Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PAXilicious


Matt & I are now in possession of passes to PAXEast and a hotel in downtown Boston for the 24th-29th of March. After PAX09 (PAXPrime, now) we were all gung-ho about going, the con high still swimming deliciously through us, but after a couple of sober weeks we decided the responsible (boring) thing to do would be to save money for a new apartment in a better neighborhood and look forward to the next Seattle PAX. By the term ‘look forward’ I mean Matt not really thinking about it and me gleefully counting off days like a little girl with an Advent Calendar full of chocolate bites. I was pretty resolved about the idea of skipping Boston until last weekend when what started as a curiosity about whether Freezepop was going to attend turned into a full blown forum search of postings by excited attendees. Alas, we were sold. In an odd coincidence, I suddenly really liked my apartment and it’s location (So close to downtown Seattle! Why would we ever move?).

I will be the first to admit my enthusiasm about PAX is probably unhealthy. It’s really bizarre how my 31 year old self can be so excited about a video game convention, but here I am. I don’t have a lot of gamer friends (except you, internet, *squeeze*) so going to an EPIC gathering of like minded people is one of the only times I feel comfortable in my own nerdy shoes. I can cheer on amateur Rock Band players (they are doing what I do! In my living room!!), snuggle up on a giant smelly pillow with my DS or play board games with total strangers and not feel awkward. All of those people are my single-serving best friends and they don’t even know it.

Um, so Mass Effect 2? Not playing it. I tried out the first one, got confused in the Citadel after getting a wooden lap dance by a NPC with glassy eyes and gave it up. And guess what? I’m not going back. I have other games to be excited about. Not to say it isn’t currently residing in my house after being purchased at a GameStop midnight release…but I will leave Commander Shephard to Matt and continue to wait for Big Daddy. After totally dismissing Bayonetta I read an article by a female gamer who has almost convinced me that it may be worth a second try. She had all of the same concerns I did about the ridiculous hyper sexuality of the game but rode the busty roller coaster anyway, coming away with some satisfaction. In the meantime I am STILL progressing through Darksiders. Some of the puzzles are getting annoyingly difficult almost to the point of boredom, but I am looking forward to the replay of some of the levels because I am a collectable junkie. It’s a real problem (see: Riddler Puzzles in Arkham Asylum, Gargoyles and Silver Keys in Fable 2 and Feathers in AC2).

Game Replay this week: Carcassonne on XBOX Arcade.

Monday, January 25, 2010

On the subject of music…



Our household is a Rock Band household. Between the two RB guitars hanging on hooks on our side wall to the $300 drum kit, it’s pretty easy to see we are fans of the ‘plastic instrument’ genre. On one of our first dates Matt lovingly coerced me into picking up a microphone and I have been a singer ever since (yes, even Painkiller). My Final Countdown (Lego RB) will knock your freakin’ socks off. When they announced a band exclusive RB last year, it made sense that it would be the Beatles. I mean, there is no better way to pay homage to a classic band than to give the fans an interactive musical experience. I am not the biggest of Beatles fans (well, I wasn’t then…see? It was a great thing!), but even I can recognize them as legendary-and the game is achingly beautiful. The intro animation alone is worth watching, even if you don’t care about playing the game. Ultimately, this game was worth every penny the developers spent creating it. And isn’t the in-game video for I Am the Walrus the creepiest thing you have ever seen? It’s like a Donnie Darko nightmare.

So, Harmonix…Green Day Rock Band? Really? I mean, I had a copy of Dookie randomly floating around my 16 year old self’s CD collection, but who didn’t in 1994 (Columbia House-10 CDs for 14¢!)? Can we do Pink Floyd Rock Band instead? I can envision the masterpiece that would be (and I would love to sing Momentary Lapse of Reason). I am sure there are those out there right now who are sitting on their hands they are so excited about GDRB, but just how relevant is Green Day? The beauty of the Beatles is that they cross genre lines-you can find a small Beatles fan in almost everyone, which I don’t envision with Green Day. This sounds like something Activision/Guitar Hero would handle. Disappointingly. I am willing to hold final judgment until I experience it, though…I guess…

I am progressing through Darksiders and it is still super fun. Sometimes I miss my double jumps/glides a million times in a row and start cussing excessively, but overall I am about ¾ of the way through and still enjoying the gameplay and storyline. I have taken to playing it with my own music library streaming in the background instead of the actual game score. I do this a lot. I find the game experience more intimate if I can choose the background music. Last year I played this adorable little XBOX Arcade game called The Maw while listening to nothing but Air’s Talkie Walkie and now whenever my iPod shuffles through one of the songs I hear a little voice in my head calling “Ma-aw…Maw?!”. Strangely, I will probably associate Darksiders with Freezepop. I am pretty sure the developers didn’t have synthpop in mind when they composed the score, considering the content, but that is what makes the experience totally mine (and the blend of swordplay and keytar is actually pretty seamless…).

Accomplishments this weekend: 200/200 G for Jewel Quest. Finally. And I never intend to play it again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Assassin's Creed 2-Game of the Year 2009


A little reflection on 2009…

So by far my favorite game of last year was Assassin’s Creed 2 (Arkham Asylum was a close second). Halfway into the game I passionately declared it my favorite game of all time, but reflecting back on the experience, I would probably say it was just ‘one of’ my all time favorites. I do need to confess at this point that I am a complete and utter AC fan girl. I was a staunch defender of the first one, exhaustive repetitive warts and all. For me the systematic process of each city was a thrilling checklist of OCD madness. And Altair, oh Altair. I haven’t loved a main character so much since I first set eyes on Sephiroth in FFVII. My minor complaints about the first one had less to do with the repetition and more to do with some of the game mechanics. In some instances it was really difficult for me to ‘stealth’ assassinate anyone and I usually ended up brawling away at the dozens of guards who would pour in from the surrounding areas until finally striking my target in some sort of heart racing, back straining, button mashing coincidence. I also hated the never-ending chases that would ensue if you were caught strolling through the streets in any sort of wanted mode which only ended after you ran for what seemed like miles along rooftops, waiting for the little red circle on the map to fade away ala GTA. If only I could have stolen a car.

But AC2 fixed all of those problems. Your stealth attacks were more simple (maybe too simple-sometimes it seemed like X was a magical button of wrist killing even if you were already sparring with a guard who was VERY aware of you), the wall climbing was deliciously more fluid. The world was BEAUTIFUL, fully capturing the architecture of Renaissance Italy and inserting all sorts of historical snippets about the buildings you could choose to read if you were so inclined. The characters were well-fleshed out and the forced repetition was reduced significantly. Not gone altogether (treasure chests for days!), but it wouldn’t be the same game without some of the systematic elements. They added a sort of mythical conspiracy-steeped puzzle story that ends up being part of the end transition for Desmond into the next game (…I have to assume considering it’s all Vault related). Solving those puzzles made you feel wicked smart-but I confess I sometimes had to consult my online friends (FAQs) for the solutions. The doctors all wore the classic plague masks with the beaked fronts and there is a whole chapter devoted to Carnivale.

Okay, so it wasn’t all sparkles and wonder. I had a hard time mastering the counter attacks in this game-which I didn’t have a problem with in the first game. I hated the platforming in the tombs. Save me from epic platforming in Action Adventure games. And the uber-political storyline was extremely hard to follow at times, mixing between historical events and fictional ones while blending indecipherable Italian names in between. I didn’t love Ezio as much as I did Altair-although his clothes were obviously snappier-his story was so well told that it lost the mystery of the ‘assassin’ that was in the first game. I know-wah wah, right? I am sure others would rather him be a well explained character (we saw him as a baby!), but I loved the enigmatic elements of Altair.

So 2011 will bring us AC3, which, if the rumors are correct, will be a WWII reincarnation and the lead assassin might be female this time (booooo). There will be a multi-player? It’s hard to decipher the rumor mill at this point but it seems pretty clear that it will be set in the early 1900s. Since they are now pouring money into this franchise I am just going to assume it will be amazing.

First DLC for AC2 on January 28th!

Today’s blog was brought to you by the symbol Ankh and Freezepop’s ‘Tenisu No Boifurendo’.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I am living proof there is life after Borderlands


First of all, I have never been adept at first person shooters. As a woman in her thirties (early, thank you) who has been a life long, die-hard RPGer the idea of a gun-view shoot-shoot bang-bang game sounded oh-so-boring and repetitive (hey, grinding away to gain levels in FFVII was a rite of passage). War simulators-yawn. But then Bioshock came out in 2007 and it was just so damn pretty. I mean, Rapture was a post-Apocalyptic dream UNDERWATER. Every room that contained a window had a lovely glowing wave pattern splashing on every wall. Want to play...not so good at first person shooters. I had to stop moving altogether in order to change directions (shuffle forward, stop, turn, shuffle forward). Much to my great delight, however, I soon acquired a WRENCH. And this WRENCH got more POWERFUL as the game went on. Melee Bliss! Plus the plasmids kind of turned the FPS elements into an aim and toss kind of gameplay (with BEES! ANGRY BEES!) thereby taking the ‘shooter’ part out and basically turning it into a “First Person Thrower of Fire”. This I could handle. And I loved it.

I am happy to say that I have matured greatly as a gamer in the last 2.5 years and now have intermediate skills in the FPS arena thanks to Borderlands, which I only agreed to play so I wouldn't shame myself as a gamer (two girlfriends were playing it-one of which was a life long scoffer of video games who is now a WOWer). I actually ended up loving it tremendously and conquering my FPS ‘mindblock’ (as Matt would call it). I call the experience, ‘Borderlands: How I Learned to Shoot Combat Rifles and Love 2.5 Zoom’. Bioshock 2 will be released in the next couple of weeks (and thanks to a small, sauna-like room at PAX09 I know it will be AMAZING) and I am really looking forward to having this experience without running into walls or shooting the ceiling repeatedly. Maybe I will retire my wrench this time. Well…maybe not. It was just too damn fun. I mean, an electricity infused WRENCH??!! I hope that the multi-player mode will have a co-op play so Matt and I can play together. If not, that is why we have two 360s.

I have been playing Darksiders for the past week or so, which is a story about the Apocalypse (what’s with the Apocalypse trend?) gone wrong thanks to War, the protagonist and also one of the Four Horseman. Pretty standard hack n slash, but with dungeon elements like Zelda (as Matt says, “You have acquired a boomerang!”). I thought I would be choosing between it and Bayonetta since they were both released on the same day, but after watching about an hour or so of Matt play I think I am going to take a pass. The overt sexuality (the intro contains about 100 billion crotch shots) of the game really turns me off. I have a habit of thinking games with female leads will be targeted to female gamers, but then games like Bayonetta come out. Yikes. I guess we got Dante in Devil May Cry all of these years and since Bayonetta looks EXACTLY like DMC to me, I imagine it was their turn? Anyway, I am going to skip the exaggerated hip swinging and lip licking and focus on Darksiders and Dante’s Inferno for my Good vs Evil Action Adventure games this season. I am happily surprised with Darksiders (it reminds me a little bit of Viking, a game I loved a couple of years ago), even if I am on dungeon two and still don’t have my horse. I mean, they showcased the game at PAX using a giant mechanical death beast, so I assume I am going to be introduced soon.

What I've Learned this week: Giant bat demons can have heaving bosums. Who knew?