Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Silent Hill Revelation is not very good

This image has very little to do with the film.

Richie and I were supposed to be saving watching this for a girl's night in but now we live within 600 miles of each other we don't see each other half as much as we used to. So I caved and watched it and unfortunately I roped my better half into watching it. She'd sat through the first Silent Hill film and it had such an impact on her that halfway through the film she confessed that she thought Silent Hill was Hellraiser. In a way I was wishing it was too.

This film is bad in a generic and inoffensive way delivering a double dose of cringe. One cringe for it just been a not very good film. Another cringe for it being yet another not very good movie adaptation of a video game. I've not checked the rankings recently but surely in the order of genres of film, video games adaptation must be down near the bottom of the list just below 'American TV dramas about big city people falling in love with a rural 'merican town they were sent to close down'. Because of our community's unwarranted reverence for film I'm probably not alone in hoping that one day a video game adaptation will go some way to helping the non gamer understand why we spend so much time looking at women's tits and shooting soldiers in the face instead of making it look even more like the hobby of a unsophisticated subperson.

This film is definitely not helping with this message.

You could almost guess why the film sucks so bad. Are all video game adaptations doomed to failure? If you don't reference the games enough the gamers will get pissed off. If you stick to the plot of the game too much the film is crap because you have bundle in 20, 50 or 100 hours of characters, plots, settings, big show downs and inevitable twists into 90 minutes. It's been a long time since I played Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 and in my mind they've merged into the same game so I couldn't honestly tell you how well this film mirrors the games but I don't think they did a bad job. I imagine the production crew sat down, wrote a big list of what elements make Silent Hill 2 and did a good job of covering the essentials. Unfortunately, squeezing it all into a film just result in a jumbled flavourless, colourless and nonsensical mess.

The pacing of the film is all wrong and it feels like nothing really happens in the first half at all. Spooky girls with lank dark hair and momentary flashbacks to scary worlds are so over done they're practically quotidian. I get more scared in a film when a little girl with black hair doesn't snake all over the floor and pop out of the mirror that's how worn out this imagery is.

The bit where we finally gave up holding out for any kind of saving grace is when Pyramid head reprises his role from Capcom vs Konami and fights a she-demon in an arena in one goofy action sequence. Oh wait, Pyramid head isn't a character from a Beat 'em Up at all. That's not what has made the character such a popular one amongst gamers. It's almost the complete opposite of why he(?)'s such an icon. At least if he'd unexpectedly done the 110m hurdles you could have excused it for referencing New International Track and Field.

We're tempted to ask why publishers aren't a little bit more picky with how their IP is translated into film but then again:
This is probably exactly why video games get adapted into shitty movies. This shelf of eternal hope and broken dreams I'm sad to say belongs to me. This is just half of it actually, it's double stacked. Morons like you and me keep buying the bloody things and regardless of how awful they are the movie company has already got my cash at that point. It's now not even worth my time trying to sell these on. Instead I look at them and seriously question if I didn't waste just a tiny bit of my life so far. 

So that's it until the Ratchet and Clank movie came out or is it Jak and Daxter? Weren't they originally popular games ten years ago now suffering from Asscreed syndrome, whereby there's so many of them we've completely lost track. You could tell us that Ratchet and Clank 12 was coming out this year and we wouldn't know whether that was true or wildly off (Jesus Christ, the next one would actually be 12). 

Here's hoping that series survives the translation, we've still got a bitter taste in our mouths from Wreck It Ralph, luring us in with promises of being the 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' of video games only to turn out that the 4 cameos from established characters are exactly the bits from the trailer. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

GDC 2013 Proposal

We submitted this proposal to GDC. Fingers crossed we get picked!

Session Title: What about the consumers? 
In the Business and Marketing Track.


Session description 
Video games we are told are an ever growing market and medium. So why is it that product windows for making a profit are six weeks after launch? Why do game studios continuously close and rise from the flames under a different name? Why don't developers demand more of their publishers? Why don't publishers demand more from the retailers? Why are developer websites horribly out of date? Why does the industry seem to do its best to ensure that the legacy of gaming is destroyed as it is created? Why was Deus Ex Human Revolution at a 75% discount six weeks after launch?

Attendee takeaway
This session will give attendees a ground level view of how the average consumer will, if you are lucky stumble upon the game you invested years of your life, blood, sweat and tears into. This presentation will ask where those evil marketeers we read about every other week on MCV and CVG are when it comes to selling your product. It will also help attendees to get publishers and retailers to work for them rather than the other way around.

Intended Audience
The intended audience is all those bloody creatives who occasionally trick themselves into thinking that they are acting like professionals whereas they're keeping the industry in a prolonged gestation built on a toxic relationship with the gaming community and each other. This discussion is intended for an audience of people who really want to make the games industry a proper industry rather than a pastiche of the other creative industries. The prerequisites are to have developed a game that was good but that utterly failed for 'inexplicable' reasons.

Session focus/ Abstract
The main focus of the talk will be about how the high street game retailers have collapsed and why that's a warning sign for the community and the industry. Popping the cork of a champagne bottle on launch day is really where the work should begin not end because as a studio celebrates bringing it's product to market as much as 90% of the intended audience is ignorant of your product. They don't read the magazines, they don't spend all day on NeoGAF or Reddit. They didn't know that there was a Bioshock let alone a Bioshock 2 and don't really want to start on what's deliberately titled as a sequel or not the original. They walk into a shop and look at the pictures on the box. At best they talk to a cashier who also hasn't heard about your game. And that's launch day.

Far too often does a developer of studio head take the soap box and blame second hand sales on killing the industry/platform/studio. Is that argument valid when you legitimately can't buy a new copy of the game a month after launch?

Of course digital distribution is the new ball in the industry's perpetual game of schoolboy football. Let's chase that until one of the industry gurus tells us we should be chasing something else (social games anyone? casual titles? Motion control?). Because we failed when there was a brick and mortar representative of gaming on the high street and when magazines at least gave the average gamer a chance. Have you looked around the town where you live recently? If I asked you where I could buy a physical copy of your latest game would you even know?

And we've got the little shit munchers right where we want them! They (the gamers and the CEO of GAME) are begging us for the next generation. They actually bought the excuses that we gave them for simply not being creative enough or taking marketing seriously. "The technology just isn't ready for what we've got". Works every time.

As for celebrating the legacy of gaming, in the UK we all work very closely with the National Video Game Archive based at the National Media Museum and we generously support the modding and hacking community who help preserve our old games because we can't be bothered. Politically we're also acting like a grown up industry, well Tom Watson likes video games doesn't he? I'm sure he does some lobbying for us. 

We're also very vocal when video games get bad press (thanks Vaz!) and we don't leave it up to the amateur writers and journalists to squabble about what we do or don't think about the serious issues we largely ignore.

We've come so far since the days we'd endlessly keep reiterating (well get the community to keep reiterating) that games are a new medium and are taken very seriously as an art form, a positive medium for change and a genuine professional career path.
Game Credits
I beat Sin & Punishment: Successor to the Skies on normal once.













Friday, April 26, 2013

Kotaku: Scraping the barrel



Ok ok, I know we all hate Kotaku, hell even Kotaku hate Kotaku. I shouldn't even grace their hits with a link to their tired under-skilled gawker site.

But sadly it occasionally fawns upon my radar, partly due to out-of-the-loop developer/publishers giving it credible news, thinking they are still the mainstream go-to gamer site from 6 years ago.

But you gotta check this one out it has completely obliterated the line between irreverent and irrelevant. Its a post about how one Kotaku writer doesn't like Cheetos.

That is all.

Love and irreverent irrelevancy,

Richie X

Thursday, April 25, 2013

NextGen: A wishlist



Its coming this year, whether we like it/are ready for it or not, the tidal wave of new technology, titles and marketing.

For now we dabble in the foreplay of specs; as the industry giants stand before us hands on hip proudly dangling such numbers and technological acronyms as, 64 separate cores of GPU spinning many trillions of numbers every second or multiple Gigabytes of DDR5 doing what ever RAM does. Teasing us, leaving us salivating, moist with anticipation, gagging for more.

But before we get down to it, we have expectations, its not how big the tech is, its what you do with it that counts. We have been burned before, so before we go all the way, we'd like to set some ground rules.

Keep it pretty, there is little to no excuse now, most of this hardware is dedicated to prettiness and quick prettiness at that! You have the tech, set a bar and stick to it: no clipping/collision issues, no cheap grainy filters, no slow loading unreal textures, and lets keep NPCs properly animated. We want perfectly round bouncing boobies, TR: Survivor was there, lets keep it that way.

Don't fuck up the console UI, the current 360 interface is going in the wrong direction, it shouldn't take "tea-making-time" to boot into a interface which is 99% Ads and one tiny section devoted to the entire reason you turned on the console.

Not every showcase game should be a sequel FPS with ever so slightly prettier GFX.

IN. O. VAT. ION. Lets have some fun different titles, bored of the same tired mechanics with hit-or-miss -story-lines. Lets get the fucking boxing eggs and bubble blowing dinosaurs back into the console industry. Its not about nostalgia, its about looking back at the roots. If mobile apps can do it, consoles can do it better.

F2Play is fine just make sure it is ethical.

to be continued...

Love and does everything have to be an innuendo with you Richie?

Richie X

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Ideas Factory

We're full of good ideas but lack the skill and will to see them to fruition. We're so charitable though, we're giving these away for free! If you're one of the 140,000 people who make video game videos and other video game content on the Internet, please make one of these. We don't want any credit beside the credit line (c) Thatguysamaniac, www.thatguys.co.uk all rights reserved. 

1) The Hunk Umbrella GMV. Make it happen people, it's been six years already. Nobody wants to see your Final Fantasy videos. This is that the people want.

2) Capcom Cam. Like candid camera but with Capcom instead. This idea requires quite a big budget but should be a spoof current affairs show with only female panelists and talking heads. At the end of every show, they find out that the cameras have only been filming them above their knees and below their face.  Then Kenzo Tsujimoto pops up and says "Congratulations! You're on Capcom camera". Guaranteed hit.

4) Talk like a video game protagonist day. We all know that Comic Relief and Talk Like A Pirate Day are celebrated by people who should have been drowned in a bucket at birth. Talk like a video game character day will be exactly the same. For a full day men are only allowed to say the following four phrases:

Am I poisoned?
What is it?
...
Nooooooooo

In addition midgets and dwarfs have to speak with a Scottish accent and woman have to make grunting noises which could be interpreted to be either sex moans or moans of pain. All the money raised will go to the charity Child's Play.

3) Movies with game endings. We're all sick of Hollywood taking video game licenses and pissing all over them so we should give them a taste of their own medicine taking classic films and re-cutting them with a video game ending. The new Citizen Kane would end with Charles Kane finding out he is the half clone of Mr. Bernstein, himself a clone of a character called Big Boss who is married to a woman called the Boss and who is a clone of herself. Every movie would be significantly improved with Silent Hill's infamous UFO ending. In the new Breakfast Club, they all remember that they used to go to the same orphanage together but forgot because they used Guardian Forces too much. All the new Alien films end with Cliff Bleszinski looking straight down the camera and saying that there won't be a sequel to this movie.

5) Edit Anita Sarkeesian's video to be more effective. Part 1 of Anita Sarkeesian's video is already out but with a quick edit it could be much more powerful. The whole video should be replaced with somebody playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl and desperately trying to get the perfect up skirt shot of Princess Peach for the full 23 minutes (it shouldn't take you that long).

BONUS IDEA!

6) Classic Paintings Now With Pantsu. Art in museums is boring and all that and that's because unlike fanart you can't see a hint of knickers on every character. Photoshoppers amongst you should remedy this situation by shopping in a hint of biff bringing a bit of class to all those ol' paintings.

Five great ideas right there, go ahead, go and create them you crazy creative people. Don't forget the credit line: (c) Thatguysamaniac, www.thatguys.co.uk all rights reserved.
  

Mini Review- Slayin

Chuff_72 is back. He's stranded on a isolated island somewhere and only has his mobile phone to play games on. He's been kind enough to wire his reviews over so we can laugh and point at mobile 'games'. They'll never be the future.

This is Slayin (no “g”, no fucking apostrophe either, apparently RETRO means bad grammar too).


Despite looking like shit it’s really enjoyable, and a cleverly condensed RPG in the mould of the infinite runner, because that little blue lump keeps on running, but only on one screen.

If you run into stuff with your pointy thing they die, if they run into your back passage you lose a chunk of life. There is a jump button, it’s the massive grey button on the right. The controls (left, right, jump) work for once, which is cause for much rejoicing.

During levels you can run into a shop and buy upgrades to keep you running, there are boss fights, and cheevos. It’s really good. That’s pretty much the review, below is all moaning so feel free to stop reading when I give the warning.

STOP NOW, THIS IS IN FACT A WARNING TO STOP.

Let’s talk Graphics shall we?

Yes, it is possible to make your game purposely look like shit, well done. I spent 69p on your shittified game, I actually quite like it, but for the betterment of mankind please can we strive for a little self respect and plug some more graphics in?

It’s a weird sort of self imposed shitness, like, I can’t complain about 1-bit Ninja, that used the iphone to cleverly make the game look shit, but stealthed a super sweet 3d graphic element in there to look for hidden bits in the level. This game just straight up looks old and shitty, blobs moving around over blobs with knobs on, there is a super limited colour palette.

I get that it’s a chosen “aesthetic” but come on, really it’s just an excuse for getting your younger brother to do all the sprite work and pay him in dog biscuits.

I don’t really have a point to make, I guess it just irritates me that this has become acceptable, they have literally made no use of the console (that’s right, I might start calling my phone a console, deal with it) it’s on.

Also, if you are going for the “retro” look and want the icon on the phone to look like a “retro” cart then make it look like a “retro” cart:

WRONG

RIGHT
On to Pricing.

This game cost 69p, let’s be honest that’s basically nothing, however it’s not actually nothing, and on top of that it has In App Purchases. However, you won’t hear anyone on the internet shitting themselves to death over it, because the developers were very careful to make it look as shit as possible, which makes internetters go “awwwww aint it adorable! Is it on Android so I can get a ripped copy?”

If you strive for excellence and rub some of that graphical salt into your gamic creation and then charge NOTHING you get bumbdered to actual death, for example:

REAL RACING 3 – ACTUAL IN GAME SHOT OF A GAME ON A PHONE IN MY POCKET!!!

That is some next level looking shit right there, some 360 driving games don’t look that good, it’s mental, but because there are IAP and in game timers, and it’s published by EA, internetainians went mental, DEMANDING to be able to pay for the game, instead of having it for free. Yes, there are timers for shit, it’s a bit annoying, but not actually annoying at all unless you are a complete spaz and can’t drive for shit. You’ll notice I have steering and brake assist completely off too as this game handles better than most driving games I have ever played.

Just to see if I got my money’s worth from this FREE game I checked the hours played:

Over 15 hours. Only completed 90 of 961 events. NINE HUNDRED AND SIXTY ONE.

FREE.

Next Review may be Heroes and Castles, or the Jonathan Ross Game, something about aliens, and probably more running. Did I do that Temple Run review? It’s alright, you run in to the screen, so it’s like all the other ones but INNOVATIVE and grannies and dogs can play it.

P.S. BONUS Temple Run review above.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

From The Collection: Introduction

There seems to be a lot of discussion at the moment about defining the language we use to describe gaming and more broadly defining the culture. One of the things we worry about here is how we preserve gaming. It's a medium we're still in the position to save most of but very little is being done to preserve it. 

This recent Extra Credits video rather nicely sums up some of the major barriers to preserving the physical stuff of games. We aren't ardent institutionalists but we'd really like to see gaming museums seriously explore preserving and celebrating (museums are more than just historical archives). Museums have started to look at gaming and there have been a number of exhibitions on or incorporating gaming but to date there hasn't been an concentrated effort on displaying gaming for it's own sake. The Smithsonian exhibition The Art of Video Games and the Game On exhibition at the Science Museum were both good starts and both the Victoria Albert Museum and the Design Museum have featured games in exhibitions about design. The UK does have a national collection but this is not gaming. These are merely the devices in which we use to access gaming worlds.

None of these exhibitions really explore or celebrate gaming on it's own merit. What is gaming? It's so many things. It's the hardware and it's the software. But it's also cosplay, action figures, comics, film, blogs, books, novelisations, websites, manifestos, flash mobs, LAN parties, e-sports, one of the most active online communities, critics, coders, stories, anecdotes, flame wars, hackers and more. Where do you even start trying to capture all of this activity that we can call gaming? Why is it that the hobbyists are leading the way in preserving and celebrating this culture? From Robert Ashley's oral history/oral exhibitions series A Life Well Wasted to the thousands of people who give up their own times to keep older games playable, often illegally and often without the support of the original developers (if the rights of the game haven't vanished into thin air) to the thousands of gamers who write and produce videos and fanzines promoting older games. This is one of the things that frustrates us most about the current 'game industry'. Games journalists, publishers and developers would have you forget about today's games in order to get you to buy what's new and a certain part of the gaming community happily buys into being the ever consumer, demanding new games and discarding old ones to the extent that some of them have convinced themselves that games older than year 'aren't worth playing' or are 'unplayable' because they don't have online play or HD graphics. They are avatars of the marketeers and for my liking too promiscuous in the message boards and fora where the gaming community exists. 

Preserving games and the material culture of games is clearly something that, one of our favourite writers, Robert Florence occasionally thinks about. This brief diary entry accurately sums up our fears and worries about the 'collection' we have stashed away in cupboards and crannies. The collectors amongst us will know this sentiment, quoted in full from this Cardboard Children over at Rock Paper Shotgun

We have too many toys. I think it’s been the Steam Summer Sale that has made me think about all of this. I’ve bought maybe thirty games, and I don’t have enough lifetimes to play all of them. I’m just used to having nice things, and buying them when I want them. I do the same with board games. I do the same with action figures. I do the same with everything. I have too much shit, and not enough time. I have too many toys.
When I was young I didn’t have too many toys. I just had some toys. And, in truth, some was plenty. Some is all anybody ever needs. Too many is useless, unworkable, whereas some is exactly the right number.
I have a writer friend who once got rid of all his stuff. He had loads of Star Wars shit, and collectible stuff, and toys and crap. All that stuff we have. And one day he just got rid of it all. Why? Because, as he said, “It’s just more stuff to go in the skip when you die.” It was Donald McLeary who said it. One of the funniest and most brutally honest men I know.
It's kipple. But I guess people like Robert and Us aren't even the hardcore collectors. I'm amazed at the levels some collectors go to collect different versions of games. I remember seeing a poster on NeoGAF proudly display three versions of the same DoA game (4 maybe) that they'd added to their collection. Apparently each one had been slightly rebalanced and there were some regional differences. Now you could say that that person has too much time and money. Alternatively, I'd say that person was a hardcore curator of games. Then there's nuts like this and this. That last guy has a collection and knowledge exceeding the UK's national collection. But these dedicated individuals aren't alone. Collecting games is a whole series of museums events and exhibitions alone.

But this is just the stuff of gaming and as cool as it is, it is only half the story. It's the gamers, their stories, thoughts and feelings that make gaming. We'll be running this new series under the tag From The Collection to explore our meagre collection but also as a place to collect our stories, thoughts and reflections so that when we die, when the council are cleaning out our squat they can give all our kipple and these reflections to the National Video Game Archive and hopefully they'll get their arses in gear. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An Omastar Is For Life

Meet Omastar, the (Oma) star of Omastar Comics and of twitter fame. You could say Omastar is my favourite Pokémon but you'd be wrong. My favourite Pokémon is Dactylocer, MY Omastar. let me explain.

One of the wonderful and often overlooked features of the Pokémon series of games, including the main series of games and some of the spin offs, has been the ability to transfer Pokémon not just from one game to the next but most importantly from one generation to the next. This feature goes as far back as Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire. Pokémon were transferable from one game to the other in the Green, Blue, Red and Yellow games and these games were compatible with the Nintendo 64 Pokémon Stadium, and Pokémon Stadium 2 but sadly the Pokémon caught in these games couldn't be transferred beyond that. Since 2002's Ruby and Sapphire games it's been possible to transfer pocket monsters from one game to another up until the latest generation Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2. For us this has been what keeps us coming back to this series in between other distractions and we thank the Nintendo gods for making it possible because it's a subtle feature that I don't imagine most Pokémon fans bother with. Even though I know that it isn't 'my Omastar' being transferred from one game to another, it's merely the (genetic) code being replicated in the next game and permanently deleted from the old game I can genuinely say I have a sentimental attachment to this guy (and it is a male) who has now been my digital companion, more accurately, the digital companion of many of my trainers through each game, for just under a decade. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, part of the series' enduring legacy and Nintendo hallmark is the deep game mechanics and the competitive scene that sees the constant arms race of strategies for competitive play. These aren't the reasons behind my attachment to Omastar, in fact he isn't even properly EV trained to stand a chance in the global competition scene (let alone our own TGAM clashes) but I make sure that he's the first to get sent over from one game to the next and Nintendo willing he'll keep getting transferred over. Here's the story of Omastar, my VINPC.

2004 Pokémon Fire Red. 
Kanto Region Cinnabar Island, Pokémon Lab* 
Here's where the story started way back in 2004 when trainer Cunzette (I'm pretty unimaginative when it comes to naming my trainers so this might get confusing) revived an Omanyte from a helix fossil. This Omanyte, named Dactylocer after a genus of ammonite, would then travel all around Kanto and the Sevii Islands, evolve into an Omastar and formed part of the first team to beat the Elite Four then..
... he was transferred over to 2003's Pokémon Sapphire as part of Hoenn region trainer Cunzy11's bid to complete the national pokédex, beat the trainer tower and, according to the in game Hall of Fame records, go on to beat the Elite Four in this region over 150 times. It was during this stint in the Hoenn region that Omastar picked up 10 competition medals in the cool, beauty and cute competitions naturally.

Not content on ending the region hopping there, Omastar then made the trip via a Game Boy Advance-Game Cube cable to Pokémon Colosseum's Orre region as part of the team that bested the Epic Battle Tower (dinging level 100 and catching Ho-oh) and then repeated the feat in Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness helping to tame shadow Lugia XD001 and end the reign of Cipher organisation. Omastar will forever carry the Legend Ribbon to mark these two feats.

No rest for the wicked however. In 2007, Omastar was then transferred over to the DS via the Pal Park never to return to the GBA console of origin to take on Pokémon Diamond's Sinnoh region under the trainer Cunzita. Whilst there, Omastar snagged a Sinnoh Champ Ribbon as well as picking up a host of other accolades and decorations whilst helping with the challenge of collecting a whole new generation of Pokémon. This was the first time that Omastar battled other trainers from across the world over the Internet. From here, Omastar  enjoyed a couple of months quiet time over on the Wii's My Pokémon Ranch (top image) helping in the effort to get given a Mew by Rancher Hayley followed by some intense months of battling trainers from around the world on the Wii in Pokémon Battle Revolution.

Omastar then went back to where it all began, albeit to a slightly expanded Kanto region, upon being transferred to 2010's Pokémon Soul Silver. Here Omastar experienced the Johto region for the first time, once again beating the Elite four, picking up a couple of coveted tower ribbons in the Battle Frontier as well as being the first Pokémon to receive a leaf crown. Omastar also turns out to be quite the athlete picking up numerous medals from the Pokéthlon and spent hours on the move in the Pokéwalker. In 2011 Omastar was literally beamed out into space and over to Pokémon White to explore the Unova region, taking part in musical performances, beating yet another set of Elite four trainers and earning some well earned rest. Although even in dreams Omastar was put to work via the PC client Pokémon Global Link Dreamworld. Again in 2012 Omastar moved games for the last time (so far) to Pokémon Black Version 2 and is currently supporting the intense training of some younger, greener pokémon as well finding time to become a screen idol at PokéStar Studios.

Not bad for a piece of code hey? This short list belies the full list of accomplishments and I don't even want to check the clock times for those games. At least one of them is over the 400 hour mark. From humble origins on the GBA, Omastar has travelled across ten games, through the hands of 10 Cunzy/Cunzina/Cunzita  trainers via half as many console and handheld generations. He very much is the old veteran of the team, there are a handful of others that date back to the Sapphire days, but the shared experiences we've been through together provide a very strong attachment as well as easing me from one generation of games to the next (plus keeping me putting money straight into Nintendo's bank account). Imagine if you were able to transfer your MMO character from one game to another and not have to start from scratch every time killing 10 rats and 2 mudcrabs for leather boots** or not having to redevelop your character in every sequel. Compatibility with upcoming Pokémon X and Y has not yet been confirmed but the second it is I won't be taking bets on who will be the first of the old guard to make the trip over.

This article was submitted to Critical Distance's Blogs Of The Round Table for April 2013


* I recommend Pokearth to get your bearings.

** To be fair, with a few exceptions you do have to 'earn' the right to transfer pokémon from one game to the next and quite often this takes 10+ hours.

Monday, April 15, 2013

You Can Have My Steel

We've been on a bonanza of buying older Wii games to add to the collection. We avoided the original Red Steel on account of the awful reviews but wanted to try Red Steel 2, partly because it's one of the few games to use Wii Motion Plus. We're about halfway through but feel it's enough to put down some thoughts about it.

It's a perfectly functional if somewhat generic game. The motion controls irk at first, swordplay isn't mapped one to one to the Wiimote, the reason for this is so that a multitude of attacks can be mapped to flick, twisting, holding and tapping buttons in combinations with flails. After a couple of hours the controls become second nature and every enemy encounter can be played a number of different ways similar to the encounters in Resident Evil 4. It's not quite mindless and if you aren't paying attention every enemy goon can take you out. 

Oddly, the game  just sort of starts. There's very little in the way of introduction or story and for the opening levels we couldn't help but feel that the game was on the shallow side. The level design and quest structure do give Red Steel 2 a bit more depth but quite quickly a feeling of going through the motions sets in. Basically, you do the same thing over and over again in each area. Find the Sheriff, find Tits (see below), collect some gubbins, destroy some other gubbins, activate the communication beacons, upgrade your shit, fight some mobs, fight a boss. Move to the next level. Rinse. Repeat six times.

The visual style and sound design reminded us a lot of the solid PS2 title XIII but unfortunately the game doesn't reach the same heights. Destroying boxes, barrels and bottles for enough cash to upgrade items, weapons and armour very quickly gets monotonous. There's a drip feed of enemy types to try to force using different attacks but once you unlock some of the better moves there's little reason to mix it up. 

The exploration side of the game pads out the playtime and hunting out well hidden cash items does make you check each zone carefully. Transitions from area to area hide the loading screens behind suspiciously long time door opening animations.

The western samurai setting is a great idea but sadly one that's a bit wasted in this game that goes through the motions but never truly excites or challenges. However, considering you can find this game for as little as £5 new, we'd recommend giving it a try. At that price point it doesn't really matter but we'd have hated to have splashed out full price for it. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Now Showing: Nintendo Channel LAST ORDERS AT THE BAR PLEASE

MCV reports that Nintendo will be shutting down several Wii online services. Our heart skipped a beat for a second thinking that maybe the plug had been pulled on Monster Hunter Tri or Mario Kart Wii and our hunter might be trapped in subexcellent armour or our online ranking on MK might be forever frozen at a measly 8500 points. Fortunately, for the meantime, these games aren't affected but come the 28th of June Nintendo, News, Weather, Everybody Votes and Mii Contest Channels will be mothballed forever. Also going is the ability to send messages on the Wii Message Board This illustrates something that really pisses us off about modern consoles; increasingly the console and games you buy are really just a license to use services until such time as the servers are unplugged. 

Now most people probably won't mourn the loss of these services but as this series has shown we thought they were pretty great albeit underused service. We've had some hands on time with New Super MArio Brothers Wii U on the Wii U and we hope to god that you can turn off some of the online interaction in games because the last thing we want is anonymous plebs invading our game with twee but ultimately pointless comments. Here's what we'll miss about each service due for the chop.

The Nintendo Channel. Often a under used service and the content was pretty hit and miss. Series would abruptly end after two or three parts and the weekly download videos highlighted just how rubbish most Wiiware games really were. Recently they got it right by streaming Nintendo Direct straight to your console. Hopefully the records and recommendations service won't go too because we've found it a goldmine of interesting information about how gamers perceive and receive various games as well as being able to compare the times played, average time played and total time played for different games. Hopefully our archived Now Showing series will archive the weird an wonderful channel.

News and Weather. Okay so the weather channel was pretty pointless. We got excited when it was hinted that the real world weather would be reflected in games but this feature never came to pass. Also, as useful as it was to know the weather and pollen count for your area (within the nearest hundred miles) googling the weather was far easier and more accurate. We did love the news channel though, scrolling through the news whilst munching cornflakes on a Sunday morning was a ritual we'll miss. 

Everybody Votes. I really wished I'd archived every single poll on this channel. Some of the responses once overlaid on a UK or World map show some of the mental cultural differences between countries. For example did you know that Japanese people are four times more likely to be carrying tissues with them than Americans? Or did you know that the majority of people form Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and the Shetland Isles think that the end doesn't always justify the means but in the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man Wii owners resolutely think that the ends do justify the means?

Mii Contest Channel. This channel was an ongoing demonstration of how creative many Wii owners were. With  such limited Mii creation tools, Miis have stood the test of time whereas the Xbox avatars and PlayStation whatever they were never seem to hit the same chord. Also entertaining were the contests that highlighted how many Mii creators lacked imagination and knowledge of the world. We fondly remember the contest to create a Mii of Florence Nightingale showing how clearly the majority of people had no idea what a Florence Nightingale was. Also, one of the few channels or games to use the Wii Message board (more of this below).

Wii Message Board. Scandalously underused facility highlighting how lazy many developers are. Off the top of our head only Wii Fit, Wii Sports, Metroid Prime 3, Mario Kart Wii, Mii Contest Channel and Bonsai Barber used this functionality. For us, those little icons on the Mario Kart Channel, messages from Nintendo about competitions, messages from Bonsai Barber clients and a reminder of how afraid you were to have a weigh in on Wii Fit kept us logging into games. It really is that simple to guilt us into popping that disc in again. In fact if it wasn't for the Mario Kart channel reminding you that there was a live competition or that you hadn't done a ghost race in while we probably wouldn't still be playing MK six years down the line (and still beating our lap times). Also if you participated in special Mii contest contests you could pose your Mii artisan and your contest entrant against a special background. Our favourite was Albert Wesker bumming Samus Aran on a throne of fruit. Alas no more such works of art will be created on this platform.

How long do other Wii services have? We're going to download all the Wiiware and VC titles we've been meaning to buy just in case the shopping channel bites the bullet and we're also gonna jot down all our statistics off the Nintendo Channel before it pops it's clogs. We're also gonna get in a few online games of Battalion Wars, Mario Kart Wii, Monster Hunter Tri, Bomberman Blast and We Love Golf  because surely it's a matter of time before these services end.

On the upside? Deleting these channels will free up some precious space so we can shift some of our VC and Wiiware games off the SD card.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Meloetta Get!

Last weekend, once again we went through the humiliating ritual of busting down to the nearest GAME with our DSi and copies of Pokémon White and Pokémon Black Version 2 to download Legendary 'mon Meloetta. That takes us up to a sweet 648/649 (Deoxys aaargh) in our eternal mission to Catch 'em all, this generation of Pokémon is the closest we've come.

In all our years of playing these ridiculous games, Nintendo seem to have finally realised that yes, Europe is a viable region and that some people do play their multi million selling game series. For previous generations we'd get shafted over special events and event only Pokémon meaning that unless you turned to an Action Replay you were destined to have to live with empty spaces dotting the pokedex.

That's not to say that all regions are treated equally. Oh no. With Pokémon Black and White Version 2 there's now a multitude of ways to receive special gift pokémon and items from Mother Ninty. gifts can be distributed through the Pokémon Global Link (the PC client), via Nintendo WFC (over the internet without having to go to the internet) and via local WiFi- i.e. you have to schlep to a certain place at a certain time to download a piece of code. All three methods have been used to essentially unlock free DLC and presumably maintain interest in the game series. Our preffered method is either through the Global Link or Nintendo WFC because there's nothing more embarrassing than having to use your DS publicly (especially when we're 20 years older than the other participants). However, through the local WiFi downloads it's getting a bit like LARPing, the rarity of GAME stores make finding a participating store like the in game actions of hunting down rare and legendary pokémon.

Europe and non US or Japan parts of the World receive far less of these online, in store and NWFC content which is odd considering it can't be that much effort to broadcast a bit of code. 

So we don't know if we're idiots for caring about these things in the first place or idiots for having a Stockholm Syndrome relationship with the Nintyship. Should we be angry for not getting the same content as Japan or boot-lickingly grateful for getting anything at all? Amateur psychologists email us at the usual address.



Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Sin and Punishment Do You Want Me To Call You A Cab?

We recently picked up Sin & Punishment Successor to the Stars, Star Rod Sky Pirates Knights. Surprisingly, despite 3 years of rave reviews and fond reflections by everyone who ever played it, it is rather good.

When we get a new game, we have a ritual. We pour over the instruction book first, reading the "plot" bit (which is still the place where most games actually describe the context of the world you're about to visit). Weirdly, the above image is in the instruction booklet illustrating the biography of Kachi one of the two playable characters.

It appears she's hurriedly getting dressed, bra is out, one boot on. Fine. Maybe she's a ditsy character and her thing is always being late or something? We've not yet played through the whole game yet but this doesn't seem to be her deal.  

It's just a weird image to use isn't it? I mean yes, please let us perve over the female characters at our own leisure just don't start the misogyny in the fucking instruction booklet.

Monday, April 08, 2013

1001 A Good Start

We like to play games and we love to read about games. Sometimes it's hard to get the balance right so the reason why we've been quiet in past months is because it was all reading about games and snarking about games and very little actual playing games. We also like to read books about games. We've recently picked up Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders: How British Video Games Conquered the World and it'll be a nice addition to the growing library of good books about gaming and Resident Evil novelisations. As ever it says a lot about the coherency of gaming beyond the insides of consoles and boundaries of the Internet in that there isn't a massive section in the biggest bookshop by you called 'video games'. Invariably, books from This Gaming Life through to critically under-read Replay the History of Video Games might be under the Internet or indoor games or computing or web/graphics. I'm not going to get on my high horse and say that all gamers are illiterate slobs but clearly enough of them don't go to bookshops to buy books enough that the dwindling chains of bookstores sort their shit out.

But that's besides the point, we picked up 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die (woah now two years ago) and we've been using it as a way to focus our Chi and start playing games that some of the best games journalists have said You Must Play. And it's nice. It's nice to have a source of information away from the Internet and to our mind a pretty fine selection of games without the malformed bunny-boiled down opinion of the Internet gaming community. 

Some of the games we know we previously overlooked but others have been a genuine surprise. Bonsai Barber is a Wiiware game we remember getting rave reviews when it came out but this book inspired us to pick it up (and now get harassed on the Wii message board for missing appointments). The same goes for You, Me and the Cubes, Muramasa: the Demon Blade, Eledees, Mercury Meltdown Revolution and finally we've been guilted into buying Super Mario Galaxy.

This book is now getting on, frustratingly it went to press just as the Xbox, PS3 and Wii were getting into their stride. I'd love to see an updated version but wonder how many games from the last two years have earned a spot in the volume (and what games would be pushed out). As we sit on the verge of the next generation and absorb all the bullshit hype about what's coming next and watch the Wii U plough a very mediocre furrow we find it increasingly hard to work out whether games today just aren't going where we expected them to or whether we're just getting fucking old and nostalgic about the games of yesteryear. Not just the games though the people we spent playing games with the context is important to experiencing games. Whippersnappers can fuck off now but we remember glorious summers and after school gaming sessions with friends and families. Were the games that great or was it just the company? Now everyone's moved away, grown out of games (and who can blame them), sadly died or just got bigger priorities. Suddenly sitting in a room playing a game about throwing characters at cubes or chasing the last achievement in a game your boyfriend finds dull can seem lonely and a bit pointless. 

But hey there's the gaming community right? We own the Internet. We're everywhere. There are people who work round the clock at Google who try to filter the Internet for non-gaming related images, memes and blogs. But much like games, the community needs to grow up. There isn't a year that goes by where there's some storm in a tea cup that show the true light of the community be it refusing to engage with the issues of violence or anytime a woman gets involved. It's a big boys club desperately trying to run away from real life responsibilities and vitriolic to anyone or anything that threatens the bubble by talking about the issues or problems that real life communities sort out because they're fundamental to everyone getting on. Online you don't need that so we go around and around bathing in the filth at the bottom of the barrel. We're still genuinely astonished at how many commentors who seem as nice as pie when talking about games but lift the lid on politics, gender, race, religion or art and there's some sick callow people out there we're surprised can manage the task of turning on a computer. A lot of them seem to be drawn to gaming. Are we like them? I guess we're having our Fuck Videogames moment.
But there's something about games that keeps us coming back, that keeps us wanting to formulate a way of legitimising the hobby and there are others. But why? Why the need for social acceptance? Other communities don't spend half their time legitimizing themselves. They get on with it. Also, we already won. So why is it that the selection of video game books in the book store is dwarfed by the section on conspiracy theories? Why isn't there a video game museum (this definitely doesn't count)? Why are the video game BAFTAs screened on obscure freeview channels in the middle of the night and not reported the next day? Why has Britain done a piss poor job at celebrating it's strength in making and writing about video games? Why is still a dirty word to fess up that you love games in polite company? Why don't video games soundtracks top the charts? Why do we read about gaming as a growing market on the same day as reading about sales dropping? Why do we keep putting up with shitty film adaptations? Why are game developers actively trying to erase the history of video games as it goes rather than cherish and celebrate it? Why are people doing significantly better job of celebrating and talking about games in their own free time through their blogs and podcasts than the so called professionals? When did On-line become hyphenated? Why do all the good writers give up or move on and all the shit ones go on and on and on and on? Why can't gamers be more discerning and less entitled? Why aren't there any secure jobs in making video games? Why is so much video game journalism essentially churnalism. Bad churnalism? How is still that many game companies put sweatshops to shame in terms of stability and working conditions? Why is our twitter gaming feed filled with absolute shit, marketing and ego melt downs?Why are games failing at retail relying on individuals or other companies to bring the products to market and keep them available beyond launch week? Why do we care so much to get annoyed by it all?

Wow. How did we get here? What did we start with? Oh yeah. Video games. Love 'em.





Friday, April 05, 2013

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes: iOS Fudged Edition

Chuff's our man on the mobile. He's been playing some games on mobiles and some thoughts have struck him thensly. Note, there's a super secret ending to this post only available to those who have played the game:


Well shit, when did “Might And Magic” become “Might & Magic”? What a god damn shame, I guess that’s a pretty damning indictment of our life and times right there. I guess As, Ns and Ds and pretty fucking old school, we don’t want to alienate the Kids.


A little pre-amble; My first experience of the Might And Magic series of games was on the original Playstation, it was an incredible Third Person, True 3D extravaganza called Crusaders of Might and Magic.

Review: 10/10

WARNING IGN LINK Wait! Three out of Ten?

I guess my memories of the game are pretty muddy…

Well, anyway, after smashing that game to bits I was hooked. Come the Playstation 2 era and the first game I played and completed was the awesome sequel, Warriors Of Might And Magic.

Review: 10/10

WARNING ANOTHER IGN LINK. Wait! WHAT THE FUCK! Five out of Ten?

Actually, I would just like to take this moment to bring up the phenomenon of enjoying something for what it is, in a vacuum. Sometimes, and I guess it’s the same with movies, books, and all art. You find yourself just enjoy the thing for what it is, completely unaware of the critical reaction. I was genuinely completely puzzled when I realised Warriors got a shit review, I thought it was good end to get to the end credits! A few other games when this has happened:

Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style (PS1) 
RTX Red Rock (PS2) 
Omega Force (Xbox Arcade)

Anyway, I have been waiting 12 years for the Sequel to Warriors. It appears my dreams have been answered, here’s a sort of review.

WHAT IN THE BLUE HELL IS THIS!

Seriously? What happened to my True 3D “Medieval Tomb Raider”? 2D? What’s with all the colours?

So, apparently this is some sort of fucking Columns RPG. I don’t know when they decided that Might And, sorry, “&” Magic would be better as a strategy game, I mean, I would understand if the other games in the series were similar but come on, what is this!?

First impressions are that nobody actually played the fucking thing on the iPhone, tapping on stuff rarely works the first time and since all navigation is achieved by tapping, because, you know, it’s A TOUCH SCREEN, this is an issue. After ten hours or so of playing, still have no idea where I’m supposed to tap to open a chest of gold, or if I want my character to go through an obvious doorway. I have just been fisting my phone until the chest opens or the characters go through the door.

Battle plays out on a grid, top half bad guys, bottom is for the good children, where you have to line up three units of the same colour to perform an attack, kinda like a puzzle game… but not really. It’s certainly different for me as I’m a born and bred ATB wanger, and I do love wanging some ATBs. Once again I have to bring up the controls and the fact that the iPhone is clearly a stupid platform for the game in its current state. All the sprites are slightly too small for comfort and on numerous occasions I moved a dude to a line without realising and lost a movement point, this is a BIG DEAL.

I have spent literal minutes of my super secret toilet time moving embarrassingly primary coloured dragons and shit about, setting up a super sweet chain of linked and focused badasses only for the last piece in the puzzle to be spaffed to completely the wrong place due to my fucking fingers. I think we call all agree that we have fingers and our fingers are not, in fact, shaped like styluses, and never will be. Given that this is a controller shape that has been locked in place for a few million years perhaps the developers could have spent at least 30 seconds testing their game to see if it was possible to play with them.

An illustration:
Having said all that, I must confess that I really got into the mechanics and easy RPG-ness, it’s actually quite refreshing to not have a world map and have a fixed route through all of the screens. I perhaps could have done without the stealth section, mainly because of all the shitty tapping this involved, but points for the effort. There are five campaigns that get increasingly tricky and the races are just different enough to keep the core gameplay interesting.

The story has some very nice presentation, completely wasted on an awful script, which covers all the usual clichéd plot points. Just for once wouldn’t it be nice to have someone spend more than 1% dev time on the story?

I admit to be highly dubious initially and in-spite of the terrible touch implementation, I have been completely won over, good job everyone.




P.S. As it happens there is a solution to all of the above issues, but it does require some seriously drastic measures and is not a option for me on moral grounds, the game is on DS.

P.P.S. There is a multiplayer mode. I will never play it, I’m sure it’s riddled with the same shit controls but great mechanics of the main game.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Mini Review: Punch Quest

Chuff_72 is our man on the Mobile. He's a fallen hero, once a proud gamer now weighed down by responsibilities and such. Where he once played all kinds of games for the betterment of man his gaming life is now spent hiding in toilets and bushes trying to squeeze the most out of mobile games. Games which some people are calling the future and others are saying, steady on pal, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope we're alright but the rest is a big bucket of clunge fodder. He's been tapping away at a little game called Punch Quest. Over to you Chuff, half man, shadow of his former self. This article was sent to us from inside a dustbin so low has the gamer fallen:

 Turns out that running infinitely is fun times.



DINOSAUR ALERT. Looks shit, right? A budget SNES game. This is Punch Quest, it’s fucking great. 

It’s an “infinite running” game, which is essentially a platformer where you don’t have to worry about pressing “right” on the d-pad, because we don’t have time for that shit anymore, we’re busy people. In an incredible twist on the formula you get to move a smidgen to the right when you punch, this is the major selling point of the game, and it’s a good one. 

The small amount of movement they allow you, along with an innovative thing called a “Jump” button means you end up with a sweet cross between the running and the platforming genres, essentially removing the roadblocks that platformers usually have on the iPhone, like having to press one button to move and one to jump at the same time. 

There are a ton of unlockables, yes that includes hats, is that still a “thing”? Just looked on SITE NAME REDACTED and I see that their top story is that Valve are retiring some hats. Jesus. There are more and better things too, like combos and special powers. Getting these lets you complete Quests, which then gives you more coinage to spend on fucking hats. 

Just to bring this all back around and complete the circle of life and what not, I would like to point out that these motherfuckers need to start thumbing in some more graphics, come on guys look at what your class mates are doing (spoilers for next review*):



*Spoiler spoilers. This isn't the next review from Chuff_72.