Sunday, April 8, 2012


Limbo is a creepy, disturbing, unique and amazing piece of art. This puzzle platformer only has a few hours of gameplay, but is well worth the purchase regardless. What I find notable is that the developers really understand ambiance. The art is just simple layers of silhouettes. The music is simple, and usually not even there. There story is simple bordering on nonexistent. You just start off somewhere dark and creepy, and wade through mounds of dark and creepy until you reach a dark and creepy end. And STILL, with all this simple going on, the game sent shivers up my spine and kept me hooked the way many AAA 'horror' games completely fail to do. I want to be clear though: the art, music and design, though 'simple', is very well done. The art is gorgeous, music is fitting and the story is all it needs to be. Highly recommended.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cut the Rope

Next up to bat: Cut the Rope.  If you're in the market for a really simple pick-up-and-play game for your phone (I think it's available for both iOS and Android) I highly recommend Cut the Rope.  Your mission: feed a cute little monster who really wants a piece of candy that's always dangling out of his reach, suspended by various styles of rope. The rest of it's pretty self explanatory. Your score for each level is dictated by how many stars the candy collides with in its chaotic journey to the open maw that is the hungry little beast's mouth. At first a simple premise, but like all games of this genre, it get exponentially more complicated as they start messing with physics and introduce new mechanics. Its just the right amount of difficult, not frustrating enough to make you quit, but not so breezy that you don't get satisfaction when you get all stars on all levels. Well worth the $1 it costs.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Swords and Sworcery

Swords and Sworcery is a game for the iPhone that's another great example of innovative and unique independent developers at their best. S&S is a new take on click discovery gaming that ties in a simple swing-and-block battle system, activated by pulling out your sword (turning your phone sideways). The art style in particular is uniquely amazing. Never have I seen such a vague bundle of pixles leave such little doubt in my mind as to what they're supposed to be. Swords and Sworcery also integrates itself heavily with social media; At any point in the game, you can tweet anything you find on your screen tapping endeavors. The language is a creative fusion of archaic story and dudespeak, and the controls are simplistic enough to support gaming on a phone.  Overall, the game is definitely worth the $5 I spent on it, even if it isn't the kind of game I'd usually go for.


I'm going to kick things off by saying that Bastion may very well be the most impressive game I've played in a very long time. It's a perfect example of a game that didn't try to do too much, and therefore did everything exactly right.  The driving force of Bastion's impressive quality is something I really admire in a game: the warm fuzzy feeling that the game wants nothing more than for you to enjoy it (more on that later). Also, there's something to be said about a game where you honestly can't decide if it's strongest suit is the incredibly riveting storytelling style (The game is narrated real-time by a man that I wish I could pay to read me bedtime stories), the stunning art style of a world torn to pieces, or the gameplay that was polished to a mirror sheen that rivals the reflectivity of Picard's magnificent bald pate. 
Game Quality:
So,  more on that quality I was talking about. Many games feel like they're forcing you to enjoy the game by negative reinforcement. Through many small efforts, Bastion feels like everything its doing is for YOUR enjoyment, and if you choose to not utilize a particular aspect, nothing is withheld from you. Example: where most games would encourage you to explore by placing the best items in obscure areas, Basion also makes all the items you missed via exploration available at the 'lost in found' after the level is completed. And guess what? I still explored every corner of every map, cause I WANTED to. Increasing difficulty via the shrine is optional, and for your enjoyment. You are rewarded, but not with anything that couldn't be obtained through other means. Point is, everything you use in the game, you do because you WANT to. I never once felt bullied into using all of the gameplay mechanics, which happens more often than I'd like with most games.

Gameplay Overview:
Since I can't much cover the story without ruining it, and I don't have much to say for the art besides 'holy pretty batman!', I'll take some time to chat about the Gameplay. Bastion is an isometric hack and slash that sports some pretty slick gameplay augmentations. Its weapon collection/upgrade system is simplistic and efficient; Each weapon is unique, and designed to be fun in a different way. While I did have my favorites, I didn't get the feeling that everyone would choose the same weapons. Game difficulty is unique in that it can be controlled via a 'shrine' where you activate different idols, making your enemies more powerful and the rewards more lucrative. The 'distillery' is a new take character upgrades, and is surprisingly complex when it comes to testing different combinations.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Review: Mario Party 9

It's Mario time!

RATING: [3.5/5]

I thought I'd write about something more light-hearted than Mass Effect this time, so I decided I'd do one of my rare reviews. I'm going to talk about Mario Party 9. My boyfriend and I have been playing it a lot lately, and quite frankly it's a lot of fun. There are a couple major flaws with the game, though. We'll get to those in a bit, but first I'd like to talk about what I do like.

No coins/stars system.
I'm sure some people don't like that this has gone by the wayside, but I like that it's new. The coin/star system was getting tired and this is a welcome change. The new mini-star system makes even one mini-star feel important. Coins felt relatively worthless in prior games, and this solves that issue.

Everyone moves together in a car.
This is very weird at first and hard to get used to, but it's actually really awesome. It's really fun trying to figure out ways to screw your friends over, and this makes it a lot easier to do so. Plus, it allows some new dynamics to come into play, like the "captain" (the player whose turn it currently is) and mad dashes away from danger.

Maps are fresh and new.
It's fun trying to run away from rising lava, forcing others to be attacked by sharks, or trying to make it your turn when fighting a boss so that you gain a bonus, and these are just some of the things you can do in the new game. Simply put, the mechanics feel fresh.

All in all, the multi-player party feature is awesome, and makes up for the huge flaws in the rest of the game (though this is probably because you won't often be playing by yourself). Flaws, you say? Oh, indeed so.

Single player is the exact same as multiplayer.
There's not much to say about this except that it's really not that fun. Who wants to play a Mario Party map by yourself? There's a bit of "story" thrown in there, like how you are coming to get Bowser and are going through all the maps to get to him, and Bowser gets angry and sends minions after you. However, the maps are the exact same. The only difference is that your fourth player is Shy Guy, who is playing for Bowser. If he wins, you're screwed. So far, the only benefit I see to playing the single player campaign is earning new characters, which is the ONLY way to do so. Which leads me to...

There's not much to do with your earned mini-stars.
Sure, you can spend them on stuff, but not much. After you buy the one new level or master difficulty for a computer, you're left with different cars to ride in on the maps or star constellations (which do absolutely no good to purchase). I would have liked to see a large character roster that you could purchase with your mini-stars, instead of the current options and a couple extra characters only unlock-able via the story mode.

You still can't play online.
I really thought Nintendo would have added online play this time around since Super Smash Bros had it and did it relatively well, considering the Wii's limited system. Even though the Wii doesn't have a great online gaming system, I still would have played this while Skyping or using Facetime with friends. It would have been a nice addition to be able to play with real people when you have no one to play with at your own house. /Sigh.

The rundown:
The game is a solid installment in the Mario Party series. It's fun, and the multiplayer has a welcome facelift. I just wish the single player did, too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cosplay rage - The frustration and you

I'm well aware that this is generally supposed to be a gaming blog, but I feel strongly that cosplay fits in the realm that *is* nerdy.

I don't know how many of our (what so far, 4?) readers are into cosplay, or even understand what goes into making the beautiful costumes we see at conventions. There is a lot to it, and most of the time, there is more anger than one would probably like to deal with.

To make a good, recognizable costume takes planning, money (some, anyway... depending on how resourceful you may be), time, and patience.

Here's the issue that I'm currently faced with: I have (really) none of the things mentioned above. I planned as well as I could to work around work (full time office job, looking at your roof), and school. I know school wasn't much. It was a math class that I attended two days a week. And here I sit, with less than two weeks until I'm supposed to show off my mediocre seamstress skills as Batgirl (the Stephanie Brown kind) at Emerald City Comic Con.

Now, I'm raging because I clearly didn't figure into the mix that things would probably go wrong. Crafting dates have been missed, materials weren't gathered in a timely manner, and general chaos has gone on.

Crunch time is upon myself and the group of friends I will be attending ECCC with, and it seems to be showing. This isn't really much of an "I have a TON of interesting stuff to tell you about the wonderful world of cosplay" article, as it is a "hey kids, the moral of the story is plan until your head explodes" thing.

I will definitely update as time winds down for my lovely ladies of the DC Universe, so stay tuned for my inevitable rage.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mass Effect 3 & The Kinect

Since Katey has been kind enough to join the not-so-respectable ranks of 'author' for our faux-journalistic escapades, I've decided to strap on my serious(ish) pants and start writing entries as though I actually intend people to read them.

Should you play Mass Effect 3 with the kinect?
Voice Command Guide for ME3

The answer is an ambiguous that depends.

I suppose the easier question to get out of the way is, does it work?  As long as you can manage to ensure that nothing else in the city makes a noise louder than a mild mannered gentleman's ahem while you're trying to issue your commands, you'll find that the Kinect works most of the time. In all honestly it worked better than I expected it to. Granted, I ended up rolling with EDI and Liara because my Kinect apparently didn't like hearing someone else call out Garrus' name, and it absolutely abhored the way I pronounce shotgun, but aside from that it seemed to get the gist of what I was trying to say.

Looking past the actual functionality of the voice commands, a lot of this decision rides on whether you give a rat's ass what your companions are doing while you're in combat.  If you're more into letting them do whatever they want (which is anything from decimating all life to picking their nose in a corner) then the only commands you'll get any use out of are switching your own weapons and using the 4th skill you probably don't have. I found these mildly helpful at best (possibly due the whole shotgun thing) and rarely used them.

Oh, and I guess there's the commands whose only purpose are for shits and giggles.
You can tell Bioware was hoping that using voice command would overwhelm you with that new technology feeling by all the absolutely useless opportunities they give you to use it.  At a doorway, you can say 'open' to do guess what, and during conversations you can recite a line to choose it.  Both of these things are more time consuming and less likely to work than their button counterparts, so the only real purpose of them being there is to make you fawn over how your 360 finally understands you, bringing you one step closer to eloping together.

I do feel obligated to take a moment and say that despite the fact that most of the time it's like trying to walk upriver through mud, reciting lines for conversation does have its advantages when you've decided to busy your hands with something else during those long conversations. Like stuffing your face with food or jerking off.

Now, if you're the kind of player that micro-manages your players, you stand the most to gain. However, how you play the game and what you want out of it still play a big part in whether you'll actually like it. If you're not a fan of real time combat and find yourself wishing whimsically for the days when turn based combat was in vogue, you might not enjoy the perks of a device that allows you shed all need for the menu systems that pause combat, seeing as that's what it was made to do. If the game stopping dead mid-combat doesn't break your immersion, and you honestly like the excuse to take deep breath and collect yourself enough to work out some tactics, you probably aren't going to take advantage of the system. Also, if you're really into the menu system because it provides you with the ability to use 3 skills simultaneously, you'll probably be disappointed with voice commands, seeing as you can only issue one command at once.  2 if you use it in concert with a button.

Alternatively, if a game's ability to 'draw you in' is important, you should seriously consider giving it a go. It's true that I had to repeat myself from time to time, but that didn't seem break the immersion nearly as much as I thought it would. I'd gotten so used to issuing commands vocally that I foolishly started thinking aw shit, they didn't hear me instead of I wish my Kinect would quit being an asshole. Having to sort out tactics hiding behind a box while things were shooting and/or screaming at me, and then having to execute those orders in real time and in a realistic manner well made up for in immersion what it lacked in success rate. I suppose this only works if you're not a cynical ass who refuses to meet anything halfway, so if you aren't going to try to like it, don't even bother.

The technology is new and its obvious, but I still think its a great step forward for more interactive gaming. I'm a big fan of using the voice commands, and aside from a very depressing half an hour when it was too loud to use it, my game never had to stop dead.  It had its issues, but that half an hour without taught me how much I really really enjoyed the system.

Dear Kinect:
Love, Me.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Mass Effect 3's Ending Didn't Suck

Before I get started, I just want to say that I already know this post will be unpopular with a lot of you. I want you to know that I don't care, because I think you're all a bunch of babies. I should also say that these opinions are my own, and not necessarily KT or Amanda's (and certainly none of yours). Now that that's out of the way, I want to talk about why Mass Effect 3's ending didn't suck. Also, before you continue reading, please note that THERE ARE PROBABLY SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN'T BEATEN THE GAME. Of course, if you couldn't figure that out, I can't even...

These are what I have been hearing the most when people complain about ME3's ending:

  • The ending was too short!
  • There was really only one ending since no matter what you chose, the variations were so minute!
  • I didn't like the little boy!
  • I didn't feel like the ending was what MY Shepard would have done! Wah!
  • There wasn't an epilogue for any surviving races! I wanted an epilogue for the quarians and the humans and the turians and the krogan and the asari and the nyancats!
  • I wanted Shepard to live damn it!
  • I jumped on the bandwagon and read that the ending sucked before I finished the game so of course I thought it sucked because I follow what others tell me!
I might have gotten a little mean there, but I'm just being honest. Why don't we look at those one by one?

It was too short.
Really? Really? I loved the series too, from start to finish, but I didn't need to see a whole MOVIE at the end of the game. The whole ending fight was the ending. If you pretend that you didn't fight and that it was a cutscene, then the ending was very long. I remember in Metal Gear Solid 4, you all complained about how the whole thing was basically a movie and that the ending was so long. Now, it's not long enough, even though it was pretty lengthy. There's no pleasing you!

Only one ending.
Okay. Let's make this clear before I continue: yes, I am aware that there is basically one ending, and no, I am not disputing that. What I will dispute is that it's a valid complaint. Why should Bioware have to have a ton of different endings if it's the end of the series (not to mention the other Mass Effect games endings weren't that different from each other anyway)? It's not like it's the middle of a series where anything could happen. It's the conclusion, the final one, and they had a plan in their head for how they wanted it to end. Fans, you do not OWN the series just because you played all three games and have your own ideas of how you wanted it to end. This is Battlestar Galactica all over again, and it's sad. Just because the game didn't end how you thought it would or thought it should have doesn't mean that the ending is wrong. Also, everyone seems to forget that they're supposed to get ONE ending, not five. It's based on what you chose, and there didn't need to be 10 options for those. You have every right to be sad that it ended differently, but you really shouldn't be up in arms threatening to burn down Bioware's building or something. Seriously.

The little boy sucked.
I'm going to make this one short. You all are complaining that it was a little boy. I bet if it took on a different form or was just a voice, you wouldn't complain. All I have to say is that if you didn't realize the little boy was only "the little boy" because Shepard chose to see him that way due to prior events, then you're dumb. Moving on.

My Shepard wouldn't have chosen any of the end options.
Oh really? Your Shepard? Shepard isn't yours. Shepard is a character, created by Bioware, and they gave you the amazing ability to control him/her while still limiting your options to the story line, and they did no differently here. Then again, I feel like the only people complaining about this specifically are the people who created a Shepard so evil that they would have punched the little boy and let the reapers kill everyone. That, of course, makes no sense as a legitimate option since Shepard would have given up long ago if he/she wanted to let everyone die.

I wanted epilogues!
This is the only one I am remotely sympathetic towards, because everyone wants to see what happened afterwards. However, I still don't think this is an argument worth fighting for. Mass Effect is a very cinematic series, obviously. The ending itself was cinematic. It ended like a movie, people! It ended with the final, sad scene and then rolled credits with a surprise at the end (and you DID stay to see the end, didn't you?). Plus, the ending was already relatively long. You wanted epilogues with all the races? Really? Because that would take an hour. If your argument is that they could have shown the important races, well, who's to say what race is important? What if my favorite race is the krogan, but the endings were for the turians, asaris, and humans? I'd be more upset than if there were no epilogues, and you would be too. You'd be up in arms, just like you are now. So calm the fuck down.

Shepard died.
Yes, Shepard died. Deal with it. It's the end of a series, and it felt right for his/her story line to come to an end this way. If at the end everything was completely happy, we'd have complainers about how it wasn't realistic and how the series can't end with everyone happy and going about their lives. What was important about the ending is that Shepard had to choose between some VERY difficult decisions, and Bioware had every right to make this the ending if they felt it was the most appropriate option.

I hate it because everyone else does.
I swear at least half of you fall into this category. Let's face it, this is the internet, and the internet tends to cause bandwagoning. I bet if that same half didn't read anyone's comments before and instead just played the game and came to their own conclusions, most of them wouldn't hate it.

Now, why I liked the ending.
Look guys, I liked the end of Mass Effect 3. I really did. I felt like everything was appropriate and everything was explained to a satisfactory level. I was sad and emotional during the entire ending. It was with great heartbreak that I made the decision that I did as Shepard, and I liked that the game ended there. It felt right, as I was controlling her throughout the entire series. Her life ended, and so my experience should also end. I also liked the ending because although this is the last game in the actual series, the way it ended leaves it open for more games to occur in the same universe. Maybe we can have a new set of problems with a new hero! Maybe you'll get to be whatever race you want! Maybe it'll be set 3000 years in the future with a new race! The beauty of it ending the way that it did is that it leaves the door open for so many more things. 

I'm (sort of) sorry for being rude, but I am so sick and tired of people getting up in arms about things not ending the way they felt it should end. Maybe you should write a game series and set events how you want them to. But, you didn't write this one. So, as Chris Crocker said about Britney, leave Bioware alone!


New Bawkables Writer!

Hi guys. I promised I'd get something up here and introduce you to myself. My name is Katey, and I'm a new writer for Bawkables! I grew up in the same town as Amanda and KT back in the day, and like them, I've been gaming forever.
   To give you a quick rundown of who I am and what I like: I grew up in the pacific northwest, in a small town in Oregon, and lived in Portland for many years before moving to Seattle for a little bit to work. I love gaming, though my first console was a Playstation 1. I DID play a lot of PC games before that thanks to my dad and always having a modern PC in the house. I grew up playing a lot of platformers and JRPGs, but my current favorite type of game to play is an action-RPG. 
   When I'm not playing games or out doing something, I usually watch tv with my boyfriend. I just finished taking him through Doctor Who and also Battlestar Galactica. We're trying to get through Caprica and Firefly next. My guilty-pleasure TV shows are Glee and New Girl. I know. Shut up.
   As for what I'll be writing on the site, it's going to be mostly editorial pieces and previews for upcoming games. I don't have the time to actively review games and, due to school, it usually takes me a while to beat them too. 
   Nice to meet you :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Old Republic : Master and Apprentice System

A thought about the Master and Apprentice System
"Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it."
―Darth Bane

I have not done any research into the possibility of TOR integrating a system similar to the one I talk about in this entry. It could be that they, in all their infinite wisdom, have something planned just like this. I don't have any knowledge about TOR's plans for the future, and like it that way.  Surprises make me happy. 

I don't know how much I buy into the whole 'rule of two' thing from the Sith, but I do believe that the relationship between a Master and Apprentice is something that gives a lot of depth to the Star Wars universe, Sith and Jedi alike.  

Seraphki - My  Pretty Sorcerer.
For the Jedi, the relationship between Jedi and Padawan has always been represented as a deep bond that is uncharacteristically tolerated in the Jedi world. Teachers of the Jedi way generally have their panties in a twist about letting your emotions obstruct your logic, discouraging indulgence in any sort of personal relationship, lest it confuse your rationality. Or cause fear, and we all know where fear gets you.  However, in the movies as well as many stories in the expanded universe, many dramas revolve around the loss of a Master, betrayal of a Master, ect.  It makes sense, considering that's bound to be the most common source of Jedi emotion, and lets face it: a story without ANY emotion might get old after a while. Think about it: the episode where Spock goes all crazy cause he desperately needs to bang something? Interesting as hell! Chaining down emotions only makes it more interesting when they're unleashed.

Then we have those crazy Sith.  The relationship between Master and Apprentice for the Sith is just good old' fashioned evil fun. I mean, at first glance, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Why in the world would you train someone if, by taking them as apprentice, you update their goal in life to becoming your DEMISE. "Aaarrggg... curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"  However, Sith are crazy evil and therefore their motives can't be rationalized, and that's not the point anyway. The point is, it's a big ol' dollop of opportunity for writers to create all sorts of amusing mayhem.

The goal of this whole rant is to point out one simple fact: The master and apprentice relationship is important to the Star Wars universe.  Therefore, its my belief that it's current representation in TOR is... lacking.  Right now it seems more like a convenient quest dispensing mechanism than anything.

As of now, the storyline provides you with a master (or a few, depending on how many you kill) that does nothing but send you on quest after quest. While some good plot lines come from this, I think it would add some depth if the Master and Apprentice system were player based, and the current 'Masters' were simply high ranking Jedi or Sith NPCs (or whatever) who see you as a convenient source for delegation.

Why in the world do you want this?
Imagine that you're just starting out; You've got a fresh new copy of the game, and you're excited to take on the Universe. You're wandering around the starting area, completing your various quests, and you notice that there are a lot of high level characters around, inspecting the new blood. Imagine there are arenas that you can compete in to prove yourself, and therefore win the favor of a high level character. Imagine having a high level character ask you to complete a quest that THEY invented to prove your worth. You check their card and see that they've successfully trained 3 apprentices, and that they're a very renowned player. Imagine the excitement and realism this would add! Interactions from NPCs can be cool, but I guarantee no NPC will cause the excitement that a player who as established themselves as a badass in the game will.

When I used to play Ragnarok, the first hunter to max his level on my server once helped me out with a quest cause he was bored, and I was lucky. I was SO excited and flattered, being able to say that 'Meepo helped me with a quest!'... Imagine a renowned character taking you under their wing! 

In today's MMO world, interactions from high level characters can be... unsavory. A lot of them couldn't care less about a newbie character, cause the POINT of the game is to make YOURSELF a badass. But if you could help yourself by helping others, and you had to actually act like a human being in order to gain this facet of renown...
I like the idea. Obviously.

Now imagine that your character has grown old. You've seen and conquered the universe, and you've run out of things to do. You've become bored of the arenas, done all the flashpoints, and are looking for something new. Now imagine there is a space on your character's profile, their legacy if you will, that shows how many characters you took as apprentice, and the general proficiency of these characters. A whole new dimension of renown is added to the character, and a whole new opportunity to do things once you've become tired of the rest of the game. Gameplay between two friends would be pushed to another level, the more experienced player feeling responsible for the younger character's progress, since their reputation would be on the line; People without younger level friends would be left to scout low level worlds for good potential Padawans or Apprentices. New titles like Trainer of Heroes start cropping up for people who've trained a certain number of people who have now maxed their levels.  Trainer of Champions for people who have trained a certain number of people who have an arena ranking over a certain threshold.

For low level characters, it adds a level of excitement above and beyond being accepted into a stellar guild. For high level characters, it gives you something to do when you've done everything you can with your character, and you're looking for something else to do to gain yourself some renown.  It just. Makes. Sense.

I understand that there's a really good reason they hobble a high level character's ability to help you level up. I've been in a game before where they hadn't yet instituted such rules, and high level areas would be rife with high level characters spawn-camping all the bosses while low level characters sat around the edges of the map leeching the experience.Without control, too many people abuse the system and the game becomes less fun for those who are there to play for realsies.  However, that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen ever. 

If you were to institute certain restrictions, (e.g. Once you take an apprentice, you can't take another until said apprentice reaches a certain level.) it could be balanced enough to make it fun. Especially if you gave extra motivations to the high level character (Legacy points anyone?)  and integrated special game mechanics for this.

Now, since I'm avidly argumentative, even with myself, I've made many good points to myself about why this wouldn't work.  I've also attempted to argue back.  I decided to write out 2 of those arguments, for funsies.

Wouldn't that kill those carefully plotted storylines they came up with?
But Amanda! I say; Wouldn't this severely effect how the current storyline unfolds? Good question other Amanda! While this is a good point, my rebuttle is that a lot of your interactions with the current NPC 'Masters' aren't unique or personally involved.  Admittedly, I haven't played through all of the class storylines, but it seems to me that the characters assigned to be 'Masters' for your characters act as much like your masters than the random people you encounter in town that ask you to do things for them.  They never accompany you on missions, (though, to be fair, for the Sith this might be more accurate) and they rarely teach you anything. They just have you do their bitch work. Hell, the guy who teaches you skills is a random ass dude in the nearest temple. I feel these characters would be more suited to being cast as politicians within their respective fields, taking an interest in you as a way to gain favor or popularity within whatever political system they're batting for. For example,  in the Jedi world, this could mean a member of the council who has taken a special interest in you.

I think it would be much more interesting if your 'Master' was a player character that could either send you on quests (much like you send your current companions on randomly generated BS quests) or go with you to accomplish other quests assigned by NPCs. Said character could also be your 'trainer' for new skills, and all you'd need is another section in your companion window. (You could even pay THEM for it: more motivation for high level characters)

What if nobody likes you enough to be your Master?
There is already a companion system, use that to make a dummy-master. Dun. If you had a 'dummy-master' to start with and then picked up a player character master, you could either kill your dummy-master (if you're a Sith) or just tell your master to meet you on Alderaan for a cup of tea and then never meet them (if you're a passive agressive Jedi).

You do realize there are more than just Jedi and Sith, right?
Yeah yeah, but Jengo had Boba, and Luke threw around the word 'cadet' which I think suits other classes perfectly. It still applies. (Grow your own Chewbacca kit!)

I'm tired of writing now.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Oh look, more shit to climb on.

I'm going to make this short and sweet, since I'm on my lunch break.

It's a little overdue, but I played through Uncharted 3 a while ago. I'm a huge fan of platformers/adventure games, and the Uncharted series is no exception. While it usually takes me a bit to get used to the shoosting over-the-shoulder combat style, I really enjoy it. Naughty Dog improved on the combat system yet again in this game, focusing more on melee. Even though I didn't play through a ton of it, the melee reminded me a lot of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Drake is throwing and dodging punches, and finishes with a dramatic, slowed down knockout (or kill, since he's clearly a mass murderer at this point) blow.

The platforming felt the same as the other two installments. Don't know where to go? Look at the wall, there's probably some slightly different colored bricks to be used as hand-holds. CLIMB ALL THE THINGS!

I apologize for not remembering a ton of the story details, as I played and finished this game very close to it's release in November. It's been a while... Maybe part of the reason for that, other than my truly awful memory, is that the story just didn't grip me as much as Uncharted 2's story did. In that game there was all the adventure (duh), drama (both romantic and not), and the intensity of the journey Drake goes through to find his treasure. This title HAD the adventure, and a little bit of the drama, and yeah the intensity, but it seemed to be lacking something. I will admit that the desert part where Drake kinda loses his marbles was pretty cool, but I wasn't as into it. I honestly think that, and one other part (which I won't go into, for spoilers sake) were the only real parts of the game where I was thinking "oh god, this shit is crazy."

Once again, the graphics, and imagery in the game were stunning. The artists should probably get a medal, or at least a gold star. The environments and the characters were VERY well done. They even fixed Chloe's terrifying eyes. (Her eyes looked super weird, like she was some scary demon trying to suck your soul out.)

I'm running out of time on my lunch, so I think I'm done for now. All in all, I really did enjoy this game, I just think that Uncharted 2 was the best out of the trilogy.

TL;DR - Great, beautiful game, but not as strong as 2.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Ubisoft's Prince of Persia : Epilogue

RATING : [5/5]

So this is the DLC for Ubisoft's Prince of Persia game. It came out a long time ago, but I haven't gotten around to playing it in a while. My discovery of it was a mingling of joy and frustration. Joy at there being more Prince of Persia, frustrating cause my beautiful 1000/1000 achievements all of a sudden became 1000/1250.  I'm a pretty big fan of the whole Prince of Persia series, and I think this one was my favorite. I (obviously) played it to exhaustion.

I don't really want to go on - but I've now completed the DLC and have 100% of the achievements once again *flex*.

The story was an epilogue (whoda thought?) of the main story. It takes it a little bit further, and give you a nice cliffhanger. Didn't really answer any questions you had at the end of the main game, but definitely hinted stronger at the possibility of them making another game.

Gameplay and everything was just the same, was just one last chapter.
All Excellent, all reccomended.

Yada yada.

[TLDR] Me Gusta.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Uncharted : Drake's Fortune

RATING : [4/5]

KT has been playing wing-woman for this game for a few years now. Yes, I know, its exactly my type of game. It's a platformer, likes to adventure, charismatic personalities, lots of shooting things, likes long walks on the beach, and has a story somewhere between Indiana Jones and National Treasure. On paper, I could marry it.  And now that I've jumped into bed with it, I can say it wouldn't be the worst idea I've had.

I'm not 100% IN LOVE with the game. I mean, I like like it, but I dunno if I like like LIKE like it. I did rush it a little bit, and I have been going into mass overdrive with the games lately, so I feel like any hesitation I might have for it might be the worry that I'm pregnant from some other game.

Shit just got weird.

Anyway, the series might be on par with my love for the Prince of Persia series. Especially since there are some from that series that are just 'okay'. In any case, it can hang out in my 'preferred series' pile.

I'm obviously in an odd place to be writing right now (Whats that floating in my drink?) so I'll try my best to battle my pleonastic ways, and attempt a laconic entry. (Though I seem to be off to a bad start)

Well done, considering how long ago it came out. There were some obviously awkward bits, but that's to be expected. Environments are well done. People are a bit shiny though. I know, I know, 'welcome to early next-gen art'. Meh.

Platformer + 3rd person shooter.  Prince of Persia + Gears of War. 
I wish it was more platformer/puzzles, less shooter, but it was fun anyway.
They set up the achievements trophies pretty well; it was hard to ignore the clamour of my completionist side, attempting to coax me into a second playthrough on easy in order to obtain the missing ones... but since I'm trying to get as much PS3/Wii gaming in as I can before I leave, I'm going to continue on.

I was very pleased that among my very first trophies were: 10 Headshots, 30 Headshots, Kill 50 with Pistol, 100 Headshots.  *Gaston-ian Grin*

Anyway. Oh yes, of course, as with many/most platformers, I couldn't help but scoff at the utter convenience of it all. I realize that's something that's difficult to combat, don't get me wrong. It just makes me scrunch my nose a bit. I do my best to tell myself that there are billions of adventurers out there who DIDN'T have a convenient rope hanging down next to the convenient stone moulding that would be reachable but for a conveniently half-destroyed pillar... but obviously those poor suckers died of starvation, and no one wants to hear THAT story. So we're hearing the story about the guy who not only was a badass, but was SUPER lucky.
It helps a little.

Good level design. They did a good job circling the environments and reusing the same rooms without getting boring. Some games don't pull that off gracefully, or they don't try it at all and just spend a shit ton of money making a linear environment that never doubles onto itself.

Like the story. The main character is a little unbelievable, but if you just relax your brain and don't think about it too much, you can enjoy his delightful charisma. The 'partner in crime' reminds me of Bruce Campbell's character in Burn Notice, which isn't a bad thing.  The chick is spunky, but pretty generic.  
Plot is good. Follows your cookie-cutter tomb diving experience, but those are enjoyable, so no complaints.

Alright, I'm done. 

[TLDR] Good game. If you think you'd like a 3rd Person Shooter version of Prince of Persia with an Indiana Jones-esque story, go for it. Took me less than 8 hours to take down, so you're not betting much.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mass Effect


I'm pretty tired, so I'm going to make this kinda quick...

With the impending release of Mass Effect 3 just around the corner, I have made a vow to play through Mass Effect 1 and 2 (yet again) on the XBox 360. If you know me, you know that I am MUCH more of a Playstation 3 girl, and generally don't even turn on my XBox, unless I have people over, and want to play something silly like Dance Central. I don't like the controller, and I'm not particularly a fan of the user interface on the dashboard. But that's neither here, nor there.

I went into starting this game, fully aware that Bioware made significant changes in the second one, so I expected it to be a lot different. And I was NOT (but kind of a little bit) disappointed. I absolutely hate the sham of a cover system, and the combat in general feels very stiff. As far as I can tell, (because I've mostly had the volume turned down, and keep getting distracted by Amanda playing other games on a TV not six inches away from the one I'm playing on) the story and writing are still very well done.

I'm only about 4 hours into the game, and keep getting very frustrated, to the point of almost rage-quitting. BUT, I am determined to get through this game, just so I can move on to the delight that is Mass Effect 2.

We'll see how this goes, I suppose.

I'm going to bed now.


I finished the game.

Summary of my feelings towards it: eh. While I am happy with myself for playing through it, I can clearly see that Mass Effect 2 is the superior of the 2 (so far) installments. My rage concerning the combat and cover systems subsided as I continued playing. I had to stop myself from doing the side missions, and just focus on the story multiple times, but part of me wishes that I would have done a bit more. /shrug... maybe later.

OH YEAH! And (because I didn't think to ask before...) I now know what Joker's deal is. Finding this out definitely makes his little bit in ME2 WAY more epic. I <3 Joker.

On a fairly related note... After I finished ME1, I thought to myself "hmmm... I think I'll continue this Bioware/Mass Effect obsession, and play through ME2 on the XBox as well." So ventured forth into the Terminus systems yet again, on my way to saving the galaxy. I was well into the "Archangel" mission, when I was overwhelmed by too many mercs, and died. SOMETHING happened... whether it was a demon, the weather knew I was taking a snow-day from work, or the XBox became sentient and got hungry, and figured it was a good idea to eat my progress, preventing me from continuing. Regardless of WHAT it was, I'm mad at it. I HAVE the achievements for the bits that I played, but there is no longer a save file for ME2.

THIS is one reason for my continuous love for the Playstation. *knocks on wood* (hehe... wood...)

AHEM... I'm probably rambling now...

TLDR - ME1 is a great game with its flaws... Not as awesome and epic as ME2. I raged for a bit.


Heavy Rain

RATING : [4/5]

For those of you that know me, that's NOT a reference to my boyo, but reference to a point in the game where you're looking for your son, and the only thing you can do besides wander around is press 'X' which makes you yell 'JASON'. And you do it a lot.  
You had to be there.


There are a few qualms that I have with the game, but let's start with what's good about it: the story. And, rightly so. Its pretty  much what the entire game is about.  This isn't your average videogame, where the gameplay is the point. Its a different take on what a videogame should be; its more an interactive movie than anything. Its like when you were a kid, reading those choose-your-own-adventure goosebumps books. Throughout the story, there are many decisions you can make, and things you can screw up that effect things in ways you wouldn't even think of.

The story is about a serial killer : the Origami Killer. It kind of plays out like an interactive episode of Criminal Minds. The serial killer kidnaps kids and leaves them to drown in rain water. You've got 4 characters: an FBI Guy with cool Minority Report toys, A dorky and possibly crazy father whose kid has been kidnapped, a chubby but likable alcoholic of a Private Detective, and an sexy insomniac Journalist lady whose personal boundaries are questionable. You don't know who the killer is, and I honestly had no idea until the end. Most of the time, watching shows or movies of the same genre, I like to pick out who I think the killer is. I'm generally pretty good at it.  I guessed a lot in the game. And, looking back, I have that begrudging respect for the game, as I realize how obviously it led me to false conclusions. It's a great story, and if you like murder-mystery type stories with a hint of criminal psychology, you'll probably dig it.

Many games have branching storylines. Unfortunately, with most of them, you can tell exactly when they're going to branch and what will happen when you make the decision you make. Heavy Rain does so well at hiding those branching points that its nearly impossible to tell what will and won't effect the storyline. And even when you do spot them, you don't know what effect it will have in the long run. They've done such a good job, I spent the entire game convinced that every single button I pressed lead down different path. It's probably not true... probably... but the point is, I don't know. It gave me the distinct impression that there are thousands of different branches of storyline. Hell, KT spent most of the game telling me how she'd ended up doing a bunch of things different, and how there were areas I'd gone that she'd never seen, and vice versa. 

They also implemented a pretty good game feature : no game over.  No matter what happens, you can't just go back to the last save and try again. There is no save, its all autosave. Whatever happens, the story keeps on rolling. You fuck up and die, that's part of the story now. If you're quick on the draw you can restart the console, but its generally more fun to just ride it out and see what happens.

The game is one big quick time event. There isn't much gameplay to speak of, aside from that. You walk around and wait for prompts. Then you follow the prompts. Sometimes you have to be quick as hell to pull it off, sometimes its frustratingly misleading. But that's just about all there is for gameplay. While I generally like more gameplay than that, it was still pretty enjoyable. Some of those quick time events got INTENSE.

Some minor complaints:
A lot of it is fixed camera.  While it might be nostalgic to be brought back to the days where a camera-switch results in me walking in awkward circles because down just became up, its not a nostalgia I necessarily ENJOY. Walking is kind of like driving a boat, instead of pressing right to go right, you press right to FACE right, and then hold a trigger to walk. Its awkward. I understand WHY they did it (looking around triggers many event options, so they wanted the ability to look without walking) but that doesn't make it less awkward. And last but not least, there are a lot of times when you've got a bunch of options in front of you. Unfortunately, instead of these options being spelled out, they're represented by a plethora of optional buttons. Sometimes these are obvious. An arrow on a glovebox probably means that if you press that arrow, you'll check the glovebox. However, sometimes they're MUCH more ambiguous, and you end up doing exactly what you were trying to avoid doing. About the time that THAT happens is about the time you remember that awesome 'no save' feature and glare at the screen for a while.

Oh yeah, and replay value up the wazoo.

[TLDR] You like Criminal Minds? Or Bones? Also those choose-your-own-adventure Goosebumps books?  Give it a go. Doesn't take too long to beat.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mass Effect 2


After many of my friends telling me to play it, and being disappointed in me for NOT playing it, I sat myself down, and finally told myself that I was going to play through Mass Effect 2, whether I liked it or not. I say 2 because at the time, I may or may not have owned an XBox 360, and didn't care to attempt (for probably the 3rd time) to play through the first one. The PS3 version helped a ton with that, because they gave you an interactive comic that summarized the plot of the first game. So i made my choices in that, and went on with my first playthrough.

Playthrough 1 - Having little experience with shooters in general, (aside from my Uncharted 1 and 2 playthroughs) I went in being pretty terrible at the combat. Luckily I quickly got used to it, and started to greatly enjoy the game. Honestly, there wasn't a lot I DIDN'T like about it.

I decided that I was going to be nice-ish the first time I played the game, and while it made for some pretty good dialogue, I found that I usually wanted to make the "bad" decisions. I saved that for the next playthrough though. I definitely enjoyed some team members' story-lines than others, but I feel like that comes with any story-heavy game.

This was the playthrough that I obsessed over the most, even without my ass-hole conversation choices. I went to ALL of the planets to do my probing (hehehe), and did as many side-quests as I could find, minus the DLC (again, saved that for later).

I think the silliest part of the game, was when it came time to "romance" one of the team members. I love the shit out of Garrus, so clearly, that's who I chose, and it was the best. He was super awkward about it, saying things like "I'm going to do some research to figure out how this is going to work." I tested his reach, and he tested my... flexibility. I LOL'd.

In the end, I only lost one party member, and it was because I did her loyalty mission too close to another's, and she ended up hating me. But I thought "whatever, i'll just make sure everyone stays alive during my next playthrough."

Playthrough 2 - THIS was the fun one. I decided to be the jerk that everyone loves to be, and go full Renegade. Kicking people off super tall buildings, punching stupid reporters... Who DOESN'T love that?! I didn't get super obsessive this time, since I just wanted more. I DID, however, play the DLC, minus "The Arrival." (I'm still working on it... leave me alone.) While "Project Overlord" was fun, I was WAY more into "Lair of the Shadow Broker." The story was just more well done, and left you with something to work with when Mass Effect 3 comes out.

While I loved MOST things about this game, there was something that made me want to throw my controller every time. THE FUCKING HUSKS. I don't know what it was, but every time i came upon the buggers, I died multiple times. Whether it was just my lack of coordination, or the classes that I picked, the bastards killed me, over and over. Oh well. I still conquered them. :D

All in all, I loved this game, and will play it again, in preparation for the next one.


Zelda : Skyward Sword

RATING: [5/5]

Hooray! A new Zelda Adventure.
I'm a little bias, cause Zelda's my jam, but I'm gonna write about it anyway.

I got the distinct impression that this game was trying to find the middle ground between the Ocarina of Time/Majora's Mask/Twilight Princess art vein, and the Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks art vein. I was worried at first, because Zelda has always been a specific thing to me. I don't feel the want or need to play the Wind Waker art vein because the art style bothers me. For me, that's just not Zelda. I don't doubt its a great game, that's just me.   In any case, any worry I had pretty well evaporated. I like the art style for Twilight princess MORE, but I'm was pretty comfortable with the art style in this game. Except the birds, those things look dorky as hell.

There is something I'd like to mention about the art style that I appreciated was:
Every game has to deal with the fact that they can't make the entire visible environment high-res all the time. The stuff in your immediate vicinity has high resolution textures and models, but as things get further away, they become more and more vague. This is a wonderful feature that makes games run faster. however, not all games do it gracefully. Some use plane-clipping, which make the world look like it ends at a hard line not too far away. Some use a fog. Some make sure the environments are so twisty, you can't see too far in front of you, therefore they don't really have to deal with it. Some of these work better than others, but a common problem many of these methods have, is that its usually fairly obvious when something makes the transition from low-res to high-res models and textures. Zelda managed a technique that, in my opinion, elegantly took care of both these issues. They environments have a distinctly 'paint blotted' look to them. Most of them look like paintings. The further back the environment, the more 'blotted' it looks. I suspect that because of the nature of the textures, its less obvious when they 'pop' from low to high res, but maybe they also found some really efficient code to hide it. Either way, it looks great.  Also : I'm pretty near sighted, and the way stuff looked in the distance isn't too far off from how things look when I have my glasses off. I appreciated that.

Dear lord. Where to start.
So, the levels and the puzzles were pretty Zelda standard, so I won't go too deep into them (haHA. Multiple entendre) They were delightful as always, with the standard  items/weapons plus some new shiny ones. Long story short, delightful.

Okay, on to the new stuff: FIGHTING MECHANICS.
So, Twilight Princess started to capture the joys of sword fighting with the Wii mote (when done right). Skyward Sword perfected it! (Mostly).  The position of Link's sword is a direct translation of the Wiimote. The direction you slash is the exact direction he slashes. And, even more to the point: it MATTERS.  The enemies all have some sort of guard to them, and you can only hurt them if you slash in a certain direction. And wait, it gets better. Some of the enemies are intelligent enough to block in a relevant direction: so if you're holding you sword to the right side of your body, they'll block in that direction, making it more difficult for you to get an opening. Its such a delightful way to fight!  I also admire that you cant just hold up your shield, you have to time your shield to parry their attacks. If you trigger your shield at the wrong time (which you do with the nunchuck in your left hand, of course) then they damage your shield, which sucks cause they can break pretty easy. So you have to think about the fight legitimately.   

The ONLY complaint I had with the fighting mechanics, which is something I'm not sure they could prevent, is that it tends to pick up your 'pre-swing' movement (moving the wiimote to the left side of your body for a left-to-right swing) as an actual sword swing, and missing your actual swing completely. This is a pretty big deal when you're fighting something that's blocking you with an electrified weapon that zaps you whenever you touch it. In any case, it just took a little adapting on my part. You have to treat the wiimote LESS like a sword and flick instead of swing. 

In any case, the fighting mechanics are delightful, and for the last boss, I had to stand up and get into it cause the sword fighting was so fun.  Big thumbs up.

The story is very enjoyable, and even moreso if you've played the other Zelda games. (Especially OOT and Twilight Princess) It keeps dropping certain story pieces and names that make you think its going to tie a bunch of the games together.  I'm not going to give away whether it does or not.  However, aside from all that, the story itself is quite enjoyable =) Good immersion, not as many story pieces/game mechanics that are just convenient to advancing the story as you'd find in many games of this genre. 

Anyway, I'm done writing, though I feel like there's much more I could say.

[TLDR] Generic Zelda Wonderfulness + DELIGHTFUL new fighting mechanics = play it NOW, especially if you're a Zelda fan.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Zelda : Ocarina of Time

 STATUS : [COMPLETED] (??? Times)
RATING : [5/5]

Just played through this again on the N64 in an 'Ocarina of Time Race' vs a friend of mine. I won at 13 hours, though she put up a pretty great fight. =)

Ocarina is the first game that REALLY kick-started my love for videogames. I remember sitting on a friend's couch, watching her brother battle Queen Ghoma, and being scared and enthralled all at once. It was delightful. I'd dabbled in some games before that point, but OOT is the first time I distinctly remember thinking that videogames were going to be a significant part of my life.

The art is delightful, and even after all these years, it's aged gracefully. There are many old games that continuously bludgeon you with the broad side of their 'out of date graphics' stick.  They are the crazy cougars in leopard print tube tops and shiny tights to OOT's adorable and tastefully dressed grandmother who always feeds you cookies whenever you're around.

The charter design has always delighted me. I've heard many say that the Zelda series doesn't much get off on originality. They'd rather pick up an old character, dust it off, give it a different coat, and shove it in the new game as a new character instead of creating a new one.  They might be right, but regardless, I've always enjoyed every character in Ocarina of Time. From the overweight entrepreneur who really understands supply and demand: selling you his snacks for progressively disturbing amounts; to the bickering twins who are whatever age suits them best, and don't stop their squabbling for something as trivial as death. From the musically adventurous and conveniently helpful scarecrow family, to the over-sized Dodongo who wanted nothing more than to spend his life rolling around like a ball, but was dubbed 'King' because of his size and now has to deal with stupid kids invading his space... well, some of their stories are implied. Point being, there are plenty of rich characters running around the game.

The game design is delightful. Simple but elegant fighting engine. Simple but elegant puzzles. Levels are really well designed, with wonderful level progression (except for that stupid Shadow Temple that just HAD to have that stupid ship, making you walk a LONG way if you have to leave near the end to 'fairy up'... Yeah I get it, its awesome, but its a bitch of a walk) and puzzles just difficult enough to make it interesting.

The story is classic and worth experiencing. Very simple, straightforward, and still good to experience. A lot of games in this generation are centered around interactive storytelling. You make the choices and evolve the story. I'm a big fan of it, but at the same time there will always be a special place in my heart for linear games that read like a book. I know I'm not Link, I'm just experiencing Link's story. And I like his story.

I feel like I have so many things I'd like to say about it, but I'm going to stop there because I would really rather go play videogames than be writing right now.

[TLDR] Its a classic. Just play the damn game already.