Monday, August 23, 2010

Fluxx Capacitor or The First Table Top Game Review

Go Fluxx Yourself

Recently I have taken up the table top card game Fluxx published by Looney Labs. The game is a game without a point or real end game, like Minecraft and it is just as addictive. The game begins with the simple rules of "Draw a card, Play a card". As the game progresses, however, there will be rules added on to the stack as well as an end game goal or two. Here the players must keep all the piling rules in mind, although they will be represented on the table, while trying to reach the goal and screwing up their opponents. This game is an ADHD fiasco with some elements of strategy and comboing along with fast paced laughs.

Fluxx comes in 6 different varieties: The original (as pictured above), Martian Fluxx, Zombie Fluxx, EcoFluxx (for those of us who love to go green), Family Fluxx (for those with spastic children), and Monty Python Fluxx.

There are also expansions for the game, however, with the game being $15 the $7+ you would pay for an expansion of 1-7 cards and a not too fancy wooden deck box is outrageous. The only one worth the money is The Flamethrower for Zombie Fluxx, here you get 6 new zombie creepers (cards that prevent their owner from winning the game) and a Flamethrower that can kill off creepers and it is only a couple of bucks.
Other than that, Loony Labs offers special promo cards which are $1-$2 each depending on release and supply.

Braaaaaaains...I mean Draaaaaaw caaaaaard.
Overall though, the game is fun and very enjoyable, especially with a larger group of people, it's also good on group date nights when you don't want to hear about cute shoes and wedding plans. Great for casual table topping any time and real easy on the wallet if you stick to one of the base sets - personally I suggest either original Fluxx (now on version 4.0) or Zombie Fluxx, but that may just be because I love anything with zombies in it. Whatever your Fluxx poison may be, enjoy the game, I know I sure do.

Monday, August 16, 2010

PreReview of Minecraft

I am going to start my blogging on a positive note and my current favorite game, Minecraft. I found this title when I was roaming the backwaters of indy gaming online. What I didn't know it was going to take over my brain and life. So it goes, Minecraft is a 1st. person sandbox/survival/autism simulator that really doesn't have any one purpose, other than to be fucking awesome. If you have ever played Infiniminer, you can see the inspiration with the handsome blockyness. Important to note that Minecraft is programmed in java and plays right on any web browser, or you can download an offline client if you prefer.

Let me preface this by saying, at the time of this post the game is still in it's alpha phase and it is incomplete. Since the first day I've started playing it though, it has had more lasting appeal than most commercial titles. There are several modes of play the first of which is the Multiplayer Creative mode which costs nothing, you only need register to jump in. In this mode you can walk around with unlimited blocks (all decorative) and you can block away anything you desire like Legos. A lot of users gravitate towards pixel art as this is the perfect medium. This mode offers nothing other than a multi player sandbox to be creative but seeing what people cook up never ceases to amaze me.

The next mode is the meat and potatos of it all, Survival mode!! This is basically "the game" of it. This has 2 modes Single player and Multi player. In this mode the world generates procedurally and infinitely as you explore distances only limited by your hard drive. It does a really excellent job of generating fairly natural landscape. Everything from cliffs and valleys, streams and islands. Even though it's blocky its still incredibly scenic. At the same time it randomly generates subterranean caves, filled with ore, diamonds, lava streams, springs and the occasional tiny dungeon room. Anywhere that is unlit underground and anywhere at night, all sorts of creatures roam the landscape. From spiders and zombies to "creepers" the sneak up on you and explode which can scare actual shit out of you in real life if your not expecting it.

The hissing means he needs a hug

The point of it? Survival if you please! Any way you see fit. You can chop down trees to gather wood in order to make tools for digging and mining. You need to mine coal, to stoke furnaces and make torches. There are better ores to be had for longer lived tools. You may want to build yourself a house, or a castle? You can still be as creative as you want, however in this mode you have to harvest all the resources and survive the brutal monsters. You could choose to hunt gold and diamonds or try your damndest to find the dungeon rooms what have treasure. Building epic castles or tree houses is a lot more manageable online with your friends. However as of this writing, the multiplayer survival mode is mostly incomplete and has no monsters yet and some entities don't work right. To play the survival modes you have to register and buy the game for 10 euros (a bit over 13$ American) but when the game goes into beta, the price will rise to 15 euro (about 20$) Either way I find that to be a fair price, and I hate paying for things!

I have been following and playing this game for over a year now, and for the last 2 months now almost every week the developer "Notch" Markus Persson, has been really good about adding fun new content on Fridays. I'm always excited to check on it see what kind of new thing there are to find. He has become a bit of a hero to me. He has sold enough copies of this alpha alone to quit his day job and work on Minecraft full time, holy shit right! Keep up the good work, ill do another write up when it goes Beta and Full.

Nanner Q.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rock'em Sock'em Movie Tie-in - or - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The 8-Bit World

I've liked you for 1,000 years.
After watching an advanced screening of the film and starting in on the graphic novel series I got hands on with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game on the PS3. The game takes it's style from classic coin-op side scrolling beat'em ups with slightly stylized 8-bit graphics, however there are a couple of RPG elements strung in like shops, stat growth, and leveling. Here a group of friends can join forces as Scott, Steven Stills, Kim Pine, & Ramona Flowers to fight off the hordes of Canadian hipsters and the League of Evil Exes. Knives Chaou also appears as an assistant in the same sense of assist characters in the old Maximum Carnage game.
Toronto City Ransom
The game features combination moves, power ups, weapon (and enemy) pick ups, and some fun hidden areas (like shops). It is pretty similar to those 4 player arcade games we all loved like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games, The Simpsons, Streets of Rage, and so on. I have only had the pleasure of playing this game on the PS3, but it does seem like the controls are a little unresponsive as there is a little lapse in time between the button and the action performed and the stats are pretty arbitrary. The actions performed also do not coincide with what you press, as I found out when trying to perform a grab on a downed enemy and continuously started to back elbow at the air. Meanwhile, the game features a Mario 3 like overworld map, which just seems unnecessary.

He sorta looks like a pirate.
Besides the a few aesthetic problems, as in the game developer wanted to throw in as many nods to the old NES as Bryan Lee O'Malley did in the graphic novel series, the game turned out to be as much fun as reading the series and watching the movie. The cutsey 8-bit graphics and 8-bit tuned Sex Bob-omb songs drives the game and the visual style helps bring out the more silly comedy of the characters.

Honestly the game is fun and I feel that the $10 price tag it carries is well worth the shelf life and replayability you will get out of this title. The game can be played through solo, but there isn't much fun be Scott alone - the real substance and good times roll in when you have a full house or at least the whole band running around on screen being tearing it up NES style on the latest gen of consoles. But players beware as there is friendly fire. But if you find your self dying, you friends can always lend a hand in bringing you back from the dead.
My only character gripe is that Crash 'n The Boys only show up for a couple of seconds.
Either way - fans of Scott Pilgrim, arcade beat'em ups, and NES games will all be pleased with this title, but give the controls a chance before you throw down the control for the less than fast response.

Whatever happened to the teenage dream?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.

In the 10 years since Magneto's attack on Liberty Island movie theatres have been inundated with comic adaptations. Unfortunately for comic fans, many of these films have been little more than action flicks with a comic-book veneer. Such is not the case with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.

I'm going to get this out of the way. I have not read the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels. As far as faithfulness to the story and characters, I can only take the author's word. What I can tell you is that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is faithful to comics as a visual medium. Watching the film feels more like watching a graphic novel than any adaptation since Sin City (and Sin City had it easy with the source material taking inspiration from film). If Christopher Nolan's Batman films ask "What if Batman existed in the real world?" then Scott Pilgrim asks "What if real people existed in the world of comics?" The answer is "it would be pretty fuckin' rad."

For those unfamiliar with the plot, Scott Pilgrim(Michael Cera) is a 23-year-old unemployed bassist and 1/3rd of "The Sex Bob-Ombs," a struggling band. Life is pretty uninteresting for Scott until he meets Ramona Flowers(Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the literal girl of his dreams. The only thing standing between the two would-be lovers are Ramona's 7 evil exes, each willing to fight Scott to the death to keep him from her. We follow Scott as he faces both Ramona's exes and his own insecurities to win the girl and become a better man.

Ramona, Scott, and Scott's circle of friends are full of humor and charm, and the video game and pop-culture references that were so endearing to fans of the graphic novels are still here to tickle your nostalgia just in all the right places. Put these together with Scott's fast-paced battles and you get a film that is just plain fun from start to finish.

However, what really stands out in Scott Pilgrim is it's willingness to both be unashamedly geek, and to live be the old adage that you don't let reality get in the way of a good story. Why can Scott and a record executive fight with swords? Why can Ramona's first ex shoot fireballs? Why do people burst into coins and have HP bars? Why does this story, ostensibly set in the real world, have so many over the top and impossible elements? These are questions you and I don't ask ourselves, because we already know. Because it's awesome, that's why.

Scott Pilgrim's director, Edgar Wright could've left out the fighting game announcers, the magic swords, the 1-ups and the on-screen sound effects. He could've made all the fights brutal, up-close shaky-cam affairs, taking only the humor and the characters from the source material. He could've done these things and probably still had a pretty charming, successful movie. Perhaps even a movie that would appeal to a wider audience, the sort who ask themselves the questions we don't. Luckily for us, Edgar Wright isn't afraid to be awesome.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World has set a new standard for me as a viewer. It shows what a movie adaptation from any visual medium can be if the team behind it is willing to tell the story the fans want, and to take the idea of bringing a comic to the big screen as literally as possible, and it is these things I'll be looking for in future releases.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tighten Up: The Rise of the Minis

Sony's PS3 Store has an interesting catagory: Minis. Here it breaks down to PS3 and PSP titles where each game is 100mb or smaller for a reasonable price, which seems to be $6 or less. To day I get hands on with a few: Hysteria Project, Fly Fu, Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, Brainpipe and Dracula - Undead Awakening.

Let's begin with Dracula - Undead Awakening. First off this game is available for the PS3, PSP, and as WiiWare for you Nintendo fans. It is a top down shooter reminiscent of games such as Robotron 2084, Reloaded and the more recent I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1
Mmmm Sweet vampire radiation.
 D:UA offers a variety of enemies, 4 different stages, 4 different game types (Rush, Survival, Super Survival, & Wave Attack). Each one has it's own level of challenge, but it seems like once you grab a weapon you are proficient with you can just go to town on the invading monster hoard without thinking twice and while gaining levels and perks. Yes, D:UA has some slight RPG elements as you gain EXP by killing enemies and when you level you get to choose a perk for your monster hunter such as extra HP, Uranium bullets, longer range, etc etc. The game is fun and addicting with a music track that fits the scene, however, I rather pay and play I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1 as it offers more variety with levels and enemy movements/abilities and it supports up to 4 people in multiplayer where Dracula only let's you hunt the night alone. If you are a fan of the genre, I say pony up the $3 and give it a heavy play - it is pretty fun after all. But if top down, chaotic shooting is what you want, then you are better off spending a little more money in order to game with friends on and off line.

Enter the Dragonfly
Fly Fu brings an interesting graphical take to beat'em ups as it combines photos of dead insects with sketch drawings. Here you play as McFly, your average house fly with kung fu training of course. His girlfriend, Kate Moth, has been kidnapped and an army of dangerous insects stand between him and the moth to his flame. The game plays like a typical beat'em up. You move to the right while punching and kicking your way to victory. However the art and sparks of comedy set this game apart. The doodles and photo realistic bugs come together to create a weird world where everybody is kung fu fighting. Like in games of a similar style there are also weapon pick-ups, these however, are matchsticks and pins. The game itself is fairly casual and repetitive - as in you fight similar enemies throughout the game (instead of pallet swaps the bug type changes) while always moving to the right hoping to finally get to the end boss. Also, McFly moves pretty slow, I don't know if the programmers wanted to emulate that it's a photo-realistic dead fly you play as, but they did just that. Once again, my biggest problem with this game is the lack of multiplayer option. Where this genre really lends itself to a handful of players getting in each others' way, combing moves, and having a good old fashioned brawl in the streets. The music isn't out of the ordinary and doesn't make any real impact. The only thing truly impressive about this game is the visuals - very art house.
The game is available for download on PS3, PSP, and (surprisingly) the iPhone. Try out the demo first, if you like it, you like it, but I say keep your handful of dollars and download Streets of Rage instead.

Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess caught me with it's quirky title and just as quirky gameplay. Here you play as The Duke, a cute little vampire that strikes fear into the hearts of giant monsters everywhere. The game works on a vertical level scheme where the giant monster (the "boss") travels up and you must persue it by bouncing on platforms collecting a jump bonus by hitting different platforms without repeating one. Each boss takes 3 hits to kill - you do this by double jumping into them - but each hit propels the monster further up the stage and closer to their home base. The game's graphics fit the overall fun theme and gameplay of it all - the whole game, mind you, is just jump and laugh manically. Really there isn't much to say here, but the game is challenging and extremely fun. I can see how easy it could be to sink a lot of hours into the misadventures of The Duke. Plus the tips during the loading screens are spot on. And all you Xboxers out there should be pleased to know that M(p)SMP will be making it's way over to the XBL Indie section sometime in the near future. Keep an eye on the M(p)SMP official website to stay informed and watch some neat game videos.

The Hysteria Project is a game that is entirely filmed in the first person perspective. You are a captive of an axe-wielding nutbag and you must escape with your life. Each aspect of the game requires you to pay attention to your surroundings while making decisions, sometimes with a couple of seconds on a time. The game is creepy with it's low-res video, eerie soundtrack, constant heart beat, and bleak imagery. However, the game is only as creepy as the atmosphere in which you play it. The ideal settings are in the dark with headphones on.
Press X to Squirm
Aside from the decision making screen, gameplay also consists of quick time events, memorization, and some puzzle solving. Hysteria Project has a good idea going, but it is only fun for a limited audience, namely the one's who think they would survive if they found themselves in a horror movie situation. Try it out. Other than that the game is a miss and would make a better movie than a game. Aside from being on the PSP and PS3, this game also appears as an iPhone app, which sounds like the worst format this could be on. Hell, don't even bother trying to look for the full video on youtube, just watch Marble Hornets instead and you'll have a better time, I promise.

And lastly, Brainpipe...In all honesty I have no idea what's going on. There's glowing things that hurt you as you pilot a wire frame eye down a trippy tube while there are glowing symbols that you must grab in order to score some points. You can also tap/hold X to slow down time for a bit. It's mainly a bit of nothing...the game isn't that enjoyable as it's just tubes upon tubes of avoiding things that sparkle and symbols. If I want to play a bad acid trip I would rather splay Space Giraffe where I can at least shoot things and see comical sentences whiz across the screen.
It's a bad trip man.
 The inactivity of the game, yes you get to move around, really just seems to lose me. There's not much to do beside avoid that light, collect that other light. Thankfully it takes up very little room, so the only regret you will have is spending the $2 to own this ode to LSD.

As it stands the MINI market is a good idea, but it has the potential to be crowded up junk and shovel downloads. PSP/PS3 owners, give this section of the shop a chance, you can find some gems here and for the low price and the small space they take up, it will be well worth it for you.

And once again, Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess succeeded in stealing the show for me. I'm off to  jump into some monsters and find that princess.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fall of Harmony (A.K.A. The First Post)

So here we begin with a review of the recently released Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.

Dr. Brule taught me that Pruppets come from marinara.

Konami has brought us the challenging, interesting, and exploration filled Castlevania series since 1986. The classic 2D side scrolling labyrinth castle crawl returned this past Wednesday to home consoles, well...just the Xbox 360 for now (Sorry PS3 players, if the title sells well Konami may put it on the PS3), but at what price?

 Visually the game is stunning with it's true 1080p HD graphics, high quality sprites, and crisp colors. Castle Dracula seems more intriguing and immersible than ever. Even the devious denizens that dwell within it's walls got a new coat of paint which make them look more impressive than previous titles, however, some enemies got the lazy treatment as the Sniper of Goth doesn't even get a death animation where it just rotates upside-down and falls like a paper doll
Too bad these stats mean nothing here.
The bosses are the most spectacular, not just in size, but in their new skins as well as area effects. As the first boss fires beams that shoot through most of the rooms in the area and cause a decent amount of damage on impact. Well, when it comes right down to it the big bads have to be showstoppers as, like Order of Ecclesia, the whole game is one big Boss Attack Mode. Players in solo and mulitplayer games will race the clock in order to spank the evil target that lurks at the heart of the castle maze area. This is met as sort of a challenge as the game presents itself as not only a Boss Attack game, but as a classic Castlevania game mashed with loot whoring. For smiting the boss you need to be fast and near untouchable, however the desire for loot and goodies will bring us a good 5 plus minutes out of our way just for a set of Hobo's Clothes. These sidetracking quests for so-so goodies can also result in LittleBigPlanet Jr. style scenarios where a couple of players must stand on one platform in order to raise another player on a second platform. The 30minute time limit, however, does give the player ample time to explore the already viewable map and put the hurt on the evil, but fighting with your character's own heavy limbs is another challenge. Here, no matter how big, strong, small, or lithe a character is they all walk as though they are wading through a pool of extra thick Jell-O Pudding. There hasn't been a vampire hunter this slow since Castlevania Legends.
So pretty, so disproportionate.

From the pants load of pudding the combat gets a little bad as well, although standard for Castlevania combat, in Harmony of Despair some hit boxes seem t be off, as you clearly pierce a monster yet, nothing happens and if you are lucky, sometimes that works in your favor as when a bat knocks you off a high ledge onto spikes, yet the spikes don't bother your's all mind over matter I guess.

Now back to is this a Boss Attack game or castle exploration. That all depends on your play style and who you decide to play as. Characters like Charlotte and Soma don't benefit at all by time restraints as they need plenty of time to farm monsters and spells in order to level their own powers and gain new ones, while characters like Jonathan Morris and Alucard can muscle their way to the boss and beyond without ever deviating from the fastest path or worrying about new upgrades. Shanoa fits as an in betweener where she can benefit by same time wasting, but can certainly move along fast enough. However, the character selection brings with it my BIGGEST aesthetic problem with this game: NOT ONE CHARACTER CARRIES THE BELMONT NAME! Why Konami? Where's My Richter or Simon? Big deal I have a whip wielding Morris, he still isn't a true Belmont!

I, for one, was really looking forward to this game's release. A new 2D console Castlevania really set my nostalgia-goggles into gear and added multiplayer sounded refreshing. Though it does satiate my nostalgia lust, it isn't up to snuff with the series as the time limit, being too long for a true Boss Attack and too short for a true castle crawl, muddles the game's direction and focus while the enemies, challenge level, and constant auto saving of pointless, easy to acquire gear makes the title extremely casual for the series. When you die there are no consequences, you keep what you find and can even use that gear on different characters.

In conclusion, I will leave it at this: for players that want a 2D challenge, stick to the latest GBA and DS titles or just download Symphony of the Night on your 360 or PS3, for nostalgia players this game will satisfy your inner child, but your money would be better spent in the WiiShop on Super Castlevania IV or the NES titles. But for players who have never played or heard of Castlevania before, this is a fantastic beginning for you. Buy it now for a modest $15 download.

Now that my nostalgia has been wettened I must track down a copy of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and finish Castlevania 3 (again).