Archive for July, 2011

From Dust is no god game

, | Game reviews

From Dust does an admirable job with a seemingly simple task that has confounded videogames for a long time. Namely, the physics of dirt and water. Some would consider this a god game. I consider it SimArmy Corps of Engineers. Lots of rerouting rivers at which point you realize, oops, that’s not what you should have done because now your city is being flooded. Or building walls to protect your city from a flood only to screw up and realize you didn’t build it high enough or in the right place. Or failing to appreciate how much the volcano is going to erupt or how the plants are going to react or where the trees are going to grow. You’re not quite a god so much as a civil servant undergoing on-the-job training. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a game.

Unfortunately, From Dust is not a very good game that happens to be even less good on a console system.

After the jump, the didgeridoo that From Dust does Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: looking to the sky to save me

, | Features

Well, I can’t say I wasn’t warned. The designer of Missile Works asks right there before the level even loads, “Can you work out how to use the grappling hook to your advantage in this steampunk-inspired factory? This is a grapple heavy level.” I barely paid it a moment’s thought. I don’t think even a “pshaw” flitted through my mind as I waited for the level to load. Can I work out how to use the grappling hook to my advantage? Please. Dude. I was born to grapple hook.

Can I verb that?

That image above is my little sackboy trying to figure out how to use the grappling hook to his advantage by grabbing a missile and swinging it around and under the platform upon which he is standing. I’ll ballpark this and say that what is pictured above is something on the order of his 25th try at doing this. Finally getting it was sweet but I almost gave up. I was so close to giving up. Sometimes you just don’t get it.

Speaking of not getting it…

After the jump, the horror…the horror Continue reading →

Jagged Alliance 2: science fiction double feature

, | Game diaries

Well now, that’s a little bit different, isn’t it? See, when I started this playthrough of Jagged Alliance 2, one of the options I left checked in the game settings was “Sci-Fi Mode.” This adds exactly one thing to the game: the Crepitus. They being giant, nasty bugs that feed on human flesh.

Fortunately, to fight them, I have a robot that was given to me by a mad scientist.

After the jump: Hey there, have you heard about my robot friend? Continue reading →

Will Catherine’s ass-man win in the end?

, | Game reviews

I keep getting licked — literally — by a giant butt with a tongue coming out of a toothy maw where the genitals should be.

This is Catherine’s main claim to gameplay. Not specifically the be-tongued butt, but this timed puzzle sequence in which I have to climb a wall of sliding cubes. It’s a clever enough concept, but you have to play it for a while to wrap your head around it. Unfortunately, Catherine affords me no such opportunity. It gives me tutorial tips and occasional videos suggesting strategies for pushing, pulling, and re-arranging blocks. Think of Catherine as an exponentially complicated crate puzzle, dropped infrequently into a drawn-out series of JRPG dialogues. If you just play normally, like a game that’s telling a story, you might find that you haven’t quite wrapped your head around these puzzles. At which point a butt tongue has just licked you for the tenth time.

I could practice. But I don’t like the game enough to practice it. There are very few games I’ll practice. Personally, if I’m going play something over and over to get better at it, it’s got to offer…well, more than what Catherine offers.

After the jump, how I beat the butt Continue reading →

Jagged Alliance 2: if you’re going to San Mona…

, | Game diaries

While on the hunt for ice cream, the Dispensables passed through San Mona. While most towns in Arulco are initially held by Queen Deidranna, San Mona is a mob-run town, led by a man named Kingpin.

The Dispensables’ first stop upon entering town was the local watering hole, run by one of Kingpin’s henchmen, named Darren. He asks if I’m there for the extreme fighting competition. Why yes, I do happen to have a mercenary trained in hand-to-hand combat.

After the jump: Mantis gets made Continue reading →

Gamespotting: Breaking Bad

, | Games

It’s not really worth pointing out every time someone takes up a Wii on a TV show anymore. But when something happens like what happened on last night’s episode of Breaking Bad, it’s worth pointing out. To highlight the relative meaninglessness of a drug binge, the script decided to invoke videogames for at least two full pages of dialogue (the general rule is one page equals one minutes of screen time).

The Tarantino-esque meth-fueled conversation between two supporting characters considered the relative merits of gameplay and zombie lore in Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil 4, and Call of Duty: World at War’s Nazi zombie mode. The conversation might have gone on for as many as three pages if not for the interruption of a Roomba (pictured).

However, Resident Evil 4? What Resident Evil 4 fan wouldn’t be talking about Resident Evil 5 instead?

Qt3 Podcast: Greg Kasavin and Bastion

, | Games podcasts

If you haven’t finished Bastion, you can listen up to the 37-minute mark, at which point we’ll warn you that we’re about to talk spoilers. Then you should bail and finish playing it. If you have finished Bastion, you can safely listen to this entire podcast in which Bastion writer Greg Kasavin goes into detail about how one of this year’s finest games came to be.


Jagged Alliance 2: strawberry’s my favorite!

, | Game diaries

See that map up above? That’s how much of the map I uncover before I finally find Hamous and his ice cream truck. Have a seat, children, and I’ll tell you a tale.

Leaving from Cambria, the Dispensables follow the road north to San Mona. Unique among the towns in Arulco, San Mona isn’t held by Deidranna’s troops. Instead, it’s run by crime boss named Kingpin and his mob. Instead of just passing through, the Dispensables have themselves a grand old time in San Mona.

That’s an entry of its own, though, and one that I’ll deal with tomorrow. Right now, we’re still jonesing for some neopolitan.

After the jump: road trip! Continue reading →

Jagged Alliance 2: cat scratch fever

, | Game diaries

Though I’m sitting pretty in Tixa, I can’t train militia there, and I’ve got to abandon it for Cambria to the north. There’s another S.A.M. site right nearby, as well as the Cambria mine and the hospital, right in a convenient line.

Unfortunately, you won’t see any of it, because at some point while playing, Fraps stopped taking screenshots when I told it to, and I have no screens of the S.A.M. site or the hospital. At least Cambria was relatively uneventful…except for things getting a little hairy at the hospital.

Afterwards, though, I have a run-in with Mother Nature.

After the jump, the hunt begins Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: in the mood

, | Features

“No story. Just a platformer.”

I appreciated that odd little bit of honesty that the designer wrote in the details for this week’s community level, Roses (Platformer). No attempt to hook me with some phony mythology about why my sackboy needed to get from the beginning of the level to the end. No effort at setting the mood whatsoever. Just the simple words above and bam, you’re off and running and jumping.

And why not? If I need some poorly spelled gobbledygook to get me in the mood to play your platformer level, I probably shouldn’t be playing a platformer. Sometimes it’s better to just cut to the chase.

Then again, sometimes it isn’t.

After the jump, what you want, and what you need Continue reading →

Space Marine brings a chainsword to a heavy bolter fight

, | Games

At a recent press event for Warhammer: Space Marine, THQ brought out some fans of the Warhammer 40k miniatures game, along with their fantastic armies. In fact, I was surprised that one of THQ’s PR guys had brought along his own Tyranid army, coated with a glistening glossy finish meant to evoke slime. Who knew PR guys could also be such devoted nerds?

The most remarkable miniatures had been carefully pieced together from bits of other miniatures, and complemented with hand-sculpted custom bits. A Chaos Marine army built by a Ph.D. student in pharmacology was one of the most beautiful sets of miniatures I’ve ever seen. Just looking at all the detail and craft in those grotesque misshapen brutes was like falling into a microcosm.

But then there was the actual gameplay. We were treated to some demo games, and sent along with a hardbound copy of the basic rule set. As a boardgamer who loves mechanics, I don’t get the appeal of this tabletop system, which seems hopelessly dated, imprecise, and awkward. Having to prop up a die on a meticulously modeled vehicle to represent what type of damage it’s taken? Hovering over blast templates to read who got hit by what shot? Using a tape measure to keep squads together, calculate movement, and gauge firing range? And so much min-maxing, with so many different sets of rules, with so many six-sided dice, and so little information displayed on the table? Frankly, it all seems like an excuse to do something other than leave these exquisite pieces on a shelf to be admired. I remember when I was a kid and I used to make model airplanes. It took a while to realize that playing with them afterwards wasn’t the point. The point was the making.

But regardless of me not getting the appeal of the tabletop gameplay, I sure did enjoy the spectacle of so many lovingly painted creatures arrayed among so many dice on such wide expanses of table. It very nearly upstaged the actual videogame. Fortunately, developer Relic seems to have a solid idea for how to translate Warhammer 40k into an action game. Read about how a real time strategy developer* approaches a multiplayer shooter in my coverage on GamePro.

* To be fair, they deserve shooter credit for the underappreciated tactical shooter/RTS hyrbid, The Outfit.