Don’t Hate the Game, Hate the Player

Square Enix Buys Eidos

square-enix-eidosIt seems the game developer market is shrinking byt the minute. Although a lot of independent studios have appeared these past few years, older ones seem to merge and sanitize. From Midway being on the verge of shutdown, Activision merging with Blizzard and Now it’s Square Enix and Eidos (I’m still not used to not calling them Squaresoft by the way).

Shareholders for the UK publisher approved $120 million deal which was first mentionned in February.

Now we’ll have to see what their plan is concerning game properties and such but I have two words for anyone listening: Legacy of Kain!! (OK three words…)

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Industry News, Video Game News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Old Games Adds Ubisoft to Catalog

9c5568cfade677ebce1a9acb1c390a5ef41627a9The great Polish website for DRM-free PC games just added some Ubisoft games to their catalog. Right now you can get Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Beyond Good and Evil and IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946.

Soon you sill also be able to get Heroes of Might and Magic, Far Cry, Ghost Recon and Rainbox Six.

All games are priced at $9.99 and like I mentioned before are DRM-free XP and Vista compatible.

So again if you haven’t checked it go on Good Old Games and enjoy.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | PC News, Video Game News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Braid Review (XBLA)

braidlogoBraid is a game that was released in August 2008 on Xbox Live Arcade to critical acclaim. It won several awards and one could argue that it helped validate the whole recent flow of successful independent games like Flower, World of Goo, N+
It was developed by genius Jonathan Blow who came up with the idea and game design for the project and by gifted David Hellman who create all the enchanting art for the game. In addition the entrancing ‘soundtrack’ was composed by artists Shira Kammen, Jami Sieber and Cheryl Ann Fulton.
The game is basically a multi-layered mix between a platformer and a puzzle game with a time element added to it. But don’t be fooled, it’s much much more than that


Before you realize how well the game is designed your senses are going to be filled with joyful things. You will instantly see through the art and music that you are in something entirely different. David Hellman did an incredible job. Each level is a beautiful painting with various undertones. They start out bright and joyful and seem to get darker and more….weighing as you go.
You can get an idea from the screens of the beauty of it all but it really comes together with the music. And I don’t know much about art techniques so I won’t offend David by pretending I know what he did. I just know it’s gorgeous.
By the way I strongly suggest you check out David’s blog as it has tons of cool info on the creation of the game and more.

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The soundtrack for the game is actually not a soundtrack per say. Jonathan Blow decided he wanted to use real musician tracks because they would convey more feeling to the player. And boy did it convey!
As soon as you start you are greeted with a track from Jami Sieber called Maenam, a beautiful, soothing violin and sitar (I think) piece that wouldn’t feel awkward in a Prince of Persia game. Along the rest of the game you also hear music from Shira Kammen and Cheryl Ann Fulton. all of them tend to focus around beautiful melodies on violins and harps with other instruments added on and off such as percussion and piano.
Also throughout the game the music is intricately tied  to the time manipulation design since music rewinds as time goes backward. It feels amazing to the player experiencing the game but if your wife is on the computer just hearing the sound I doubt she will appreciate the nuances 🙂

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I could say this is were the game shines but I’d be lying because everything shines in this game and it’s how it all fits together that makes it such an amazing title.
The idea in each world is to grab all the pieces of a puzzle. you don’t need to finish the puzzle to get to the next world but you need to go through the doors. You enter a sub-world through a door and the exit is on the other side, so you could potentially go through all the levels without grabbing a puzzle piece. That being said, in order to reach the ‘final’ level you do need to complete every puzzle.
The basic time maneuver that you have is the rewind function. If you hit an enemy or fall to your doom, hit X and rewind a few seconds back to better time your jumps. This may seem too easy but it is not because it’s not just a saving move, you actually need to work with time in order to do things which will allow you to grab a piece of the puzzle. It’s a bit hard to explain on paper but you will get the hang of it in a heartbeat. Braid is the essence of a design that is very simple yet requires a lot of thinking to get what you want.
Also each world will add new features to the use of time but it would be spoiling if I told them to you because half the fun is discovering them for yourself (please don’t watch YouTube videos, I urge you).
You will truly appreciate the genius and thought that came in some of the mechanics in the game.

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Wow…that’s how I felt when I finished the game. You think you know, you try to glimpse. But you have no clue. Do yourself a favor, if you didn’t play the game through to the end. Leave your computer and go do it now. The final stage is a stroke of genius the likes of which I haven’t seen in a while…. in fact I’m not sure I ever saw anything quite so amazing. Your jaw will drop. It will make you think for a while.
The story of the game I will not really go into for two reasons. One i would be quite the asshole if I spoiled it for you. Second, no one knows! there are several stories intermingled, probably more than we even thought about and Jonathan Blow himself has said that he wouldn’t ever tell us because there’s no straight answer. Often times such a statement is a gimmick from a guy with a lack of a clear vision. Not so here, to say that Blow lacks vision is a pure lie and the game truly cannot be explained with one story. And the simple fact that there are so many people discussing what the story really is is a testament to the ingenuity of the plot.
The story is told through books laid out at the beginning of each world and all are written beautifully and are a joy to read and try to decipher. I can say that the ‘main’ (read basic) plot seems to follow you (Tim) as you try to find a Princess and features a few testaments to Super Mario Bros… But as you go…you’ll see, and it will be eye-opening.

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Braid is the kind of game that comes once once every 10 years. A perfect union of the different aspects of a game to form a perfect game. There are so many details that will escape even the most cunning player (check the different flags the end of each world for example). People have been complaining that the game is too expensive… it was 1,200 Microsoft Points when it came out and I think it’s now down to 800. These people have no clue, the game would be worth every penny and more at 1,200. Even budget boxed version of the game for $30 wouldn’t be overpaying for the game. Go buy it now!
Meanwhile I’m off to buy the Braid Premium Theme for my 360. Woohoo!

March 25, 2009 Posted by | Video Game News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RetroBeats RPG Tour Year 1 – Final Fantasy Out!


Newest session of my new RPG Tour fromat on Retroware TV. I’ll be covering several RPGs over the next session to showcase the best music the genre has to offer… and it has a lot!

For this first round we are looking at the infamous Final Fantasy from Squaresoft by the Great Nobuo Uematsu. No introduction needed really so…

…check it out.

March 25, 2009 Posted by | retrobeats | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Theft Auto IV Thoughts and Destructoid Appreciation

gta-iv_animationOK this is not going to be a full review because I fell I would focus too much on what irked me and induce a subsequent flame war which I have no interest in.
The fact is that I just finished the game and that while I thought some aspects of the game were amazing, some were simply awful and one could argue, close to broken.

I loved the reproduction of NYC, the size and feel of the city. I love the voice work which is simply top notch especially when compared to the talentless zombies who dub Japanese RPGs. I thought the firefight gameplay was more than adequate and so on.
On the other hand I thought the sometime ridiculous dialogues went in the way of the realism of the city and story. I was amazed by the awful texture pop-ups as soon as you go above 50Mph in your car and I didn’t appreciate that they forced me to date Kate (Patrick’s sister) whom I had hung up on each time and never called when what I wanted was to have Kiki, whom I saw often and sent me lovely tests, as my official girlfriend.
And last but not least I HATE the stupid checkpoint system which makes you go back to the very beginning of some mission without your original car because you had the bad idea to get out of it before dying….

Told you I shouldn’t review this.

So anyway the point of this post is because I’m just amazed at all the biased hype around this game. I expect it from fanboys but not from the professional press and while the game is certainly not a bad game by any means, some aspects are deficient and it does not by any means warrant a score 10/10 or 100%. At most it should be around 85-90%.
And so I got curious and checked out Meta Critic to see the various review scores. First of all I had to scroll down for a while to go beyond the perfect score (sigh) but also the lowest score was 80 (which seems a fair score) and almost none of the people who gave it 80 seem to be from recognized publications.

that is until I noticed that Desctructoid did give it a score of 80. So I got curious and decided to read there reviews and found out that is was probably the most accurate score tied to a review (for this game at least).
So from now on I will always check out their reviews when I’m interested in a game to see what they think.
Thanks Jim Sterling! (and Nick, Ashley, Anthony and Dale (thanks for the music too!))


March 24, 2009 Posted by | Random Musings, Video Game Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Max Payne 3 Ready for Winter 2009!

01990990It’s back!! the gritty streets, the noir, the bullet-time, the nightmares, the drugs…it’s all back!! It’s been six long years since Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne was released by Remedy to critical acclaim in 2003.

This time Remedy will not be developing the game since they are working (since forever) on Alan Wake, so the game is helmed by Rockstar Vancouver who created Bully. The change in studio can be a bit worrisome but it’s still Take-Two so let’s have faith.

Apparently the game will retain what made it successful but will take place later in Max Payne’s life. Sam Houser said that “We’re starting a new chapter of Max’s life with this game, this is Max as we’ve never seen him before, a few years older, more world-weary and cynical than ever. We experience the downward spiral of his life after the events of Max Payne 2 and witness his last chance for salvation.

Winter 2009 can’t come soon enough for 360, PS3 and PC owners.


March 23, 2009 Posted by | 360 News, PC News, PS3 News, Video Game News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RetroBeats Session 16-18!


For those of you who missed them I’ve released 3 new sessions on Retroware TV. I’ve covered some more rock-oriented tracks, several arcade classics from our past and more recently a little special on Street Fighter IV.

For those interested for the next several sessions I’m going to change the formula just a tad and focus on RPGs in a somewhat chronological order. I hope you’ll enjoy.

In any case go check it out.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | retrobeats | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Curse of Co-Op

Before I get too emotional to control my frustration let me say this: I like multiplayer and co-op like any other person, in fact there are several games in which i missed the lack of a co-op mode and I have been saying with friends for years that some games would be amazing with co-op play.
But what really gets me is that this current trend of focusing on the multi mode, and putting co-op in a game, mostly because it’s trendy and a good box to check out for the powers-that-be, is getting in the way of the actual game and its solo play.

Now let’s not mix apples and oranges. Some games main focus is the online mod and competitive play, mostly involving RTS and FPS. But even those genre do not tend to force co-op down your throat when you are doing the campaign mode.

The reason I am writing this now is because of Resident Evil 5 as you may have guessed. I have always loved the series, I’ve played 1, 2, 3, Code Veronica, Zero, 4… some several times.
I am not a fan of the new, more action-oriented, direction but they remain great games. With the release of RE 5 comes co-op play which is great when you actually use it… but becomes more then an annoyance if you don’t.
Sheva has no clue how to manage inventory, tends to really waste ammo and often gets in your way when you are aiming. Annoying? you bet!
Another game that had badly designed coop gameplay was Lego Batman. Robin would at times almost prevent you from going forward and you would have to plug in a second joypad to make him do what he needed to do.

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Now why would developers implement such broken design choices??
It wasn’t so long ago that the bane of games were parts when you had to protect someone. Remember Emma in Metal Gear Solid 2 (she got what she deserved but still ;)), your sister in Fatal Frame 2 is a useless child as well and there are many more examples.

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Still some games implemented the feature better than other such as Resident Evil 4 and ICO and in some cases the NPCs actually defend themselves and shoot enemies (or whatever might be required of them) but overall it very rarely enhances the game and is something we are glad to be rid of after the sequence is over.

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and now we have those games which basically force a protect mission on you for the whole game which doens’t seem like an adequate game design to me.
Like I said earlier I’m all for co-op but it needs some work and cannot ever be a problem for the solo experience. If a game’s main focus is story and immersion don’t design the whole gameplay around co-op. Or at the very least don’t make game continuation impossible without the partner.
Maybe design the solo campaign so that if there’s only 1 player it is played solo and if someone joins THEN you get the partner. And that partner could either be your friend’s own character for RPG or characters that are already in the game ready to play (like Sheva in RE 5).
Or maybe make the partner someone with a sort of auto-fire feature that doesn’t use ammo (obviously don’t make it overpowered because that could break the game too) so that you don’t have to spend hours moving items in the inventory or realize you are wasting precious ammo.

There are solutions because I know some games that have AI-controlled co-op in games and they work really nicely.
You have the system which lets you control everything the partners do in games like Baldur’s Gate and the recent Dawn of War II. These games feature groups of 4-6 people on average and you can tell each exactly what they should do which results in no frustration since you make the decisions.

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Another option is to have the partners not affect you. In games like Gears of War or Republic Commando you have a tiny group with you and they do their thing, but if they die YOU don’t and you can (depending on the games) either go and revive them right away or have them revive automatically at the next checkpoint. This results in you not becoming frustrated with your peers and creating a brotherhood of equal people.

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I am sure there are other options i am either not aware of or that I can’t remember at the moment. Bur the options do exist. And I will say it again I love co-op play but please please please do not break single player in favor of a feature.


PS: Will be edited soon to add games that feature coop properly.

March 20, 2009 Posted by | Random Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Love Letter to Video Game Magazines

Some of you may have heard of Retroware TV, an amazing website filled with quality content on older games. You may also know that I do the RetroBeats show on there which focuses on game soundtracks.


But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. The new RWTV episode was released today and focuses on video game magazines from the past and also present. The video is a heartfelt look at something that touched us all before the Internet was born. Browsing through the pages and an old Nintendo Power gives to many the same feeling as plugging in our NES to play our favorite childhood games.

I won’t go on for pages but do yourself a favor and check out this video. You will most likely thank me.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Random Musings, retrobeats | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mortal Kombat License Potentially for Sale

midwaybaupd7wyae8g08ss4ggc0w0wobmjlp2zwhi8ko8cgo8wg88ck8th1Chicago-based Midway has been in a heap of troubles for a while now but things are definitely not looking up.  They cut down on 25% on their workforce in December and then more recently filed for Chapter 11.

As a result they laid out plans for what could be the last attempt to salvage the company. the plan includes three options all of which feature rather technical terms that I will spare you from (considering it’s not all that clear to me either) but what you need to know is that one of the options would be the sale of the Mortal Kombat license.

Grim and sad news indeed, especially just around the release of Street Fighter IV. MK Vs. DC didn’t do that well and quite frankly it was probably the last possible salvation for Midway. If they end up selling the license you can be pretty sure that Midway is no more (unless someone decides to buy them outright) because Midway without MK can’t survive.

That being said have said that it is a first draft of a very last resort option so……Finish him!…Friendship?


March 3, 2009 Posted by | Industry News, Video Game News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment