases of many DS games, the first half-hour), and it’s a system that works well. Much like with the first few chapters of a book, if a game can’t entice you within sixty minutes, there’s probably no reason to keep playing afterward.

Anyways, not every game I come across and/or play will be The First Hour material. I’d like to keep this blog as active as possible. But, I now have a perfect excuse to go back and play some games I gave up on or bought and never even tried. The next two I’m probably going to tackle are XIII and Odin Sphere.

Either way, I’m excited to be a part of the site!

Feel the Wrath of Chickens, or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

It may sound funny, but one of my all-time favorite gaming memories involves chickens.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a classic. I don’t mean that in a way to say it’s old (it was released for the Super Nintento Entertainment System in North America in 1992; still a teenager, truthfully), but rather that it’s eternal. There’s moments and scenes in this game that can never be duplicated or truly re-experienced. From the rain-laden search of the castle grounds for a secret entrance to the first time you ever switched from Light World to Dark World and saw just how twisted the map screen became, it’s no surprise this game is on my gamers’ top fives, top tens, top fifties, top one hundreds, and top whatevers. It is simply great, with mindful pacing, brilliant action, tons of secrets, and…retaliatory chickens.

Yup, you read that right.

Shortly after you sneak Zelda out of Hyrule Castle and safely deliver her to the sanctuary, you’re given freedom as Link to explore the nearby lands on your quest to destroy Agahnim. One of your first stops will be in Kakariko Village, a colorful spot with lots of interesting characters and secrets to unearth, and there you’ll also find a few chickens hopping about. I immediately went over to one, scooped it up high over my head, and tossed it at the boy to no effect. Well, the chicken was pretty flustered and tried its best to stay as far away from me as possible. Then I remembered something I overheard at school, something about hitting them with your sword. A lot. And so I did. Slash, slash, slash, back that chicken into a corner, slash some more. Those kids at school were right; this is fun and funny.

But then it all changed. Out of nowhere, a swarm of chickens come flying at you to protect their fallen cousin from any more danger. They swoop down in a thrum of feathers and bah-clawk clucks, angry as chickens can be, and they actually damage Link. Only one way out, and that was to run. Once you’re a little ways away, the chickens relent, and you’re safe to wander back over…to do it all again.

There’s lot of other great moments in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but this is the one that makes me smile the most. The fact is, these chickens exist in this world just to be abused. I know PETA won’t like that. I’m sorry, but there’s no other reason for their existence, and even though the gameworld could ultimately go on without them, I think it’s better that they are there, now and forever, those classic little chickens that take a beating and keep on clucking.

Life is Hard

I highly recommend you take 45 seconds out of your day to play Life is Hard, a clear and funny homage to side-scrolling platformers of olden times. It won’t change your outlook on life or the current NBC drama involving Conan O’Brien, but it might just make you chuckle.

Spot the differences in these two covers for Dante’s Inferno

Here’s the copy of The Inferno by Dante Alighieri that I have on my bookshelf:

And here’s the new copy from Del Rey Books to hit stores very soon to coincide with EA’s take on God of War the epic poem:

Gee, I wonder what target demigraphic they going for with this one. Ultimately, it’s a bit embarassing. For everyone.

Fable III wishlist

It looks like Lionshead Studio is planning to unveil Fable III more properly sometime next month. At this point, we’ve gotten just a rather bland teaser trailer and some bits of, admittedly, neat concept art. Industrial era, here we come. I rather enjoyed my time in Albion in Fable II, but there’s some aspects of the game (and of the RPG genre itself) that could change or stay in Fable III, or get dropped completely. My ultimate wishlist is as follows…

Stuff to keep

  • The humor. If there’s one thing this series nails, it’s humor. Everything oozes laughs, from the tombstone engravings to the description on the back of every item. Plus, a lot of the character designs are goofy, but in a good way.
  • Relationships. I like the idea that you can make anyone fall in love with you and choose to have a child with them (or not). It’ll be great fun picking the king or queen to rule beside me.
  • Pigments. Customization is never frowned upon, especially in the RPG genre, and allowing us to dye our robes and courtly garments is a definite must. Losing this option would be three giant steps back.
  • Fast-travel. Some people hate it; those people are not me.

Stuff to drop

  • Co-op play. Kind of wasted space, I’m afraid.
  • The dog. It’s what a lot of people associated Fable II with so it should stay there. Plus, if you’re going to be the ruler of Albion, you might not have too much time to play fetch with Beethoven.
  • Can’t die death system. Makes for lame battles, especially when the DLC added potions to remove scars, the supposedly hardcore punishment for not fighting well. As I’ve mentioned before, dying is a great way to learn how to play a game. Let us die, I say!
  • Ridiculous achievements. That one where you have to collect dolls, but there’s only one in your game and then you have to go online to find others who have the dolls you don’t have and then convince them to give it to you…that’s bullshit.

Stuff to tweak

  • Game economy. Earning money in Fable II was surprisingly easy, especially if you were an evildoer. Steal and raise the monthly rent on buildings you buy. Easy peasy. Add in the fact that you continue to earn ka-ching ka-ching when you’re not even playing and well…it’s a bit lame.
  • Consequence from actions. Shoot someone in the face “by accident”? Well, it’s okay. You can make everyone else laugh by doing the fart expression and they’ll love you all the same. This needs to be revamped tremendously. I want to be ostracized from society for doing something horrible. Or more likely…de-throned.
  • The fighting system. I understand where Lionhead was coming from in developing a fighting system linked to only three buttons. I do, really. One for melee, one for ranged, and one for magic, which you can hop back and forth from to switch things up. Alas, it didn’t really make for a good time. You could totally button mash melee and call it a day. The spells, while effective, could’ve used some more…I dunno, pizazz.
  • Menus. At this point, a game shouldn’t lag just to get into its menu hub. And even then, navigating them wasn’t the most simple task. I felt like I deserved a renown reward afterwards. Please make them more streamlined. I beg you.

I’m sure there’s more to want and not want for Fable III. Feel free to shout off in the comments below.

REVIEW: LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues

Developer/Publisher: Lucas Arts Entertainment\Traveller’s Tales
Platform(s): Xbox 360 [reviewed], Playstation 3, Nintendo Ds, Nintendo Wii
Genre(s): Action adventure
Mode(s): Single player/two player co-op
Rating: E
Time clocked: About 10 to 15 hours

Having never seen Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I was pleased to not find it included in LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. The previous game instead focused on the true film trilogy, giving each movie a solid set of levels to play through and explore. It followed the same formula that won many fans over in the LEGO Star Wars games, and though it had some problems and didn’t tackle every key scene possible, it was a fun game all in all, with plenty to see and do despite no one being able to Force push droids.

And here we are now a year later with LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues, a sequel that is both surprising and a great step forward for the LEGO game franchise. But not all is shiny LEGO blocks.

Click below to continue on with the review!

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100 Videogames-themed Cupcakes

First, om nom nom.

Second, I was quite surprised to see Munchkin make this list.

Third, these 100 videogames-themed cupcakes look great and delicious, though some more than others. Zelda looks a little fugly. The Final Fantasy one could’ve tried harder. And that Sims guy looks like he was born to be a cigar shop statue or something.

Eh…who am I kidding? I’d eat them all.

9,000 Gamerscore, a billion more to go

I was going to wait until I crossed 10,000 Gamerscore to post about it (because it seemed like a nice enough number, lovingly round and a threshold of sorts in terms of e-peen and gaming prowess), but somehow…somehow I managed to unlock four achievements last night from both BioShock and LEGO Indiana Jones 2 that fortuitously brought me to 9,000 exactly. See?

I’m kind of amused by this. Most likely you aren’t.

Also, since I’m now revealing my Gamertag, feel free to add me on Xbox Live. Just know that at the moment I’m only a lowly Silver account and therefore cannot help you boost or be your co-op partner in SpongeBob’s Truth or Square.

Viva Fallout: New Vegas

Bethesda tweeted earlier today that Fallout: New Vegas will hit the cover of Official XBOX Magazine next month, revealing this sneak peek:

Mmm. That simple snapshot of the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign really warms the cockles of my heart. It’s much like the sensation I got upon stepping out of Vault 101 and seeing the ruined Washington Monument in the distance. Hurry on over, February 11!

Baby, it’s cold outside

Okay, it’s cold out. Very cold. So cold that I decided that, not only would I start bundling up more, but so would my Xbox LIVE Avatar. I only wish that we could choose different colors and dyes à la Fable II…because those red-and-white woolly gloves look kind of silly. In the end, it was all I could pick.

As is the plan, I’m going to continue tracking how my Avatar evolves over time.