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2010 catch-up: Gaming

Posted: January 5th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

The most fun games we played in 2010.

Picross 3D
I love the original Picross in a rather pathetic manner, replaying it at least 3 times now. It’s basically a puzzle game, a bit like a cross between Sudoku and Minesweeper. Anyway, I bought the new game for the plane trip to Japan and it’s very addictive. Instead of working on a flat grid, you now knock away cubes to reveal an object. I say ‘object’ as if these are in any way recognisable – even once they colour it in and go ta-da! I’m usually going oh, yes, it’s um… OH ‘man looking through window’, of course. Still fun though. Even better, each completed ‘object’ is added to one of many themed landscapes, and again, I say ‘themed’ like they’re not totally hilarious stuff like ‘things with sharp edges’, ‘things that come out when it rains’ and my favourite ‘things required for relaxing by a fire’. The in-game music is also so incredibly brainwormy, I can quite literally whistle the songs from memory. I do however, have one very big problem with this game, which is that they’ve tried to fun it up by having a…a…one-eyed cubeduckchickalien (srsly, WHAT IS THIS?!) around at all times being weird and wrong. The sarcastic way it double-takes when I complete a level makes me want to punch the screen. Also, I bet they’re really regretting the 3D title now actual 3D gaming is all but upon us.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
I got a bit hooked on running round Venice sticking knives into people in AC2, and this one is based across the whole of room so it’s TOTALLY MASSIVE and great fun. (Stu Fowkes)

It’s the middle of the night and I’m sheltering in a tiny log cabin that I hastily built myself.  Inside, the only light comes from the furnace in which a few logs are smoldering.  Through the sole window there’s just enough of a moon to see the falling snow, the outline of the hills in the distance, and something that’s moving around out there.  I’m cold and hungry, I daren’t leave until the sun comes up, and I’ve just experienced the strongest sense of place that I’ve ever received from any videogame, never mind one written by a single developer, which is not even finished, and has graphics that, from some angles, can look like products of the 16-bit era.  If I ever get my finger out and start writing properly again I might do a full-length piece singing the praises of Minecraft but for now you’ll just have to trust that it makes all other videogames seem silly and pointless. (Alex McChesney). The 2042 hack is where you can go to make the game extra fun.

Angry Birds
Always Angry Birds. Although Cut The Rope, for a while, was a close second. (Simon Minter)

FIFA 2010
In January I bought my friend’s Nintendo DS from him and proceeded to buy a number of games for it off the internet but in the end I only really got around to playing FIFA 2010 with any regularity (I never even took WWE out of the box). For what is a handheld console the information held in the programme is astounding and the game play impressive and fluid as it proves for me the best revision tool towards football while allowing me to conjure up crazy results in peak performances for my beloved Millwall. (JGRAM)

Sushi Cat
Basically a bit like pinball, but with a fat cat and lots of sushi. The cut scenes are hilarious and provide both backstory and important situations that require becoming very fat through the eating of sushi. The gameplay itself is really fun but not too difficult, great for short breaks. Plus they released a sequel recently, and it’s still all free. Get it for the iPhone or play it online. (Marceline Smith)

Christmas Catch-up: Gaming

Posted: December 27th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Gridrunner Revolution (PC)
Jeff Minter’s last game “Space Giraffe” alienated as many players as it enchanted thanks to a steep initial difficulty curve and psychedelic visuals that took some time to become accustomed to.  Those who put in the effort found a rich and addictive re-invention of “Tempest”, but they were sadly too few in number.  At first glance, “Gridrunner Revolution” appears to be a step too far the in the other direction.  The latest in his “Gridrunner” series of abstract top-down shooters which dates back to the venerable Commodore Vic-20, all 200 levels of “Revolution” can be blasted through in a few hours by a skilled player, but that would be missing the point.  Playing the game to completion is one thing, but the point is to play it well, milking its complex scoring mechanic for all its worth.  It’s a pity then, that beyond beating your own score there was very little indication of what “well” actually meant.  Thankfully, a recent update has added online high-score tables, making it a different prospect indeed.  If you own a reasonably modern PC and like to see things explode in pretty colours, you owe it to yourself to get over to llamasoft.co.uk and buy a copy.  (Alex McChesney)

Scrabble DS
I am in the unfortunate situation of being part of a family who are really, annoyingly, good at Scrabble, whereas I am just adequate. Playing with them is pretty much torture as they play all those stupid Scrabble words and never open up the triple word score spaces. Thus I have been enjoying Scrabble DS for two reasons – 1) I can play against ‘Arnold’, a slab-faced blockhead who probably can’t spell his own name correctly and will happily leave a triple word score open for two rounds, and 2) there are no penalties for attempting to play non-words, which means I have discovered a whole plethora of new, stupid, unbelievable words (and their definitions!) by just randomly trying out combinations when stuck. I only gave up playing this when I unlocked the final character and discovered it was a living Scrabble tile with a worrying expression. No way was I playing against that. (Marceline Smith)

Dead Rising (Xbox)
Haven’t done much of it this year, but thoroughly enjoyed my time with  Dead Rising on the Xbox. Admittedly I’m a latecomer to it, but it’s DAWN OF THE DEAD THE VIDEO GAME. They should just have put a big sticker with that on it all over the front and it’d have sold more copies. You can mow down zombies with lawnmowers and chainsaws and giant lipstick cases, and it judges the shambling, stupid but inevitably crushing waves of zombies really well. (Stuart Fowkes)

Guitar Hero
Once more my computer gaming experience did not get much further than Guitar Hero, the victorious culmination of which came during the recent ATP and while The Mars Volta were playing in the background I found myself rocking out to “Sunshine Of Your Love” on the arcade version. (JGRAM)

Possibly that was my choice last year, too. (Simon Minter)

So simple. Only one key is used (space bar). The goal is to keep running as long as possible. You run on top of and through buildings while some giant alien robots chase you. It looks great, it sounds great. There really is nothing more to it. I can’t remember the last time I was so addicted to a game, let alone one played in a web browser. Just remember, you can always run farther. Link (Justin Snow)

Left For Dead
I am not one for computer games but the speed with which technology moves blew my mind earlier this year when up in Glasgow. After finishing a band practise, 2 of our troop parted with the words “I’ll speak to you in a bit” and I thought to myself, “wow, these guys are tight. They’re going to call each other up for a chat after practise!”. Nope. They meant they were going to strap on headsets and mics and blow living shit out of (quite racially suspect it has to be said) zombies in Left For Dead. Turns out most of the indie musicians in Scotland can be found doing the same after 11pm at night. Not for me though, I get motion sickness. (Chris Summerlin)

Defense Grid: The Awakening (XBox 360/PC)

Posted: September 21st, 2009, by Alex McChesney

I’ve purchased three games for the XBox 360 in the past month. A two-for-one coupon bagged me cheap second-hand copies of Grand Theft Auto IV and Bioshock from a local shop. Fine games, both, they were developed by large teams and retailed at full price upon release, and neither has had a look in since I spent 800 points (about $10 or £6.80) to download Defense Grid.

Games in the “tower defense” sub-genre are generally pretty simple affairs. A pre-defined stream of baddies march into your base, intent on grabbing some of the resources held there and making off with them. You have a limited amount of cash with which to purchase towers that have various effects on the enemies, the cheapest and most common of which is simply to fire a stream of bullets (arrows, whatever) at them. Killing bad guys earns you more cash with which to build more towers, or upgrade those you have, with the level ending when you wipe out the enemy or all your resources have been stolen. Like the best games of strategy, from a simple rule-set a complex web of interactions and tactics emerges, and because of the relative ease with which they can be developed, they have generally manifested as lightweight “casual” games, or browser-based timesinks like FlashElementTD.

So why spend actual cash money on Defense Grid: The Awakening when you can play virtually the same game for free many times over? Well, for one, the definition of a tower defense game is loose enough that it can be easily screwed up. A tiny imbalance between enemy unit types and available towers could render the game unplayable, or so easy as to be pointless. As you work your way through each level of Defense Grid’s story mode, it becomes clear that a lot of time and effort has gone into the design of the enemies and the towers themselves, ensuring that there is never a single one-size-fits-all solution to any given situation.

But while you can tell yourself that you’re only interested in the intellectual challenge, part of you is still tickled by big, flashy spectacle, something that Defense Grid delivers in spades. The core gameplay may be relatively basic, but it’s presented with the glossy sheen of an expensive mainstream title. Your bases are lonely sci-fi ruins perched among canyons and glaciers, the enemy a horde of alien mechs destined to melt under the concentrated firepower of your laser turrets and cannons. I may be advancing through my thirties, but I still get a little thrill from making a giant alien robot explode prettily, and I expect you do too. Beyond the graphical sheen you also have an amusing AI narrator who sounds to these ears to be a dead ringer for Patrick Stewart, and a serviceable if generic soundtrack.

The main story mode comprises three diverse maps, plus three bonus levels and a stack of rule-tweaking challenge modes. If you’re of a mindset that enjoys a thoughtful experience at the same time as blowing shit up, Defense Grid’s well worth the few bucks being asked for it.

Official Site
Defense Grid on XBox Marketplace
Defense Grid for PC on Steam

Summer catch-up 2009: Video Games

Posted: July 23rd, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Guitar Hero: Metallica
After the horrible disappointment that was Guitar Hero World Tour with its inclusion of far too many wet pop and indie songs, despite the inclusion of “Kick Out The Jams” and one of the greatest Guitar Hero tracks ever, in comparison this is the real deal. I’ve recently read a bunch of worried articles about a generation of kids now buying up “classic” rock and metal and getting into such basic and Neanderthal songs but who wants to be Sigur Ros anyway, I want to fly the V. That said though I have just seen they have released Subbuteo on the DS! [JGRAM]

Resident Evil 5
Because the Resident Evil games have always been an ace idea, but this one REALLY nails it. The graphics are up a notch, the zombie action is relentless, and it constantly finds new ways to surprise/scare the crap out of you. [Stuart Fowkes]

Pandemic 2
There was one I played recently online, Pandemic 2, like Risk for microorganisms. Choose your type (parasite or microbe?) and tactics (high infectivity or low visibility), try to conquer the world (even Madagascar) then wipe out its population. Like Risk, I played it twice then got bored with it. [Stan Tontas]

I haven’t played many games over the last few years – platformers are generally too fiddly and the adventure games of the sort that Lucasarts used to churn out really died a death with the advent of 3D. So it was a pleasure to be recommended and discover this beauty of an independently-made platformer that isn’t all about shooting everything in sight or making that jump by just the right millimetre. Instead you’re immersed in a gorgeous 2D environment that feels a lot like Mario, but plays like a puzzle game: every world changes the physics and your manipulation of time to negotiate the environment. Baddies are very much an afterthought: you can literally rewind any mistakes you might make and shift around between levels if you get stuck. But it’s not so easy: the puzzles you have to negotiate to make progress will make you scratch your head so hard that it bleeds, and then when you’ve found the solution you won’t believe how simple it is. There’s a free demo to download for the PC from the website, or you can get it from Xbox 360’s Live Arcade thingy. In either case, the full game is only a tenner and well worth dishing out the cashola. [Dave Stockwell]

Space Giraffe
I just got myself one of them XBox 360 thingies.  One of the advantages of coming to a games console relatively late in its lifespan is that you can pick up titles from a couple of years ago second hand at rock-bottom prices, so Crackdown and Dead Rising have both been keeping me entertained.  But if I have one recommendation, it’s Jeff “Llamasoft” Minter’s much-maligned downloadable title “Space Giraffe”, which takes apart the classic “Tempest” and rebuilds it as something else entirely.  The visual style takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s very much worth persevering with and learning to see through what appears at first to be an eye-melting psychedelic mess.  Photosensitive epileptics need not apply. [Alex McChesney]

Ancient Quest Of Saqqarah
Much of my time is currently spent slowly completing Ancient Quest Of Saqqarah, a simple puzzle game that’s hugely enhanced by outstanding graphics, touches of humour and a gradually-rising difficulty level. [Simon Minter]

Diner Dash
When I was in Thailand last summer my friend Claire was always playing this but it sounded pretty lame to me. I got a bunch of entirely legal games loaded on to my DS and Diner Dash was included. Having exhausted all the other games by this year, I gave it a go and promptly went a bit mental, in the ‘just one more go and then I’ll make dinner/go to sleep/do some work’ fashion. I eventually hit a barrier at Level 8 of the Retro restaurant where no matter how quickly I served up pizza and what looks like Vienetta to harassed office workers and fuming professors, I couldn’t earn enough tips to move on. Sadly Claire chose this moment to go on holiday for 2 weeks so I gave up, after the 17 billionth try. If I was ever to hear the theme music while standing in a restaurant I imagine I would immediately kill everyone.  [Marceline Smith]

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
I like that I have subconcious bizarre-o karmic timing; every time I’m asked to write something, it happens to coincide with a momentous occasion in my life, something worth writing about. Things like going to festivals, new editions of classic RPGs, sitting in the back of  a police car, and the re-release and makeover of one of my favourite games EVER.

Monkey Island was the first Lucasarts (then Lucasfilm Games, if I remember correctly) Graphic Adventure I ever played.  My GA roots lay with Sierra adventures, which were, in hindsight, illogical, cruel, unforgiving and ultimately unrewarding.  Despite this, I spent hour after hour battling the puzzles and interface to progress to the next poorly executed and ill-conceived challenge.

When MI came along, I was bowled over by the fact that its point & click interface was logical & intuitive, its graphics colourful and cartoony, its music and the much lauded ‘imuse’ system was atmospheric and memorable, and the characters and writing were not only well-developed, but the protagonist, Guybrush, was also lovable and easy to relate to.  It was everything that the Sierra games were not, and gave me hour after hour of enjoyable, rewarding gameplay and laughs;  this game was LOL funny, probably a first in my experience.  Some games had tried and failed to provide laughs (the awful Leisure Suit Larry springs to mind), but Ron Gilbert’s script was packed with laughs, from throwaway lines to running gags, self-referential jokes and set-pieces, every scene provided a smirk or smile.  It was also emotionally charged, with a love interest, Elaine Marley, and a despicable and unforgettable ghost-pirate villain, LeChuck, I was completely immersed by these characters and their stories, to the extent of the final scene of Monkey Island 2 actually reducing me to tears.

Hearing of the remake, I was as apprehensive as I was surprised and excited.  We’ve all seen our favourite movies given a modern make-over, most often followed by ripping out of one’s own hair, or our favourite books become a careless Hollywood pile of crap, and the last thing I wanted was some kind of full 3D pixel-shader 5.0 THX surround sound Quad-Core wank-fantasy total rewrite.  Reading the press-release, it appears to be nothing of the sort:  it’s a shot-for-shot, line-for-line remake, with full voice-over (at last – this was something I hoped for but was denied when the CD edition came out) and every character and background lovingly and painstakingly hand-drawn and displayed in glorious hi-res, and as if that wasn’t enough, the ability to flip back and forth between the remake and the original game at any point, with a single click – it’s that similar.

The release is on 15th July 2009 via Steam, and rather than dreading this day as I thought I would, I’m thoroughly excited and anticipating a nostalgia trip, a flood of emotions and lolz, and kicking myself numerous times for forgetting how to solve a bunch of the puzzles.  I recommend everybody gives this game a try, from old-skoolers to first-timers.  You will fall in love with it. [Greg Kitten]

Space Invaders Extreme (DS)

Posted: August 12th, 2008, by Alex McChesney

Retrogaming is big business nowadays. For years the the digital antiquarian who wished to play yesterdays arcade games had to either own the original hardware, hunt down a dusty seaside arcade that time forgot, or, latterly, download an emulator and ROM images. Recently, however, the industry has woken up to the goldmine that is its heritage, and now it seems that there are as many compilations and “enhanced” re-releases of classic games available both on the shelves and through online channels such as XBox Live and the Wii Virtual Console than there are original games.

The problem with such freely available nostalgia is that it often disappoints. Certainly, one can still spend many happy hours causing suburban havoc on Paperboy, or having your ass handed to you time and time again by the brutally punishing but still, somehow, enjoyable Defender. Some games have a timeless quality that makes them just as enjoyable today as when they were released, despite their technical limitations. Others, however influential they may have been, are more difficult for any but the determined to eke any genuine pleasure from.

For this reviewer, Space Invaders has always fallen in the latter camp. Released in 1978, it’s widely credited with bringing video games into the public eye, inspiring many, many clones, introducing game mechanics that live on to this day, and causing a shortage of 100-Yen coins when it was released in Japan. Indeed, round our way it became synonymous with video games in general – to “play Space Invaders” or “Spacies” meaning to play any electronic game at all. To the modern gamer, however, Space Invaders can be a frustrating experience. Every bit as difficult as Williams’ Defender, it can feel agonisingly slow and offer scant reward for progressing through its identical waves.

Released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the original, Space Invaders Extreme is an attempt to update the game for a modern audience, and manages to do say in a way that’s fun and accessible, while maintaining a sense of continuity with the past. Superficially, the classic “left-right-shoot” mechanic remains in place, as are the advancing hordes of invaders which, aside from now being colour-coded, look just as they did 30 years ago. But such a basic framework has given the developers plenty of room to build upon, introducing bonus levels, boss battles, powerup, and varied formations of invaders. Visually, the chunky sprites play over a variety of psychedelic backgrounds that are carefully rendered so as not to obscure the action and can be turned off if deemed too distracting. Rather than slavishly imitate “retro” sound effects, shots and explosions complement the soundtrack, and the overall aesthetic is closest to trippy cult favourite Rez than anything else.

The original Space Invaders was, as all games of its era, all about getting a high score, and though Extreme does have a level progression, and even an “ending” of sorts, it’s still all about racking up the points. Fans of its ancestor know that it’s a deeply tactical game, with various strategies that can be employed to boost your score. Many of these take advantage of quirks of its implementation rather than deliberate design decisions, and its hard to see the modern gamer having the patience to analyse a game in that manner, so Extreme offers a multitude of bonus opportunities both heavily signposted and obscure, making it a game that can be enjoyed for five minutes aimless blasting or as a focus for the obsessive-compulsive, and online leader-boards give the scoring a sense of purpose, though its in the nature of these things that the top spots will have been filled up with ludicrously high scores by teenage boys with too much time on their hands, and the online two-player modes may be more appealing for the rest of us.

Happily, it doesn’t shoe-horn in use of the DS touch-screen or mic, and most of the time the top screen just shows scoring information, with the play area extending into it for bosses and bonus levels.

Whether Space Invaders Extreme has longevity for those of us who aren’t bothered by online competition is debatable, but it’s a refreshing take on the classic, and is available at a knock-down price if you’re bothered to shop around. A PSP version is also available, which I haven’t played but which I understand is virtually identical, minus the online play mode.

Official Site

23 Nuggets of Nintendo pt 2

Posted: July 25th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

(part 1)


This looked so much fun – an update of the classic SNES games with lots of cool and hilarious new stuff. It really really was fun too, up until the point I realised I still have some inbuilt FAIL at jumping. Now I remember why I spent literally hours on end joyfully watching ex-flatmate and Mario Hero Ally C play Mario 64 and then would go play Zelda myself. Still, this game is so awesome that I persevered for a while, despite the dying 5 times in a row from sheer stupidity, and almost felt some kind of achievement. The addition of GIANT MARIO and teeny tiny Mini Mario is utter amazingness and I really could have learned to love this game. However, whoever decided to only allow you to save after each boss level is my new most hated person and has driven me into giving up entirely. I’m a busy person – I just want to play one level (5 times, badly) and then do something else. What exactly are we losing here by not letting me save after each level? I cannot believe I am hating on Nintendo for making games too hard to complete. The world has gone wrong. I also now wonder how I had the patience to complete all the Gameboy Mario games back in the day – clearly I had a lot more time on my hands. In summary, if you are not a loser you should go buy this.

Instead I turned to this, thinking maybe it will have that Mario awesomeness but be aimed at 4 year olds and thus let you save more often. And indeed, it is a cute but clever gaming experience with lots of Mario related platforming fun. However, it is ruined by a) Yoshi, god I hate him, b) having to carry a baby around at all times who floats off if you bump into anything, c) Yoshi’s big stupid head bumping into everything. I managed about 2 levels before all the cutesy-wutesy clouds and happy flowers graphics started to make my teeth hurt.

Now you’re talking! Who needs jumping when you can learn some useful real life skills like how to skewer an eel, peel a potato and program a microwave, all under the over-enthusiastic and watchful eyes of Mama. This is basically Cooking Mama 1 with new recipes and a million new modes and prizes you will never look at; in some ways an improvement and in other ways just over-complicating things*. On the whole, there seems to be less focus on interminable stirring tasks and taking 3 stages to cut up an onion, and more unexpected bonuses for being super-fast at oiling your frying pan. Just be careful though – one slip-up and Mama will be shooting flames out of her eyes in a rage. She really was not pleased by my pastry wastage making Mama shaped biscuits. Luckily I am great at stabbing eels in the head so we’re getting along okay for now.

To be continued. I am still mostly playing Mario Kart and Pokemon Link tbh.

* I hope you’re impressed I refrained from any over-egging the pudding type phrases here.

23 Nuggets of Nintendo

Posted: July 8th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

While I was in Bangkok (did I mention that?), I purchased a handy memory card for my DS from a nice man in a shopping centre. To my complete and utter surprise, officer, it came complete with 23 full DS games! It was almost like I’d chosen a bunch of games I liked out of a book and then other similar games had been added til the card was full. Amazing.

Anyway, I thought I would give my opinions on these games in a series of posts. Probably not all 23 as a) some I already own and babbled about ages ago, b) the chances of me ever getting bored enough to play Nintendogs or The Urbz are pretty slim, and c) one of them is Tetris.

Pokemon Link
There’s a DASTARDLY PLOT afoot and only you can save the poor Pokemon by using a scientific breakthrough known as ‘lining up 4 matching Pokemon so they disappear into the transporter’. Yeah yeah, it’s a puzzle game featuring Pokemon in a sickeningly cute style. However, this is my favourite kind of puzzle game – one that has an Endless mode that you can literally play until your fingers fall off. And then some – after reaching even my limit of repetitive task fun, I stopped pressing any buttons and it still managed to play itself for a good 5 minutes before the screen filled up. It also has a cool RULES MODE where you have to clear the stages in the correct and logical way, not just by randomly stabbing the stylus around in a panicky way until it all eventually works out, as is my normal method. It’s never going to replace Zoo Keeper but it’ll make a change sometimes.

Mario Kart DS
Okay, who feels like an idiot now. Yes, me. Why the hell didn’t I buy this when it came out? This is literally the best Mario Kart ever. Not only does it have ace new tracks, actually cool new items and a fun mission mode but it also has a full set of 16 retro tracks straight from the SNES, GC, GBA and N64 games. I nearly cried. I pretty much unlocked the whole thing at 5am the other day with jetlag. SO YAY! Wifi play anyone?

Sonic Rush Adventure
Fascinating fact – the first console I owned was a Game Gear and I only ever needed 3 games for it – Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2 and Sonic and Tails. I could play those over and over and over.  Sonic Rush Adventure is clearly no Sonic The Hedgehog but it’s still fun running around levels doing exactly what Sonic always does. Sadly the developers seem to have decided this was becoming too much fun and so they broke it up with the lamest “adventure” story I have ever frantically button pushed my way through in my entire life. I just spent about 30 minutes tediously flamethrowing rocks only for Tails to pipe up that he can’t see any island out here and we should just head back to the village where he can tell me I should really get on the boat and go look for that island. ARGH.

Bubble Bobble Revolutions
I got confused and thought this was Bust-a-Move. Boy, was I disappointed.

Summer catch-up: Video games

Posted: June 26th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

Geometry Wars: Galaxies / Super Mario Galaxy
Geometry Wars: Galaxies is sitting in my DS just now.  I’ve never played the 360 original so cannot compare it, but I’m finding it hugely enjoyable and the control scheme (move on the d-pad, fire with the stylus) works much better that I thought it would.  The DS needs more 2D shooters, so it’s a welcome addition to the library, and great for a lengthy session or a quick five-minute blast.  Also, Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii is a thing of pure joy, and more than makes up for last-gen’s disappointing Mario Sunshine. [Alex McChesney]

Mario Kart Advance / Tamagotchi Corner Shop 2
Having given up on the Phantom Hourglass for the moment due to RSI/intelligence issues, I have been turning to Mario Kart for some quick amusement. It somehow manages to take all the good bits of the Mario Kart series and none of the awful bits and yet be unimpressive. Still, any Mario Kart is better than no Mario Kart so I am still enjoying myself. I can only play one cup at a time though as the button combinations on the DS send your hands into painful cramps after about 45 seconds of play. I also enjoy playing the Sushi Bar shop in Tamagotchi Corner Shop 2, where you have to assemble and dish up the correct sushi and snacks to an endless stream of demanding monsters. The highlight is adding wasabi which has a sound effect that goes WAAAsabi! I can play this for hours. [Marceline Smith]

Coaster Rush 3D
I’m not much of a computer game player these days, but I did get Coaster Rush 3D for my mobile phone recently and it’s a whole lot of fun. Streets ahead of the older, 2D Coaster Rush. Is this too much of a specific niche of computer game? [Simon Minter]

Guitar Hero
I bought my parents a Wii a couple of weekends ago and the old biddies won’t let me on it yet.  Fortunately however my friend has introduced me to the wonders of GUITAR HERO and the appeal is just so obvious.  I rocked first time round with Sunshine Of Your Love but completely lost the crowd attempting Kool Thing.  Embarassingly though I regained face with Even Flow by Pearl Jam, if that is possible. [JGram]

I have never ever had an interest in computer games. Sorry! Video.  [Chris Summerlin]

Continue reading »

Guitar Heroes to form Rock Band

Posted: April 4th, 2007, by Marceline Smith

Wow. Everyone has wished this and now it has been announced that there will be a full band game from the Guitar Hero folks with a range of plastic instruments. Are we excited?

There seems to be lots of interesting gameplay going on including the ability to form bands ONLINE but thanks to my work’s monitoring software, I can’t access any of the articles. Reading about computer gaming is deemed as bad as viewing porn or doing some online gambling. Bah.

This is what I can read. Both have links out to stuff I can’t read.
Guardian Gamesblog post
Wonderland’s post

It’s almost enough to make you want a PS3, ahahahahahahaha. etc.

The Owls Are Not What They Seem

Posted: July 13th, 2006, by Alex McChesney

I’ve had a Nintendo DS for a few weeks now, and the first game I got for it was Animal Crossing. If you’re not familiar it, it’s a fun little free-form game in which you move into a rural village populated by anthropomorphic animals. There’s no set goal as such. You can wander around the village, chat to your neighbours, fish, catch bugs, buy clothes and furniture for your little house or save to have it expanded, do some gardening, etc, without fear of any real “failure” condition. All in all it’s quite a relaxing escape from the real world. Interestingly, it also runs in real time. If it’s 12 noon on Sunday 16th of July when you’re playing it, it’s 12 noon on Sunday 16th of July in the game. The sun will be up, and any particular events that are taking place that day, eg a birthday party for one of your neighbours, will occur in the game.

Anyway, despite, or maybe because of, the lack of any strict set of achievements required of you by the game, it has been the most common resident of my DS’s card slot ever since it arrived. Over time, however, I have become increasingly aware of a dark heart beating beneath my town’s saccharine-sweet exterior.

Take Phyllis, for example. She’s the pelican that does the night-shift in the post office. Unlike her sister who works there during the day, she is consistently rude to me, and the one time I saw her in the museum coffee shop and tried to strike up a conversation, so told me in no uncertain terms to bugger off. (Of course, nobody says bad words in Animal Crossing, but you can’t disguise the intent.) At first I thought she was just being a bitch, but then Sally Squirrel told me she saw her crying the other day. Clearly something is up. Is she going through a painful divorce? Dealing with the death of a child? I don’t know, and she ain’t saying.

Then there’s Rodeo. This amiable bull-like character moved into the village a few days after I did, but I haven’t seen him wandering about town much recently. I try to drop in on him when I can, however. He always seems to be suffering from mysterious flu-like symptoms which are magically alleviated by the special “medicine” he sends me to buy from Tom Nook’s shop.

And what of Nook himself? In the English-language versions of Animal Crossing he’s described as a raccoon, but his name is actually a pun on his real species, the Japanese Tanuki. Tanukis are often depicted in Japanese culture as having comically large scrotums. They are the Buster Gonads of the animal kingdom, if you like, and this fits Tom Nook’s character quite well. While, of course, we never see his genitalia, you can’t help but have a sort of grudging respect for someone who will land a massive, involuntary mortgage on a new resident in exchange for a comically tiny house, as Nook does as soon as you arrive in town. He clearly has the biggest balls of all the residents, metaphorically if not literally. In fact, beyond stumbling across some cash hidden in a tree or under a rock, Nook also provides the only source of income in the game, by purchasing items from you that you may have found or been given. In a sense, every inhabitant of the town lives in servitude to Tom Nook, bringing him offerings so that they might scrape together enough cash to get by.

The sickness isn’t just confined to my village, either. I passed on my AC addiction to my wife, who, after playing around with mine for a while, purchased her own DS and copy of the game. Using the DS’s built-in wireless connection, you can “visit” other people’s villages and chat to the animals within. On one such trip to her town, I encountered a sheep called (of course) Baabera. Clearly a sad, lonely character*, she offered me a biscuit only to then say “oh, my boyfriend must have came in and eaten them all while I wasn’t looking”. On return to my own village I discovered that she had sent me a somewhat disturbing letter along the lines of “It was nice to meet you yesterday. I would invite you round again, but my boyfriend wouldn’t like it.” Naturally, nobody has seen this “boyfriend” of whom she speaks, and it is fairly obvious that she has invented an imaginary partner for herself. But has she done so because of lack of company, or is it more about keeping the world at arm’s-length by endowing him with a violently possessive nature? Who knows what past trauma drove her to this state, or how deeply her psychosis runs? I, for one, am staying well clear.

Anyway, I have to go now. Apparently Pee-Wee the Gorilla just found the body of Sally Squirrel washed up on the beach wrapped in plastic…

* This from a thirty-year old man writing about videogame animals like they are real people.