Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm All Out of Love

I used to be quite the Final Fantasy Fan-Girl. When I was a wee lass I would play nothing but FFIII on my SNES, replaying the opera scene over and over again and crushing on Setzer in his airship. I didn’t mind the turn-based fighting, the random monsters or the hours and hours of level grinding because it was so different from the puzzle/side-scrollers I had been playing up until then. When FFVII was released I thought it was the epitome of the perfect game. The game has an amazing cast of characters who are engaged in a classic good vs. evil dilemma in a post-industrial fantasy world where the damage caused by increases in genetic and technological developments clash with an ancient earth-loving spirituality. I cried when Aeris died-the first time because of a video game. The whole Jenova/Sephiroth relationship was reminiscent of a creepy Dark Crystal feeling I had when I was a child (I can’t explain this any better than that). Summon spells were my weapon of choice-less for the damage they inflicted and more for the graphical display that came with the casting. Final Fantasy VII was so unbelievably beautiful and remains to this day the only 75+ hour game that I have played through twice: once on the PSOne and once on the PC. This isn’t really news, however, because I know a majority of RPG fans feel the same way I do. FFVII was critically acclaimed to the moon and back. So what happened? Why am I not terribly excited about FFXIII? And why have I been less than thrilled with any of the Final Fantasy games since FFVII?

Well, what happened first was FFVIII. The storyline was almost indecipherable without some sort of political flow chart and I got bored with the lackluster characters after only a few chapters. The next one I dubbed the “cartoon” game and didn’t even bother. When FFX was released it felt like a revival of the spirit of seven with much improved graphics but it never quite captured my attention even though it had a compelling love story and some likeable characters. I’ll admit I own a copy of X2 but never had the energy to play a Charlie’s Angels version of the game, even if the ‘dress’ mechanics were intriguing. Skipped 11 since it was online and purchased XII but never played. Am I just not giving them a fair chance?

Sadly, I believe my love affair with JRPG’s is over. I mourned this loss when I attempted twice to play Eternal Sonata and just couldn’t bring myself to continue past the fifteen hour mark. It became clear when both Lost Odyssey and Infinite Undiscovery failed to entice. The slow paced methodical play of the JRPG has no place in my current game playing schedule. I imagine winning the lottery, becoming stinking rich and having so much time to idle away that JRPG’s would waltz back into my life and offer a beautiful flower against the otherwise one-dimensional games that I could be playing. With so much free time and choices, why wouldn’t I want to play something that could bring me days (weeks!) of story engaging play? Because it’s boring. I am BORED with them, by them, beside them. I don’t want to navigate through endless menus of equipment and items and rings to find the best combination for combat. I don’t want to spend hours fighting the same four twisted monsters in a field to gain experience/levels. The only RPG title I am still enthralled with is Fable, but I think it has a lot to do with the real time combat aspects and the easy to digest menu system.

Final Fantasy XIII is currently holding a spot in my GameFly Q. I watch all of the promo videos (I didn’t even mute the horrible J-Pop during one of them) and read the press releases about the game. And although it sounds daunting, I am going to give it a shot. The game is inarguably the most graphically beautiful to date and took years to develop so I figure I should honor my long standing love of SquareEnix, Final Fantasy VI & VII and, of course, Chrono Trigger, by trying.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jimmy Hopkins for Student Body President

I am not ashamed to admit that I am not a fan of Oblivion. (And although I adore the nuclear winter concept, I did not even attempt to play Fallout.) These open, hyper-free sandbox worlds frustrate the roaring OCD monster inside of me that needs boundaries in my games. When I started playing Oblivion I explored the world for awhile-gathering several missions as I went-but apparently strolled off the trail and lost the linear storyline somewhere along the way. Ultimately, that was the one and only time I played it. Maybe it’s the completionist side of me that needs to feel like I am working systematically towards an ending. I do, however, like the sandbox games that combine the elements-the storyline is always available, but there are also a lot of side quests you can do if you want (which is why I should probably give Mass Effect another shot, eh?). Assassin’s Creed is an obvious example of this-which is one of the reasons why I am such a devout follower of the series. And although I could probably talk about AC2 or Fable for another hundred entries or so, let’s talk about Bully instead.

I was introduced to Bully: The Scholarship Edition when it was re-released on the 360 in 2008 (it was originally released on the PS2 in 2006). You play as Jimmy Hopkins, the new kid at Bullworth Academy, and your goal is to earn the respect of several groups of students-jocks, nerds, townies (greaser types), and rich preppies. You have a home base-the boys dorm-and a general goal-to graduate high school. The bulk of the linear game is mission-based. You do favors for one of the townies and they are less likely to beat you up when you wander on their turf. If you then turn around and do favors for the jocks, they in turn will give you less grief, etc, etc until in the end you are popular and well-liked by all of the subsections of a stereotypical high school. In between there is a great group of side missions including a paper route, lawn mowing jobs, navigating around a carnival (including a back tent freak show!) and a handful of bike races. Basically, a sandbox game with a bunch of typical PG-rated activities that parallel the R-rated ones that would be in GTA. Surprisingly, the world of Bully is pretty large and well thought out-each ‘town’ section (there are several) are urban representations of the social structure of the high school-the townies hang out in a more beat down section with broken fences and walls covered in graffiti while the preppies live in a neighborhood on the highest hill and have gated homes with manicured lawns. There is even a “Medical Facility” (see: Crazy House) tucked away on the outskirts of town and a more blue-collar area which is mostly trailer homes and lumber yards.

The whole thing plays like a T for Teen version of GTA, which creates a more endearing environment than many of the adult games in the genre. Instead of carrying a gun you carry a slingshot and some stink bombs. There are teenage girls to nervously woo and sneak kisses from and passing class is a priority (I liked biology even if the dissections were hard!). If you fell asleep too early on Halloween you would miss a mission called “The Big Prank” which involves a skeleton costume and, well, a dog (I won’t elaborate, but just imagine you are a teenage boy with a brown paper bag, a dog and a lighter). I spent a couple of weeks completely caught up in Bullworth and it was one of the best gaming experiences I have had to date. Every time I snuck a kiss from a girl in the game Matt and I would celebrate with a kiss of our own. (He also won some of the bike races and shot glass bottles at the fair for me.) Innocent and completely engaging, I would recommend Bully for anyone who like the sandbox game but wants to play something less murder/mob boss and more comic book/girl’s dorm panty raid.

In other sandbox news, I played the last of the AC2 DLC last weekend. I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the last. I think when Memory 12 was released I was so psyched to have more game to play that I forgot about how it felt to be immersed in the story so completely. For Memory 13, I felt more disconnected from the experience as a whole. Too much time has passed. The new content contains all combat/stealth missions. To get your Piece of Eden back (it was stolen in Memory 12) you are asked to assassinate nine of the Mad Monk’s followers ala the Bonfire of the Vanities. I liked the super stealth missions because they forced you to actually be a cloaked-in-the-shadows kind of assassin. They also introduced a new section of Florence and a new move, the spring board, which you only HAVE to use a couple of times (I saw a bunch of places you could use it, but no reason why to do so). An extra couple of bucks will give you access to a few more templar lairs (platforming!!!). If you are just starting to play AC2 and can add the DLC into your playthrough flow it would be fabulous, but I am now too far removed for it to feel like anything more than a need for closure.

We are playing Lego Indiana Jones 2, which I have to admit feels kind of like a chore. I want Lego Harry Potter instead.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekend in Review

Being a fairly equal opportunity game player, I find great fun in playing the simple, E for Everyone type games- the Lego games, Thrillville, Harry Potter, etc. I even played through the Pirates of the Caribbean, which was basically just a watered-down Action Adventure game starring animated Johnny Depp. I demoed a game at PAX09 called Fairytale Fights. Although not exactly rated E, the concept for this game is precious-Little Red Riding Hood wielding an ax (or bat, or marshmallow on a stick, or rolled up newspaper) and slaughtering her way through a cartoon world of storybook pain. When I started playing the actual game, however, it soon became clear that this was going to be an un-fun gaming experience. The concept is innovative, the story is okay, but actually playing the game is a lesson in frustration. I nicknamed my Little Red Riding Hood “Greasy Feet” because it seemed no matter how I attempted to control her, she would slide off platforms, islands, or wooden rafts causing an instant kill. The fight sequences were boring and repetitive. Opening chests gave you treasure, but only if the treasure itself didn’t slide off the platform before you could reach it. I considered the first level the entire game and turned it off directly after. Interesting idea, dreadful game experience. I would not recommend.

Actually, I personally wouldn’t recommend any game that relies on platforming (aka, ‘Donkey Kong bulls**t’) as one of its primary game mechanics since I have depth perception problems. That combined with my infamous wall run dilemma make Prince of Persia pretty much out of the question. I transform into a monster even attempting it. No exaggeration, I have a witness. When I got to the last tomb in Assassin’s Creed 2 I discovered I would need to perform a combination of platforming and wall running to progress. And it had a TIME LIMIT. I weighed my options, performed a mental pep talk, attempted it twice and then burst into tears. I knew with absolute certainty that there would be NO WAY I would get through it and I was going to miss out on the rest of a great game. Matt tried to encourage me with a ‘you can do it!’ but in the end he just calmly took the controller from me, made the leaps and bounds in record time and handed it back. My hero.

In other not-so-confessional news…

Last weekend I fought my way out of Rapture once again. For a game that smears blood on walls and leaves charred corpses around nearly every corner, the ending sure was cuddly. This was pretty much what I thought would happen considering all of my musings from my last blog. I won’t let loose any real spoilers this time, but all-in-all I had a pretty damn good time. I wish it were longer-probably about 20 hours if you are crazy obsessive about checking every file cabinet and desk (and corpse!) for goodies. I tiptoed into a couple of Multiplayer matches but died horribly about six dozen times and bowed out. Since I don’t play a lot of shooters and have never played any online games that aren’t Scene It! I didn’t expect I would be a master. I imagine at some point I will head back in guns blazing, praying I last a minute or so at a time. Anything to keep the game going until something better comes along (God of War 3).

Screen shots from Fable III at X10!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Inside Andrew Ryan’s Dystopia


The original Bioshock is a game about survival and escape. After falling into the ocean after a plane crash, our hero’s situation gets ironically worse when he washes up in an underwater city called Rapture. Rapture is a man-made Post-War metropolis constructed in the 1950s where time stands still even when the inhabitants start mutating and turning on one another in a genetic manipulation dream turned nightmare. The most remarkable feature of Bioshock is Rapture itself. Oh, what a world. If you could imagine the mansion in The Shining underwater and full of mutated humans in fetching suits and Donna Reed housecoats you would be coming close to the seclusion and terror the first game offered players. And it truly was the feeling of helplessness and isolation within Rapture that I thought worked so well for the game. It tickled the same fancy in me that spooky horror movies do. But the element that really grabbed me were the Little Sister characters. In such a wicked world gone wrong scenario, the Little Sisters and their watchful Big Daddy’s added the spark of hope and innocence that kept the game from sliding down into the darkness. And it was your choices as the player in regards to them that gave the game an unexpectedly moral slant-would you harvest them or save them? This choice had an effect on the outcome of the game as well, so what you decided to do mattered in more ways than just giving you a warm and fuzzy feeling after each one.

The second game, released last Tuesday, uses the same ethical aspects as a driving concept behind the new storyline. You are now playing as a kind of ultimate Big Daddy in the sense that you were the original Delta Series Big Daddy, now returned to save your own Little Sister from her wicked 'mommy' who is deranged in true villain styling (‘Mommy allowed Stanley sell me to an orphanage!’). Your Little Sister, who in red and pink tinted voiceovers has turned into a Teenage Sister, helps you along the way by giving you some back story reinforcing Evil Mommy as the antagonist and pleading to be saved. There are still mutants to be eliminated and Little Sisters to be ‘saved’ (up to you!) and Rapture is still very isolated and terrifying. There are also some survivors helping you via radio, but some also think of you as a monster, poisoned by Evil Mommy telling everyone you are essentially a baby killer, and it is up to you whether to knock them off for their hateful attitudes or save them based on your mood/good nature (really, there were just misinformed, right?). I am not yet to the end of the game as I still have one chapter to go, so I am unsure if killing or saving these characters matters in the long run, but knowing what I know from the last game I imagine it will.

Summarizing games is not normally something I like to do in blogs (my college professors are whispering in the back of my mind to pick a thesis and extrapolate, dammit), but what I am trying to show here is how I see the game evolving. Instead of being a hapless victim of Rapture, you are now a piece of the Rapture puzzle and hell bent on being a Savior. The basic drive of the story turned from fear and desperation to protection and familial love. In that kind of environment I can’t understand how anyone deeply involved in the emotions of the game could turn aside from the ethics and choose a moderately evil road-your ultimate mission seems to be based on the love for your own Little Sister. To continue greedily harvesting the other little girls and kill off characters when given a choice goes against the motivation of the narrative. All of these elements were surprising to me when I traveled back to Rapture for Bioshock 2. The game play is essentially the same (I do miss my wrench, the drill is ho-hum in comparison)-the rooms still look like a promo for a World Without Humanity documentary, there are still plenty o’ mutants to kill and tons o’ things to hack. You still collect plasmids to light everyone on fire before shooting away (maybe I am the only pyromaniac, but I doubt it) and there is still loads of research to be done via photography. But the fear is gone. The ‘how did I get here and how the HELL do I get out of here’ mentality has been eliminated and Rapture is almost like home, albeit a wet and bloody corpse-filled home, but home nonetheless. The colors seem a little brighter and the NPC’s seem more obnoxious than startling and scary (oh, you again? Fire…Ka-Boom). As the story evolves it is easier to invest actual emotions and feel as though it was intended all along. I will be interested to see how they transition to Bioshock 3…

I haven’t tried the multiplayer yet, but rumor has it the story is unique and pre-present day. I will probably give it a go after I finish B2 and Dante’s Inferno, which is sadly being ignored.

Weirdest thing I miss from Bioshock: When you save/harvest the Little Sisters they used to resist you and say “No, No…” Now they just stare at you and glow before sweetly thanking you and climbing back into their hidey hole. I say it out loud for them now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Round and Round

I know a lot of people who can read the same book over and over again and still draw the same amount of enjoyment as the first read through. I am not one of these individuals. To me, books are essentially a one-way street-the story begins, engages, climaxes and concludes-The End. So I get a little frustrated when linear, story-focused games assume the player will perform a complete replay of the game (without having an online multiplayer option, of course). Rock Band was designed to be a continually replayed game. Mario Party-drunken replay game. No intricate story, no hidden mechanic. These games sit on top of your entertainment center instead of getting filed away because they reappear often during your week-to-week plays and allow for single-serving entertainment. So although I enjoyed playing Bayonetta, I was not terribly happy about the many unspoken assumptions, the biggest of which being the replay assumption.

Okay, first of all, the game allows you to initially choose from three difficulties: Normal, Easy and Very Easy. I found Devil May Cry intensely difficult at times on Normal Mode, so because I was playing Bayonetta as a time filler until Bioshock 2’s Tuesday release, I choose Easy, which was also “Automatic” mode. What does this mean? I had no idea at the time and no explanation was given. Now that I have finished the game I have learned that it means half of the collectibles and an entire side mission were eliminated. Now, I recall a large amount of space for potential text underneath the Words “Easy” and “Automatic”. Maybe there should have been a footnote that lets players know of these eliminations prior to choosing this mode as I certainly would have chosen Normal had I known it would affect play beyond weaker enemies and simpler boss battles. All right, so let’s assume I am playing Bayonetta for nothing but the story itself. Why not eliminate game mechanics solely in Very Easy Mode to allow a player to breeze through the actual interaction and focus only on the narrative and cut scenes (of which there are loads)? Ultimately, I was disappointed that after a highly satisfying and seemingly thorough (and meticulous) playthrough I discovered that I had only played about 75% of the game. Hard Mode doesn't even seem to be available until you complete the game once on Normal. Breezing through the Xbox Achievement list I found many combat-specific awards that required purchasing items in the Gates of Hell-items the game itself never encourages you to acquire. In fact, it never really instructs or motivates you to do anything other than continue moving forward, break environmental objects and/or create intricate mental flow charts to follow the characters and the ecclesiastical storyline. I suppose if I had purchased the game full-price I would love the idea of being able to play it over and over again and find something new each time. But here’s the thing about a game like Bayonetta-there are no choices you can make that would alter the storyline in any way. Take a game like Dragon Age, for example, which also has a fairly linear story-the replay assumption for DA is also inherent, but understandable because you can have a unique experience every time by making a variety of different choices along the way. Not so for Bayonetta. With so many games in constant development, I can’t imagine wanting to obsessively shoot angels for months on end just to acquire more halos/coins to purchase more items to use them obsessively shooting more angels.

At face value, however, I found Bayonetta to be quite entertaining. Like I said in my last blog, as a character Bayonetta was obviously created with great care and devotion, which makes guiding her on her journey a pleasure. The story itself was dark and grim, even while Bayonetta herself was always winking and flirtaciously sarcastic. There are some surprisingly touching moments in the game between Bayonetta and two other lead characters that hint at some deeper emotions swirling beyond her long legs and come hither attitude. It was these elements that kept the game from dragging morosely alongside all of the other Action Adventure Apolocalptica games that are currently in release-all very interesting, but also deadly serious in their quest for vengeance/war/true love. Great fun for a weekend game.

Speaking of replay assumption…Borderlands! For a game that has a fairly loose storyline, kudos to you, Gearbox, for tapping into the psychology of ‘Want! Need!’ with your randomly-generating weaponry. It kept Matt on the edge of our couch for two complete playthroughs (‘I’m Level 50 now!’) while still willing to have another go with me in Split-Screen mode. It's hilarious how many times I’ve killed King Wee-Wee in the past two months or so.

I am currently elbow-deep in Bioshock 2. And…it’s so…beautiful. *tears*

Friday, February 5, 2010

She's Got the Look

All right, I know what I said previously about passing on Bayonetta due to its supercharged sexuality, so I am here now to eat my words. If you just watch the prologue alone you’ll experience a mixture of gorgeously rendered occultism and ridiculous tongue-in-cheek sauciness-you aren’t sure whether you should be wildly impressed by the landscape or roll your eyes listening to the utter corniness of the dialogue. The first battle sequence involves some moaning, some stripping and a horrible J-Pop rendition of ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ on repeat. Seriously cringe-worthy. But after about an hour into the game (about Verse 2) everything changed (including the music, whew!). All of the va-va-voom diminished behind the storyline and it turned into an easier version of Devil May Cry, as though Dante had a witchy little sister and she wanted her own game with a more kick-ass story and less platforming. And whereas the prologue would give you the impression that the game is going to be a bit satirical, I have yet to encounter any more exchanges that would deem it so-in fact, it’s gotten fairly serious and a bit dark in some places. But Bayonetta as a character was obviously created with love-flowers grow under her feet, her shadow has butterfly wings, the moon allows her to walk on walls and she accessorizes with panache-I love the medallions on the end of her hair (clothes?). And the storyline is classic Good vs. Evil: witches, demons, angels; Heaven, Hell. Her nemesis is a Red Queen to her Black. The combat combinations seem limitless and are extremely graceful, allowing for less button mashing and more calm and intricate pattern formations (I especially like it when her hair turns into a giant whirlwind boot of kick-assery). I am only through Chapter 4’s boss fight, so I will update more next week.

So I guess I have to admit that I am a bit ashamed at my reflexive dismissal of Bayonetta. I mean, if I was built like her I imagine I would feel pretty damn confident (even through the back aches and the frustration of ill-fitting clothing). I am not usually affected by this issue in other games, but the overt sexuality in the beginning of the game was so blatant it was hard not to snicker. There are some seriously unsubtle close ups of her suggestively sucking on lollipops. This is something I imagine male gamers have accepted long ago-the disconnect between depictions of people in video games and reality. But as a modern female it is instinctual to be slightly offended by ridiculously sculpted females in video games or animation. As the line between identifying myself as a ‘female gamer’ and merely a ‘gamer’ gets delightfully more transparent, however, the distinction between what players visualize as realistic and what is obviously fantasy becomes more clear. So instead of seeing Bayonetta as a paradigm for what people think of as a version of the ideal female-sexy talk and skin tight clothing-it becomes easy to see her as the best representation of a specific character in this particular fantastical world. This philosophy freed me from any hang-ups I was having about playing the game and is now allowing me to have a great time progressing through it.

So I would love to say that Darksiders ended with a triumphant horn blowing, but it was more like a hesitant look-both-ways kind of satisfaction-as though you aren’t quite sure this is the *real* ending. *Spoiler Alert*-the Destroyer was almost comically easy to beat. I mean, the boss fight in the first dungeon was a trial compared to the final fight. In anticipation of the battle I meticulously collected the Abyssal Armor Set to protect myself, which was unnecessary. I guess after the Black Throne’s epic puzzle rooms Vigil was like, hey everyone, here’s a freebie. Overall, I thought the game was highly entertaining, a great modern version of the old Zelda style. Whispers of a sequel will most likely be confirmed for 2011.

This week’s slogan: Bayonetta, Bioshock, Dante’s Inferno, oh my!

Monday, February 1, 2010

DLC Mania!

Last Thursday Ubisoft released the first of two down-loadable content files for Assassin’s Creed 2-intended to fill in Memory 12 & 13, respectively-pieces that were supposedly corrupted and inaccessible in the actual game. I am a fan of DLC as long as it doesn’t get ridiculously expensive and adds to the total game experience-if you have already shelled out $60-$80 on a game it’s eye-rolling of the publishers to ask for gobs of additional money to ‘complete’ the storyline. Which is essentially what Ubisoft has done with the AC2 DLC. It’s fairly obvious they were running against a deadline and decided to cut some content from the final product. I didn’t think it detracted from my enjoyment of the game itself-in fact, after playing the first part, Memory 12, I can see why they chose to axe it and instead work diligently on the final memory sequences. I don’t want to spoil anything for those souls who have foolishly let AC2 slip by…but the game is a LOT more mystical and transcendental than most general players would think. You could write it off as a sort of historical fiction novel brought to life but you would be missing a large part of what is going on with Desmond’s world in the present. So to kick a couple of memory sequences out in the middle and push them off to DLC was a good choice in my book. The first is called the Battle of Forli, which is essentially a sort of mini-mission to help Caterina Sforza (the sassy lady you originally met on your way to Venice) with a rebellion/kidnapping problem. The entire play through lasts roughly about an hour and involves a lot of guard-on-guard action. There is a protect mission and a rescue mission, both of which rely on nothing but combat skills, and then a stealth mission to find someone who stole something from you. Oh, and here is where you gain your snappy assassin beard, if you were curious. Ubisoft was also nice enough to listen to all of the whiners (totally me) who missed the achievement for kicking a guard with DaVinci’s flying machine and added ‘fly anytime you like’ from the top of the lighthouse on the north side of the area. It cost about four bucks, which is less than I usually spend on my morning coffee, so I was satisfied by the experience, even though it was disappointingly brief and had no additional achievements for finishing Memory 12. It also hints at Memory 13, the Bonfire of the Vanities, which is supposed to release sometime this month.

Speaking of DLC...this is kind of a new concept for me (within just the past year or so) since I am not a PC gamer. I know a LOT of games in the PC world release ‘expansions’ or have new content constantly because the game is usually continual and has no real end. (Sadly, I am just not reliable enough to play MMO’s, as I could never be counted on to be there for my fellow players and would always let them down.) I stick to the consoles and the more finite games. Lately DLC for console games has become quite the trend. I really loved Knothole Island for Fable 2. I recall it being about ten bucks (the second one, See the Future, might have been less, I don’t remember) and it took me the best part of a day to complete. It was quite fun, even if my dog kept glitching and getting digitally stuck underneath the walkways within beams of wood. I keep hearing some whispers of Fable 3, which makes me giddy. I hope it plays similar to Fable 2 because that game was a joy to play. Originally I was a female character (but who would know? By the end, I got so burly and was glowing so brightly I could barely see a female form.) who married two different men-the blacksmith in Bowerstone and the tattoo artist in the gypsy camp. However, when I chose to ‘change sexes’ at the end of the first play through neither of my husbands were interested in me physically any longer. Oh, they still ardently loved me and showered me with gifts, but anytime I would proposition them they would get all frowny face and give me the no-way gesture. My men were apparently too ‘manly’ for such nonsense. No worries, though, I also had a floozy of a wife in Bloodstone who never turned me down, even when I was a lady. Fist bump!

The most time consuming DLC I have encountered lately is for Borderlands. I ADORED playing the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned-I am a bit of a Halloween freak, so just the glowing jack-o-lanterns tickled all of my fancies. Matt and I played through it in split screen mode so it made collecting the brains much easier since two equals one. Play through is about 4-5 hours and is thoroughly satisfying (zombie heads go ka-boom!). One of the best things about Borderlands is how humorous it is-the opening narrative alone is worth a couple of bucks. So now let’s talk a bit about how much I did NOT like Mad Moxxi’s Underdome. Ultimately, it was extra boring and repetitive. We got through the first three arenas of five rounds of five (just typing that boggled my mind) and got about halfway through one arena of TWENTY rounds of five before I threw the controller to the ground and myself out of the window. Granted, I believe it was expected that we would go online and play it four player-which I suppose would be okay, but as a two player experience it was dreadful. I hear that 2K announced a third would be available soon that will be the best yet and up your level cap beyond 50, so we’ll hopefully I will regain some of the love I lost in the Underdome.

Darksiders Update: Okay, so here I am in the Black Throne. For those not anticipating a drastic switch in gameplay I will share with you something I was unprepared for after beating the fourth of the “Chosen”. Up until this point the game was about 75% Action Adventure (kill, kill, hack, slash) and about 25% dungeon puzzles. Deep within the Black Throne it pivots and is now about 75% EPIC puzzle and 25% KKHS. I want to like it, but I don’t. I got through a large hunk on Saturday morning and decided to stop near the end of the 2nd section of the dungeon for health reasons. My controller can only take so much abuse. I am going to attempt to calmly get through each room so I can advance to the end before next Tuesday when all other games become obsolete and I am deep inside Rapture, but it truly isn’t any fun (for me-I am sure there are people drooling happily through the puzzle rooms) so I am not sure how far I will get.

Weekend Funny-Yesterday Matt decided to spend some time mining planets in Mass Effect 2-apparently this involves holding the left trigger for long periods of finger-cramping time. After about half an hour he got up from the couch, dug around our miscellaneous drawer for a few minutes, found a rubber band to wrap around the controller and continued to mine happily for a couple of hours. Ingenious!